Manimahesh Trek - A complete guide

Manimahesh Yatra

The Manimahesh Trek or Manimahesh Yatra takes you face to face to the Manimahesh Kailash, which is one of the famous adobes of Lord Shiva. Located in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, it is also known as Chamba Kailash. The name Manimahesh is a combination of two words, Mani ( a gem/crystal)+ Mahesh (another name for lord Shiva). The Manimahesh Peak is said to have a Shiva linga in the form of a crstal or “Mani” on the top. This Mani shines very brightly at certain times when light falls on it. Some people have seen the shining lights in the morning and some have seen them at night as well. This peak is said to be the home of Lord Shiva. 

One of the interesting facts about the Manimahesh Peak is that no one has ever been able to climb the summit. The height of the Manimahesh peak is around 18,556 feet or 5656 meters. People have been able to climb the various 8000 meter peaks multiple times. Therefore, the fact that the Manimahesh peak is still un-climbed is very much suprising. 

The Manimahesh Lake

The main center of attraction in the Manimahesh Trek is the Manimahesh Lake. This is a high altitude lake situated at an height of 13,390 feet or 4080 meters. This lake faces the Manimahesh Peak directly and one can get a perfect view of the peak from here. There are many legends revolving around the Manimahesh Lake. As per one of the legends, Lord Shiva performed penance on the banks of this lake. It is customary to take a dip in the holy waters of the Lake. 

How to reach Manimahesh Lake? / How to do the Manimahesh Trek?

There are three routes by which one can reach Manimahesh Lake and complete the Manimahesh trek:

  • The Manimahesh Yatra / Pilgrimage route.
  • The Manimahesh Parikrama Route – via Kugti village.
  • Manimahesh Yatra by Helicopter.

The Manimahesh Yatra Route:

This is the most famous and  easiest trek route to Manimahesh Lake. Every year a state wide pilgrimage is organised in the month of August and September. The official Manimahesh Yatra usually last for 15-20 days. It begins on the Shri Krishna Janamashtami every year. This day is also known as “Chota Snan”. The yatra ends on the day of “Radha Ashtami” and is also known as “Bada Snan”. The route for the Manimahesh Yatra is as below:

  • Reach Bharmaur: Bharmaur is situated at a distance of 60 Kms from Chamba. It takes around 2 hours to reach Bharmaur from Chamba. 
  • Bharmaur to Bharmani Devi Temple & back to Bharmaur: The pilgrimage starts when you take a dip in the holy waters of the Bharmani temple kund. This is a small cemented pool filled with bone chilling cold water. It is believed that this pilgrimage is incomplete without visiting the Bharmani Devi temple and the cold bath. Bharmani Devi temple is situated near Bharmaur. One can either take a hike up to the temple which is around 5 kms from Bharmaur town. Or you can take a sharing taxi available at Bharmaur, which would usually cost around Rs 100 per person and will take you to the temple in around half hour. It will also drop you back to Bharmaur. 
* It is not recommended to take your own vehicle to Bharmaur as the road conditions are really bad for now (2018). Additionally during the Yatra, there is a lack of parking space too. 
  •  Bharmaur to Hadsar: Once you have reached Bharmaur, now you need to reach Hadsar. Hadsar is 12 kms from Bharmaur. You can either take your own vehicle to Hadsar or take a bus from Bharmaur to Hadsar. There are a lot of local buses available towards Hadsar during the Yatra period. As far as parking is concerned, there is a lot of parking space available near Hadsar (mostly roadside). However, sometimes the parking spaces might not be sufficient for the large number of pilgrims during the yatra.
  • Hadsar to Dhancho:  Once you reach Hadsar, the trek towards Manimahesh starts. Although there are many tents/camps available on the way, the main stoppage on this route is Dhancho. Dhancho is 6 kms from Hadsar. The trek is gradual and can be completed in 3-4 hours. There are a lot of Bhandara’s/ Langars on the way. Many people spend a night at Dhancho while others prefer to go further up.
  • Dhancho to Gaurikund: From Dhancho, there are 3 routes by which one can move upwards. The extreme left route via “Shiv Gharat”is the most preferred and recommended as it is well maintained and has shops/tents on the way. “Shiv Gharat”is the place where one can hear the sounds of drums in the mountain. The next main stop would be “Gauri kund”. Gauri kund is situated around 6 kms from Dhancho and is believed to be the place where Goddess Parvati used to take bath. Men are forbidden to even look inside Gauri kund ad only women can take a dip in its holy waters. There are a lot of camps and tents available for stay near Gauri Kund. 
  • Gauri Kund to Manimahesh Lake: The distance from Gauri Kund to Manimahesh Lake is around 1 kms. Once you reach near the holy Manimahesh Lake, you’ll see the clear view of the Manimahesh peak (if the weather is clear). It is a custom to take a dip in the holy waters of the lake and take Lord Shiva’s blessings. 
 

The Manimahesh Parikrama Route - via Kugti

As the name suggests, the Manimahesh Parikrama route takes you on a full circular trip around the magnificent Manimahesh Kailash mountain. As per an approximate calculation, the whole distance covered in this route is around 38-45 kms. In you choose this route, you’ll see everything from the quite and serene village of Kugti, lush green valleys, cold water streams, Gaddi camps, rocky terrain and glaciers.  You’ll even get to cross the high altitude Jotnu Pass (Jot Parvat). Below are the main stoppages on this route:

  • Bharmaur to Hadsar: Same as the popular Manimahesh Yatra route, the Parikrama also starts from Hadsar. However, instead of going towards Dhancho, you’ll have to continue on the road ahead.
  • Hadsar to Dharol to Kugti village (12 Kms): From Hadsar, there are a very few transport options available towards Dharol and Kugti village. A very few buses go towards Dharol which is 6 kms from Hadsar. Another 6 kms further lies the village of Kugti. 
How to reach Kugti village from Bharmaur/Hadsar?
Public transport service are very rare on this route. Therefore, you have two options:
  1. Hire a cab from Hadsar or Bharmaur to Kugti village. You’ll still have to walk around 1 -2 kms as the road has still not reached the Kugti village.
  2.  Hike all the way from Hadsar to Kugti and hope that you’ll get a lift. However, there are a very few vehicles travelling on this road. The chances are you’ll end up walking all the way to the village. This whole stretch will take you around 3-4 hours of hiking. Once you reach Kugti, rest for the night. *Please note that there are no hotels in Kugti village as per now. You can either stay in the house of the very hospitable locals. Just ask politely about stay options and someone might offer you a stay. Another option is to pitch your own tents near the village. 
  • Kugti to Dhalotu to Alyas: We recommend hiring a guide from Kugti village as you might get lost on the trail. There are other trekking routes from Kugti and a guide will definitely be helpful if you are in this valley for the first time. However, if you still choose to go without the guide, remember a golden rule for this trail “Always choose the Right path!“. It might sound philosophical, bu we are referring to the direction “Right”. 
The next stop would be Dhalotu. Dhalotu is a small but beautiful place above Kugti village. This is probably one of the most attractive places in this trek as you would see lush green valleys and meadows here. After Dhalotu, you’ll cross a small but dense forest and climb down towards the river stream. You’ll walk by the river stream for a few kms, before the trail takes you to Alyas. Alyas is the place to set up your camp or stay in a tent available there. The locals have camps set up at Alyas during the Yatra period. It will take you around 6-8 hours to reach Alyas from Kugti village. You can recognize Alyas by the presence of a giant rock colored in saffron, known as Hanuman Garhi or Hanuman Shila. This is sacred among the locals and is believed to protect the travelers in the Manimahesh valley. 
 
  • Alyas to Jotnu Pass to Kamal Kund to Manimahesh Lake: It is recommended to leave Alyas early in the morning at around 7 am, so you can reach Jot Parvat/Jotnu pass before 10:00 am. This is because the weather is most favourable in the morning and if it starts snowing on Jotnu Pass, then making the descent towards Manimahesh lake becomes difficult and dangerous. It would take around 2-4 hours to reach Jotnu Pass. On the way you’ll also be able to see the “Ganesh Kund”, which is a small water body formed mostly because of the nearby glaciers. Once you reach at the top, you’ll see the “Dham Ghodi” which is a rock standing near the pass and is very sacred to the locals. After you start climbing downward towards the Manimahesh Lake, you’ll have to cross a glacier. Manimahesh lake is visible from Jotnu Pass, therefore you can find the walking trail easily. It would take another 2 hours to reach Manimahesh Lake. On the way you’ll also see “Kamal Kund” which is a sacred lake situated at the foothills of Mount Manimahesh. From Kamal Kund, it would take another half an hour to 45 minutes and you’ll finally reach the Manimahesh Lake. 
  • Manimahesh Lake to Hadsar: Although, you have reached Manimahesh lake now. However, in order to complete the sacred Manimahesh Parikrama, you’ll need to climb downhill towards Hadsar via Dhancho. This would be a 3-5 hours downhill journey and the Manimahesh Parikrama is hence complete successfully.

Manimahesh Yatra by Helicopter

This is the easiest way to reach Manimahesh lake. The Helicopter service is available only during the Yatra period. One can board the Helicopter from Bharmaur and in around 7 minutes, the helicopter takes you to Gauri Kund. You’ll still have to climb from Gauri Kund to Manimahesh Lake to complete the pilgrimage. The distance is around 1 kms, and after completing the pilgrimage you can board the helicopter back to Bharmaur.

We hope that this article has been helpful to you and in case you have any further questions or suggestions feel free to comment below. Also, we would appreciate if you would like to share your experiences on the Manimahesh yatra with all our readers. Feel free to share this article on Facebook, twitter or any social platform as you like. 

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