How different are Manaslu Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp Treks?

Nepal, nestled in the heart of the majestic Himalayas, is a trekker's paradise and a dream destination for adventurers. With its diverse landscapes, ranging from the world's deepest gorge to the highest mountain, Nepal offers a unique and awe-inspiring trekking experience. 

Nepal is home to some of the most iconic treks, including the legendary Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, Manaslu Circuit, and Langtang Valley. Trekking in Nepal allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of nature, encounter diverse cultures and warm-hearted locals, and challenge yourself physically and mentally as you navigate through rugged terrains and high mountain passes.

Importance of choosing the right trek
Treks vary in difficulty, altitude, and terrain so you should choose your trek accordingly. The most important factor to pay attention to is your safety. Your trek must match your fitness level, experience, and capabilities.

After taking care of your safety, the second factor to pay attention to is entertainment. You must choose treks that align with your interests, preferences, and desired experiences. Before deciding on the trek, make sure what attracts you the most -  panoramic mountain views, cultural immersion, or remote wilderness.

If you seek personal fulfillment, choose a trek that aligns with your goals, aspirations, and personal challenges. The fulfillment can be conquering a specific mountain pass, reaching a particular destination, or exploring a unique cultural trail. If you are trekking in a group, choose a trek that considers each member’s abilities and expectations. 


Comparison of Manaslu Circuit Trek and Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Manaslu Circuit Trek

The Manaslu Region in central Nepal is a pristine and less crowded trekking destination that offers breathtaking natural beauty and a unique cultural experience. This region has gained popularity among trekkers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure. 

Highlights of the Manaslu Circuit Trek

Majestic Mountains: This trek circles the world’s eighth-highest mountain Mount Manaslu (8,163 meters), but there are other mountains you can appreciate, including Himalchuli, Ganesh Himal, and Ngadi Chuli, among others.

Untouched Beauty: The Manaslu Circuit Trek takes you through remote and pristine landscapes less frequented by tourists. You can expect to traverse through picturesque valleys, dense forests, terraced fields, and charming traditional villages, relatively untouched by modern influences.

Cultural Diversity: The trail regions are full of ethnic communities, including Gurungs, Tibetans, and Tamangs, each with their own distinct traditions and lifestyles. You'll have the opportunity to visit monasteries, interact with locals, and gain insights into their rich cultural heritage.

Larkya La Pass: The highlight of the Manaslu Circuit Trek is the Larkya La Pass, situated at 5,160 meters. This mountain pass offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peak, including Kang Guru (6981 meters), Himlung (7126 meters), and Annapurna II (7937 meters).

Manaslu Conservation Area: The conservation area is home to various wildlife species, including the elusive snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, musk deer, and many bird species. You'll have the opportunity to witness these creatures in their natural habitat.


Tranquility and Solitude: Unlike other popular trekking routes, the Manaslu Circuit offers a quieter and less crowded experience. The trek allows you to enjoy the serenity of the mountains, immerse yourself in nature, and savor the peace and solitude while trekking in this remote region.


Difficulty level of the trek

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is a challenging trek, suitable for trekkers with good fitness. It will surely help if you have past trek experience. 

The trek involves long walking hours on a trail with steep ascents and descents on rugged and sometimes unstable terrain. Trekkers must navigate through narrow, exposed trails, cross suspension bridges, and face challenging weather conditions.

Altitude sickness is a concern on the Manaslu Circuit Trek.  Adequate acclimatization and a gradual ascent are crucial to minimizing the risk of altitude-related illnesses.

Best time to go

The best time to go on the Manaslu Circuit Trek is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons.

In spring the weather warms up, and the rhododendron forests look fantastic with vibrant blooms. The temperatures are mild with clear skies, making it an ideal time for trekking. However, remember that the higher altitudes may still have some snow, so be prepared for cold temperatures and occasional snowfall.

Autumn is another excellent time for the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The weather is stable, with clear skies and pleasant temperatures during the day. The mountain views are spectacular, and the trail is generally dry and easier to navigate. Autumn is also the peak trekking season in Nepal, so you can expect to encounter more fellow trekkers along the route. Most major Nepali festivals fall during autumn. If you want to witness these festivals, you should trek during autumn.

Permit and costs

To trek in the Manaslu region, you need to obtain a special permit known as the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP) and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). Here is an overview of the permits and their costs:

Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP):

  • For September to November: USD 100 per person for the first week and USD 15 per day thereafter.
  • For December to August: USD 75 per person for the first week and USD 10 per day thereafter.
  • The permit is valid for a maximum of 30 days.

Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)

  • USD 30 per person. SAARC citizens will get this permit for Rs.2000

These permit costs may change in the future. Normally, your trek and tour company will acquire these permits on your behalf. 

Pros and cons of the trek

The Manaslu Circuit Trek has its own strengths and weakness. On the positive side, the trek showcases stunning natural beauty, including breathtaking mountain views, pristine landscapes, and diverse ecosystems. It provides an opportunity to explore the culturally rich and remote Manaslu region with encounters with local ethnic communities and their unique traditions. The trek is less crowded than other popular treks in Nepal, offering a sense of tranquility and a chance to connect with nature. 

However, the Manaslu Circuit Trek is a challenging and physically demanding trek, requiring good fitness and prior trekking experience. The high-altitude sections, long daily walking distances, and steep ascents and descents can be physically demanding. Accommodation and facilities along the trail are basic.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

The Annapurna Region is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, known for its grand mountain vistas, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural experiences. This region falls in central Nepal and includes Annapurna Massif, including Annapurna I, the 10th highest mountain in the world.

The region offers trek options for novice and experienced trekkers. Famous trekking routes in the Annapurna Region include the Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek, Poon Hill Trek, and Mardi Himal Trek. 

The Annapurna Region is known for its diverse landscapes. Trekking routes take you through lush green forests, terraced fields, rhododendron forests, picturesque valleys, and high-altitude arid landscapes.

Highlights of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Annapurna Base Camp Trek is a magnificent trek in the Annapurna region. You can visit Annapurna Base Camp as your solo trek destination or include it with other trek destinations.

The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek is a remarkable journey. As you trek from Pokhara, you will pass through the lush green rhododendron and bamboo forests to the high-altitude alpine meadows. As you ascend, the panoramic views of Annapurna Massif and Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) leave you speechless. The cultural encounters with the warm and hospitable Gurung community in their own habitat add a delightful touch and insight into their way of life.

The ultimate highlight is the Annapurna Base Camp itself, situated at an altitude of 4,130 meters. The base camp sits surrounded by several other towering mountains. The sense of accomplishment and the sheer beauty of the surroundings will awe you throughout your life.

The difficulty level of the trek

The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek is moderately difficult. Healthy and average-fit people should be able to complete this trek. The trek involves walking for several hours each trekking day, covering varying terrains, including uphill and downhill sections. The trail can be steep and rocky at times, particularly as you approach the base camp. The maximum elevation is approximately 4,130 meters at Annapurna Base Camp. Acclimatization and gradual ascent are vital to minimize the risk of altitude-related issues.

Best time to go

Just like most other treks in Nepal, the best time for the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons.

Spring offers pleasant weather with moderate temperatures during the day, making it comfortable for trekking. The forests along the trail are in full bloom and add vibrant colors to the landscape. The skies are generally clear, providing excellent visibility of the surrounding mountains. However, there are slight chances of rain in lower regions and snow at higher elevations.

Autumn is the peak trekking season in Nepal, including the ABC trek. The weather is stable with mild temperatures and clear skies, offering panoramic mountain views. The trail is generally dry and easier to navigate. The autumn months also coincide with festivals like Dashain and Tihar, providing an opportunity to experience the local culture and traditions. However, be prepared for larger crowds and book accommodation in advance.


Permit and costs

To trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in Nepal, you will require Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) costs USD 30 per person. SAARC citizens will get this permit for Rs.2000. In addition to the ACAP, you also need a TIMS (Trekkers' Information Management Systems) card. The cost of a TIMS card for SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is NPR 1,000, and for others, it costs NPR 2,000. 


Pros and cons of the trek

The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek comes with its own strengths and weakness. On the positive side, the trek provides stunning mountain vistas, with breathtaking views of Annapurna I, Machhapuchhre, and other majestic peaks. The diverse landscapes, from lush forests to alpine meadows, offer a captivating journey. Cultural encounters with local communities, such as the Gurung and Magar people, provide insights into their traditions and warm hospitality. The well-established trail, with teahouses and lodges, offers convenient and comfortable accommodation. 

However, the trek involves physical challenges, including steep ascents and descents, high altitudes, and variable weather conditions. The trail can be crowded during peak seasons, affecting the sense of tranquility. Despite these considerations, the Annapurna Base Camp trek remains a highly rewarding adventure, combining natural beauty, cultural experiences, and personal achievement.


Scenery and terrain

The Manaslu Circuit trek takes you through the remote and less-trekked region of Manaslu, providing a more off-the-beaten-path experience. The scenery is diverse and dramatic, ranging from lush lowland forests and terraced fields to rugged high-altitude landscapes. The trek offers breathtaking views of Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, as well as other peaks like Ganesh Himal and Himalchuli. You'll also encounter pristine glacial lakes, cascading waterfalls, and traditional Tibetan-style villages, immersing you in the rich culture and traditions of the region.

On the other hand, the Annapurna Base Camp trek offers a different kind of beauty. It takes you through the renowned Annapurna region, which is more accessible and well-developed for tourism. The trail winds through lush forests of rhododendron and bamboo, charming villages, and terraced fields. The highlight of this trek is reaching Annapurna Base Camp, surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks, including Annapurna I, Machhapuchhre, and others. The panoramic views of these majestic mountains against the clear blue sky are simply breathtaking.

Cultural experience

The Manaslu Circuit takes you through the remote region around Mount Manaslu, where you'll encounter predominantly Tibetan-influenced communities such as the Gurungs, Nubri, and Tsum people. Their unique traditions, language, and religious practices, including Buddhism, enrich your cultural experience. 

On the other hand, during the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, you'll encounter diverse ethnic groups like Gurungs, Magars, Thakalis, and others, each with their distinct cultural practices and languages.

The cultural practices and festivals you encounter will vary on each trek. Along the Manaslu Circuit, you might witness traditional ceremonies and rituals performed by the locals during festivals like Losar (Tibetan New Year) and Dumje. On the Annapurna Base Camp trek, you may have the opportunity to witness cultural dances, music, and celebrations during festivals like Dashain and Tihar in autumn.


Trekking difficulty

The Manaslu Circuit trek and the Annapurna Base Camp trek both present their own challenges in terms of difficulty. The Manaslu Circuit is physically demanding and technically challenging, as it involves crossing high mountain passes, navigating rugged terrains, and enduring long daily walking distances. The trek reaches higher altitudes, including the challenging Larkya La Pass at an elevation of 5,160 meters (16,929 feet).

The Annapurna Base Camp trek is comparatively less strenuous, with a more gradual ascent and well-established trails. While it does involve some steep sections, the altitude gain is relatively lower, with the highest point being the Annapurna Base Camp at 4,130 meters (13,550 feet). 

Accommodation and food

Accommodation and food options differ between the Manaslu Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks. Along the Manaslu Circuit, due to its remote and less developed nature, accommodation is limited. Tea houses and lodges are available in villages, providing basic facilities such as shared rooms and communal dining areas. The food options primarily consist of local dishes like dal bhat (rice and lentil soup), noodles, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables.

On the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, the route is more popular and well-established, offering a wider range of accommodation options. Tea houses and lodges are available in almost every village along the trail, providing private or shared rooms, as well as dining facilities. The food choices are more diverse, including both local Nepali dishes and international cuisine, with menus often featuring pasta, pizza, momo (dumplings), and more. However, note that the quality and variety of accommodation and food can vary between different tea houses and lodges along both treks.

Permits and costs

Permits and costs differ between the Manaslu Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks. For the Manaslu Circuit trek, a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) and a Manaslu Conservation Area Permit (MCAP) are required making the trek to this region more expensive. 

On the other hand, the Annapurna Base Camp trek requires an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP), which is generally cheaper. You will also need a TIMS (Trekkers' Information Management Systems) card. Overall, the Manaslu Circuit trek tends to be more costly due to the permits and restricted nature, while the Annapurna Base Camp trek is relatively more affordable.


Crowds and popularity

The Manaslu Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks offer contrasting experiences in terms of crowds and popularity. The Annapurna Base Camp trek is known for its popularity and attracts a large number of trekkers, particularly during peak seasons. The trails and tea houses along the route can be crowded, especially in popular sections. 

The Manaslu Circuit trek, as a restricted area trek, generally receives fewer visitors compared to the Annapurna Base Camp trek. The Manaslu region's limited accessibility and the need for special permits contribute to a more secluded and less crowded experience.

Which Trek to Choose?

Choosing between the Manaslu Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks depends on your preferences and priorities. If you seek a more remote and less crowded experience, with a focus on cultural immersion and challenging terrain, the Manaslu Circuit trek is a great choice. It offers breathtaking mountain views, Tibetan-influenced villages, and the thrill of crossing high mountain passes. 

However, if you prefer a well-established and popular trek with a diverse range of landscapes, easier accessibility, and a vibrant trail community, the Annapurna Base Camp trek is ideal. It provides stunning views of the Annapurna massif, charming villages, and the opportunity to connect with fellow trekkers. Ultimately, both treks offer unique experiences, so consider your preferences for remoteness, cultural immersion, difficulty level, and trail popularity and choose your trek wisely.

As a reputed trek and tour company, Discovery World Trekking conducts several Annapurna Base Camp and Manaslu Circuit treks. Just Call/Viber/WhatsApp us at +977- 9840055491 or email [email protected]. 

Paul Gurung

Paul has an extensive experience in the tourism industry. Through his blogs, he shares his deep knowledge about the stunning trek regions in Nepal, inspiring trekkers worldwide to explore these regions and enrich their lives. In addition to geography, his writings delve into the human side of the trek regions, including culture, traditions, religions, and etiquette, offering a comprehensive and enriching perspective on the Himalayan trekking and expedition experience.