Manang: Gateway to the Annapurna Circuit's Cultural Heart

Manang is both a district and a town in Nepal's Gandaki Province. The Manang town lies around 3,519 meters (11,545 ft), and boasts a rich blend of geography, history, diverse people, and ethnicities, making it a pivotal stop along the renowned Annapurna Circuit trek.


Geography of Manang

The Manang town is on the broad Marshyangdi River valley. This river flows eastwards. On the north lies the Chulu East peak of 6,584 m (21,601 ft), and to the west is the Thorong La Pass,  5,416 m (17,769 ft).

From Manang, you can enjoy stunning views of Gangapurna, Annapurna III, and other snow-capped giants. Its high-altitude location contributes to a unique landscape characterized by rugged terrain, alpine meadows, and glacial lakes.

Manang now has motorable roads, along with the traditional trails used for transporting goods via jeep, mule trains, or porters in the past. There is an airport in this town - Manang Airport, constructed in 1981.

This airport lies at an elevation of 11,000 feet (3,353 m) and is among one of the highest airports in the world. The trail connecting Manang to the Annapurna Conservation Area was completed in 2011, bringing numerous benefits to the local villagers and the surrounding area.


History and Cultural Significance

Manang has a fascinating history rooted in the ancient trade routes that once connected Tibet with the lowlands of Nepal and India. This historical significance is reflected in the town's architecture, with traditional Tibetan-style stone houses and monasteries dotting the landscape. Manang has long been a vital rest stop for traders and pilgrims, contributing to its rich cultural heritage.


People and Ethnicities

The inhabitants of Manang are predominantly of Tibetan descent, belonging to the Gurung and Manangi ethnic groups. The prominent ethnicities are Gurungs, Tamangs, Ghales, and Bhotes. The majority of these ethnicities follow Buddhism. Their culture and traditions are distinct and influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. Visitors to Manang can enjoy warm hospitality, with locals eager to share their customs and way of life.


Things to do in Manang

Manang is a perfect town for acclimatizing during the Annapurna Circuit. However, there are plenty of activities you can participate in while acclimatizing.  Here are a few side trips you can take part in.

1. Praken Gompa

There are several Gompas around Manang, including Prakern Gomba, Karki Gompa, Bocho Gompa, and Kagud Gompa. To reach this Gompa, you need to undertake a short trek from Manang Gompa. From the Gompa premises, you can enjoy the views of Annapurna II, Annapurna IV, Tarke Kang, and Gangapurna.

2. Khangsar Trip 

Khangsar is a small village two hours away from Manang. The trail throughout is picturesque. In fact, there are two Khangsars - lower and upper Khangsars. Both of these Khangsars have basic accommodation options and a few tea houses. Tara Gompa lies near to the Upper Khangsar. Khangsar is also known for its views of Annapurna II (7,937 m), Annapurna III (7,555 m), and Gangapurna (7,455 m).

3. Ice Lake/Kicho Tal

Ice Lake is another short trek you can undertake while acclimatizing at Manang. This lake sits at an altitude of 4,620m and remains frozen for most of the months. Actually, there are two Ice lakes within a hundred meters of each other. However, the altitude gain is substantial, making this trek difficult. Moreover, the trails to Ice Lake get slippery. Hence, must be very careful.

4. Braga Gompa

This is the most important Gompa in Manang, built around six hundred years ago. Braga Gompa looks ordinary from the outside but houses precious statues and paintings. It is open to the public from 8 AM - 11 AM and 2 PM - 5 PM. The favorite part of visiting this Gompa is its relatively flat path, which is difficult to find in this region.

5. Milarepa’s Cave

Milarepa was a famous Buddhist master thought to have resided in this cave during the eleventh century. There is a spring and a Gompa built near the cave. You can visit the Milarepa’s Cave while in Manang. This cave is two hours away from Manang town. In 2004, Milarepa’s statue was brought to this area using a helicopter and established here.


Importance to the Annapurna Circuit

Manang holds immense importance for trekkers embarking on the Annapurna Circuit. It serves as a crucial acclimatization point, allowing trekkers to adjust to higher altitudes before continuing their journey towards Thorong La Pass. The town also offers amenities, such as lodges, tea houses, and shops, making it a strategic base for exploring the surrounding trails.

Moreover, Manang is a cultural hub along the Annapurna Circuit, featuring monasteries, prayer flags, and vibrant festivals that offer insight into the local Buddhist traditions. The town's serene ambiance amidst stunning mountain vistas provides a memorable experience for trekkers seeking adventure and cultural immersion.


The best time to visit Manang

​​The best time for the Annapurna Circuit Trek is either the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November). During spring, the weather is generally stable and mild, making it ideal for trekking at higher elevations. The landscape comes alive with colorful blooms of rhododendrons and other wildflowers, adding a beautiful touch to your trekking experience. 

Alternatively, trekking during autumn also provides excellent conditions for exploring the Annapurna Circuit, including Manang and surrounding areas. During this time, the skies are typically clear, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The weather remains dry and stable, which is optimal for trekking in the higher altitudes around Manang.

Additionally, trekking during autumn allows you to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of Nepal, as major Hindu festivals like Dashain, Tihar, and Chhat are celebrated during this period, adding a cultural dimension to your adventure.

For the Manang region trek, we recommend you avoid trekking during the monsoon season (June to August) due to heavy rainfall, leeches, and increased risk of landslides and avalanches, especially in higher altitudes. Similarly, winter trekking (December to February) can be challenging due to cold temperatures and potential snow blocking the higher passes.

Therefore, planning your trek during the spring or autumn months will ensure the most comfortable and rewarding experience in the Manang region of the Annapurna Circuit.


Permits required

When planning your trek along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, there are specific permits you need to acquire beforehand to ensure a smooth and legal journey through the region.

Firstly, you'll require the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP), essential for entering and trekking within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA). This permit supports the conservation efforts and sustainable management of the area's natural resources and biodiversity. The fee for the ACAP permit varies based on your nationality. For SAARC nationals (excluding Nepali), the fee is NPR 1,000, and for other foreign nationals, it is NPR 3,000. 

In addition to the ACAP permit, you will also need to acquire the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) permit. The cost is NPR 1,000 for SAARC nationals (excluding Nepali), and for other foreign nationals, it is NPR 2,000. 



Manang, the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit's cultural heart, offers a captivating blend of geography, history, diverse ethnicities, and essential support for trekkers. Whether you're drawn to Manang's natural beauty or cultural allure, your visit to Manang will leave an indelible impression on you. If you want to explore Manang, you can contact us.