The easternmost regions of Nepal see fewer tourists than the central part of the country and are therefore an ideal destination for adventurous travelers who want to venture out onto some of the country’s most untrodden paths. Here you will most likely not meet an eye beyond the local villagers who greet visitors with a warm smile.
According to printerhall, Eastern Nepal is best accessed by plane to Tumlingtar or Sukhetar, which are good entrances to the region. From here, beautiful, unpaved hiking trails go to Makalu, Kanchenjunga and over the Lumbasumba Pass. Accommodation in this part of Nepal takes place predominantly in tents, as the area does not yet offer many of the usual tourist facilities found in the more popular trekking regions. However, a few simple tea houses can be found on the route to Makalu Base Camp.
The region boasts of having several famous Himalayan peaks, each of which offers extremely great challenges for adventurous mountaineers who may venture out on the route towards the peaks. Kanchenjunga, which adorns the eastern border between Nepal and India, has the dubious honor of having the highest death rate among mountaineers in recent times. Makalu, which is somewhat closer to the famous Mount Everest, is with its 8,462 meters the world’s 5th highest mountain has just suffered a number of deaths on the conscience. However, the trails to the mountains’ Base Camps are somewhat more peaceful and can be enjoyed by good trekkers who are attracted by the unspoiled nature and the opportunity to camp in a good old-fashioned expedition style.
Read about the routes in East Nepal below.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp
Difficulty: D (average +)
Number of days: 20
Height (max.): 5,996 m.
The trek to Kanchejunga Base Camp is very far from the main road. Very few tourists come here, and yet it is possible to stay in small, local tea houses. The trek is among the slightly harder and longer, but the experiences deep inside the highest Himalayas are worth all the effort.
The trek starts in the small town of Taplejung and goes through valleys with dense forest area for the first few days. The path meanders up and down, but generally rises, and along the way you pass several deep waterfalls and small villages, where the inhabitants are primarily of Tibetan descent. The architecture of the villages reveals the Buddhist traditions and beliefs, especially as the path rises in thinner layers of air.
As the trail reaches over 4,000 feet, it is clear that the landscape has become more open, the valleys are wide, and the high mountains become apparent as the trail continues through alpine rivers. The path still winds in and out of forest areas, but the large, dense forests from the lower regions have now been replaced with forests of primarily rhododendron, birch and silk pine.
The tea houses have become simpler and the route continues east. The hike along the Kanchenjunga Glacier is strenuous and meanders up and down a lot. The area can be both cold and windy as the route here approaches the 5,000 altitude meters.
Halfway through the trek, Kanchenjunga Base Camp is reached. The road in goes along a flat, open plain, up a slope, along the glacier to a flat grass meadow with a huge rock block at 5,020 meters altitude. Then a few landslide areas are passed before Kanchenjunga’s huge north side finally comes into view.
The road back dives down through the valley before a longer series of mountain passes of between 3,900 and 4,700 meters have to be crossed. The route continues around the south side of Kanchenjunga, and the mountain panoramas are razor sharp all the way around.
Then the path dives down through the lowlands, back to the dense forests, where the landscape is warmer and the air more oxygen-rich. The route winds around terrace fields and through small, lively villages before the trek ends in Talplejung.
Difficulty: D (average +)
Number of days: 19
Height (max.): 5,160 m.
See Tourists: Lumbasumba trek
The trek over the Lumbasumba mountain pass goes all the way from Kanchenjunga to Makalu in the easternmost corner of Nepal. The area was only opened to tourists quite a few years ago, and the tourist facilities are therefore sparse. It is thus an old-fashioned expedition trek, where accommodation takes place in tents that are set up along the way, as you can not count on being able to find accommodation in tea houses along the route.
After a flight to Suketar, the trek begins and the route moves into the lush Kachenjunga Conservation Area, which offers green forests, a few simple monasteries, small villages, ancient caravan trading towns, rivers and deep valleys. After a few days through this varied landscape, the route reaches the first “larger” town, Walungchung, which has about 60 houses and a relatively large monastery. From there it goes into unknown land, completely away from civilization.
The path now goes up and the air becomes noticeably thinner. The landscape becomes more alpine, but is still lush, and the hike continues through wide, open valleys. The days just before the route crosses the Lumbasumba Pass, it rises in the high alpine zone, and when the Lumbasumba Pass is hit at the highest point of the trek at 5,160 meters, it is reminiscent of an alpine start before sunrise on the trek’s longest day.
Lumbasumba is a double pass and snow is to be expected at the top, offering stunning panoramic views with Kanchenjunga to the east and Makalu to the west.
From Lumbasumba, the trail dives quickly and steeply downhill, and the route loses several thousand meters of altitude in just a few days. The last few days the hike goes through low altitude, through green forests and valleys, with visits to small villages before the trek ends at Num.
Makalu Base Camp
Difficulty: D (average +)
Number of days: 15
Elevation (max.): 5,500 m.
See Tourists: Makalu Base Camp trek
Makalu is well isolated, behind several mountain passes, far from villages and civilization, and therefore the Makalu Base Camp trek sees just under 1,000 trekkers annually. This is an ideal trek if you want to see the great Himalayas without the big tourist groups.
The trek to Makalu Base Camp starts in the small spot Num, which is reached by car after a flight to Tumlingtar. Makalu Base Camp is just over a week’s trekking away, and the first part of the route goes steadily ascending through terrace fields into the Arun and Kasuwa valleys, along the ridge between two rivers. The route passes two villages within the first days, Rumruna and the charming Tashigeon, which is the area’s historical and cultural gem.
The forest swallows the path before arriving at Tashigeon, and it holds fast and adorns the route with beautiful orchids until the route rises into thinner air, where the landscape exposes itself and shows the Himalayas from the best side. The route goes over mountain passes finely decorated with colorful prayer flags and views of several of the Himalayan giants, including Makalu, around high lakes, to finally dive a little down again through rhododendron forests and wind through the high-lying Barun Valley. Here the wildlife is rich, as the area is too secluded for habitation, and local hunters therefore rarely hunt on these meadows.
From the Barun Valley, it goes up again to the high alpine Himalayas, past glaciers to open plateaus and on to Makalu Base Camp at an altitude of almost 5,000 meters, which is the absolute highlight of the route. Here in the middle of the most beautiful Himalayas, the civilized world feels very far away and it is almost like stepping into another dimension.
From Makalu Base Camp, the trail returns through the Barun Valley to the small spot, Dovate, at an altitude of 3,500 meters and then over the Shipton mountain passes. From the top of the passes, the route dives down and before long Tashigeon is reached again, followed by Sedua and Num, where the trek ends.