We’ll start our journey with a drive from Kathmandu towards the western mountains which takes us to Gorkha, the Capital of Medieval Nepal. We will drive through the beautiful river view and Nepalese countryside which will takes us to Arughat. Arughat is clustered on both sides of the River Buri-Gandaki linked by a suspension bridge, this is the largest settlement in the valley and it is also a junction to various important places. The path from here across the River leads to Dhading & Trishuli Bazaar and our route from here leads north through the dirt road. Please note that the dirt road from Gorkha to Arughat may not be drivable during the monsoon season. In that case, we may have to begin our trek right from Gorkha and reach Arughat in the evening and then continue the trek next day to reach Soti Khola. The trail leads us and passes an ever-changing tableau of rice fields and Gurung villages. You will be afforded with first views of Shringi Himal from Shanti Bazaar, from where the clear glacial run-off of the Buri Gandaki provides a constant backdrop to our hike up into the mountains. Crossing a suspension bridge, we then follow the trail down to Soti Khola, where we will stay overnight. This place is also known as a landscape of the famed ‘Honey Hunters’. The foothills of Central Nepal have, for generations, been famous for their twice yearly harvests, when men gather from the surrounding villages to undertake the dangerous task of collecting the honey of the Apis Laboriosa (the world’s largest honey bee) from the cliffs that are their home.
On the first day of our trek, we will have our breakfast and then walk by the dense forest passing through a number of small villages tucked into the hillside, till we reach a widening of the valley, opposite the point where a large tributary stream enters the Buri Gandaki River. The terraced cultivated fields belong to the upper village of Lapubesi (880m). Descending down through the wide, sandy riverbed which follows a trail meandering below the steep, craggy valley side, we then climb again to mountain ridge to Almara. Further a few walk will lead you to Machha Khola for our overnight stay.
The trail today will lead us to some interesting farm villages and fields as the vegetation gradually changes. We cross the bridge and heading upstream to the tiny village of Khola Besi. There is a hot spring called “Tatopani” where many people visit to have a bath in an assumption that, by taking a bath in this river will take away all their body pains. Continuing our trek further, the trail then follows the forested area. Climbing over another ridge, we cross a huge rapid of Buri Gandaki on a suspension bridge. Then we climb on a wide, well-crafted staircase and after crossing a landslide over a ridge, we reach Doban. Further, we have to cross a suspension bridge over the Yaru Khola and then climb the stone stairs and then drop to the river and again climb more stone stairs to Thado Bharyang. To reach Jagat from here, we have to cross the west bank of the Buri Gandaki and then climb over a ridge and then trek along the river. As the elevation increases, the rapids and the scenery undergoes a complete transformation. At Jagat, there is a police check-post where your trekking permit will be checked. We will spend our overnight in Jagat.
From Jagat, we have both ascending and descending trail today. At the first part of the trail, we descend to a long series of stone steps to the river; from here the path climbs a terraced hillside to Saguleri. You can spot an eye-catching view of Sringi Himal (7,187m) from this point. After crossing the bridge over Buri-Gandaki, from Ghata-khola, the path winds up towards Philim village. From here the trails climbs slowly and gently along the hillside passing through small settlements of Aga, Lokwa. Continue from Lokwa down the exposed track until the track reaches a small place called Eklai-Bhatti near Shiar khola with great views looking over the valley towards Pangsing and Tsum Valley. Enter a very narrow gorge with loose tracks, up and down in some section. Cross to the east bank (true left) at one point and then back again to the west bank on a new suspension bridge. The trail is cut into the sheer cliff walls. Continuing our walk further, we walk to Sirdibas (1860m) with many comfortable lodges. After this dramatic portion, the track finally improves as the walk leads to Deng village for the overnight. Deng is a tiny village inhabited by Gurung who practice Buddhism,
Leaving Deng, we enter Nupri (‘the western mountains’) through bamboo forests. We walk through a newly built rock tunnel from here, thus avoiding the traditional steep climb. The houses and terrains completely changes into more Tibetan like from here onwards. The people here are of Tibetan origin along with their ancient culture. Villagers of this areas cultivates buck wheat, wheat, barley and potatoes as staple crops, beside this since trekking became popular around this area, spinach, carrots and cabbages are also grown. Our route crosses the river before scrambling steeply up onto a spectacular trail high above the river. We pass through some small settlements as we ascend the impressive valley. We will see Mani stones (prayer stones) carved into wayside rocks, a sign that we are now in a Buddhist area. Dropping down once more to the river there is a short climb to Ghap. At Ghap, the Tibetan culture begins with Mani stones and chortens all around. We spend our today’s overnight in Ghap.
Today as we gain height we walk through alpine, fir and rhododendron forests, home to white-faced monkeys. Cross north on a wooden bridge with a roaring narrow canyon below then cross back to the south bank on a new swing bridge with grey langur watching. After crossing the wooden bridge over Budhi Gandaki we follow the path lined with houses that are interspersed with cultivated fields. The main trail now climbs on well-made stairs, but a highly recommended narrow shortcut to the right just after the bridge and along the riverbank is far quicker and through superb pine forest. After about an hour walk, we walk zigzag from the river to the neat village of Namrung (2660m) with shops, restaurants and the Thakali, Thakuri and Namrung lodges about the flag stoned square. We could stroll around the village, where carvings from Bihi have been painted in colours above a gateway. The architecture characteristic of upper Nupri starts here: several houses gathered together about a common courtyard and livestock shelters on the ground floor, with heavy wooden shingle roofs and log stairs to dark verandahs. From here, the valley becomes wider and there is extensive farmland all around where we may see the occasional look-out platform, built to ward off bears. Climbing steadily now, we pass the Tibetan village of Sho and just above the village we get our first view of Manaslu ahead. A little walk further on we come to our camp in Lho (3180m) where the Tibetan influence is strong. There are Mani walls, chortens, prayer flags and a large monastery. There are excellent views of Manaslu (8163m) and Manaslu North (7157m) from the mani wall at the far end of the village and from the gompa on the hill to the west. We stay overnight at Lho.
The walk today is quite short in comparison to other days. Continuing up the valley, the trail takes you into the mountains with time to enjoy and acclimatize. We ascend out of Lho and then follow the valley with great views of Peak 29 ahead. The views of Manaslu are stupendous. As we pass through huge mountains surround us, Himal Chuli and Peak 29 (Ngadi Chuli) to the left, Manaslu and large glaciers straight ahead, other snow summits to the right, at the far end of the valley we have just come from stands Ganesh Himal. From here, we lose the gigantic views of Manaslu and enter a world of yaks, pastures and houses which seem to have grown from the stones. From a large chorten we look down into a little dip where two rows of houses form the main part of Sama. At the far end of the village, overlooking the valley stands the well-known monastery of Sama. Only potatoes and barley can be grown at this altitude. You can stay in one of the lodges of the place.
This day is kept for you to acclimatize properly. On this day, you can just take some rest or if you want then you can make a short hike to Pungyen Gompa or to Manaslu Base Camp (4900m). You can ponder at the thousands of Mani stones with Buddhist texts and pictures. Meet the village women in Samagaon who wear a nice silver spoon as jewelry. On a little hill near Samagaon is an old Gompa. It is worthwhile to take a side trip to Pungyen Gompa, a monastery with great views of the glacier. It is named after Manaslu; Pun yen means bracelet, a good description of the two peaks. It was destroyed a year after the first unsuccessful Japanese attempt to climb Manaslu. The locals believed that the climb angered the gods, and when the Japanese came back a year they met so much resistance that they had to give up their attempt. They finally submitted the mountain in 1959. An afternoon walk to the Kargyu Chholing Gompa is also recommended.
This is another short day trek because of the altitude. The trail crosses grassy grazing areas and climbs gradually up the valley. We walk through a yak pastures up a broad valley with long Mani walls, which is a pleasant walk. We have fantastic views of the mountains with Manaslu looking particularly impressive. Finally leave the tree line behind, although low-lying juniper is all around, climbing to a ridge and drop to cross the Buri Gandaki on a wooden bridge. We finally reach Samdo, sometimes after reaching White Kani. Samdo is a picturesque village dedicated to yak herding. This remote village is only a day’s walk from the Tibetan border which currently is blocked by China even for locals. Settlement of animal and fodder are much more than the human settlement here. There will be time in the afternoon to look round the village and explore the surrounding hills. There is a lot of Chinese and Tibetan alcohol and food for sale in Samdo. We stay overnight at one of the lodges there.
We continue our walk down the edge, descending beyond Samdo on a broad trail. Cross the wooden bridge over the much-reduced Buri Gandaki at 3850m and start walking upward. Pass the trail to Tibet to the right and climb left after a mani wall, traversing through juniper with many marmots in April but not November when they hibernate. Cross two streams on narrow track and witness the Larkya Glacier. These ravines are too icy during winter. There is no Larke Bazaar despite what many maps assert; at one time traders from Namche Bazaar came through Tibet to trade in this area and maybe some of the scattered stone shelters you will pass were part of that market. Go around the valley of the Salka Khola and climb up again and come to the stone guest house (4450 m) which is not a lodge but a kind of shelter called Dharmashala, also known as Larkya Phedi / Larkya Rest house. Dharmashala is now a seasonal village with dark stone rooms and tents for at least 50 people, and a dirt-floored but efficient dining hut. Even toilets are available. In 2012 this entire place opened 1 October and closed for winter on 24 November, so check in Samdo before counting on staying here. The area is filthy with toilet trenches, rubbish and blowing toilet paper so be careful where you get your water. The views are marvelous. A large herd of blue sheep call the tussock-covered hills home and you may see snow leopard prints in fresh snow around the toilets.
On this day, we trek to Bimthang via Larkya Pass. Note that if snow has fallen overnight and there have been high winds, then there may be less snow as you climb making the pass still crossable. Climb steadily over the ridge behind Dharmashala and beside the large lateral moraine of the Larke Glacier. There are several places where snow or ice would make this treacherous and some groups fix a rope on the steepest piece. The climb is not difficult but it is long and rocky underfoot, particularly as you top the moraine. Look for cairns and metal snow poles which assist route finding. Descend past four frozen lakes and make a final tiring climb to the left up to Larkya La (5160m), marked by prayer flags. Finally, we walk across the moraines of the glacier, making a gradual ascent which becomes steeper only in the last section to the pass. It takes about 3-5hrs to reach the pass and it can be very cold and windy with a risk of exposure if under-equipped or ill. The peaks to the west are Himlung (7126m) near Tibet, Cheo Himal and Kang Guru (6981m) and Annapurna II (7937m) in the Annapurna Range. Savor the spectacular views from the top of the pass. It is a longer day then usual to Bimthang, but to walk into these low pastures with the evening mist coming in and Manaslu; it’s an experience not to be missed. The track now runs left of the large lateral moraine, rocky at times, in a widening and beautiful valley all the long way to very scenic Bimthang ‘plain of sand’, a descent of 1400m in about 3hrs. The views during the descent are huge – icefalls and mountains in all directions, a medial glacial lake (Pongkar Tal) between the Pongkar and Salpudanda Glaciers, and the joining of these two glaciers with a third glacier to form the Bimthang Glacier whose lateral moraine towers over Bimthang. The lodges found here are of new chalet-style.
From Bimthang, we walk south behind the moraine wall for some time before crossing the Bimthang Glacier, which can be loose underfoot. Climb up the far moraine wall quickly to avoid stone-fall and enter some of the best forest in Nepal. If you are in rhododendron season, the mauves, reds, pinks and whites are stunning amongst the huge pines and the views of the back of Mt Manaslu are superb. Cross the high pasture, descend the valley of the Burdin Khola. From a ridge at 4150 meters, you have excellent views of Manaslu to the South East and Annapurna II to the South West. Descend rapidly along the true right bank of the aptly named Dudh (‘milk’) Khola through a Bhatti at Hompuk (3420m) through rhododendron forest and follow a trail through a narrow valley until we reach the highest cultivated land in this valley at Kharche, 2785 meters. Kharche is the best point with guest house middle between the alpine forest and good views. In the next hour you will see many signs of a glacial flood, with tree trunks smashed and banks undermined, the track becoming quite rough. From here, we cross a slide, then go across fields before making a steep climb over a ridge. The trail comes off the ridge in a big, sweeping arc to the river bank at 2580m. A short distance beyond is the village of Gurung “Gho”, the first real village since Samdo. There are new lodges being built here and we will accommodate in one of them for our overnight.
The valley becomes more agricultural as you pass fields and copses of oak and rhododendron. Continue through the fields over a clear stream staying on the north (true right) bank until Tilje (2300m; Tiljet). Climb over a small ridge to the stone – paved village and wind among the closely spaced houses of this large Village. Leaving the village, cross the Dudh Khola and trek along the river embankment. Cross a wooden bridge back to the northern side of the Dudh Khola and climb up through a chorten-shaped arch and past a Mani wall to Thonje. At the village of Thonje, we go through a police checkpoint, and then continue to Dharapani. As you will have enough time after arrival at Dharapani, so you can either drive to Besisahar on the same day or stay and stroll around the place and interact with the local people. You will stay overnight at one of the lodge of Dharapani.
On the last day of our journey, we take our breakfast in dharapani then drive to kathmandu via Besisahar along the banks of the Marshyangdi and Trishuli rivers with splendid views of green hills, mountains, farming terraces and villages on both sides of road. The road head is now up-valley at Chame. Turning right takes you over the Thorang La and down the Kali Gandaki valley in about 10-14 more days. Upon arrival at Kathmandu, you will be transferred to your respective hotels. In this way, two weeks trek to the Manaslu Circuit will be completed.