The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is a high-altitude wilderness adventure in one of the most unspoiled trekking regions in the Nepalese Himalayas. The Kanchenjunga trekking route lies in the beautiful Arun Valley in the east of Nepal on the borders of Nepal and Sikkim (India). The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trail takes you to the north and south base camp of the world’s third-highest mountain peak and Nepal’s second-highest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, at 8586 meters.
The area offers never-ending landscapes, cultures, and panoramic views of the Himalayas. This 220 km long trekking trail is abundant with unique flora and fauna, green hills in the lower region decorated with numerous waterfalls and water streams, and rocky mountains in the upper region covered by snow, creating an excellent contrast with the blue sky above. You’ll find the widest range in altitude in this trekking trip as you’ll travel from just 91 meters above sea level at Bhadrapur Airport to 5140 meters at Kanchenjunga North Base Camp. This altitude shift makes this trek a unique experience as you’ll notice the change in vegetation rapidly.
The Kanchenjunga circuit trekking trail was only recently opened to hikers in 1988 AD. Nepal Government has also declared the region as a restricted area so trekkers require a special permit and should be in the number of minimum 2 individuals. You’ll also require a certified trekking guide to trek in the area. Due to these reasons, only a limited number of trekkers prefer to step on this wild, rugged path. The smaller number of visits every year has contributed to the preservation of the nature and culture of this region. So, whoever travels here gets to experience the unspoiled nature and true culture of the region.
The truest trekking experience does not come easy, though. This is an extensive and strenuous trek in a region with little to no infrastructure. You won't find a lot of amenities like in the popular trekking destinations of Nepal, such as Annapurna and Everest. You’ll have to spend nights in the most basic lodges and tea houses. Some nights, you’ll even have to stay in tents due to the unavailability of accommodation. You can also call it a virgin territory of the Nepalese Himalayas, as most other Himalayas are well-explored.
Trekking in the Kanchenjunga region tests your emotions & taxes your body to the limit, but the rewards are phenomenal. The trails are rugged and surging, at times exposed, and there are landslides to deal with on the way. The remoteness of the region adds to its challenges. As a result, you need to be a pretty experienced high-altitude hiker & mentally pre-conditioned for uninterrupted days of grueling trekking in some extremely remote parts of the Himalayas.
Our experts at Outfitter Nepal Treks and Expedition have devised a 24-day itinerary to complete the whole Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek. The itinerary includes arrival and departure days to and from Nepal. The Kanchenjunga trek begins from Taplejung, & is accessible by air and road. After you reach the Kanchenjunga North and South Base Camp, you retrace your route to Taplejung and turn to Kathmandu. Keep reading to find out more, and reach out to us for any questions regarding the trip and its booking.
Best Features of the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek
- Trekking through the untouched and less traveled Himalayan terrain of East Nepal
- Reaching the base camp of the world's 3rd highest mountain peak, Mt. Kanchenjunga
- Crossing the high-altitude passes of the Kanchenjunga region, like Mirgin La (4,480m)
- Witnessing the unmatched beauty of Mt. Kanchenjunga, Makalu mountain range, and other neighboring peaks like Jannu, Kabru, Jongsong, Tent Peak, etc.
- Passing by the ethnic villages of Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Gurung, Bhote, and Sherpa community
- Reaching the source of the Tamar and Ghunsa rivers at the northwestern face of the Kanchenjunga Himal
- Glorious sites of the glacial lakes and ponds
- Traverse through the rich flora and fauna (red panda, musk dear, etc.) of the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area
What is so special about Mt. Kanchenjunga?
Mount Kanchenjunga is located in the easternmost point of Nepal, close to the border with Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state in northeastern India. Until the middle of the 19th century, Kanchenjunga was believed to be the world's highest peak, but it is actually the third-highest in the world and second-highest in Nepal. Additionally, because it is a sacred peak, mountaineers typically avoid standing on the top of the Kanchenjunga Peak.
The name Kanchenjunga means "Five Great Treasures in the Snow" in English. The Kanchenjunga range contains five peaks, and the locals think that each one is a vault for various treasures, including grains, sacred books, gold, silver, and gemstones.
Although the Kanchenjunga massif's four subsidiary peaks, including Kanchenjunga West, also known as Yalung Kang (8,505m), surpass 8000 meters, the main peak is 8586 meters high. Twenty peaks over 7000 meters high may be observed on the walk around the massif, the highest of which is Kambachen (7,903 meters), along with the fabled Jannu (7,710 meters), Jongsong (7,483 meters), Kabru (7,353 meters), Tent Peak (7,365 meters), and the Twins (7,350 meters).
This massive collection of peaks is home to five major glacial systems, three of which, the Zumu, Talung, and Rathong, flow to the east into Sikkim. To the west, the Kanchenjunga and Yalung glaciers drain into the Tamor River of Nepal.
Why choose Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek instead of trekking in other popular hiking regions of Nepal?
The Kanchenjunga region is well known for its stunning natural surroundings. To go to the base camp of the mountain, you will pass through some beautiful virgin pathways. These trekking trails differ from the more popular treks in the Everest and Annapurna regions due to their primarily off-the-beaten-path.
You will go through breathtaking natural sites as you hike across the mountain foothills. There are many different types of natural pathways, such as ones near rivers, streams, glaciers, hills, villages, waterfalls, and forests. Trekkers will travel along the peaceful pathways in the heart of the wilderness.
The remote Himalayan landscape in this Kanchenjunga region is another feature that makes it unique. You will have the chance to discover the stunning area in all its splendor away from the noise and bustle. Most of the tallest Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Kanchenjunga, will be visible in their most breathtaking vistas to you.
You will be greeted with open arms and outstanding hospitality by the locals. You might see various distinctive ways of living and customs while on the walk, which are different from the rest of the country. For all of these reasons, you should opt for the secluded Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek.
What to expect from the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek?
The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is intricately designed that approach the North Base Camp first. We trek through deep ravines and forests of bamboo, Rhododendrons, and larch pine to the Tibetan village of Ghunsa. You acclimatize at Ghunsa and go further into the high mountains. You continue the hike along the Kangchenjunga Glacier to spend a night at Pangpema, the base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga on the north side. The stunning views of Jannu, Kangchenjunga, and Chang Himal from Pangpema would take your breath away.
The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trekking Adventure moves further crossing the Mirgin La at 4,550m to Tseram to get to the south base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Crossing the pass from north to south is more practical as this trek route is simply superb, with incredible views. By now, you are well acclimatized, and you hike at your pace up to Ramchaur with the fantastic views of Ratong, the Kabru Peaks, and the South Face of Kanchenjunga, giving you wonderful company all the way.
As you pass through villages in the Kanchenjunga region, you'll encounter the surprised faces of the locals as they don't see much of tourists. Enjoy the warm greetings from the hospitable people of Nepal as you hike up or down the Kanchenjunga Trail. The natural splendor of the Kanchenjunga region is so impressive and unique that you won’t feel like leaving the place once you get there.
Are there alternative routes for the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek?
Yes, several routes take you to the north and south base camps of the Kanchenjunga peak depending on the difficulty level and the trek duration. Some go from north base to south base and some take the opposite route, first visiting the south base camp and then the north. Some groups trek on the straightforward path that takes the minimum time to reach the destination and others follow an extended path that takes longer but provides maximum acclimatization.
For our Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek package, we have designed the itinerary in such a way that gradually ascends, minimizing the risks of altitude sickness, while providing the best of the region. We first reach Pangpema, the North Base Camp of Kanchenjunga, starting in Taplejung and walking across Sinuwa, Tapethok, Amjilosa, Ghunsa, Kambachen, and Lhonak, spending an acclimatization day in Ghunsa. After Pangpema, we head towards the South Base Camp of Kanchenjunga, returning all the way to Ghunsa and then passing by Sale La Kharka, Mirjin La Pass, Tseram, and Ramchaur. After exploring the south base camp, we trek back to Taplejung via Ramchaur, Tortong, Yamphudin, Phungphung Danda, and Simbu.
How difficult is the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek?
This off-the-beaten Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is one of Nepal's most challenging trekking destinations. The trail ranges in altitude from 1070 meters to 5140 meters. Firstly, its remote location, far from Kathmandu's capital city, makes the trek difficult to reach. Additionally, the hike features multiple steep ascents and descents on the rough terrain of untouched Himalayan with frequent loose lands and landslide-prone zones. The unstable weather condition of the mountains adds to the difficulty level of the Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek. The poor infrastructure of the region makes the trek even more difficult as you have to rely on more than basic tea houses and tents to sleep at night.
The trek difficulty also depends on your fitness level and prior high-altitude trekking experience. This strenuous trek necessitates high physical condition for three weeks of continuous walking while carrying a light backpack. Even if you haven't hiked in the Himalayas before, it's best to attain good physical fitness and go for some short hikes around your place. Your upcoming Kanchenjunga trip might be a good excuse to hit the gym. If you’re not used to working out, start your preparation a few months before the trip departure.
Major Attractions of the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek
Relatively new and off-the-beaten trekking route
The Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek is one of Nepal's newest high-altitude hiking routes; it was only made accessible for exploration in 1988, due to which the trek is unknown to most. The amenities on the walking trail might not be the nicest, but you'll still have decent food and lodging facilities. You might have to spend the night in a tent on some days. It is one of the restricted trekking routes that need special trekking permits. This isolated trail is far from Kathmandu and requires a 30-minute flight and a long 10-hour drive to get to the trailhead.
In the challenging terrain of the Kanchenjunga Region, the hiking trail includes several steep climbs, loose grounds, landslides, and so on. Your physical stamina will be tested as you traverse the rugged, rocky path of the Himalayas on the 24-day Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek. Prior high-altitude trekking experience is always a plus, or at the very least, being in good physical condition before setting off on a journey is good enough. The route offers you the off-the-beaten trekking experience that avid trekkers crave for.
Breathtaking journey to the North and South Base Camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga
The journey around the Kanchenjunga Region and to the base camps is unique as you pass through tropical lowlands to the great Rhododendron forests, chocolate box villages, glaciers, and overwhelming views of the Himalayas. We usually climb to a single base camp while trekking to other mountain destinations. However, during the Kanchenjunga Circuit Trek, you'd reach both the North and South Base Camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
The region's beauty, emphasized by some of the tallest mountain peaks in the world, mesmerizes you with so much joy that you can't get anywhere else. It feels like you’re in some kind of fairytale. While witnessing the mountains up close ignites your mind, eating locally-produced meals and staying in local lodges and tents makes you humble.
Hiking through luscious forests and picturesque Himalayan villages
It's given that you'd pass by lush green forests decorated with enchanting wildflower blooms when you're trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas, especially in spring. The Kanchenjunga Circuit trail is no exception. If you're in the right time, you'll have the fortune to witness the whole forest covered in crimson from Rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal.
You'd also pass by picture-perfect villages in the foothills of the giant Himalayas. The houses are built in a typical Nepali style with some twists depending on the ethnicity. It's surprising that being a small nation, Nepal is a house to more than 100 different ethnic groups. Seeing these people living in harmony in Nepal's remote villages reflects a sense of unity in diversity.
Getting to know the locals and their unique culture
What makes this trek different from others is the locals that live in the region. Except for the Gurung, Magar, and Sherpa people you typically find while trekking in the western or central part of Nepal, you'd also come across Tamang, Rai, Limbu, and Bhote communities that are original to East Nepal. They have their own culture, cuisine, customs, and traditions. Most of the local inhabitants in these villages of the Kanchenjunga region are involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. Some women of the communities are also engaged in the weaving business to support their families.
Exploring the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area
The Kanchenjunga Conservation Area is spread over an area of 2,035 square Kilometers. More than 250 birds and other endangered creatures inhabit the highly lush forests of this protected region. You can spot snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, musk deer, red pandas, and other exciting animals in its rich wildlife diversity. Bird species, including the Amphibian pheasant, and the red-billed blue robin, make up some of the beautiful birds in this region. Only a few days of hiking take you to high-elevation pastures where yaks graze and vibrant alpine flowers bloom.