Kanchenjunga Trekking Itineraries - 15-24 Days

One of Nepal’s most rewarding treks, Mt. Kanchenjunga lies on the eastern border of Nepal and is perfect for those adventurous enough — and who have the time — to travel here. Previously camping only, there are now more affordable teahouse routes that take you past stunning Himalayan vistas, ancient forests, prime wildlife habitat, and into the heart of traditional cultures and communities.

Highlights

  • Enjoy breathtaking views en route to Kanchenjunga Base Camp
  • Get up close and personal with the world’s third highest peak (8586 m)
  • Trek from subtropical valleys to rhododendron forest to high alpine meadows
  • Stay with local families and get a glimpse into their daily life
  • Keep an eye out for local wildlife, including the red panda, blue sheep, Himalayan black bear and the rare snow leopard

Overview

Despite its stunning natural beauty, the Kanchenjunga region has remained off the radar of most trekkers given its remote location and lack of infrastructure (until recently it was camping only).

In recent years, teahouses have opened up in the villages and other convenient locations along the trail. This means that small groups can now trek here more affordably and payment for accommodation and meals goes directly to the local economy.

This region offers rewarding trekking through lush, low-lying valleys and up through incredible forests and into the high alpine pastures and glaciers at the foot of Kanchenjunga. Along the way, you’ll pass through Hindu and Buddhist villages whose culture includes Chhetri, Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Sherpa, and Tibetan.

Keep in mind, the trails are narrow and the teahouses simple as, still, relatively few trekkers visit this remote area. You won’t find the fancy meals and attached bathrooms available on the popular trekking routes, but you will experience the real Nepal in all its diversity of cultures and landscapes.

The most popular route takes 24 days and visits both the North and South Base Camps of Mt. Kanchenjunga. However, there are a few other shorter options, as well.

There is essentially one main trail and you can trek it in either direction, visiting both base camps (24 days) or one of the base camps (18/19 days) or do a shorter circuit (about 15 days depending on your stops). The routes described below start at Taplejung and do not include travel time to and from Kathmandu (please see the ‘getting there and away’ section below).

North & South Base Camp - 24 Days

This is probably the best-known trek in the region and well worth the effort if you have the time. The ideal route is to visit the North Base Camp followed by South Base Camp, given the better acclimatization schedule in this direction.

As with the other routes, this trek most often starts at Taplejung (or the Suketar airport if you fly in) but logistics are in flux as new roads are being developed.

From Taplejung, you trek down to Mitlung where the trail follows the Taplejung until Sekathum where you branch off into the Ghunsa river valley. The Ghunsa river drains the glaciers of Kumbarkarna (Jannu) and Kanchenjunga and you follow this valley right up to Pang Pema, the northern base camp. You can stay in very simple accommodation at Pang Pema and explore from there, or you can stay at Lhonak and do a day trip up and back in a long day.

On the way back down you return to Ghunsa and then turn towards the south base camp, climbing high to cross the Sele La (‘La’ means pass) at 4,720m and then making your way steeply down to Cheram. From there you can trek to Ramche and then take a day to visit the south base camp, or you could stay at Cheram and do a long day trip. Then you prepare the legs for steep descents as you leave the alpine landscapes behind and trek down to Tortung.

In your final days here, the trail crosses numerous ridgelines—with incredible views back up to the Himalayas—to get back to Taplejung through lush forests and farmland, getting very hot as you trek the uphill sections in the lower altitudes. There are various ways you can go for this stage of the trek and, with roads and accommodation options changing quickly in the area, it would be wise to talk with your trek operator before finalizing your itinerary for these days.

Brief itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive Taplejung, trek to Mitlung Mitlung (996m)
Day 2 Trek to Chiruwa Chiruwa (1270m)
Day 3 Trek to Sekathum Sekathum (1,660m)
Day 4 Trek to Amjilossa Amjilossa (2,510m)
Day 5 Trek to Gybala Gybala (2,730m)
Day 6 Trek to Ghunsa Ghunsa (3,595m)
Day 7 Acclimatisation day Ghunsa
Day 8 Trek to Khambachen Khambachen (4,100m)
Day 9 Acclimatisation day Khambachen
Day 10 Trek to Lhonak Lhonak (4,785m)
Day 11 Trek Pang Pema (Kanchenjunga North Base Camp) Pang Pema (5,200m)
Day 12 Rest / Pang Pema day hike Pang Pema
Day 13 Trek to Khambachen Khambachen
Day 14 Trek to Ghunsa Ghunsa
Day 15 Trek to Sele La camp Sele La camp (4,130m)
Day 16 Trek to Cheram, over Sele La (4,720m) Cheram (3,868m)
Day 17 Trek to Ramche Ramche (4,610m)
Day 18 Day hike to Oktang (south base camp) Ramche
Day 19 Trek to Tortung Tortung (2,980m)
Day 20 Trek to Yamphuding Yamphuding (1,692m)
Day 21 Trek to Mamanke Mamanke (2,000m)
Day 22 Trek to Kesuwa Kesuwa (2,100m)
Day 23 Trek to Lalikharka Lalikharka 2,220m)
Day 24 Trek to Taplejung You may be able to depart same day, or stay overnight

North Base Camp - 18-21 days

Jannu Peak, Kanchenjunga Region
Jannu Peak, Kanchenjunga Region

This trek follows the North & South Base Camp route, above, until you get back to Ghunsa. Here, you can choose whether you wish to return via the same trail you trekked up from Taplejung (taking 18 days) or whether you cross over the Sele La and return via Cheram and Yamphudin (taking 21 days, as shown below). If you wish to spend more time at the Pang Pema and explore beyond, then you should add two days.

South Base Camp - 17 days

This trek follows the Northern Base Camp route, with the common variations on where you can stay at the lower elevations depending on your walking speed and when you arrive in Taplejung.

If you’re strictly doing this as a teahouse trek from the south to the north, then it’s a long day from Tortung to Cheram where you ascend almost 1000 m in one day. Many people can cope with this altitude gain if sleeping at this elevation (3968 m) and many trekking agencies do organize this trek going from south to north. If you are an experienced trekker and know how your body acclimatizes, then you may wish to consider trekking the route this way. However, we recommend a more cautious approach to acclimatization and consider the north to south route preferable, as shown in our brief itinerary.

Shorter Circuit - 15 Days

This trek may seem ‘cut short’ after reading the itineraries above. However, this is a stunning trek in its own right and—even if you don’t visit either base camp—it is very well worth the effort if you can get out to this incredible part of Nepal.  

Section 1 of the GHT

The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) is an epic trail crossing Nepal from east to west which can be broken down into sections that are a bit more manageable for most of us. Section one includes the Kanchenjunga trek up to the northern base camp and back to Ghunsa. From here the trail crosses over the Nango La pass to visit the remote area of Olangchungola before trekking out from Tumlingtar or back to Taplejung (approx. 32 days, Kathmandu to Kathmandu).

Best season

The best months to trek in the Kanchenjunga region are from early March to mid-May and from October to late November. We recommend avoiding the monsoon season which runs from approximately late May to mid/late September. During the winter, many local people will move to lower elevations and teahouses will close so the only option will be camping and it will be extremely cold.

In the springtime, you can see an incredible show of the Rhododendrons in bloom, with the many varieties growing here flowering in different colors. In spring, the trails will be drier while in autumn the skies are crystal clear but the trails may have changed with the monsoon rains and some itinerary adjustments may be required.

Getting there & away

There are a variety of ways to get from Kathmandu to the start point of this trek. Depending on your dates, you may find it best to adjust your itinerary to the available flights.

Flights are available from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur from where you fly or drive to Suketar airport near Taplejung. You can also fly from Kathmandu to Biratnagar from where you can fly to the small airport at Tumlingtar (an alternative start/end point for longer treks in this region).

Direct flights may also be available, although flight schedules are subject to change so it is important to ask your local specialist for the best way to get there for your planned travel dates. Mountain airports like Taplejung and Tumlingtar are also vulnerable to delays, so it is a good idea to build in buffer days in case you need to drive in/out due to bad weather.

Overland options include hiring a vehicle from Kathmandu or one of the fly-drive combinations above. Buses are available and far cheaper but are only for those with the time available for the very long bus trip to eastern Nepal, plus the connecting transport (bus or jeep) up into the hills. The style of tourist buses that run from Kathmandu to Pokhara are not available for this region.