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Manaslu Circuit

The Larkye La is the highlight of a stunning trek!

Manaslu Circuit

$0 per person

A little further west is the neighbouring Mansalu Himal, which many argue is the best general trek in the country despite the impact of extensive road building and some highly commercial attitudes among some locals. However, the region still offers some amazing trekking with colourful cultures set against a backdrop of classic Himalayan peaks.

There are a number of ways to begin your GHT Manaslu adventure:

  • Option 1: Drive to Lapubesi, or beyond if possible, which gives the shortest overall itinerary of 11-12 days and has teahouses the whole way (see from Day 4 of the route described).
  • Option 2: Drive to Gorkha and hire a jeep to Barpak, then cross the Gupsi Danda to Laprak, and join option 1 at Khorlabesi (on day 4 of the route described). This route has teahouses the whole way.
  • Option 3: Drive to Gorkha and hire a jeep to Barpak, then cross the challenging Rupina La to join the main trail at Nyak. This route adds at least 4 days to Option 1, and requires camping equipment.

The Manaslu Himal has a long trekking season from early October through to mid-February. It then re-opens, after a brief winter in mid-March, and can be trekked until the monsoon begins in June. However, snow can block Larkye La at any time of year and it can be icy, requiring a rope. Delays occur in all seasons, so you should make sure you can adjust your itinerary if necessary.

The Manaslu Conservation Area is a restricted trekking region and you are required to trek in groups of a minimum of two plus a registered guide. Although it is possible to avoid taking a guide, locals will probably be less friendly and certainly charge you higher prices.

One of the classic Nepal Himalaya treks, the Manaslu Circuit has it all: stunning mountain vistas, enchanting cultures, some of the most beautiful sections of trail in Nepal, and all around the eighth highest mountain in the world.

Note: A road is under construction around the entire Manaslu Circuit and is complete to Machhakhola. It is likely that you will encounter road works each day up to Sama (Ryo).

  • Duration & distance: Between 11-16 days total; days not more than 20km per day
  • Gradient: Very steep with some arduous climbs
  • Quality of path: Formed track, some obstacles
  • Quality of markings: Signs at beginning, end and major intersections
  • Experience required: Some walking experience required
  • Walking times: Less than 7 hours per day
  • Steps: Steps not included in grade
  • Highest point: 5135m
  • Best season: Mar-May/Oct-Dec
  • Accommodation: Camping and teahouses
  • Recommended map: NP106 GHT Series Manaslu & Ganesh Himals, Himalayan Map House, 2017

 

GHT and Other Trails in the Manaslu Himal

GHT through-hikers have few options in this region. The Ruby Valley trek is the most obvious and popular route for joining the Manaslu Circuit with the Langtang/Helambu region.

For those wanting to avoid the stunning Manaslu Circuit, the cross-country route from Gorkha to Besisahar takes 3-4 days and is an enjoyable short trek in its own right.

 

Gorkha to Arughat

Instead of ascending the Daraudi Khola from Kalika Temple above Gorkha, there is a cross-country route to Arughat via a dirt road to Khanchowk (6hrs) and then descend to Arughat (4½hrs). You can get a jeep or walk along the dirt road to Arkhet Bazaar (2hrs) and continue to Machhakhola (5hrs), which is 30 minutes before Khorlabesi and then begin the Manaslu Circuit from day 7, see p000.

 

Gorkha to Besisahar

Heading west from Gorkha means first crossing the Daraudi Khola and then climbing to either Luitel Bhanjyang or Appipal (one day of 6-8 hours either way). Both routes are similar and lead through mixed farming land broken by patches of shrub forest. The descent to the Marsyangdi Nadi valley will ultimately lead to the Besisahar road. There are a number of places to cross the Marsyangdi, your choice will depend on how quickly you want to get to the accommodation offered in the bazaar towns of Paudi, Sundar (both a 6- to 8-hour day depending on the route) to then arrive at Besisahar (one 6- to 7-hour day following the road) and onward trek options.

 

Tsum Valley

Tsum Valley (Grade 3) was opened to tourists in 2002 and is becoming a popular side trip to the Manaslu Circuit. The Larke communities here have three gompas all run by nuns.

Warning! Only experienced trekkers should attempt the Thak Khola exit route as it is exposed and extremely dangerous; porters should not be taken.

The Tsum valley is entered via a right (north-east) trail fork after Thangmurmu and before crossing the Chumjet/Nyak bridge over the Budhi Gandaki (1½hrs from Phillim). You first climb through pine forest to the few small fields of Lukuwa (aka Lokpa, 2040m, 1hr), where there are views up the Siyar and Budhi Gandaki valleys. Descend through bamboo jungle to a wooden bridge that crosses the Gumrung Chu (30 mins) – this is a good lunch spot. The valley now swings north and the trail climbs a rough trail through jungle and then on to grassy hillside with stone slabs. Once across the slabs, the trail descends again to a suspension bridge that crosses to the north bank of the Siyar Khola (1½hrs).

The main trail crosses the bridge (rather than going to Ripchet – see Landan Kharka, p000) over the Siyar Khola. You then climb through terraces and scattered stone houses to Tumje (3230m, 1¼hrs), where you can camp in the school grounds. Do not leave anything unattended in this campsite, not even your toilet tent! Locals have a reputation for theft during the night and in all weathers.

A pretty grass-covered trail descends to the Siyar Khola and passes a small gompa run by three nuns who will be glad to offer a cup of Tibetan tea for a donation. Not far beyond the gompa is a bridge over the Sarpu Khola to Kowa (2630m, 1hr). Here the trail forks, the right-hand track leads to Domje (2460m, 20 mins), see Landan Kharka, p000. Take the left-hand trail that leads through the village and past a row of chorten before climbing at a constant gradient through scrub rhododendron for 450m. A chorten and mani wall at 2970m mark the edge of a broad flat valley and the outskirts of Chokung (3031m, 3hrs) where there is another small gompa and campsite. Continue up the valley on an easy trail to Rachen Gompa, which houses 63 nuns and was established in 1927. Beyond is Mu Gompa, where the valley branches in two; each branch has a trail that leads to Tibet.

It is possible to return to Tumje in 5 hours from Chokung, where you then have to choose your exit route: either retrace your steps to Lukuwa and then join the Manaslu Circuit trail at the bridge to Chumjet, or take the high and difficult route via Thak Khola to Lana.

This route is for experienced trekking groups only; no one with vertigo should attempt the route – it is exposed and very dangerous – and porters should not be taken. Do not stop at Tumje, instead continue for 2 hours to Chumje (3020m), which is a small collection of homes before the Urgin Chu. The following day follow a trail that crosses the Urgin Chu and then climbs out and up to a grassy ridge with three chortens (3150m, 2hrs). The trail now drops steeply before crossing a tricky section of steep ground covered in scrub. Climb another ridge and descend again through bamboo forest. The trail can be hard to find and you must be careful on the slippery log ladders. Beyond the forest, the route again climbs a ridge on a trail that follows a stream. Once on top of the ridge you enter a small village, Durjung Kharka (2570m, 5hrs), where you can camp in the terraces beyond the village. From here, it is only 3 hours down to the main trail at Lana.

 

Landan Kharka (north face of Ganesh I)

From the trail junction before crossing the Siyar Khola bridge, take the right-hand track to Ripchet (2420m, 1hr) and then on to Domje (2460m, 2hrs). You should check in Domje if the trail to Landan Kharka is accessible; if there have been landslides it might be wise to employ a guide here. From Domje, climb a steepening forest trail on the north bank of the Landan Khola. After 3 hours you will reach a kharka with good views of Ganesh I (aka Yangra, 7422m). The trail continues through forest for another 2 hours before leaving the treeline and reaching an ablation valley on the north side of a nameless glacier. In another hour you reach the final kharka and campsite beneath a natural amphitheatre below the Ganesh Himal.

 

  • Destination
  • Departure
    Kathmandu
  • Dress Code
    Mid-altitude alpine clothing and camping equipment required
  • Included
    Manaslu Circuit
  • Not Included
    Special Permits
    Tea Houses Available
    Personal Guide
1
Day 1: Kathmandu–Gorkha all day
It is a good idea to leave Kathmandu early to avoid the traffic gridlock and (all being well) arrive at Gorkha (1060m) by lunchtime (it’s roughly a 6-hour bus trip), where there are simple hotels. Towards the top of the town is Tallo Durbar, or lower palace, of Prithvi Narayan Shah who unified Nepal in 1769. This palace is a museum but not always open to tourists. Opposite the palace entrance is a series of stone steps that climb up between traditional Gurung homes to the ridge above. At the top is the World Heritage Listed original palace, Gorkha Durbar (1490m, 1hr) and Gorkha Kalika (temple to the Goddess Kali). Remove all leather garments (including shoes) before entering the temple. The Goddess Kali traditionally represents death and destruction and is supplicated through animal sacrifice. These days she represents time and change, but she is still revered with sacrifices.
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Day 2: Gorkha–Barpak all day
Hire a jeep in Gorkha and enjoy bouncing along the new road to Barpak (1950m); make sure you have a scarf to protect against dust. Barpak is one of the largest Gurung villages, where many of the families have at least one male relative in the Royal Gurkha Rifles. There are some teahouses and good campsites close to the treeline above the village with views of the village, Manaslu, Peak 29, and Himal Chuli.
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Day 3: Barpak–Laprak 4½hrs
Follow the road that climbs up to and then through extensive rhododendron forest above Barpak. The gradient is unrelenting for 2 hours but then eases as you begin to near the top of the Gupsi Danda and a minor pass (2670m, 3hrs from Barpak). There are good views of the entire Manaslu range from here. A broad grazing pasture, or kharka, provides an easy and enjoyable initial descent from the pass. There is a trail option to the road route from the pass, and after 20 minutes you can see another large Gurung village, Laprak (2100m, 1½hrs), where there are teahouses and a large school ground to make camp.
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Day 4: Laprak–Khorlabesi 5hrs
This section involves some tricky navigation, so it might be a good idea to employ a local guide from Laprak or Singla. Follow the main trail through the village, which then descends directly, for about 300m, to a bridge across the Machha Khola. Over the bridge, the trail climbs roughly 200m before swinging eastwards and traversing the hillside. There is a large tree with a chautara beside the trail, which marks where the main trail turns towards the north-east. It is important that you continue traversing at this height and do not descend towards the river. There is a simple teahouse at the village of Singla (2020m, 2hrs), and you can camp in the schoolyard. Continue through the village and be careful not to take some of the smaller tracks that descend towards the Machhakhola. After roughly an hour you will come to a fork where it looks like the right-hand trail begins to descend across unused terraces – do not descend. Instead, take the left trail that climbs for less than 100m. If you or your crew accidentally descend you will find the trail ends in old terraces and you will have to climb back up. In another 20 minutes there are good views of the Budhi Gandaki river and the main Manaslu Circuit trail, which you will reach in another 1½ hours at Khorlabesi (970m), where there are teahouses and a good campsite at the junction of the Namrung Khola and Budhi Gandaki.
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Day 5: Khorlabesi–Jagat 5½hrs
The trail from Khorlabesi to Jagat is through a dramatic gorge with lots of waterfalls and some landslides. Follow the broad track on the west bank of the river to Tatopani (990m, 1hr) where the waterspouts make a good washing stop. At the end of the village, cross a suspension bridge to the true left (east) bank and continue through sometimes dense forest to Dobhan (1070m, 80 mins), where there are teahouses. Continue on a broad trail on the true left bank of the river to Yaruphant (1170m, 1hr), where there are a few teashops on a broad grassy slope. From here, the trail climbs about 200m up what was once an enormous landslide that blocked the Budhi Gandaki. The trail descends a little from the top of the climb to the broad riverbed. In the trekking seasons there are some temporary teashops (80 mins from Yaruphant) at the confluence of the Yara Khola. Vertical cliffs rise on both sides of the valley as the trail continues on the true left (eastern) bank for 15 minutes to a bridge, which you cross to the true right bank and where the Budhi Gandaki has cut a narrow gorge. After a short climb and descent of 20 minutes you reach a flat area where there is a teashop and two grassy campsites signposted ‘Jagat’. The village is actually 10 minutes further up the trail, behind a rocky spur. As you enter Jagat (1340m) on a good stone-paved trail, there is a community-owned campsite on your left and some teahouses before the Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) and police checkpost. Jagat is a common village name in the high mountains as it means ‘customs post’ and is the traditional tax collection point for trade to and from Tibet.
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Day 6: Jagat–Deng 6hrs
Beyond the village is the Pangaur Khola, which is crossed using stepping-stones and log bridges. The trail now climbs an easy gradient to a chautara (1hr), where there are good views of Shringi Himal to the north. Descend to Sirdibas (1420m, 40 mins) and turn a sharp left turn at the end of the village to ascend a stream for about 50m before turning sharp right for the main trail. Continue to a suspension bridge, which you cross to the true left bank of the Budhi Gandaki (there is a police checkpost at the bridge) and then climb 200m to the village of Phillim (1570m, 40 mins), another MCAP checkpost and teahouses. This next section of trail is spectacular and well worth the effort of a long day’s walk. Ekla Bhatti (1650m) is about 45 minutes from Phillim, but take your time and admire the waterfalls on the west side of the valley. After the monsoon, there is a large waterfall beyond Ekla Bhatti, after which you enter scrubby forest that gives way to large pine trees. Forty minutes from Ekla Bhatti you reach a trail junction, where you turn left (the right-hand trail goes to Tsum, see pp000-00). Descend (5 mins) to and cross a bridge, where the trail begins a gradual climb as the valley turns westwards. After the initial climb away from the bridge there is a small trail junction where you turn right (the left trail climbs steeply to Nyak). Another bridge across the Budhi Gandaki is reached in 45 minutes, which you cross to the true left (north) bank to avoid a steep cliff. In another 15 minutes you cross back to the true right (south) bank using a suspension bridge. In 20 minutes, you will reach Pewa and the junction with the high trail from Nyak (this is where you join the Circuit trail from Rupina La). It’s a good campsite and teahouses at Deng (1860m), which is now 30 minutes away along a pleasant trail with good views of the narrow gorge cut by the Budhi Gandaki.
7
Day 7: Deng–Namrung 5hrs
As the Manaslu Circuit trail turns westwards, the shape of the homes changes to squat, dry-stone structures to reflect the changing demands of climate, and the architectural influences of Tibet. Mani walls, chorten and kani are common along the trail. Rice and wheat are replaced by buckwheat, barley and maize in the fields. The trail descends to a suspension bridge, which you cross to the true left (north) bank of the Budhi Gandaki and then climbs roughly 100m to Rana (1910m, 35 mins). The trail now climbs an easy gradient beneath the village of Umbaie (above which is Shringi Gompa) before winding through the Shringi Khola gorge to Bhi (1990m, 45 mins). Follow an undulating trail through sparse pine trees and hamlets to a large kani (1½hrs) that marks the entry to the Prok and Ghap communities. The paintings and mani stones on this kani are in good condition. The fierce blue and red characters on the kani ceiling and walls are protectors who are meant to stop evil spirits from entering the villages beyond. There is a teahouse and campsite at Prok, only 10 minutes further on. The trail now gradually swings back to the river, which you cross to the true right bank via a suspension bridge. It’s a slight climb to Ghap, where there are a couple of teashops. The valley narrows and you pass through fine broad-leaf forest to a spectacular canyon carved by the river (45 mins), which you re-cross in another 15 minutes on a larger bridge. Note: the Himal Chuli Base Camp trail veers left here and climbs the Sherang Khola valley. From the second bridge, the trail climbs more steeply for almost an hour to Namrung (2630m), where there is a campsite and teahouses.
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Day 8: Namrung–Sama (Ryo) 5½hrs
Leave Namrung by crossing Therang Khola along an easy trail that passes a waterfall on your left before entering the scattered village of Barchham (20 mins). The trail now climbs a bit less than 300m on an easy gradient to Lihi (2920m, 50 mins), where there is a campsite and teahouses. Descend and cross the Hinan Khola on the far side of the village and ascend an easy trail to Sho (2880m, 45 mins). It is now an easy up-hill gradient to Lho (3180m, 1hr), where there is a campsite and teashouses, but take your time and enjoy the evolving mountain panorama around you. Manaslu dominates the skyline at Lho and if you have the time explore the village’s mani walls, kani and Ribang Gompa, which sits on a hill above the village. The trail descends to the Thusang Khola and then climbs a steady gradient for 300m to Shyala (80 mins), a community of mainly log cabins where there is another campsite and teahouses. Next, the trail dips through the Numla Khola before descending slightly and then becoming flat all the way to Sama (Ryo; 3520m, 70 mins), where there are a teahouses and campsites to choose from at the far end of the village.
9
Day 9: Sama (Ryo) all day
It is a good idea to spend a day in Sama (Ryo) exploring the village and/or some of the surrounding viewpoints as part of an acclimatisation programme. One of the most popular places to visit is the Pung Gyen Gumba beneath the east face of Manaslu. To get there, back track on the Shyala trail to a junction before the Numla Khola, where you turn right and begin a long and sometimes steep climb for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Once you have crested the ridge above the river the gradient eases and ahead you will see the small gompa. You will be expected to provide a donation to the gompa if you visit it. Higher still is a cave gompa and hot springs, but relaxing in the grassy kharka near the gompa and enjoying the view of Manaslu is a popular pastime before returning to Sama in 1½ hours. Alternatively, explore the village and gompas of Sama, or take a local guide to Birendra Kund for reflections of Manaslu and its northern icefall.
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Day 10: Sama (Ryo)–Samdo 2¼hrs
An easy day to Samdo can be combined with a side trip to Birendra Kund. Leave Sama on a broad trail that runs north from the village across grassy kharkas. Remain on the western side of the valley, following a trail that runs parallel to the Budhi Gandaki. After 45 minutes cross the outflow from Birendra Kund to the summer herding area of Kermo Kharka where there is an excellent view of Manaslu from the impressive mani wall. The trail continues to climb an easy gradient for an hour before dropping to a bridge over the river. Climb to an impressive kani, which marks the entry to Samdo (3875m, 30 mins). This is a Tibetan refugee settlement of about 40 homes, created after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The border runs along the top of the hills above Samdo and makes an ideal side-trip.
11
Day 11: Samdo all day
It is wise to add a day to your itinerary at this point for acclimatisation: consider climbing Lajyung La, which goes to Tibet (north-east of Samdo), or up the slopes to the north of Samdo for some great view of the entire Manaslu range.
12
Day 12: Samdo–Larkye La Dharamsala 3hrs
From Samdo the trail descends to a bridge across the Gyala Khola. Climb the trail on the far side to a large pile of mani stones (40 mins), where you can look down on Larkye Bazaar, a trading ground (there are no buildings as such) where Tibetans sell large herds of goats before the Nepali festival of Dashain in October/November. The trail now climbs an easy gradient with views of Larkye Peak and the north face of Manaslu for 2 hours and 20 minutes to Larkye La Dharamsala (4460m), where there is a teahouse. Take some time to check that you are well prepared to cross the pass tomorrow.
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Day 13: Larkye La Dharamsala–Larkye La–Bimtang 7hrs
The longest and toughest section of the Manaslu Circuit now awaits, but also the most magnificent views – Himalayan majesty and grandeur all around. It is wise to start before sunrise and climb an ablation valley to views of Cho Danda. Although there are some prayer flags at the top of the ablation valley (4690m, 80 mins) you are not at the top of the pass. The trail now crosses rough undulating moraines for 30 minutes to another dharamsala (4905m). From here the trail begins to climb more steeply to the top of Larkye La (5135m, 1¾hrs), where you will be greeted by magnificent views of the upper Bimtang valley and a roofless dharamsala. Views of Himlung and Cheo Himals, Gyagi Kang, Menjung, Kang Guru and Annapurna II fill the horizon. Descend from the pass down a steep slope, which is often snow covered and icy (and may require a handline), for 1½ hours. Beneath you are three glaciers spotted with numerous turquoise lakes; head for the ablation valley to the left of all the glaciers. An easy gradient then leads down to the campsite at Bimtang (3590m, 2hrs), which is serviced by four competing teashops staffed by pretty Gurung women.
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Day 14: Bimtang–Dharapani 6¾hrs
Continue to follow the ablation valley south from Bimtang, which soon gives way to lateral moraine after 10 minutes. There are good views of the west face of Manaslu from here. Cross a branch of the glacial melt and then turn left, over some more moraine before crossing the main stream of glacial melt and then climbing a ridge of lateral moraine topped by some prayer flags (20 mins). The trail descends a little steeply through pine and rhododendron forest for 15 minutes before levelling to a gentle downhill gradient. As you descend towards the Dudh Khola through forest the trail passes through a few kharka. There is a lone teashop at Yak Kharka (aka Sangure Kharka, 3020m, 80 mins) after a copse of mountain pepper trees. From here the trail can be a little difficult to follow across some large landslides and through scrubby forest to the scattered settlement of Kharche (1hr). The trail now climbs an imposing ridge that juts into the centre of the valley before a long descent to the many fields of Goa (2515m, 1½hrs), where there are two teahouses. It is now a gentle downhill to the large Gurung village of Tilije (2300m, 50 mins), where you cross a bridge and pass a new school and begin road-trekking again. After 20 minutes you come to a trail junction; turn right and descend to Thonje (1965m, 50 mins), which you reach after crossing a long suspension bridge. Once at the village continue on the road to a T-junction in front of a teahouse. Turn left onto a dirt track and pass the school; after a short descent, cross a suspension bridge over the Marsyangdi river to Dharapani (1965m, 10 mins), where there is a police checkpost and many comfortable teahouses. Welcome to the Annapurna Circuit!
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Days 15-16: Dharapani–Chyamche– Besisahar–Pokhara 4hrs
Follow the Annapurna trail (see Naar, Phu & Thorung La, days 1-3), but in reverse. A road has been built up from Besisahar to Manang, however there are jeep services at Chyamche (1430m, 4hrs from Dharapani), and then you can transfer to a bus in Besisahar for services to Pokhara or Kathmandu.