Manaslu Circuit Trek Difficulty: What you need to know

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is one of Nepal's most stunning and challenging trek routes, offering an unparalleled adventure for avid trekkers and adventurers. This trek is known for its remote and rugged terrain as it encircles the majestic Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, standing at 8,163 meters. As you prepare for this extraordinary journey, understanding the trek's difficulty and what you need to know is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience.

 

Arriving in Nepal

Your adventure begins with your arrival in Kathmandu, the vibrant capital of Nepal.  If you are not in Nepal, you can fly to Kathmandu from major cities. Kathmandu is a city rich in culture, history, and hospitality, providing a perfect starting point for your trek. If you decide to trek with us, we will receive you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in a private vehicle for free.

From Kathmandu, you'll travel to Soti Khola, the starting point of the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The journey to Soti Khola is an adventure, involving a scenic drive through winding mountain roads, picturesque villages, and lush green landscapes.

 

The Importance of the Manaslu Circuit

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is often considered a hidden gem in the trekking world. It offers a less crowded alternative to the popular Annapurna and Everest regions, allowing you to experience the pristine beauty and tranquility of the Himalayas.

The trek takes you through diverse landscapes, from subtropical forests and terraced fields to high alpine meadows and glacial valleys. You'll also have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the region's rich cultural heritage, passing through traditional villages inhabited by Tibetan and Gurung communities. The highlight of the trek is crossing the Larkya La Pass at 5,135 meters, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.

Best Season to Trek

The best seasons for the Manaslu Circuit Trek are pre-monsoon (spring) and post-monsoon (autumn) periods. Spring, from March to May, offers mild temperatures, blooming rhododendrons, and clear skies. Autumn, from September to November, is known for its stable weather, clear mountain views, and vibrant festivals. These seasons provide the most favorable trekking conditions, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Difficulty

Trekking the Manaslu Circuit means tackling a rugged trail that spans multiple days, requiring an average of 6 hours of walking each day. The trail traverses a wide range of terrains, from plains to soaring hills, deep canyons, and dense forests, making it inherently challenging. 

The high altitude poses an additional strain, increasing the likelihood of altitude sickness compared to other trekking regions. Winter treks are particularly tough, as icy trails can lead to physical ailments such as rashes, cramps, and frostbite.

Bad weather, including snowstorms and heavy rainfall, can disrupt your journey, sometimes even forcing a halt halfway through. In contrast, the summer days come with blazing heat with temperatures reaching 22 degrees Celsius, adding to the trek's strenuous nature. The endless trails, while offering breathtaking views, can become exhausting and tedious, potentially leading to muscle pain and other serious health issues.

 

The Altitude

As you embark on this journey, you'll navigate varied terrain that tests your physical endurance and mental resilience. The trek includes steep ascents and descents, rocky paths, and sections prone to landslides, requiring careful attention and preparation.

As you progress, you'll cover a distance of approximately 177 kilometers (110 miles) over 14-18 days. Each day presents new challenges, from crossing suspension bridges over roaring rivers to traversing narrow trails carved into the mountainside. The altitude adds another layer of difficulty, as you ascend gradually to higher elevations.

Starting from around 700 meters (2,300 feet) at Soti Khola, you will reach the Larkya La Pass, which stands at 5,160 meters (16,930 feet). The increasing altitude can lead to altitude sickness, so it's crucial to acclimatize properly. As you gain elevation, you may experience headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath, reminding you to take it slow and stay hydrated.

The views from Larkya La Pass are nothing short of spectacular. As you stand at this high vantage point, you are rewarded with a panoramic vista of snow-capped peaks and rugged landscapes. The sight of Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, dominates the horizon, its towering presence a testament to the natural grandeur of the Himalayas. Surrounding peaks like Himlung Himal, Cheo Himal, and the Annapurna range also come into view, creating a breathtaking and unforgettable scene that makes the strenuous ascent worthwhile.

Throughout the trek, you'll witness dramatic changes in vegetation and landscapes. In the lower regions, you'll walk through lush subtropical forests filled with bamboo, rhododendron, and oak trees. These vibrant green forests are teeming with life, in stark contrast to the rocky and arid landscapes you'll encounter at higher elevations. 

As you ascend, the vegetation becomes sparser, transitioning to alpine meadows dotted with hardy shrubs and wildflowers. Above the tree line, you'll find yourself in a stark, almost otherworldly environment of glaciers, moraines, and high-altitude deserts.

Despite the challenges, the Manaslu Circuit Trek rewards you with stunning landscapes, from lush subtropical forests to stark alpine terrain. The journey takes you through picturesque villages, where you can immerse yourself in the rich culture and traditions of the local communities. As you traverse the Manaslu Conservation Area, you'll encounter diverse flora and fauna, adding to the trek's allure.

 

Quieter Trek and Limited Infrastructure

In addition to physical challenges, the Manaslu Circuit Trek can also be mentally demanding. The trail's remoteness means you'll encounter fewer fellow trekkers, leading to a sense of isolation that can feel both serene and melancholic. This lack of human interaction can be daunting, especially during long stretches between villages where the only sounds are your footsteps and the distant call of birds.

The limited infrastructure along the trek adds another layer of difficulty. Accommodations are basic, with tea houses providing simple rooms and shared facilities. The food and drink choices are also limited, often consisting of basic staples like rice, lentils, and vegetables. Additionally, access to clean drinking water can be restricted, so you should use water purification tablets or filters.

Despite these challenges, the Manaslu Circuit Trek rewards you with stunning landscapes, from lush subtropical forests to stark alpine terrain. The journey takes you through picturesque villages, where you can immerse yourself in the rich culture and traditions of the local communities. As you traverse the Manaslu Conservation Area, you'll encounter diverse flora and fauna, adding to the trek's allure.

 

Trekking Permits and Regulations

Due to its remote and sensitive nature, the Manaslu Circuit Trek requires several permits. These include the Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP), the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (MRAP), and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP).

The MCAP permit is required starting from Philim, where the Manaslu Conservation Area begins. The cost is a flat rate of USD 30 per person, applicable throughout the entire year. There are no restrictions or changes in price based on the number of days you spend within the Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP).

The cost for the Manaslu Restricted Permit (MRAP) permit varies depending on the season. From September to November, the permit costs USD 100 per person for the first seven days. For each additional day from the eighth day onwards, it costs USD 15 per person per day. This is the peak trekking season due to favorable weather conditions and clear mountain views.

From December to August, the MRAP permit cost is reduced. During this off-peak season, the permit is USD 75 per person for the first seven days, and each additional day from the eighth day onwards costs USD 10 per person per day. This period includes winter and monsoon seasons, where trekking conditions can be more challenging.

For the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP), you do not need to bring a printed photograph. Instead, your photo will be uploaded online and printed directly on the permit, streamlining the application process and making it more convenient for trekkers.

In addition to these permits, you will need the ACAP permit. This permit is required starting from Dharapani until you exit the ACAP region in Beshi Sahar. The cost is a flat rate of USD 30 per person (for foreigners), applicable throughout the year. There are no restrictions or changes in price based on the number of days you spend within the Annapurna Conservation Area.

Additionally, trekkers must be accompanied by a registered guide and travel in a group of at least two. These regulations are in place to preserve the natural environment and cultural heritage of the region while ensuring the trekkers’ safety.

 

Trekking Preparation

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is a challenging trek, requiring good fitness. The trek involves long days of walking, often over steep and rugged terrain, with significant altitude gain. The highest point of the trek, the Larkya La Pass, requires careful acclimatization and can be physically demanding due to its altitude and exposure to harsh weather conditions.

 

Physical Fitness and Training

If you are not in good shape, you must enhance your physical fitness and endurance. Regular cardiovascular exercises such as hiking, running, and cycling, combined with strength training, will help you develop the stamina needed for long days on the trail. Additionally, practicing hikes at higher elevations can be beneficial for acclimatization and preparing your body for the challenges of high-altitude trekking.

 

Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization is a crucial aspect of the Manaslu Circuit Trek. If you trek with us our itinerary allows time for gradual altitude gain and adequate acclimatization days. It is important to listen to your body and be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness, which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. Staying hydrated, taking rest days, and ascending slowly can help mitigate the risks of altitude-related illnesses.

 

Essential Gear and Packing List

Packing the right gear is essential for a successful trek. Key items include sturdy trekking boots, warm clothing layers, a good-quality sleeping bag, trekking poles, and a reliable backpack. Additionally, you must pack essentials such as a first aid kit, water purification tablets, and high-energy snacks. It's important to pack light, but ensure you have all the necessary gear to cope with varying weather conditions. If you trek with us, we will provide you with a detailed gear and clothing list. We will also arrange a porter for you so that you can enjoy your trek. 

 

Conclusion

The Manaslu Circuit Trek is a challenging yet rewarding adventure that offers a unique opportunity to explore one of Nepal's most pristine and culturally rich regions. By understanding the trek's difficulty, preparing adequately, and respecting the local regulations and environment, you can embark on this unforgettable journey. Whether you're drawn by the allure of high mountain passes, the charm of traditional villages, or the breathtaking natural beauty, the Manaslu Circuit Trek promises an experience of a lifetime. For a hassle-free, safe, and rich Manaslu trek, contact us

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.