Tilicho Lake at 4,949 m (or 4920 m) collects the glacial melt of the entire northern slopes of Annapurna Mountain range and the Thorong Peak.
This stunningly beautiful lake is one of the worlds highest lakes in the world with a dangerous trail that can be accessed from Manang. From what I learn from locals and the guide, there are other lakes at much higher altitude in Nepal. Perhaps higher and bigger ones in Tibet as well. However, Tilicho is still revered as the highest by many and I wouldn’t bother debating for it’s beauty surpasses the facts.
I read it somewhere online, that in 2001, Hindu pilgrims from around the world hiked to the lake, convinced it is a holy spot mentioned in the Ramayan – a holy book of the Hindus. Well, I am certainly happy for them for doing this treacherous trek.
Basically what you see in the pictures is a landslide with a narrow trail. One small mistake, you are going down the hill reaching the river on the bottom.
It is a 3-4 days detour from Annapurna Circuit trek. Everyone on the circuit trek will pass through Manang village and stays an extra day for acclimatization. This is the point where the trail to Tilicho Lake starts.
From Manang one has to hike to Khangsar Valley, Tilicho Base Camp, and to Tilicho lake.
The view point of the lake is at 5,200 m. This hike makes it a great acclimatization for Thoroung La Pass. However, the hike is very hard as I mentioned earlier.
From Tilicho base camp to lake it’s a 1000m elevation gain and it took us 5.5hrs to get to the top and another 2.5hrs to walk back. It’s a lot of elevation gain at that altitude. So, one has to walk extremely slow to avoid altitude issue.
One important thing to note here: There is no water source on this trail. You have to pack enough water from the base camp. I drank at least 4liters of water hiking up.
At the top, there is a small tea house that is open till lunch time. There are 3 tea houses in Tilicho Base Camp. And one of these owners also operates the tea house at the lake for lunch and refreshments. If the weather is bad, don’t expect the tea house to be open.
In order to get back to Annapurna Circuit after this detour, there is no need to go back to Manang. You can join the trail from Yak Kharka.
To deal with altitude sickness and to acclimatize better, it is recommended to take a rest day after every 1000m elevation gain.
Also checkout: Our Altitude Sickness lessons from 2-months of hiking in Nepal.
If you do plan to hike Annapurna circuit, I highly recommend Tilicho lake detour. Yes, this adds another 4-5 extra days, including rest day, to your itinerary. If you are already taking time off for Annapurna circuit, why not add more days ?!
This nerve wrecking hike was one of the toughest ones I have done and most proud of when it comes to my physical and mental toughness.
What about you? Have you ever been in a hike that pushed you to the edge that you still think about and wonder how you managed it ?