Tsum Valley and Manaslu Trek is a 20-day-long trip that combines trekking around the foothills of world’s eighth highest mountain, Mt. Manaslu (8,156m) with a side trip to Tsum Valley, a traditionally intact Buddhist region devoid of modern civilization.
The Tsum Valley (pronounced ‘Chum’) is one of the world’s most secluded Himalayan valleys; it was a restricted area until 2008. Also known as the Beyul Kyimolung, the hidden valley of happiness as described first by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, Tsum still houses centuries old nunneries and ancient holy caves.
This secret Tibetan Buddhist land was a separate area that didn’t belong to Nepal or Tibet. Even though a part of Nepal now, Tsum Valley with its Tibetan Buddhism is a different world altogether. Only a handful of travelers make it to the high and mystic valley each year. Tsum comes from Tibetan word ‘Tsombo’ which means vivid, rightly so!
The valley was an important trade link with Tibet and Tsumbas or the people of Tsum Valley still trade to the north; they also have their own ancient form of dialect, culture, art, and religion.
In Tsumbas culture, all the brothers in a family marry a single girl. They have been practicing polyandry for centuries. Not only their culture but the trails leading to the region are unique, less beaten and surprising as well.
Tsum Valley and Manaslu Trek is a challenging but at the same time splendidly rewarding experience. The landscape here is stunning with ancient looking countryside overshadowed by Ganesh Himal towering above and beautiful forests on the foothills.
Ganesh Himal, Shringi Himal and Boudha Himal ranges sneak out and beyond throughout most parts of the Tsum Valley and Manaslu trek, it is indeed a Great Himalayan Trail.
The trek starts and ends at Arughat, a highway town seven hours away from Kathmandu. We follow the trail of raging Budhi Gandaki River for the first four days since starting the trek from Arughat. Passing the villages of Soti Khola (710m), Machha Khola (900m), Phillim (1,590m), Ripchet (2,470m) and Nile/Chule (3,360m), we traverse into the fascinating land of Tsum valley as we head for MuGompa (3,700m). We spend around 5-6 days in the ‘’valley of happiness’’ visiting centuries-old Buddhist monasteries at Mu Gompa and Rachen Gompa in which there are nuns of the Ngak-pa sect, nunneries like Gumba Lungdang where they welcome trekkers at the evening puja, and strolling through the spellbindingly gorgeous landscapes.
One of the major highlights of Tsum Valley and Manaslu Trek-20 Days is the climb up to the Larkya La ( a high mountain pass) at 5220m which offers views of Kang Guru, Cheo Himal, Himlung Himal and Annapurna massif. We take an acclimatization rest at Samagaon before climbing up the Larkya Pass.
Tsum Valley and most of Manaslu region practice Buddhism which bans hunting, thus the wildlife here is untouched. You can come across the Himalayan Tahrs, Bharal (Himalayan Blue Sheep) and snow leopards among other animals.
From Larkya La, our trailheads gradually down to meet the Annapurna Circuit Trail at Tilije, we then trek to Chamje and take a bus to Kathmandu from there onwards.
Trekkers also have the option to instead break down the Tsum Valley and Manaslu Trek-20 days to Manaslu Circuit Trek-18 Days or Tsum Valley Trek-19 Days to explore the regions thoroughly.
For those interested in exploring the less beaten trekking paths in Nepal, Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is another great option. Join Adventure Club Trek’s Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek-24 days to live the experience.
Adventure Club Trek also offers Upper Dolpo Trek-25 Days for those who want to discover the restricted area beyond the regular Annapurna trekking region.
We organised the trek of 20 days with Birendra before we left Australia. The planning with Birendra was faultless and he met us at the airport.
The guides and porters were reliable, honest and very helpful. The trek was suburb - we had trekked a year earlier to EBC / Three passes also organised with Birendra, and the fact that we used him again is probably the best indication of how we trusted the company.
The trek started 1 December, which is the start of winter. We did have a heavy fall of snow (60-90cm in a day) which prevented us going over the pass and we needed to trek back the way we came - whilst a little disappointing, the trek was far prettier and more interesting than EBC. The trek is predominantly in areas with farming villages, and is not as "touristy" as the Everest valley. There is also a better mix of forest, waterfalls, mountains, wildlife, and local culture as it has a bigger range of altitude.
Surprisingly, the accommodation / teahouses was superior to the Everest valley as well, and the day to day snacks and drinks were better priced as well.
We had a case of altitude sickness, and the support provided by Birendra, and his guides in managing the issue, getting them to lower ground, and shuffling the itinerary was without any trouble and what could have been a major problem was just a part of the adventure. The weather temperatures were much more comfortable than we expected given the time of year - other than for the two snowing days, the daytime temperatures were comfortable in T Shirt. At night it would not have been colder than -10C. Eight of us travelled, ranging in age from 14 to 50. The trek was very doable for all.