Nature Trail
Trek Like a Local: Explore the Secrets of Nepal's Restricted Tsum Valley

Trek Like a Local: Explore the Secrets of Nepal's Restricted Tsum Valley

The Tsum Valley is situated in the Gorkha district of western Nepal, near the border with Tibet. It rests in the Manaslu region and lies in an altitude range from 1905m at Lokpa to over 5093m at Ngula Dhojhyang Pass on the Tibetan border.

Tsum Valley is bounded by three high passes - Ngula Dhojhyang (5093m), Thapla Pass (5104m), and Yamdro/Humlung Pass (5326m). The Tsum Valley is home to several ancient monasteries, including the Mu Gompa (3700 m /12,139 ft) and Rachen Gompa (3240 m). Trekkers can witness traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices, sacred caves, mani walls (inscribed with Buddhist mantras), and chortens (stupas).

Living and Culture of Tsum Valley

The Tsum valley is considered a 'Beyul' or hidden sacred valley by Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya Buddhist sects. Tsum Valley has four distinct climatic zones, ranging from sub-tropical, cool temperature, sub-alpine, and alpine climatic zones.

Around two to four thousand people live in the Tsum Valley in the northwest part of Nepal, on the base of the world’s eighth-highest mountain, Manaslu. These people are mostly Tibetan-speaking Mongolian people who inhabit the high valleys along the Budhi Gandaki and Shiar Khola.

One of the natural highlights of the trek is the Chhuypang Chhenmo waterfall, which cascades down about 350 meters in a single spectacular drop, freezing into an icefall during the winter months. Tsum Valley people were in favor of the polyandry system, where all brothers of a family get married to a single girl, but now awareness has been spread on behalf of this.

How long does the Tsum Valley trek take?

The typical Tsum Valley Trek takes around 15-20 days, allowing time to acclimatize and explore the cultural and natural attractions of the region. To trek in the Tsum Valley, you'll need to obtain a special permit from the Nepal Tourism Board, in addition to the standard Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP).

Tsum Valley was closed to foreigners until 1992, preserving its ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture and traditions. But was opened, then again, was listed in a restricted area since 2008, offering a rare glimpse into a remote Himalayan way of life.

The trek usually starts from Arughat or Soti Khola and follows the Budhi Gandaki River valley before entering the Tsum Valley. The trail passes through beautiful forests, crosses suspension bridges, and offers stunning mountain views, including the nearby peak of Manaslu (8,163m).

What is the Shyagya tradition of Tsum Valley?

The Shyagya tradition is a novelty practice of nonviolence deeply rooted in the local community of Tsum Valley. This centuries-old tradition dates back to when the people of Tsum Valley followed the principle of non-violence in their daily lives. It is believed to have started around 1922, on command of the local chief, to abstain from any form of violence against animals

Shyagya tradition is a profound respect for all life forms, refraining from harming aquatic and terrestrial species, burning forests and mountains, engaging in sustainable practices, and protecting the local ecosystem.

Festival in Tsum Valley

The Buddhist land of Tsum Valley observes different unique festivals in accordance with Buddhist monks, Lamas. Do you know that chortens ( stupas) are erected to ward off evil spirits in their sacred kingdom?

Besides, the mani walls across the Manaslu and Tsum valley trek depict the long stone walls carved with mantras to protect the villages. One can witness the long walls of over 250 m in the villages of Dzong and Phurpe on the way to Tsum Valley.

1. Tsampa Lhosar

Tsum Valley people engage in a vibrant celebration of Lhosar during the lunar new year. The Tsumbas wear traditional attire, “Chupa,” a long-sleeved shirt, over a “Shambo,” a skirt, and intricate jewelry to mark the beginning of joy. As Lhosar approaches, they also clean and whitewash their home and decorate it with the sun, moon, and the auspicious reversed swastika symbol.

As Lhosar approaches, the people of Tsum Valley engage in thorough cleaning and whitewashing of their homes, monasteries, and villages. They decorate their houses with traditional symbols like the sun, moon, and the auspicious reversed swastika.

The monasteries in the Manaslu region, such as the Mu Gompa, Gumba Lungdang, and Rachen Gompa, are decorated. Also, monks celebrate special prayer ceremonies and rituals with chanting, butter lamp offerings, and the unfurling of sacred Buddhist scriptures.

Families gather to make various forms of Tsampa, including sweet and savory varieties of roasted barley flour dishes, which are then shared with neighbors and visitors. Also, the community of Tsum Valley brews and consumes a traditional barley beer called Chang, amidst Tibetan Buddhist rituals and traditions.

2. Saka Dawa

Saka Dawa, also known as Saga Dawa, is the most auspicious month in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. Saka Dawa is celebrated on the 15th lunar day, with a full moon celebration on the 4th month of their calendar, falling between April and June. This holiest of days (coinciding with Buddha Purnima) commemorates three pivotal events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha: his birth, enlightenment, and passing into parinirvana (death).

The name "Saka Dawa" has profound astrological significance, where Dawa means "month." At the same time, Saka refers to a prominent star visible during this lunar cycle, one of the 28 major stars used in Tibetan astrology.

Monks perform special pujas (prayers) in the early morning and recite sacred sutras at the monasteries. These festivities also include the artistic cham dances, where masked dancers depict the victory of good over evil. Their focus is on ethical conduct (sila), generosity (dana), and meditation based on Buddhist philosophy.

3. Dhachyang

The second most important festival is Dhachyang (the Horse Festival). Dhachyang is celebrated in December/January by holding horse races and is especially dedicated to the welfare of people.

Every settlement in the Tsum Valley celebrates Dhachyang on a slightly different date. Horses are richly decorated and the riders clad themselves in traditional attire and wear elaborate jewellery. While only men participate in the horseracing, women join in the dancing and singing in the evening

In addition to this Metha Dhachyang, there is a celebration with the ancient archery transition prevailing, the rolling of traditional drums, and cultural performances by the people of Manang and the Manaslu region overall.

4. Fanning

The festival of Fanning is celebrated to mark the attainment of internal energy (based on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy). It is believed that people can get divine energy from any food, including water.

That's why people consume nutritious and delicious food in mid-August not only to fuel their lifestyle but to feed their souls with good spirits. The inhabitants of Manaslu also eat renduk (stewed vegetable curry), Dal Bhat, gundruk, traditional beer Chhang, and nutritional yeast to cleanse the energy around them.

Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek Special Permit

Season Price per Individual
Autumn (September to November) USD 70 for a week + (USD 10 per day afterward)
December to August USD 50 for a week+ (and then, USD 7 per day)

In addition, the trekking permit also includes the Manaslu Conservation Area Permit, which costs Rs 100 for Nepalese individuals. It is charged at Rs 1000 per individual for SAARC nations, and other foreign nationals have to pay Rs 3000 for their entry fees in the Manaslu region.

Popular Activities in Tsum Valley, Nepal

The Tsum Valley is known for its rich Tibetan Buddhist culture. Visiting ancient monasteries like Mu Gompa and Rachen Gompa and exploring mani walls, chortens, and prayer flags are popular activities.

The main activity in the Tsum Valley is trekking through the remote Himalayan landscape, passing villages, forests, and high mountain deserts. The valley is a sacred pilgrimage destination, with Milarepa caves (meditated in by Buddhist saints like Milarepa).

The Tsum Valley Trek is also a popular activity where you get the opportunity to spot Himalayan thar, blue sheep, and other wildlife in their natural habitats. Also, the trekkers can have additional side trails over high mountain passes like Ngula Dhojhyang (5093m) and Yamdro/Humlung Pass (5326m).

The Tsum Valley Trek is rated as moderate to challenging due to the high altitudes involved, reaching around 4,000m at places like Mu Gompa and Ganesh Himal Base Camp. Prior acclimatization and trekking experience are recommended for this fairly long trek of 16 to 20 days.

Tips to Pack for Your Tsum Valley Trek

The excitement of the trek is one thing and overdoing your packing is a whole other level of mess when you don’t have any idea how much you can carry during your trek. Keeping in mind every little thing you need to know during your packing, we have made some important tips for your Tsum Valley trek

1. Rent your trekking gear instead of buying it first hand

Trekking gear rental culture has been quite prominent in Nepal, itself, so you can rent, camping tents, bags, mats, sleeping bags, and other essentials that you might need on the Tsum Valley Trek.

2. Have medical coverage by purchasing travel insurance for the trek

Getting your travel insurance for strenuous activities like trekking in high-altitude regions is advisable. In case of a medical emergency, you can claim it and benefit, so protect yourself for peace of mind.

3. Get healthy snacks for the Tsum Valley trek

Pack protein bars and snacks as healthy appetizers or energy food on the trekking journey. Look for healthy ones, packed with energy, as per your preferences. Also, carry a water purification tablet to drink fresh water from the stream or tap, rather than buying mineral water bottles on the Tsum Valley trekking route.

4. Minimalistic and Mindful packing for Tsum Valley Trek

Packing mindfully changes the game for you. Ensure you pack at most 15 kg on your trekking journey. Above all, get comfortable trekking boots, layer clothes, have a medical emergency kit and snacks, and also carry Nepali rupees safely, as ATMs might not be available everywhere in the trekking area.

For more information, you can contact us or inquiry

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