The Manaslu Circuit Trek is a tea house trek in Nepal. It’s located east of Kathmandu between the Lang Tang region and the Annapurna region. It circumnavigates Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world, and reaches an elevation of 16,751 ft/ 5106 m on Larke Pass.
The Manaslu Circuit is perfect for trekkers who want to get off the tourist trail. The scenery is comparable to the Annapurna Circuit, but without the crowds. The Annapurna Circuit gets about 160,000 annual visitors while the Manaslu Circuit gets roughly 2,000. The region opened to tourism as recently as 1991, and even now is a restricted area. Therefore it more accurately reflects what life in the mountains is like for people in Nepal.
This hike is a good sampler of what Himalaya trekking has to offer. The first several days follow the Budhi Ghandaki River, and you will cross over several of the famous Nepali suspension bridges. Eventually you trek out of the gorge and the landscape opens up to towering snow-covered peaks. Finally, you must hike to an elevation of 16,751 feet to cross over Larke La.
The elevation gain is slow, and you don’t have to worry about any steep inclines. This means you can acclimatize at a mellow pace. The high point is a good 800 feet lower than the high points on other popular treks. Overall it is challenging, but slightly easier that other Nepal treks.
I did this hike back in 2017 as a part of my Great Himalaya Trail thru-hike, and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. I did the Manaslu Circuit in seven days, but I was already in shape and acclimatized after having walked there from Eastern Nepal. Give yourself about 14 days for this trek.
Manaslu Circuit Trek Fast Stats
- Length of Time: 7-14 days. 14 days will be the average length of time for most people. I hiked it in 7 days because I was already acclimatized.
- High Point: Larke Pass at 16,751 feet/ 5102 meters
- Accommodations: The entire trek can be done as a tea house trek, meaning that you don’t need to carry any camping gear or cooking supplies.
- Guide: Mandatory
- Permits: Trekkers Information Management Systems permit (TIMS), Manaslu Conservation Area Permit (MCAP), Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP), Manaslu Restricted Permit
- Start and End Point: The trail begins in the village of Soti Khola and ends in Dharapani.
- Best Time to Hike: Spring and autumn are both good times weather wise. It can also be trekked in summer, but expect rain.
Preparation for the Manaslu Circuit Trek
Organizing a Guide
Guides are required for this region, which is odd because the trail is the most well maintained and well marked path I’ve ever been on in the Himalayas. My guide told me that the reason for this is because they want to keep the culture of the Manaslu region preserved, therefore they restrict access to it.
Guides in this region charge about $30 a day for their services. Also factor in offices charges from the trekking agency and tipping the guide. The more people you have in your group, the lower this cost will be per person. So you’re looking at a base price of about $500 for a two-week hike just for guide services.
If you want to, you can also hire a porter to carry your things for $10-15 a day plus tip. If you don’t do well at high elevations or you are not in great shape, this is an affordable way to make your trek more enjoyable. Don’t feel bad about having someone else carry your stuff. For a porter, it’s two weeks worth of work.
Be wary of booking your hike from home. Many of the trekking agencies who’s websites have the top spots on Google will overcharge you significantly. Their packages are double or triple the price of what you could be paying.
There are two options for finding a good deal on guides.
You could wait until you arrive in Kathmandu and talk to agencies there. It’s pretty easy to organize something last minute. Just be sure to ask lots of questions so you know the agency is legitimate. And request a guide who has hiked the Manaslu region many times. Find your trekking agency on TripAdvisor and make sure they have good reviews.
The other option is to organize it ahead of time, but to find an agency that is based in Nepal. Avoid agencies that are based in Western countries and running trips in Nepal. And avoid those huge tour companies that run trips in dozens of countries. You want a small trekking agency that has a Kathmandu address and good reviews. I went with Adventure Mountain Club, and they were great.
Your trekking agency will organize your permits for your Manaslu Circuit trek. Have several passport sized photos on hand because they will be stapled to several of the permits. Your guide will also need to take your passport along to get the permits.
Note that these costs are per person, not per group.
The first required permit is the TIMS card. This is required for trekking everywhere in Nepal. It costs $20 for a single trekker or $10 per person if you’re part of a group. Next is the MCAP permit, which is specifically for the Manaslu Conservation Area. There is also the ACAP permit for the Annapurna region. The exit point of this trek is in the Annapurnas, so this is required as well. The MCAP and ACAP are $20 each.
Finally, the Manaslu Restricted Permit is the most expensive. During the peak trekking months of September to November the price is $70 for one week plus $10 each additional day. During the rest of the year, December to August, the price is $50 for one week plus $7 each additional day.
Note that it is required that there are two trekkers in a group plus a guide. If you are without a trekking partner you can still go with a guide, but you do have to pay for two of the Manaslu Restricted Permits.
Note: There are affiliate links in this blog post. That means if you click a link and buy something, I get a small commission at no cost to you.
Gear for the Manaslu Circuit Trek
As I mentioned before, this is a tea house trek. This means that you will be sleeping indoors every night and don’t have to worry about packing camping gear or cooking supplies.
- Sleeping bag
- Water purification device
- Hiking shoes
- Clothes to wear while hiking
- Base layers- top and bottom
- Rain gear
- Insulated jacket
- 2-3 pairs of socks
- 2-3 pairs of underwear
- Water bottles
- Hat and gloves
- Electronics, charging cords, power bank
- Evening entertainment such as a book or journal
I recommend Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya guidebook. I won’t provide a day by day itinerary here because that really depends on the individual trekker. However, the Lonely Planet book does offer a recommended route.
Additionally, you can pick up a map of the Manaslu region in Kathmandu.
Getting to the Trail
The cheapest option is to take a bus from Kathmandu to Soti Khola for about $7. Buses are typically very early in the morning, so I recommend buying your ticket the day before. They leave from Gongabu Bus Park (also known as the New Bus Park). You could also take a private Jeep if you don’t mind spending more money.
Your trek will end in the village of Dharapani. You can take a Jeep or micro-bus from Dharapani to Besi Sahar. From Besi Sahar you can take a bus back to Kathmandu or Pokhara. Or you could walk from Dharapani to Besi Sahar which takes a day or more.
Here is a map for Gongabu Bus Park in Kathmandu.
Connecting to the Annapurna Circuit
If you’re not ready to end your trek, you can choose to trek the Annapurna Circuit from Dharapani. Dharapani is a stop along the Annapurna Circuit, so you are technically already on the trail anyway. And you will already have the ACAP permit that is required for the Annapurnas.
Food & Lodging
Give yourself a budget of about $30 a day for food and lodging. This will cover all of your meals, a few cups of tea a day, and accommodations for the night. Every village has several guest houses, so you won’t have a problem finding somewhere to stay.
Rooms won’t be heated, so make sure you have a warm sleeping bag. You will be able to take showers for most of the trek, except at higher elevations. There won’t always be hot water though.
Food options will mostly be dal bhat, fried noodles, and fried rice. Breakfast might consist of chapati and eggs.
If you’re curious to learn more about my personal hiking experience on the Manaslu Circuit, read about it here. If you want to learn more about tea house trekking in Nepal, here’s a link to my guidebook.