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Tilicho Lake Trek

The great Himalayan range has elevated the pride and glory of Nepal. It has also given beautiful glacial-fed high-altitude lakes. The Himalayas, the quaint settlement and culture, ancient heritage and monuments, exotic geography has captivated explorers and trekkers. These are reasons to visit Nepal. And now the captivating glacial lakes have added another reason to visit Nepal. The wonderful nature is just keeps on piling up, don’t they?

Out of many such lakes which are obviously ravishing and equally sought-after, Tilicho Lake probably comes up on the top of the list. Main reason is that it is just up there very close to Kathmandu. So let us dive into a pool of beauty of Tilicho and unravel more.


Tilicho, the stunning alpine lake situated at an altitude of 4,919 meters in Annapurna range is sometimes called the highest lake for its size in the world. But, there are many lakes at higher elevation that are even larger in Nepal itself. So the claim is quite controversial. The lake is located in the vicinity of Manang valley just a week away from Kathmandu.

Beside the beauty of Tilicho, it is also one of the revered lakes in Nepal. As per Hindu beliefs, Tilicho is the ancient Kak Buksundi Lake mentioned in epic Ramayan. Kak Buksundi was a sage, who is believed to have first told the happenings of Ramayan to Garud (king of birds) near this very lake. Another interesting twist of this belief is that the sage took a form of crow while telling the story. Thus, as crow translates to Kak in Sanskrit, the sage was named Kak Bhuksundi.


Trek to Tilicho Lake became popular as a rewarding side hike of Annapurna Circuit trek. From Manang the trek takes additional 3 to 4 days. Moreover, the enticing beauty of the lake has attracted trekkers to embark in sole Tilicho lake trek.

For pilgrims and devotees, Tilicho is revered as a sacred site; and for nature-lovers, it is the sublime art to praise. Despite different notion the exquisite beauty of Tilicho is irresistible. Actually it is the very reason Tilicho Lake has caught so much attention lately.

Tilicho Lake trek is evidently one of the most rewarding treks with a mesmerizing Himalayan range, panoramic view of hills with verdant forest, quaint settlements in the remote valleys and vibrant villages doted along the route. There are distinctive cultures and ethnic varieties in the region. But of course, to triumph over this incredible lake at such a height isn’t easy.

As the trek takes place in the Annapurna region, it has the finest routes that unravel the different side of Annapurna with waterfalls, water streams, and diverse flora and faunas. The entire trek has a lot of pleasent surprise for you from a wide range of terrain, sub-tropical to a high and dry landscape resembling Tibetan Plateau.

Tilicho lake and the trek itself let you explore the serene and natural beauty of the land. The trek opens a new horizon to give you special experience. Although the trek is a bit tough the rewards are truly immense. It is a perfect destination for you if you are into nature and want to trek in a remote and tranquil path.


Image Credit @ hal_em77


On your journey towards Tilicho lake you come across several hidden settlements that can awe-struck you. The people in the villages have been living there for generations without modern facilities and utilities. Despite the difficult living condition the people of these far flung villages has some relief from the road that has reached Manang last year. Their traditional life is now exposed by this road though it is still very rough.

In the initial stage of the journey your encounter are blended with modern amenities; as you scale higher elevation the amenities are scarce. You may prefer to call it dull, but the people lives in perfect happiness and harmony surrounded by green landscapes against the backdrop of stunning towering peaks.

One of the most exquisite valleys to Tilicho Lake is Manang valley. The valley is so mesmerizing that it is referred to as the jewel of Annapurna circuit. Manang is a recognized hidden valley of South-Asia because of its beautiful scenery and distinctive settlements.


As you make your way to an elevation of 4,919 meters you are bestowed by stunning views of the mountain. The breathtaking landscapes of green hills in the lap of snow-capped mountains with the blue sky in background can’t be better. While walking along the ridge or rocky path of the hills the mountains and the Himalayan range follows you till the end of your journey. Another beautiful part of Tilicho lake trek is waterfalls and streams. Although they aren’t big and roaring waterfalls like you expect, the snow fed waterfalls though small would captivate your attention.


While you walk through the picturesque villages and settlements, you get chance to meet local people and know them and their culture much more closely. This is better approach than to rush ahead to your destination. These Himalayan people are warm-hearted; they are happy to serve you with best of their hospitality.

Some predominant ethnic clans you encounter on the trail are Gurung and Manangba. Thakalis are in Kali Gandaki valley. Gurung villages are widely distributed from the hill of Gorkha in the east to as far as Palpa in the west. But their heartland is centered on the hills and valleys between Marsyandi and Kali Gandaki River. Though people of Manang called themselves Gurung yet their culture is similar to Tibetan. People residing in Manang valley are skilled traders. Their cultural root is Tibetan (Bhot). Gurung are well known for their martial prowess. Most young men are enlisted in Indian, British and Nepal Army.

Gurung and Manangba of upper Marsyangdi valley are Buddhists. Their faith has traces of their heritage in ancient shamanistic rituals. The people of lower Marsyangdi valley are predominantly Hindu. Life of all these different clans of people depicts primitive lifestyle. They follow their traditions and cultures. These idyllic mountain villages in the lap of impressive snowy Himalayan peaks with a quaint lifestyle are rich in traditions and Tibetan Buddhist culture.

If you want to know more about local culture and tradition it is best to visit gompas and monasteries that you come across on the trail on your way to Manang and Tilicho Lake. You can always pay a visit and talk with lamas and anis (nuns).


Image Credit @Dichhanta khadka

The trek to Tilicho Lake in Annapurna region starts from Besi Sahar. It follows the trail along the famous Annapurna circuit route which goes along Marsyangdi River valley.

You get to see incredible view of Manaslu and Himal Chuli peaks towards eastern horizon. As you travel further from Besi Sahar the stunning view of some of the tallest mountain in the worlds including Annapurna (8,091) – 10th highest, Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters) – 7th highest, Manaslu (8,163 meters)- 8thhighest and Machhapuchhre (6,993 meters) would be visible.

As you gradually travel towards the lake you pass through some fantastic waterfalls, walk in suspension bridges virtually floated in the air, and come across villages with small monasteries, chorten, mani walls and prayer flags. The trekking trail passes through delightful forest and some of the most dramatic scenic view of the snow capped mountains.

When you finally get to the lake the enchanting view of Tilicho Lake would certainly make you speechless. After you have explored the unique beauty of the lake you can extend your journey to Muktinath Temple (3760m) on other side of Annapurna range by crossing a Thorang La; a high pass at the elevation of 5416 meter. Muktinath temple is a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus as well as Buddhists.

By now at Tilicho Lake you are properly acclimatize to the thin air which is necessary to cross Thorong La. The high pass adds more thrill in your adventure. You gradually ascend the steep climb from Yak Kharka (animal pasture) and cross Thorong La. After short rest descend to Muktinath. Thorong La at 5416 meter has a vantage point from where you can get wide angel view of the entire Annapurna range, Machhapuchre, Dhaulagiri, and Manaslu. This moment would be highlight of your epic journey.

After an overnight stay at Muktinath descend further to Jomsom (2760m) . The trail passes through some ancient caves, meadows and streams. The walk on the barren land is delightful with monasteries, gompas and chortens. After a short break at Kagbeni continue to walk all the way to Jomsom through the windy trail of Kali Gandaki Valley.

From Jomsom it is best to take a short flight to Pokhara. The plane takes its flight path through Kali Gandaki valley with view of Annapurna in the east and Dhaulagiri in the west. Kail Gandaki is one of the world’s deepest gorges. There is a rough road through the deep George from Jomsom to Pokhara through Beni Bazar. You may stay overnight in Lake city of Pokhara or take a flight or bus journey to Kathmandu. The Tilicho Lake trek with an extension over Thorang La would be indeed a most memorable journey in your life.


TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card is mandatory to travel in Annapurna region. Since you travel through the region covered by Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), a government sponsored nature conservation work; you need a permit to enter the area.

You need a photocopy of your passport and two passport size photos to get TIMs card and ACAP permit. You can obtain both from Nepal Tourism Board offices located in Exhibition road in Kathmandu. The cost for Tim’s card is NP Rs 1,200 and ACAP is NP Rs 3,000.

Trip Map