One of the more recent areas to open to trekkers, the Tsum Valley is one of the Himalaya’s remotest areas. Surrounded by the Ganesh Himal, Sringi Himal, and Boudha Himal ranges, this region was once part of Tibet. The local people are of Tibetan origin with their own ancient dialect, art, culture and religion.
In the remote borderlands of the high Himalayas, several valleys are said to be Beyul’s – hidden or secret valleys that are only open to those with a very pure mind and heart. According to ancient scriptures, they were established by Guru Rinpoche, the 8th-century Indian saint credited with spreading Buddhism into the Himalayas and Tibet. Perhaps one of Nepal’s most beautiful valleys, it is cut off from the southern lowlands of Nepal by deep, forested gorges and swift rivers, and from Tibet in the north by snow-covered passes. The surprisingly flat valley floor provides for some 4,000 inhabitants of almost exclusively Tibetan origin.
Starting by trekking part of the Manaslu Circuit trek, you continue north to the Tsum Valley which was a restricted area until 2008. Still largely unvisited, it is relatively untouched. You start and finish at Arughat, seven hours drive from Kathmandu. The first half of the trek climbs into the Budhi Gandaki Valley where you follow good trails through forest, terraced fields and villages. After leaving the main Manaslu Trail for the Tsum valley, you enter a hidden valley where life seems to have stood still over time. You walk through alpine forests, cross glacial rivers, and enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people.
Trek grade: This is a Grade 3 trek as you climb up to 3,700m and walk several days of 6 hours or longer. However, you are below 3,300m for all but one day and the trails are good.
|Day 1||Arrive in Kathmandu|
|Day 2||Kathmandu sightseeing: Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, Patan|
|Day 3||Drive from Kathmandu to Arughat and Soti Khola (600m, 7-8 hrs drive)|
|Day 4||Trek from Soti Khola to Machha Khola (6-7 hrs, 890m)|
|Day 5||Trek from Machha Khola to Jagat (6-7 hrs, 1410m)|
|Day 6||Jagat to Chisopani (1660m, 4-5 hours)|
|Day 7||Chisopani to Chumling – Lower Tsum (2,386m, 6 – 7 hrs)|
|Day 8||Chumling to Chokhangparo – Upper Tsum (3,010m, 4-5 hrs)|
|Day 9||Chokhangparo to Nile (3,361m, 5-6 hrs)|
|Day 10||Nile to Mu Gompa (3,700m, 3 hrs)|
|Day 11||Mu Gompa – acclimatization|
|Day 12||Mu Gompa to Burgi Village (3,245m) via Milarepa cave: 5 hours|
|Day 13||Burgi village -Chumling (2,386m, 5-6 hrs)|
|Day 14||Chumling to Philim (1,570m, 6-7 hrs|
|Day 15||Philim to Khorlabesi (970m, 6-7 hrs)|
|Day 16||Khorlabesi to Soti Khola (700m, 6-7 hrs)|
|Day 17||Soti Khola to Arughat to Kathmandu (1300m, trek 4 hours and drive 7-8 hrs)|
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail condMore...
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail conditions. The guide in charge of your trip may have to alter the schedule if necessary and any such changes are at the discretion of Royal Mountain Travel and your guide.
The trekking day
Your day starts with a wake-up call, followed by breakfast and baggage pickup. You are then driven to the start point of your trek. While trekking, your day starts with breakfast at the tea house where you are staying. You need to pack up your baggage before breakfast as porters usually set off early.
Normally you are on the trail by 8 am and stop for a leisurely lunch around noon, with the chance to stop along the way for short breaks. Lunchtime usually lasts a couple of hours to give you time to relax or to explore the village where you have stopped. The afternoon walk is shorter and you can expect to arrive around 4 pm to allow time for short excursions to nearby sites, monasteries, exploration of the village or for relaxing with a book or catching up on your diary. Dinner is generally around, 7 pm.
Everyone walks at different speeds and you should always go at the pace that is comfortable for you. The grade of the trek is only an approximate indication of what to expect, based on the altitude and the hours of walking per day. In general, the condition of trails is good as these are the main routes between villages.
What you carry?
Each porter carries 15kg so you should pack 7.5 kgs of baggage, sharing one porter between two persons. These things will not be available to you during the day as the porters usually leave early and do not walk with you. Your daypack should contain all that you need during the day. This should consist of warm clothes for when you stop, a water bottle, camera, sunscreen, lip salve and maybe waterproofs depending on when you’re trekking. Your guide will let you know each evening about any extra items you might need for the following day. You should take a comfortable daypack to carry just a few kilograms of things you need along the way.
Food and drink
No meals are included in your trek. These are available in tea houses, lodges and bhattis that may sometimes have quite limited menus. There are a lot of tea houses and lodges along the way while you are trekking. Meals are generally simple but filling, but you may wish to stock up on ‘trail munchies’ before leaving Kathmandu or Pokhara. Although mineral water in plastic bottles can be found along the way in many places, you should try to avoid using this. Plastic bottles are a serious problem on the trekking routes as there is no way to dispose of them. Instead, you should use water purification tablets, a water filter or ask for boiled water at the lodges. It is a good idea to bring a heat resistant, a water bottle which can double up as a hot water bottle when you go to bed at night too!
It is not recommended to drink alcohol at altitudes above 3,000m or so, where altitude sickness can start to have an effect.
Accommodation is in lodges and teahouses and is of a basic standard. Rooms may be twin or multi-share with basic shared toilet facilities. Hot showers are available in some places for a small charge. It is a good idea to pack wet-wipes to freshen up, especially useful when you reach high altitudes where the water can be very cold. It is not recommended to wash your hair when you are at higher altitudes and where the outside air is cold, as you run the risk of getting a chill when your wet hair takes a long time to dry.
Lodges usually have a common room where later in the day, when people start to arrive from their day’s trek there might be a stove that is lit to keep warm. Bedrooms, however, are not heated. The lodges provide clean bedding, but you may want to pack a sheet sleeping bag for peace of mind.
The main means of transport are on foot, or in some cases by horse, with mules or donkeys sometimes carrying baggage. On most trekking routes, your baggage will be carried by the porters. You should ensure that anything you might need during the day is in your day pack as you will not see the baggage that is being carried again until the end of each day.
You will be provided with government licensed, experienced trek guided assisted by the porters who transport your baggage with one porter for every two trekkers. The guide is in overall charge of the trek and looks after you. This is the person you should go to with any problems, concerns or questions. Our guides are highly trained in all aspects of trekking, conservation, high altitude medicine, first-aid and emergency procedures. They are professionals selected for their knowledge and passion for Nepal and its peoples. However, you should remember that they are local guides and their English may sometimes be quite basic and limited to trek related topics. Usually, porters will have a more basic understanding of English. Please try to speak slowly and clearly to make communication easier.
Trek grading and preparation
It is impossible to have a ‘foolproof’ grading system as everyone has different expectations and perceptions of their own fitness level. Remember that no trek in the Himalaya is a stroll as all involve going up and down, often at altitude. Altitude affects everyone differently, and even if it has not affected you much before, each time can be quite different in how it affects you.
Regardless of age or fitness, preparation, before you arrive, is a good idea. Aerobic activity, swimming, cycling or brisk walking is recommended or, at the very least, walking up and down stairs in your trekking boots to be sure that they fit well and are comfortable. Try to use hiking boots that you have already broken in to avoid blisters. Remember that the trek should be fun and you should go at your own pace.
It is best to bring cash in major currencies such as the US, Canadian or Australian dollars, Euros, or Pounds. Ensure you have a mixture of large and small denominations. Everyone’s spending is different, but as a guide, we suggest about USD 8 – 10 per meal in Kathmandu and Pokhara and USD 30 – 35 per day whilst trekking. If you drink or smoke you need to allow a bit more.
You should exchange enough money into Nepalese Rupees to last the entire time of your trek before leaving Kathmandu. You can find the money exchange counters near your hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara but there are no exchange facilities in villages along the way.
Communication: mobile phones and internet
Please note, as you will be often trekking through valleys and will not always be close to mobile towers, mobile phone reception can be very patchy. NCELL, the local mobile company has quite good coverage, but sometimes the signal can be very weak. Usually, lodges have powerpoint’s to recharge your mobile, although this sometimes can be at an extra charge.
Tipping is a personal and voluntary matter and is not included in the trip price. If you wish to reward the efforts of those who have worked to make your trek the best they can, we suggest the following: USD 4 per day for groups of 8+, USD 5 per day for smaller groups which will be shared amongst the whole staff, including porters.
Travel insurance is not included in the trip price. It is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to your trek. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency evacuation and repatriation (including helicopter evacuation) and personal liability. We also recommend that it covers cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Be careful to check the small print of your insurance regarding altitude as some policies only provide cover up to 2000m.
There are no specific health requirements for entry into Nepal. Your health condition must be sound as you will be climbing to above 4000m. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date information regarding vaccinations, high altitude medication and medications for any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Nepal. Be aware that some drugs, including anti-malarial, have side effects at altitude. Please discuss this carefully with your doctor.
Please be aware that you will be in remote areas and away from medical facilities for some time during this trip. We strongly recommend that you carry a personal First Aid kit as well as sufficient quantities of any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses)
AMS (acute mountain sickness) is a serious issue. It is the result of the failure of the body to adapt to high altitude and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness. It usually occurs above 1,800 meters and the likelihood of being affected increases as you ascend. The way to reduce the effects of altitude is to ascend slowly, 300 meters per day above 3,000 meters until you have acclimatized. Poor acclimatization can result in headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing and swelling of fingers and glands. The only cure for AMS is to descend to a lower altitude and your guide’s decision on this matter is final. There is a possibility of AMS in any trek that passes through altitudes above 4000 meters.
Although our routes are carefully planned to allow proper acclimatization you may feel some effects of altitude for the first few days or at higher altitudes. Breathlessness, lethargy and mild headaches are not uncommon and generally decrease as your body adjusts. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is essential. Please advise your guide if you feel more severe symptoms and do not medicate yourself without discussing it with them first.
Variation of climate is directly proportional to the altitude. For this trekking, trekking routes are often passed through a range of altitudes from 850m upwards. Between, about 2700m and 3000m a cool temperate climate prevails, and you should expect a cool summer and very cold temperatures in the winter. Above 3000m, even if the daytime is sunny and quite warm, the temperature will drop sharply as soon as the sun goes down.
The weather in the mountains is notoriously changeable, so always be prepared for a change in conditions and note that if severe or dangerous weather conditions occur your guide’s decision on any course of action is final.
Trekking permits are required for almost all treks and will be obtained by Royal Mountain Travel. The Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) is essential for the record of Nepal Tourism Board keeping in mind about probable hazards to occur. You need to provide your full name, nationality, home address, passport number, sex, date of birth and 2 photographs for each permit. Royal Mountain Travel also pays any fees required for entry to national parks, conservation areas or restricted areas.
Packing for your trek
You will need to bring a comfortable medium sized daypack to carry the things you will need during the day. This should have a waist strap or (better) a padded waist belt.
You should limit your baggage to about 7kg. You will find the following items useful.
Arrive in Kathmandu
Arriving at Tribhuwan International Airport is an experience in itself. Don’t let it put you off, as our airport representative will be waiting to welcome you with your name written on a placard. Depending on traffic, the drive to your hotel takes about 20-30 minutes.
Kathmandu sightseeing: Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, Patan
The day is spent visiting some of the major World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu. More…
You will have plenty of time in the afternoon to prepare for your trek and check that you have everything you need. You might want to visit Thamel, the tourist hub of Nepal where you can easily find all you need for trekking. Or if you just want to relax, there are many cafes and bakeries serving excellent local tea and coffee. It is best to avoid the street food, however, unless you have a very strong stomach. It is recommended that you have an early night as you will have an early start in the morning.
Drive from Kathmandu to Arughat and Soti Khola (600m, 7-8 hrs drive)
After an early start, you are driven to Soti Khola where you start your trek. Travelling by private jeep, this takes 8-9 hours. The road passes through Dhading Bensi and Arughat, and then to Soti Khola. The roads get a little rough from Arughat.
Trek from Soti Khola to Machha Khola (6-7 hrs, 890m)
Starting from Soti Khola, you trek past rice paddies, fields, and waterfalls through lush and green scenery, passing through villages with houses that have dark slate roofs. Crossing a suspension bridge over the Budhi Gandaki River, the first part of your trek follows the narrow, deep Budhi Gandaki valley through dense forests and terraced farmland. Passing the Gurung village of Labubesi you climb behind a rocky outcrop, where the valley opens and follow the meandering Budhi Gandaki before climbing over a side ridge. You descend again to the river and to Machha Khola village.
Trek from Machha Khola to Jagat (6-7 hrs, 1410m)
Following the narrow trail and crossing the Tharo Khola you reach Khorlabesi. You climb for much of the day, passing more villages and always accompanied by beautiful mountain scenery. After crossing a suspension bridge over the Budhi Gandaki, you climb a well-made staircase and head towards Dobhan. After crossing another suspension bridge, you climb more stone stairs and then descend to crossing to the west bank of the Budhi Gandaki where you enter the Manaslu Conservation Area and arrive at the beautiful paved village of Jagat.
Jagat to Chisopani (1660m, 4-5 hours)
At Jagat, your ACAP pass is checked and you climb a rocky ridge to Salleri, descending to Sirdibas. The valley widens as the trail continues to Ghatta Khola. You go upstream to a long simple hanging bridge and then climb up to Philim, a large Gurung village. Passing Philim you head north through a forest to Chisopani.
Chisopani to Chumling – Lower Tsum (2,386m, 6 – 7 hrs)
Crossing the gorge you soon reach a large waterfall before entering pine tree forests. You descend to a trail going to the Tsum Valley. Along the way, enjoy the views of the Himalchuli mountains and Boudha Himal. Passing the attractive village of Lokpa you go down towards Lungwa Khola, and then climb the trail for a couple of hours through the forest to Gumlung. Crossing the Siyar Khola you finally arrive at Chumling. Here you can visit the old Chumling gompa, and explore the stone streets of the village.
Chumling to Chokhangparo – Upper Tsum (3,010m, 4-5 hrs)
Starting by crossing a suspension bridge to the other side of the river, you have great views of Ganesh Himal. Crossing another bridge, you reach Gho Village. After another couple of hours climb, you reach the village of Chhokangparo where if it is clear, you have a good view again of Himalchuli (7893m) and Ganesh Himal (7140m).
Chokhangparo to Nile (3,361m, 5-6 hrs)
You pass Lamagaon, crossing a rope suspension bridge to reach Rachen Gompa, also known as the Nunnery Gompa. You pass the villages of Lar, Phurbe and Pangdun, and see the old stupa as you cross Chhule village. Following the river upstream you cross a bridge to finally arrive at the Niley. If you have time, you can visit the monastery of Chhule that is not far away.
Nile to Mu Gompa (3,700m, 3 hrs)
You are now close to the Tibetan border. Walking up the valley, the landscape is different and looks much more Tibetan. Following the old Nepal-Tibet caravan path, you reach Mu Gompa. Close by is the oldest monastery in the valley – Dephyudonma Gompa (4060m) that was founded about 700 years ago. The history of this monastery is directly associated with the beginning of Buddhism in the valley. The monastery houses religious books, a life-sized statue of Avalokiteshwara, and images of Guru Padmasambhava and Tara. The surrounding landscape is dotted with mani walls, chortens and kaanis (gateway chortens).
Mu Gompa – acclimatization
Today is a day to acclimatize and explore the area. Mu Gompa is the largest monastery in the region and lies at the highest and most remote part of the Tsum Valley. Mu Gompa and Rachen nunnery were both established in 1936 by Drupa Rinpoche, a Bhutanese lama who meditated in the caves close to the current location of the monastery. There are around 20 monks living in a monastery with the younger ones going study in a nearby village.
You can hike to the base of Pika Himal (4865m) for views of glaciers, Tibetan peaks, the Ganesh Himal and other surrounding mountains. The area is home to blue sheep, yaks, naks, chauris and the rare sighting of pika.
Mu Gompa to Burgi Village (3,245m) via Milarepa cave: 5 hours
Trek back through Chhule and Phurbe, on the east bank of the Shiar Khola. Finally, we arrive at Burgi village. The Burgi village is a small beautiful village. Climb up to the Milarepa’s Cave (piren phu) that is one of the most sacred caves in the Tsum valley. The Buddhist Yogi Chyuchin Milarepa is believed to have meditated here. There are two separate gompas attached to the rocky cave which houses life-size statues of Avalokiteshvara, Buddha, Tara and Milarepa. There are richly painted Buddhist murals, artistic scripts carved on stones, prayer flags and Buddhists scripts making this cave one of the most important cultural points of interest in the valley. From here too, there are good views of Poshyop Glacier, Kipu Himal and Churke himal.
Burgi village -Chumling (2,386m, 5-6 hrs)
Retracing your steps, you return down to Chhokangparo again and continue down through the lower Tsum Valley to Chumling.
Chumling to Philim (1,570m, 6-7 hrs
Continuing down you reach Lokpa and after lunch heading south on a flat trail, you keep going to Philim, passing the lovely Samba Falls along the way. A trail passes through the Phillim village that leads to the Ganesh Himal Base Camp.
Philim to Khorlabesi (970m, 6-7 hrs)
Today you trek to Khorlabesi via Jagat and Tatopani. Descending to Sirdibas you reach Jagat and then go down to Yaruphant. The arid Tibetan landscape now gives way to subtropical green vegetation. Passing Dobhan you reach the hot spring at Tatopani where you may want to take a dip to soak away the aches from your tired muscles.
Khorlabesi to Soti Khola (700m, 6-7 hrs)
The trail crosses the Tharo Khola as it flows down a rocky ravine. You head down again to the river and cross over to reach Machha Khola village. Following the Budhi Gandaki River, you get pass Labubesi and then the two waterfalls that fall from the side of a cliff. Reaching Khursane you walk along the ridge above the river and finally cross a bridge to arrive at Soti Khola.
Soti Khola to Arughat to Kathmandu (1300m, trek 4 hours and drive 7-8 hrs)
After an early start, you climb up to the ridge of Kyorpani and trek to Arkhet where you cross the Arkhet Khola to leave the Budhi Gandaki Valley. Passing Sante Bazaar, you go through forests to Maltar. Finally, passing the hydroelectric plant, you follow the stone street into Arughat Bazaar where your transport will be waiting to take you back to Kathmandu.
You transfer to Tribhuvan Airport to connect with your onward flight. Please note that you should check in three hours prior to your flight time.