Manaslu Circuit Trek

Manaslu Circuit Trek VS Annapurna Circuit Trek

Struggling to pick between Manaslu circuit and Annapurna circuit for your next trekking adventure in the Himalayas? Read on as we unravel their differences in cultural encounters, challenging terrains, and other such nuances.

Manaslu Circuit Trek VS Annapurna Circuit Trek

The majestic Himalayas in Nepal, often referred to as Trekker’s Paradise, offer some of the most breath-taking treks amidst the diverse trails and rich tapestry of landscapes.

Among the vast array of trekking routes, one can bet on the Everest Base Camp Trek, the Annapurna Circuit trek and the Manaslu Circuit trek to be one of the best tea house treks in Nepal.

When it comes to the Manaslu Circuit trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek, both the long-distance trek routes entice the trekkers with the brimming grandeur of the Himalayas, each with their own allure.

One circumnavigates the 8th highest peak of the world, the mighty Manaslu, while the other goes around Annapurna I, the 10th highest peak in the world.

Although a cursory glance at these treks might make them look similar in many aspects, these iconic trails are quite unique in terms of the cultural encounters, contrasting vistas, and the overall trekking experience. Therefore, picking one amongst these could be daunting.

In this blog, we explore detailed insights on what to expect from both the treks as we explore the stark differences between the Manaslu Circuit trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek.

Read on to explore the distinct experiences offered by them and find the perfect fit for your next trekking adventure.

Here is a brief overview of the comparison between the Manaslu Circuit trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek:

AspectManaslu Circuit TrekAnnapurna Circuit Trek
LocationGorkha District in the Manaslu Conservational Area, along the Budi Gandaki RiverCentral Nepal in the Annapurna Conservational Area, along the Marshyangdi river valley
Highest PointLarke Pass at 5,160 mThorong La Pass at 5,416 m
LengthApproximately 177 kmsApproximately 160-210 kms
PermitsMCAP, ACAP, TIMS, Restricted Area PermitACAP, TIMS
DifficultySteep ascents and descents with rough trails, comparatively more difficultGradual ascents and descents with well-built and marked trails
CulturesGurungs with deep-rooted Tibetan CultureGurungs, Thakalis, and Manangis with Tibetan influence
SeasonsSpring and Autumn. Not preferred during MonsoonSpring and Autumn. Open all year round
AccessibilityNo connectivity to road, basic infrastructure availabilityAccess to road, well-facilitated and modern lodging with other amenities
Trekker’s TrafficModerate during peak season, less during wintersCrowded due to good facilities and no restriction
MountainsManaslu, Ganesh Himal, Shringi Himal, Annapurna II, HimchuliAnnapurna I, Annapurna II Manaslu, Dhaulagiri I,

Treks at a Glance

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Yet to gain high popularity, the Manaslu Circuit trek is an odyssey around the untouched region of Manaslu Conservational Area. Going along the Budi Gandaki River, this untouched trail circumnavigates around the 8,163 m (26,781 ft) high Manaslu mountain.

Trekking the Manaslu Circuit
Trekking the Manaslu Circuit

A perfect tandem of remoteness and challenges draped with the authenticity of cultural experience, this trek offers you the true essence of trekking. Due to the serenity and pristineness of this trek, it is often referred to as the ‘New Annapurna Trek’, signifying its growing popularity.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Encircling the Annapurna I, coming in at 8,091 m (26,545 ft), the bustling circuit of Annapurna trek is one of the most famous treks in the world.

Traversing through the enthralling Marshyangdi valley, this trek features comfortable accommodations, stunning view of the diverse landscapes, and famous Hindu shrines like Muktinath Temple.

Lubra Pass, Annapurna Circuit
Lubra Pass, Annapurna Circuit

This trek attracts a huge number of trekkers due to the natural splendor it offers, along with the accessibility.

Showcasing the spectacle view of the world’s largest peaks, this trek offers a varied panorama and a memorable experience in the heart of the Himalayas.

Location and Distance

Situated in the Gorkha district of Nepal, the Manaslu Circuit trek encircles Mt. Manaslu, the eighth highest peak of the world. The trek is in the restricted Manaslu Conservation Area, starting from Machha Khola in the Manaslu region and concluding at Tal around the Annapurna region. The total distance covered during this trek is approximately 177 kms.

The Annapurna Circuit trek is a journey looping around Annapurna I, coming in as the tenth highest peak of the world. This popular trek is in the Annapurna Conservational Area, weaving its way in the stunning mountainous landscapes around Manang and Mustang. It starts at Syange and concludes at Tikhe Dhunga, covering roughly 190-200kms for the full circuit trek.

Altitude and Acclimatization

Manaslu Circuit

The Manaslu Circuit trek starts at an altitude of 9,00 m (2,952 ft) at Machha Khola, and takes us as high as 5,160 m (16,929 ft) at the Larkya La Pass.

With the difference of over 4,260 meters (13,976 ft) in elevation, acclimatization becomes an important part of the Manaslu Circuit Trek.

Larkya La Pass
Larkya La Pass

Therefore, you must have at least a day for acclimatization at Samagaon or Samdo, before going to Dharamasala at the altitude of 4,460 meters (14,632 ft).

During this, you can go for an acclimatization hike at the Birendra Tal or even better to the Manaslu Base Camp.

Annapurna Circuit

Starting from an altitude of 1,100 m (about 3,608 ft) at Syange, this trek covers an altitude difference of 4,316 meters (14,160 ft). During the Annapurna Circuit trek, you cross an even higher altitude of 5,416 meters (17,769 ft) at the Thorong La pass.

Posing for photo at Thorong La Pass
Posing for photo at Thorong La Pass

Therefore, whatever applies for acclimatization at the Manaslu circuit, applies even more in this long-distance trek.

It is very important to take at least a day so that your body can adapt to the sudden change of altitude. You can take an acclimatization day at Manang as go for an acclimatization walk up to Gangapurna glacial lake.

You can also combine the Annapurna Circuit trek with Tilicho Lake as it will be perfect for acclimatization while adding a destination to your itinerary.

Permits and Guide

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Being a restricted area, the trekkers wanting to embark on the Manaslu Circuit trek need to compulsorily have a restricted area permit along with the other permits.

In total, the Manaslu Circuit trek requires the tourists to have a MCAP (Manaslu Conservational Area permit), ACAP (Annapurna Conservational Area Permit), TIMS (Trekker’s Information Management System) permit, and a special Restricted Area Permit.

However, the government of Nepal doesn’t allow you to trek alone in the Manaslu circuit region as it is a restricted area.

Therefore, you need to trek with an agency or at least with a guide. These permits will be taken care of by the agency or the guide that you are trekking with.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

While it is not strictly implemented making it possible to go along the Annapurna Circuit trails alone, solo trekking has been banned in Nepal.

However, you do require ACAP (Annapurna Conservational Area Permit) and a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card to trek along the Annapurna Circuit as well.

You can obtain these permits independently in Kathmandu or in Pokhara. Also, the navigation is quite easy with markings throughout the trek. Thus, you don’t need a guide per say. However, make sure to not walk alone at higher altitudes or in snow.

Although, we would advise you to trek with an agency as they make your trekking experience much easier while taking care of your health, safety, convenience, and comfort.

Transportation Options

Manaslu Circuit Trek

During the Manaslu Circuit trek, the maximum transportation access that you have is up to Machha Khola while going, and you regain the access at Tal while coming back.

The journey in between these two places must be covered on foot. This remote trek lacks transportation facilities due to no road connectivity.

When heading to the Manaslu Circuit trek, after an 8–10-hour drive to Machha Khola, we ditch the dirt road and head towards the trail.

We trek from Machha Khola to Tal along the Budi Gandaki valley while crossing places like Jagat, Deng, Ghap, Lho, Samagaon, Samdo, Dharmasala, Larke Pass, Bhimthang, and Tilije.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit trek features accessibility to transportation throughout the entire trek. With the trails being displaced by dirt roads, you can use transportation to go as far as Manang. It basically allows you to shortcut your trek by using a vehicle.

Even as you are descending from the trek, you can use transportation right from Muktinath. This leaves only the region between Manang to Muktinath deprived of transportation access.

However, if you want a true trekking experience, we recommend you ditch the transportation at Syange and trek your way up to Jomsom.

In the Annapurna Circuit trek package by Ace the Himalaya, we drive for 7-9 hours to reach Syange from Kathmandu. Then we tighten our shoelaces as we trek up to Jomsom, crossing places including Tal, Chame, Pisang, Ngawal, Manang, Yak Kharka, Thorong Phedi, and Muktinath Temple.

Then we drive from Jomsom to Tatopani and again switch to trekking from Tatopani to Tikhedhunga to conclude our trek.

Difficulty and Safety

Manaslu Circuit Trek

The Manaslu Circuit trek is considered as a strenuous trek as you will have 177kms to cover with steep ascents and descents, with an average of 6-7 hours of walking every day. With challenging terrain, the winding roads of the Budi Gandaki valley don’t make your trek any easier.

This trek is considered slightly more difficult than the Annapurna Circuit trek as the trail is not much developed. You will be walking on the rough trails and crossing over rivers using wooden bridges at times.

Therefore, to successfully tackle the Larke Pass at an altitude of 5,160 m (16,929 ft), one must be completely prepared in terms of fitness.

A trekker on the way to Bimthang after crossing Larke La Pass
A trekker on the way to Bimthang after crossing Larke La Pass

While the Manaslu Circuit trek is not considered a dangerous one, certain issues might come your way. As you cross an altitude of over 5000 m (16,404 ft), there are chances that you might face altitude sickness if your body isn’t acclimatized already.

Also, snowfall and steep ascents and descents add to your safety concern. You must always be aware of altitude sickness prevention tips.

Therefore, you must be prepared with all the appropriate gear to tackle the snow and the challenging terrain. You must carry medicines for all general illnesses, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, and medicines for your illnesses, if any.

It is highly advisable to get a full body checkup before the trek as the trek has no accessibility to roads, making immediate treatment less and less possible.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit trek, although similar in terms of the distance, is not as challenging as the Manaslu Circuit trek. This is because of the deeper road access along the Annapurna Circuit trail, where one can always shortcut the trek using a jeep.

The ascents and descents are gradual, and the high number of teahouses available also allows the trekkers to make their days as short as they want.

Trekker on the way to Thorang Phedi from Yak Kharka, Annapurna Circuit
Trekker on the way to Thorang Phedi from Yak Kharka, Annapurna Circuit

Navigation doesn’t become a problem as the trails are well-marked, and you will find lots of crowds along the trail.

However, the Thorong La Pass at 5,416 m (17,769 ft) is at a higher altitude than the Larke Pass. That means you need more preparation in terms of gear and acclimatization. Therefore, the altitude difference makes this trek only slightly easier than the Manaslu Circuit Trek.

Whatever applies for safety in the Manaslu region, applies for the Annapurna Circuit trek as well. The only difference here is that you can get immediate treatment if needed as the trail is well-connected to the roads. Therefore, the Annapurna Circuit trek has less consequences as the rescue is much easier to organize.

Cultural Encounters

Manaslu Circuit Trek

One more thing that makes your challenging trek along the Manaslu circuit worth it is the authenticity and rawness that it provides in terms of culture.

As the region is untouched by modernization, you will find people living their lives in this region rather than drowning in the tourism industry.


This region is highly influenced by the Tibetan culture and Buddhism. You will mostly encounter Gurung culture with lots of monasteries, prayer flags, and mani walls throughout the trek. Ribang monastery and Pungyen Gompa are some of the big monasteries that you will come across.

With its deep-rooted culture and traditions, this region provides the trekkers with the true essence of life between the Himalayas.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

If you are someone who wants to witness and indulge in authentic Himalayan cultures, the Annapurna Circuit might not be the best fit for you.

With the high popularity and trekkers traffic in the region, the Annapurna circuit has modernized over the years.

The region has completely shifted its focus to the tourism business with people more indulged in making the trek comfortable for the tourists.

Around Muktinath Temple.

In the process, the Annapurna Circuit has somewhat lost touch with the cultural heritage.

However, as you go deeper into the trek and beyond Manang, you might still encounter cultural experiences. This region is also influenced by Tibetan culture.

You will mostly find Gurungs, Thakalis, and Manangis in the Annapurna Circuit trail with many gompas and prayer flags similar to the Manaslu region.

Scenery and Landscapes

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Boasting a variety of stunning landscapes, the Manaslu region alone features at least six climatic zones; tropical, subtropical, temperate, alpine, subalpine, and arctic.

The trek starting from an altitude of 900 m (2,952 ft) at Machha Khola undergoes a complete and constant transformation of landscapes as we reach the Larke Pass at 5160 m (16,929 ft).

Following the Budi Gandaki River, the manaslu circuit trail passes through lush forests until you reach Samagaon. While amidst the forest, you will see gorgeous rhododendrons and alpine flowers painting the canvas of your trek with colorful hues.

Samagaon Exploration
Samagaon Exploration

This region is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, most of which you will get to see during the trek.

When you cross Dharmasala and go towards the pass, you will encounter a slightly barren and dry landscape giving you a rustic and picturesque feel.

This majestic trek takes you close to mighty peaks including Mt. Manaslu and the other 8000-ers. During this trek, you will get stunning view of Mt. Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Annapurna II, Himchuli, Shringi Himal, and other surrounding peaks.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

In terms of landscape, the Annapurna circuit is equally mesmerizing as the manaslu circuit. The Annapurna circuit trek features almost similar landscapes to the Manaslu Circuit trek, along with additional landscapes.

What sets this trek apart from the Manaslu circuit trek is that you will be able to get a desert like feel. While going along the Marshyangdi river, you will see a desert landscape once you cross Upper Pisang at an altitude of 3300m (10,826 ft). The trek gives you breathtaking views of Annapurna II, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri I, and other surrounding peaks.

Landscape of Manang Valley.

However, you don’t get actual clear views of the mighty Annapurna I until you reach the higher points of the trek. Therefore, the Annapurna trek is not that different or less than Manaslu circuit trek when it comes to the stunning landscapes.

Seasonal Accessibility

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Manaslu circuit features completely different perspectives of the Himalayas with each changing season. However, spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are considered the most optimal seasons for trekking along this circuit.

These seasons provide the trekkers with vistas of the towering Himalayas along with the beautiful landscape with lush forests, blooming flowers, and more.

Blooming Rhododendron flower with Phungi Himal, Manaslu Circuit
Blooming Rhododendron flower with Phungi Himal, Manaslu Circuit

The winters (December to February) present the majestic mountains in a completely different light with the ethereal views of the landscape blanketed in snow. Monsoons (June to August) however, are not recommended to embark on this trail.

This is because the trekkers might come across lots of challenges as the trail is not highly developed. Many river crossings will just be wooden bridges, which might get flown away by the heavy rainfall and waterflow in the rivers. Also, the trail becomes much more dangerous due to slippery ascents and descents and high chances of landslide.

For additional information read best time for Manaslu circuit trek.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

While the Annapurna Circuit trek can be done all year round, the optimal seasons for this trek are also spring and autumn. These seasons are the peak trekking seasons boasting stunning views of the Himalayas with clear skies and backdrop of beautiful landscapes. The optimal temperatures make it much easier to trek during these seasons.

Annapurna Circuit trail on the way to Manang from Ngawal
Annapurna Circuit trail on the way to Manang from Ngawal

Although, if you want a comparatively quieter experience at the Annapurna Circuit, you might want to go for winters and monsoons.

Problems like landslides in monsoon are very much possible along the Annapurna Circuit trail as well. However, the availability of alternate routes for trekkers is what makes it different than the Manaslu Circuit trail.

Accessibility and Infrastructure

Manaslu Circuit

The Manaslu circuit trek takes you to an untouched region of Nepal with almost no connectivity to the cities via roads. Therefore, if you are expecting a well-facilitated journey, you are in for a reality check.

The trail does not feature any fancy amenities like western toilets or an elaborate menu, or so on. However, the trek does have all the general facilities that you will require.

Annapurna Circuit

Being the epicenter of mass tourists amidst the Himalayas, you will find almost everything on the Annapurna Circuit trek. The Annapurna Circuit trail features fancy lodges, internet access, hot showers, elaborate menus, with access to transportation at the snap of your fingers at most places.

You will not lose the connectivity to the roads at any given time, making it easier for you to get your own supplies.

Trekker’s Traffic

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Despite being known as ‘The New Annapurna Circuit Trek’, the Manaslu circuit is yet to gain as much crowd along its trail.

This lack of crowd comes because of the trek being more restricted and needing more permits as compared to the Annapurna circuit.

Less accessibility of the trail also plays a role in keeping it isolated with reduced trekker’s traffic. If you are someone who enjoys a quieter and intimate trek amidst the splendor of nature, this trek is the perfect fit for you.

It is a hidden gem as you encounter comparatively fewer fellow trekkers along the secluded and quieter trails. Y

ou get to connect to nature more intimately while experiencing a burst of tranquility in the serene ambience.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Bursting at the seams with the trekkers, the Annapurna Circuit is significantly contrasting to the Manaslu Circuit. This unrestricted region has become the epicenter of tourism in the Himalayas of Nepal due to the accessibility and the infrastructures it features.

Because of easy connectivity to road, this trail is full of tourists not just limited to trekking but also for sightseeing. As it is a highly sought-after trekking destination, it provides amenities with familiar comforts such as Wi-Fi, western toilets, etc.

This modernization has caused the Annapurna Circuit trek to lose its essence. However, as you climb higher, the trekker’s traffic thins out and you get to experience a much more serene atmosphere.


Manaslu Circuit Trek

If you are planning to visit the Manaslu Circuit trek, you are in for a treat as you get to visit the places that most of the Nepal travelers don’t. The lack of accessibility in the region works as a boon for most trekking lovers. The Manaslu Circuit trail takes you to areas with no road connectivity to the cities.

Throughout the trek, you will be travelling through forests, passing secluded valleys, and gaining a more pristine experience of the Himalayas. The Manaslu region is still untouched by modernization, therefore not losing touch with the authentic essence of trekking.

You won’t find much of a crowd here as this is a restricted region and requires a special permit. The trekking experience on the Manaslu circuit is isolated and serene. However, there are high chances this might change over the coming years as the trek is gaining more popularity day by day.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

In terms of remoteness, the Annapurna Circuit completely contrasts with the Manaslu Circuit. Due to the massive popularity of the Annapurna Circuit trek, you will find this trail swarming with tourists.

The tourism industry in the Annapurna region is no longer just about trekking or hiking as it has become a popular sightseeing and shopping spot as well.

With increased accessibility of transportation along the trail, the trail might not be as relaxing to walk on due to the dust and the noise. The entire purpose of trekking to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities might go a bit unfulfilled here due to the high trekkers traffic.

Also, the Annapurna Circuit route is completely modernized due to its popularity. Featuring resort-like stays with complete amenities, this trek attracts lots of tourists and is crowded as compared to the Manaslu circuit trek.


Both the Manaslu Circuit trek and Annapurna Circuit trek have their own set of allure and challenges. Each trek presents an upper hand over the other when it comes to certain aspects.

There are other additional factors that you can consider while making the choice like the passes that you acquire for the Manaslu Circuit trek also takes you to the Annapurna region.

However, the Annapurna region doesn’t require as many permits as the Manaslu circuit trek. If you are still confused and have enough time on your hands, you can always go for the combined trek of the Manaslu-Annapurna circuit.

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