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Tilicho Lake

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake covered in snow

Tilicho Lake was formed from an ancestral glacier that carved a depression into a mountain in the Manang district of the Annapurna range.  When the glacier melted if filled the depression, forming a lake with a surface area of 1.9 sq mi at an elevation of 16,138 ft.  As an interesting side note, the lake is one of the highest lakes to have been scuba dived in.

Tilicho Lake is in the Annapurna massif, which is an amazing mountain range with gorgeous views.  From Tilico Lake you can see Tilicho Peak, Khangsar Kang, Glacier Dome, Gangapurna, Annapurna III, Om Myurpa, and Idam Phra mountain peaks. However, at the top of the trail to Tilicho Lake you can see Pisang Peak, and all the Chulu peaks. The hike is a wonderful experience.  I love everything about this place, especially its proximity to Pokhara (34 linear miles).

How to get there

Tilicho Lake
Tilicho Lake in the summer

The only way I know how to get to Tilicho Lake is by walking. Tilicho Lake is about 3 to 4 days hike off the main Annapurna Circuit trail.  To get there, people generally start in Besisahar and follow the Marshyangdi River north on the Annapurna Circuit trail. The trail then passes through Manang, where people acclimate to the high elevations.  The next stop before Tilicho Lake is in Shree Kharka.  Tilicho Lake is a 4-hour hike from Shree Kharka.

You can also go the opposite way, which starts in Marpha, Syangja, or Jomsom. Most people start this route in Jomsom, but it is accessible from any of the three locations. There are 2 alternate routes to the Tilicho Trek. The southern route has a lower altitude and is preferred by people who are prone to altitude sickness.

Tilicho Lake Trek

Day 01: Meet guide and check into a hotel

Day 02: Be chauffeured to Jagart. -08 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Dharapani. -05hrs

Day 04: Trek to Chame. -05

Day 05: Trek to Pisang. -05 hrs

Day 06: Trek to Manang. -05 hrs

Day 07: Acclimate in Manange and go on local hikes

Day 08: Trek to Shree Kharka. -04 hrs

Day 09: Trek to Tilicho Lake. -04 hrs

Day 10: Trek to Tilicho Base Camp. -04 hrs

Day 11: Trek to Phu through Mesokanto. -06 hrs

Day 12: Trek to Thinitaon through Kaisang. 07 hrs

Day 13: Finish the Trek in Jomsom. -02 hrs

Day 14: Travel to Pokhara.

What to bring and where to stay

Tilicho Lake
Tilicho Lake in summer with prayer flags

When you go on the Tilicho Lake trek, make sure you have a solid pare of hiking boots, a sleeping bag, UV protective sunglasses, water filter, warm cloths, hat, sunscreen, trekking poles (if you use them), and maybe some chap stick.  You can also use a SteriPEN in place of a water filter.  A lot of people also suggest water sanitizing tablets.  I prefer using a water filter but it’s your choice.  Also, make sure your sun glasses are UV protected.  Tint, and polarization do not guarantee UV protection.

When you pack your cloths make sure you can layer them, and that they are warm.  Sherpa Adventure Gear has great quality products with a wonderful selection for both men and women.  Their products are designed and manufactured to be layer-able.  I am taking the extra time to write this because Tilicho lake stays frozen through April and into spring.  However, if you go in the summer, you may want to dress a little lighter, and with rain gear.

Tea houses/ guest lodges are spread throughout the trail.  You can get a good night’s rest and a hot meal at these locations.   This eliminates the need for tent camping; However, there are sites available to people who wish to tent camp.  If you are one of the hardy souls that hasn’t given in to glamping in tea houses, check our Eastern Mountain Sports for some great camping gear.

When to go

The most commonly quoted “best time” to visit Nepal is in the fall months of September through November.  The second “best time” most often quoted is the spring months of March through May.  I’ve even herd April through June to visit Tilicho Lake.  I prefer the spring season over the fall because rhododendrons bloom in April.

The fall season, September through November of 2016, experienced the highest volume of traffic in the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In total, 43,263 people visited the area in this time.  In September, October, and November 11,432, 19,780, and 11,951 people visited the area respectively.

People generally find the winter season uncomfortably cold.  And therefore, less people visit the area during this time.  The winter season, December through February 2016, experienced the second lowest volume of traffic in the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In total, 14,502 people visited the area during this time.  In December, January, and February 6,789, 3,226, and 4,487 people visited the area respectively.

The spring season, March through May 2016, experience the second highest volume of traffic in the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In total, 27,440 people visited the area in this time frame.  In March, April, and May the number of visitors were 10,702, 11,757, and 4,981 respectively.

People generally find the summer season uncomfortably hot and wet.  Due to the monsoon rians road conditions are not great and landslides are a frequent occurrence at this time.  Therefore, fewer people visit the area in the summer season.  The summer season, June through August of 2016, experienced the lowest volume of traffic in the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In total, 9,589 people visited the area in this time frame.  In June, July, and August the number of visitors were 2,065, 3,272, and 4,252 respectively.

Table 1 number of visitors to Annapurna Conservation area by month

Figure 1 number of visitors to the Annapurna Conservation area by month


An all expenses paid trip to Tilicho Lake will cost $2,090 through premium websites like Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure.  You can do the trip independently, without a guide service, on a “pay as you go basis.”  I provided a list below of expected costs.  If you still want the benefits of having a guide service at a reduced rate, you can pick which items you want to pay for.  Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure will be happy to accommodate you.

  • $25/day guide
  • $15/day porter
  • $30/day food
  • $30/day room board
  • $40 licenses
  • $100 transportation

If you were to go to Tlicho lake on a budget, you could probably do the entire trip for about $770.  That price does not include guide or porter, and it only allows for $15/day to be spent on food.  You can reduce the price by an additional $30/ day by not staying in hotels or tea houses.

Historical significance

tilicho lake
Looking off the edge of the world at Tilicho Lake

There is no known historical significance or religious importance of this lake to Hindus or Buddhists.  In recent times though, August 2001, Hindu pilgrims from around the world ascended to Tilicho Lake to meditate and to listen to Morari Bapu read from the 7th chapter of the Ramayana.

He and his followers believe Tilicho Lake (Kak Bhusundi Sarovar) is a lake mentioned in the Ramayana.  According to the story, a crow recited the Ramayana to Garuda (a humanoid bird god) at the lake and it is also the place where Lord Shiva found solace after the death of Sati (goddess of marital happiness and longevity).  The text sites the lake as being at the base of Annapurna and north of the Nilgiri mountains (Blue mountains).


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