The third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga is in a remote area to the east of Nepal, sitting on the border with India. This challenging trek around Mt. Kanchenjunga visits both North and South Base Camps. Described by many as the finest trekking route in Nepal, it is a long trek that goes deep into some of the most remote mountain ranges on Nepal’s border with Sikkim and Tibet. The trail explores the area around Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.
You start by approaching the north side of Kanchenjunga and then at Base Camp, Kanchenjunga itself becomes visible. Returning to Ghunsa you cross the Mirgin La pass to the south side of Kanchenjunga. Once over this pass, you pass yak pastures at Ramche and Oktang where you have magnificent views of the south-west face of Kanchenjunga.
Trek Grade: This trek is a challenging Grade 4 as not only is it long, but you reach altitudes up to 5143m and have many long days walking up to 7-8 hours.
Inspired? Have a look at what other treks Royal Mountain Travel can offer in the region:
|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu|
|Day 2||Kathmandu sightseeing|
|Day 3||Fly to Bhadrapur, drive to Ilam (4 hrs)|
|Day 4||Drive to Taplejung/ Suketar (5 hrs), trek to Mitlung (921m, 4 hrs)|
|Day 5||Trek to Chirwa (1270m, 6 hrs)|
|Day 6||Trek to Sekathum (1660m, 5 hrs)|
|Day 7||Trek to Amjilossa (2510m, 6 hrs)|
|Day 8||Trek to Gyabla (2730m, 5 hrs)|
|Day 9||Trek to Ghunsa (3595m, 5 hrs)|
|Day 10||Acclimatization day at Ghunsa (3595m)|
|Day 11||Trek to Khambachen (4050m, 6 hrs)|
|Day 12||Acclimatization day in Khambachen|
|Day 13||Trek to Lhonak (4785m, 4 to 5 hrs)|
|Day 14||Hike to Pangpema at North Base Camp of Kanchenjunga (5143m), return Lhonak (6 - 7 hrs)|
|Day 15||Return to Ghunsa (3595m, 8 hrs)|
|Day 16||Trek to High Camp (4100m, 5 hrs)|
|Day 17||Cross the Mirgin La (4663m) and to Tseram (3870m, 8 hrs)|
|Day 18||Day 18: Trek to Oktang (4730m) and back to Ramche (4580m, 8 hrs)|
|Day 19||Trek to Tortong (3000m, 7 - 8 hrs)|
|Day 20||Trek to Yamphudin (2080m, 7 - 8 hrs)|
|Day 21||Trek to Mananke (1810m, 5 hrs)|
|Day 22||Trek to Kande Bhanjang (6 hrs)|
|Day 23||Trek to Lali Kharka (2265m, 6 hrs)|
|Day 24||Trek to Suketar (2300m, 3 hrs)|
|Day 25||Drive to Bhadrapur (11 hrs)|
|Day 26||Fly to Kathmandu.|
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail condRead More...
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail conditions. The guide in charge of your trip may have to alter the schedule if necessary and any such changes are at the discretion of Royal Mountain Travel and your guide.
The trekking day
Your day starts with a wake-up call, followed by breakfast and baggage pickup. You are then driven to the start point of your trek. While trekking, your day starts with breakfast at the tea house where you are staying. You need to pack up your baggage before breakfast as porters usually set off early.
Normally you are on the trail by 8 am and stop for a leisurely lunch around noon, with the chance to stop along the way for short breaks. Lunchtime usually lasts a couple of hours to give you time to relax or to explore the village where you have stopped. The afternoon walk is shorter and you can expect to arrive around 4 pm to allow time for short excursions to nearby sites, monasteries, exploration of the village or for relaxing with a book or catching up on your diary. Dinner is generally around, 7 pm.
Everyone walks at different speeds and you should always go at the pace that is comfortable for you. The grade of the trek is only an approximate indication of what to expect, based on the altitude and the hours of walking per day. In general, the condition of trails is good as these are the main routes between villages.
What you carry?
Each porter carries 15kg so you should pack 7.5 kgs of baggage, sharing one porter between two persons. These things will not be available to you during the day as the porters usually leave early and do not walk with you. Your daypack should contain all that you need during the day. This should consist of warm clothes for when you stop, a water bottle, camera, sunscreen, lip salve and maybe waterproofs depending on when you’re trekking. Your guide will let you know each evening about any extra items you might need for the following day. You should take a comfortable daypack to carry just a few kilograms of things you need along the way.
Food and drink
No meals are included in your trek. These are available in tea houses, lodges and bhattis that may sometimes have quite limited menus. There are a lot of tea houses and lodges along the way while you are trekking. Meals are generally simple but filling, but you may wish to stock up on ‘trail munchies’ before leaving Kathmandu or Pokhara. Although mineral water in plastic bottles can be found along the way in many places, you should try to avoid using this. Plastic bottles are a serious problem on the trekking routes as there is no way to dispose of them. Instead, you should use water purification tablets, a water filter or ask for boiled water at the lodges. It is a good idea to bring a heat resistant, a water bottle which can double up as a hot water bottle when you go to bed at night too!
It is not recommended to drink alcohol at altitudes above 3,000m or so, where altitude sickness can start to have an effect.
Accommodation is in lodges and teahouses and is of a basic standard. Rooms may be twin or multi-share with basic shared toilet facilities. Hot showers are available in some places for a small charge. It is a good idea to pack wet-wipes to freshen up, especially useful when you reach high altitudes where the water can be very cold. It is not recommended to wash your hair when you are at higher altitudes and where the outside air is cold, as you run the risk of getting a chill when your wet hair takes a long time to dry.
Lodges usually have a common room where later in the day, when people start to arrive from their day’s trek there might be a stove that is lit to keep warm. Bedrooms, however, are not heated. The lodges provide clean bedding, but you may want to pack a sheet sleeping bag for peace of mind.
The main means of transport are on foot, or in some cases by horse, with mules or donkeys sometimes carrying baggage. On most trekking routes, your baggage will be carried by the porters. You should ensure that anything you might need during the day is in your day pack as you will not see the baggage that is being carried again until the end of each day.
You will be provided with government licensed, experienced trek guided assisted by the porters who transport your baggage with one porter for every two trekkers. The guide is in overall charge of the trek and looks after you. This is the person you should go to with any problems, concerns or questions. Our guides are highly trained in all aspects of trekking, conservation, high altitude medicine, first-aid and emergency procedures. They are professionals selected for their knowledge and passion for Nepal and its peoples. However, you should remember that they are local guides and their English may sometimes be quite basic and limited to trek related topics. Usually, porters will have a more basic understanding of English. Please try to speak slowly and clearly to make communication easier.
Trek grading and preparation
It is impossible to have a ‘foolproof’ grading system as everyone has different expectations and perceptions of their own fitness level. Remember that no trek in the Himalaya is a stroll as all involve going up and down, often at altitude. Altitude affects everyone differently, and even if it has not affected you much before, each time can be quite different in how it affects you.
Regardless of age or fitness, preparation, before you arrive, is a good idea. Aerobic activity, swimming, cycling or brisk walking is recommended or, at the very least, walking up and down stairs in your trekking boots to be sure that they fit well and are comfortable. Try to use hiking boots that you have already broken in to avoid blisters. Remember that the trek should be fun and you should go at your own pace.
It is best to bring cash in major currencies such as the US, Canadian or Australian dollars, Euros, or Pounds. Ensure you have a mixture of large and small denominations. Everyone’s spending is different, but as a guide, we suggest about USD 8 – 10 per meal in Kathmandu and Pokhara and USD 30 – 35 per day whilst trekking. If you drink or smoke you need to allow a bit more.
You should exchange enough money into Nepalese Rupees to last the entire time of your trek before leaving Kathmandu. You can find the money exchange counters near your hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara but there are no exchange facilities in villages along the way.
Communication: mobile phones and internet
Please note, as you will be often trekking through valleys and will not always be close to mobile towers, mobile phone reception can be very patchy. NCELL, the local mobile company has quite good coverage, but sometimes the signal can be very weak. Usually, lodges have powerpoint’s to recharge your mobile, although this sometimes can be at an extra charge.
Tipping is a personal and voluntary matter and is not included in the trip price. If you wish to reward the efforts of those who have worked to make your trek the best they can, we suggest the following: USD 4 per day for groups of 8+, USD 5 per day for smaller groups which will be shared amongst the whole staff, including porters.
Travel insurance is not included in the trip price. It is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to your trek. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency evacuation and repatriation (including helicopter evacuation) and personal liability. We also recommend that it covers cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Be careful to check the small print of your insurance regarding altitude as some policies only provide cover up to 2000m.
There are no specific health requirements for entry into Nepal. Your health condition must be sound as you will be climbing to above 4000m. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date information regarding vaccinations, high altitude medication and medications for any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Nepal. Be aware that some drugs, including anti-malarial, have side effects at altitude. Please discuss this carefully with your doctor.
Please be aware that you will be in remote areas and away from medical facilities for some time during this trip. We strongly recommend that you carry a personal First Aid kit as well as sufficient quantities of any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses)
AMS (acute mountain sickness) is a serious issue. It is the result of the failure of the body to adapt to high altitude and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness. It usually occurs above 1,800 meters and the likelihood of being affected increases as you ascend. The way to reduce the effects of altitude is to ascend slowly, 300 meters per day above 3,000 meters until you have acclimatized. Poor acclimatization can result in headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing and swelling of fingers and glands. The only cure for AMS is to descend to a lower altitude and your guide’s decision on this matter is final. There is a possibility of AMS in any trek that passes through altitudes above 4000 meters.
Although our routes are carefully planned to allow proper acclimatization you may feel some effects of altitude for the first few days or at higher altitudes. Breathlessness, lethargy and mild headaches are not uncommon and generally decrease as your body adjusts. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is essential. Please advise your guide if you feel more severe symptoms and do not medicate yourself without discussing it with them first.
Variation of climate is directly proportional to the altitude. For this trekking, trekking routes are often passed through a range of altitudes from 850m upwards. Between, about 2700m and 3000m a cool temperate climate prevails, and you should expect a cool summer and very cold temperatures in the winter. Above 3000m, even if the daytime is sunny and quite warm, the temperature will drop sharply as soon as the sun goes down.
The weather in the mountains is notoriously changeable, so always be prepared for a change in conditions and note that if severe or dangerous weather conditions occur your guide’s decision on any course of action is final.
Trekking permits are required for almost all treks and will be obtained by Royal Mountain Travel. The Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) is essential for the record of Nepal Tourism Board keeping in mind about probable hazards to occur. You need to provide your full name, nationality, home address, passport number, sex, date of birth and 2 photographs for each permit. Royal Mountain Travel also pays any fees required for entry to national parks, conservation areas or restricted areas.
Packing for your trek
You will need to bring a comfortable medium sized daypack to carry the things you will need during the day. This should have a waist strap or (better) a padded waist belt.
You should limit your baggage to about 7kg. You will find the following items useful.
Royal Mountain Travel is a Nepal-based sustainable tourism operator. We specialize in curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences to showcase indigenous and community based tourism projects. We work with travel agents and tourism companies to help plan travel experiences that highlight authentic, local lifestyles throughout some of the most unique landscapes on earth.
Arrival in Kathmandu
Arriving at Tribhuwan International Airport is an experience in itself. Don’t let it put you off, as our airport representative will be waiting to welcome you with your name written on a placard. Depending on traffic, the drive to your hotel takes about 20-30 minutes.
The day is spent visiting some of the major World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu. More…
You will have plenty of time in the afternoon to prepare for your trek and check that you have everything you need. You might want to visit Thamel, the tourist hub of Nepal where you can easily find all you need for trekking. Or if you just want to relax, there are many cafes and bakeries serving excellent local tea and coffee. It is best to avoid the street food, however, unless you have a very strong stomach. It is recommended that you have an early night as you will have an early start in the morning.
Fly to Bhadrapur, drive to Ilam (4 hrs)
Taking the morning flight to Bhadrapur, you are then driven to Ilam where you spend the night in a hotel.
Drive to Taplejung/ Suketar (5 hrs), trek to Mitlung (921m, 4 hrs)
After an early start, you are driven through tea gardens and cardamom plantations. Along the way, you see magnificent views of Mount Kanchenjunga and Mount Jannu in the far distance. Arriving at Taplejung you meet your trekking crew. After lunch, you start your trek making a steep and slippery descent to the Tamur river to go to the village of Mitlung.
Trek to Chirwa (1270m, 6 hrs)
The trail continues down past several villages. This is a fertile area where a range of crops are cultivated like rice, millet, potatoes and vegetables. You go down to a wooden bridge to the Thiwa Khola and then after a few more ups and downs, you arrive at the village of Chirwa. The village has a bazaar, a few lodges and some shops.
Trek to Sekathum (1660m, 5 hrs)
Continuing along the Tamur river along the valley floor, after about two hours you arrive at Taplechok (1,380m) where your trekking permit is checked at the park gate. From Taplechok you cross a suspension bridge to the west bank, following a path where cardamom can be seen growing in the forest. This is an important cash crop and is exported to India.
After lunch, the trail starts to climb above the Tamur river to Lelep (1750m). Descend to cross a suspension bridge over the river, you enter the narrow Ghunsa Khola Valley and that takes you to Sekathum. This is a Tibetan village. From here you can get your first sightings of the high Himalayas and Jannu up the Ghunsa valley.
Trek to Amjilossa (2510m, 6 hrs)
Crossing another suspension bridge over the Ghunsa river at Sekathum, you follow the path through a dense forest. At times the trail is steep and narrow and you walk through a dramatic gorge. You then follow a switchback trail up through trees to reach Amjilossa high above the gorge.
Trek to Gyabla (2730m, 5 hrs)
To reach Gyabla you start with a short ascent through lush bamboo, oak and rhododendron forests to cross a small ridge. You then descend towards Ghunsa Khola at Thyanyani (2400m) where you can see several stone shelters. The trail makes several short climbs and descents before you pass a large waterfall and a final steep climb to Gyabla.
Trek to Ghunsa (3595m, 5 hrs)
From Gyabla the valley opens and you trek along an easier trail most of the way to Phole. As you gain altitude, you will notice that it is getting cooler as you climb above 3000m. At the same time, the vegetation changes and you see more rhododendrons and azaleas. Before you reach Phole you pass winter village for Ghunsa on its wide plateau. When you reach Phole village, it is well worth taking a look at the monastery and exploring the village where at some houses you can see the ladies weaving carpets.
From Phole it takes another 90 minutes or so reaches the larger village of Ghunsa. This picturesque Tibetan village has wooden houses covered in colourful prayer flags. There are several lodges and shops as well as a small Kanchenjunga Conservation Area office and a couple of gompas.
Acclimatization day at Ghunsa (3595m)
A walk to help you acclimatize to the higher altitude is arranged, following the route to Lobsang La. The trail climbs to 4,000m in about 3 hours, taking 2 hours to return to Ghunsa. It is a good walk for acclimatization purposes by following the rule “climb high and sleep low” and will help your body adjust to the gain in altitude as you make your way up to the north side Kanchenjunga Base Camp.
Trek to Khambachen (4050m, 6 hrs)
Leaving Ghunsa you make a gradual ascent through pine and rhododendron forests along the east side of the Ghunsa Khola passing several mani walls and chortens along the way. After three hours walking you cross a bridge over Ghunsa Khola. As you gain altitude, the mountain scenery becomes ever more spectacular. Take care when you cross the landslide area as there is a risk of rockfall from above. Contouring the hillside, you then descend to Khambachen, a Tibetan settlement with about a dozen houses nestled in a grassy plain, surrounded by mountains all around.
Acclimatization day in Khambachen
Spending two nights at Khambachen this gives you a chance to acclimatize before climbing over 750m in altitude to Lhonak the following day. It is recommended you go for a short walk and spend the rest of the day relaxing. The walk up Nupchu Khola is worth doing for the impressive views of Mount Jannu.
Trek to Lhonak (4785m, 4 to 5 hrs)
Your trail contours through azalea and rhododendron forest along a lateral moraine, passing through a seasonal yak herder’s camp at Ramtang (4370m). After about an hour the trail becomes rockier and you pass under another landslide area. Keep moving at a steady pace and stay alert for any rock fall.
Finally, to reach Lhonak you climb up through open rocky fields and cross moraines at the north-west of the Kanchenjunga Glacier. Here you can see several large stone huts and incredible views of Wedge Peak (6750m), Mera (6344m), Nepal Peak (6910m), Twins (7351m) among others. You cannot see the main peak of Kanchenjunga from Lhonak however, and for this view, you will walk up to Pangpema tomorrow.
Hike to Pangpema at North Base Camp of Kanchenjunga (5143m), return Lhonak (6 - 7 hrs)
From Lhonak you follow the trail that goes up along the lateral moraine from Kanchenjunga Glacier for about two hours. You pass several sections of loose rock and landslide areas to where the trail climbs more gradually and you reach some stone huts in a grassy area at Pangpema in another couple of hours. The view of the vast north face of Kanchenjunga from Pangpema is very impressive. After enjoying the mountain vista for a while you start the return walk back down to Lhonak that should take about 3 hours.
Return to Ghunsa (3595m, 8 hrs)
Retracing the route up, you walk back along the same trail through Kambachen to Ghunsa village where you spend the night.
Trek to High Camp (4100m, 5 hrs)
From Ghunsa you follow the steep rocky trail through the forest and along a ridge with a short, steep section to climb Sele La pass (4290m). The views are fantastic and you clearly see High Camp ahead, just 30 minutes further. High Camp is in a sheltered spot and there are a couple of wooden lodges and a small lake. You can see Mount Makalu from here in the far distance.
Cross the Mirgin La (4663m) and to Tseram (3870m, 8 hrs)
After an early start from High Camp, you climb a good trail up to the first pass Sinion La (4440m). The trail contours the hillside and after a short steep climb, you reach Mirgin La Pass (4480m). You descend briefly before contouring round again and another short steep climb brings you to the top of Sinelapche La Pass (4840m). AT ever pass you are rewarded with magnificent views. After the last pass, there is a 1000m descent, passing a small lake to reach Tseram, a small settlement located above the Simbua Khola.
Day 18: Trek to Oktang (4730m) and back to Ramche (4580m, 8 hrs)
Trekking up to Ramche you pass the snout of the Yalung glacier. You can see all the peaks to the east that straddle the India-Nepal border: Koktang (6147m), Rathong (6679m) and some of the Kabrus, all over 7000m. Here there is a lake and meadow with two stone houses. Often blue sheep can be seen on the grassy slopes above. You then follow the ablation valley to Oktang, surround by mountains above 7500m and the three main summits that are over 8400m. The climbing route to the summit of Kanchenjunga that was first climbed by Joe Brown and George Band in 1955 can be seen from Oktang.
Trek to Tortong (3000m, 7 - 8 hrs)
You follow the trail down through Tseram and then beside the river through a rhododendron forest to Tortong.
Trek to Yamphudin (2080m, 7 - 8 hrs)
In the morning, you have a long ascent of nearly 1000m, climbing steeply through a mossy forest. You go past where there was a landslide in 2013 and reach the pass at Lamite Bhanjang. The trail then descends quite steeply, though on a good path for a couple of hours before you cross Imja Khola. The trail contours around the hillside and descends to Yamphudin. This village has a mixed community of Sherpas, Rais, Limbus and Gurungs. Here there is also the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area office.
Trek to Mananke (1810m, 5 hrs)
From Yamphudin the path contours high above the river to Mamankhe.
Trek to Kande Bhanjang (6 hrs)
From Mamanke you follow the trail into a side canyon and cross a stream on a long suspension bridge before climbing to Ponphe village. You keep going up to two tea shops that are on the ridge above, then begin a traverse across a series of valleys passing several villages. The trail continues up to Kande Bhanjyang.
Trek to Lali Kharka (2265m, 6 hrs)
Following the trail, you traverse a ridge to reach the Limbu village of Khunjari. You then go down to Pha Khola. From here the path ascends through Pokhara and Shimu villages to Thenbewa, continuing through a forest to Lali Kharka.
Trek to Suketar (2300m, 3 hrs)
From Lali Kharka it is a relatively short day as you follow the trail onto a ridge and then descend gradually to the airfield at Suketar.
Drive to Bhadrapur (11 hrs)
Today you have a long day on the road, driving all the way back to Bhadrapur.
Fly to Kathmandu.
Flying back to Kathmandu, you have the rest of the day free.
You transfer to Tribhuvan Airport to connect with your onward flight. Please note that you should check in three hours prior to your flight time.