When talking about trekking in Nepal, most adventurists are drawn by the wuthering heights of Annapurna and Mount Everest but most people forget that Nepal is home to eight of the top 10 highest mountaintops in the world. Sure, Annapurna and Everest are probably the most difficult treks and an ultimate endurance test but because most travelers take these two treks, a large portion of Nepal’s other majestic mountains remain relatively unexplored. One such region in Nepal is Tsum Valley, home to the world’s eighth highest peak. If you’re dreaming about the cold, snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, but want to avoid the crowds at Everest and Annapurna, this is one trek you should seriously consider. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about trekking in Tsum Valley, one of the most pristine regions in Nepal.
About Tsum Valley
Tsum Valley was closed for trekkers until 2008 and there’s still not a lot of information about it online. Situated in the northern part of Gorkha, Nepal, the Tsum Valley is a sacred pilgrimage region for Buddhists. In translation, Tsum means vivid, and this is a rather eloquent description. The region is rich in history, culture, ancient art, as well as Mani stones carved with drawings of deities and Chortens. Here, you’ll also find the iconic Kyimu Lung, a pilgrimage circuit that’s famous for being a spiritual hub of learning and meditation. Even Milarepa, one of the most famous Buddhist Siddhas to ever live, meditated in some of the hidden caves of Tsum Valley’s mountains.
Due to the remoteness of the region, this sacred valley has been bypassed by urban development for centuries and is today one of the most pristine regions of the Indian subcontinent.
The cost of trekking Tsum Valley depends on your trip duration and it can last between 15 and 20 days, depending on your pace. If you’re confident you can complete the trek in a shorter period, you can always get a better price from tour operators but in general, most tour operators charge between $900 and $1,000 per person. This includes transportation from Kathmandu, accommodation, and a salary for the guide and porter(s). If you don’t require a porter, you can also probably get an additional discount.
Alternatively, if you think you can find a reliable guide who doesn’t work for a company, you can probably get a better deal. However, note that the guide needs to be registered because it’s forbidden for foreigners to explore this area independently.
In order to explore Tsum Valley, you need to obtain several permits.
Manaslu Permit; costs $ 70.00 per person for the first week and US$ 10.00 per day for every next day during peak season. If you travel in the off-season, you can get this permit for 50.00 per person for the first week and US$ 7.00 for every next day.
Tsum valley Permit; costs $35 during the peak-season and $25 during the offseason.
In addition to this, you also need to obtain an MCAP (Manaslu Conservation Area Permit) which costs 2,000 NPR and ACAP )Annapurna Conservation Area Permit) which costs 2,000 NPR.
Tsum Valley trek difficulty
This trek is classified as moderate to adventurous, mainly because of the high altitudes (above 3,700 meters). The trek itself isn’t very strenuous and mainly consists of gradual increase in elevation over several days but there are a few steep sections that lie off the beaten path that you may find difficult if you’re not in your best shape.
The weather and best time to visit
The starting point of this trek lies at 700 meters above sea level while the highest point is at 3,700 meters. Needless to say, the temperature will always be lower in the places with higher elevation but the difference won’t necessarily be very drastic if you visit during the monsoon season (June-August). However, keep in mind that during this season mist often accompanies the rain and decreases visibility which is something you probably won’t appreciate if you want to enjoy the view. During the winter (December-March), the weather is quite cold and probably not a good idea to visit either.
So, having in mind that the high-season for trekking this region is September/October, I’d say that the best time of the year to do the Tsum Valley trek in Nepal is in April or May. The weather isn’t too cold, it’s not raining, the visibility is great, and there aren’t a lot of tourists around.
Preparation for the trip
As the trek isn’t very strenuous, one doesn’t need hard training for the Tsum Valley Trek. However, there are some other preparations you need to be aware of. First, permits for the trek are only issued for at least two people. This means that you can’t explore Tsum Valley in Neal alone with a guide. If you’re traveling alone and you go to a tourist agency, they’ll easily pair you up with other tourists. However, if you’re only hiring a guide, this is one thing you should be aware of as a solo traveler. Additionally, make sure to bring some snacks and refreshments from Kathmandu as you won’t find many options up in the mountains, or you will but the items will be ridiculously overpriced. Finally, don’t forget to bring a water bottle with a purifier as fresh drinking water won’t always be available throughout the trip.
Day 1: Kathmandu to Soti Khola (700 meters)
The first day of the Tsum Valley trek is always reserved for getting to Soti Khola, the starting point of the trek. If you want to save some money, you can always take a local bus but most tour operators include the ride from Kathmandu to Soti Khola in the price.
Day 2: Maccha Khola (869 meters)
Most trekkers stop at Macchakhola on the second day. The trek from Soti Khola to Maccha Khola isn’t strenuous at all and the total elevation is only 169 meters, but don’t let this fool you; there’s a lot of ground to cover. The distance is around 19 kilometers and you would need at least 6 hours to reach.
Day 3: Jagat (1,340 meters)
Photo by Sergey Ashmarin CC by SA 3.0
In the third day, you get to explore a more difficult terrain and experience the first signs of serious elevation. This part of the trek starts to get a bit more strenuous, so you might need to take a few more breaks. The majestic Dobhan waterfalls will give you another reason to stop and enjoy the views.
Day 4: Lokpa (2,240 meters)
With an elevation of around 900 meters, this is probably the most difficult part of the trek. In just one day, you’ll cover 18 kilometers that lead to a strenuous terrain that includes an elevation of 900 meters. Along the way, expect to see a lot of stunning waterfalls, untouched nature and the first views of the snow-capped peak of Ganesh Himal.
Day 5: Chhokang Paro (3,031 meters)
If you feel exhausted from the previous day, you can take it easy and trek from Lokpa to the beautiful village of Chumling (2,420 meters). Alternatively, if you’re up for the challenge, you can take a 9-hour trek to Chhokang Paro. Be careful, this is probably the most dangerous section of the trek. The trek passes through a tiny path in the middle of a treacherous landslide zone.
Day 6: Nile (3,361 meters)
After two long days, the trek to Nile is a lot easier. It’s a 10-kilometers-long trek with an elevation of 330 meters. You can easily cover this in 5 hours and rest for the rest of the day and take time to explore Milarepa Cave (Piren Phu), a famous sacred Buddhist shrine.
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Day 7: Mu Gompa (3,700 meters) and Dhephyudonma Gompa (4060m)
A lot of travelers take a detour to visit the Mu Gompa and Dhephyudonma Gompa, two of the oldest and most remote monasteries in Nepal. Mu Gompa houses several important religious books, rare images of Padmasambhava and Tara, and a life-sized statue of Avalokiteshwara. Dhephyudonma Gompa is one of the oldest monasteries in Nepal. It’s so old that some estimates say it’s as old as Buddhism.
The two monasteries are located in a region famous for yarsagumba, one of the most expensive natural medicines in the world. One kg of yarsagumba is sold for as much as $10,000 per kilogram. Some studies even go as far as to claim that this natural remedy can even cure cancer.
Day 8: Chhekamparo (3,031 meters)
After all that climbing, it’s finally time for trekking down. However, don’t underestimate this part of the journey. Climbing down requires activation of a different set of muscles than climbing up and most people don’t give these muscles enough workout and activity. This can easily cause sore muscles and body ache the next day, so make sure you’re prepared for this.
Day 9: Gumba Lungdang (3,200 meters)
Photo by Sherparinji CC by SA 3.0
Out of all the places you visit during your trek, Gumba Lungdang has probably the most amazing views of the Ganesh Himal Range. Even though there isn’t a lot of elevation and ground to cover from Chhekamparo, the trek is rather strenuous but the views are totally worth it. Since this will probably be your 9th or 10th day and you don’t have a lot of ground to cover, you can also use this extend your permits who expire on the 10th day.
Day 10: Ganesh Himal Base Camp (4,200 meters)
If you made it to Gumba Lungdang, then you absolutely have to take a detour to Ganesh Himal’s base camp. If you’re an experienced hiker, this will be the starting point for conquering Ganesh Himal, the eighth highest mountaintop in the world. And even if you’re not, you can always come to admire the pristine nature and enjoy the endless stretches of greenery and the snow-capped mountaintop peaking from the distance. If you decide to take this day trip, keep in mind that you would have to leave from Gumba Lungdang around 4 AM if you want to climb back down before it gets dark. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy the sunset from base camp, it’s probably best to spend the night here.
Day 11: Ripchet (2470m)
Even though most of the way goes downward, this will be one of the most difficult parts of the trek because there’s a lot of ground to cover. You’ll need at least 9-10 hours to come down from Ganesh Himal Base Camp to Ripchet. If you think you can’t do it, it’s probably a good idea to spend another night at Gumba Lungdang.
Day 12, 13, 14: Philim-Khorla Bensi-Soti Khola
The next three days are more of the same; trekking down and passing through the same terrain as you did while trekking up. You can reach Soti Khola on the 13th day too but you still won’t be able to get transportation to Kathmandu during the night, so the best option is to spend the night at Khorla Bensi and end the trip with a quick walk back to Soti Khola.
If this wasn’t enough and you just can’t get enough of this region, there are several options that can extend your trip. You can enter the Manaslu region and continue to the charming mountain village of Shayla and be awed by the glacial mountains surrounding the village, trek up to Lho (3,180 meters). The next day, you can head to Samagaun (3,520 meters) a beautiful small town located next to a crystal-clear mountain lake that hides some of the most awe-inspiring views of the Manaslu Circuit.
From here, you can continue towards Samdo (3,875 meters) and feel the sudden climate change as you’re crossing from Nepal’s subtropical terrain into the snowy passes of the Himalayas. After reaching Samdo, you can continue to Dharmasala, one of Nepal’s best camping spots and prepare for conquering the majestic glaciers of Larky La (5,100 meters), one of the coldest and snowiest passes in Nepal. After this incredible experience, you can climb down to Bimthang and then, Dharapani from where you can get back to Kathmandu.
Hiring a guide is a must if you want to explore the Tsum Valley Trek. My choice for this trek was Himalaya Hub. Their guides were extremely knowledgeable and the owners got in touch several times throughout the trip to make sure everything is going well. Hence, I warmly recommend their services to all travelers planning to explore this part of Nepal. For more information about this tour, you can contact Himalaya Hub at +9779851013032.
A few more helpful tips
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If you’re looking to boost your nutrition for the trip with some durable, dry-food snacks, check out this selection of dried food for backpacking and camping by Wise Food Storage.
Still didn’t book your flight to Nepal? No worries, you can get a great deal by using this Qatar Airways offer on flights to Kathmandu.
When trekking or climbing high altitudes, you need to get a good travel insurance, and I doubt you can find a better one than World Nomads. The payment claim process is very quick and their customer service is superb.
Did you ever visit Tsum Valley in Nepal? How was your experience like? If you didn’t, would you like to visit someday? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!