Gokyo Lakes Trek

The sparkling, pristine blue and green waters of the Gokyo Lakes are one of Nepal’s most memorable sights. They comprise the highest freshwater lake system in the world, at around 5,000 meters. The Gokyo Lakes trek is ideal for people who want to trek in the Everest region, but who want more variety of views and fewer nights spent at very high altitude.

Highlights

  • Stand at the shores of a chain of six turquoise, glacial-fed lakes
  • Hike along Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest glacier in the Himalaya
  • Avoid the Everest crowds, but enjoy the selection of great views
  • Climb Gokyo Ri (5357m) for spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse, & Cho Oyu
  • Return via Renjo La pass (5340m), over one of Nepal's most beautiful passes
  • Trek through the Sherpa town of Khumjung, home of a ‘real’ yeti skull
  • From 'Scoundrel's viewpoint' near the fifth lake, peer over a wasteland of rock and ice that is the vast Ngozumpa Glacier

Overview

Fast facts
Duration 14 days
Max. elevation 5400m (Gokyo Ri)
Start/finish Lukla/Lukla
Difficulty Challenging
Best season Spring/Fall
Trek style Teahouse

As well as trekking to the six glacial-fed Gokyo Lakes, trekkers can include a climb to the top of Gokyo Ri, which is at the same altitude as Everest Base Camp. From the summit you will enjoy spectacular views of Everest and other very high mountains and glaciers.

Trekking this route provides a lot of variety: views of the bright turquoise high-altitude lakes, Ngozumpa glacier (the largest glacier in the Himalayas), and views across to Everest as well as other 8000 metre-plus mountains from the top of Gokyo Ri (Lhotse, Makalu and Cho Oyu).

Getting there & away

As the first part of the trek follows the same route at the Everest Base Camp trek, the most common way of getting onto the trail is to fly to the small airport at Lukla. This is a stunning experience in itself. Numerous flights are made daily from Kathmandu, in small fixed-wing aeroplanes, taking around 30 minutes. However, bad weather frequently closes the airport, so it’s wise to prepare for delays if flying to Lukla, and to keep a day or two as buffer days.

The alternative to flying to Lukla is to trek overland from outside Kathmandu, the “pioneers’ route” that was taken by expeditioners to Everest in the 1950s. This connects to the trailhead at Jiri, which passes beneath Lukla. Taking this option significantly lengthens the trek, adding about an extra seven days. It also requires crossing several passes, including one of over 3500 meters. This is not the ‘easy’ option of getting onto the Gokyo Lakes trail, but it is adventurous and will help with acclimatisation.

The Gokyo Lakes trek is in-and-out, meaning that you retrace your route back once you’ve finished.

Gokyo lake five
Lake five of the Gokyo lakes
Gokyo lake
View south from Gokyo lake
Gokyo Village with Cho Oyu
Gokyo Village with Cho Oyu, the world’s 6th highest mountain, in the background
Ngozumpa Glacier
Ngozumpa Glacier with Gokyo village in winter

Detailed itinerary

Below, you'll find our itinerary from trekking from Lukla to Gokyo, and back to Lukla. (Extra days can be added if trekking to Jiri/Lukla, if visiting more lakes.)

Day Destination Altitude Duration
Day 01 Fly to Lukla (2830m), trek to Phakding 2600m 4 hours
Day 02 Namche Bazaar 3450m 5 hours
Day 03 Namche Bazaar (day-hike to Khumjung) 3450m Rest day
Day 04 Dole 4084m 5 hours
Day 05 Machhermo 4410m 3 hours
Day 06 Machhermo 4410m Rest day
Day 07 Gokyo village 4750m 6 hours
Day 08 Gokyo village (day-hike to Fifth Lake, 4956m) 4750m 7 hours
Day 09 Phanga (early morning summit of Gokyo Ri, 5400m) 4400m 7 hours
Day 10 Khumjung 3790m 6 hours
Day 11 Namche Bazaar 3450m 1.5 hours
Day 12 Phakding 2600m 4 hours
Day 13 Lukla 2830m 4 hours
Day 14 Fly back to Kathmandu   30 minutes

Best season

As with most other treks in Nepal, the best times to do it are spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November). In these months the weather is likely to be clear, and daytime temperatures warm. The Khumbu region, however, is known to be particularly cold and dry, and many trekkers develop the ‘Khumbu cough’ due to the dry dust.

It is usually possible to trek in the summer/monsoon and winter seasons, but greater preparation for difficult conditions is required, and you may not get clear views.

Gokyo Ri
View from Gokyo Ri of Mt. Everest, Lhotse and Makalu
Gokyo village
Gokyo village as seen from Gokyo Ri
Cholatse and Tabuche
Cholatse and Tabuche from Gokyo Ri
Gokyo valley lake
Above Gokyo Valley, from near Cho Oyu base camp

Accommodation & meals

Like elsewhere in the Khumbu region, lodges on the Gokyo Lakes trek are well-developed and relatively comfortable. There is a lot of variety in this region, from ultra-budget to hotels of a quality that you could find in Nepal’s cities, with hot showers and electric blankets on the beds. However, not all grades of accommodation may be available in all settlements, particularly the smaller ones.

The food will also be good, with items such as rice and curry, noodles, momos, soup and Tibetan-style breads featuring on menus. A staple food in the Khumbu region are potatoes, and these feature more prominently on the menus of trekking lodges here than elsewhere in Nepal, with fewer other fresh vegetables. The amount of fresh food available will decline as you progress higher, and costs also rise.

Permits & regulations

The Sagarmatha National Park (through which you'll be trekking), is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As with all treks in this park, you’ll needs a TIMS and Sagarmatha National Park permit.

  • TIMS permit: $10 USD per person
  • Sagarmatha National Park permit: $30 USD per person

If you’re organizing your trek through a trekking agency, they will arrange these for you. If you’re arranging the trek yourself, you’ll need to pick up your TIMS permit in Kathmandu and your Sagarmatha National Park permit in Monjo.

Difficulty

This trek is generally considered ‘moderate’ for a trek of this length at high altitude. If trekking a route that ascends Gokyo Ri, the highest altitude that will be reached is the summit, at around 5,400 meters. The summit of Gokyo Ri is itself at around the same altitude as Everest Base Camp, making this trek generally easier in terms of altitude. You won’t be sleeping at this height at any point along the trek though, and there are fewer nights spent above 4000 meters than the Everest Base Camp trek, making it less problematic in terms of potential altitude-related problems.

Variations

Return via Renjo La

Instead of returning back the same way to Namche Bazaar, take the Renjo La pass (west, just above Gokyo village) and descend down into a beautiful valley that eventually leads back to Namche Bazaar, where you follow the normal route back to Lukla. This route is much less trodden, and takes you through the beautiful Sherpa villages of Thame and Thamo.

Everest Base Camp, 16 days

Another variation is continuing on to Everest Base Campvia Cho La pass, to the east. From Gokyo village, you'll immediatly cross the Ngozumpa glacier and then make a steep climb up the pass, before descending down to join the normal Everest Base Camp trail.

Three Passes, 19 days

The Gokyo Lakes trek can also be combined with the Three Passes trek. Crossing the second of the three passes (counter-clockwise), Cho La, takes you to Gokyo village. From there you can climb Gokyo Ri, continue on to the upper lakes, and/or follow the Gokyo Lakes route on your return journey to Lukla. If you want to combine these treks, it is recommended that you start on the Three Passes trek and join the Gokyo Lakes trek, rather than the other way around, due to the altitudes and acclimatisation.

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

Gokyo lakes trek, Nepal - Mar 3 - Mar 16, 2017

Traveler: Tony L. - Local specialist: Ngima Dorji Sherpa

Ngima took care of all of the planning and everything worked out perfectly (apart from the weather!)