Brief General Trek Profiles:
Mode of accommodation: Best local Lodge where available on treks.
Trek Grade: Moderate to Adventurous due high altitude walks.
Highest spot: At Larke-La Pass at 5,106 m / 16,752 feet high
Trek Duration: 19 Nights and 20 Days with drive both ways.
Soti-Khola to Dharapani with drive to Kathmandu.
People and Culture: Lower areas and mid-hills of mixed tribes
Gurung-Magar-Newar, Chettries, and Brahmins
of both Hindu and Buddhism.
From Lokpa onwards Tsumbas and Bhotia both
tribes follows strong Buddhism religion and
‘Adventure of scenic views and exciting cultural combinations’
Manaslu Circuit & Tsum Valley Trekking, adventure around high valleys of Nepal Far North Mid-West within the district of Gorkha. An exciting trek combination of scenic and cultural destinations around remote corners of Northern Gorkha within Manaslu and Ganesh Himal.
Circuit & Tsum Valley Trekking is a wonderful and amazing country to experience, where walk leads to stupendous scenery. Adventure of great dramatic bio-diversity of landscapes, climate, and vegetation including various cultures that one can witness on daily walks.
Mt. Manaslu towers as the world’s 8th tallest peak at 8,163 m / 26,781 feet high, first ascent by the Japanese Expedition. Way back on May 9th, 1956 with the support of Nepali guide Gyalzen Norbu Sherpa, since then it is often climbed.
The adventure takes you around the massif mountain range of Manaslu Himalaya, after visiting hidden corners of Tsum the valley of happiness.
The first phase of the adventure is an exciting drive from Kathmandu, the main arrival city of Nepal. Due to the country’s only international airport, in near future, there will be in Pokhara and at Lumbini also.
From Kathmandu, an interesting drive on main Nepal’s highway to the town of Gorkha, and then drive on a country road. As journey leads to farm areas and down to Budhi-Gandaki River around the low warm sub-tropical town of Arughat.
ON THE TRAIL TO TSUM VALLEY:
After Arughat, the drive takes further on the rough dirt road following the Budhi-Gandaki River upstream to Soti-Khola, a farm village. Where walk begins the next day heading up to cooler hill villages of Jagat, Philim, and Deng towards Lokpa.
Where warm region of heavily farmed fields of rice paddies stops as vegetation and climate change to cooler air. Entering into strong Buddhism territory on reaching Lokpa, a small mountain farm village.
From the Lokpa route of Tsum Valley and Manaslu circuit diverts, as the walk leads to the first village of Tsum at Chumling. Entering the hidden Shangri-La of Tsum, known as ‘Beyul Kyimolung’ an old Tibetan language for Valley of Happiness.
Explore the unspoiled, pristine country, on least ventured region of Mid-West Himalayas, located north of massif Ganesh Himal. The upper Tsum falls on the ancient Trans Himalaya Salt Trade Route of Nepal and Tibet. A caravan of yaks loaded with goods passed through Nile village at a distance of 18 km to the Tibet border.
The natives of Tsum Valley are known as Tsumbas, the indigenous mountain tribes with a similar culture to its Tibetan predecessors. Where walk leads from green farmlands to arid, desert-like country at Mu-Gompa an old monastery in the Tsum area. Which is at the height of 3,700 m /12, 174 feet, located on the furthest northeast end of Tsum Valley. Close behind Ganesh Himal facing views of Sringi and Boudha Himal, away in complete isolation from the modern world.
The villages and monasteries of Tsum are worth visiting, which is culturally rich, the villagers of Tsum Valley. Also known as ‘Shyagya’, means a non-violent region rooted in Buddhism practice and principle. Local inhabitants are interwoven to the regular visit of the Gompas/monasteries, as a daily part of life.
Tsum Valley, one of the most exciting, mystical countries to experience, was opened in 2008 for outside visitors. After a wonderful time observing the local immense cultures and customs of Tsum Valley, along with majestic mountain views. The next adventure leads towards high Manaslu valley, retracing the same route till Lokpa, the end of Tsum Valley.
ON THE TRAIL OF THE MANASLU CIRCUIT:
The next part of the adventure is on the main trail of Manaslu Circuit, after a fascinating time visiting Tsum Valley. From the village of Lokpa and beyond where the main route of Upper Manaslu joins, on leaving the Tsum areas.
Manaslu and Tsum Valley people are closely linked together, due to the same traditions and cultures of Tibetan Buddhism. The high valley of Manaslu was at one time the major route of the Trans Himalaya Salt Trade of Nepal and Tibet.
Where trade flourished between the two countries in the early days before Tibet was annexed by mainland China. At present, the trade still exists but in smaller ways, where local villagers of Manaslu seldom visit the Tibet border. Which is close to Sama-Gaon and Samdu villages, which is on the trail of the Manaslu Circuit trek.
The name for stunning Mt. Manaslu comes from an ancient Sanskrit word that means the soul or mind of a God. Similar to holy Lake Manasarover near Mt. Kailash in Tibet, the local name of Manaslu is ‘Kutang’ a heavenly land.
The walk leads to Bihi Phedi and Namrung to enter the Upper Manaslu region, after Lokpa, on visiting Tsum Valley. A pleasant walk with glorious scenery, making the adventure more enjoyable, heading through a forest of rhododendron, pine, and fir trees. Trek leads to a lovely village of Lo-Gaon at 3,180 m /10,433 feet with grand views of majestic Mt. Manaslu. From here onward on a scenic trail as well immersing into local cultures, lined with Buddhist monuments of prayer walls.
Lo-Gaon is a nice village within lovely forest surroundings facing wonderful views of Pang Phuchin 6,335 and Saula Himal 6,235 m. Includes North Face of
Mt. Manaslu with several peaks above 7, 000 m of the Kutang Himal range.
At Lo-Gaon explore the village enriched with age-old culture and interesting customs in the comfort of a nice, cozy lodge.
next exciting walk reaches to upper Manaslu main village at Sama-Gaon, located 3,530 m / 11,581 feet high. Which is on route to Manaslu base camp, Birendra Tal, and towards high Larke-La Pass, as well to Tibet border.
At Sama-Gaon, normally trekkers spend a rest day at 3,530 m / 11,581 feet, before the climb to Larke-La Pass. Sama-Gaon, one of the largest villages of Upper Manaslu Valley, at present many good lodges have been built to cater to the need of the trekkers.
Enjoy the free day, taking a short hike to Birendra Tal, a small glacial pond a few hours walk from Sama-Gaon. One can just relax and marvel at the glorious scenery of high peaks and explore the village enriched with immense cultures.
From Sama-Gaon next village on the route is Samdo, which is on the way to the Tibet border also. Walk from Sama-Gaon takes more than four hours within arid and windswept terrain, as altitude gains gradually on reaching Samdu-Gaon.
An exciting village of more than 100 houses attached close together, the gateway to Tibet frontier and towards Larke-La Pass. Spending an overnight in a nice local lodge with the warm hospitality of the villagers, walk from here in complete wilderness. A great walk to the end of Manaslu valley at Dharmasala, located on the base of high Larke-La Pass. The top of Larke-La Pass forms the boundary of Gorkha and Manang districts, Dharmasala the last overnight stop within Manaslu.
Dharmasala is situated on a moraine of rocks and glaciers at 4,470 m /14,665 feet high. A place with few huts serving as a lodge for trekkers, also called Phedi, the bottom of a hill. In the early days, it was known as Larke Bazaar, where the market was held due to its close border with Tibet. Local traders from Manang, Gorkha as far from Tibet, use to bring their products for sale and to barter.
Dharmasala is of least comfort for overnight stops, with limited lodges and inns for hundreds of trekkers during the high season. Rising early having breakfast at the lodge in Dharmasala, starting the big long climb to the top of Larke-La Pass.
The climb leads north close to Larke Peak glacier, facing views of Cho Danda and Larke Peak. After a strenuous long climb of more than three hours on winding ups reaching on top Larke-La. The highest spot of the adventure at 5,106 m / 16,752 feet, the top festooned with thousands of prayer flags. As well stands a board with the name of the pass and altitude, an exciting spot for spectacular views.
At the top enjoy the breathtaking scenery of rolling hills and giant peaks of Annapurna, Manaslu, and Ganesh Himal. The view extends as far towards the Nar-Phu range of peaks with Himlung Himal and close to Larke Peak.
From the pass, long undulating descent to Larcia valley, continues downhill to Tambuche, back into the dense green forest. On reaching the bottom and base of Larke-La a slow tiring walk to Bhimthang for an overnight halt. Located amidst forest surrounding on wide green pasture, adorned with prayer monuments, with nice simple lodges.
After a long tiring walk of the previous day, morning from Bhimthang leads to pleasant downhill through rhododendron and pine forest. One can either walk to Tilje or Dharapani village or stay overnight at Gho before ending the trek.
Eventually, the walk completes on reaching Dharapani, a large village situated on the popular Annapurna Circuit trail within the Manang district.
Spending last overnight at Dharapani, enjoy a long drive back to Kathmandu or make it shorter staying at Besisar town.
Various options on Manaslu Circuit & Tsum Valley Trekking:
On this trek, there are several options, where one choose as per your holiday duration in Nepal for the trek. Some can make it a few days shorter or longer in your itinerary days, but acclimatization days. Like at Mu Gompa and Sama-Gaon is very important before heading towards a higher altitude climb over Larke-La Pass.
At present the motorable road has reached at Machha-Khola, the beginning of the trek, skipping overnight at Soti-Khola. The road has reached Manang village, which makes it easier to take a drive from Dharapani village.
The total walking distance on this trek is approx. 240 excluding drives both ways and rest days. Energetic people with more time in Nepal can continue the trek on completing Tsum Valley and Manaslu Circuit. Joining Annapurna Circuit trek from Dharapani village onwards.
THE BEST SEASONS FOR MANASLU CIRCUIT & TSUM VALLEY TREKKING:
The best season for this great wonderful adventure is during the late spring of April and May. A perfect time for walks and views with longer sunlight hours, hot and warm around lower areas. But most pleasant day around the higher areas of Tsum and Manaslu valleys, cold in the morning and night time. Chances of light rains in the mid-hills and snow around higher areas sometimes.
The next best season is autumn from September to early November months, where days are fine and clear for views and walks. But days are shorter due to sun-light hours, chances of snowfall around higher elevations above 3,000 meters. Much colder morning and nighttime and is shades away from sun lights.
From middle November, the villages will be near empty, most highland people will migrate to lower warmer areas to escape the bitter winter cold.
THE DIFFICULTY TO ENCOUNTER ON MANASLU CIRCUIT & TSUM VALLEY TREKKING:
Not so difficult or tough walks, on this wonderful adventure.
The only tough days are walking steep uphill for a few hours in high-altitude areas. As for Tsum Valley trekking, the elevation gains gradually spending overnights at certain heights will help to get acclimatize. The other difficult part of the adventure is the climb to high Larke-La Pass, it is not that tough. As long one takes it slowly with rest in between will overcome the difficulty and hard section of the walk.
However, Nepal Himalaya is a country of much up and downhill with few level and gradual sections. For this trek, all members should be in good physical shape and have sound medical health. The trails are not difficult, as long one can take it at an easier pace and take a rest when needed.
SPECIAL PERMITS, CONSERVATION FEES FOR MANASLU & TSUM VALLEY TREKKING:
Upper Manaslu and Tsum Valley had been closed for outside visitors, due to its close border to Tibet / China. As well to preserve its culture and pristine environment as it were for past hundreds of centuries.
Upper Manaslu, opened for interested travelers in 1991, but foreign visitors require special permits to enter from Jagat to Dharapani villages.
Likewise, Tsum Valley has been opened for foreign visitors from only 2008 onwards, where special permits are required.
This trek is a combination of both beautiful restricted areas Manaslu & Tsum Valley, where special trekking permit costs are as follows.
September to November: US$ 100 per person for the first 7 days and the additional US $ 15 per person per day from the 8th day onwards.
December to August in Low Seasons: US $ 75 per person for the 7 days and the additional US $ 10 per person per day from the 8th day onwards.
But no travelers’ visits in the low seasons, only a few research teams, where all villages will be nearly empty and abandoned.
Besides special permits, trekkers need to obtain MCAP and ACAP fees that as Manaslu Conservation Area Project and Annapurna Conservation Area Project that will last till Dharapani village in Manang district.
The cost comes to US$ 30 per person for MCAP, and a similar rate for ACAP also, trekkers entering the restricted area must be a minimum of 2 people.
All trekkers must be booked with local Government Registered Trekking & Travel Companies, should be accompanied by proper Government-authorized guides.
PREPARATION FOR MANASLU CIRCUIT & TSUM VALLEY TREKKING:
Booking this wonderful adventure around remote areas of Nepal Far Mid North West. Trekkers should be well prepared physically and mentally with sound medical backgrounds, as the trek leads to remote corners of the Himalayas. Preparation before and after booking at least a month ahead needs to be in good physical shape. Having some exercise like jogging, swimming, walking, aerobic for an hour and acquiring enough information of the areas of trekking. Packing the right items as per the list provided by the local or abroad adventure companies. With enough warm gear, some local trekking agents also provide sleeping bags, down jackets, and duffel bags. If not included on the trip cost can hire in Kathmandu before the trek departures at a reasonable cost. The most important preparation for the Manaslu & Tsum Valley trekking is purchasing Travel & Medical Insurance. Very necessary to have insurance in case of unfortunate accidents and illness, where the patient needs to be evacuated by the fastest means of transport or taking a Helicopter Service.
Accommodation & Foods:
Trekkers should be well aware that you are trekking in remote areas of the Himalayas, where most places. From Jagat onwards, the lodge are simple and basic but clean, hygienic rooms and foods. The only place in Tsum the best lodges and foods available is at the Nile before Mu Gompa. Well, others places with simple rooms serve good meals with limited food menu items as per seasonal wise. Smaller villagers have a simple lodge, but with a large cozy warm dining hall heated by pot-bellied stoves. The foods menu consists of limited continental, Chinese, and Indian, but is popular with a set menu of Nepalese Dal Bhat and Tibetan foods. Most lodges with common toilets and showers, where one has to buy hot showers, as well for charging electronic gadgets. Lo-Gaon, Sama Gaon, and at Dharapani, the lodges are much better along with comprehensive delightful food menus.