Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu (1,300m/4,264ft)
Upon our arrival in the Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, we will be greeted by a representative, who will drop you off at our hotel. After checking in, we take a rest or visit Amazing Nepal's office. We may also stroll in the streets of Thamel, a tourist hub in Kathmandu for some souvenir shopping. In the evening, there will be a welcome dinner hosted by Amazing Nepal Trek & Expedition. For dinner, you will be served excellent Nepalese cuisine which will introduce you to the country's authentic food culture. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 02: Kathmandu Valley sightseeing and Trek Preparation
After breakfast, you will set out for sightseeing of the culturally and architecturally rich heritage sites of the Valley. Places such as the Pashupatinath, the world famous temple precinct of the Hindus, the Boudhnath and Swaymbhunath, the world famous Buddhist stupa precinct, and Kathmandu Durbar Square will open up completely a new cultural world of Nepali art and architecture to you. You will also be taken to the Kumari Ghar, where resides the Virgin Goddess. We will also discuss the trip, and you will be introduced to your fellow trekkers and our crews.
Day 03: Kathmandu – Arughat (670m/2,198 ft) – Soti Khola (710m/2,330ft): 135km, 8-9 hrs drive
A westward 70km scenic drive along the Prithvi Highway, through the forested Middle Hills, leads to Malekhu. A 30km secondary tarred road heads north, over the Trisuli River, towards Dhading Besi and a rutted 35km dirt road northwest to Arughat on the Budhi Gandaki. The dirt road winds upwards towards the Gola Bhanjyang where panoramic views of the southern slopes of the Ganesh, Baudha and Manaslu Himals should be possible.
The road then drops to cross the Ankhu Khola and later, at Arughat, the Budhi Gandaki that drains the Manaslu - Tsum region. A further ~3 hrs drive up the west bank of the river leads to Soti Khola.
Day 04: Soti Khola – Machha Khola (890m/2,920ft): 6-7 hrs
After breakfast, today’s trail rises gradually through beautiful Sal forests. It then undulates over forested and terraced ridges passed numerous waterfalls. The trail is generally narrow, at times clinging to the sides of cliffs. It later drops to pass rice paddies before climbing to the attractive Gurung village of Labubesi (885m/2,800ft). After crossing a suspension bridge at the spectacular Nauli Khola falls, the valley opens out and the trail drops onto gravel banks along the river before rising slightly to the village of Machha (Fish) Khola.
Day 05: Machha Khola – Dobhan (1,000m/3,280ft): 6-7 hrs
The trail follows the river, with minor ups and downs, often dropping to the gravel bar before crossing the Thado Khola and on up to Khorlabesi: where coffee, buckwheat, and tobacco are grown. A trail from Gorkha joins the Manaslu circuit here and the Great Himalayan Trail turns east from the Manaslu to the Langtang and Everest regions.
Our trail then enters a lush narrow gorge that constricts the river’s progress. Beyond is a landslide with a dicey path, shortly before the triple hot spring spouts in Tatopani. The trail then climbs a ridge before crossing the Budhi Gandaki on a suspension bridge (to avoid a huge cliff face and waterfalls. A good staircase leads to a landslide before a final ridge climb to Dobhan.
Day 06: Dobhan – Philim (1,590m/5,216ft): 6-7 hrs
Exit over the Dobhan Khola and continue up the east bank of the Budhi Gandaki to the hamlet of Thulo Dhunga; above cataracts. Further on the gradient changes; the valley opens and the river flow at Yaruphant is placid. Cross an old suspension bridge over the Yaru Khola (from Ganesh II and VI), then climb to Thado Bharyang. Cross to the west bank of the Budhi Gandaki and follow the river gently upwards to the old village of Jagat: entrance and checkpoint to the restricted Manaslu Conservation Area.
Cross a tributary and walk on to Salleri, via a cliff-side trail – with views of the Shringi Himal (7,187m/23,580ft) to the north. Descend to Sirdibas; and the first signs of Buddhist culture. Another suspension bridge leads to the east bank, and a tiring climb up to Philim: a prosperous Gurung village and the Chholing Sandu Gompa surrounded by fields of maize and millet.
Day 07: Philim – Deng (2240m/7350ft) 6-7 hrs
Traverse north of Philim, through lush grasses and scrub up the exquisite narrowing valley to the village of Chisopani and then the millet fields of Ekle Bhatti (one house, 1 600m/5,250ft). The trail then gradually descends, beneath a spectacular waterfall, into the gorge below and a junction before “New Bridge” which leads to the Larkya La. (The right-hand trail leads to the Tsum Valley). Cross the Budhi Gandaki and enter its narrow gorge on an up-and-down trail with river crossings. After a suspension bridge, the trail enters the bamboo forest and rises to the village of Deng (1,800m/5,906ft). From here there are good views of Shringi Himal to the northeast.
Day 08: Deng – Namrung (2,660m/8,725ft) 6-7 hrs.
This is the entry point to Kutang or lower Nupri (part of Tibet until the 1840s): a region inhabited by Gurungs who practice Buddhism, have their own language and trade across the passes with Tibet. The trail crosses to the east bank and zigzags up to Rana. A short series of vertical switchbacks then lead to a log-bridge tributary crossing and an isolated water mill before the trail descends gently to the lodge at Bihi Phedi, high above the river.
Beyond, the trail drops to cross the Serang Khola and later enters an impressive S bend between sheer basalt walls. To the right, huge rocky crags appear – with a spectacular waterfall above fields of maize and wheat. Beyond the valley broadens and turns northeast; the trail crosses a bridge before a well-preserved entrance Kani and walls of carved mani stones that lead to the attractive village of Ghap (2,250m/7,382ft) on the south bank. The trail then ascends through bamboo, rhododendron and oak forest (with birds that include the Impheyan Pheasant) above the steeply descending river. For a short section, it is forced back to the north bank by sheer walls and re-crosses back to the south bank on a wooden bridge (above a natural stone bridge) at a point where the river thunders down a narrow defile. It then climbs steeply (for 1hr) away from the river to Namrung: a police checkpoint for permits. Before reaching the village, the trail overlooks the Tum Khola from Tibet whose waters considerably increase the Budhi Gandaki’s volume at the confluence (not visible from the trail).
Day 09: Namrung – Lho (3,180m/10,430ft) 3-4hrs
Namrung is the entrance to Upper Nupri (the western mountains) a region of purely Tibetan inhabitants who speak a (different) dialect of western Tibet and continue to trade across the passes; chubas are the common dress.
The trail continues through a mix of forest and extensive barley fields: guarded by bear watchers (simple guard towers dot fields from Bihi Phedi to Shrip). In Lihi (2,900m/9,515ft), series of dwellings are grouped, each under a single shingled roof. There are impressive Chortens, plus great views of Himal Chuli (7,893m/25,897ft) to the south. Only the Ganesh Himal is visible to the east.
The trail then drops and enters a side-valley to cross the Hinang Khola (where a path leads south to the Himal Chuli BC). Beyond the double-span bridge, it rises sharply to a detailed Chorten from where impressive views of Ngadi Chuli (7,873m/25,831ft) rise above the side-valley walls. Beyond are the packed houses of Sho (2,960m/9,712ft). Good views continue on the climb, past a large prayer wheel on the trail, up to Shrimp.
On the walk up to Lho, Manaslu (8,156m/26,760ft, the mountain of the spirit from the Sanskrit Manasa – ‘intellect’ or ‘soul’, the 8th highest peak), Manaslu North and Naike Peak are revealed for the first time. A steep pull leads to the ridge and the large village of Lho.
Many of the stone houses in this region have distinctive wooden decks and shingles. The large Ribung monastery above the village houses ~150 monks. The best spot for sunset and sunrise pictures is from a Kani above the village; reached by a walk through barley fields, past a long mani wall and old Chortens. Rise early for sunrise shots of Manaslu.
Day 10: Lho – Sama Gaon (3,530m/11,578ft) 5-6 hrs
The Budi Gandaki now flows far below in the valley north of the trail which passes the long mani wall out of Lho, before dropping steeply to cross the Damonan Khola tributary. It then follows a gentle stream upwards through the exquisite mixed forest. Then a short climb to a plateau: and the badly deforested village of Shyala (3,520m/11,549ft). Huge mountains surround it: Himal Chuli (7,893m/25,897ft) and Peak 29 (Ngadi Chuli, 7,873m/25,831ft) to the south; Manaslu (8,156m/26,760ft) and large glaciers ahead; more snow-capped peaks to the west and north.
Further on, the trail crosses a bridge over the Numla Khola that drains the Pungyen Glacier from Manaslu. Later a trail leads left to Pungyen Gompa. Continue down the broad valley, past a school, to a large Chorten, beyond which a yellow Kani leads to rows of houses with front courtyards that form the main part of Sama. The Kargyu Chholing Monastery stands above the far end of the village against a forested moraine. Only the upper sections of Manaslu and the Naike ridge are visible from the village.
Day 11: Sama: Rest and exploration day: Birendra Tal / Pungyen Gompa / Manaslu Base Camp
Sama is the regional center of Nupri. Explore the village architecture and customs: only potatoes and barley flourish in the short summers at this altitude. Cloth weaving for chubas (from local goat and sheep wool or Tibetan imported wool) and the manufacture of hooked rugs are important occupations for trade with Tibet. Yak and Dzopkyo herds and horses are kept and traded.
The Labrang (Lama’s Place) Gompa in the lower village and the Kargyu Chholing Monastery on the rise beyond the village, were established some 500 years ago when this region was first settled by Tibetans. The monastery architecture is unique with fine woodwork. There are eight temple buildings: the largest, Pemba Chholing Gompa, contains an impressive statue of Guru Rinpoche. It belongs to the Nyingma Buddhist sect and so most of its Lamas are married and live in dwellings at the complex.
An easy and rewarding hike beyond the monastery is to the Birendra Tal (3,450m/11,319ft) below the Manaslu Glacier. It can be viewed from a hilltop or from a stony beach and offers striking views of the mountain.
Or follow the trail towards Samdo to a bridge over the stream from the lake and then ascend the demanding trail that rises 1200m above the lake and the snout of the glacier to the Base Camp.
A walk to the Pungyen Nunnery (3,870m/12,697ft) that stands on a plateau above the Pungyen Glacier offers unbeatable views of the Nadi ridges and Manaslu from near the gompa. It also adds an illuminating perspective of the mountain and its satellites to the other views seen along the circuit trail.
Walk back along the trail, past the school, to the turnoff to the Pungyen Nunnery. It lies over the ridge on a plateau above the glacier and looks out onto Manaslu (known locally as Kang Pungyen). The two and half hours trail through summer Kharkas (no teahouses) along the Numa Khola and Pungyen Glacier can be icy and slippery. Above the complex is a cave gompa with yet better views.
Most of the gompa buildings were destroyed by an avalanche in 1953 and were only recently rebuilt. The avalanche was blamed on that year’s first Japanese expedition to Manaslu. They were the first to Summit the mountain in 1956.
Day 12: Sama – Samdo (3,860m/12,660ft) 3-4 hrs
Descend towards the Budhi Gandaki, that has turned north, and pass the lake and Base Camp trail as well as several mani walls as the valley begins to widen. This is an easy trail along a shelf above the river past juniper and birch forests that surround Kermo Kharka. A stone wall divides the region into two with a stile and animal gate that separates the Sama and Samdo herds. Further on, the trail drops to cross the Budhi Gandaki on a wooden bridge before climbing steeply onto a promontory above the confluence of the river with the Mayol Khola from the Samdo Glacier to the northeast.
At the top is a stone arch, followed by fields before a white Kani at the entrance to the village: an attractive, cold, yak and goat herding area. This was an ancient summer grazing region and was only settled in the late 1950s when the residents fled Tibet. They built the clustered dry-stone houses with stone-slab roofs along a low ridge with fields below and behind the village. They trade to the north and south.
Zigzag up yak tracks behind the village to any of several sets of flags on a high ridge for superb 270o views: with Samdo Peak (6,335m/20,785ft) and its dramatic glacial basin to the east; the Sama Valley and its ranges to the south (Manaslu is masked by a rocky peak to the southwest); while to the west is a bird’s eye view over the northern Syacha Glacier from Manaslu (partially hidden) and tomorrow’s trail to Dharamsala and the Larkya La. Samdo is the last village before Gho, in the Manang District. Only informal Kharkas (with lodges) lie between these villages.
Day 13: Samdo – Larkya Phedi/Dharamsala (4,460m/14,628ft) 3-4 hrs
Descend past the northern village fields to cross the Budhi Gandaki for the last time at the remains of the Larkya Bazaar site. The river turns north up the Pana Danda Valley. Follow the westward trail on grassy slopes with scrub juniper, rhododendron and lichen covered granite above the Syacha Khola Valley. The source of the Syacha Glacier that descends from the Manaslu North ridge comes into sight. The trail works its way gradually up the valley towards the Larkya Glacier beyond the Larkya La Phedi, called Dharamsala. The guest house is a simple stone structure: with a kitchen and dining room, two separate buildings with 15 small double rooms, two tunnel-tents each with 8 cramped beds and a third for trekking staff. Short walks can lead to better views of the Larke (6,249m/20,503ft) and Naike (6,291m/20,641ft) peaks.
Day 14: Dharamsala – Larkya La (5,160m/16,930ft) – Bimthang (3,720m/12,201ft) 7-9 hrs
Today’s pass needs, if snow free, 3-5 hours to ascend the 800m/2,600ft to the summit and 3-4 hours to descend the 1,500m/4,900ft to Bimthang. It can be very cold, especially if windy. Snow and ice conditions demand more care and time.
The trail along the northern moraine of the Larke Glacier is not steep or difficult but is long and continuously rocky underfoot. Snow poles line the route. From Dharamsala, it rises gently to a ridge followed by a long gentle climb to the vast and jumbled moraine. Larke Peak on the Larke Himal wall and Pawar Peak on the Cheo Himal emerge to the south and north of the glacier. A short climb leads to an ablation valley followed by a drop to pass the first of four small scattered frozen lakes. A gradual ascent to the left up against the glacial moraine and a final pull leads to the first set of summit flags. Back to the east; look over the trail to Tibetan border ranges beyond Samdo Peak. The Larke Himal wall blocks more southerly views; the Pawar Himal views to the north.
Along moraine-ridge runs from the first flags, parallel to the Larke wall and separated from it by a deep gully, to the second set of flags and astounding views ahead. (These flags also mark the border between the Manaslu and Annapurna Conservation areas.)
To the west, peaks include (anticlockwise from the north) the impressive Pawar Peak (6,620m/21,720ft), Cheo Himal (6,820m/22,376ft), the Himlung pyramid (7,126m/23,380ft), Gyaji Kung (7,030m23,065ft), Kang Garu (6,981m/22,905ft) plus Annapurna II (7,937m/26,041ft) and its satellites away to the east. Below lies a magnificent basin within dramatic rock and ice walls from which flow a complex of glaciers.
The descent begins from these flags and drops steeply off the moraine then traverses loose scree slopes down a set of steep zigzags to the grassy Dingboche Kharka (4,450m/14,600ft) almost directly below.
The trail offers a bird’s eye view of the glacial action that feeds the upper Dudh (milk) Khola. From the Pawar Himal, the Salpudanda Glacier merges with the Ponkar Glacier below the medial Ponkar Lake (trapped between their moraines) and is then joined by the western Kechakyu Glacier to form the Bimthang Glacier that exists the valley.
From Dingboche Kharka the gradient eases and the trail follows the curve of the lateral moraine of the Salpudanda/Bimthang glacier into the lovely Bimthang Valley. A T-junction indicates a path up over the moraine to the Ponkar Lake or down to the scenic settlement of Bimthang (plain of sand). The Kechakyu Himal rises to the north and Manaslu’s northeast face and connecting ranges stand high above the valley to the east.
Bimthang is now the summer grazing settlement for the people of Samdo. Before the closure of the Tibetan border, it was an important trading post. The Tibetan Khampa warriors held a center here in the 1970s.
Day 15: Bimthang – Gho (2,515m/8,250ft) 5-6 hrs
A further 1,200m/3,900ft descent begins with a walk across the Bimthang Plain, a drop to cross the stony glacier then up and over the far moraine to enter magnificent pristine rhododendron and pine forest. Views back towards the Larke, Manaslu, Nadi and Chuli Himals are excellent all along this route. The trail descends along the west bank of the Dudh (milk) Khola past Hompuk (3,430m/11,254ft, a rock shelter near the bridge) and attractive Sangura Kharka (3,020m/9,909ft) before descending steeply to the highest cultivated land at Karche (2,700m/8,860ft). Beyond is a flood-related landslide, more terraced fields, and a steep ridge climb before dropping to the substantial (Gurung) village of Gho.
Day 16: Gho – Dharapani (1,920m/6,300ft)) 3-4 hrs
After breakfast, trek through farmlands to the old paved village of Tilje (2,300m/7,546ft), then cross to the east bank of the river before descending rapidly towards the Marsyangdi Valley through the scrub forest. Cross back to the west bank just before Thonje (1,965m/6,447ft) and then, in Thonje, cross the Marsyangdi Khola (from Manang) just above the confluence before joining the new road along the main Annapurna Circuit route in Dharapani at the perfect lunchtime and end of the trek. Afternoon enjoys a hot shower and wanders around this Tibetan village.
Day 17: Dharapani- Besi Sahar (760m/2,495ft) – Kathmandu (1,300m/4,264ft) 9-10 hrs
After breakfast, a sharing jeep ride along the dusty and bumpy road to Besisahar and a public bus ride along the paved road back to Kathmandu.
[Alternatively, turn west on the paved road to explore the lake city of Pokhara (106km), beneath the Annapurna Himal, before driving or flying back to Kathmandu.]
Day 18: Final departure Yes, we will see you off at the Tribhuvan International airport.