Nepal: Trek the Manaslu Circuit
You dream of trekking among the world’s greatest mountains. And yet there’s something more. You long for something a little different, maybe a little more challenging, a little out of the way. Some places, everybody has heard of. Others, like this circuit around the world’s 8th-highest peak, are just being discovered. Come on this three-week adventure in a nature preserve up against the Tibetan border, and take a side trip into a valley filled with traditional Buddhist villages. Discover the Nepal you dream of.
Trek an epic loop around one of the biggest mountains in the world
Visit the climber's base camp for Manaslu, 26,781'
Walk through the 642-square-mile Manaslu Conservation Area
Start low to acclimatize, go over 15,000' twice
This challenging but rewarding three-week trekking adventure will take us around the world’s 8th-highest peak and into a remote valley with a unique Buddhist culture. From low-lying villages to high mountain passes, from ridge-top monasteries to glacial base camps, going around Manaslu and into the Tsum Valley will be a trip of a lifetime. In fact, many trekkers say this less-discovered area of Nepal is the new Annapurna Circuit.
The hub of the trip is Manaslu, 8,163 meters (26,782 feet) high; its name translates as “Spirit Peak,” referring to the strong and benevolent deity that dwells within it. It is also the main feature of the 642-square-mile Manaslu Conservation Area, home to snow leopard, musk deer and more than 30 other mammals, as well as 110 species of birds and some 2,000 flowering plants.
We will go all the way around this peak and visit its base camp, starting low to allow ample time to acclimate. We will also divert for several days into the Tsum Valley, a remote, sacred pilgrimage valley up against the Tibetan border and only open for trekking since 2008. Visiting high monasteries and nunneries, we will glimpse a Buddhist culture that has existed in this valley for centuries, almost undisturbed by the outside world.
Our trip begins and ends in Kathmandu, where we have a full day of sightseeing to ancient temples and squares. All trekking overnights are in tea houses.
Day 1: Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2: Tour Kathmandu
Day 3: Drive from Kathmandu to Sotikhola (2,395’)
Day 4: Trek approximately 7 hours to Dovan (3,510’)
Day 5: Trek approximately 6 hours to Philim (5,545’)
Day 6: Trek approximately 7 hours to Chumling (7,743’)
Day 7: Trek approximately 4 hours to Chhokang-Paro (9,875’)
Day 8: Trek approximately 4 hours to Nile (11,027’)
Day 9: 3-hour excursion to Mu Gompa (12,139’); trek approximately 6 hours to Gumba Langdong (10,500’)
Day 10: Trek approximately 7 hours to Lokpa (7,350)
Day 11: Trek approximately 7 hours to Ghap (7,089’)
Day 12: Trek approximately 7 hours to Lho (10,433’)
Day 13: Trek approximately 3 hours to Samagaon (11,581’) Afternoon excursion to Kargyu Chholing Gompa
Day 14: Excursion of 6-7 hours to Manaslu Base Camp (15,750’)
Day 15: Excursion of approximately 5 hours to Pung Gyang Gompa, then trek 3 hours to Samdo (12,664’) via Birendra Tal
Day 16: Explore Samdo Village or approximately 5-hour excursion to Tibetan border
Day 17: Trek approximately 3 hours to Dharmashala (14,700’)
Day 18: Trek approximately 9 hours over Larkya Pass (16,929’) to Bimtang (12,204’)
Day 19: Trek approximately 7 hours to Dharapani (6,102’)
Day 20: Jeep to Besisahar, bus to Kathmandu
Day 21: Day in Kathmandu
Day 22: Depart Kathmandu
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I travel with Embark?
We are a team that lives and breathes travel; we know what our clients want, and as such we see them as travelers, not tourists. We have organized hundreds of adventures around the world, focusing on destinations we know and understand. Ask us for some of our references.
Many companies provide region-standard trips; Embark goes above and beyond. We organize unique itineraries along the roads less traveled, designing adventures that allow our travelers to be pioneers and explore the depth of any given destination.
We focus on finding and training the best guides in the industry, with specialists who are prominent in several fields – mountain guides, historians, archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and much more.
What is being on trek like?
Upon arrival in country, you will be met by an Embark representative at the airport exit and driven by private vehicle to your lodge or hotel.
On trek, each day you will be awakened by the porters, who will bring warm wash water and a hot drink to your tent. Breakfast is typically around 7 a.m., and you will hit the trail by 8 a.m. You will be given a pack lunch for the trail, and during the day the porters will pass you on the trail, then have camp waiting for you at the end of the day.
How hard is it?
While we believe that anyone in good physical condition can complete our treks, this trip is strenuous. While travel always entails some level of adventure and challenge, when we say “strenuous” we mean there will be long, difficult hikes; occasional significant physical barriers such as climbing; sleeping outside; and the chance of falling or some other injury. To complete this trip, especially with any enjoyment, one must be in good physical shape – in particular, able to handle strenuous hikes on several consecutive days.
What do we eat?
Tea house meals are basic, filling, and don’t vary much from place to place. Breakfast will typically be pancakes, porridge, eggs and bread. Lunch and dinner are also pretty consistent, although the spices and flavoring will vary. The main meal is daal baht: rice, vegetables (often spinach and potato), and lentil soup. This is usually all-you-can-eat.
There will be other options available at dinner, such as fried rice, soups, noodles, potatoes, and occasionally such extravagances as pizza, spring rolls or dumplings.
In Kathmandu, hotel meals will be much more standard tourist fare, particularly at breakfast. For dinner we will typically eat out as a group or on our own.
Not included are snacks such as bars, trail mix, and electrolyte drink mixes. If you like to those or other snacks, bring them!
Do I need a Visa?
All US citizens entering Nepal do need a visa. You can get this ahead of time from a Nepali consulate or embassy, or you can attain one upon arrival at the Kathmandu airport. We recommend the latter. Embark trips can be covered by a one-month multiple-entry visa, which is currently $40. (A three-month version, should you want to extend your journey, is $100).
An important note: Your passport must be valid for six months after your arrival date. Be sure it’s up to date!
For more information, check the Nepali USA Embassy website.
What is the sleeping arrangement?
While on trek, we will be staying in tea houses. These are family-run, very traditional places, featuring rooms with two twin beds, and sometimes a double. (You may have a private room if you wish). The room may have a shelf, coat hooks, a chair, or a small table. Each tea house also has a common area where meals are served.
What is included in the trip cost?
Your cost includes transportation, lodging, guide and porter fees, and most meals. While on the trek, all your meals are included, although you might want to bring some snacks that you like to have during the day. Before and after the trek you will have some time (and meals) on your own in town. Also not included in the cost is your airfare, souvenirs, and tips for the guides and porters.
How far ahead should I book this trip?
You want to commit to this trip at least six months ahead of time. It takes a lot of preparation, both logistical and physical. Beginning at this point, you should be booking your airplane tickets and planning your training regimen.
What is the best time of year for weather?
The main tourist season in the Himalayas is the fall, September and October. This is when the weather is clearest and most moderate, and the summer monsoons have washed away the dirt and dust and left snow on the mountains. There are also two major festivals during this time. Of course, this means that fall is also the most crowded and expensive time.
The next most popular time is spring, which here is from February to mid-April. This time is warmer than fall, with longer days, and the rhododendrons are blooming in the high country. It will be ever warmer during these months, and often a haze will obstruct the view of mountains from the low country. Most trekking routes are above this, however.
Summer, roughly June through September, is monsoon season, when the rain falls, fields come alive, flowers bloom … and bugs are out in force, roads get blocked by landslide, and often flights are cancelled due to weather.
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the lower elevations, but the higher regions are extremely cold (though clear), and much of the tourist infrastructure will be closed.