TIMS permits are necessary for most treks in Nepal, but strangely not Manaslu and the Tsum Valley. Do check TIMS Nepal for the latest information.
Restricted area permits for Manaslu and Tsum Valley
Across the northern zones of Nepal, in particular close to the Tibetan border, there are still some 'restricted areas'. The Manaslu Circuit and Tsum Valley fall into this category. Permits are available from the main immigration office. Both areas require you to take a guide.
All the places to be visited should be mentioned in the application. Permits are issued for one week plus the number of days requested per person. Currently, one week cost US$ 100 (September to November) or US$ 75 (December to August).
In addition, each day is charged at US$ 15(for September to November) per person day beyond 1 week and USD 10(for December to August) per person per day beyond 1 week. Two weeks is the absolute minimum timeframe for Manaslu, while three weeks could include a brief visit to the Tsum valley region.
Note that the permit area for Manaslu commences at Jagat. There is a fee of US$ 35 for up to eight days to enter the Tsum area from Lokpa, to be paid in Kathmandu. Time spent in Tsum does not require the $15 daily Manaslu fee to be paid in addition.
For example, a 21-day circuit of the Manaslu with one week spent in Tsum will cost $140+$35 = $175. Check the latest information at the Department of Immigration.
Visitors to the Manaslu and Annapurna region are also required to pay the entry to the conservation areas that encompass the mountains. The trek passes through two conservation areas, so expect a hefty fee. Currently, the fee is Rs. 2000 for Manaslu and Rs. 2000 for Annapurna, per person.
The single entrance to the conservation areas of Manaslu and Annapurna does mean just one entry. This means that if you leave one part of the conservation area hoping to re-enter in another, you will be refused re-entry. This rule affects trekkers to Annapurna, where roads mean it's possible to shortcut some trails, but as yet it is not of concern to Manaslu hikers.
The Manaslu Conservation Area Project was founded in 1998, following the establishment of ACAP in 1986. The aims are to regulate activities within the designated areas and to promote conversation.
In association with local community development, the projects seek to develop ecological ways of improving the environment. Before the formation of these conservation areas, there was fairly uncontrolled deforestation, since local people relied on timber for cooking and heating.
Kerosene dumps wear established and trekking groups wear forbidden to use wood for cooking. The scheme sought to improve hygiene levels by establishing small health posts and safe drinking water depots. Bridges and basic infrastructure have been improved and new schools have opened.
The preservation of the local culture has been another important contribution; evidence of this is seen through the restoration of key culture monuments, such as the once-decaying monasteries. Apparently, approximately 2000 permits were issued for the Manaslu area in 2011, 3700 in 2012, and 4439 in 2019.
NTNC (National Trust for Nature Conservation)
TAAN (Trekking Agents Association of Nepal)
A trek to Manaslu and Tsum is best undertaken in either autumn or spring. The autumn period is usually the most stable and thus will be the busiest time on the trails. Normally early October heralded the beginning of the season after the monsoon rains abated, but in recent years the weather has sometimes been more unsettled.
Unseasonal rain and heavy cloud have intervened, causing the much-awaited and colorful harvests to be delayed. However, after mid-October, the weather is usually better, with clearer skies and magical views.
The ripened rice terraced hillsides are ablaze with fabulous colors from gold to brilliant greens of all shades. November is generally the clearest month, with crisp and sparkling days.
December is much colder at higher altitudes, but trails are quieter. Just occasionally the stable conditions of autumn are disrupted when a storm blows in, bringing rain with heavy snow in the mountains.
Trekking throughout the winter is perfectly possible to lower down, but heading to Manaslu and Tsum during late December/January and early February will mean encountering more cloud, snow, and bitterly cold temperatures and is not recommended.
Many inhabitants descend to the warmer foothills for winter, so lodges may be closed. Crossing the Larkya La on the Manaslu Circuit in winter is also a matter of chance and not recommended; heavy snow makes this dangerous if not impossible, with a risk of avalanche even before the pass and a very steep, slippery descent. (The Dharmashala/Larkya Phedi lodge has a nominal clothing date of 15 December.)
The Spring season, late February to early May, is the other popular trekking season. The weather is generally stable, but clouds often cover the mountains by mid-morning. The lower valley (below 2500m) is sultry and host.
The haze will unfortunately mean those photographers who want their mountains crisp and clear might feel frustrated. However, keen botanists and sure to be delighted and satisfied with the prolific array of rhododendrons and magnolia.
Heading into the high country, the wind tends to be more of a feature, particularly closer to the Tibetan plateau.
For most, trekking at the height of the summer, July and August, is not really recommended, with mountain vistas a rare luxury. Monsoon cloud, rain, and snow can be expected at any time from mid-June to mid-September. Incessant rain in the lower hills causes dangerous landslides, road and trail damage. Blood-sucking leeches and a plague.
The one positive advantage about a visit to Tsum in the monsoon is that the valley is green and experiences its most active time, especially for the farmers, who cultivate buckwheat, mustard, barley, and potatoes. It is also one of the best times to enjoy and rich cultural heritage of the region, with festivals and colorful events.