A Complete Guide To The Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek

From its history and impressive highlights along the way to various trek routes and a rough trek itinerary, find out all you need to know about the Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek
Beautiful Himalaya Views on the way to Pangpema during Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trek in Nepal
Beautiful Himalaya Views on the way to Pangpema during Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trek in NepalShutterstock

Nestled in the far eastern reaches of Nepal, near the borders of Tibet and the Indian state of Sikkim, lies the formidable Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,566 metres. The name Kanchenjunga literally translates to 'Five Treasures of the Snows.' The Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek offers intrepid adventurers an opportunity to explore this remote and stunning region with breathtaking landscapes, rich biodiversity, and a unique cultural fold. Besides the breathtaking landscape, the area houses ethnic groups such as the Limbu, Rai, Sherpa and Tamang, each diversely distinct in their culture and customs full of vibrant dances, festivals and daily lifestyles. Let us delve into the history and geography of the region and explore its diverse flora and fauna, alongside activities to engage in and a rough itinerary for this unforgettable journey.

History and Geography

Beautiful Himalayan landscape with snow capped mountains in Kanchenjunga Base Camp
Beautiful Himalayan landscape with snow capped mountains in Kanchenjunga Base CampShutterstock

Kangchenjunga, also known as the Five Treasures of the Great Snows, is a massive mountain range stretching across Nepal's border and the Indian state of Sikkim. The mountain is considered sacred by both Tibetan Buddhists and local ethnic communities such as the Lepchas, Limbus, and Sherpas. In Sikkim, the Lepchas believe that Kanchenjunga is home to their guardian deity, while the Limbus of eastern Nepal consider the mountain as the abode of their ancestor Yuma Sammang.

Several myths and legends surround Kangchenjunga, with one popular story about the "Yeti," a mythical creature believed to inhabit the remote and snow-covered regions of the Himalayas.

The early exploration of Kangchenjunga dates back to the mid-19th century when British explorers and surveyors began mapping the region. The mountain was first surveyed in 1848-49 by British Surveyor Joseph Dalton Hooker as a part of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. Finally, the first successful ascent of Kangchenjunga was achieved on May 25, 1955, by a British expedition led by Charles Evans.

The magnificent mountain owes its impressive height and striking appearance to the geological processes that have shaped the Earth's crust over millions of years. The mountain's formation is closely linked to the collision between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which began around 50 million years ago and led to the uplifting of the Himalayas, including Kangchenjunga. Geographically, Kanchenjunga is located within the Himalayan range, stretching over 125 kilometres from north to south. The journey to Kanchenjunga Base Camp usually starts from the village of Taplejung in Nepal. It follows a winding route around the mountain range and offers breathtaking views of the peak and its surrounding landscape.


Himalayan black bear seen in its habitat
Himalayan black bear seen in its habitatShutterstock

The Kanchenjunga region is known for its remarkable biodiversity, owing to its diverse climate and topography. The trekking route takes you through lush subtropical forests and alpine meadows and eventually leads to barren, glaciated landscapes at higher elevations. This diversity supports a wide range of flora and fauna.

At lower altitudes, you will see rhododendron forests, bamboo groves, and magnolia trees, which are home to a variety of species such as the red panda, Himalayan black bear, and various bird species, including the colourful Impeyan pheasant (Danphe), Nepal's national bird. As you climb higher, the landscape changes to alpine zones, where you may come across rare high-altitude plants and elusive snow leopards.

Major Attractions, Highlights and Activities

Kanchenjunga and Yalung glacier in Nepal
Kanchenjunga and Yalung glacier in NepalShutterstock

Trekking and Views: This trek provides an unparalleled opportunity to witness the breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga and its neighbouring peaks like Jannu, Kabru, and Rathong. The major climbing routes to the summit of Kanchenjunga include the Southwest Face, the most popular ascent which begins from Yalung Glacier in Nepal. The trek showcases the infamous "Great Shelf" on the way. The North Face, entirely situated in Nepal, features the "Black Pyramid," a rock buttress. The Northeast Spur is a lengthy and highly demanding ridge. The East Ridge ascends the mountain from the remote and rarely visited Lhonak Valley in Sikkim. Finally, the Northwest Face is well-known for its steep and sustained ice-climbing sections.

Local Culture: Immerse yourself in local communities, visit monasteries, and learn about the traditional lifestyles of the indigenous peoples. Experience diverse ethnic communities such as the Limbu and Rai people, known for their unique customs, traditional dwellings, and warm hospitality.

Yalung Glacier: Get a glimpse of the impressive Yalung Glacier, one of the main glaciers of Kanchenjunga, as you approach the base camp.

Kanchenjunga Conservation Area: Explore the protected area harbouring a wide range of endangered species and unique Himalayan ecosystems.

Wildlife Spotting: Keep an eye out for rare Himalayan wildlife, especially during early mornings and late evenings.

The Enthralling Trek

View of Kanchenjungha mountain range from Goechala view point
View of Kanchenjungha mountain range from Goechala view point Shutterstock

The Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek in Sikkim is a 15-day camping trek covering 161 km. Trekkers will hike an average of 10 km per day and will face moderate challenges due to higher altitudes, unpredictable weather, and longer duration. The trek costs roughly INR 18,000 for 15 days and 14 nights and includes ascending the Goecha La Pass at an altitude of 5,000 metres, offering a panoramic view of the eastern face of Kanchenjunga.

A Rough 15-Day Itinerary to Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek

Day 1: Arrive in Gangtok

Arrive in Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. Spend the day exploring Gangtok and making final preparations for the trek. Stay overnight in Gangtok.

Day 2: Gangtok to Yuksom (1,780m)

Drive from Gangtok to Yuksom (approximately 6-7 hours). Yuksom is the trailhead for the Kanchenjunga trek and the historic first capital of Sikkim. Explore Yuksom and visit the ancient Norbugang Coronation Throne. Stay overnight in Yuksom.

Day 3: Yuksom to Tsokha (3,050m)

Trek from Yuksom to Tsokha. The trail ascends through dense forests of rhododendron and magnolia. Enjoy views of the Sikkim Himalayas. Stay overnight in Tsokha.

Day 4: Tsokha to Dzongri (4,030m)

Trek from Tsokha to Dzongri. Pass through enchanting landscapes and alpine meadows. Dzongri offers stunning views of Mt. Kanchenjunga and other peaks. Stay overnight in Dzongri.

Day 5: Acclimatisation Day in Dzongri

Spend a day acclimatising in Dzongri. Optional hike to Dzongri Top for panoramic views. Explore the surrounding area and relax. Stay overnight in Dzongri.

Day 6: Dzongri to Thansing (3,780m)

Trek from Dzongri to Thansing. Descend through rhododendron forests and cross rivers. Thansing is a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains. Stay overnight in Thansing.

Day 7: Thansing to Lamuney (4,160m)

Trek from Thansing to Lamuney. Pass by the Prek Chu River and reach the glacial moraine. Lamuney is a camping site offering splendid views. Stay overnight in Lamuney.

Day 8: Lamuney to Goechala (4,940m) and back to Thansing

Early morning trek to Goechala for sunrise views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Goechala offers breathtaking vistas of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Return to Thansing for an overnight stay.

Day 9: Thansing to Tshoka

Trek from Thansing back to Tshoka. Retrace your steps through the forests and meadows. Stay overnight in Tshoka.

Day 10: Tshoka to Yuksom

Trek from Tshoka back to Yuksom. Descend through the forests to reach Yuksom. Celebrate the completion of the trek in Yuksom. Stay overnight in Yuksom.

Day 11: Drive from Yuksom to Pelling

Drive from Yuksom to Pelling. Explore Pelling and visit the Pemayangtse Monastery. Stay overnight in Pelling.

Day 12: Pelling to Rinchenpong

Drive from Pelling to Rinchenpong. Rinchenpong offers splendid views of the Himalayas. Stay overnight in Rinchenpong.

Day 13: Rinchenpong to Ravangla

Drive from Rinchenpong to Ravangla. Visit the Buddha Park and Ralang Monastery. Stay overnight in Ravangla.

Day 14: Ravangla to Gangtok

Drive from Ravangla to Gangtok. Explore Gangtok and indulge in some shopping or sightseeing. Stay overnight stay in Gangtok.

Day 15: Departure from Gangtok

Depart from Gangtok for your onward journey.

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