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Our group at the top off Larkya Pass 5179 m © Hayley

I recently returned from Nepal where I hiked the Manaslu circuit and a portion of the Annapurna circuit with a friend over eighteen days.

After October & November, March & April is said to have the best hiking conditions. We started our trek in mid March and couldn’t have asked for better weather. At lower elevation, the days were warm and sunny, albeit hazy, and crystal clear at higher elevations. Of the eighteen days we hiked on both circuits we only experienced three days of rain.

Looking down on Thorong Phedi High Camp © Hayley
Arriving in Samagoan. Beautiful place for an acclimatization day © Hayley
Arriving in Samagoan. Beautiful place for an acclimatization day © Hayley

Both Annapurna and Manaslu were incredible experiences, however vastly different despite their neighboring positions. We chose to walk both routes in a counter-clockwise direction and since both circuits share the village of Dharapani we were able to combine the two into one big trek.

Overview of Manaslu Circuit trek

We started with the Manaslu circuit and begin the trek in the town of Soti Khola. Traditionally trekkers begin in Arughat Bazaar but since the road continues to Soti Khola, we decided to begin there and eliminate the need to share the road with passing buses and motorbikes. We were able to complete the Circuit in eleven days working our way from an elevation of 775 m up to 5173 m (the highest point on Larke Pass) and then back down to 1800 m. We choose to stay in the following villages: Soti Khola, Maccha Khola, Jagat, Deng, Namrung, Lho, Sama Gaon (stayed here for an acclimatization day), Samdo, Dharmasala, Bimthang, and Dharapani.

View of Mt. Manaslu from Lho © Hayley
View of Mt. Manaslu from Lho © Hayley

Government regulations require that tourists wishing to trek Manaslu hire a guide. We hired a guide for Manaslu but chose to walk Annapurna ourselves. While Annapurna was manageable on our own, we missed out on a lot of cultural experiences we would have otherwise had. Having a guide of Manaslu was a fantastic resource and truly went beyond information that can be gained from a book. We arranged a guide online through Magical Nepal and found he was a wealth of knowledge, spoke great English, and made our trip that much more enjoyable.

Traditionally dressed pony all ready for an annual horse race in Lho © Hayley

Mt. Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world and the circuit snakes it way up to and around the epic peak with your first glimpse of the mountain in the village of Lho. It rises up before you behind a monastery built up on a hill and is the most impressive sight. Approximately 5,000 people visit Manaslu each year, considerably less than the 35,000 that visit Annapurna and the 40,000 that visit Everest. As a result of this smaller number you are more likely to have the trail to yourself when hiking (yourself and the masses of mules carrying supplies between villages). Usually we would meet up with one or two other groups of two or three in the tea houses but for the most part saw no other foreigners. The circuit felt like truly authentic Himalayan experience, as there were no western toilets, very few locations with WiFi, and generator run electricity at best.

How Manaslu is Different From Annapurna?

Annapurna by comparison had slightly more dramatic landscapes and mountains however it had more of a “gringo trail” feel. It was incredible how easy to follow and accessible it was for foreigners to trek without the need for a guide, but with that came slightly less sense of adventure and resulted in spending more time with other westerners than locals. Not that this is a fault; it was enjoyable in its own regard, just a different experience.

Additionally, Annapurna is accessible by road on both sides up to the towns of Jomsom (on the west side of Thorong La Pass) and Manang (on the east side of the pass) though it is possible at times to avoid walking on the road, which is dusty and polluted. The road has also increased the amenities locals are able to provide in their teahouses such as western toilets, and slightly more varied menus. Hot showers, electricity and WiFi are all easy to come by on Annapurna. After Manaslu our senses felt overwhelmed with western comforts and while we enjoyed the indulgence for the first few days we often reminisced about the quieter days on Manaslu.

Each trek caters to different objectives. I highly recommend both for various reasons. Manaslu offers a more cultural and mentally taxing experience, while Annapurna has spectacular views and is a more comfortable trek for a less seasoned traveler. Both had plenty of highs and minimal lows, and neither would disappoint however each has the ability to cater more specifically to different trekkers desires.

Manaslu Vs Annapurna Circuit Trek Summary Table

Annapurna Circuit Trek Manaslu Circuit Trek
Start point Beshi Sahar Arughat
End point Beni Beshi Sahar
Max elevation 5416 m 5167 m
Independent trek Allowed Not allowed
Number of days 14 to 22 days 14 to 18 days
Ethnics Tribe Gurung, Ghale, Manange & Thakali Lama, Thakuri & Bhote
Accommodation Well established teahouses Well established teahouses
Food Variety of menu & food Variety of menu & food
Communication NTC, Ncell & Landline Phone CDMA & V Sat Phone
Side trip Tilicho Lake, Ice Lake, Gangapurna Lake & Nar Phu Valley Serang Gompa, Hinang Gompa, Pungyen Gompa, Birendra Lake, Manaslu Base Camp & Tsum Valley
Permit ACAP & TIMS ACAP, MCAP & Manaslu RAP
Access to Tibet Border No Yes
Best Trek Time March to May & September to November March to May & September to November
Access to Flight Yes (Airport in Jomsom & Humde) No
Medical Facility Yes (Health Post in Manang & Jomsom) No
Major River Marsyangdi & Kaligandaki Budi Gandaki
Trail Well Marked Well Marked

About Author

Pradeep is the co-founder of Magical Nepal. He has trekked to almost all the trekking places in Nepal. He has been to Everest base camp more than eight times. He is the one who mostly answers your queries by giving the personal touch and experience.

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