Lake Manasarovar Kora in Western Tibet: ultimate guide to Manasarovar trek tour planning
Why We Take Lake Manasarovar Kora?
“Kora” in Tibetan means a pilgrimage route around a sacred temple, a holy mountain, or a sacred lake, such as the Barkhor Kora, the Mount Kailash Kora and the Lake Manasarovar Kora. If you travel to Tibet, making a kora as the local people do will make your Tibet tour infinitely more interesting. Lake Manasarovar, as one of the Great Three Sacred Lakes in Tibet, lies about 20 km southeast of the sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture.
The Lake Manasarovar Kora is a lovely walk. Lake Manasarovar reflects the most lucid shades of the blue sky, the fluffy white clouds, and the snow-capped peaks nearby. Manasarovar represents the female or wisdom aspect of enlightenment and symbolizes fortune and fertility in Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, Tibetan Buddhists are always eager to circumambulate the lake. It is also believed that to drink from or bathe in the lake can absolve you of the sins of an entire lifetime.
There are also five Buddhist monasteries around Lake Manasarovar: Chiu Monastery, Langbona Monastery, Seralung Monastery, Trupo Monastery and Gossul Monastery. Tibetan Buddhists always start the kora from Chiu Monastery on the northwest corner of Lake Manasarovar, as it is widely regarded as the best place to start the walk. Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus perform the kora in a clockwise direction, while Bonpos do it counter-clockwise. For tourists, most usually do it traveling clockwise in the Tibetan manner. It takes four days to finish the Manasarovar Kora.
Manasarovar Kora Route: How to Plan Manasarovar Trekking Tour
Lake Manasarovar Location and Altitude
Lake Manasarovar is located in the far west of Tibet, in the northwestern Ngari Prefecture, around 20km to the south of the sacred Mount Kailash. Lying side by side with its saline twin, Lake Rakshastal, Manasarovar sits more than 1,170 kilometers from Lhasa, with a surface altitude of around 4,590 meters above sea level. While it may not be the highest lake in the world, it is one of the highest large lakes in China, and is the highest of the Great Three Sacred Lakes of Tibet. Getting to Lake Manasarovar from Lhasa requires not just a pre-arranged tour of the region, but also a long drive along the main Tibetan highways to get there. The route to Lake Manasarovar is the same as to Mount Kailash, and follows the G318 Friendship Highway and the G219 Xinjiang Tibet Highway.
Lake Manasarovar Kora Start-End: Chiu Monastery
The route of the Lake Manasarovar Kora trek is one of the most substantial in Tibet in terms of geography and stunning scenery. The route starts and ends at the Chiu Monastery, also known as the Sparrow Monastery, which lies atop a craggy hill that overlooks the lake in the northwest of the lake. The monastery is named because legend tells that a sparrow guided the guru Rinpoche to the location, where he is said to have stayed for seven days, leaving a footprint in the rock of the meditation cave.
Chiu Monastery lies atop a craggy hill overlooking Lake Manasarovar.
Lake Manasarovar Trekking Route
Chiu Monastery - Langbona Monastery - Hor Qu - Seralung Monastery - Trugo Monastery - Gossul Monastery - Chiu Monastery
From Chiu Monastery, the route of the kora departs in a clockwise direction, heading first northeast and east to the Langbona Monastery, a small and delightful monastery that has a simple guesthouse for tourists and pilgrims taking the kora route. Then it is on to Hor Qu Town, close to the northeast corner of the lake and a great camping ground for watching the stars at night. Then it is on to Seralung Monastery, on the eastern edge of the lake, before heading southwest to the southernmost tip of the lake and the Trugo Monastery. From Trugo, you will had west and north to reach Gossul Monastery, before finally returning to finish the whole route of the kora at Chiu Monastery.
Lake Manasarovar Kora Road Condition and Difficulty Level
The trek around the lake is not one of the most difficult in terms of arduous hikes on the plateau, and when compared to the Kailash kora, is a real cake-walk. Most of the trek is along fairly level ground with few uphill climbs, and even those that you will come across are shallow and gradual. A ridge of hills exists between Manasarovar and its twin, Rakshastal, but these hills are gentle rolling hills that are not a problem even for the most inexperienced trekker. The main concern on difficulty is the altitude, and it pays to have some experience in high-altitude trekking when taking the kora route in western Tibet.
Unlike the kora route around the sacred Mount Kailash, the trek around Lake Manasarovar is not an extremely hard trek, with very little in the way of steep ascents and high-mountain passes. However, it is still rated as moderately difficult due to the high altitude of the lake itself. With an average elevation of around 4,600 meters around the lake, it is still not an ideal trek for beginners.
Lake Manasarovar Kora Duration
The 4-5-day trek around the lake covers around 110 kilometers, and is relatively level for the entire route. The dirt road around the lake can be used for trekking along, as there is very little in the way of traffic along this road, and it can be a lovely walk.
A pilgrim on the shore of Lake Manasarovar
Best Time for Lake Manasarovar Kora: May to Jun. and Sept. to Oct.
The best time to visit the lake for the kora trek is from May to June and September to mid-October. The weather is warm enough to not get too cold, and the skies are clear and bright. The trek can be done in July and August as well, although you may be pestered by the hordes of gnats that cluster along the shoreline. November to April is the colder time of year, and the lake is mostly frozen throughout the winter months, though it is possible to trek around it in April if you are not bothered by the cold.
Detailed 4-Day Lake Manasarovar Kora Schedule
Manasarovar Kora Day 1: Chiu Monastery to Langbona Monastery and Hor Qu (30km / 8 hours)
Starting from Chiu Monastery, you will reach Langbona Monastery in about four hours’ walking clockwise. From Langbona, the pilgrimage trail cuts inland to avoid lagoons that form along the north shore of the Manasarovar. Look for cairns, prayer flags and other signs of pilgrim activity that herald the way. Do not make the mistake of hugging the lakeshore unless you are up for an icy-cold swim or have a raft in tow.
Trekking for another four hours from Langbona, you will reach Hor Qu Town at the northeast corner of the lake. You will spend a night at Hor Qu by camping.
Manasarovar Kora Day 2: Hor Qu to Seralung Monastery (13km / 3 hours)
On the second day, you will trek about three hours from Hor Qu to Seralung Monastery on the east shore of the Lake Manasarovar. Sera Monastery is a good place for camping and experiencing religious life. It is best to have a good rest here as it is a little hard to trek at a place over 4,000m.
Manasarovar Kora Day 3: Seralung Monastery to Trugo Monastery (27km / 7hours)
On the third day, you will trek about four or five hours to Trugo Monastery on the southern bank of the Manasarovar. Trugo is the only monastery at either Kailash or Manasarovar belonging to the Gelugpa of Tibetan Buddhism. Trugo, which means "Bathing Head", is so named because of its importance as a place for ritual bathing. In the middle of the 8th month in the Tibetan calendar many Brahmanists will come here from Nepal to patter and pray, and then diving into the cold water for bathing.
Trugo Monastery is the perfect location to view the Holy Lake and Holy Mountain (Kailash). Kailash seems to embrace the lake from this angle, lending credence to ancient myths that speak of the two representing a god and goddess in union.
Manasarovar Kora Day 4: Trugo Monastery to Gossul Monastery and Chiu Monastery (40km / 9~10 hours)
On the last day, you will trek back to Chiu Monastery via Gossul Monastery. It takes around 9 or 10 hours to finish it.
Accommodation and Hotels in Manasarovar Yatra
This far out in the northwest of Tibet in such a remote location, you are unlikely to be able to find any hotels around to stay in. However, there are some simple accommodations available at the monasteries around the lake. The accommodation at the Chiu Monastery is very simple, but at the Langbona, Seralung, and Trugo monasteries there are guesthouses you can stay in. As long as you can make it from monastery to monastery each day, it is easily possible to make the trek without having to lug a heavy tent and camping gear with you.
What to Eat in Manasarovar Trekking
The three guesthouses along the kora route do have simple local food available for pilgrims and tourists trekking the route, but if you are not fond of the local Tibetan cuisine, then it is best to bring food with you. Hot water is available in the guesthouses at the monasteries for pot noodles and packet meals, and it is a good idea to bring plenty of water with you, or purification tablets, as the availability of bottled water is not guaranteed.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Manasarovar Trek
The lakeshore around Lake Manasarovar averages around 4,600 meters above sea level, and while there is little in the way of ascents around the lake, you will need to be fully acclimatized to the higher altitude of the lake before taking on the trek. It is best to spend a day in Hor Qu Town to acclimatize to the higher altitude before trekking, to reduce the risk of altitude sickness while you are trekking. Whilst on the trek, it is a good idea to rest frequently and not over-exert yourself by trekking too hard, as this can bring on altitude sickness. Also, maintaining a good level of hydration is important when trekking at high altitudes. And bring along some snacks to give you a fast energy boost while trekking, such as chocolate, biscuits, cookies, and dried fruit and nuts.
Manasarovar Weather and Temperature: Best Time to Visit Mapam Yumco
The best months to make the trek around Lake Manasarovar is in May and June and September, when the weather is at its best. Temperatures in May range up to around 18 degrees during the daytime, with a drop to around just 9 degrees at night, while June’s temperature ranges as low as 10 degrees to a maximum of around 15 degrees. In September, the daytime temperatures can run from 10 degrees to 15 degrees, and all three months have almost no rain fall. The classic Manasarovar Yatra is one of the favored times to make the trek around the lake for Hindu pilgrims, and these kora treks usually coincide with the full moon, which occurs on the 15th of each month in the Tibetan calendar. A trek around Lake Manasarovar is considered to be beneficial in gaining merits towards enlightenment, and during the year of the goat, this ritual pilgrimage can increase merits by 100,000 times, which is a beneficial way to attain merits for both Hindus and Buddhists.
How to Reach Manasarovar Lake, Ngari
Getting to Lake Manasarovar is usually done as part of a tour of the region, starting in Lhasa and traveling overland through Gyantse, Shigatse, and Saga, as well as taking a side-trip to Mount Everest Base Camp. Independent travel is not permitted in Tibet, so all tourists wishing to take on the trek around the sacred lake must be on a pre-arranged tour with a registered tour operator for Tibet. As one of the leading tour operators for more than a decade, we at Tibet Vista can provide you with a complete itinerary for the trip to Lake Manasarovar, as well as the required guide, driver, and private vehicle.
What to Pack for Manasarovar Kora
When taking on the trek around Lake Manasarovar, you will need to ensure that you pack correctly, as this is not a trek where you want to lug too much gear around with you. The trek is moderately difficult, and too much gear will make the trek harder for you, and increase the risk of altitude sickness. Even in the best months of the year, it can still get cold in the Ngari region of Tibet, and the biting winds can make it feel even colder than you would expect. Warm clothing is essential, and if you are planning on camping, then a good tent and arctic-rated sleeping bag are required. The basic packing requirements for this trek should include:
Strong hiking boots
Waterproof hiking pants and windproof outer pants
Wind and waterproof jackets, as light as possible
Good woolen socks and warm underwear
Thermal shirt and pants for colder weather
Several layers of medium thickness trekking t-shirts
Waterproof rain shell
Heavy Jacket for extreme cold weather
Warm gloves, preferably Gore-Tex
A good warm hat or beanie
Sunglasses for eye protection
Sleeping bag and tent (if camping)
Torch or headlamp
First aid kit
Quick-drying alpine towels
You should also make sure that all your permits are easily accessible, as you will encounter checkpoints at many places across the plateau, and will need to show the documents to the local checkpoint guards. A trek at Lake Manasarovar requires you to have the Tibet Travel Permit, the Alien’s Travel Permit, the Frontier Pass, and the Restricted Areas Permit, all of which can be obtained by us before your trip starts. All you need to do is contact us for all the information and to discuss your tour options.