Many Kanchenjunga trek itineraries on the internet are out of date as jeep trails push further in and there are very few flights to Suketar that actually run. Instead, the usual start is to fly to Bhadrapur (code: BDP, ~US$185) then take a jeep or bus to Fikkal or Ilam, stay the night then drive the next day to the trek start.
Bhadrapur is a quiet and charming area of coconut palms and rice on the eastern Nepal border with India. The drive is along the Mechi Highway, LH07, and after a flat 25 kms, winds its way up through teak forest and over to Fikkal (1468m) and Ilam, which are set in tea plantations with distant views of Kanchenjunga. These are the most convenient overnight spots. The black-topped road continues winding through to Phidim (1000m), the Panchthar district headquarters, then drops to cross the Kabeli Khola (800m) with the turnoff to Happu Khola, or continue up a winding hill to Taplejung (1870m), the district headquarters of Taplejung.
North or south first?
The south start has one very tough, long trek day after Yamphudin and goes to altitude quickly so starting with the north side is more gentle to altitude, and the trek days are shorter.
North side start
|Day||Quickest start||Usual start||No flight start|
|1||fly Suketar, jeep Tiwa||fly Bhadrapur, drive Fikkal/Ilam||night bus|
|2||trek Sekethum||drive Taplejung||arrive Taplejung|
|3||trek Mitlung (4-5hrs)||jeep to Tiwa, trek Chiruwa|
|4||trek Chiruwa (4-5hrs)||trek Seketum|
|5||trek Sekethum (5-6hrs)|
North side Taplejung start
North side Taplejung-Tiwa start
North side quickest start
The quickest start is to be lucky with the Tara Airlines direct Kathmandu to Suketar flight (~US$279), which runs once a week. A group can charter a flight for $3600. Airlines don’t like this long route as the Suketar ridge clouds up quickly and unpredictably. This is why the old flight path was the shorter Biratnagar-Suketar hop, and may reopen at some stage.
South side start
|Day||Quicker start||Longer start||No flight start|
|1||fly Bhadrapur, drive Fikkal/Ilam||fly Bhadrapur, drive Fikkal/Ilam||night bus to Birtamode/Ilam|
|2||bus/jeep to Happu Khola||bus/jeep to Taplejung||day bus to Happu Khola|
|3||trek Khebang||jeep to Deurali-Lali Kharka, trek Kunjari||trek Khebang|
|4||trek Yamphudin||trek Phungphung Danda||trek Yamphudin|
South side quickest start
The quickest south side start is to drive to the road head at Happu Khola-Sibudin, which is on the Kabeli Khola (river). The road will eventually reach Pedang. There is basic accommodation at Happu Khola, then trek to Khebang then Yamphudin.
The jeep road is rough and starting trekking from Ganesh Chowk (not on Google maps) or Tharpu is perhaps more comfortable.
South side longer start
The older more cultural south side route starts from Taplejung-Suketar and takes one more day via the Khesewa-Mamankhe route to Yamphudin. A side trip to holy Phathibhara temple for a panoramic view adds most of a day.
These quickest and longer trails join a little south of Yamphudin.
South side bus start
Taking a bus is far cheaper but overnight bus journeys are brutal. There are a number of night buses to Birtamod, Fikkal-Ilam (Rs2000 ~17 hours) and even direct to Taplejung. To break up the journey into day segments stop at Janakpur then Birtamod, Fikkal or Ilam, so three days to the road head.
Tumlingtar-Chainpur-Doban trek start
With jeep roads all over the place now this is no longer a practical trek route.
Doban is below Taplejung on the Tamor/Tamur River but is accessed via the Koshi Highway then a torturous jeep road. Then it is a hot day’s trekking to Mitlung/Sinwa. It is quicker and more comfortable to drive to Taplejung instead.
Basantapur/Gupha Pokhari-Doban start
This was an alternative, slightly longer start however makes less sense now that there are jeep roads all over this area. Here is a description all the same.
There are multiple daily flights to Biratnagar and it is possible to connect with a bus to arrive in Basantpur the same day. There’s also a very long direct bus ride Kathmandu to Basantpur (via Itahari, Dharan, Dhankuta on the Koshi Highway, F40).
There is a jeep road to Gupha Pokhari and Nundhaki then trek to Doban although this route also has a jeep road and so is falling out of favour.
- Day 1: Basantpur(2310m) – Deurali (~2480m) – Dudhpani (~2800m) – Panch Pokhari (~2860m) – Chauki(2660m) – Mangelbari (2620m) – Lam Pokhari (~2910m) – Gupha Pokhari (2870m)
- total 20km, 1000m↑ 300m↓ 6-7hrs
- Day 2: Gupha Pokhari (2870m) – Deurali (~2750m) – Gurja (1925m) –Dobhan (640m)