The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek

April 1, 2020

The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek
The third highest mountain in the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga is known throughout the world for its stunning beauty. Its name in itself is a perfect description of its charm. Kanchenjunga loosely translates to mean, “The Five Treasures of the Great Snow.” The five treasures include gold, silver, gems, grain, and Holy book, which denote the five peaks of Kanchenjunga.

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is one of the best trekking options if you want to gaze at the striking peaks while enjoying the peaceful environment of the mountains. In the 25-day trek, you will get to view many peaks above 8000m like Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Makalu (8201m), Mt. Lhotse (8516m), along with three peaks of Kanchenjunga. The stunning mountain trails hide the mysteries of Yeti and the stunning flora and fauna.

The rich culture and traditions of people living here are its specialty. More so, when these people welcome you with smiling faces and open arms. The vast wilderness and the somewhat secluded trekking routes make the Kanchenjunga circuit trek even more of a challenge. It is perfect for adventure seekers who are into rough terrains and unforgettable memories.

Kanchenjunga North and South Base Camp
Both the north and south base camp trek are an adventure waiting to happen. Through the Kanchenjunga circuit trek, you will reach North Base Camp first. Standing at the height of 4785m, the North Base Camp presents stunning views of sparkling mountains. The southern base camp lies at the altitude of 4610m above the sea level. The beautiful Yalung Glacier is another highlight of the trek. From both peaks, your sight will meet the pristine Mt. Kanchenjunga standing proud at the height of 8586m.

Ascending to both the North and South Base Camp of Kanchenjunga takes you through the magical forests of the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. The protected area is home to hundreds of species of animals and birds, including Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Musk Deer, Red Panda, and many more. Local settlements of Rai and Limbu will grace you along the way to both the base camps, giving you an insight into their simple lifestyle.

Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek Itinerary
The trek to the breathtaking Kanchenjunga Base Camp is only 25 days long. The trek takes off with your arrival in the capital i.e., Kathmandu. You can spend two leisurely days here to visit some famous places and to prepare for all the necessary permits. On the third day, you drive to Illam, and then to Taplejung on the next day. Your trek on foot kicks off from Taplejung.

You will gain ascent gradually upwards with constant acclimatization breaks from time to time. You will reach the highest altitude, Pangpema (5143m), on the 13th day. From here, you will be able to view the unrestrained panorama of the Kanchenjunga peaks along with many others. You will come across several local settlements like Ghunsa, Lhonak, Kambachen, Selele, and so on. Finally, the journey on foot comes to an end on the 22nd day at Khebang (1915m).

Day 01: Arrive in Kathmandu (1300m) and transfer to hotel
Day 02: Permit procedures in Kathmandu
Day 03: Flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur and Drive to Ilam
Day 04: Drive from Ilam to Taplejung and Trek to Gadidanda (1890m)
Day 05: Trek from Gadidanda to Chirwa (1270m)
Day 06: Trek from Chirwa to Sukethum (1660m)
Day 07: Trek from Sukethum to Amjilosa (2395m)
Day 08: Trek from Amjilosa to Gyabla (2730m)
Day 09: Trek from Gyabla to Ghunsa (3,427m)
Day 10: Acclimatization day at Ghunsa (3,427m)
Day 11: Trek from Ghunsa to Kambachen (4,050m)
Day 12: Trek from Kambachen to Lhonak (4,780m)
Day 13: Trek from Pangpema (5,143m) and return to Lhonak
Day 14: Return to Ghunsa
Day 15: Trek from Ghunsa to Selele (4480m)
Day 16: Cross Simon La (4,645m) to Trek to Tseram (3,870m)
Day 17: Trek from Tseram to Ramche (4580m) and after lunch going to Oktang (4730m) and back to Ramche
Day 18: Trek from Ramche to Tortong 2955m
Day 19: Trek from Tortong to Yamphudin 2080m
Day 20: Trek from Yamphudin to Khebang 1915m
Day 21: Trek from Khebang to Khandinbe.
Day 22: Drive from Khandinbe to Birtamod
Day 23: Drive from Birtamod to Bhadrapur and Fly to Kathmandu
Day 24: Visit Kathmandu Valley
Day 25: Transfer to international airport for your final departure

Best Seasons (best time of the year)
Venturing around the rough terrains of Kanchenjunga is not as simple as a stroll in the park. The constantly changing weather and dangers of snowstorm makes it harder to navigate around the slippery and rocky pathways. The best time to venture around these lands is when the days are longer and warmer. The time between Late September and November is perfect for Kanchenjunga Trek. Rhododendrons cover the dense forests of the Kanchenjunga Conservation area and spread a mild fragrance. Spring (March-May) is also suitable for the trek.

One should not trek to this region during winter as it is unbearably cold, and there are other dangers due to the rapidly changing weather. People living at the higher altitudes may have shifted towards lower elevations to spend the winter in warmer weather. So, it is also harder to find accommodation during winter. Monsoon should also be avoided because of constant rain and slippery as well as dangerous trekking routes.

Camping vs. Home-stay Trek
You can either opt for camping trek or home-stay trek; the choice is yours. For home-stay treks, there are several small tea-houses that are operated by residents. These home-stays are facilitated with guest rooms, and most of the time, you are provided with a room with two beds. You will be given a pair of warm blankets and also a couple of pillows. The food offered in these home-stays are local cuisines made of local ingredients and are the best source of nutrients for traveling in higher altitudes. The friendly people and their genuine smiles make home-stays one of the more intriguing options for travelers.

However, camping is also equally thrilling. But the challenge is that the altitude and weather can come forward with sudden changes making camping extremely challenging. Also, camping treks are a bit more expensive, but exciting, nonetheless. The higher altitudes of Kanchenjunga sport no habitation at all, so your only option is to set out a camp.

Required Permits (Conservation and Restricted Area), Duration, Cost
For ascending along the trails of Kanchenjunga, you will require trekking permits for some restricted regions. Also, the TIMS (Trekkers Information Management Systems) card is a must while traveling to mountain regions of Nepal. Trekkers also have to pay the Conservation Area entry fee before venturing to the stunning Kanchenjunga Conservation Area.

Both of the Kanchenjunga Restricted Area Permit and the Kanchenjunga Area Trekking Permit will cost you USD 20 per person per week. You can issue the permit by yourself, or you can ask for your trekking agency to issue one for you on your behalf.

Since the Kanchenjunga terrains are hard to maneuver, the cost of guides and porters are a bit expensive. A guide will cost you 35-40 USD per day, and a porter will take the fee of about 30 USD per day as well. For the cost of food, it is near to 7 to 8 dollars per meal, and the accommodations will cost you about 6 to 9 USD per night.

Clothing and Equipment Checklist
You can bring with you a small duffle bag along with a small day bag to carry all your belongings. Remember to take the lightweight as a heavy bag pack can be a hassle for the travel. For clothes to wear, you can bring simple t-shirts along with fleece jackets and down jackets. It is better to have rainproof overalls as there will be chances of getting into a snowstorm or light rains in the higher altitudes.

A sleeping bag rated minus 25 degrees will get you a long way in the Kanchenjunga Trek. You can either buy or rent (cheaper option) a sleeping bag when you are in Kathmandu. Remember to bring warm fleece hats and waterproof gloves along with thick woolen socks. It is best to have a fist aid kit as well as a medicinal pack with all your prescribed medicine as well as bandages and emergency medical equipment. Lightweight boots with ankle support are a must while traveling to these rough terrains.

Remember to travel with a water bottle and only drink boiled water whenever possible. If not, you can also bring water purifying tablets with you. A working headlamp, trekking pole, two-pin adapter, and some batteries will also come in handy.

Domestic flight condition/ access for the trek
You will have to take two domestic flights to and from Bhadrapur for your entire journey. The flights are well maintained, and the airports are also well facilitated, so there is no worry for international tourists.

Since the topography of Nepal is hugely varying, it is challenging to maneuver domestic flights. This is the case, especially for mountain flights. Even small changes in weather can prove to be difficult for flight to take off, which is why there are many delays and cancellations. Make sure you have proper information about the weather before traveling.

Accompanying the thrilling adventure in the serene mountain trails of Kanchenjunga is truly an adventure that will remain in your memories forever. Traveling across challenging terrains and wilderness will indeed be an unforgettable experience. What makes it even more special is the variety of beautiful fauna and the enthralling scent of the flowers as well as the welcoming people who make you feel at home.