Day 0: Before the Yatra

Route Map

Click on map points and routes to get details.

Clothes to Carry

You can buy most of the winter warm clothes from Decathlon.

Hiking Shoes/Boots 1
Blister Free Sox 1
Woolen/Warm Sox 1
Regular Shoes 1
Cotton Sox 4
Thermals 1
Monkey Cap 1
Inner warm Glove 1
Outer Glove 1
Down Jacket 1
Hat 1
UV Resist Sun Glasses 1
T-Shirts 5
Rain Jacket and pants with hood 1
Cotton Pants 5
Cotton Full Sleeve Shirts 3
Cotton Half Sleeve Shirts 3
Chappals 1
Light Towel 2
Hiking Pants 1
Hand Sleeve 1
Tube Mask 1
Sweater Half Sleeve and Full Sleeve 1
Fleece Jacket 1
Inner T-shirts 3
Knee Pads 1

In addition, take a small backpack (will be with the porter during Parikrama) and a large backpack or suitcase. The large one will be left behind at Kathmandu. During the Parikrama you can only carry one change of clothes, rain wear. You will be wearing 3 layers of clothes and won’t change them once you start off from Yamadwar.

Carry dry fruits, energy bars and trail mix. Carry a small 750 ml  thermos, plastic cover for the backpack. You are also advised to carry Diamox (IOPAR SR 250mg) and eat one a day before breakfast from Simikot onwards till you come back to Nepalgunj. This helps you acclimatize better.

Training

It is recommended that you follow a training schedule to ensure you are fit enough for the parikrama. Minimum recommendations from our tour guide NALS is given below.  They suggest starting the regimen 6 to 8 weeks before the yatra.

A seven day workout schedule is provided below as a guideline for the beginner.

Day 1 – Breathing Exercises
• Brisk walk for 2 kms – 20 minutes
• Breathing Exercises – 30 minutes
• Meditate – 10 minutes

Day 2 – Strengthening Day
• Brisk Walk for 2 kms – 20 minutes
• Surya Namaskar (Sun worship) 10 ~ 50 repetitions – 30 minutes
• Abdomen crunches 10 ~ 50 repetitions – 10 minutes

Day 3 – Cardio Day

• Stair climbing or step climbing or speed walk on inclined tread mill – 30 min
• Elevate and maintain heart rate between 120 ~ 140 beats per minute.
• Warm Down Slowly

Days 4,5 – repeat of Day 1,2
Day 6 – Rest day
Day 7 – Endurance Day
• Brisk Walking 12 ~ 18 kms – About 120 ~ 180 minutes
• During some days carry 5 kilos back pack for shorter distances

It is good to do a physical checkup before you go. Some agencies insist on a medical certificate. Some even ask for a TMT test report.

Other stuff

Carry enough batteries for your camera and other accessories. Batteries discharge really fast in cold weather.

You have power in most of the places and hence will be able to recharge your phones. International Roaming works through out the journey except 2 days of the Parikrama. Nepal SIM cards will not work from Hilsa on. So don’t bother to get one.

Chinese allow people below 65 years to do the Parikrama. However you can go till Manasarovar even if you are older.

Altitudes and Typical Temperatures

Place Altitude Meters Altitude Feet Day Temperature (C) Night Temperature
Kathmandu 1370 4494 26 23
Nepalgunj 150 492 24 15
Simikot 3000 9840 17 1
Hilsa 3700 12136 20 11
Purang 3800 12464 20 11
Manasarovar 4400 14432 11 5
Darchen 4620 15154 10 0
Diraphuk 5000 16400 10 Below 0
Dolma Pass 5650 18532 10 Below 0
Zutulphuk 4800 15744 10 5

Parikrama Route MapParikramaRoute.JPG

Place Distance Km Time Taken Mode
Kathmandu
Nepalgunj 515 60 Mins 60 Seater Aircraft
Simikot 216 60 Mins 16 Seater Aircraft
Hilsa 50 25 Mins 6 Seater Helicopter
Purang 40 60 Mins Bus
Manasarovar 90 90 Mins Bus
Manasarovar Parikrama 105 180 Mins Bus
Darchen 50 60 Mins Bus
Diraphuk 12 4 to 5 Hours Walk
Zutulphuk 18 10 to 12 Hours Walk
Darchen 14 3 to 4 Hrs 10 Km walk, 4Km Bus

Day 2: Kathmandu Temples

Morning we visited the Swayambhu Stupa. It is a half hour ride from the hotel to the Stupa site. The earthquake did damages to this site and renovation is underway.

Evening we  met our co-yatris and visited the Pashupathinath temple and  Guheshwari Devi temple on the banks of the Bhagmati river. Pashupatinath Sandhya Aarti by the river is a must see.

There are a bunch of restaurants and cafes walking distance from the Royal Singi hotel. Had momos and Thukpa for dinner.

 

Day 3: Kathmandu – Nepalgunj

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After a heavy breakfast, we had a briefing on Acute Mountain Sickness and other Altitude and temperature related issues by Mr. Seshadri of NALS. Narendra Bhatta of Heritage Tours and Travels.  Bhatta stressed on the importance of being cool and calm about uncertainties in the journey and flight schedules.

 

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After a hurried lunch at the hotel, our group of 37 yatris, which included Dharma our guide from Heritage Tours, took a flight to Nepalganj.  Flying time is about and hour. Both Budha Air and Yeti fly small Aircrafts with a seating capacity of 60 or so, to Nepalgunj.

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In Nepalgunj we stayed at the Kitchen Hut. This is probably not the best property, but is reasonably clean and has good food.

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We had an early dinner and went to bed by 10:30 PM.

Day 4: Stuck in Nepalgunj. No flight to Simikot

We had an early breakfast and waited in the hotel for call for the  Simikot flight. Around 11.00 AM  we are asked to rush to airport. We wait outside the airport for 2 hours in 34 degree heat.

Flights are not taking off due to bad weather. So we return to the same hotel  and get back our own rooms with difficulty.

An evening of Karaoke, walk to the local market and a bus ride into town followed by local rickshaw tuk tuk ride back to hotel. All shops closed by 8.00 PM or so. There is a decent cinema hall in town, but the last show starts by 9 PM.

Girl and sister at the local restaurant.

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Lady at the Nepalgunj Airport

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We have dinner, and are asked to be ready by 7.00 AM next morning.

Day 5: One more day of missed flights

We had an early breakfast to get ready for the flight, but we are told that flight is only at 11.00 AM.   Only Goma and Tara Airlines fly from Nepalgunj to Simikot. These  are very much smaller planes and can carry only 16 people at  a time. And backlogs from previous days are cleared first. Kailas 42.jpeg

First batch of the 7 from our group make it to the first flight. Another batch of 15 people leave. Then around 12:30 PM  we all set out to the airport and wait. The earlier batch of 15 is still waiting.  By late afternoon, we are told to go back to the hotel, but a different one this time. Hotel Kalpataru with better rooms and good food. We are told about batches arriving from Kathmandu, who need to be accommodated in other hotels, and hence the move to this new place for the night.

 

 

Day 6: Nepalgunj – Simikot – Purang

Today we were fortunate to get the second flight out of Nepalgunj.  The flight time is about an hour. simikot-hilsa-burang

Simikot has a decent hotel called the Sun Valley Resort.  We were supposed to stay here to acclimatize. However since we had lost two days already, we took a chopper after a long wait, to Hilsa, the last point in Nepal. The flight takes around 25 to 30 minutes. There is serious weight restriction and you can not carry more than 15 Kg of total luggage per person. And at a time only 6 passengers can be transported at a time, so the group gets split here and reassembles at Hilsa.

Simikot Airport

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Views from the Chopperkailas-44kailas-45

Accomodation at Hilsa is very primitive.We had lunch here, rested for an hour and then headed towards the hanging bridge to which separates Nepal from China. The bridge is over the river Karnali which also defines the Nepal/China border.

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Basic facility at Hilsa. We had lunch here.
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Suspension bridge over Karnali. The far side is China

The Chinese check point opposite Hilsa is just hot sunny land. There are no buildings. They are building a large immigration complex which probably should be ready by 2017. We had to stand in line for a long time in the hot sun while Chinese police checked our phones, hand baggage and some of our bags and removed even Newspapers! You are not allowed to take any pictures of the immigration area. So many people had to delete pics from cameras and phones.

From this point the Chinese take over. Things become very much more organized and strict. They allocate a guide to each group and he then takes the group in a bus to the embassy at Takalkot (Nepalese name), called Purang/Burang by the Tibetans, on a bumpy ride to the embassy. The ride takes about an hour.  Took us some waiting at the embassy to get clearances, as they were shut for lunch. Once back from lunch, they quickly finished the visa formalities.  The toilet at the embassy was a hole in the ground, typical of toilets in Tibet. From here we were taken in another bus to the nearby Himalaya Pulan Hotel. Reasonably clean, western toilets and running hot water for a few hours. This is probably your last chance for a shower!  This is your chance to buy any last minute rations, food, walking sticks and Oxygen cans. Also from now on, you will not meet anyone who can speak English! Overnight at the hotel.

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Hotel at Purang
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Main market in Purang. You can buy fruits, chocolates, water, walking sticks, oxygen cans and other stuff for the Yatra. Food is mostly nonveg, so better off eating at the hotel.
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Torching the skin out of a piece of pork!
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An office building near the hotel in Burang.
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Solar water heater on the streets.

Day 7: Purang to Manasarovar by bus

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Purang is also called Burang. After breakfast, we went to the market and bought some accessories for the trek. Got the Flasks,  Sun  glasses, chocolates, water and walking sticks. Started off to Mansarovar (Mapam Yumco in Chinese) by bus, post lunch. The bus journey takes approximately two hours. You get the first views of mount Kailash across the Rakshas Tal. They do stop the bus at a good view point, for you to take your pics. By evening, we reached your hotel close to the Manasarovar.

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First view of Mt. Kailas across Rakshas Tal
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Manasarovar
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Hotel at Manasarovar. 6 people to a room.
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Chiu gompa, built into the walls of the hill near Manasarovar
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Prayer flags at Manasarovar
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A Brahmini Duck in Manasarovar
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Another View

For dinner we had a hot soup, rice and rasam and popcorn. We slept again, 6 to a room. Toilets from now on are only hole in the ground, typical Tibetan style. The night was wet and cloudy, so could not see shooting stars across the lake and the Milkyway and star studded skies. If you get clear views, do not forget to get out at night and watch the sky.

Day 8: Manasarovar Parikrama and Darchen

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Late morning we started the parikrama of Manasarovar (Mapam Yumco and Darchen is Bagaxiang in Chinese) by bus, covering approximately 88 Km. The roads are reasonably good. Total time taken for the Parikrama and the holy dip and pooja, will be nearly 3 hours. The water is really cold, but after the first dip, you do not feel the cold. We did our traditional 3 dips and collected the water in pet bottles. The tour guide advised us not to stay wet for more than a few minutes.

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Pooja at the Manasarovar
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One can walk deep into the lake, water level is just knee high for a long distance. Deepest point in Manasarovar is 81 meters and the lake covers a total area of 412 square Kms. People collect pebbles from the lake as memorabilia.

 

 

After finishing the parikrama of the lake, the bus takes you to Darchen, a distance of 53 Km, in about an hour. Darchen has a small market and if you missed buying essentials at Purang, you can try your luck here. Hotel Kailas at Darchen is decent. The rooms are ok, 3 people to a room. Hot water, electricity. Your last chance for a hot shower and change of clothes before the parikrama starts.

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Darchen from far as we drive in.

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Main Street of Darchen
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Darchen has a small shopping area
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Darchen hotel lobby
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Our Hotel in Darchen

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Darchen – Yama Dwar – Diraphuk. The Parikrama starts

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Mt. Kailas north face from Diraphuk, lit by the Milkyway.

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We have a leisurely breakfast and head out by bus, late morning to Yama Dwar, a 30 minute drive from the hotel in Darchen. This is were the Parikrama begins.  You are wearing 3 to 4 layers of clothes that you will not change till you finish the Parikrama. You will spend some time getting porters and ponies allotted to you (they randomly match porters and ponies to yatris by a blind chit draw). The porters and pony men are all Tibetans and can’t speak one word of English. Will be good to carry some additional money/food for the porters and pony men. They will be friendly if you help them. Btw. the porter will only carry your less than 5 Kg backpack and the Pony man and his pony will only allow the person who booked to ride the pony. No way you and your partner can share porters/ponies. The Pony man also will not allow you to carry a backpack and sit on the Pony.

 Do book a porter and pony. Completing the parikrama is easier if you hire a porter  and pony. You have to do this early at Yamadwar. You can’t decide to hire them later. There is nothing after you leave Yamadwar. Diraphuk to Situlphuk on day 2 is really hard with Dolma La (pass) that is at 5800 meters. Many people go back from Diraphuk to Darchen and wait for the rest of the party to finish. You will also come across some really fit people  who walk the entire parikrama route.

All that being said, Mansarovar view or Diraphuk view of Mt. Kailas is so lovely, it just doesn’t matter if you really complete the physical route. Three parikramas at Yamadwar is as good as the entire three day parikrama.

Once you are allotted porters/ponies, you will do 3 parikramas at Yamadwar and start off.You also leave behind what is precious to you at Yamadwar. Try to leave behind what money can’t buy. A feeling of peace and calm descends on you.  The distance from Yamadwar to Diraphuk is about 15 Km and will take about four to five hours. You have beautiful views of Mt. Kailas on this leg of the journey.

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Yamadwar
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Our group at Yamadwar
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Kialsh from Yamadwar

 

Day one parikrama pictures

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Imagine the Naag Devta on the right!

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Reaching Dhiraphuk soon…

 

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Diraphuk monastery

 

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Dirapuk Hotel view of Mt. Kailas north face.
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Diraphuk hotel.
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Dirphuk hotel room 5 to a room. We squeezed in 6.
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View from Dhiraphuk Hotel.

We had hot kichidi and roti with papad for dinner. We were amazed by the sight of  Mt. Kailas under the Milkyway. Near zero temperatures and the altitude made everyone say I am crazy to go out and take pics. But it was worth the effort.

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Day 10: Diraphuk – Zutulphuk

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We set out early morning after a quick breakfast, with packed lunch. This is the hardest  leg of the parikrama, covering a distance of 20 plus Km. Going real uphill to the Dolma la pass at 5800 m and then a steep descend where ponies can’t be used. It is really cold. Fortunately for us it did not rain. One gets glimpses of Mt. Kailas, but not as great as day one. There is a shack past the descend, where one can get Chinese tea and noodles. By afternoon we reached Zutulphuk.

The hotel here is very basic, like a shed. Toilet is still hole in the ground. Five people to a room. Six of us managed to squeeze in here too. Hot food was served in the rooms. The night was cloudy and cold, but way better than Diraphuk.

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You get glimpses of Kailas earlier on this day
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Dust, cold and altitude are all against you. Om Namo Shivaya keeps you going.
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On the way to Dolma La, you come across a small village. This is smoke, not fog.
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Garbage and plasic being burnt (See pic above)
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On the way up to Dolma La. The terrain is harsh and rocky.
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Prayer flags and snow at Dolma La. The Ponies kept slipping on the hard snow.
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A tired pony and pony man on top of Dolma La
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Dolma La and a view of Gowri Kund on the other side of the pass. Porters will fetch water from the Kund for a small fee (50 to 150 Yuan typically).
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Another view of Gowrikund
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Hotel at Zutulphuk.

Day 11: Zutulphuk – Darchen – Purang – Hilsa – Simikot.

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This is the last day of the Parikrama. A short three hour walk from Zutulphuk takes one to the road head where your bus will be waiting for you. There is a teas shop here and you can have Chinese tea and noodles here. Ride to Darchen in the bus, lunch at Darchen hotel. Drive to Purang to complete the immigration formalities, bus back to the chinese side of Hilsa. Cross over and wait for a chopper at Hilsa. We managed to get the last chopper out and reached Simikot. Stayed at the Sun Valley Resort in Simikot. It’s a nice property and has a common bathroom with running cold water. You get to take your first shower after the dip in Manasarovar. Night halt here. Six people to a room.

Zutulphuk to Darchen Pictures

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My pony man walks ahead. Prayer flags along the Parikrama route.
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Short trek back to the road head.
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Hotel at Simikot

 

Day 12: Simikot – Nepalgunj – Kathmandu

We woke up early, had breakfast, packed and ran to the small airport at Simikot. Managed to get the last 6 tickets to Nepalgunj.  Had to wait a long time before our flight arrived.  Flights could not land due to bad weather on the Nepalgunj – Simikot flight path. Had lunch at hotel Sidhartha in Nepalgunj. Headed back to airport and to Kathmandu. Reached Kathmandu by 7:30 PM or so and checked into the same Royal Singi Hotel. Went out to dinner at the Thamel House. Lovely ambience and great food.

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Simikot

 

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Entrance to Thamel House
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Inside Thamel House