Going one step further: this new Himalayan trek redefines off the beaten track

written by Danielle McDonald December 4, 2023

2024 is looking good. TLC is set to make a comeback. Sneakers and jeans are predicted to stay on trend. And Intrepid have just released a hot new round-up of trips and experiences to take your travels from drab to fab. Some of these trips push the boundaries, some take you closer to local cultures and a whole bunch are jam-packed with adventure. The brand-new Manaslu Circuit Trek ticks all three of these boxes. 

For the first time in the company’s 30+ year history, Intrepid will take travellers to the world’s 8th highest mountain: the mighty Manaslu. It’s a less-travelled but no-less-stunning part of the Himalayas in Nepal

Like Mount Everest, Manaslu sits closely to the Tibetan border but unlike Everest, which is north-east of Kathmandu, Manaslu is to the north-west. 

Nepal is a playground for adventure enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike. There are just 14 mountains in the world that surpass 8000 metres above sea level – you can call them the ‘eight-thousanders’ – and Nepal lays claim to no less than eight of them.  

Fewer footprints 

Unlike its fellow eight-thousanders, the likes of Everest and Annapurna, Manaslu doesn’t pull quite the same weight in crowd numbers. But don’t let that deter you. In fact, let it encourage you. 

The thing is, the Manaslu Conservation Area was established in 1998 to protect this region’s wildlife and wild places. This means tourism in the area is restricted, and the trails are far less accessible because you can’t simply show up with your hiking boots and double layer of socks (your feet, and lack of blisters will thank me for this one) with the intention of getting your trek on. For starters, you can’t legally trek this trail alone, and even if you do have a crew with you, or just one walking partner, you’ll need to get your hands on a special permit from the immigration department given the restrictions to tourism.  

Unlike other treks in Nepal, there’s a little more detail needed to grant your applications, including providing a hardcopy of your passport a day in advance. Never ones to be deterred by a bit of a challenge, while you spend your day kicking about Kathmandu, Intrepid will submit the special application to the Department of Immigration on behalf of every traveller on this trip. They’ll put in the work to get you there, and then the physical challenge of climbing up to 5100 m is over to you, friends.  

Expect to start side-stepping the crowds the moment you hit Barpak on day three of your adventure.  

Buddhist temples and prayer flags are found throughout the Himalayas.

More remote and wild 

Instead of sharing the mountain with cohorts of climbers, you’ll get 11 different types of forest, more than 2000 species of plants and over 30 kinds of mammals on this trek. The Manaslu Conservation Area is home to snow leopards, Himalayan tahr and blue sheep (not to be mistaken for ordinary sheep, I’ve been assured).  

While walking in the shadows of the world’s eighth-highest peak, you’ll wind through rhododendron forests and visit remote Buddhist monasteries. It’s safe to say this trek won’t serve up any rivers or lakes that you’re used to given it’s remote nature, sorry TLC. You’ll pull on your walking boots by day as you slowly gain elevation across 13 days and tuck into steamed momos (Nepali dumplings) and other hearty eats from the comfort of your high-altitude teahouses by night. 

Intrepid operations manager in Nepal, Yalamber Rai, who walked this very trail some years ago, gave me the inside scoop. ‘The scenery on the Manaslu Circuit Trek is very similar to Annapurna – subtropical forests, alpine meadows and high desert landscapes, but the area is more remote and wild,’ he said. ‘Culturally, the areas in Manaslu are mostly influenced by the Tibetan culture. It feels really authentic as these places haven’t been touched by modern civilisation yet,’ he added. 

The elevation taps out at just over 5100 metres as you cross Larke Pass on day 13. This, the most challenging part of the trip, is favoured by many. For your hard work (and sore legs), it’ll provide rewards shaped like views of Manaslu, Annapurna, Hiuchuli and more.  

Yalamber’s favourite part of the trek is ‘hiking up to the Pungyen Gompa (Monastery). It lies on a beautiful green plateau with 180-degree mountain views that make you feel small. The place and the whole journey to the Gompa is so peaceful and beautiful.’ 

pray flags and crumbling Buddhist relics along a wall
Mani Wall leading into the village of Samagaon, Manaslu region, Nepal

Going off the beaten track and then going further 

By now, you’ve gathered this isn’t your cookie-cutter trekking route. The Manaslu Circuit Trek is out of the way, it’s not easy to access and, as they say, it truly goes off the beaten track (or something like that). But the Intrepid Manaslu Circuit Trek… it goes even further.  

Day three and four of this trip, take the road less (less) travelled to a rural, hilltop village called Barpak. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because this town may have hit your news screens in 2015 as the epicentre of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal. 

Now that the town has rebuilt itself from the ground up, the sweeping views and welcoming hospitality make Barpak a real treat to visit. Knowing you’re supporting the local people who’ve experienced so much hardship makes this experience even sweeter. 

The colourful village of Barpak sits 1,900 m above sea level.

When I asked Yalamber why he’s most excited to serve up this trip to travellers in 2024, he said, ‘I’m just excited for Intrepid travellers to see the natural beauty here and get those unspoiled cultural encounters.’ This trip offers a glimpse into a Nepal of the past. Don’t go chasing waterfalls, trek back in time on this brand-new alpine expedition in 2024. 

Find out what else is new for 2024 with The Goods.   

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