• MANASLU CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

    Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
  • MANASLU CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

The Essential Guide

So you’re thinking about tackling the Manaslu Circuit Trek? Great choice! Of the various treks we’ve done around Nepal, including Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit and Upper Mustang, we think this is one of the best. The scenery is diverse and impressive, and in an age where development is proceeding at breakneck speed, the Manaslu Trek has the advantage of being quieter and much less impacted by road building. Additionally, Tibetan cultural influences at higher altitude lend a unique flavour to the experience that is notably different from other areas.

In this guide we’ll cover a whole range of essential topics including when to go, what to take, how to organise your trek, budgeting for your trek, accommodation, food, and much more. Want to know more about the Manaslu Circuit itinerary itself? Check out our day by day account of the trek. Want to see what the trek is really like? Watch our complete Instagram Stories from the journey (part one/part two), and check out our video below. 

WATCH THE VIDEO

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

Alright, let’s get started and jump into our complete guide to the Manaslu Circuit Trek.
Read through the guide or jump ahead to a particular section by clicking on the links below.

Alright, let’s get started and jump into our complete guide to the Manaslu Circuit Trek. Read through the guide or jump ahead to a particular section by clicking on the links below.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK ITINERARY

Below is an overview of the Manaslu Circuit trek itinerary. This is not set in stone, just a suggested route. Some people stay in alternative villages along the way, or add an extra acclimatisation day at Samdo.

DAY 1Kathmandu → Soti Khola (via Arughat)6-9 hours (by bus/ jeep)
DAY 2Soti Khola (700m) → Machhakhola (869m)14 km / 5 hours
DAY 3Machhakhola (869m) → Jagat (1340m)16 km / 7 hours
DAY 4Jagat (1340m) → Dyang (1860m)19 km / 7 hours
DAY 5Dyang (1860m) → Namrung (2630m)17 km / 7 hours
DAY 6 Namrung (2630m) → Lho (3180m)10 km / 4 hours
DAY 7Lho (3180m) → Samagaun (3520m)8 km / 4 hours
DAY 8Acclimatisation hike to Pungen Gompa (4050m) or Manaslu Base Camp (4400m)
Pungen Gompa – 14 km / 5 hours return
Manaslu Base Camp – 14 km / 8 hours return
DAY 9Samagaun (3520m) → Samdo (3690m)8 km / 3 hours
DAY 10*Samdo (3690m) → Dharamsala/Larke Phedi (4460m)6 km / 4 hours
DAY 11Dharamsala/Larke Phedi (4460m) → Larke Pass (5106m) → Bimthang (3720m)16 km / 10 hours
DAY 12 Bimthang (3720m) → Tilche (2260m)18 km / 7 hours
DAY 13Tilche (2260m) → Dharapani (1980m)5 km / 2 hours
DAY 14
Dharapani → Kathmandu (via Besisahar)10 hours (by jeep/bus)
DAY 1Kathmandu → Soti Khola (via Arughat)6-9 hours (by bus/ jeep)
DAY 2Soti Khola (700m) → Machhakhola (869m)14 km / 5 hours
DAY 3Machhakhola (869m) → Jagat (1340m)16 km / 7 hours
DAY 4Jagat (1340m) → Dyang (1860m)19 km / 7 hours
DAY 5Dyang (1860m) → Namrung (2630m)17 km / 7 hours
DAY 6 Namrung (2630m) → Lho (3180m)10 km / 4 hours
DAY 7Lho (3180m) → Samagaun (3520m)8 km / 4 hours
DAY 8Acclimatisation hike to Pungen Gompa (4050m) or Manaslu Base Camp (4400m)
Pungen Gompa – 14 km / 5 hrs rtn
Manaslu Base Camp – 14 km / 8 hrs rtn
DAY 9Samagaun (3520m) → Samdo (3690m)8 km / 3 hours
DAY 10*Samdo (3690m) → Dharamsala/Larke Phedi (4460m)6 km / 4 hours
DAY 11Dharamsala (4460m) → Larke Pass (5106m) → Bimthang (3720m)16 km / 10 hours
DAY 12 Bimthang (3720m) → Tilche (2260m)18 km / 7 hours
DAY 13Tilche (2260m) → Dharapani (1980m)5 km / 2 hours
DAY 14
Dharapani → Kathmandu (via Besisahar)10 hours (by jeep/bus)

*If you are concerned about altitude sickness, adding an extra day at Samdo is a good idea. From here you can do an acclimatisation hike to the Tibetan border at Rui La (4998m, 19km/10 hours) or easier hikes up the hills around the village.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK MAP

Below you’ll find our Manaslu Circuit Trek map with key points marked, including guesthouses, lunch places and tea stops. Hover over or tap the icons for details. You can also download our Maps.Me bookmarks for offline use here. Be sure to download the Maps.Me app first (iOS/Android).

WHEN TO TREK THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

Autumn/Fall

The best time to go trekking in Nepal is from September to November. The weather is generally dry and clear, with warm sunny days and excellent visibility. There’s a lower likelihood of weather related natural disasters at this time of year, making for a much safer trekking environment. The downside as far as the Manaslu Trek goes? The Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is $100 per week during this period as opposed to $75 per week at all other times. Furthermore, given that it’s the best season, it’s also the busiest. Saying that, we hiked the Manaslu Circuit in October, had a great time, and still found it to be much less busy than other treks in Nepal.

Mount Manaslu at first light, seen from Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal

A cold, crisp, clear morning view of Manaslu (8163 m) at first light, seen from Samagaun (3520 m) on the Manaslu Circuit in October



Mount Manaslu at first light, seen from Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal

A clear morning view of Manaslu (8163 m)
seen from Samagaun (3520 m) in October



Spring

The spring season from March to May is considered to be the next best option. The weather is generally clear although a little colder, particularly at higher altitudes. Mornings are sunny and flowers are in bloom. There is however a higher chance of rain, or even snow, and melting ice increases the chances of landslides or avalanches – something we experienced trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in April.

Summer

June to August is to be avoided. The monsoon is responsible for warm and wet weather, with cloud and mist making visibility extremely poor. We can testify to this. Our very first trek in Nepal was in June and we hardly saw a mountain. Leeches are a big problem at this time of year, as is the risk of landslides. As the Manaslu Region was one of the worst affected by the 2015 earthquake, there are many landslide areas – these can be more dangerous in wet weather.

Winter

In the winter, from December to February, temperatures in higher altitudes plunge. Snow and ice make this time of year unsuitable for the Manaslu Circuit Trek.

HOW LONG DOES THE MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK TAKE?

The whole Manaslu Circuit Trek can be done in 14 days. That includes 2 travel days getting to and from the trail. However, some itineraries suggest longer (usually 17 days), including an extra acclimatisation day at Samdo and/or continuing to walk from Dharapani rather than taking transport.

On our own journey, we took 13 days to reach Dharapani where we joined the Annapurna Circuit. This included the standard acclimatisation day at Samagaun, as well as the travel day by bus from Kathmandu to Arughat.

A stupa and prayer flags on high pasture beneath snowy mountains in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Surrounded by snowy mountains on an acclimatisation day trek to Pungen Gompa (4050 m)



A stupa and prayer flags on high pasture beneath snowy mountains in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Surrounded by mountains on an acclimatisation
trek to Pungen Gompa (4050 m) from Samagaun



Many people go straight to Soti Khola from Kathmandu, saving a day, and we would recommend this as a good option. It would allow you to take less time overall by shortening your trip, or you could spend an extra day elsewhere in the trek. That could either be an extra acclimatisation day on the way up, or having an easier couple of days on the way down.

Discuss in detail with your guide to find the plan that works best for you.

TREK DIFFICULTY

So how difficult is the Manaslu Circuit Trek?

We’ve seen this trek described as hard, strenuous and moderately difficult to name but a few. Which doesn’t really tell you a lot. However, there are some things we can say with certainty.

The Trail

As far as the trail itself goes, the paths are mostly in good condition. No technical skills are required so the act of walking is pretty straightforward. There are a few exceptions where things can get a little tricky, such as when the trail detours around landslides. The ground in these areas can be a bit less firm and a bit more slippery, so extra care is needed here.

The Effort

Over the course of the trek, you ascend in altitude from 700 m to 5106 m. This takes a considerable physical effort, and what’s more, it’s not all up, up, up. Much of the route, particularly in the early days, involves plenty of up and down – descending to cross the river, ascending again, then repeating the process further along the trail.

Trekkers, guides and porters climbing stone steps on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Time to put effort in on the trail. Climbing stone steps after crossing the Budhi Gandaki,
on a morning of steep ups and downs from Dyang/Deng (1860 m) to Ghap (2050 m)



Trekkers, guides and porters climbing stone steps on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Putting some effort in on the trail. Climbing the
stone steps after crossing the Budhi Gandaki,
enroute from Dyang (1860 m) to Ghap (2050 m)



So given the physical effort required, it clearly helps to be as fit as possible. Saying that, you don’t have to be an athlete, far from it. People of all ages and levels of fitness complete the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The key point to remember is to hike at your own pace.

How Much Weight Will You Carry?

Aside from your physical fitness, this is the most important factor in determining how difficult the trek will be.

If you choose to carry all your own gear, clearly it will be more challenging. To make things easier for yourself, think carefully about what you need to take, and try to make your gear as lightweight as possible.

If you choose to hike with a porter as well as a guide, then the difficulty level becomes much easier. Carrying only a small daypack with a few essentials means the trek can be tackled by anyone with a moderate amount of fitness.

SEE WHAT THE MANASLU CIRCUIT IS ALL ABOUT

HOW TO ORGANISE A MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

The Manaslu region is a restricted area, and as such, it’s not permitted to hike the Manaslu Circuit Trek independently. You must be accompanied by at least one government authorised person and there are two options to choose from. The first is a D.I.Y. approach where you arrange a guide (and/or porter) and pay for food, accommodation and transport along the way. The second is to book a prepaid package tour which includes everything.

THE D.I.Y. APPROACH

If you plan on trekking by yourself, as a couple, or as part of a small group, there are a few things to consider before deciding who to hire. The two most common situations on the Manaslu Circuit are those hiking with a guide or with a guide and porter, but before you decide which is best for you, it’s important to think about what you need. To help with that decision, first we’ll outline the differences between the various options, then go on to discuss how best to choose a guide and what to look for.

Guides, Porters & Porter Guides: Which Setup To Choose

Guide Only

 If you’re relatively fit and can keep the weight of your bag to a sensible level (around 15 kg), then you probably don’t need a porter. In which case, hiring a guide makes the most sense.

You can expect them to have a good level of English, know the trail and places on it well, and be more likely to have knowledge about the history, culture and geography of the area. Saying that, it can very much depend on the trekking company you choose and the individual guide provided. A guide costs around $20-30 USD per day, although some agencies may charge more.

Porter Guide or Porter

If you don’t want to carry all your own gear then you’ll need to hire at least a porter or a porter guide. A porter is the cheapest option at around $18-25 USD per day, while a porter guide costs around the same as a guide. So, how to choose?

Well, a porter will be cheaper, but it’s probable that they will speak very little English. You can expect very little other than that they carry your bag.  Porters can carry up to 30 kg (maximum, but less is better), so you generally only need one for every two trekkers. While trekking with just a registered porter is possible, it’s important to note that this is not very common.

A porter guide will be more expensive (roughly the same as a guide). They tend to be trainee guides who will also carry your gear, although perhaps not as much as a porter. You can expect them to have better English than a porter, although not as good as a guide (this may vary with experience). Having a porter guide (or guide) with good communication skills can make a big difference. Unlike other regions where it’s possible to trek independently, guesthouses and lodges on the Manaslu Circuit are used to dealing with guides, not trekkers.

A trekker and guide are climbing the trail from Samdo to Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit, with snowy peaks behind and Samdo a tiny speck below

Kim and our guide, climbing the trail from Samdo (3640 m) to Dharamsala/Larke Phedi (4460 m)



A trekker and guide are climbing the trail from Samdo to Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit, with snowy peaks behind and Samdo a tiny speck below

Kim and our guide, climbing the trail from
Samdo (3640 m) to Dharamsala (4460 m)



Guide & Porter

If you don’t want to carry your gear and are not limited by an overly tight budget, then this is likely the best option for you: a knowledgeable guide to lead the trail and communicate on your behalf, as well as a porter to carry your gear.

This setup is most cost effective when you have a group with an even number of trekkers, as you generally only need one porter for every two trekkers. Most agencies allow up to five people per guide, the total cost being shared among the group.

How To Choose A Guide

The trekking industry in Nepal is huge and there are no shortage of registered companies and accredited guides competing for business. As such, it can seem a bit of a minefield when it comes to finding and choosing a guide, especially when looking online.

Finding a guide in Kathmandu

If you have a few days in Kathmandu and are comfortable not having anything pre-booked, it is definitely advantageous to shop around in person. It is much easier to get a sense of a trekking company and a guide when you meet them face to face. There are many trekking agencies in the Thamel area of Kathmandu, which is also the main backpacking hub and an ideal place to base yourself.

Organise a guide before travelling to Nepal

If you’re organising a guide before you go, a recommendation from someone you know and trust goes a long way. Just make sure you get a guarantee of who your guide will be. We’re aware of people arranging with a particular company for a certain guide, only to arrive and discover that they have a different guide. As the guide is the person you’ll be spending all your time with, they (not the company) are the most important factor.

If you don’t have a recommendation but still want to organise a guide before you go, you can browse guide profiles here and here. Both sites outline the guides’ daily rate, experience and contact details so you can get in touch directly and discuss options with them. Also, pretty much all the agencies coming up on a Google search have a chat box. They generally sell package tours but it may be possible to arrange something more bespoke if you outline what you need and want.

Trekking Solo

If you’re a solo trekker and want to hook up with others to share the costs of a guide, then take a look at this page. Here you’ll also find people looking to partner up in order to get the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP). A minimum of two trekkers is needed to get the permit, although it is possible to get around this (see permits section).

Female Guides

If you would like to hire a female guide, there are a few companies out there who can help with this. 3Sisters Adventure Trekking is an agency based out of Pokhara which is very highly regarded.

A trekking guide sits at the end of a long suspension bridge before Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Appreciating the view at the Numla Khola suspension bridge between Shyala and Samagaun



A trekking guide sits at the end of a long suspension bridge before Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Appreciating the view at the suspension bridge over
the
Numla Khola, between Shyala and Samagaun 



Things to consider when choosing a guide

Whether you’re getting organised ahead of time or finding someone
in Kathmandu, here are the main things to keep in mind.

Whether you’re getting organised ahead of time or finding someone in Kathmandu, here are the main things to keep in mind.

Talk to as many guides/agencies as possible to compare prices and services.

Ask about the guide’s experience with the trek.

Have a conversation to gauge their level of English.

Ask if they have had any safety training and ask to see the certificate if they say yes. Ask how they would handle an emergency situation.

Ask whether they will drink alcohol on the trek (not necessarily a deal breaker, just use your judgement).


If after this you’ve found someone you’re comfortable with, here
are a few things to remember when finalising your arrangement.

If after this you’ve found someone you’re comfortable with, here are a few things to remember when finalising your arrangement.

Check that they are properly registered and insured (ask to see proof).

Agree on the daily rate, number of days and total price.

Agree on who pays for your accommodation and food (it’s most cost effective to pay for yourself along the way rather than paying up front to the trekking agency).

Confirm that the guide covers their own food and accommodation along the way (this is usual).

Agree that you have the final decision on which guesthouse/teahouse you’ll stay in at each place. A guide will often have a preferred place to stay for their own reasons which may not align with yours. This works best if you’re paying for your own accommodation as you go.


Make sure your guide (and porter) is well equipped

Make sure your guide and porter have everything they need prior to setting off on your Manaslu Circuit trek. If you’re hiring an experienced guide through a long established agency, then chances are they will be well prepared for conditions on the trail. However, this isn’t always the case. Younger, more inexperienced guides often don’t have the equipment they need. Porters too can sometimes lack what we would consider to be basic trekking necessities. We’ve seen some young porters with trainers on their feet that were practically falling off.

Check that your guide and porters have the following.

Warm clothing for higher altitudes
(down jacket, gloves, hat, etc.)

Proper boots in good condition

Suitable waterproofs

Sleeping bag
(it’s common for guides and porters to sleep in lodge dining areas on the Manaslu Circuit if it’s busy and there are not always enough blankets)

Sunglasses

Headtorch


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Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
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BOOKING AN INCLUSIVE TOUR

If you want to have everything packaged together in an inclusive tour, there are no shortage of options out there. Group tours with international companies such as Exodus and World Expeditions include everything (hotels, Kathmandu sightseeing, etc.). These international companies tend to work with the very best local trek operators, so you can expect very professional service, highly experienced guides and a pricetag to match. Less expensive package tours run by local companies may just include your days on the trail and won’t necessarily be group treks with set departure dates. The professionalism and experience of the guide can vary greatly. You can find a whole range of options on Tourradar.

The pros and cons are the same with any inclusive tour. Everything is organised for you, but the costs can be considerably higher and freedom to choose is limited. So it entirely depends on what you need and want. If you have limited time and want to simply relax and enjoy your trip, then booking a tour could be for you.

Things to remember when booking a tour

Depending on the tour you book and the company you book with, different things will be included. Here are a few key questions to ask.

Transport
How will you be getting to and from the trail (private jeep or public bus?)

Accommodation
Will you be sharing a room and with how many people?

Food
Can you order what you like or are your choices limited?

Drink
What drinks are included and how many a day?

Permits
Are all permits included in the cost of the trek?


MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK PERMITS

In order to do the Manaslu Circuit Trek, there are three separate permits required per person. Here we’ll outline what they are and how much they cost. Your trekking agency can get all three permits for you.

Restricted Area Permit for Manaslu (Manaslu RAP)

The restricted area status stems from the fact that it shares a border with Tibet. This permit is needed between Jagat and Dharapani.

There are two different costs depending on the season:

September – November: 100 USD for 7 days ($15 for every additional day)

December – August: 75 USD for 7 days ($10 for every additional day)

For a standard 14 day Manaslu Circuit Itinerary, 7 days in the restricted area is enough and there is no need to pay for extra days.

This permit can only be obtained from the Department of Immigration by a fully licensed trekking agency. You will need to provide your passport.

Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP)

An example of the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP)



Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP)

The Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP)



A minimum of two trekkers travelling together is needed to get this permit, but if you’re a solo traveller, there is a way around this. There is a practice of “ghost permits”. This is where a trekking agency uses another person’s passport who isn’t trekking to get a second permit. Alternatively, agencies who have guides trekking with solo travellers on the same dates can apply for the permit as if they were together, then trek separately on the trail. We met people who had done just that. If you’re travelling solo, you’ll need to discuss these options with your guide and their company.

Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP Permit)

The MCAP Permit is to help protect the ecosystem of the area and help improve the lives of the local population.

The MCAP Permit costs 3000 NPR per person (local currency only)

You can get this permit yourself from the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or your guide can get it for you. To get the permit you need your passport and two passport photographs.

Manaslu Conservation Area Project Permit (MCAP)

An example of the Manaslu Conservation Area Project Permit (MCAP)



Manaslu Conservation Area Project Permit (MCAP)

Manaslu Conservation Area Project Permit (MCAP)



Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP Permit)

The Manaslu Circuit crosses into the Annapurna Conservation Area, just below Bimthang on the way to Dharapani. This permit is needed as far as Besisahar.

The ACAP Permit costs 3000 NPR per person (local currency only)

As with the MCAP, you can get this permit yourself from the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or your guide can get it for you. To get the permit you need your passport and two passport photographs. It looks pretty much the same as the MCAP permit.

There is no need for a TIMS Card (Trekking Information Management System) on the Manaslu Circuit, although you would need one if you were continuing on the Annapurna Circuit.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK BUDGET

So, how much should you budget to trek the Manaslu Circuit? Your overall budget will depend on a variety of different factors. We’ll look at a ballpark figure for both the D.I.Y. Approach and an inclusive tour, then break down the costs for permits, guides and porters, accommodation and food, and transport.

INCLUSIVE TOUR

For a standard 14 day tour, prices start from around $950 USD per person with a local trekking company, although it’s worth noting that there are very few options at this price.  There is quite a range beyond this with some international group tours costing $2000 USD or more. The majority of packages lie somewhere between $1100 – $1600 and can be anything from 12 -18 days.

If you’re thinking about booking a tour, remember to check all the inclusions, ask questions of the operator, and look at reviews before making a decision.

THE D.I.Y. APPROACH

Planning to pay as you go? Here’s an estimated figure for the cost of a Manaslu Circuit Trek based on trekking staff, accommodation, permits, food and transport to/from Kathmandu.

Based on two trekkers travelling together with one guide, you could expect to pay around $600 – 700 USD per person for a 14 day trip.

Based on two trekkers travelling together with one guide and one porter, you could expect to pay around $900 – 1000 USD per person for a 14 day trip.

Permits

As outlined in the permit section, there are three permits required for the Manaslu Circuit. The combined cost of these permits will be $150 (Sept-Nov) or $125 (Dec-Aug).

If you’re a solo traveller there may be extra costs if you need a ‘ghost permit’ (see permits section)

Guides & Porters

Let’s say a guide will cost on average $25 per day and a porter will cost on average $23 per day.

For a standard 14 day trip a guide will cost $350 and a porter will cost $322

For a guide and porter together that would be $672

Obviously, the more people you share this cost with, the cheaper it will be per person.

Porters getting ready for the day on Manaslu Circuit Trek

 Porters loading up and getting ready for the day ahead at Jagat (1340 m)



Porters getting ready for the day on Manaslu Circuit Trek

Porters loading up and getting ready
for the day ahead at Jagat (1340 m) 



Accommodation

The standard price for a twin room in our experience was 600 NPR.

The cheapest price we paid was in Dharapani (500 NPR), and the most expensive was in Samdo (650 NPR). Whether the room is used by one person or two, the price is the same.

Based on 13 nights, let’s say an accommodation budget of 8000 NPR for two people is reasonable. That would be around $70 USD. Many trekking agencies online suggest that a room is $6-10 USD per night, however in our experience $6 would be at the high end of the scale.

Food and Drink

Food and drink costs can vary widely from person to person depending on how much you consume, but the following figures should provide a good guide.

On our 12 days of actual trekking we spent an average of 2000 NPR per day per person.

The early days at lower altitudes were cheaper at around 1500 -1800 NPR per person.

From Lho onwards our daily food costs were around 2000 -2500 NPR per person.

Our most expensive day was at Dharamsala which cost us 3400 NPR per person.

This was for three meals a day and plenty of hot drinks, especially at higher altitudes. Prices creeped up at first then shot up significantly at much higher altitudes where supplies are harder to come by. Finally, having bought plenty of snacks in Kathmandu we never had to splash out on anything to keep us going between meals.

Given these figures, a daily food budget of $15-20 USD would be plenty, with $20 being very generous.

Including a bit for the travel days either side, a total food budget of $200 – 250 USD per person is certainly sufficient.

Transport

Transport costs vary widely depending on whether you travel by local bus or private jeep.

Taking the local bus options to and from Kathmandu should cost no more than a total of $20 USD per person.

A local jeep from Dharapani to Besi Sahar at the end should cost no more than a maximum of $20 per person.

This would bring total transport costs to a maximum of $40 USD per person.

A private jeep to and from Kathmandu would cost around $200-250 USD each way (total for vehicle, not per person).

Service Charge & Taxes

It’s standard for trekking agencies to charge a fee for their services and to cover the cost of government taxes. You can expect this to be no less than $50 USD per person.

TIPPING GUIDES AND PORTERS

While tipping trekking guides and porters is not essential, it is recommended and is generally a good thing to do. It rewards them for their service, helps supplement relatively low wages, and can help motivate them for the future.

Two porters carrying heavy loads on the Manaslu Circuit

A couple of hardworking porters ready for their lunchtime dal bhat after a serious uphill stretch



Two porters carrying heavy loads on the Manaslu Circuit

A couple of hardworking porters ready for their
lunchtime dal bhat after a serious uphill stretch



How Much Should You Tip?

So how much should you tip? There are three factors to consider: whether you are trekking as an individual or part of a group, how long your trek lasts, and finally, how good the service is. The following figures are generally accepted guidelines.

Individual Trekkers (1 or 2 people)

Guides – 5 USD per day

Porters – 3 USD per day

Trekking Groups

Guides – 10 USD per day

Porters – 5 USD per day

Tips are covered by everyone in the group, hence they tend to be higher when there are more people.

Additionally, if you are trekking as part of a large group tour with a head guide (and maybe an assistant guide), they are usually given 10-15% of their daily rate. In these situations, it’s worth finding out the total number of guides and porters in your group beforehand so you can budget accordingly.

How long is the trek?

If you are doing a standard 14 day Manaslu Circuit Trek then the above figures apply. However, if you happen to be doing a longer trek, say a month, then it’s reasonable to pay a bit less. This could be the situation if you were including the Tsum Valley and perhaps continuing on the Annapurna Circuit too.

How good was the service?

While it is good practice and expected to tip, if for some reason you’re unhappy with the level of service then it’s entirely up to you whether you tip less, or maybe even not at all. This could be anything from poor communication to bad advice, or perhaps even drunkenness. On the other hand, if your guide or porter has gone above and beyond, then by all means tip more.

MONEY ON THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

The amount of money you need to take on the Manaslu Circuit Trek will depend on whether you’re on an inclusive tour or taking the D.I.Y. Approach. If you are on an inclusive tour then you’ll only need money for any snacks or drinks over and above what’s included in your package.  If you are paying as you go, then you’ll need to have enough cash to cover all costs: accommodation, food, drink, etc. (see budget section)

Everything is payable in the local currency, Nepalese Rupees (NPR). Take plenty of small denomination notes as change is not readily available on the trail, particularly at higher altitudes. If you have a few days in Kathmandu beforehand, pay for things in big notes to build up your supply of small ones. Also beware that ATMs have max withdrawal amounts, and your bank may have a max daily withdrawal limit, so you may not be able to withdraw the total amount that you need all in one day. 

There are no ATMs on the trek and you must pay in cash for everything.

ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES ON THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

Accommodation is in guesthouses (often called teahouses) along the way. These guesthouses are often clustered together in small settlements to cater for trekkers, or occasionally by themselves in quieter spots. In larger places, like Samagaun and Lho, they sit alongside or nearby the homes of locals.

A two storey wooden lodge in a forest clearing on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The K.L.S.P. Jungle Hotel (2260 m) tucked away in a secluded spot between Ghap and Namrung



A two storey wooden lodge in a forest clearing on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The K.L.S.P. Jungle Hotel (2260 m) tucked away
in a secluded spot between Ghap and Namrung



This region of Nepal was badly affected in the 2015 earthquake, with many guesthouses and homes being damaged or destroyed. However, most rebuilding has been completed and new places continue to spring up all the time.

So what’s accommodation on the Manaslu Circuit like? If you’ve trekked in Nepal before then you’ll know what to expect. The accommodation is similar to what you find on other treks, although generally more basic than on the Annapurna Circuit, for example. Places do vary in size, decor and state of repair, but most things are pretty standard.

Rooms

Rooms have two single beds and usually a small window. Pillows and blankets are always provided but a sleeping bag is a must (don’t expect the blankets to be particularly fresh or clean). Think of the blanket as supplementary to your sleeping bag when it gets cold.

A twin room with two single beds, a small table and a window at the Larke Peak Hotel in Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A twin room at the Larke Peak Hotel in Machhakhola (869 m). Pretty standard at lower altitudes but rooms are more basic higher up.



A twin room with two single beds, a small table and a window at the Larke Peak Hotel in Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A twin room at the Larke Peak Hotel in
Machhakhola (869 m). Standard at lower
altitudes, with rooms more basic higher up



Toilets

There are most often shared toilet facilities rather than en-suite bathrooms on the Manaslu Circuit Trek. These can be inside the main building or in an outhouse. It can be a western style toilet or a squat. Things tend to become more basic in places at higher altitude. You’ll need to have your own toilet paper, and soap isn’t always provided so make sure you have hand sanitiser too. Generally speaking, used toilet paper goes in a bin (read battered old metal can or such like) next to the toilet. You flush the squat toilet by scooping water out of the nearby bucket with whatever receptacle is provided.

Dining Room

There’s always a dining room where meals are served, and it’s a good place to get to know your fellow trekkers. The higher you go, there will usually be a fire in the dining room around dinner time, although this is by no means guaranteed.

Trekkers sitting in a sunny guesthouse courtyard in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit

Many guesthouses have a courtyard or garden too, like this one at Raju Hotel and Lodge in Samagaun (3520 m)



Trekkers sitting in a sunny guesthouse courtyard in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit

Many guesthouses have a courtyard or garden too,
like this one at Raju Lodge in Samagaun (3520 m)



Showers

Showers are available over the first few days, but chances for a hot shower dwindle the higher you go. Gas needs to be transported by mules and it’s more important for cooking and heating. It’s sometimes possible to get one for a fee, but you might be standing in a cold room under a spray with very little pressure. Best to be prepared to keep yourself clean with wet wipes and look forward to a hot shower when you reach Dharapani.

Busy Trekking Season

Rooms can be scarce, particularly in the peak trekking season. If there are a couple of big tour groups on the trail then it can be harder to find accommodation in some smaller places. It’s not unknown for guides to call ahead to guesthouses they’re familiar with to secure a room. Porters will also often go ahead to get rooms for their clients if it’s a busy time. Something worth discussing with your guide.

Accommodation at Dharamsala/Larke Phedi (4460 m)

Accommodation options are limited at Dharamsala, the last place you stay before heading over the Larke Pass. For a long time there was only one old lodge, with a row of tents outside for trekkers and some dank, musty rooms on offer. There are now two newer prefab lodges as well, but even so, if the trail is busy then expect everywhere to be full.

Lodges in the afternoon sun at Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The new pre-fab lodges at Dharamsala (4460 m) providing more room for trekkers the night before the Larke Pass (5106 m)



Red roofed trekking lodges shining in the afternoon sun at Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit

The new pre-fab lodges at Dharamsala (4460 m)



It’s worth planning to arrive here early to secure a room, or have someone from your trekking party go ahead if possible. Either way, discuss this day with your guide in advance.

FOOD & DRINK ON THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

Food and drink on the Manaslu Circuit is similar to what you find on Nepal’s other treks, although options are usually more limited than on busier routes like the Annapurna Circuit. Those options become even more limited throughout the trek as altitude increases, while prices go up as the cost of fuel and transporting goods gets higher.

POINTS TO NOTE

You are expected to eat dinner and breakfast at your guesthouse. Lunch will generally be at a different place somewhere along the trail unless it’s a short day and you arrive at your destination earlier.

Try to order the same as the people you’re trekking with. Your food will usually arrive more quickly and less fuel will be needed to cook it.

Think carefully before ordering meat. Refrigeration, storage and kitchen standards mean that eating veggie is the safest option.


So what can you expect to see on the menu? Let’s take a look at what’s on offer and get an idea of how much it all costs. For more info, check out this article with example menus from guesthouses throughout the trek.

FOOD

Dal Bhat

While trekking the Manaslu Circuit we ate Dal Bhat almost every day for both lunch and dinner. A combination of dal (lentils), veg curry, pickle, rice and vegetables (sometimes), this staple of the Nepali diet is a great option. It comes with a guaranteed refill of rice and curry, and usually some extra dal too. The vegetable component varies depending on what or if there’s anything growing in the garden (and it pretty much disappears the last few days before the Larke Pass).

An added benefit is that it’s usually ready pretty quickly – great if you’re stopping for lunch and don’t want to wait an hour. Dal Bhat is what all guides and porters eat so it’s constantly being prepared, unlike more western style dishes which always have to be made to order. And as the whole cooking process requires less energy, this means that it’s better for the environment too.

  • Dal Bhat on a brass plate against a dark background
  • Dal Bhat on a brass plate against a dark background

Although it sometimes seems a more expensive choice, the option for free refills makes it worth it, and this meal will give you all the energy you need. Dal Bhat ranges from 500 – 800 NPR on the Manaslu Circuit.

Main Dishes

Standard dishes on menus are soups, pasta dishes, various fried rice dishes, momos (a kind of dumpling), pizzas, and of course, Dal Bhat. Some dishes have meat options but this is something to be wary of. Lots of dishes have egg and some tuna (from a can). Prices range from around 350 – 750 NPR for a main meal, depending on what you get and the altitude you’re at.

Breakfast

Breakfast options range in price from 300-500 NPR and include porridge, pancakes, omelettes, boiled eggs, and various breads (Tibetan bread, buckwheat bread, chapatis, and so on).

Drinks

Hot drinks are on the menu at every guesthouse, with an often huge range of options stretching from regular black tea and coffee to masala tea, lemon ginger honey tea, and hot chocolate. Prices range from 50 – 150 NPR per cup, depending on altitude and the drink ordered. ‘Pots’ (thermal flasks) of various sizes are also always available, which is sometimes good value and sometimes not – one guesthouse’s medium pot is another one’s small. Take a look at the size of the pots before ordering if you want to make sure!

Snacks

Unlike other treks in Nepal, snacks (chocolate bars, etc.) are not widely available to buy. You can usually get some biscuits but that’s about it.  When they are available, they tend to be very expensive. It’s a good idea to buy enough in Kathmandu to see you through the whole trek – only as much as you can sensibly carry of course!

DRINKING WATER ON THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

The Manaslu Circuit is physically demanding and drinking plenty of water is a must. The first few days at lower altitudes can be hot, so expect to need a lot of water. At colder, higher altitudes you might feel less thirsty, but drinking lots of water helps you acclimatise. Planning to have at least two litres of water while trekking each day is a good place to start.

Where To Get Water

Filling up water is easy. Taps in, at or outside guesthouses mean there are plenty of places to fill up your bottles and/or water bladders. This can be at the place you’re staying, a lunch stop, or a communal tap used by locals. If you find yourself empty on the trail, there are often streams of cold, clear water that do the job nicely.

Three stone water taps in a stone wall, tied with one yellow, one white and one red flag

There’s always somewhere to fill up water, but it won’t always be as fancy as this



Three stone water taps in a stone wall, tied with one yellow, one white and one red flag

There’s always somewhere to fill up,
but it won’t always be as fancy as this



Sterilisation

Use an effective sterilisation method to make sure your water is safe to drink.

Our preferred method is the Steripen Ultra. It uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and treats one litre of water in 90 seconds. The bulb has a lifetime of around 8,000 treatments, making the initial cost (about $100 USD) seem cheap when you realise how many litres of water that is. If you happen to use up the bulb, the company will replace it for free. We use our Steripen in conjunction with a filter to keep any weird floaty bits out. It’s quick and hassle free, especially when compared to using purification tablets, and the Ultra model is rechargeable via USB.

Other popular means of sterilisation are Lifestraw, Grayl, Water-To Go, a squeeze filter system, and of course water purification tablets (we always have a few strips of these as a backup). Personally, we like the versatility of the Steripen. It allows us to sterilise water in 1L Nalgene bottles before filling up our water bladders for use with our backpacks.

Bottle or Water Bladder

Should you use a water bladder, water bottle, or both? A combination of both works well for us, but it’s totally down to personal preference.

We’ve used water bladders/reservoirs for many years. Having 2-3 litres in your backpack at the start of the day makes drinking water on the go easy. No stopping to get your bottle out, just drink from the handy tube. These days we use the excellent Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir.

We always have our Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth 1L bottles with us too. They’re great for around camp and as mentioned, for sterilising water for the bladders. They work well in conjunction with Steripen’s wide mouth bottle filter, perfect for getting rid of any particulates in the water.

Bottled Water

Bottled water is available to buy throughout the trek, but we would advise against this for a number of reasons.

First | With the sterilisation methods outlined above, there is absolutely no need to buy bottled water, in the mountains of Nepal or virtually anywhere.

Second | All plastic waste is supposed to be carried out of the mountains, but in reality, this doesn’t always happen. Instead, the environment is polluted either by burning plastic or unsustainable waste disposal.

Third | As if those reasons aren’t enough, think about your wallet. As well as creating a huge amount of unnecessary waste, you’ll also spend a fortune if you buy bottled water each day (one bottle can cost over 300 rupees at altitude).


TOP TIP

Fill up your water bladders and bottles the night before.

This is handy for two reasons: one, it will save you time in the morning; and two, water sources can sometimes be frozen first thing in the morning, especially at higher altitudes.


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INTERNET, WIFI, SIM CARDS AND STAYING CHARGED

If you’re looking to stay connected while trekking the Manaslu Circuit, the options are fairly limited.

Wifi

Wifi is available at some guesthouses in places such as Samagaun, Samdo and Lho. There is however normally a charge for using the internet, and with slow speeds, you may end up wishing you hadn’t bothered. If there’s nothing urgent, our advice would be to wait until you get back from the mountains.

Sim Cards

4G sim cards and packages can be bought at the airport, or from numerous vendors in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. They’re great in the city but as soon as you leave the coverage is patchy.

Some recommend Nepal Telecom for 3G/4G coverage, while others recommend Ncell. It’s safe to say that in the mountains, neither are really any good. We had Ncell sim cards during our Manaslu Trek and found that after the first day they were useless – no data connection at all. Considering that wifi is freely available in virtually all Kathmandu bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels, think about whether you really need that sim card in Nepal.

Heads up – we bought a 60 day sim card package from a tourist shop in Kathmandu to cover our 40 day trek. We paid what we later realised was a ridiculously inflated price. After 30 days, our data allowance ran out. We later discovered that Ncell don’t sell packages for longer than 30 days and we had been conned. Returning to the shop in Kathmandu, we got our money back after threatening to involve the police. Something to bear in mind if you’re going to be in Nepal for longer than a month.

Chortens, prayer flags and stone houses against a background of mountains in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit

It’s possible to get wifi (for a price) in certain guesthouses in Samagaun, but with so much to explore, why bother?



Chortens, prayer flags and stone houses against a background of mountains in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit

You can get wifi in Samagaun and some other
places, but with so much to explore, why bother?



Staying Charged

With a minimum of 12 days in the mountains, you’ll no doubt need to charge batteries at some stage. While sockets and electricity are freely available for the first couple of days, this doesn’t last long. Beyond this, if you need to charge batteries there is usually a cost, which could be 200 NPR or more, depending on the item you want to charge.

For cameras in particular, it’s always advisable to have a spare battery or two. And if like us you’re toting around multiple cameras, video cameras, and other electrical items, then a power bank never goes amiss. Just remember that someone’s going to have to carry all the extra weight.

Another option is to pack a lightweight solar panel. We’ve been using one for a few years now, and in sunny conditions, it really is amazing how quickly it can charge things.

WHAT TO TAKE ON A MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

There are two things to keep in mind when packing for your trek: one, only take what you need, and two, make your bag as light as possible.

Beyond that the season will also play a part. You can expect to need more warm clothes in the colder months. Also, crampons may be needed if there’s ice and snow on the pass (your guide and trekking agency can advise on this before leaving Kathmandu).

If you’re taking camera equipment and carrying your own bag then you might want to make a few trade-offs to keep the weight down. On the other hand, if you plan to trek with a porter then this will make choosing what to take a bit easier – just don’t overload your porter of course. Also, bear in mind that it’s very common to leave excess baggage at hotels and guesthouses in Kathmandu.

Two backpacks sit on a bench outside a lodge in Nyak Phedi on the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal

Try to keep your bag as small and light as possible (more like the 50 litre one on the right). Your body will thank you for it on the trail!



Two backpacks sit on a bench outside a lodge at lunchtime

Attempt to keep your bag as small and light as
possible (more like the 50 litre one on the right).
Your body will be thankful for it on the trail!



PACKING LISTS

Below you’ll find our packing lists for the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The first outlines the clothing you should take and the second is a list of equipment we recommend for the trek. Not everything is essential but all of it is useful.

Clothing

You need to be prepared for all weather conditions and eventualities. Quality gear and the right materials will make a big difference to your enjoyment and how much/little you need to pack.

Layers are important – you need a baselayer (like this), a mid-layer (like this), an insulating layer (like this), plus a top shell (like this).

Avoid cotton clothing as it will quickly become smelly and be very difficult to dry when wet – particularly at higher altitudes. Opt for merino wool instead. It keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool, and amazingly won’t stink even after days of wearing it. It will dry relatively fast too.

Make sure you have a separate change of clothes for the evening/sleeping in and get out of those sweaty clothes as soon as you arrive at your guesthouse. Changing your clothes, including your socks, will keep you much warmer.

Break in your hiking boots before you trek! Blisters and hot spots can ruin your hike. Pack Compeed just in case.

Merino T-Shirts x 3
His/Hers

Merino Thermal Baselayer
His/Hers

Merino Thermal Leggings
His/Hers

Merino Underwear x 3
His/Hers

Sports Bra x 2

Fleece
His/Hers

Down Jacket
His/Hers

Rain Jacket/Shell
His/Hers

Waterproof Trousers
His/Hers

Quick Drying Hiking Trousers (preferably with zip-off shorts)
His/Hers

Trousers to wear in the evening
(Lightweight, similar to above)

Trekking Socks x 3
His/Hers

Warm Socks to wear at night x 1

Buff

Gloves
Liner & Waterproof Outer

Sun Hat

Warm Hat

Sunglasses
(plus a spare pair)

Hiking Boots
His/Hers

Waterproof sandals /Crocs
(for evening)

Belt
You might lose weight on the trek!


Equipment, Gear & Miscellaneous Items

As Manaslu Circuit is a ‘teahouse trek’, you don’t need much in the way of specialist gear or equipment. There are however a few items which are essential.

Backpack

Most obviously you’ll need a good backpack. Osprey backpacks with their Anti-Gravity (AG) back system are the most comfortable and easy to carry we’ve ever used. We highly recommend them. Look for a backpack capacity between 40-70L, depending on how much you plan to carry and how long you’ll trek for. If you’re joining an inclusive tour or trekking with a porter, you’ll need a comfortable day pack for your water, snacks, camera, warm layers, etc.

Sleeping Bag

There are always blankets but we recommend taking your own sleeping bag. We used these 3 season Rab down sleeping bags on our Nepal treks along with these silk liners. Down sleeping bags offer the best warmth to weight ratio, and can really pack down small. Using a compression sack will save even more space in your backpack.

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles are a huge help on the Manaslu Circuit, particularly if you’re carrying your own bag. There is a fair bit of ascending and descending over gravelly landslide areas, where hiking poles make a big difference. Cork handles are by far the best when it comes to hot sweaty palms and carbon fibre will help you keep the weight down.  These poles have done us proud on countless treks.

Everything Else

For a comprehensive list of everything else you might need or want for the trek, click on the drop down menu below.

Backpack
His/Hers

Day Pack
(if you have a porter)

Hiking Poles

Sleeping Bag

Silk Liner

Eye Mask & Earplugs

Travel Towel

Water Bottle/Bladder

Scrubba & Suds
(portable washing machine)

Washing Line

Headtorch

Travel Adapter

Solar Panel

Power Bank

Penknife

First Aid Kit

Sunscreen

Sunscreen (lips)

Lightweight Padlock
(We needed this at Dharamsala
– all other rooms had a lock)

Hand Sanitiser

Toilet Paper

Toiletries
(soap, toothpaste, etc.)

Wet Wipes


ALTITUDE AWARENESS

You will encounter many opinions in Nepal about how best to deal with altitude acclimatisation, or what the best cures are for symptoms of altitude sickness. The best approach? Do your own research beforehand. Consult your doctor if you’re considering taking preventative medication like Diamox, and have a clear understanding of the correct way to take it. Don’t expect guides or porters to know the facts, no matter how confident they sound. And don’t believe any nonsense about garlic soup or other supposed remedies. Stock your medical kit with plenty of paracetamol and ibuprofen in advance.

  • A panoramic view of the mountains looking down from Larke Pass, with the glacier visible in the foreground and tiny fugures seen descending the trail
  • A view down from Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit, towards the Annapurna Range

Trekkers descending from the Larke Pass (5106 m)



Altitude sickness becomes a concern at altitudes of around 2500m and above. It can affect anyone and everyone, regardless of age, sex or physical fitness. Just because you’ve been unaffected at altitude in the past, does not mean you’ll be unaffected every time. On the other hand, if you have a history of suffering from altitude sickness, chances are you’ll be affected again (this is the case for Kim). The higher you go, the higher the risk. The best approach is to ascend slowly. The general rule of thumb at higher altitudes is not to sleep more than 300-500 metres higher than the previous night.

As we said, the best way to be confident at altitude is to know the score before getting there. There’s a lot of misinformation and contradictory advice flying around the trail, so knowing your facts will ensure you react smartly to any symptoms instead of potentially endangering yourself.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Getting the right travel insurance cover is essential preparation for your Manaslu Circuit Trek. It’s important to check exactly what is and isn’t covered under the policy.

Trekking At Altitude

Not all policies will cover trekking at altitude. You will need cover for trekking above 4500m. This isn’t usually covered as standard, but many travel insurance policy providers will have activity pack add-ons that you can pay extra for to be covered for trekking at this height. It’s also wise to ensure you have Search and Rescue and Medical Evacuation cover included. Always check the exclusions of your policy carefully.

Trekking In Nepal

Some travel insurance companies have specific exclusions or conditions when it comes to trekking in Nepal. The excess for helicopter evacuation, for example, may be considerably higher for Nepal than elsewhere. This is due in part to a scam in recent years whereby trekkers who become ill are pressured or encouraged into flying out of the mountains by helicopter for medical attention. Unscrupulous guides, doctors and even some trekkers have profited from this. The result has been more expensive insurance policies, with some insurers threatening to no longer provide cover unless the government takes action.

Travel Insurance Providers

Whether you are already travelling or not, two travel insurance policy providers that you can get cover with for trekking in Nepal are World Nomads and True Traveller (UK/EEA residents only). Both have activity pack add-ons to cover you for trekking up to the required altitude, and can cover you for search and rescue. Get a quote and see what suits you best. Having used World Nomads for a while, we opted for True Traveller for our last Nepal trip as they were significantly cheaper when factoring in the adventure activities we needed cover for.

For the full lowdown on choosing a travel insurance policy check out this post.

CHECK PRICES AND GET A QUOTE HERE



TSUM VALLEY SIDE TRIP

A side trip up the Tsum Valley offers a multitude of spectacular views, a fascinating insight into a distinct culture, and a chance to better acclimatise before continuing on with the Manaslu Circuit.

This secluded valley, thick with pine forests and lined with waterfalls, lies in the shadow of mountain giants such as Himalchuli (7893 m) and Ganesh Himal (7140 m). There are opportunities to visit Ganesh Himal Base Camp (4200 m), Milarepa’s Cave and Poshyop Glacier.

Mountain view with swirling white clouds and blue sky on the Manaslu Circuit and Tsum Valley Trek in Nepal

There are plenty of great mountain views while trekking up the Tsum Valley



There is no shortage of great mountain
views while trekking up the Tsum Valley



Only opened for trekking and tourism in 2007, the Tsum Valley is an area that’s had limited interaction with the outside world. As such you can experience a unique buddhist culture in the villages along the way. The people have their own dialect and traditions, including polyandry, a system in which women have more than one husband. In addition, many archaeological and religious relics are well preserved.

The trek up the Tsum Valley takes you to an altitude of around 4200 m before descending the same way to rejoin the Manaslu Circuit at around 2000 m. This makes it perfect for acclimatisation and could help reduce the chances of any altitude sickness symptoms later on the trek.

How long does the Tsum Valley Side Trip take?

Adding a Tsum Valley Side Trip onto your trek will take an extra 6 – 8 days. This depends on your pace of travel, plus how much you choose to see and do while you’re there. Speak to your guide/trekking agency to work out the details.

Tsum Valley Side Trip Permit

As the Tsum Valley is also a restricted area, it requires a restricted area permit (RAP) on top of the Manaslu RAP. Similarly, it can only be obtained on your behalf by a licensed trekking agency and there must be a minimum of two trekkers (see Permits section).

Again, there are two prices depending on the time of year:

September – November: 40 USD per person for 7 days ($7 for every additional day)

December – August: 30 USD per person for 7 days ($7 for every additional day)

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS

For us there were many highlights on the Manaslu Circuit Trek, while there were barely any lowlights.

Manaslu Circuit Trek Highlights

Pretty much all of the Manaslu Circuit Trek was enjoyable for us, however there are some real standout moments.

Firstly, the Tibetan villages of Samagaun and Samdo. The setting of both of these villages is spectacular. They are also big enough (particularly Samagaun) to feel like real villages with local homes, not just settlements that have sprung up for trekkers. We enjoyed wandering the streets, people watching, and visiting the Buddhist monasteries in the area.

Secondly, the Larke Pass. Wow. The scenery here is eerily beautiful and completely different to any other day. The sense of achievement reaching 5106m after ten days of trekking can’t be underestimated. It knocked the socks of any other pass we have traversed in Nepal.

Thirdly, we really enjoyed the initial descent from Bimthang on our last trekking day. Because you descend so quickly, the change in landscape is very noticable. The scenery around the Annapurna Conservation Area boundary is jaw-droppingly beautiful; a milky blue river tumbling down from snow covered peaks, surrounded by slivers of sandy beach and leafy trees. Divine!

Snowy mountains, milky blue river and bush covered hillsides looking back up towards Bimthang on a sunny morning on the Manaslu Circuit

Looking back up to the mountains, from the trail below Bimthang



Snowy mountains, milky blue river and bush covered hillsides looking back up towards Bimthang on a sunny morning on the Manaslu Circuit

Looking back up to the mountains
from the trail below Bimthang



Manaslu Circuit Trek Lowlights

Honestly, there aren’t many. We don’t enjoy trekking on roads, so the short sections of dirt road at the very start and end were definitely the least enjoyable parts of the trek. However, they weren’t particularly busy and so didn’t annoy us too much.

THINGS WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

On the whole, we are happy with how our Manaslu Circuit Trek went, but there are a few things we would do differently if we had our time again.

Firstly, we would start the trek at Soti Khola instead of Arughat. We took the public bus from Kathmandu to Arughat, and so just started walking from there rather than catching a second bus to Soti Khola. It wasn’t a bad day, but you just walk on the road for 4 hours and it can definitely be skipped.

Secondly, we would stay in Samdo for an extra night. Partly to acclimatise better, and partly because we liked the area so much. It would be good to hike to the Tibetan border and back on the extra acclimatisation day.

Thirdly, we would include a side trip up the Tsum Valley. We had the time, but we just didn’t really know about it until it was too late.

GETTING TO AND FROM THE TRAIL

The start of the Manaslu Circuit is best accessed from Kathmandu. The trail begins at either Arughat Bazar or Sotikhola, and can end at anywhere from Dharapani to Besisahar.

There are two main ways to get to and from the trail. One, a combination of public bus and local jeep, or two, private jeep. We’ll first take a look at the options for getting to the trail, then at the options for getting back.

As you must trek the Manaslu Circuit with a government authorised person (usually a guide), he/she will likely be able to assist with the logistics of booking bus seats and dealing with local jeep drivers. If you’re on an inclusive tour then this will all be taken care of.

GETTING TO THE TRAIL

Public Bus And Local Bus/Jeep

The most cost effective option is to take the public bus from Gongabu Bus Park in Kathmandu to Arughat Bazar. This takes from 6-8 hours with a lunch stop along the way and costs around $10 USD. The road is hilly and rough between Dhadingbesi and Arughat, but recent tarmacking should now make for a smoother and swifter journey.

From Arughat you must cross the river on foot to take either a local bus or jeep to Sotikhola where the trek begins. It’s also possible to begin your trek at Arughat, walking for four hours along the dirt road past rice fields and villages.

Local bus and people waiting between Arughat and Soti Khola at the start of the Manaslu Circuit

A local bus stopped in the village between Arughat Bazar and Soti Khola, pretty similar to the bus that comes from Kathmandu



Local bus and people waiting between Arughat and Soti Khola at the start of the Manaslu Circuit

A local bus stopped in the village between
Arughat Bazar and Soti Khola, a bus that’s
pretty similar to the one from Kathmandu



Tips For The Bus

Your bag will be put up on the roof of the bus and not always handled with the care you’d like. Keep anything valuable or breakable with you inside the bus. And be there to get your bag when it’s passed/dropped down at the end of your journey.

Take advantage of the deliciously fresh Dal Bhat at the local lunch stop canteen. At around 150 NPR, it’s the cheapest meal you’ll be having for quite some time.

Private Jeep

This is the quickest and most convenient way of getting to the trail, but it is also more expensive by far. It costs around $200 – 240 USD for the vehicle, depending on whether you’re going to Arughat or Sotikhola.

The major benefits are time saving, extra comfort, flexibility (not bound by the bus schedule and can stop when you like) and a safer place to store your bags.

RETURNING FROM THE TRAIL

 Local Jeep from Dharapani

When you arrive at Dharapani (or perhaps nearby Tal) you have a choice to make. Take a local jeep to Besisahar or continue walking. However, due to the road building project, most people choose to end their trek at this point.

Local jeeps with a 9 passenger capacity run between Chame and Besisahar several times a day. During the busy trekking seasons you can expect them to be roughly every hour. Tourist prices are around 1500 – 1800 NPR per person and the journey takes about 3 – 4 hours.

Public Bus from Besisahar to Kathmandu

Buses are frequent from Besisahar to Kathmandu, via Mugling, where the road joins the main highway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. This should cost no more than $10 USD.

Public Bus from Besisahar to Pokhara

Heading on to Pokhara? Buses are regular and can be smaller local affairs or large tourist coaches. The journey takes around 4 – 5 hours and costs around $10 USD.

Private Jeep from Dharapani

Prices are similar to those at the beginning of the trek ($200 – 240 USD per vehicle) and can of course take you to Pokhara or Kathmandu. It is advisable to have this arranged ahead of time.

Continue on the Annapurna Circuit

Not done trekking yet? Just join the Annapurna Circuit by heading in the opposite direction to Chame!

Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal

Morning sunlight strikes the Annapurna Massif, seen from the village of Ngawal (3680 m) on the Annapurna Circuit



Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal

Morning sunlight hits the Annapurna Massif, seen
from Ngawal (3680 m) on the Annapurna Circuit



GETTING TO NEPAL

Flying

The easiest way to get to Nepal is by flying and this is how the vast majority of people arrive. A number of different airlines operate flights out of the country’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport on the outskirts of Kathmandu. However, there are very few long distance flights so you can expect to stop and transfer somewhere in Asia or the Middle East, depending on your direction of travel.

Get your flights organised at the earliest possible opportunity. During busy times, such as the peak trekking season from September – November, flights are often fully booked.

CHECK OUT FLIGHT OPTIONS HERE AND NOW


Overland

The other option is to arrive overland from India, crossing the border at Sunauli. Take a look at this post on Seat 61 to learn how to go about it.

NEPAL VISAS

Tourist visas are available on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport and at all land border crossings that are open to foreign travellers.

In order to get a visa on arrival you’ll need four things:

    • One passport size photo
    • A passport valid for at least six months
    • At least one blank page in your passport
    • The visa fee in cash (US Dollars is best)

There are three different visa options and prices:

    • 15 Days – 30 USD
    • 30 Days – 50 USD
    • 90 Days – 125 USD

While this is available for most foreigners, citizens of some countries are required to get a visa prior to arrival, while those from SAARC countries can get their visa free of charge. See this for more details.

RESOURCES

Maps & Guidebooks

There are plenty of shops in Kathmandu selling detailed trekking maps of the Manaslu Circuit. Although you must trek with a registered guide, it’s good to learn as much as can about the area, and have an idea about places on the trail, elevation changes, etc. Maps are great for this.

You can get prepared by sourcing a map online before you travel. And if you want to dive a little deeper, there are guide books specific to the Manaslu area. For a more general guide book check out Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya.





Maps.me

Using a mapping app on the trail is a great way to get an appreciation of where you are, distances travelled, elevation gained, etc.

Maps.me (iOS/Android) is particularly good for this. You can download maps for the area beforehand and use it offline with the GPS on your phone. It also has lots of useful information marked and includes the hiking trails too.

You can download our bookmarks for the Manaslu Circuit Trek here, with the main villages and sights marked along the way. Just be sure to download the app first.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

That’s it for our essential guide to the Manaslu Circuit Trek. We hope you found it useful.

Don’t forget to check out our Manaslu Trek itinerary and day by day account.

Have you trekked in Nepal before? If not does this sound like something you’d love to do?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Have you trekked in Nepal before? If not does this sound like something you’d love to do? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

ORGANISE YOUR TRIP


Booking.com

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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Manaslu Circuit Trek: The Essential Guide
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