The Ultimate Guide to the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Nestled in the heart of the Nepalese Himalayas, the Manaslu Circuit Trek is widely regarded as one of the best moderate multi-day treks in Nepal. Circumnavigating the spectacular Mount Manaslu (8,163m), the eighth highest mountain in the world, this thrilling journey takes you through remote valleys, high mountain passes, and charming villages.

As you follow ancient trade routes across the Manaslu region, you’ll be rewarded with some of Nepal’s most stunning scenery and fascinating cultural encounters. From the lush forests of the Budhi Gandaki river valley to the arid high-altitude landscapes of the Tibetan plateau, the astonishing diversity of this trek appeals to all hikers.

While less crowded than popular treks like the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit treks, the Manaslu Circuit Trek still offers all the magic of the Himalayas. Read on to discover everything you need to know to plan your ultimate Manaslu Circuit trekking adventure.

Overview of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The Manaslu Circuit Trek typically takes between 13-18 days to complete a full circuit of Mount Manaslu. The trek starts and finishes in the town of Arughat after completing a clockwise loop around the mountain.

The total trekking distance is around 160km, with most days covering between 5-8 hours of walking. You’ll cross over several high mountain passes exceeding 5000m in elevation. Proper acclimatization to the high altitude is essential.

Manaslu circuit trek
14 Days Manaslu circuit_trek

The route passes through remote areas with basic accommodation in tea houses or camping. As this region has only recently opened for trekking, the trails are less crowded than other major treks in Nepal.

The journey combines nature and culture as you witness incredible mountain landscapes as well as traditional Tibetan and Nepali villages. With the stunning scenery and warm hospitality, you’ll be captivated by the magic of the Manaslu region.

Key Highlights of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

  • Breathtaking views of Mount Manaslu (8163m) and surrounding peaks like Ngadi Chuli (7871m).
  • Crossing the high Larkya La pass (5213m) which links the Marshyangdi and Budhi Gandaki valleys.
  • Seeing monasteries, chortens, and mani walls reflecting Tibetan culture and Buddhism.
  • Visiting charming villages like Lho, Samagaon, and Bihi showcasing local Nepali lifestyle.
  • Trekking through diverse landscapes from sub-tropical to alpine high mountain zones.
  • Following quiet trails away from large trekking crowds.
  • Spotting exotic wildlife like blue sheep, golden eagles, and Himalayan tahr.

When is the Best Time for the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is open from March to May in spring and September to November in autumn. These seasons offer ideal weather for trekking before and after the monsoon rainy season.

During spring, the trails are lined with vibrant rhododendron blooms while autumn showcases clear skies and the Himalayas at their best. Daytime temperatures average 15-20°C in the lower areas. Up high, temperatures drop below freezing at night.

Deep winter from December to February brings harsh cold along the trek, especially at higher elevations and passes. Travel can be hindered by snow. The summer monsoon from June to August sees heavy rain making the trails very wet and slippery.

Therefore, the prime times to trek the Manaslu Circuit are March-May and late September-November. This avoids the extremes of winter and monsoon seasons.

How Difficult is the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is considered a moderately difficult trek suitable for avid hikers with prior multi-day trekking experience at high altitude. Proper fitness level, acclimatization, and quality trekking gear are essential.

Here are some key points on the difficulty level:

  • Days are long with 5-8 hours of walking on average. Fitness is key.
  • High elevation with several passes over 5000m means good acclimatization is vital.
  • Trail conditions can be rough or slippery in parts, especially over the Larkya La.
  • Cold temperatures at higher altitudes coupled with strong winds.
  • Basic tea house accommodation in small villages with shared long-drop toilets.
  • Limited health facilities along the remote route.

With sound preparation, a moderate level of fitness, and gradual acclimatization to altitude, most people can complete the Manaslu Circuit Trek. Some strenuous days are compensated by more relaxed walking.

Trekking slowly and allowing extra rest days aids acclimatization. You must be comfortable with multi-day hiking and basic living conditions. Previous experience above 4000m helps considerably.

How to Get to the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

Most people begin the Manaslu Circuit Trek by bus from Kathmandu to Arughat (2 days) or Soti Khola (1 day) to reach the starting point. Jeeps can also drive to Arkhet which shortens the first day’s walk. You can arrange local transportation and permits through a trekking agency.

Manaslu trek
Source: Petr Meissner

Here is an overview of reaching the Manaslu Circuit Trek start point:

  • Local bus from Kathmandu to Arughat takes around 8 hours. From Pokhara, take a bus to Abu Khaireni then change.
  • Jeeps can drive from Kathmandu to Arkhet in around 6-7 hours. Shorten day one walking.
  • For the fastest start, hire a private jeep to Soti Khola which takes around 4-5 hours.
  • Flights from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar then drive 3 hours to Soti Khola. Expensive but saves 2 days.

Arughat is the classic starting point to begin your Manaslu Circuit trek by foot. Travel time is compensated by spectacular overland journeys showcasing rural Nepal before reaching the trails.

Manaslu Circuit Trek Itinerary Overview

While the exact itinerary can vary slightly depending on your start point, pace and acclimatization needs, here is an overview of the standard Manaslu Circuit trek outline over 14 days:

  • Day 1: Drive Kathmandu to Soti Khola
  • Day 2: Trek to Machha Khola (Fish tail River)
  • Day 3: Trek to Jagat village
  • Day 4: Trek to Deng village
  • Day 5: Trek to Namrung village
  • Day 6: Acclimatization day in Namrung
  • Day 7: Trek to Samagaon
  • Day 8: Acclimatization day in Samagaon. Optional day hike.
  • Day 9: Trek to Samdo
  • Day 10: Trek to Dharmshala
  • Day 11: Cross Larkya La Pass (5213m). Trek to Bimtang
  • Day 12: Trek to Gho village
  • Day 13: Trek to Dharapani then drive to Besisahar
  • Day 14: Drive from Besisahar to Kathmandu

Detailed Day by Day Manaslu Circuit Trek Itinerary

Now let’s look at what each day of the Manaslu Circuit trek entails including highlights and important notes for trip planning:

Day 1: Drive from Kathmandu to Soti Khola (700m)

The journey to Soti Khola takes around 4-5 hours by private jeep. This arterial road leads into the heart of the Manaslu region. Enjoy views of rice terraces and jungle-clad hills before following the Budhi Gandaki River gorge. Stay overnight in simple local lodges.

Day 2: Trek Soti Khola to Maccha Khola (Fish Tail River) (870m)

(Walking: 6-7 hours)

After breakfast, cross the suspension bridge north over the Budhi Gandaki River. The trail leads through Sal forest and ascends on stone steps to the Gurung village of Labubesi. Descend back to the river bank at the confluence with the tributary Khola River. Cross another suspension bridge to Maccha Khola village for overnight stop.

Day 3: Trek Maccha Khola to Jagat (1410m)

(Walking: 6-7 hours)

Following the Budhi Gandaki, today’s trail climbs over several ridges along the empty riverbank. A tough climb takes you to the charming Gurung village of Jagat where the valley opens up. The entrance stone steps signify arrival in the Nepal Manaslu Conservation Area. Overnight in Jagat in local lodges.

Day 4: Trek Jagat to Deng (1860m)

(Walking: 5-6 hours)

Crossing the river early on, the trail weaves uphill through forests revealing views of Sringi Himal (7187m). Descend to cross the Budhi Gandaki on a long suspension bridge to Deng village. Surrounded by cliffs, Deng is the last permanent settlment until the trek returns here on the circuit.

Day 5: Trek Deng to Namrung (2660m)

(Walking: 5-6 hours)

Leaving Deng, enter the Budhi Gandaki gorge clad with pine forests. The walking involves lots of ups and downs today. Notice the change in architecture and people, reflecting Tibetan influences. Reach Namrung village, at the doorstep of the high Himalaya.

Day 6: Acclimatization Day in Namrung

wise to spend an extra acclimatization day here enjoying short walks around the village. This helps prepare for higher elevations ahead. Namrung Monastery is worth a visit to view morning puja.

Day 7: Trek Namrung to Samagaon (3530m)

(Walking: 5-6 hours)

Today crosses the Buddhi Gandaki on a bridge festooned with prayer flags then ascends steeply up the stone steps to the village of Lho. The trail stays high above the river with grand views of Manaslu. The hike ends at Samagaon with its famous monastery and Mount Manaslu views.

Day 8: Acclimatization Day in Samagaon

Spend a second acclimatization day exploring Samagaon. Hike up to the Buddhist nunnery of Pungen Glingsgompa or take the day hike to Pungyen Gompa for closer views of Manaslu. Careful preparation is key before the high pass crossing.

Day 9: Trek Samagaon to Samdo (3860m)

(Walking: 3-4 hours)

A relatively easier day follows the Budhi Gandaki River to the tiny seasonal herding settlements of Dharamsala. The trail finally enters the Tibetan-style village of Samdo. Incredible views of Mt Manaslu, Simnang Himal, Rupina La pass and Larke Peak surround.

Day 10: Trek Samdo to Dharmshala (4460m)

(Walking: 3-4 hours)

Continue following the Budhi Gandaki north as the valley opens into a wider plateau. Pass more seasonal dwellings like Larkya Bazaar. The high altitude landscape becomes starker and windier. Reach Dharmshala for the night before the big pass crossing.

Day 11: Cross Larke La Pass (5213m), trek to Bimtang (3720m)

(Walking: 8-10 hours)

The longest day begins with a steep ascent over moraine to cross the highest point, Larke La pass (5213m). Enjoy stunning mountain views then begin the long knee-jarring descent to Bimtang. Pass glaciers and summer grazing land to enter the quiet Bhudi Gandaki valley.

Day 12: Trek Bimtang to Gho (2515m)

(Walking: 5-6 hours)

From Bimtang, follow the Burdin Khola River downstream through rhododendron forests. The landscape becomes greener with classic Nepali hill scenery. The pretty village of Gho is a welcome sight after the high pass crossing. Enjoy a hot shower!

Day 13: Trek Gho to Dharapani, drive to Besisahar (760m)

(Walking: 3-4 hours)

The last day of walking reaches Dharapani village back on the Annapurna Circuit. From here take a jeep or bus down to Besisahar. Celebrate completing the Manaslu Circuit Trek!

Day 14: Drive Besisahar to Kathmandu (1300m)

The 7-8 hour bus ride back to Kathmandu gives time to reflect on the amazing Manaslu trek. You’ll arrive tired but elated after conquering this ultimate Himalayan adventure!

What to Pack for the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

Planning your gear and packing list is an important part of preparing for the Manaslu Circuit trek. You will need clothing and equipment suitable for both warm and colder mountain conditions.

As you will be carrying your own pack each day, it is essential to pack as lightly as possible without sacrificing essential items. Here is a recommended Manaslu Circuit trek packing checklist:

  • Hiking boots – waterproof with good ankle support
  • Trekking poles – help with steep ascents and descents
  • Quick-dry hiking shirts and pants
  • Fleece jacket and insulated down jacket for warmth
  • Waterproof shell jacket and pants
  • Warm hat, gloves and buff/scarf
  • Under layers including thermal leggings and long sleeve tops
  • Comfortable socks and underwear
  • Sleeping bag – rated down to -10°C or lower
  • Inner sleep sheet for tea house lodges
  • Hydration pack or water bottles
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Headlamp with spare batteries
  • Small first aid kit
  • Toiletries – eco-friendly soap, toothbrush etc
  • Light towel – quick dry travel towels are best
  • Any personal medications you require

Hire local porters to carry the majority of gear or join a fully organized camping trek to minimize your load. Good fitness will allow you to enjoy the trek rather than struggle under a heavy pack.

Is a Guide Required for the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

Booking through a registered trekking agency allows you to trek the Manaslu Circuit with an experienced local guide. This is recommended for navigation, arranging accommodation and permits, porters, and gaining insight into the region. Guides also ensure your safety and proper acclimatization.

You can trek independently without a guide and arrange tea house stays as you go. However, a guide provides security in case of emergencies along this remote route. Guides carry safety equipment like satellite phones, oxygen and first aid kits.

Having a guide helps bridge language barriers when interacting with locals. A knowledgeable guide will enhance your overall trekking experience while allowing you to focus on enjoying the trail.

Manaslu Circuit Trek Difficulty and Altitude Considerations

manaslu trek

The Manaslu Circuit involves long days hiking at altitude with rough trail conditions in sections. Take care to build your fitness, walk at a gradual pace, and allow rest days to acclimatize. Here are some tips to help overcome the difficulties:


  • Trek slowly. Limit gains in sleeping elevation to 300-400m per day.
  • Schedule 2 full rest days in Namrung and Samagaon villages to acclimatize.
  • Stay hydrated and eat carbohydrate-rich meals.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Listen to your body and rest if feeling unwell.

Altitude Sickness

  • Recognize signs of AMS (headache, nausea, fatigue). Descend immediately if severe.
  • Bring prescription medication like Diamox to aid acclimatization.
  • Trek with an agency that provides emergency oxygen if needed.

Trail Conditions

  • The circuit has steep ascents and descents, especially around the Larkya La.
  • Trails can be slippery or unstable. Use trekking poles for balance and stability.
  • Start hiking early to avoid afternoon storms and freezing temperatures.
  • Follow your guide’s pace and route for optimal safety.
  • Wear proper hiking boots with sturdy ankles.

By taking precautions and working within your physical limits, the Manaslu Circuit trek is achievable for fit hikers who take time to acclimatize. Reap the rewards of completing one of Nepal’s greatest treks!

Permits and Costs for the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The Manaslu region was opened for trekking only in 1991 and still maintains strict permit regulations. You must trek with an official guide as independent trekking is not allowed. All trekkers require:

  • Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) Permit – $70 per week
  • Manaslu Restricted Area Permit – $100 per week
  • Annapurna Conservation Area Permit – $20 (if finishing in Dharapani)

Expect to pay around $1500 to $2000 per person for a fully organized moderate standard Manaslu Circuit trek including guide, porters, accommodation, permits, and transportation. Budget more for better hotels or camping treks.

A barebones teahouse-only budget trek can be done for under $1000 excluding international flights. Carefully compare packages to see what is included. Most trek prices are all-inclusive except meals and tips.

Is the Manaslu Circuit Trek Worth It?

For moderate multi-day trekkers seeking incredible scenery, cultural encounters and fewer crowds, the Manaslu Circuit Trek absolutely lives up to its reputation as one of Nepal’s finest journeys.

The natural beauty of Mount Manaslu coupled with the raw adventure of crossing the Larkya La pass rewards you with stunning vistas and immense satisfaction of completing this ultimate circuit. Varied landscapes, Tibetan culture and charming villages add rich layers of interest.

While more logistical planning is required than for mainstream treks, the extra rewards of immersing yourself in this remote trans-Himalayan region make the Manaslu Circuit trek worth every step. Be prepared for basic accommodation and travel delays, but don’t let that deter you from discovering the magic of Manaslu!


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