Best Trekking in Nepal; Manaslu Circuit (Larke Pass) Trek- 2018!by Manoj
Posted on May 26, 2018 Travel/Photography
Recently, I along with my 3 friends (Aman Dingdung, Sapan Hamal and Saurav KC) had done Manaslu Circuit Trek. I had been hearing a lot about this trek and indeed this trek is limitless. I would confidently say that Manaslu Circuit trek is the best trek in Nepal for me. Manaslu Circuit Trek has a lot to offer including panoramic views of majestic Annapurna, Ganesh, Larke and Manaslu mountains, Birendra Lake, Pong Gyan Gompa, Manaslu Base Camp, Larke Pass, biological and cultural diversities and beautiful landscapes along the way. I would say Manaslu Circuit trek is a virgin trail, challenging at times yet it’s a less walked path. This trail is a part of Great Himalayan Trail (GHT) and falls under Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP). Mt. Manaslu is the major highlight of the trek which is at an altitude of 8163m and is the eighth highest peak in the world. The literal translation of word Manaslu is “The spirit Mountain” and is also commonly called “The Killer Mountain” because of its toughness while climbing the summit. Day by day, Manaslu trekking route is known by many travelers and is being a better substitute for Annapurna Circuit in recent times.
Manaslu Trek Map
Thank you so much Aman Dingdung for this customized map along with the Manaslu trek routes and names of the places.
Manaslu Circuit Trek distance
The total Manaslu trek distance is 116 Kilometers. The walking started from Soti Khola and ended on the 8th day of trek i.e. Dharapani in Manang.
Important Facts about Manaslu Circuit Trek (Manaslu Trek Overview)
- Best season to Trek: the best seasons to travel to Manaslu circuit are Spring starting from March until May and Autumn starting from September until November.
- Accommodation: There are enough hotels on the way to Manaslu/ Larke Pass. There are hotels at a distance of around 2-3 hours. Except in Dharmasala, accommodation is pretty good. That’s why there’s no need to carry tents and foods. However, it’s a good idea to carry dry foods including energy bars, nuts.
- Average walking: 5-8 hours a day
- Highest elevation/ Max. Altitude: The trek starts from subtropical forests at lower elevations and getting higher until challenging pass at Larke pass at 5106m/ 16751 ft.
- The difficulty of trek: Moderate and when it starts snowing in the higher elevation, the trek begins to get strenuous
- Trip Duration; It takes at least 10 days to complete. The duration any less than 10 days would be a hassle.
- Starting/Ending point: Trek starts at Soti Khola, Gorkha and ends at Besishahar, Lamjung.
- Highlights of the trek; It falls under Manaslu and Ganesh region. Mountain ranges such as Mt. Manaslu, Himal Chuli, Mt. Boudha, Ganesh, Larke Peak, Himlung. Beautiful Budhi Gandaki river all along the trail. Spectacular Birendra and Pungkar lakes, Manaslu Base Camp and Pongkar Gumba. Three districts are covered on the trek; Gorkha, Manang, and Lamjung. Tibet is just a few hours walk from Samdo. Manaslu trekking is still restricted area trekking trail in Nepal. One can witness beautiful birds, blue sheep on the way to Larke. Numerous suspension bridges are seen while walking.
- Manaslu trekking falls under Manaslu conversation Area which is also a restricted area.
What to carry while trekking in Manaslu
- Water Bottle (preferably the one which keeps water warm)
- Cameras with extra batteries and cards (which we were short of)
- Sunscreen Cream
- Trekking Stick
- Wind stopper
- Down Jacket
- Trekking trousers
- Thermal tops and bottom
- Trekking boots
- Torch Lights
- Woolen Cap
- First aid kit
- Dry fruits, Chocolates or energy bars
Manaslu Trekking Itinerary
Day 1: Kathmandu to Muglin to Arukhet to Soti Khola (700m)
Day 2: Soti Khola to Machha Khola (920m) through Lapubesi (800m)
Day 3: Machha Khola to Tatopani to Dobhan to Jagat (starting point of Manaslu Conservation Area Project) to Philim
Day 4: Philim to Nyak Fedi to Bihi Phedi
Day 5: Bihi Phedi to Deng to Ghap to Namrung to Lihi to Lho
Day 6: Lho to Shyala to Samagaon (Missed Pongyan Gumpa, Birendra Lake and Manaslu Base Camp) to Samdo
Day 7: Samdo to Dharmasala/Larke Base Camp to Larke Pass to Bhimthang
Day 8: Bhimthang to Tilje to Taal to Dharapani
Day 9: Dharapani to Besishahar to Kathmandu/Pokhara
Let’s dive into the detailed itinerary and travel stories now 🙂
Day 1; Night travel from Kathmandu to Muglin and then to Soti Khola
I had my trek preparation within an hour because of the hectic schedule. We planned to stay together the night before so that it’ll be easier the other day without the need for anyone to wait for others. It was around 10 PM when we all got together. Saurav asked if we’re willing to go right away. Another one adds up to his point. I agreed too and Aman was the last one to agree. He packed up and it was around 11:30 PM when we reached Kalanki. Then I realized that we have to hitchhike. Earlier, I agreed because I thought we’d be going on a night bus.
Welcome to the TREK!!!
After almost half an hour of wait and continual attempts, we eventually got ride in a heavy-truck until Muglin. A local gangster turned into a humble truck driver, Krishna dai loved to share his past stories with us all the way down. Listening to his more life stories, getting surprised with those stories, relating them with our own lives, cracking jokes, passing hours of traffic jam and taking power naps in between, we reached Muglin in the morning at around 7 Am. We bid him goodbye and left!
After getting out of the truck, we had a fruit-breakfast and that was refreshing. All the sleepiness went away and we’re ready to get on another bus. Sometimes later, we reached Abu Khaireni, changed another bus and reached Gorkha bazaar at around 10;30 AM. I have blurred memories of in-between travels until Gorkha Bazaar because I along with my fellow travelers were asleep in the buses. After getting to Gorkha, we had our lunch there, booked our tickets for Arughat, roamed around, bought some dry foods and then headed towards Arughat. A few hours later, we were there. Still, we had one more bus to catch. A bus to Soti Khola. Lucky enough; we got one and that too on the roof. But it was way better there than standing inside the bus and getting suffocated.
Day 2: Soti Khola (700m) to Machha Khola through Lapubesi (800m)
When we got to Soti Khola (700m), it was then time to start walking. Because of the previous day’s sleeplessness and continuous bus drive, we were too exhausted. But we had to walk, prepare ourselves for bigger and even more challenging trails. 3 hours of the walk was quite a good warm-up passing through Armala, Liding, Apubesi, and Khani Besi before reaching Machha Khola; the second day’s destination; Machha Khola. 3 hours of slow and steady hike turned out to be a beautiful one because of lovely lush green forests, Budhi Gandaki river and waterfalls accompanying us on sideways. Right after having dinner, we decided the timing of next day’s journey and tiredness stole our sleep turning into a magical dream.
Day 3: Machha Khola to Tatopani to Dobhan to Jagat (starting point of Manaslu Conservation Area Project) to Philim (1590 m)
Since the construction work was going on in the trekking trail, the path would be obstructed starting from 8 AM until 6 PM. This was because the bomb explosion would take place there and we had to walk 4 more hours to compensate for being late. In order to prevent that, we hurried and got ready right after waking up. We all were refreshed with good sleep and started the third day’s walk. Luckily we were able to escape more walking meaning we were on time i.e before 8 AM. After reaching Korlabesi, we had to ascend the ridge and then descend which took us to natural hot spring Tatopani.
Continuing serene walk in the cool morning, we crossed Budhi Gandaki river and then climbed up stone stairs which took us to Dobhan. Further hike led us to landslide area, Thado Bhanjyang. Before reaching Jagat; the starting point of Manaslu Conservation Area Project, we get to witness surreal lush greeneries, hundreds of mules carrying basic needs to feed thousands of villagers of Gorkha. A guy told us that sometimes there’s a traffic jam of Mules. At times, people have to wait for hours. Sounds surprising? That’s what it is there.
A meeting with Himal Ghale dai was incredible. During the first few minutes of our meeting, my friends told Himal dai that I was from Egypt and he believed. So, I didn’t speak for some time. An interesting thing is during travel as such, people think that I am a foreigner and it’s not difficult to deceive them. While everyone was having a conversation with him, I forgot that I had been an Egyptian. 😀 While sipping a cup of tea, Himal dai was able to share with us his interesting stories. One of those stories related to travel was when a group of domestic travelers was clicking pictures in a suspension bridge blocking the path of Mules. Mules were backing off and one of the mules got injured in its leg. The mule owner was demanding around 25k as compensation and luckily Himal dai was there who saved them for paying such a hefty amount decreasing it to half the demanded money.
Further Reading: 9 reasons why I’ll visit Jumla at least once again in my life!
Makai Bhatmas, tea and warm hospitality of Jagat re-energized our tired body and we continued our walk again. With minor breaks in between, we reached Sirdibas and then to our third day’s destination; Philim (1590m) which is named after “film”. However, we don’t know the complete story behind it. We had our dinner and started reflecting the journey until then. Even though we’re exhausted with more than 12 hours of walk on the day, we couldn’t resist talking until midnight. Eventually, we went to sleep as we had to wake up the next day.
Day 4: Philim to Salleri to Nyak Fedi to Deng (1860 m) to Bihi Phedi
As mentioned above, we were awake until late at night and that resulted in sleep until late morning. We woke up at 9 but moving out at 7 was our original plan. But this is how it is while trekking; not everything goes according to plan. We have to adapt according to the situations and act accordingly. 10:30 was when we moved out from Philim. Being already late for more than 3 hours, we were supposed to be quicker than our normal walking pace if we’re to get back to our normal schedule. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Normally it takes around 45 minutes to reach Ekle Bhatti from Philim. I guess we took almost double the expected time. We were taking longer breaks in a shorter span of time. During our lunch at Nyak Fedi, we spent almost 3 hours lingering here and there without any substantial purpose. The only vivid memories I have from this day is longer breaks. 😛Nevertheless, the longer breaks did provide us ample time to take photographs and shoot videos in between. With our slow-pace walking the whole day, we were only able to reach Bihi Phedi through Deng. And that too in the evening at around 7 PM. We decided to stay there even though deep inside we all were feeling embarrassed with our walking performance. However, we all were pretty determined to wake up at the earliest and compensate for the day’s walk the following day. Starting our walk strictly at 5 in the morning was our plan. And the day ends with determination!!!
Day 5: Bihi Phedi to Ghap (2160 m) to Namrung (2540 m) to Lihi (2840 m) to Shyo to Lho (3180 m)
It was 3 AM in the morning when I woke up. And it was sound of the thunderstorm that woke me up. Anticipating that it would end soon and we’d be able to continue our walk as per the schedule, it was already 5 AM and there was no sign of stoppage. Thunderstruck even more and it began to rain even more. Option-less, we slept again waiting for the rain to stop. 8 AM and the rain settled to a certain extent. We moved out at 8:30 AM with our plastic raincoats on! Walking in the rain was wonderful as always even though it’s tough passing through landslide areas. Some of the trails were damaged by the downpour the previous day and in some places, the rocks were falling which added more challenge. But it was a total worth walking in slippery and muddy trails which I think was also a secret message for us to be careful enough while walking.
Within less than an hour of energetic hiking in the cool path, we reached Ghap where we had tea with energy powerhouse Sattu. Hike through clean foggy trails breathing the freshest air was delightful. Further walking uphill, I felt like we’re in a dreamy garden with horses roaming here and there safeguarding the heavenly place.
My First Solo trek: Tsho Rolpa Glacial lake (Rolwaling Valley) trek- Solo Travel 2017!
The walk continued and we reached another awesome village Namrung. Namrung is a popular rest spot for trekkers trekking to Manaslu. We rested for some time there, had our lunch and it was still raining. Raining more than in the morning. So it was a long break but we were not able to roam around. Instead, we changed our wet clothes and resumed walking again. Sometimes later, we reached and stopped at Lihi. Lihi is a beautiful village too. Then an hour descending and ascending took us to a village called Shyo in which we had a cup of tea, warmed ourselves in the fire, dried our clothes for some time and resumed our walk again.
Walking through the bank of river Budhi Gandaki, through dense Pine forests, through eye captivating villages took us to our 5th day’s destination Lho at around 7:30 PM. We checked into the hotel and it was freezing cold because of the whole day’s rain and windy atmosphere. As soon as we changed our clothes, we got into the dining room to warm ourselves up and also dry our wet clothes. Persistent walk of more than 11 hours and that too in rain left us completely exhausted. And what more do you expect when your travel partner offers everyone a good oil body massage. A big thanks to Sapan for amazing body massage which helped relieved tiredness and get a good night sleep. Thank a ton!
Day 6: Lho to Shyala to Samagaon (3520 m) to Samdo (3860 m)
Because of the deep and beautiful sleep, we all were rejuvenated and pumped up for the day. We saw Mt. Manaslu up close for the first time in our trek. The panoramic view of the mountain range was worth looking at. I’d stay there for ages and not get tired of watching it. Such a treat to eyes! At times, clouds would hide and seek around the mountains which added even more beauty to the view. The vegetation started getting different than before meaning that we’re up in the higher elevation. During our walks, I couldn’t resist stopping in between and click pictures. Not just me! no one could resist it. I’m pretty sure about it.
Saurav was very excited right from the morning and all he did along the way was sing Bartika Eam Rai’s “उकालै उकालो उकालै उकालो छ अनि अोरालै ओरालो अोरालै ओरालो छ“. I had never seen him sing this song so much of passion and FEEL!!! I truly enjoyed listening to him. As mentioned in the song itself, the trail was an uphill climb and sometimes downhill too. After two and a half hours of walk, we got to Shyala. Rested for some time, clicked some pictures, ate something there. We could see the beautiful mountain ranges from there. It was very windy out there. Clicking pictures, walking, laughing and further walking brought us to the most beautiful village of Manaslu region; Samagaon (3520 m). We all were astonished by the beauty of this village. We met a lot of people there, had our lunch there and discussed the further planning.
Missed Manaslu Base Camp
Pung Gyan Gompa, Birendra Lake…
Tsum Valley As well.
When we talked to some of the senior travelers (veteran trekkers and businessmen of Nepal) trekking to Larke Pass as we were, they suggested taking a day off there at Samagaon. If so, we could go to Manaslu Base Camp, Pung Gyan Gomba and Birendra Lake which were the three major attractions of the trek. Considering the situation of weather, it was not a good idea to go to Pung Gyan Gompa from where one can witness a 360-degree view of mountain ranges and also blue sheep. It’d be cloudy and we wouldn’t be able to witness that. Same was the case with Manaslu Base Camp; no point of going there on a cloudy day.
And Birendra Lake was on the way to Samdo which was our destination for the day. So we decided not to stay at Samagaon which somehow made us feel sad as we were not able to stay there. On the other side, I felt good too. I would come another time for the very reason that I missed staying here. We continued our walk. Aman and Sapan went to Birendra Lake, Saurav and I decided not to go. We waited for them on the way, clicked pictures and wondered how amazing nature is. When the two guys returned, I somehow felt bad for not going there. It was truly amazing!!! But like I said above, the things missed this time would be the reason why I will visit this place again. Everything happens for a reason and we live to fulfill the reason, give the direction to life.
We continued our hike uphill again. Every moment turned out to be photogenic; the moment that you’d treasure for eternity, the more you click the more you want to click and the process continued until we reached Samdo village. Samdo Village (3860 m) was yet another magnificent village which is pretty close to Tibet. As per the villagers, Tibet is just 3 hours walk from there. The cold chilly wind was hinting us that we were close enough towards the pass. The excitement level was at the peak!!!
Day 7: Samdo to Dharmasala/Larke Base Camp (4460 m) to Larke Pass (5106 m) to Bhimthang (3590 m)
The seventh day was the day for Larke Pass and excitement was building up. We all got up at 3:30 AM and prepare ourselves, sipped a cup of warm tea with our evergreen energy powerhouse Sattu and began our walk with our headlights on. There were quite a lot of trekkers trying to cross Larke Pass on the same day as we planned because of poor facilities at Dharmasala/ Larke Base Camp. So we all began walking together. As the elevation got higher, the pace had to slow down than before. Or else, one would suffer from altitude sickness. Also because we had to surpass more than 1200 m elevations in a day which is way more than recommended of 500-700 m and we didn’t have much acclimatization as well. Taking shorter breaks on a regular basis would ease our tiredness. We would ask each other if there’s any problem. We missed clicking sunrise but we were already so close to the mountains and so I don’t regret that. I was able to click a lot of pictures there. After almost 3 hours of walk, we reached Dharmasala. Had our breakfast there and continued our trek towards steep hills of Larke La. The trail got steeper and tougher taking more time to walk. Sapan had a bit of difficulty in respiration, he took medicine for altitude sickness preventing the further difficulty. Saurav was a slow-and-steady walker and Aman was always ahead of us. This is also the reason why I have loads of pictures of Saurav and not that of Aman. 😀
The mountains were so close that you feel like you can run for a moment and you’ll end up hitting mountain. The overjoyed heart couldn’t express gratitude for being able to be there in words but smile and feel how lucky we are. I’d click pictures and add more. When we were short of energy, we would grab energy bars and continue walking. The day was sunny and the trail was covered with snow. The higher we reached, the more snow we had which decreased our pace and sucked up the energy. When we first walked to the snow, we were delighted. But slowly, it started troubling us. We were very very slow and already worn out. It was already more than 4 hours of walking from Dharmasala and still no trace of getting to Larke Pass. That was the moment of true desperation. Everyone hopelessly wanting Larke Pass to arrive soon. We were taking breaks within a few minutes of the walk; already exhausted but the excitement hadn’t been missed out.
And finally, we reached LARKE PASSSS!!!! Wohoooooo!!!!!!
We exclaimed…We shouted…We laughed and most important of all we rejuvenated ourselves. The weather was perfect until then. We clicked some pictures and a time lapse there. After staying there for almost half an hour, we decided to descend down. Bidding farewell to Larke pass was quite emotional. Larke Pass holds a great significance in my travel so far as it’s the first ever pass I have ever done and also the highest altitude too. We had some foods and began climbing downwards. It started to be cloudy again. And sometimes later, another challenge came up. That was a slippery way because of snow. Moreover, the trail was too narrow. If you slip away, no one will have a trace of whereabouts of you.
We were walking down carefully but the path got tougher. It was very very difficult to walk down meaning we had to slide in order to pass through. Saurav had never experienced a situation as such and so Aman helped him. Once, I slipped off as well and had terrible pain in my ass. The trail was unending and had to spend more than one and a half hour (if not 2 hours) there. Later on, we started enjoying the sliding game in the path and even captured some videos as well. Unknowingly, we were walking above the frozen river (small one though) and it melted. One of my legs drowned in it and got completely wet. I guess Saurav slipped off as well. And then, Saurav, Aman and I got together, held each other’s hands and walked. For the person looking at us would think we were drunk AF. Nevertheless, that was precious!!!
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After the snow slidings, we saw a beautiful lake called Pongkar. We were already in Manang then. It was my first time getting to Manang district. Pongkar lake was greenish in color and looked spectacular from distance. Even though we thought of going there and swimming if possible, the decision of not going there overpowered and that was justified as well. By then, we were very thirsty and hungry. We had some dry foods with us but no water. An hour later, we were able to refill water and also saw Bhimtang village beside another hill. Bhimtang village looked awesome and it truly was awesome. More than 14 hours of walk rewarded us to yet another heavenly place in Manang and that was Bhimtang. Truly blissful!!
After checking in the hotel and drinking tea, went too Pongkar glacier which was really beautiful but couldn’t stay much as it was intolerably windy and cold. Later, the conversation with the hotel owner was really amazing. We talked for hours and she disclosed the wrong-doings and also shared interesting stories of that place. Soul soothing day and heartwarming conversation in the evening. What a perfect way to end the day!
Day 8: Bhimthang to Habu to Yak Kharka to Surki Khola to Gho to Tilje (2300 m) to Thoche to Dharapani (1860 m)
With no rush, we woke up late and had our breakfast (the most lavish breakfast of the trek 😀 ). We left Bhimtang at around 10:30 AM. Sometimes later, we found a board mentioning Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) and then we got to know that we were also in that region. The landscapes were so captivating that we couldn’t stop clicking pictures or take videos. Walking along the pine forests left us with serenity and sheer freedom. Descending further down brought us to more agricultural lands and settlement areas. We walked along the bank of Dudh Khola listening to the sounds of a river until Goa (Gowa)! Goa? Yeah, you read it right Goa and we had our lunch there. Before reaching Goa, we cross villages like Habu, Yak Kharka, Surki Khola, Gho and further walking, we reached Tilche. We fantasized about staying in such a place owning a restaurant and living life there. How amazing life would be; we thought! No crowds, no sign of infrastructures yet the presence of humanity and love. Exactly the kind of world we imagine it to be.
Continuing to our hike brought us to the bank of Marsyangdi river. Chasing the river, we reach Dharapani which is an entrance point of Annapurna Conservation Area Project. We stayed in a hotel in Dharapani. That was the end of trekking and the next day would be a travel day.
Day 9: Dharapani to Besishahar to Kathmandu/Pokhara
This was the last day of our travel. We had already talked to a driver and booked our place in a Jeep. The jeep journey started at around 8:30 AM. A little descend until Taal (1700 m) and what a beautiful stream we witnessed. So refreshing it was! We had breakfast there and jeep ride continued.
The bumpy road ride as always reminded me of crowded city and pollution. But again, we have to accept what it is. After almost 5 hours of the ride, we were in Besishahar. The hungry stomachs were demanding some foods and we ate dal-bhaat there, rested for sometime and headed our way home to Kathmandu. On the way, we were jokingly talking about going to Pokhara. Sapan and I accepted the proposal and two others were in no situation to make it. We two decided to go to Pokhara while Aman and Saurav headed to Kathmandu. What a beautiful ending to a memorable trek.
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Manaslu circuit trek Cost
Manaslu Circuit Trek is cheaper as compared to other mainstream trekking routes such as Annapurna circuit and Everest regions. During our 10 days trek, the total cost of an individual was around Nrs. 9000 ($90). This cost included everything starting from vehicle fare to foods and accommodation.
Since Manaslu region is a restricted area, you’re not allowed to trek alone. You need to have a group or a guide with you. That’s the reason why price differs from travel companies or trekkers as well. However, here is the tentative expenses breakdown of the trek:
- Permit costs: $70 (Sep-Nov) and $50 (Dec to August) as restricted area permit fee.
- Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Permit: $20 (because the trek route also includes this conservation area starting from Dharapani until Besisahar)
- Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) Permit; $20
- Since a guide with a valid license issued by the Nepal government is mandatory, the cost starts from $30 a day. A porter will cost you around $20 a day.
- The cost of foods and accommodation will be somewhere around $30 a day. If you need to charge your phone, use the internet and hot shower, you have to pay extra amount.
Post Manaslu Trek; A humble request to all!
Among the treks I have done, Manaslu Circuit Trek has been by far the best trek. This place needs more promotion. A humble request to all the travelers and trekkers, let’s spread positive messages, travel stories as much as possible or at least with our friends. Be it through word of mouth, photos, videos or any other media, let’s promote TRAVEL. Have you ever thought of substituting a costly Friday night party with a cheaper journey to the countryside? If yes, let’s continue the travel spirit. If not, well please give it a try and I am sure you won’t regret. 🙂 As Saurav stressed the fact and kept on reminding us time and again that Heaven is not something imaginative; it is somewhere around us. Let’s travel, discover such heavenly places and let’s live them. 🙂 Happy traveling! Cheers…
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