Mount Manaslu is the eighth tallest mountains in the world at 8156 meters. The local name for Manaslu is Kutang – Spirit Mountain. The government of Nepal only opened this area to trekkers in 1991. For more details on Manaslu area, you can visit Wikipedia.

In recent years, Mount Manaslu Circuit trekking is gaining popularity rapidly. Part of the Manaslu region’s trails was damaged by the massive earthquakes of April and May 2015. To date, only bona fide trekking agencies of Nepal are permitted to run trekking tours around Manaslu. Backpackers are forbidden to roam alone in this region.

The Cottage at Dharmashala before larke La Pass

You can start this trek by taking a local bus/jeep or a private jeep to Arughat or drive for a further hour or so to Soti Khola to begin the trek. The trail starts with narrow valleys with tropical vegetation while hiking along the Budi Gandaki River. Parts of the path are small with loose rocks used as steps, and several places can be potentially dangerous; especially when you encounter passing caravans of mules.

As you begin to gain altitude, you will notice the change in the landscape becomes austere and at the same time the people who were Hindus in the lower valleys, you now see Buddhists in the higher altitudes.

You will pass through Machi Khola, Jagat, Ghap, Lho Gaun and Samagaon with impressive views of Manaslu, Ganesh Himal and other smaller peaks of 6000 meters. It is recommended that you spend one extra night at Samagaon for acclimatization. The average hiking days are between 5-7 hours each day. On average it takes about six days to reach Samagaon from the day you leave Kathmandu.

Manaslu Narrow and slippery river crossings

On the extra day, you can hike up towards Manaslu Base Camp. After some climbing through pine forest, you will see the impressive turquoise Birendra Tal (Lake). The hike to Manaslu Base Camp takes between 5-6 hours and another 3-4 hours to get back to Samagaon – it is not recommended, unless you have brought your tent and some camping food for one night. It is good enough for acclimatization if you walk for about two hours from Samagaon, enjoy your packed lunch amidst stunning scenery and head back to Samagaon.

The other option is to hike to Pun Gyen Gompa – ask the locals for directions, the round trip takes about 6 hours. You will pass through yak pastures and grassy plateau with dramatic mountain scenery. This is a small monastery with a little prayer room with dormitories for the monks. It is only worth the effort on clear days. You can also camp here if you have brought your tent and some camping food, as no accommodation is available here.

Samagaon and onwards. The trail from Samagaon to Samdo is flattish and takes about 4 - 5 hours to get there. From Samdo the path to the right goes towards Tibet. You might see caravans of Yaks returning with loads from Tibet. Depending on the time of year ask the locals if the lodge at Dharamshala is open. It is closed from the 3rd week of December until March.

Yan Liang Lim Happily walking across wooden bridge in Manaslu

The next morning is another short day to Dharamshala. The trail is a mixture of gentle ascends with short bursts of steep climbs. Look out for Blue Sheep around Dharamshala. The lodge here is very basic with drafty walls in the room – so a good sleeping bag is a must — 4-5 hours of trekking at a comfortable slow pace.

The day you go over Larke La 5160 meters, you will walk alongside a glacier with a glacial Lake Cho Chanda. Upon reaching the top of the pass, you will witness a superb panoramic view of Himlung Himal 7126 meters, Cheo Himal 6820 meters, Gaygi Kung 6981 meters, and Annapurna II 7937 meters. The Larke La pass is the natural border between the Manaslu and Annapurna region. The descent is steep and slippery to Bimthang. This is a lovely spot with beautiful views of the Manaslu range.

The last day of trekking in the Manaslu route takes you through beautiful forest, passing through terraced fields amidst small village until you reach Dharapani which is on the main Annapurna Circuit trail. You can continue trekking onwards to do the Annapurna circuit or walk all the way to Besisahar or get a jeep to Besishar and get into a local van or bus to Kathmandu or have a vehicle booked all the way from Kathmandu pick you up at Dharapani and bring you back to Nepal’s capital.

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