kanchenjunga circuit trek a complete guide

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is one of the most famous treks in Nepal. Every year thousands of trekkers hike to Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek.

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is a restricted trekking area. So to trek in Kanchenjunga area, you need a local guide and at least 2 trekkers to obtain necessary permits to trek through Kanchenjunga.

Kanchenjunga Circuit trek is not as popular as Everest Base Camp Trek or Annapurna Base Camp Trek. That means it is not crowded and still remote. So you can experience remote Nepali cultures, foods and lifestyle in its traditional form while trekking in Kanchenjunga area.

Kanchenjunga trek is tea-house trek. Tea-house treks have small lodges with minimum variety of food and lodges that come along the trek route.

The word Kanchenjunga comes from Tibetan word referring to “Five great treasures in the snow”. This symbolizes its five peaks as gold, silver, precious stones, grain and holy scriptures. Mt. Kanchenjunga (8585m) is the world’s third highest peak making this trek route even more intriguing.

Kanchenjunga is towards the far-eastern part of Nepal protected under the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project (2035 km2). The conservation area hosts several species such as impedance pheasant, shy dragon, snow leopard, black bear, red panda, etc.

If you are someone seeking peace in nature, this route will be perfect for you. Popular for its remoteness, the trek was once a forbidden region and only opened for trekkers in 1988.

So there are lesser trekkers hiking in Kanchenjunga area and plenty of wildlife and natural heritages. The natural heritages will mesmerize you throughout the journey with minimum human influence.

As the trek commences, you will witness the slow change in landscape bringing changes in vegetation and wildlife. This route encompasses Himalayan coniferous forests, alpine shrub, meadows and grasslands. This challenging adventure will give you plenty of adventurous and amazing memory to cherish for life time.

You can visit Kanchenjunga through two trek, either the Northern Base Camp or the Southern Base Camp. If you choose both in the same trip, it can be utterly difficult given the diversity and irregularity of its landscape.

Facts and highlights of the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek

  • Mt Kanchenjunga- Third highest peak in the world
  • Tibetan hospitality
  • Traditional Nepali cultures
  • Remoteness and untouched natural heritages
  • Wildlife such as Snow leopard, Musk deer, Red panda, etc.
  • Different landscapes from forests to meadows
  • Snow-capped mountains above 8000m
  • Kanchenjunga glacier and many others
  • Rivers and waterfalls

Post-earthquake situation: Is trekking to Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek safe?

The eastern part of Nepal was not affected much by the earthquake compared to the western and central regions. There was no report of death and casualty in the Kanchenjunga trekking circuit. The region did not witness any crack in the houses or avalanche in the mountain.

It has been declared safe to be travel. Moreover, the trails have not been obstructed and the landscape is also in good conditions. The mountains stand tall for the trekkers to view its magnificent beauty.

Seasons suitable for starting your journey for Kanchenjunga Trek

The most favorable seasons for trekking in Nepal are autumn (September-November) and spring (March-May).

Autumn (September-November)

One of the best seasons to trek is in autumn. It is the time when the greenery of forests and colorful rhododendrons surround the trails. You can enjoy the serene view of mountains, clear sky and perfect weather in terms of temperature.

Spring (March-May)

As the winter ends, spring brings a beautiful ambience for trekking. The temperatures are moderate while the scenes are spectacular of the mountains. The wildlife is also seen during this time to bask on the sun’s heat.

However, it is highly risky to be traveling during summer (June-August) which is a rainy season. During the cold winter (December-February), the trails are covered with snow and the trek is full of risk.

Kanchenjuna Circuit Trekking Routes

Kanchenjunga trek provides you the scenic beauty of Nepal, not merely through the four highest peaks but also through its landscape, forests, wildlife, and culture.

The remoteness and wilderness of the region makes it difficult to trek both Northern and Southern camp in the same trip. However, it can be done with extra days added to the journey.

To reduce the time for trekking, you may choose among any two base camp, either Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trek or Kanchenjunga South Base Camp Trek.

Given the height of Pangpema view point (5388m), the North Base Camp is more adventurous, rich with wildlife and vegetation than the South Base Camp that reaches up to Oktang.

Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trek

The North Base Camp trek can be started from different destination. This trek will be adventurous with greater altitude than you will trek in the South camp.

To make it comfortable for you, you can get a direct flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur that will take around 45 minutes. Even the air flight will be an experience due to the beautiful view of Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, etc. You can then take a jeep for 40 minutes’ drive to Birtamod.

You need good rest for your trekking. So it will be better to stay overnight in Birtamod. You can take a bus to Taplejung early morning. It will cover most of your day. You can begin your adventurous journey in the third day after departure from Kathmandu.

You will begin your trek at lower altitude and slowly escalate through 6-7 hours of trek each day. The registered guides will make it as comfortable for you as possible rather than making this trek a hectic nightmare.

You will be well satisfied by your entire day trek due to changes in culture, landscape, and thrill each day. Staying at the majestic view of mountains, you will learn about authentic Nepali culture and natural scenery at its best.

In the highest altitude of Pangpema, you will witness Nepal’s treasure of beautiful glaciers and peaks in the Kanchenjunga range.

Ghunsa is also one of the developed spots in the trek. You will get better facilities for accommodation even at the height of 3475m.

Itinerary for Kanchenjunga North Base Camp Trek

Day 1: Flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur (45minutes approx.). You won’t be bored. The beautiful view of mountains like Mt. Everest will provide a warm welcome to your expedition. You need to take a trip to Birtamod (40 minute approx.) in jeep. You can enjoy Nepali food and rest for the night. It is lower altitude region so the temperature will be high.

Day 2: Bus from Birtamod to Taplejung in a local bus (8-10 hours approx.). The busy road will take your entire day. You can see the beautiful hills along the way. To start a hectic trek, it’s better to enjoy amenities for an extra day in Taplejung.

Day 3: Finally, you will start your once in a lifetime trek. Trek starts from Taplejung to Chiruwa (around 1200m). It will be 6 to 7 hours of trekking in the first day.

Day 4: From Chiruwa, you will reach to Lelep. This trek of 5 to 6 hour will pass through Tapethok checkpoint. It is a restricted area. So, you can rest for the day in Lelep.

Day 5: Trek from Lelep to Amjilosa. It is about 5 hours’ journey. The track is mostly slippery in this region. You need to wear a good pair of boots and be careful in this trail.

Day 6: Trek from Amjilosa to Gyabla. You will witness cultural changes and more Tibetan influenced lifestyle towards these regions

Day 7: Trek from Gyabla to Gunsa (4 to 5 hours). It is the capital of Kanchenjunga region. The area is comparatively developed with telecommunication facilities, accommodation and good meals.

Day 8: Acclimatization day in Ghunsa (3475m). You can visit nearby ridge and enjoy the view of Jannu Peak. You can leave your materials as you will enjoy this sightseeing and get back to the place.

Day 9: Trek from Ghunsa to Kambachen (around 4100m). The altitude will increase drastically so the trails are steep and difficult. You need to be careful with wooden bridges.

Day 10: You can acclimatize in this Kambachen for the day. You can rest for further difficult altitudes to be covered.

Day 11: You need to trek a high altitude from Kambachen to Lhonak (around 4790m). The facilities are merely basic but you are finally in the lap of mountains and grassy plains.

Day 12: Trek from Lhonak to Pangpema (5140m). It will take around 3 hours. The highest point of the North base camp is reached. It is difficult to find spaces for accommodation. You can either stay there or return back on the same day.

Day 13: Trek back from Lhonak to Ghunsa. A long way downhill is not easy. But starting early morning, you need to trek for 8 hours.

Day 14: Trek back from Ghunsa to Amjilosa. You are returning back to better facilities and warmer climates. It will take about 7 hours.

Day 15: Trek back from Amjilosa to Tapethok. You need to plan to come out of the restricted zone by the day end. It will take almost 7 hours.

Day 16: Trek back from Tapethok to Mitlung. The journey downhill will be around 7 hours long.

Day 17: You finally arrive to Taplejung. You can rest at Birtamod in a private jeep or else rest in Taplejung for the day.

Day 18: Bus ride from Taplejung to Birtamod. It will be around 8 to 10 hours.

Day 19: You can reach Bhadrapur by private jeep ride of 40 minutes and fly back to the capital.

Kanchenjunga South Base Camp Trek

South Base Camp is considered to have easy trail than the North Base Camp. However, the scenery is nonetheless. You can enjoy the view of mountains and glacier.

You will meet amazing people in Yamphuding and Mamangkhe with authentic Nepali culture. This region hosts basic facilities of accommodation such as small stone huts. These facilities may not be available throughout the year.

Itinerary for Kanchenjugan South Base Camp Trek

Day 1: Flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur (45 minutes approx.). After your arrival, you can take a jeep from Bhadrapur to Birtamod (40 minutes approx.).

Day 2: Bus from Birtamod to Taplejung. The journey will be 8 to 10 hours due to the busy road.

Day 3: Embrace yourself for your majestic trekking experience. Trek begins from Taplejung to Simbu. The trek will be 8 hours long.

Day 4: Trek from Simbu to Khesewa (2100m approx). You will trek for 5 to 6 hours.

Day 5: Trek from Khesewa to Mamangkhe (1786m). The region is filled with Rai and Kirat community. This culturally rich region will mesmerize you to reduce the hectic trek.

Day 6: Trek from Mamangkhe to Yamphuding (2000m approx). You will enjoy this large village of the Kanchenjunga region.

Day 7: Finally, you get to rest in Yamphuding for a day. Acclimatization in Yamphuding will be on exploring the village and taking rest from the tiresome journey.

Day 8: Trek from Yamphuding to Tortong (approx. 3000m). You will need all your strength to trek in this steep trail. It will be a tiresome 9 to 10 hours journey.

Day 9: Trek Yamphuding to Cheram (3800m). You can be thankful for this shirt journey. It will be 4 to 5 hour trek.

Day 10: Trek from Cheram to Ramche (4600m). This high altitude will be one of the tough trek. It will take 3 hours from Cheram. To reach to the South base camp, you need to hike 2 hours from Ramche.

Day 11: Trek back from Ramche to Torongding. The journey will be 6 to 7 hours.

Day 12: Trek back from Torongding to Yamphuding. The trek will be 7 to 8 hours. It will not be easy even though its descending downhill.

Day 13: Trek back from Yamphuding to Khebang. The journey will be 5 to 6 hours long. It is a rare trail and they have proper facility for homestay.

Day 14: Trek back to Khebang to Kamdime which will take 6 to 7 hours.

Day 15: You can drive back to Birtamod. It will take 14 hours to reach Birtamod.

Day 16: You can drive back to Bhadrapur in 40 minute drive and then take a flight back to Kathmandu.

Permits for Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek

There are a few requirements to be fulfilled before coming for this trek to Kanchenjunga. Being a forbidden area before, you need a special trekking permit issued by the Government registered trekking agency in Nepal. You can contact them online or meet after coming to Nepal.

You need to have an acceptable passport and visa to come to Nepal through air flight or through roadways. Similarly, this trek is not allowed for solo hiking. Thus, a trekking agency needs to be contacted for your trek and guides will be provided to help you along the way.

So, you must book your trekking plans ahead of visiting the country or book it after you arrive to Kathmandu.

In case of any protected region or sanctuaries along the trails, registration needs to be done for record purpose.

The trip can start from Biratnagar or Suketar. So, domestic air ticket needs to be booked if you want to reduce the days of your trip. Otherwise, bus can also be boarded from Kathmandu to Suketar which will not require pre-booking. The tickets are easily available except during the festivals such as Dashain that falls in October.

You must carry your identification document, permits and passport safely as it might be checked along the way. In case of any issue, it will be better to contact trekking agency or your home country’s embassy for additional help.

Special Restricted Area Permit for Kanchenjunga Trek

You need two permit for this region. First is special Restricted Area Permit that is issued for weekly basis. Second is Kanchenjunga Conservation Area project entry permit, which is issued for monthly basis.

Special permits are needed to visit restricted areas which can be applied after your arrival. The system of advance reservation is not available. So, you need to get two trekkers per group who are usually authorized guide by the government.

The trek in restricted areas like Kanchenjunga circuit trek needs to be properly organized through agencies that provide guides for the journey.

The region covers some restricted villages like Lelep village, Papung village, etc. which charges different fees per person. The basic charges range from 10 USD to 50 USD per week. It also depends on the time of year of your visit.

The permit for Kanchenjunga Conservation Area will be around NRs. 2000 (20 USD) issued by the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

Cultures and lifestyle in Kanchenjuna Trek

This region hosts diversity of cultures which will be an amazing experience along the journey. This tea-house trek will provide you with glimpses of variety of ethnic groups as well as their cuisines as the altitude escalates. You can enjoy and learn their cultures, foods, and languages during home stays at the end of the day.

You will meet traditional Brahmins and Chettris in the lower trails while beginning the journey. They speak English and Nepali is their main language.

It also has a dense population of Limbu and Sherpa community referred as Mongolian race towards the higher altitude usually known for their mountaineering skills. They speak different language than national language, Nepali. But, they are familiar with English because of high tourist attraction to the region.

You will notice Tibetan lifestyle and food towards the higher altitude. They follow Buddhism as well as Hinduism in that region. The common monuments such as stupas, Bihar, etc. will be plentiful throughout the trails. The core occupation of these people is tourism, animal husbandry, and agriculture.

Wildlife and Vegetation in Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek has varieties of landscape and vegetation along the way. It starts at low-land of Terai, coniferous forests, grasslands and meadows. This diversity of vegetation provides shelter to even diverse wildlife.

The Kanchenjunga Conservation Area is considered in Global eco-region by World Wildlife Fund. So, it is famous for some rare species such as snow leopard, black bear, musk deer, red pheasant, etc.

You will be astonished by the beauty of thirty variety of rhododendron and 69 variety of orchids if you visit during autumn season. The trails will have beautiful colors added by the flowers and enchanting sounds due to wildlife.

You will witness basic forests of Pine, Fir, Bamboo, and Hemlock in the lower altitude which reduces after the temperature starts dropping. In the higher altitude, merely Pinus and Junipers are seen.

Trekking Equipment Checklist of Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek

You definitely know that the trek is not going to be an easy one. Given the remoteness of the region, you might not get every basic thing for your personal comfort. So, I have listed a few of them to be carried to make it less difficult.

Clothes and footwear

Depending on the time period of travel, you might need to pack your clothing. However, the higher altitudes are always cold and have the risk of altitude sickness. So, be careful when you pack.

  • Trekking boots

Trekking boots are your best friends and life saviors. Without a comfortable pair of these, you cannot imagine walking even a few kilometers. The rough pathway, snowy landscape and difficult altitude will demand a strong pair of boots with thick soles to prevent from bruises.

  • Warm slippers

It will not be comfortable wearing boots entire day after all the dirt and damp along the way. You need to let it dry and wear a comfortable slipper with socks. It will help you relax your feet at the end of the day. It will be easy in lodge or home stay at the evening.

  • Few pairs of socks

It is better to bring socks rather than merely carrying shoes. The temperature might vary between lower and higher altitudes. It might also be heated during the afternoon. So, it is better to carry two kinds of socks i.e. thick and thin to be comfortable during the trip. You must carry few pairs because of the lengthy nature of the trek.

  • Few pairs of inner wears

It will not be wise to trek with heavy baggage. So, you might not be able to change clothes regularly but underwear are must haves to deal with sweating and remain hygienic.

  • Fleece jacket

You need to be prepared for the changing temperature. So, fleece jackets are the must to keep you warm and protect from any sickness in the journey. You can layer up your clothing but the temperature drops down to even -20 degrees in April.

  • Waterproof jacket

It will be a huge mistake if you don’t have waterproof jacket for backup. Not only does it protect you from the cold breeze, but the irregularity of weather during October and November can hamper your entire journey.

  • Trousers and T-shirts

It is better to carry less during trek. Having 2-3 trekking trousers, it will be enough for the trek while few pair for sightseeing in the capital will be enough. It is also helpful to carry light full sleeves T-shirt to protect from forests and insects as well as the heat. You should carry simple and comfortable clothing for the trek and ignore any excess baggage.

Other equipment

  • Sleeping bag and tent

The region is well known for its forbidden landscape. You need to be safe in case of lack of lodging and spaces available during hectic travel seasons. You can carry tent in group or individually for your personal safety.

You might not be comfortable with the primitive lodging facilities, so to carry a sleeping bag of your own can relax you after a tiring day. Even though bed and other facilities have been available, you need to understand the difficulty to provide service in the remote areas.

  • Trekking poles

While trekking in such routs, poles can definitely make it a lot easier. It reduces pressure on the knees and supports to continue the trek. It even prevents from falling and getting hurt.

  • Warm gloves

As you plan to reach the base camp, its normal for your hands to feel numb with snow. So, warm pair of gloves will be helpful after reaching the higher altitude.

  • Sanitary napkins

You are probably not be provided with sanitary pads and tampons in the remote areas. You can get them in the capital after arrival or pack it while coming. It is better to be safe in such a long journey.

  • Sunglasses, torchlight and water bottle
  • Toiletries

The toilets are not advance in some areas compared to the others. However, over the years, the area has developed. But, it is useful to carry your essentials such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, soap, shampoo sachets, tooth paste and brush.

  • First Aid kit

You cannot ask for medicine and basic first aid help between jungles and trails. You will rarely meet tourists along this route. So, basic bandage, aspirin, medicine for diarrhea, blister plaster, etc. must be there in your kit.

  • Entertainment material

After a tiresome day, you might want to relax. It is a good option to carry cards, cubes, novel, snacks and mini chocolate bars. This will help to boost energy in between trek.

Money

You don’t have to pay for additional charges after permit. You need to cover accommodation, food and potters if needed. Though they are cheap compared to hotels, you need to have money just to be safe for any unpredictable situation or cost. The cost varies based on the number of days for the trek.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kanchenjunga Trek

Who will enjoy this trek to Kanchenjunga region?

Trekking is typically for adventure seekers specially while trekking high altitude. If you love to view untouched natural scenery, authentic lifestyles, primitive way of living, then Kanchenjunga trek will satisfy your curiosity.

You are easily scared by high altitudes, panic quickly, and do not love wilderness then you better not test yourself with this adventure.

It is best for outgoing and adventure oriented souls who wish to spend their valuable 2-3 week’s time away from regular hustle-bustle, enjoy nature, adjust easily to available services. These people will not give up in between despite difficulties and pain to experience the beauty of the natural heritages.

What are the permits needed for the region?

You will mainly need two permits to trek in this region. The special restricted area permit is for the region being restricted to general people. The cost would be on weekly basis of about $10 per week while after four weeks, it will increase to $20.

The second permit is to enter the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project that protects and develops this trekking route. The cost will be NRs. 2000 which will be on monthly basis. You need to have valid visa, copies of passport and photograph to get this permit.

Is solo trekking allowed?

Being a restricted area, you will not be allowed to do so. You can encounter high risk in such a wild landscape and uneven topography. The rule itself states to have a companion along the journey or in group with a registered guide.

The trails might lead to difficult landscapes and even the communication is poor. You will rarely meet large group of people along the journey except in the lodges. So, it is not an option to trek alone in this region.

How are the trails of the region?

The trek starts at lower Terai which is almost plain region. As you progress further each day, the risk and topography varies. You must have good pair of boots and socks to deal with uneven lands. It can be slippery during rainy season. The wildlife is not visible in daylight so trek during night is risky.

The trails are rough and uneven. The path will be comfortable based on less weight of baggage and comfortable shoes.

What kind of person should avoid this trek?

You must not trek for such a long distance if you have respiratory problems or asthma. Even heart patients must avoid this hectic trek. The people with constant panic attack from minor adventures should never plan to do it.

It is all the matter of your gut and strong determination to reach the majestic Kanchenjunga that will drive you till the very end. You need to be ready for at least 6 hours of trek in a day.

How are the accommodation facilities of the region?

Being a remote region, the lodges are not standard ones like in the other cities. You will get basic facilities to rest after a tiresome day. These rural home stay will provide you with ethnic foods. After a hectic day, you will have a roof to hide and a good bed to rest.

What are some of the most important things to be carried?

In trek, its better to carry less. You must not miss out suitable clothing like waterproof jackets. Be prepared for change in temperature as altitude rises. The most essential element is a good pair of shoes and socks.

Is it good to carry my own snacks for the journey?

You will get basic foods in the lodge. The foods will be cheap and made freshly. However, you can carry snacks and energy bars while in trails to boost your energy. Don’t make your backpack heavy.

Is any preparation needed before starting high altitude trek?

It is always helpful to train yourself for a tiresome journey to reach the beautiful end. You can do exercises every day before starting the trip to prepare your muscle strength. Jogging and aerobics can help prior to arriving in the region.

How much time should I allocate for this trek?

You need to have a minimum of 3 weeks for this journey. The rough trails and high altitude will demand few extra days if you want to take it slow.

How difficult is the trek compared to other trekking routes in Nepal?

You will not call this most difficult one for a trekking route. But, with less number of tourists trekking in this region, you will experience a wilderness compared to other area. You need to carry necessary personal equipment to make this journey as easy as possible.

What is the best time for trekking?

The best recommended time for trekking is in autumn (September – November) to witness clear weather, perfect temperature and less slippery trails. The other season is in spring (March – May).

Conclusion

Is it worthwhile? Totally. You are probably amazed by the adventure Kanchenjunga offers. Yes, it will be more than this when you actually visit this peaceful region. You have received most of the information to make up your mind.

You will love it once you live it!

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