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The hidden Himalayas – Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek

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Exploring the remote and enigmatic Manaslu Tsum Valley

The Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek is one of Nepal’s most unique and authentic experiences, visiting a beautiful Himalayan region barely discovered by the outside world. It’s available as a 22-day fixed departure tour just a few times a year with Royal Mountain Travel.

Isolated, spectacular and virtually untouched, the Manaslu Tsum Valley in Nepal’s northern Himalayas is one of the country’s most fascinating destinations. Until as recently as 2008, travel to this hidden region in the mountains remained restricted and few outsiders had ever seen its wild landscapes or experienced its ancient culture and way of life.

river in tsum valley nepal

Situated in the Gorkha district (often referred to generally as Manaslu), a mountainous region north of Kathmandu, the valley lies on the Tibetan border and is home to around 4,000 people of Tibetan descent, known as the Tsumbas. Much like Tibet itself, years of relative isolation from the modern world have preserved Tsumba culture almost perfectly, making it a strikingly different experience for any foreigners (or even Nepalis) lucky enough to visit.

Here, the familiar Nepali greeting of “Namaste” is rarely heard. “Tashi delek” is the local phrase used to welcome people, and in fact the entire dialect here is unique and virtually unchanged from centuries ago. The same can be said for almost everything here, with traditions, religion, art and cuisine all carrying a distinctive Tsumba flavour. Spirituality is hugely important in this part of Nepal, where traditional Tibetan Buddhism runs deep in the community and prayer flags with messages of peace flutter in the wind. Visitors invariably speak of the warm, genuine hospitality of the Manaslu people as one of the highlights of their time here.

Green fields and terraces in Manaslu Tsum Valley
Green fields and terraces in Manaslu Tsum Valley

The valley is circled by several famous peaks, including Ganesh Himal and the unmistakeable Mount Manaslu – the 8th highest in the world at 8,163 metres and one of mountaineering’s most formidable challenges. Down on the valley floor, you’ll find a dramatic and beautiful mix of green hills and terraces, barren tundra, gushing rivers, waterfalls and deep forested gorges. It’s the kind of untouched landscape that most of us have only seen in films (usually the ones with dragons in them…).

A monastery with a mountain backdrop, Manaslu Region
A monastery with a mountain backdrop, Manaslu Region

Most travellers looking for an epic trek in Nepal choose one of the headline acts, such as Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit, but alternative routes are becoming more popular and the Gorkha District offers everything to satisfy adventurous trekkers who want something different and want to avoid the crowds of the main trails.

The classic Manaslu Circuit and now the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek pass through otherworldly landscapes and provide stunning views of the Himalayan peaks, along with challenging mountain passes and welcoming local communities to encounter along the way. The region also lies at a slightly lower altitude compared to other trekking regions, and can be reached from Kathmandu by road, making it an appealing option for practical reasons, too.

Tsum Valley forest trail
Tsum Valley forest trail
Mount Manaslu
Mount Manaslu

The Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek is a 19-day route starting in the close-knit community of Barpak, gradually rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake and home to many ex-Gorkha soldiers. It’s a friendly place to spend your first night in the region. The first goal is to reach Mu Gompa – a remote Buddhist monastery surrounded by jaw-dropping mountain scenery at the highest point of the valley. It takes 7 days of trekking to reach the Gompa, winding through rhododendron and pine forests, crossing suspension bridges over deep ravines, and serving up views of Ganesh Himal and Buddha Himal along the way. You’ll also visit tiny traditional villages and sacred caves, including Piren Phu (pigeon cave) where Buddhist murals and scripts are carved into the rock face.

A 'gompa' on the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek
A 'gompa' on the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek

From Mu Gompa, you’ll retrace your steps south before heading west on the route that encircles the giant peaks of Manaslu, Nagadichuli and Himalchuli. The trail crosses the Budhi Gandaki River multiple times and passes by the Larkya Glacier as it ascends to the highest point of the trek – the often snow-covered Larkya La Pass at 5165m. From here you begin to descend as you head south, and the Annapurna Range gradually comes into view. After a few days you’ll reach the lively trekking town of Chamje – the perfect spot to spend a final night in mountains, recounting stories of your adventure.

Larkya La Pass, the highest point of the trek
Larkya La Pass, the highest point of the trek
Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek - route map
Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek - route map

Accommodation on the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek

Camping is possible here of course, but the route of this trek allows you to spend every night in the relative warmth and comfort of a tea house of homestay. These vary from functional mountain lodges to community-run village accommodation, and generally provide a simple bed in a shared room, a warm home-cooked meal and any other basic supplies you might need for your journey.

For us, where you sleep is one of the true highlights of the trek, giving you unforgettably remote nights in the mountains or the chance to spend some time with local people who have a completely different outlook and lifestyle to your own. It’s in these communities, with their proud traditions and peaceful way of life, where you’ll find connections and experiences that will stay with you long after you’ve returned home.

Difficulty and altitude of Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek

Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek is rated as moderately difficult, meaning it’s not for the faint-hearted but should be achievable if you have a decent level of fitness. Aside from a short section over the fringes of the glacier, you’ll largely be following a maintained path so normal hiking boots will suffice (check our packing list for tips on what else to bring).

Although most of the region sits at relatively low altitude by Himalayan standards, you will be ascending above 5000m at Larkya La Pass. At these heights, altitude sickness is a possibility and you should take precautions and be aware of the symptoms (check our medical advice and altitude sickness page for advice). All guides here are experienced in dealing with altitude sickness, so be sure to let them know as soon as something doesn’t feel right.

A lone yak near to Mount Manaslu
A lone yak near to Mount Manaslu

Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek permits and how to get there

To reach the starting point at Barpak, you’ll need to travel north for a few hours from Kathmandu. Cheap public bus options are available, but can be slow and some require you to change vehicle. If you book a tour such as the fixed departure one in this article, private transport is included for your group. The route can be winding and bumpy, but the views more than compensate for any lack of comfort.

Being in such an unexplored and previously restricted area of Nepal, the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek needs to be arranged professionally. Permits are mandatory for both the Manaslu region and for Tsum Valley.

Manaslu Conservation Area fees
NRs3000 (approx. $25)

Manaslu Circuit Trek
September – November
USD 100 per person / week
USD 15 per person / day (beyond 1 week)
December – August
USD 75 per person / week
USD 10 per person / day (beyond 1 week)

Tsum Valley Trek
September – November
USD 40 per person / week
USD 7 per person / day (beyond 1 week)
December – August
USD 30 per person / week
USD 7 per person / day (beyond 1 week)

NOTE: Tour Operator Service Charge will be applicable in the above rates. For more information, check our Nepal permits page.

Booking the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek

With a minimum of two people, you can book the Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek as a private tour. No solo or independent trekking is allowed, and you must be accompanied by a Special Trekking Guide. Infrastructure and phone signal here is very limited, so expert guidance is essential to keep trekkers safe.

Our partners at Royal Mountain Travel can arrange everything as a fully private tour, and also run a fixed departure group tour four times per year. This allows the cost per person to be reduced, and offers to opportunity to share your experience with like-minded adventurers.

2022 Departure dates

17th April 2022

18th September 2022

16th October 2022

13th November 2022

US$1690 per person, 22 day tour including transport, excursions and 3 nights in Kathmandu.

For full details and a day-by-day breakdown, head to the Royal Mountain Travel tour page.

You can contact us for questions, or enquire directly with the Royal Mountain team.

Looking for the lowdown on the classic Manaslu Circuit? This article tells you everything.

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