• MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

    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
  • MANASLU CIRCUIT

    The peak of Mt. Manaslu shining in the sun on a clear morning, with prayer flags in the foreground

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK ITINERARY

Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya is an experience like no other. Boasting the highest mountains in the world and steeped in centuries old culture, it’s no surprise that it attracts so many visitors. The Everest region and Annapurna regions are the biggest draw, and as a result, they’re also the places most stretched by visitor numbers, their environments most stressed by development. By contrast, the Manaslu region, a relatively recent addition to the trekking landscape, offers a chance to experience a quieter side to the Nepal Himalaya, and witness a more traditional side of life along the way. Comparisons aside, the Manaslu Circuit Trek offers a journey through dramatic and varied landscapes, and is a worthwhile trek in its own right.

Here we’ll give an account of our experience in the Manaslu region, along with daily details on distances, times, elevation and accommodation. Every day has a short Relive video* (except the Larke Pass day… whoops) which is a great way to get a sense of the landscape. And to fully appreciate what the Manaslu Circuit is like, you can watch our complete Instagram Stories from the trek (part one/part two), along with our video below.

*Some of the Relive distances are wildly inaccurate due to GPS failings, particularly in deep, steep-sided valleys. If you see the route zig-zagging up the mountain for no apparent reason, don’t worry, this is not the trail.

Fancy tackling the Manaslu Circuit Trek yourself? Find out everything you need to know to plan your trek in our complete Manaslu Circuit Trekking Guide.

WATCH THE VIDEO

TREKKING THE MANASLU CIRCUIT

On our most recent trip to Nepal, we set out on the longest trek of our lives. To say we were excited is an understatement of mammoth proportions. For the best part of 40 days we journeyed through the majestic Himalaya to places we’d never been before – a variety of destinations from busy popular routes to those less often visited by the average trekker. Our trek took us round the popular Annapurna Circuit and on to Upper Mustang, but first, Manaslu.

Read through our account day by day, or jump to a particular section by clicking on the links below

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREKKING MAP

We’ve marked the Manaslu Circuit trekking route on the map below, along with key villages and sights along the way. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.

To use an offline version of this map, download our KML file for use with Maps.me (iOS/Android), or the GPX file for use with alternative offline mapping apps such as Gaia (iOS/Android) or OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android). See our expandable box below for tips on using these apps.


To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps.

On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.

Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below.


MAPS.ME

Maps.me is our go-to offline mapping app. We find it straightforward to use for planning routes in advance, as well as navigating on the trail. It doesn’t drain our phone battery, and it’s quick and easy to save and organise ‘bookmarks’. There are many trails already marked on Maps.me, plus you can download and import a KML track of your route to the app. 

To use Maps.me, first download the app (iOS/Android). Hover over the region or country that you want to visit and the app will prompt you to download this map. Once downloaded, it can be viewed offline. 

You can tap anywhere and save it as a ‘bookmark’ by tapping the star symbol at the bottom. Hit ‘Edit Bookmark’ to personalise the bookmark colour, organise your bookmarks into different folders, and rename them. 

You can navigate easily or plan routes in advance by tapping your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tapping your end point and selecting ‘route to’. Tap the car, walking, or cycling symbol at the top of the screen to indicate your mode of travel. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’. 

Maps.me shows the distance and travel time, plus elevation profiles for hiking trails. Note that the estimated time isn’t always reliable, but we’ve always found the distance and elevation gain/loss to be largely accurate. It only shows very basic contour lines.

You can track your progress on the trail using GPS. The arrow shows your direction of travel. Tap the compass at the top right of the screen to keep the map in a fixed position (the arrow will rotate). Alternatively, tap the arrow at the bottom right of the screen to rotate the map in the direction of travel (the arrow will stay in a fixed position).

GAIA

Gaia (iOS/Android) is another offline mapping app that is very useful. It shows the contours in much more detail than Maps.me, as long as you have previously viewed the section of map online. With a paid membership you can download various maps in advance for offline use. The app has existing OpenStreetMap trails marked and you can import GPX tracks and view them offline. You can also create new routes online yourself and export them as GPX or KML files. You can navigate easily on the trail using the arrow that shows your GPS location. Unlike with Maps.me, it isn’t possible to quickly check distances between two points (or at least we haven’t figured out a way to do it). There are a lot of useful features in the free version and even more benefits if you have a paid annual membership, so if you spend a lot of time outdoors it is worthwhile learning how to use the app to its full advantage. 

In our experience, Gaia drains your phone battery much quicker than Maps.me, even in flight mode, so it’s best to shut down the app completely each time you finish using it. 

OSMAND MAPS

OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android) is another great offline mapping app with lots of useful features. In our opinion, it’s not as intuitive as Maps.me, and it has so many features that it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Like Gaia, we recommend checking out the written and video tutorials on the OsmAnd website to learn how to fully use the app. The benefits of the app include being able to plot routes in advance and save them as GPX tracks, and to view detailed elevation and terrain information, including surface types. You can also import GPX tracks. One downside is that the free version does not include contour lines, but these can be added via a paid plugin.


MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: TRAVEL DAY
~
KATHMANDU – ARUGHAT BAZAR

TIME

8 hours (bus)

ACCOMMODATION

Ganga Jamuna Hotel & Lodge
Twin Room w/bathroom
600 NPR


On an October morning (which also happened to be our wedding anniversary!) we clambered aboard a rickety little bus before dawn, leaving Kathmandu under a cloud of dust and smog. The two young conductors, hanging from the door, banged the bus’s steel frame and clamoured for more passengers as we trundled through the city’s uneven streets.

Seven hot, dusty hours and our first dal bhat of the trip later, ourselves and our guide, Dinesh, were safely ensconced in the basic but clean Ganga Jamuna Hotel & Lodge in Arughat Bazar. This small market town straddles the Budhi Gandaki river, and was the starting point for our epic 37 day trek.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 1
~
ARUGHAT BAZAR – SOTI KHOLA

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 1

ARUGHAT BAZAR – SOTI KHOLA

DISTANCE

12.4 km

ELEVATION

608 – 700 m

TIME

4 hours (total)

3 hours 30 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

ABC Guesthouse
Twin Room w/bathroom
600 NPR


A short day on dirt roads.

By eight we were on our way, crossing the river and climbing through rice fields to the other side of town. Permits checked, we wandered up the dirt road past busy locals, ramshackle shopfronts and colourful buses, before leaving town and continuing on to Soti Khola.

A local man carrying a load on his back down the dirt road of Arughat Bazar in Nepal

The streets of Arughat Bazar, quiet in the early morning sun



A local man carrying a load on his back down the dirt road of Arughat Bazar in Nepal

Quiet streets of Arughat Bazar in the morning sun



The road wound up alongside the Budhi Gandaki, taking us past familiar sights: bold green rice fields, bright blue roofed houses and excited children shouting ‘Namaste! Namaste!’ Although we’d started at Arughat Bazar, a number of 4WD vehicles carrying trekkers passed us on the road. For many, Soti Khola is the Manaslu Trek starting point.

Sunny and green terraced rice fields on the banks of the Budhi Gandaki at the start of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Rice fields in full swing between Arughat Bazar and Soti Khola in early October



Sunny and green terraced rice fields on the banks of the Budhi Gandaki at the start of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Rice fields in full swing between Arughat
Bazar and Soti Khola in early October



With just a few short rests along the way, we arrived at the small settlement of Soti Khola, getting a room at the ABC Guesthouse and another delicious round of dal bhat for lunch. And with that we had the day to rest, drink tea, wash and have a wander, before tucking into more of Nepal’s finest dish come dinner. As the day wore on, our guesthouse and others began to fill up, a few arriving on foot, others in buses as part of tour groups.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 2
~
SOTI KHOLA – MACHHAKHOLA

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 2

SOTI KHOLA – MACHHAKHOLA

DISTANCE

14 km

ELEVATION

700 – 869 m

TIME

5 hours (total)

4 hours 30 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Larke Peak Hotel
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


Only a little higher, and still a bit too much road.

Another eight o’clock start saw us leaving Soti Khola, crossing the suspension bridge and climbing the dirt road high above the Budhi Gandaki. After passing a few small villages and roadside shacks, we were suddenly wandering through what seemed to be a tropical jungle. The leaves of the tall Sal trees shone bright green in the morning sun, while the sound of birds and insects filled the air. A troop of monkeys crashed through the undergrowth, swinging from tree to tree and eating their fill. As the valley widened we walked on a half-finished road, freshly blasted and still worked on.

A suspension bridge spans the valley above rice fields and a snaking dirt road on day two of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A long suspension bridge spans the gap, with the new road under construction below



A suspension bridge spans the valley above rice fields and a snaking dirt road on day two of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A long suspension bridge spans the gap,
the new road under construction below



Past guesthouses, villages, and picture perfect waterfalls we walked on. We even passed some locals cooling off in a roadside pool, a gift from yet another waterfall. And with every breath of wind, our noses were assaulted by the acrid smell of donkey piss. 

The white water of a small waterfall rushes down over rocks and green bushes at the side of the trail on the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal

A picturesque trailside waterfall



Locals swim in a pool at the side of the track near Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The pool is fed by a small waterfall.

Local guys taking advantage of this roadside pool



Locals swim in a pool at the side of the track near Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The pool is fed by a small waterfall.

Local guys taking advantage of the roadside pool


The white water of a small waterfall rushes down over rocks and green bushes at the side of the trail on the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal

A picturesque trailside waterfall



A spot of heavy rain had us scrambling for bag covers, but it was short lived, and soon we descended once more, the blue roofs and whitewashed walls of Machhakhola showing us the way. Another short day, we arrived again in time for lunch.

Several laden mules make their way along the flagstoned central street of Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal

Mules plod along between Machhakhola guesthouses



Dal Bhat, the national dish of Nepal, on a copper dish set on a blue wooden table at the Larke Peak Hotel on the Manaslu Trek

Fuelling up with a fine helping of Dal Bhat



Dal Bhat, the national dish of Nepal, on a copper dish set on a blue wooden table at the Larke Peak Hotel on the Manaslu Trek

Fuelling up with a fine helping of Dal Bhat


Several laden mules make their way along the flagstoned central street of Machakhola on the Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal

Mules plod between Machhakhola guesthouses



Our lodge was packed and so were the others – probably as packed as we’d seen it trekking in Nepal up to this point. Dinesh later told us that in Soti Khola and now here in Machhakhola, this had been their first really busy day since spring – the season had well and truly started.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 3
~
MACHHAKHOLA – JAGAT

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 3

MACHHAKHOLA – JAGAT

DISTANCE

16 km

ELEVATION

869 – 1340 m

TIME

8 hours (total)

6 hours 45 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Himalayan Tourist Guesthouse
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A day of changing landscapes.

Out of Machhakhola we hugged the cliff face, stepping carefully on the slippery mud path, eyes focused on sharp drop-offs then up to admire the valley stretching before us.

Trekkers follow a rocky path high above the Budhi Gandaki on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The rocky trail hugging the cliff face above the Budhi Gandaki



Trekkers follow a rocky path high above the Budhi Gandaki on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The rocky trail hugging the cliff
face above the Budhi Gandaki



By midmorning we’d reached picturesque Tatopani. The small settlement sat just above the river, among trees where monkeys played. The teahouse was full – everyone seemed to have stopped there. You could see why. The sun lit up the courtyard, smoke swirled – catching the light – and colourful prayer flags swayed In the light breeze.

People rest and chat at wooden benches outside a teahouse in Tatopani on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Time for a morning rest



Prayer flags in the morning sun above the courtyard in Tatopani on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Prayer flags draped over the courtyard at Tatopani



Prayer flags in the morning sun above the courtyard in Tatopani on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Prayer flags over the courtyard at Tatopani


People rest and chat at wooden benches outside a teahouse in Tatopani on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Trekkers and guides enjoying a morning rest



Back on the trail, crossing the Budhi Gandaki by wire suspension bridge, the landscape became thick jungle, lush vegetation crowding the undulating path. Endless lines of mules trotted by, heedless of the waiting humans, their bells tinkling away melodically. Chittering cicadas competed for the soundscape with the roaring of the mighty Budhi Gandaki below. Across the river, waterfalls fell in complex patterns, thin streams shooting down and across huge rock faces.

Water streaming down a rock face in patterns above the Budhi Gandaki in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Water streaming down rock faces



The Budhi Gandaki cuts through the steep-sided, densely forested valley

Looking up the valley as the trail crosses a suspension bridge



Water streaming down a rock face in patterns above the Budhi Gandaki in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Water streaming down rock faces



While many of our fellow trekkers stopped for lunch in bucolic Dovan, we carried on, first across a suspension bridge, then up and over a rocky landslide area under the hot sun, before reaching Shyauli Bhatti and eating lunch in our own attractive garden spot.

The final couple of hours took us up rough stone steps and through trees (more like forest than jungle), the sun now shaded by clouds and high mountains. The valley widened, the river calm before beginning its tumbling descent. A metal walkway, bolted to the cliff face high above the river below, led us to our final suspension bridge and first sight of Jagat.

Two hikers enter the Manaslu Conservation Area on a stone path above Jagat, with the rocky valley sides rising steeply on either side.

The trail down towards Jagat and into the Manaslu Conservation Area



A metal walkway is built into the side of a cliff above the stony river plain, near Jagat on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A metal walkway stuck to the cliffside



Two hikers enter the Manaslu Conservation Area on a stone path above Jagat, with the rocky valley sides rising steeply on either side.

The trail down towards Jagat and
into the Manaslu Conservation Area


A metal walkway is built into the side of a cliff above the stony river plain, near Jagat on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A metal walkway stuck to the cliffside



Within half an hour we’d entered the Manaslu Special Conservation Area, reached Jagat, braved an icy cold shower, and settled down to a well earned hot chocolate. It had felt like our first proper day of trekking. Time now to chat, make notes, and wait for the next round of dal bhat.

More Hiking & Trekking Adventures

A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 4
~
JAGAT – DYANG/DENG

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 4

JAGAT – DYANG/DENG

DISTANCE

19 km

ELEVATION

1340 – 1860 m

TIME

8 hours 30 minutes (total)

6 hours 45 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

New Manaslu Bamboo Hotel
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
400 NPR


A day of lizards and mules.

Everywhere we looked the little scaly creatures scurried, and more than once we were forced to wait for long queues of the hairy, smelly creatures to pass. We even got stuck behind a mule train crossing a suspension bridge while carrying components for a new one – two pieces either side forming bizarre triangular armour – a strange army on the march.

Mules crossing a suspension bridge while carrying the parts for another bridge

A mule handler and his charges have a difference of opinion about crossing a suspension bridge across the Budhi Gandaki



Mules crossing a suspension bridge while carrying the parts for another bridge

A mule handler and his charges have a
slight difference of opinion about crossing
a suspension bridge across the river



Our first five kilometres featured gentle climbing, wide valley views, waterfalls, small hydropower stations, rustic villages and our first proper views of snowy peaks.

Mules plod along the flagstoned path in a sun drenched village in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Waiting for mules to pass



Sunshine and morning mountain views just past Jagat on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal

Open views and our first proper sighting of snowy peaks



Sunshine and morning mountain views just past Jagat on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal

Open views and our first proper
sighting of those snowy peaks


Mules plod along the flagstoned path in a sun drenched village in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Enjoying the village vibes while
waiting for more mules to pass



After crossing the bridge of armoured mules, we climbed steeply, pushing ourselves up the rough stone steps to Phillim. The town was a veritable metropolis in the mountain landscape: a doctors surgery, international money exchange, phone shop and of course a plethora of guesthouses. We stopped briefly while Dinesh showed our permits at the police checkpoint.

Past midmorning and getting hot, we continued on. The trail wound gently up and down the hillside, the valley here wide with few trees and little shade. This was lizard land, the little creatures in their element on the hot stones of the path.

A lizard lies on a hot rock, basking in the sunshine

Basking in the sunshine



A hiker walks along the sunny trail towards a small village in the sun

Walking the trail on a particularly hot day



A hiker walks along the sunny trail towards a small village in the sun

Walking the trail on a particularly hot day


A lizard lies on a hot rock, basking in the sunshine

Basking in the sunshine



Passing Chisopani where many trekkers stopped for lunch, we pushed on for another hour or so. The landscape changed again. The valley narrowed – becoming gorge-like – and the trees and thick vegetation returned. Strange pine trees appeared, solitary, their needles grouped in pom poms. Small streams trickled down and the trailside was thick with ferns. We navigated small landslides, descended to the river*, crossed and climbed a little before reaching Nyak Phedi, ready for an overdue lunch.

*It’s here that the trail diverges, heading northeast up the Tsum Valley. Some people include this as a side trip to their Manaslu trek, while for others, it’s the final destination before returning back down to Soti Khola

After another excellent dal bhat we cracked on: down to the river, across a bridge, then back again before long. The path climbed some more, winding in and out of forest, until finally emerging at Dyang two hours later.

Prayer wheels and flags outside Dyang on Manaslu Circuit Trek

Prayer wheels and flags outside Dyang



The village of Dyang clings to the green hillside high above the Budhi Gandaki River in the Manaslu Region of Nepal

Dyang, perched above the Budhi Gandaki



Prayer wheels and flags outside Dyang on Manaslu Circuit Trek

Prayer wheels and flags outside Dyang



Despite there being plenty of guesthouses, rooms were in short supply. Luckily, we were just in time to get one of the last, although let’s just say it was of the more rustic variety.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 5
~
DYANG – LUNGA CHHUYDA/GHAPSYA

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 5

DYANG – LUNGA CHHUYDA/GHAPSYA

DISTANCE

13 km

ELEVATION

1860 – 2260 m

TIME

7 hours (total)

5 hours 45 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

K.L.S.P. Jungle Hotel
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A day of steep ups and downs.

Now at higher altitude, we started on a cooler morning, continuing up the dramatic gorgescape crafted by the Budhi Gandaki. An early descent to cross the river was followed by some steep climbing. As we headed above 2000 m for the first time, it was slow going on the busy, narrow trail. We climbed through villages, some trees, and occasional stands of bamboo, but mostly with clear views of the valley. The river snaked past interlocking ridges far below, and the early morning sun cast an atmospheric glow, shafts of light cutting down from the mountain tops.

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

Busy morning on the trail



The Budhi Gandaki snakes up through forested slopes in the Manaslu Region, Nepal

Rewarded with great views as we advanced up the valley



The Budhi Gandaki snakes up through forested slopes in the Manaslu Region, Nepal

We were rewarded with great views of the
landscape as we advanced up the valley


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

Busy morning on the trail



After a quick tea stop we climbed on, losing time behind a particularly long line of mules. Pine trees dotted the mountainside and patches of dark green moss covered the rocks as the path went up sharply to go over a landslide – it was tough. Heading down the other side towards Ghap, the steep trail was slippery underfoot – loose dirt, sand and gravel*.

A cup of tea and metal bowl of sugar on a table at a rest stop on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Black tea and the obligatory bowl of sugar for extra energy



Trekkers stopped at a trailside lodge for morning tea on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Trekkers stopped for a rest



A cup of tea and metal bowl of sugar on a table at a rest stop on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Black tea and the obligatory bowl of sugar


Trekkers stopped at a trailside lodge for morning tea on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Trekkers stopped for a morning rest



In Ghap, we stopped for lunch at the packed Nubri Lama Guesthouse, an attractive place with a flower filled courtyard. Revived and rested, we pushed on, another hour till our destination. The valley had widened again and many farms lined the path. Fields of dead corn stalks stood like gravestones in a cemetery, surrounded by piles of dried leaves stacked like teepees – feed for the animals.

Past more farms and guesthouses, we were slightly surprised when we entered yet more lush, dense forest at nearly 2500 m. We shouldn’t have been – our lodgings for the night went by the name of ‘Jungle Hotel’.

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

Emerging from the forest to find the ‘Jungle Hotel’



A river in the forest rushes over rocks and through a narrow gap

Admiring the rushing river from a nearby bridge



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

Emerging from the forest to find the ‘Jungle Hotel’


A river in the forest rushes over rocks and through a narrow gap

Admiring the narrowed river rushing
over dark rocks from a nearby bridge



*Going over the landslide before Ghap, I slipped, falling heavily with my big bag. I rattled my elbow hard, and after a minute or two on the ground, I passed out for several seconds. This was the fourth time in my life I’d had such a reaction – each time after a physical shock. I was helped out by two kind Canadians, Kim, Dinesh and another porter and guide. Feeling dazed, Dinesh carried my bag for 20 minutes till Ghap and after lunch I felt good, revived and ready to continue. Later we had the opportunity to help out a young local guy who’d fallen and cut his hand, sanitising and dressing his wound. He left us with a chorus of thank yous. Karma, Kim said.

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MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 6
~
LUNGA CHHYUDA – LHO

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 6

LUNGA CHHYUDA – LHO

DISTANCE

13.5 km

ELEVATION

2260 – 3180 m

TIME

7 hours 30 minutes (total)

5 hours 30 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Om Guesthouse
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A day of trail dogs and good coffee.

With the trail busy and guesthouses filling up, we had breakfast at six and left at seven – a good decision. We got ahead of the groups and enjoyed a couple of hours hiking up through the sunlit forest. Our only company was the odd mule train, two porters and a trail dog.

Mules carrying gas canisters and sacks through a forest trail in the Manaslu Region

No surprise to see a mule train



Two heavily laden porters climbing a sun dappled forest trail on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

A couple of porters putting another day’s hard work in



Mules carrying gas canisters and sacks through a forest trail in the Manaslu Region

A quiet morning with only mules for company



After two hours we descended the rocky steps to Namrung, a sizeable settlement with many guesthouses. Passing through the crooked streets, we saw a sign for freshly ground coffee and stopped in at the Namrung Guesthouse. The result: good French press coffee in a sunny garden, complete with mountain views, fluttering prayer flags and our still present trail dog.

Mountain and valley views beyond rooftops in Namrung on the Manaslu Circuit

The view from our coffee spot in Namrung



A trekker walks down stone steps past mules into Namrung on the Manaslu Circuit

Coming down the steps to Namrung



Mountain and valley views beyond rooftops in Namrung on the Manaslu Circuit

The view from our coffee spot in Namrung


A trekker walks down stone steps past mules into Namrung on the Manaslu Circuit

Coming down the steps into Namrung, a
growing settlement on the Manaslu Circuit



Leaving Namrung, now above 2600 m, the landscape changed again. We climbed gently through a wider, more open valley. Fields were full of golden wheat, barley and corn, and we were charmed by the many small villages – the buildings and people now more Tibetan than Nepali. We walked through many ‘gates’, some more elaborate than others, stacked like crumbling wedding cakes. Prayer flags snapped in the wind and painted eyes stared past us, keeping villagers safe from ghosts and evil spirits.

A tall stone gate with painted eyes on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Painted eyes keeping watch



A person walking through the short tunnel of a stone gate on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Walking through one of the many stone gates



A person walking through the short tunnel of a stone gate on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Walking through one of the many stone gates


A tall stone gate with painted eyes on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Painted eyes keeping watch



At Lhi, we visited a small temple where red faced kids played with the huge central prayer wheel, spinning it and themselves round on a beat up office chair – entertaining and bizarre at the same time.

After a long lunch with the good company of fellow trekkers, we pressed on to Lho, getting lucky enough to have our second sighting of langur monkeys along the way. We arrived under a few spots of rain, welcomed by the sounds of chopping wood, hens clucking, and monastery bells ringing high on the hill.

A woman carrying a wicker basket with a head strap in the village of Lho on the Manaslu Circuit

Locals wandering past our guesthouse



The village of Lho under grey skies at dusk

The day drawing to a close at Lho, the largest settlement we’d seen for days



The village of Lho under grey skies at dusk

The day drawing to a close at Lho, the
largest settlement we’d seen for days



Our day came to an end with the spiciest dal bhat yet, whipped up by Nepali Jack Black. Completely at home in his kitchen, he was a one man cooking machine and master at work.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 7
~
LHO – SAMAGAUN

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 7

LHO – SAMAGAUN

DISTANCE

8 km

ELEVATION

3180 – 3520 m

TIME

4 hours (total)

3 hours 30 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Raju Hotel and Lodge
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A day of mountain views and yaks.

We left a bit later on what was a shorter day, up through the village as the sun cast an otherworldly glow on everything it touched. One woman in a field behind a low stone wall, picked up corn with her shallow wicker basket, sifting gently – round and round, side to side – making a soft whistling sound as she moved. Letting the corn fall, it hit the ground like rain, breaking the sun’s piercing rays like an enchantment.

Woman sifting corn in a field with sunlight streaming in

Scenes of local life in the beautiful morning light



Woman sifting corn in a field with sunlight streaming in

Scenes of life in the beautiful morning light



We climbed on: steeply at first, past the Lho monastery, over another suspension bridge and down again, before climbing gently through sun dappled pine forest to Shayala. Coming out from the trees to bright sunlight, the mountains appeared around us as we passed through the village gate. A wide street cut through the village, lined with guesthouses and small shops – a vital artery busy with trekkers, cows and mules.

Trekkers drink tea outside a lodge while others walk through Shayala Main Street on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Shayala main street



Clouds gather round the top of Mt. Manaslu, seen from Shayala on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Mt. Manaslu’s peak hidden in the clouds



Clouds gather round the top of Mt. Manaslu, seen from Shayala on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Mt. Manaslu’s peak hidden in the clouds


Trekkers drink tea outside a lodge while others walk through Shayala Main Street on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Shayala main street



From Shayala it wasn’t far. A short climb to our final suspension bridge, the Numla Khola tumbling over gigantic rocks far below. The trail took us through low pine trees and bushes turning yellow, before emerging to views of the open valley. Samagaun lay at the far end, separated from us by fields where shaggy yaks happily grazed. Snowy mountains surrounded the town on three sides, but our eyes were drawn to blue roofs shining in the sun.

A view of the blue roofs of Samagaun with the mountains rising behind

Views of Samagaun can be seen on the last stretch of the trail



A view of the blue roofs of Samagaun with the mountains rising behind

A view of Samagaun from the trail



Reaching Samagaun it became apparent that this was definitely more town than village – the largest settlement since Arughat. We walked by traditional stone houses on the rough and narrow streets; animals wandered, kids played, and adults went about their business. Further on the guesthouses started to appear. We passed through numerous gates, big eyes looking down, and around several Mani walls – lines of stone slabs etched with intricate Buddhist carvings. The women nearly all wore traditional Tibetan dress and men greeted us with Tashi Delek rather than Namaste. The Tibetan influence was the strongest we’d seen – worlds apart from the Hindu lands where we’d started.

Old stone buildings, prayer flags and a stupa painted with eyes in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Seeing the Tibetan influence



A local woman with two kids smiles in the streets of Samagaun

Greeted by friendly locals in the lanes of Samagaun



A local woman with two kids smiles in the streets of Samagaun

Greeted by friendly locals in Samagaun


Old stone buildings, prayer flags and a stupa painted with eyes in Samagaun on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Seeing the Tibetan influence



After getting settled, we spent the afternoon wandering the atmospheric streets and exploring the monastery.

One of the main monastery buildings in Samagaun at dusk

The monastery in Samagaun at dusk



A woman walks along the rough main street of Samagaun under grey skies

Samagaun street scene



One of the main monastery buildings in Samagaun at dusk

The monastery in Samagaun at dusk


A woman walks along the rough main street of Samagaun under grey skies

A local woman wanders the dirt streets of
Samagaun in the trekking lodge part of town



On the edge of town we popped into a cool little cafe, taking one of the rare opportunities to get some proper coffee. Unsurprisingly the tiny space was rammed, packed with half the current trekking population of Samagaun. With night approaching we retreated to our guesthouse, huddling round the fire, eating dal bhat, and getting to know our fellow trekkers.

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MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 8
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SAMAGAUN – PUNGEN GOMPA – SAMAGAUN

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 8

SAMAGAUN – PUNGEN GOMPA – SAMAGAUN

DISTANCE

15 km

ELEVATION

3520 – 4050 – 3520 m

TIME

5 hours 30 minutes (total)

5 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Raju Hotel and Lodge
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A different kind of day.

This was billed as a rest day by our guide and schedule, and in some senses it was. Really though, it should more properly be called an acclimatisation day. Before we got down to business though, it started perfectly, with outstanding views of Manaslu and the surrounding mountains. The region’s highest peak put on a fine show before the clouds moved in.

The peak of Mt. Manaslu shining in the sun on a clear morning, with prayer flags in the foreground

Conditions were perfect for appreciating Manaslu on an icy cold morning in Samagaun



The peak of Mt. Manaslu shining in the sun on a clear morning, with prayer flags in the foreground

Conditions were perfect for appreciating
Manaslu on a cold morning in Samagaun



After breakfast we set off on our acclimatisation hike. For us that was up to Pungen Gompa at 4050 m, while others headed for Manaslu Base Camp at 4400 m. Carrying only snacks, water and jackets in a foldaway bag, we climbed the steep path beside the powerful Numla Khola. The only other person we saw was a local man, basket tied with head strap in the usual fashion, collecting old dung for fuel.

With snow covered Mt. Manaslu in the distance, two people walk across the high pasture towards Pungen Gompa

Walking across the high pasture with snowy peaks for company



With snow covered Mt. Manaslu in the distance, two people walk across the high pasture towards Pungen Gompa

Walking across the high pasture
with snowy peaks for company



When the path became less steep, the gently climbing valley reminded us of Scotland – bare grey rocks, dark browns and greens, thick gorse-like bushes and a small stream winding down the hill. At 4000 m we entered the high pasture, where majestic snow capped peaks and glaciers towered over us and the yaks.

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

Everything feels small in the high pasture, dwarfed by the huge white wall of mountains



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

Everything feels small in the high pasture,
dwarfed by the huge white wall of mountains



The monastery was closed, no one there. Small buildings climbed the hillside above the living quarters, the area festooned with prayer flags. It was interesting to see but the scenery was the biggest draw. And of course, there was the importance of acclimatising to higher altitude.

Monastery buildings clinging to a steep grassy hillside with colourful prayer flags strung all around

Monastery buildings climb the hillside, festooned with prayer flags



Shaggy yaks grazing in the high pasture near Pungen Gompa below Mount Manaslu

Good grazing ground for yaks



Monastery buildings clinging to a steep grassy hillside with colourful prayer flags strung all around

Monastery buildings climb the hillside,
festooned with colourful prayer flags


Shaggy yaks grazing in the high pasture near Pungen Gompa below Mount Manaslu

Good grazing land for yaks



Back at Samagaun, we made a beeline once more for the coffee shop on the edge of town. Sadly it was closed, and as a result, Kim was gutted. We consoled ourselves back at the guesthouse with a pot of hot chocolate and some tasty veg momos instead.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 9
~
SAMAGAUN – SAMDO

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 9

SAMAGAUN – SAMDO

DISTANCE

7.5 km

ELEVATION

3520 – 3690 m

TIME

2 hours (total)

2 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Tibetan Twins Hotel & Lodge
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
650 NPR


A short day.

Hiking up the valley towards Samdo on a bitterly cold morning, the sun took over half an hour to show its face above the mountains. Frost lay on the stones of the path, and one bush looked like some bizarre sculpture, sprayed with water from a leaking pipe and coated in ice. We crossed streams on slippery stones and frosted planks, the valley rising gently, almost imperceptibly. Soon of course the sun hit us – time for jackets and fleeces to come off.

A local man riding the icy track from Samagaun to Samdo on the Manaslu Circuit, with the morning sun hitting the tops of the mountains

A local rides past on the trail to Samdo



A local man riding the icy track from Samagaun to Samdo on the Manaslu Circuit, with the morning sun hitting the tops of the mountains

A local rides past on the trail to Samdo



The landscape was changing yet again and the difference in altitude was clear. Tough thorny bushes and dry yellow/green grass was the only vegetation. The reds, yellows and oranges of the bushes added a splash of autumnal colour to the green/brown palette of the hillsides. And above it all, a crown of snowy peaks.

A hiker walks through a trail gate with snowy mountains in the background

Passing through the trail gate outside of Samdo



A hiker walks through a trail gate with snowy mountains in the background

Passing through the trail gate outside of Samdo



After two hours we reached Samdo, only a couple of hundred metres above Samagaun. Sitting in our lodge’s dining room by 10:00 am was a strange feeling. We snacked on some mind-blowingly delicious veg momos before heading out, wandering up into the winding lanes of the local houses. Billowing prayer flags and women’s traditional striped clothes added bright colour to the stone houses, and the many bales of hay glowed golden in the sun. People were extraordinarily friendly, welcoming us with smiles, Namastes and Tashi Deleks.

Sun lighting up the tiled roofs of the stone houses in Samdo on the Manaslu Circuit

Looking down over the stone houses of Samdo



A man cleaning a rug by foot in a stone bath outside in Samdo, a village on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Cleaning a very dirty rug



Sun lighting up the tiled roofs of the stone houses in Samdo on the Manaslu Circuit

Looking down over the stone houses of Samdo


A man cleaning a rug by foot in a stone bath outside in Samdo, a village on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

This man was singing a song while
cleaning an extremely dirty rug



After lunch we climbed the hillside behind the village, stopping at 4100 m, resting a while and watching in amazement as huge eagles swooped above and below. Filtered through patches of drifting cloud, the afternoon sun cast an almost perfect light over the land.

A person standing on a sunny hillside watches eagles flying in the sky

Kim the eagle-eyed eagle spotter



An eagle flying high above Samdo

Cruising high above Samdo



An eagle flying high above Samdo

Cruising high above Samdo


A person standing on a sunny hillside watches eagles flying in the sky

Kim the eagle-eyed eagle spotter



Making our way back down, feeling happy and more acclimatised, we enjoyed the last of the day’s light in the village. As darkness fell, we settled in for a pot of hot chocolate and a packet of bourbon-esque biscuits, killing time before the next round of dal bhat arrived.

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 10
~
SAMDO – DHARAMSALA/LARKE PHEDI

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 10

SAMDO – DHARAMSALA/ LARKE PHEDI

DISTANCE

6 km

ELEVATION

3690 – 4460 m

TIME

3 hours 30 minutes (total)

3 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Larke Hotel
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
600 NPR


A day of rest and preparations.

We had another cold clear day as we climbed towards Dharamsala. It was only 6 km and a 550 m climb, but it was slow going, the increased altitude affecting us most. The few tour groups were more noticeable than they had been for days – the trail seemed extra busy, everyone condensed into slow moving lines. The land was becoming even drier, with vegetation more sparse and tumbled lichen-covered rocks strewn over the hillside. Impressive mountains rose all around, jagged icy tops gleaming, and blue sheep grazed high above the path.

Hikers line the rocky trail from Samdo to Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The busier than usual trail, although still nothing compared to more popular treks in Nepal



Hikers line the rocky trail from Samdo to Dharamsala on the Manaslu Circuit Trek

The trail seemed busier than usual, although still
quiet compared to more popular treks in Nepal



At Dharamsala Kim was feeling headachy and nauseous. For the first hour or so she was concerned that we might have to descend – a situation we’d dealt with previously at Annapurna Base Camp. But thankfully she felt remarkably better after rest, food, lots more drink, and some ibuprofen. Doing what we could to acclimatise before the big day, we walked up toward the pass after lunch, gaining around 150 m.

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

The new pre-fab lodges at Dharamsala providing more room for trekkers



A person doing a short acclimatisation hike above Dharamsala on the Manaslu Cicuit, with a wall of snow covered mountains behind