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The Manaslu Circuit Trek is the best all round tea-house hike in Nepal on the Great Himalaya Trail; the new Annapurna Circuit. No camping needed.

Manaslu Trek – fresh info!

Thanks to Scott Brennan for giving his feedback from his recent trek around Manaslu. He offers advice for those who are fit and ready to walk a little further than standard itineraries. His feedback below is in response to such a standard itinerary. Thanks Scott! His photos are linked here:

Manaslu Itinerary for fit trekkers

An itinerary idea for fit, ambitious trekkers
1 drive Kathmandu to Soti Khola (by jeep)
2 trek Khorla Besi (or Machha Khola)
3 trek Jagat 1350m (6 hours)
4 trek Deng 2600m (7 hours)
5 trek Namrung 2540m
6 trek Sama Gaun 3500m
7 explore Sama Gaun 3500m via Manaslu BC
8 explore Sama Gaun 3500m via Pung Gyen Gompa
9 trek Samdo 3860m
10 explore Samdo via pass to Tibet
11 trek Dharmasala 4460m
12 trek Bimthang via Larkya La 5135m
13 trek Tilje 2300m
14 trek Dharapani, drive Kathmandu

The trek information

As for the Manaslu itinerary, I think your outline above looks like the standard route offered by a number of guide services but if I were doing it again or advising friends, I would make a few changes driven by:

  1. my strong aversion to walking along roads (hate it) when I could be riding in a vehicle,
  2. a strong desire to spend more time up high, including some exploration days and
  3. an interest in doing something a bit non-standard, even in a teahouse trekking situation like Manaslu.

So, here are a few thoughts about what I did and what I would do next time.  If your friends are fit and interested in something a bit non-standard, the following might work well for them and would take fewer days than what you outline above.  I’m happy to answer more questions if you have them so don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Day 1: Drive Kathmandu to Soti Khola instead of Arughat.  The leg from Arughat to Soti Khola is a rather unpleasant walk along a hot, dusty road and accommodations in Arughat are not very nice.  We walked Arughat to Soti Khola and got passed by buses, jeeps, and all manner of vehicle but a lot of other people took the vehicle to Soti Khola.  I strongly recommend taking a vehicle to Soti Khola where the road ends now.  Arughat to Soti Khola is not a very nice walk and I would rather do a bit of extra driving on day one to save a day to spend higher up (more on that below).

Day 2:  I might not have the same map as you do because I don’t see Kursani Bari or Krsandhare between Arughat and Maccha Khola but in any case we walked from Soti Khola to Khorlabeshi in 6.5 hours total time.  We had planned on stopping in a bit before Khorlabeshi in the village of Maccha Khola but there were no rooms available.  I would recommend Soti Khola to Khorlabeshi as the first day walking.

Day 3:  Khorlabeshi to Jagat.  Very nice walk, lots of up and down, hot and humid.  About 6 hours total time.  A nice stage as is.

Day 4:  We went all the way from Jagat to Deng in one day.  It took about 7 hours walking and was quite nice. I think Jagat to Philim is far too short and easy a day, but that’s me and I like long walks in the hill country.  Philim was our morning tea stop after Jagat.

Day 5: Deng to Namrung.  Great day.

Day 6: We walked from Namrung to Sama Gaun with lunch in Lho but some other groups stopped for the night in Lho instead, which is a couple hours before Samagaon.  The monastery in Lho is beautiful but under construction and maybe not a nice place to spend too much time.  On this day we saw our first real mountain views, noticeably cooler weather and a more Tibetan-feeling village.  I would recommend Namrung to Sama Gaun as one stage.

Day 7:  We spent an acclimatization day hiking from Sama Gaun to Manaslu Base Camp and back.  Great hike, and be sure to go all the way to the base camp.

Day 8:  Rest day in Sama. While we did not do this, I would recommend considering a second acclimatization day in Sama Gaun and use this to hike up to the Pung Gyen Gompa which is supposed to be amazing.

Day 9:  Sama Gaun to Samdo.  This is a very short walk, barely two hours walking but a gain of 355 meters.   I see in your outline above that you include in one day, day 11 “Samdo/Dharamsala” but these are two different places.  Same Gaun to Samdo took us two hours and it was two more hours from Samdo to Dharamsala.  A well acclimatized group might be able to from Sama Gaun to Dharmsala in one day but that would be an elevation gain of 940 meters in one day so maybe not such a good plan.

Day 10:  I would recommend considering spending two nights in Samdo and using the extra day to explore the valley north of Samdo toward Tibet and the Gyala Bhanjyang pass.  The official tourist map on the Samdo sign post labels this valley as “snow leopard area” and whether it is or not, it would make for an exciting day hike.

Day 11:  Samdo to Dharamsala.  This is a short two hour walk and I dropped my kit in Dharamsala when we arrived there early morning and then hiked north from Dharamsala up the steep ridges toward the 5675′ high point of Fukang Danda. Very nice walk and much nicer than spending the day sitting in Dharamsala which is really just a stone hut, pit toilet and tent grounds.  We did see blue sheep, including a nice ram, in Dharamsala and a photo is in the album linked above.

Day 12: Dharamsala to Bimthang over Larka La.  Nice long walk.

Day 13: Bimthang to Tilje.  Nice walk through a very interesting old growth forest.

Day 14: Tilje to Dharapani and then jeep from Dharapani to Kathmandu.  The road crews are busy blasting and bulldozing from Dharaphan toward Tilje but while there is an ugly road scar here, there was no motor traffic between Dharapani and Tilje.

I would very strongly recommend arranging for a jeep to pick people up in Dharapani and not walk at all beyond Dharapani because a lot of the remaining walk is on the road and there is a lot of vehicle traffic.  I would ABSOLUTELY not walk all the way to Besi Sahar because that stretch is rapidly becoming an industrial corridor and just would be downright nasty walking.  We saw a lot of poor, distraught souls starting the Annapurna Circuit trek from Besi Sahar and they all looked like they wanted to turn around and go straight home.  Again, my bias is VERY strongly against walking on roads and very much toward spending more time up high, hence my proposed itinerary tweaks outlined above.  In addition to the layover/acclimatisation days I outline above, I think an extra day in Lho might be nice and a layover/acclimatisation/exploration day in Dharmsala might also be nice.  I am someone who is as interested in exploring off the beaten path as I am in getting from point A to point B so if your group is like me, the above might work well.  At the same time, if they are people who need to do exactly what was described in a guidebook published five years ago, then maybe they wouldn’t like my approach as much.

4 Responses

  1. Chaiwuth Lim said on January 9, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Hi, I’m interested in this itinerary and looking for a guide for the trekking period of (approx) end of October to early November. I would like to get more details on what you can offer. Please contact me!

  2. Andreas Danehed said on February 5, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Is it still not possible to do the manaslu circuit without a guide? Would be nice walking it just 2 people. Does a porter count as a guide?
    Thank you.

  3. FabGreg said on February 26, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    More ambitious itinary we followed in early November 2017

    Day 0 Kathmandu to Liding (hamlet a little bit after Sotikhola).
    D1: Linding to Thulo Dunga, lunch at Machhakhola
    D2: Thulo Dunga to Nyak Bagar (for a real village experience), lunch at Philim.
    D3: Nyak Bagar to Prok (second village experience), lunch at Bihi Phedi.
    D4: Prok to Shyaula, lunch at Lihi.
    D5: Shyaula to PungGYen Gompa to Samagaon, lunch at Samagaun.
    D6: Samagaon to Manaslu Base Camp to Samdo, pack-lunch.
    D7: Samdo to Tibet pass to Larkya Phedi, pack-lunch.
    D8: Larkya Phedi to Bimthang, lunch possible at Jhodhana Lunch Camp, or late at Bimthang.
    D9: Bimthang to Dharapani (early arrival, possible to trek further or taking jeep down), lunch at Tiliche.

    Except Samagaon, Samdo, Larkya Phedi, and Bimthang, our night stays were different from usual trekking agencies program. Therefore, calm environment, especially in the villages. No competition for lodge’s rooms as experienced by some trekkers following the classic program, end of October.

    56 years old at that time, not sportiv, slow walker when facing steep trails, but able to walk all around the day. With no porter, just the required guide.


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