One of the less well-known and more recently opened up areas for trekking in Nepal is the Tsum Valley. It has been only open to visitors in 2008. This enchanted valley is a beautiful and sacred pilgrimage site located in northern Gorkha, and is often included as part of the Manaslu trek. Travel to the Tsum Valley is an incredible experience. Here are some important things to know about the area.
History of the Tsum Valley
The valley has its own distinct culture, influenced by Tibetan culture. It has religious significance as Yogi Chyuchin Milarapa, a legendary Buddhist sage, meditated in one of the caves in the mountains here. This sacred cave, known as Piren Phu (Pigeon Cave), is near a village called Burji. A story tells how the sage, who often disguised himself when he went to beg for food in the village, was once given just a meager scrap of bread by one of the village women. Soon after, this woman’s field became totally barren. It is said that even today you can see a small plot of land in the village where nothing grows.
In a monastery nearby are some statues of Avalokiteshwara, Buddha and Tara. You can also see the footprint of Milerapa. There are many religious texts in Piren Phu as well as ancient scripts on the stones and ceiling. Other interesting monasteries are Rachen Gompa, established in 1905 in the Shiar Khola Valley; Mu Gompa, established in the late-19th century, a six-hour hike from Chekkam; Dephyudonma Gompa, the oldest gompa in the Tsum Valley; and Lungdang Gompa, established in the early-20th century through the determined efforts of a blind man.
Travel to the Tsum Valley
The main way into this valley is by a trail that leads into the Manaslu Conservation Area. The route goes through a steep-sided gorge. You climb up to 1,200 meters, passing many waterfalls. It takes a couple of days to get to the Tsum Valley, passing through a narrow canyon with sheer sides and full of large boulders. Buddhist religious symbols are painted on the boulders, as well as the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, in massive meter-high Tibetan letters. You then come to the villages of Tsum Valley, at an altitude of between 2,400 and 3,700 meters above sea level.
Festivals in the Valley
During December and January, the very important Dhachyang festival (festival of the horses) is held here. Beautifully decorated horses participate in a race. If you come in May, you can celebrate Saka Dawa with the locals, in a celebration commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and demise of Lord Buddha.