One of the best hikes in the world
The NEW Annapurna Circuit?
– Robin Boustead, author of The Great Himalaya Trail
AT A GLANCE
- raging rivers, precarious bridges and stunning mountain gorges.
- Oct – Nov best months
- Apr – May next best
- Manaslu was badly damaged by the April 2015 earthquake and at least 2 foreign hikers were killed. But it’s all rebuilt now.
- CHSchmaltz tracked their Circuit with GPS: 252km (156.8 mi), 12/13 days, 12,585m of ascent, 11,279m descent. (map)
- the shortest Circuit might be closer to 177km (110mi). It depends on your exact route, where you start and stop. And sidetrips. Andy Bryant’s GPS counted 212km.
- cross 5106m (16,751ft) Larkya Pass
- guided trekkers stay in lodges, or sprawling tent encampments
- officially opened to foreigners in 1991
- rapidly gaining popularity since 2010 when it became possible to stay in teahouse lodges around the entire circuit
- about 8000 trekkers in 2019
- many new lodges are under construction, anticipating increased numbers of trekkers in the future
Why We Like This Hike
- circumambulate Mt Manaslu 8156m (26,759 ft), 8th highest peak in the world
- 10 peaks of over 6500m (21,300 ft) are visible
- Manaslu is very close, very visible, for large sections of the Circuit
- Manaslu Conservation Area covers 6 climatic zones
- see blue sheep
- anyone of reasonable fitness can do Manaslu. It’s no longer an extreme trek. And it’s getting easier every year.
- it’s like the Annapurna Circuit decades ago with more modern lodges
- food is surprisingly good
- electricity for recharging batteries is available at most lodges. And it’s often free.
- the altitude profile for this trek is excellent. You have enough time to acclimatize.
- you walk from lush sub-tropic to the highest mountains in the world
- surreal light in the arid Trans-Himalayan high pastures
- wonderful cultural experiences with the Tibetan and mountain people
- Buddhist temples, architecture and tradition
- wonderful photographic opportunities
- very little gear is needed. You can easily get pack weight down to 10kg (22lbs).
- no need to speak Nepali, only English
- mobile phone service access rapidly improving. Get a SIM card from Nepal Telecom Namaste. Data inexpensive. It worked up to Sama village in 2019.
- new airport will be opening in Pokhara 2021. Easier access.
There are plenty of decisions to be made in advance of flying to Nepal. Buy a guidebook months in advance.
- tent or lodge?
- guide?, porters?, … or carry your own pack?
- how many days? … altitude sickness is the most important consideration
- do ONLY the Manaslu Circuit? … Or add the Annapurna Circuit and/or Tsum Valley?
- add extra days for sidetrips? Ganesh Himal Base Camp? Manaslu Base Camp?
- pay for food as part of your all inclusive payment to the trekking agency? … Or pay as you go?
- Manaslu is not inexpensive, but it’s more expensive than in the past. Many hikers run out of money. There is no ATM anywhere en route.
- you must hire a guide to trek the Manaslu Circuit. If you want to hike independently, go to Everest, Annapurna or Langtang
- your guide or trekking agency will organize your permits.
- your “group” must have a minimum of 2 hikers.
- (We met one Spanish hiker alone with his guide. He had purchased a permit for a “ghost trekker”, providing a second passport and passport photos.)
- the worst and most dangerous aspect is the 8-9hr bus ride from Kathmandu to Arughat Bazar. It’s easier from Pokhara. Alternatively, a 4WD jeep (6h) may get you there from Kathmandu more quickly but costs around $US150-220 for 4-6 people.
- the worst stop on the trail is Larkya Phedi (Dharamsala) which in 2013 offered only 64 beds. Cold, dirty and crowded. In fact, every bed was full when we arrived. We stayed in tents as a back-up. As of 2019 there are two new “lodges” at Dharamsala: Zambala and the Larkya La (pre-fabricated modules, ten modules each lodge, each module sleeps 4-5 people).
- permanent snow line is above 5000m so it’s POSSIBLE to do the Circuit year round
- you MUST bring footwear you love and trust. Almost everyone brings walking shoes as well as guest house shoes for the evening.
- Waterborne diseases are a big concern. Treat everything. Don’t trust that water used in cooking is safe. If worried, order a “sizzler”. Your meal arrives very hot, sometimes in flame. Order veg. Meat cannot be stored safely before cooking.
- “squater” pit toilets are the norm, normally smelly & unsanitary
- bring a warm sleeping bag as the bedding in some guesthouses is unsanitary. We had bedbugs in one. Mice in several others. An inflatable mattress is a good idea too as mattresses are thin.
- be clear — you might have to QUIT if by bad luck or rushed ascent you suffer altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS). We saw many hikers backtracking to the start in Nov 2013 — the Pass was closed due to snow for at least 2 days.
- we were disappointed not to see more of the indigenous wildlife. Of many species we watched for, we only saw Blue Sheep and Black Lipped Pika
- 195m metal path has been built for the 2017 season at Yaru Bagar. A second is planned for Syar Khola on the Tsum side trail.
Compare a number of different trekking companies online to get an idea of what’s available.
Start with Magical Nepal’s COST page.
Find out in detail what’s covered by the trekking outfitter, and what you will pay for out of pocket. Budget for a tip of 10-15% if you are happy with the service.
There are permits and restricted area charges for this trek. Your guide will take care of that for you. Cost will be included in what you are charged.
- 2019 $30 (NPR 3,000)/ person Annapurna Conservation Area Park (ACAP) permit – single entry
- 2019 $30 (NPR 3,000)/ person Manaslu Conservation Area Park (MCAP) permit – single entry
We believe that no 2019 $20 (NPR 2,000) / person TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card is required for guided hikers. BUT you might want to get one if you want to continue independently on the Annapurna Circuit when finishing Manaslu.
It’s easiest to purchase TIMS in advance of your hike:
- Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu
- Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara (faster, easier)
In the past you needed to bring passport photos. In 2019 those offices take your photo while there. No cost.
Visa on arrival for most nations at Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu in 2019:
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 125
You can pay with credit card or other major currencies. The visa on arrival process is much faster and simpler than in the past. No need to bring passport photos as machines now take your mugshot photo.
If you pay your own expenses while on the trail 2019 you might spend about $30 / day.
You might budget $40 / day / person to be on the safe side. And if you drink beer.
Very frugal hikers might average $20 / day.
Costs for bed and food tend to increase the further you hike from a road.
Carry more cash than you need for your planned trip in case of emergency. Bring Nepalese rupees. It’s a cash economy in the mountains.
In 2019 the most we could take out of a bank machine at one time in Pokhara was 35000 NPR (about $300). We used Nabil Bank machines withdrawing directly from our bank cards, not credit card, to reduce the transaction fee cost and avoid interest.
Evacuation by helicopter is expensive. Payment must be guaranteed in advance. Bring your credit card, just in case.
Consider purchasing good insurance coverage for this trip. World Nomads, for example, offers policies covering hikers up to 3000m, 4500m or 6000m.
In 2019 we bought 30 day visas for Nepal. And World Nomads insurance for those same 30 days.
Cheap on this adventure is $40-50 / day. Expensive is over $100 / day. One site quotes $1600-$4000.
Traditionally, it’s considered to start in Arughat Bazaar, end in Besisahar. By 2013, however, some shorten that by catching a motor vehicle at the start. Or at the end. If you don’t want to walk on a road out of Arghat, consider a wilder trail via Lapu.
Some take a longer route, starting from Gorkha Bazaar which is quicker to reach from Kathmandu on a smoother road.
There are many options.
- Manaslu Trek Itinerary – 18 days
- Manaslu Trek Itinerary – 14 days
- 22-day Manaslu Trek with Tsum Valley
- Manaslu and Tsum Valley Trek – 20 day itinerary
On signing up your group must decide whether to add the Tsum Valley to the itinerary. It’s still recommended in 2019. But China is developing a road. This could be a dusty construction zone soon.
Site editor Rick McCharles crossed Larkya La in only 11 days (the minimum we’d recommend) then continued from Dharapani on the Annapurna Circuit. A great option. (minimum 15 days)
Shawn Lichter on The Great Himalaya Trail:
If you were going to recommend a part of the trek for somebody with a shorter time available, which bit would it be?
I felt like the link up of the Annapurna Circuit and Manaslu Trek had the perfect balance of Nepali culture and mountain scenery while also being logistically easy to get to and from the trail. There are plenty of trekker accommodations and if you are heading east-west, both the climbs over the Larkya La and Thorong La are gradual enough to allow for plenty of time to acclimatize. I felt this area was also a huge transition zone in regards to the landscape. The Nepal you see in Jagat on the Manaslu Circuit will be vastly different from the Nepal you will see in Jomsom on the completion of the Annapurna Circuit .… read more
- NEST Adventure
- Berg Horizonte.de
- World Expeditions ($3060 for 22 days)
- Magical Nepal
- Visit Himalaya Treks
- Himalayan Encounters
- Himalayan Quests
- Lost Earth Adventures
- Project Himalaya
The only one we’ve used was a small outfit called Touch Paradise. Great prices. Straight answers. And they delivered on everything promised.
Most international hikers arrive via Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathamandu. It’s not very good.
Let your trekking company and guide take care of the rest of your arrangements.
Though you can book from home, it’s fairly easy to organize a Manasulu trek once having arrived in Kathmandu or Pokhara if you have 2 people or more. It will take a few days from your guide to organize your permits.
- Tourism Board office in Kathmandu
- (KEEP) Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (Porters’ Clothing Bank)
- International Porter Protection Group
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- A Trekking Guide to Manaslu and Tsum Valley: Lower Manaslu & Ganesh Himal (2013) by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons
- Trailblazer Nepal Trekking & the Great Himalaya Trail (2011) by Robin Boustead
Best Travel Guidebooks
Other Recommended Books
Get your guidebooks in advance. Most of these other books are easily found in Nepal. The best bookshops in Asia are in Kathmandu.
- The Ascent of Manaslu: Climbing the world’s eighth highest mountain by Mark Horrell
- A Beard In Nepal (2012) – Fiona Roberts
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (2011) – Conor Grennan
- A Nepalese Journey: The Essence of the Annapurna Circuit (2002) – Andrew Stevenson
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
- Travelers’ Tales Nepal – Rajendra S. Khadka
- Nepal Trek – A Woman Alone (2006) – Kay Petterson Shaw
- Annapurna Circuit – Himalayan Journey (1998) -Andrew Stevenson
- Annapurna – Maurice Herzog, 1950 first ascent, climbing classic
- True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna (2002) – David Roberts, 2002
- Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna – Lionel Terray, climbing classic
- Annapurna South Face – Bonington & Willis, climbing classic
- Annapurna: 50 Years of Expeditions in the Death Zone – Reinhold Messner, 2000
- Annapurna: A Woman’s Place – Arlene Blum, 1998
- East of Lo Monthang – Peter Matthiessen, 1995
- The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman
Best Maps / Apps
Navigation is not difficult in this region. And you have a guide. We use the free Maps.me app which might be useful if you do some day hikes while acclimatizing.
- Around Manaslu (1:155,000) $2 in Kathmandu
It’s easy to buy maps in Nepal. Inexpensive and widely available.
Best Web Pages
- Manaslu Trek information, everything you need to know
- THE COMPLETE(ALMOST) GUIDE TO MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK
- KimKim – Manaslu Circuit Trek
- Manaslu Circuit Trek
- Manaslu Circuit Trek on Facebook
- Matador – All you need to know to trek the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal
- Manaslu Mountain Trail Race
- Manaslu Trek with a purpose (volunteer en route)
- The Great Himalaya Trail on Manaslu
- Manaslu trek by mountain bike?
- Val Pitkethly – Manaslu trek guides bring light to Nubri and Tsum
- wikipedia – Manaslu
- TrekkingPartners.com (find others to hike with you)
Best Trip Reports
Before you check some of those below, read a quite unhappy trip report from Oct 2017.
- Trekking in Nepal. Manaslu Circuit and Tsum Valley (May 2019)
- Fluffy the Siberian Husky – Manaslu Circuit (VIDEO)
- Yondering Soles (2017)
- Andy Bryant (2011)
- BestHike editor Rick McCharles (Nov. 2013)
- Leisa Tyler – The Age – Higher Calling (2012)
- Guy Shachar – Manaslu Circuit Trek (2011)
- Eyal Ofer – photos of Nepal & Manaslu (2013)
- Kapil Bisht – Manaslu trekking in the monsoon season
- Andrées de Ruiter (2005)
- Oleg Bartunov photos
- Great Himalayan Trail marketing pics
This 5min edit gives a very accurate overview of what you’ll see on this adventure. Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch Andre’s mountains highlights on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch the 2019 NEST Adventure promotion on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch the longer 2019 NEST promo video on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch Magical Nepal’s Tsum Valley trek on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch climbaddict on YouTube.
Stephen Slater – Exodus organized Manaslu Circuit: 6th – 26th April 2012 VIDEO (33min)
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