Tilicho Lake is a spectacular glacial lake in the Annapurna Region of the Nepal Himalayas. It is a trekking as well as a pilgrimage destination. Most trekkers visit this lake as a side trip while trekking along the Annapurna Circuit Route or the Thorung La Pass. Surrounded by tall snow-covered mountains and frozen glaciers, Tilicho is one of the world's most beautiful high-altitude lakes. It was Nepal's highest lake, but after the discovery of Kanjin Sara Lake in Chame, at an elevation of 5002 meters, in 2019, Tilicho slid to the second spot.
Located in the Manang district, Tilicho Lake is a must-visit destination for trekkers walking along the Annapurna Circuit Trail. The lake also has a deep spiritual value. For Hindus, Tilicho is the sacred lake Kag Bhusundi which is mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Buddhists revere this lake as the Buddhist saint Milarepa is said to have meditated on the banks of Tilicho.
Tilicho Lake Highlights
- Amazing view of Tilicho Peak, Nilgiri Himal, Annapurna Range, Gangapurna, etc.
- Experience pristine and raw nature undisturbed by human habitation
- Fewer trekkers on the trail
- Covered with snow throughout the year
- Stunning colors – a turquoise lake surrounded by pure white snow
- Trek through culturally rich mountain villages to reach the lake
How to reach Tilicho Lake?
To access the trailhead to Tilicho Lake, one has to reach Khangsar, the last village on the Tilicho trail. To get to Khangsar, you can take a jeep ride to Manang or Chame and walk to Khangsar from there. Or you can trek from Bulbule or Dharapani and trek for a couple of days, acclimatizing before hiking to Tilicho Lake.
People these days also fly directly to Hongde Airport in Manang from Pokhara or Kathmandu and start their trek from Manang. But starting directly after flying into Manang can be dangerous as you may suffer from altitude sickness. If your body is not properly acclimatized, there’s a high risk of suffering from AMS.
There's also a rough dirt track to Khangsar, and cyclists and bikers can ride all the way to Khangsar. Some daring cyclists ride all the way to Tilicho Base Camp.
Those who can afford it can use helicopter charters. Helicopter companies offer Tilicho Lake Helicopter Tour from Pokhara or Kathmandu. You can fly directly to the lake, spend some time there and return to the city the same day. Heli tours to Tilicho Lake are quite popular among Hindu pilgrims who cannot trek to Tilicho Lake.
Trek to Tilicho Lake
You start your trek from the village of Khangsar. After walking for 4 to 5 hours, you reach the Tilicho base Camp, where you can stay overnight. There are a few lodges that cater to trekkers walking along this route. After staying overnight at the base camp, you can start your hike early (around 2-3 AM) the next day.
The trail is long and tiring, and the increase in altitude makes walking difficult. It's difficult to breathe at this point, and further, the freezing cold makes taking each step an ordeal. After starting from Base Camp at about an hour, you reach a place known as Bais Ghumti(22 turnings), where you will have to walk along a winding route up a hill with 22 switchbacks. After covering the switchbacks, you will come to the top of the mountain and walk across a plain field of snow for about 45 minutes. After some steep ascents, you will finally reach Tilicho Lake.
If you want to save time discovering the package, check out our 17-day Annapurna Circuit Trek with a visit to Tilicho Lake.
The trek to Tilicho Lake is moderately difficult. Since the lake is situated at an altitude of 4919 meters getting there will be physically strenuous, especially for those not used to walking in high altitudes. Proper acclimatization is very important before setting off on your trek.
The route at some sections is quite dangerous. For about an hour or so, you will have to walk through a landslide-prone area. The trail winds through the sides of barren mountains where loose rocks and debris keep sliding down. You will be walking on paths with exposed sides and with a sheer drop. Most sections of the trail will be covered with snow, so having appropriate shoes is very important.
Accommodation and Food
There are teahouses and lodges available in Manang, Chame, and other points on the trekking route. At Tilicho Base Camp, there are a few lodges where you can stay overnight. The facilities offered at most of the lodges are pretty basic - rooms with beds(mattresses, pillows, and quilts or blankets), attached or shared toilets, etc. The lodge owners take an extra charge for charging electronic gadgets. Wi-fi, if available, also costs extra. There's no central heating at the lodges, and you will have to rely on your warm clothes and blankets to keep you warm through the chilly night.
Food, as in other mountainous regions of Nepal, is quite costly here. As it's difficult to transport items from the cities, the food items sold along the route can be three or four times higher than in the lower towns and cities. However, you can expect freshly cooked and nutritious meals at the teahouses.
As the lake lies at an altitude of 4919 meters, altitude sickness is a big concern. One should acclimatize properly before heading to Tilicho Lake. Drink plenty of warm fluids and water to keep yourself hydrated. The route to the lake is also a bit hazardous. There are landslide-prone areas, and the narrow paths have sheer drops. Having insurance coverage is essential in case of any untoward incident during the trek.
Tilicho Lake is a sacred site for the Hindus as the lake is supposed to be Kag Bhusundi, the holy lake where sage Kag Bhusundi is said to have narrated the events of the Ramayana to the king of the bird's Garuda. Tilicho is also sacred for the Buddhists as the saint Milarepa meditated by the lakeside.
Other Attractions close to Tlicho Lake
Thorung La Pass, Ice Lake, Muktinath Temple, and Jomsom are some of the attractions close to Tilicho Lake. The cultural experience while trekking along this route is also quite amazing. The Bhotia villages(Chame, Pisang, Manang, etc.) on this route follow Tibetan culture and traditions. Their way of life, attire, and religion are all quite different from those of the middle hills and the cities. The people living in this part of Nepal trace their origin to Tibet, which lies close to this region. They have preserved the old Tibetan way of life, language, and culture.
Is Tilicho the highest lake in the world?
The answer is no. While the internet is flooded with information about Tilicho being the world's highest lake, it’s not true. The world's highest lake is Ojas Del Salado in South America. Situated between Chile and Argentina, Ojas del Salado lies at an altitude of 6390 meters. There are many lakes in South America as well as Tibet that are located higher than Tilicho.
One will be surprised to know that Tilicho is not even the highest lake in Nepal. After the discovery of Kajin Sara Lake in Chame by a group of mountaineers in 2019, Tilicho lost the title of Nepal's highest lake.
Tilicho may not be the world's highest lake, but it undoubtedly is one of the world's most beautiful and gorgeous high-altitude lakes.
If you are trekking along the Annapurna Circuit trail, you should not miss out on the opportunity to visit Tilicho Lake. Surrounded by undisturbed nature and some of the tallest peaks in the world, Tilicho Lake remains one of the natural wonders of the Himalayas.