Tilicho Lake-Muktinath Trek (Annapurna Circuit)

The route for “Tilicho Lake 4919m-Muktinath 3800m Trek” via Thorong La 5416m provides incredible views of Himalayan range, Alpine Lakes, River Valleys, Waterfalls, Lush forests and Picturesque Villages; especially bringing us closer to the exquisite phenomena of major mountain peaks in Annapurna Himalayas including Manaslu 8163m, Annapurna IV 7525m, Gangapurna 7454m, Lamjung Himal 6932m, Annapurna II 7939m, Annapurna III 7555m, Dhaulagiri 8167m, Nilgiri 7061m and many other snow-capped Himalayan Peaks together with crystalline glacial lake Tilicho revealed by the divine for travelers at the highest elevation in the world.  

The crystalline alpine lake, Tilicho Tal, mesmerizes everyone when she/he reaches its climax point. Nestled in an altitude of 4919m above sea level, Tilicho Lake is considered to be the holiest lake situated in the highest elevation in the world. The serene lake, Tilicho, is 4 kilometers in length, 1.2 kilometers in width and 200 meter in depth. The lake looks no less than a Paradise that is surrounded by breathtaking Himalayan peaks comprising Mt. Tilicho, Nilgiri, Muktinath, Gangapurna and so on. From religious perspective, it is believed that the visit to this lake transforms a stressful life into a peaceful one. Indeed, we feel lost from this busy world once we reach there by the virtue of the natural phenomena in and around the lake. Besides Buddhist and Hindu Pilgrims, many adventure lovers make their way to the lake every year from the world.

 

These days, because of vehicular access, the trek has become more convenient, economical and shorter than the previous ones (Meantime, we would sincerely like to inform potential journeyers that the classical way of Annapurna Circuit Trek has been completely disturbed by dusty road these days. That’s why we have modified itinerary of this trek and named it as, “Tilicho Lake-Muktinath Trek”).

 

Although one can directly take a vehicle from Kathmandu to reach Khangsar at 3840m in 2 days and start trek from there to the sacred lake of Tilicho; this manner of journey poses a high risk of Acute Mountain Sickness (high altitude sickness). Hence, it is better to go via overland drive up to the village of Pisang at 3200m and spend a night there. Past the vehicular road from Pisang, we follow regular trekking route to a pretty village, Manang at 3540m. Manang offers different things to explore and is a quite suitable place to take rest for high altitude acclimatization. The way ahead from Tilicho Lake takes us through a tea shop at the highest elevation in the world (Thorang La 5416m) and then to holy temple dedicated to the Lord of Salvation, Muktinath, that holds great importance to devotees of both Hindu and Buddhist religion. 

[Day 1] Arrival in Nepal

The flight to the land of Himalayas (Nepal) is highly pleasing and exciting one for every holiday maker. On a clear day, you get to see an amazing view of snow-capped mountain peaks, dense forest, and panoramic landscape through the windows of your airliner. We warmly welcome our valued clients at the exit gate of arrival terminal in the Tribhuvan International Airport of Kathmandu as soon as you complete immigration formalities, and, then, we escort you to a pre-booked hotel (3 Star) in downtown, Thamel. Depending on arrival time, we sincerely suggest our clients to stroll in the town for adaptation with local environment. If time permits, it is better to visit Kathmandu Durbar Square on foot instead of the next day. The visit helps you to familiarize yourself with the local ambiance.

[Day 2] Kathmandu – guided tour of UNESCO’s Heritage Sites

Today we shall be taking a guided tour of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites (Kathmandu Durbar Square, Hindu's Holiest Temple Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath and Swoyambhunath). Meantime, we will also obtain essential permits for trekking.

Kathmandu Durbar Square: The Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the three durbar squares listed in World’s Heritage Site within Kathmandu valley that dates back to 14th century. The Square holds palaces of kings of Malla Dynasty and Shah Dynasty who ruled over Kathmandu Valley in those periods. This area was where the kings of the country were crowned and legitimized when Nepal was still a kingdom. The site flaunts spectacular legacy of traditional architecture with pagoda styled structures embellished with intricately carved wooden exteriors. Hence, it has great historical and archaeological importance. The Square is also home to the Living Goddess Kumari and consists of several temples that have great importance in Nepalese festivals.

Pashupatinath: Situated at the bank of the holy river Bagmati, the Pasupatinath Temple is one of the most sacred Temples in Hindu’s world. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the Great Trinity in Hindu religion. It lies 5 km to the north-east from Thamel and is also a UNESCO's World Heritage Site. Pashupatinath visit is a truly spiritual experience where we can observe a mass prayer ceremony dedicated to Lord Shiva in the evening, meet the Sadhus and also observe the body cremation ritual. This temple is truly the embodiment of the Hindu religion and its practice. Holy monkeys and bulls are everywhere in the Pashupatinath area and one can get to see deer in the Slesmantak Jungle. 

Bouddhanath: The Great Bouddhanath Stupa, enlisted by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1979, holds deep religious, cultural and archaeological importance. This majestic meditative monument, located 7 km North East from main tourist town (Thamel) is 1 hector in width and 141.16 ft in height. Bouddhanath is the major destination of worship for Buddhists from Nepal, Tibet, South-East and Eastern Asia, and, of studies related to Buddhism. The Boudhanath Stupa, meaning the stupa of enlightenment, towers its surrounding town as the mandala of peace and beauty and has eyes of Buddha engraved in it. It is also known as the Stupa that answers all prayers for whoever circumambulates this holy site with pure thought is believed to acquire long life, freedom from ill-health, good fortune and great wisdom, and any prayers as well as entreaties offered to it are believed to be actually realized.

Swoyambhunath (Monkey Temple): Swoyambhunath Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple, is situated atop a hill towards the west of Thamel and consists of a stupa with several temples and monuments around its premise. The Stupa was built around 5th century and is a perfect spot for a panoramic view of Kathmandu valley. The visit to Swoyambhunath is also considered as an amalgamation of physical exercise with a fleet of 365 stairs to reach the premise. The stupa's area offers residence for monkeys and various types of birds, nuns and monks. 

[Day 3] Kathmandu (1320m) to Besi Shahar (830m) drive

Today we officially embark on our journey. We take a tourist bus from the Tourist Bus Park to a place called Besisahar in Lamjung via Prithivi Highway. The 8 hours’ drive to Besisahar along riversides and local towns gives us calming view of beautiful rivers, green hills, local villages and scenes of mountains far away. We stay overnight at Besi Shahar in a lodge. Although not a major urban hub, Besisahar has facilities including hospitals, good mobile reception, wifi and banking service.

[Day 4] Drive from Besi Shahar to Pisang at 3200m

From Besisahar we take an off road SUV (Sumo) to Pisang through the banks of Marsyangdi River, barley rice and potato fields, pine forests and waterfalls along the way. Our overland journey passes through some beautiful villages: Bhulbhule (840m), Bahundanda (1310m), Chyamje, Dharapani (1900m) Bagarchhap (2160m), Chame (2700m) and eventually reach at Pisang (3180m). During the journey we stop at Dharapani to register essential permits and continue our journey overlooking the forests of oaks, pine, rhododendrons (the national flower of Nepal), etc. We will halt at Chame, the head-quarter of Manang District, for a thirst-quenching drink. Chame offers a beautiful view of Lamjung, Annapurna II and Annapurna IV mountain-peaks. From Chame to Pisang we again follow the road through the Upper Marsyangdi river valley overlooking Buckwheat fields and the view of Pisang Peak and Annapurna II. The drive from Besisahar to Pisang is no less dramatic in terms of aesthetics and adventure. We stay overnight at Pisang, a beautiful village full of painted Mandalas and dragon mouth spouts.

[Day 5] Trek from Pisang to Manang 3540m

From Pisang we take the regular trek route off the vehicle road and start our trek. The trek from Pisang to Manang is about 6 hours long at a gentle pace passing through pine grooves, fields with yaks grazing and various crops to a steep ridge ascending from the right side of Marsyangdi River. The way is steep with lot of switchbacks and ascents to the village of Ngawal (3660m) which offers panoramic view of Annapurna ridge and the entire Marsyangdi River Valley. On the way we reach Bragga, a small Himalayan village at 3450m, which has the oldest Monastery of Manang region. Manang is only 45 minutes from Bragga. We stay overnight in a lodge at Manang.

[Day 6] Acclimatization at Manang

This day has been assigned for rest and acclimatization. Manang is a beautiful village like a Tibetan settlement. Throughout the day, excursion around Manang will offers spectacular views of the mountain ranges and enticing view of lake at the foot of Gangapurna icefall. The traditional village architecture is very interesting to observe in itself.

[Day 7] Trek from Manang to Khangsar 3840m

Today we leave for picturesque village of Khangsar from Manang. The way initially descends to Marsyangdi River from a small monastery with Mani Walls and prayer flags at various places on the way. We cross the river Jharsing Khola over a suspension bridge towards Khangsar all along enjoying the splendid views of Annapurna II and IV. As we approach Khagsar, we can see the Great Barrier of Himalayas opening up ahead of us. At Khagsar one can visit the famous Apple farms of Manang. We spend the night in a tea-shop (mountain guesthouse).

[Day 8] Trek from Khangsar to Tilicho Lake Base Camp 4200m

The trek from Khagsar to Tilicho Lake Base Camp ascends steeply through small monasteries and alpine vegetation and takes about five hours. The trail opens through the view of Marsyangdi River valley towered by Tilicho Peak and Idam Phra Peak to the Great Barrier of Himalayas ahead. After almost 45 minutes from Khagsar we reach a small monastery after which the way offers amazing views of ice pyramid of Kangur Peak (6981 m), Pisang Peak (6091 m), Manaslu (8163 m), Ngada Chuli (7871) and Himal Chuli (7893 m) and the Marsyangdi River Canyon. Towards the end of the trek, we will also have to pass through a debris slope which is probably the most challenging part of this trek. We stay overnight at a tea-shop (mountain guesthouse) in Tilicho Lake Base Camp.

[Day 9] Explore Tilicho Lake and return to Shree Kharka 3900m

The way uphill from base camp immediately opens up to reveal the Great Barrier of Himalyas. We pass through various ridges and small lakes in between on the way. Tilicho Lake is the lake situated at highest altitude and actually gives a surreal feelings to its visitors. On one side of the lake are weathered dry landscapes and on the other Himalyan Peaks directly ascend from it. The rich blue color of the lake in itself gives an out-worldly feeling. After spending a while at Tilicho Lake we descend to Shree Kharka.

[Day 10] Trek Shree Kharka to Yak Kharka 4060m

The trail from Shree Kharka continues to elevate towards Yak Kharka. The vegetation is predominantly alpine with only small shrubs and juniper on the way. Yak Kharka meaning Yak pasture is a relatively flat green land in this area where yaks spend their day grazing. We stay overnight in a lodge at Yak Kharka.

[Day 11] Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorang La Phedi 4450m

The trek from Yak Kharka to Thorang La Phedi is 6-7 hours ascending along the east side of river Jharsang Khola and falling after a while. While on this trail you may encounter several animals found in high altitude including Blue Mountain Sheep, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, and Bearded Vulture and on rare occasions, snow-leopards. We stay overnight in a lodge at Thorang La Phedi.

[Day 12] Cross High Camp 4850m, Thorang La 5416m and overnight stay at Muktinath 3800m

As we leave Phedi early morning. The trail takes sharp ascent to High Camp 4850m and Thorang La Pass (5416m), the highest point of this trek, alongside rocky ridges. We can continue to see the Great Barrier along with the weathered geography of Manang along the way. The view of Annapurnas, Gangapurna and Khatung peak along the way are no less enthralling. After that the way descends through meadows to Muktinath, an important pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists. Taking Bath with the water flowing from 108 taps of Muktinath Temple is said to wash away all our sins. We can visit the temple today or the next day before leaving for Jomsom. We stay overnight in a lodge at Muktinath.

[Day 13] Excursion in and around Muktinath, drive to Jomsom 2700m

Muktinath Temple is also surrounded by few Buddhist monasteries and this whole area is of great importance to followers of Hinduism and Buddhism. The entire area radiates spiritual feeling of wholesomeness and hence, is equally visited by people who do not claim to follow any faith. From Muktinath we take a Jeep to a place called Jomsom where the domestic airport of Mustang district lies. Jomsom is towered by Nilgiri Mountain and is situated in the banks of Kali Gandaki River. We stay overnight in a lodge at Jomsom

[Day 14] Fly back Kathmandu via Pokhara

From Jomsom we take morning flight to Pokhara, the lake city of Nepal and catch connecting flight to Kathmandu. We check-in at the pre-booked hotel in Thamel. Our valued clients will have time to explore local market in Kathmandu to buy souvenir for family members, relatives and friends.

[Day 15] Depart Nepal for home country or next destination

Trip Facts