Getting to and from the Kanchenjunga Trek

Many Kanchenjunga trek itineraries on the internet are out of date as jeep trails push further in and there are very few flights to Suketar that actually run.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

Fly / fly then bus / overnight bus to Taplejung, the district headquarters. Then trek to Mitlung, Sinwa and Chiruwa. This avoids the jeep road (next).

North side Taplejung-Tiwa start

From Taplejung, take a jeep via Suketar on the rough road to Tiwa, close to Chiruwa.

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
5 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.

Alternative starts

 Tumlingtar-Chainpur-Doban trek start

With jeep roads all over the place now this is no longer a practical trek route.

Doban start

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)

7 Responses

  1. DIL BAHADUR CHHETRI said on March 26, 2015 at 9:01 am


  2. Siddharth said on May 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    There is a also a bus that leaves 4am from Birtamode, takes a turn off the Taplejung highway at Ganesh Chowk, drives past Dahalgaon, and arrives at Khamdembe (4-5 kms further from Sinam approx) at about 2pm…all things going well. Road is motorable a further 2 kms approx. Walk to Khebang next day. Yamphudin fairly easy to reach day after. Probably one of the shortest route in to South Base Camp. Alternative is to catch bus/jeep to Taplejung from Birtamode/Fikkal, hop off at Ganesh Chowk and begin walk towards Dahalgaon (as I did), and night 2 on trail can be Yamphudin, night 3 at most. This info from trek conducted early April 2015.

    • kanchenjunga-trek said on May 25, 2015 at 5:37 am

      Thanks a lot Sid!

  3. yvette said on February 8, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    can someone do this hike on there own? without a guide?

    • kanchenjunga-trek said on February 9, 2017 at 3:01 am

      You could try. Someone I know suggested: If you have the permits / tickets required. They might not let you pass, then wait until the office closes and then go. Or tag along with a group to pass the checkpoints. That is not a recommendation of this site.

    • Stan said on May 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Numerous russian tourists on report going around in the K area without a guide but with permits and entry tickets. Sometimes you have to tell the police your guide has gone to KTM with you trekking partner who suddenly got ill. But often it goes smoothly even without any explanation.

  4. Peter Andrews said on July 20, 2017 at 3:33 am

    Ok! I’m researching this trip been wanting to do this for quite some time…. I have a few friends that want to come with me. We only want a 2 week trip was is our best travel process from Kathmandu?


Leave a Reply