Makalu Base Camp trek is rewarding off the beaten trek for the most adventurous trekkers. Located between the highest Mt. Everest (8848m) and third-highest Kanchanjangha (8586m), this stunning and challenging trail is still off the radar for most trekkers.
This is the best opportunity to read on: everything about Makalu Base Camp Trek in Nepal. The reading is quite long, as we explain steep by steep but with a little patient, you will learn everything before you embark on this trail.
The trail takes you deep into the mountains to the base fifth-highest Mt. Makalu towering at 8481 meters. Despite the beauty and thrill of hiking, this trail receives fewer footfalls compared to Everest Base Camp (EBC), Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), and Annapurna Circuit. It is perfect for purist trekkers seeking solitude in the quietest corners of the Himalayas. This trail best resembles trekking in Nepal before a crowd of trekkers roamed the mountains.
The Makalu Base Camp trail meanders through lush Arun and Barun River valleys unfolding the towering views of mountains such as Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Baruntse, Kanchanjangha, and Jannu peak. You can see a unique eastern face of Mount Everest, which you may have never seen before, even in photographs.
Not the easiest in the difficulty scale, this trek scores one of the highest on the scale of beauty and adventure. Whether you are looking for wilderness, spectacular natural scenery, amazing culture, and raw adventure, Makalu Base Camp Trek offers them all with fewer tourists. Referred to as a trail for experienced hikers, this is a doable trek even for less experienced trekkers with some preparations and guidance.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Highlights
- Close view of towering Makalu (8481m), the fifth-highest peak of the world
- Makalu region lies between the highest mountain Everest in the west and third-highest Kanchanjangha in the east
- Panoramic views of mountains higher than 8000 meters
- View of uncommon eastern Khangsun face of Mt. Everest
- Spectacular natural beauty in a varied range of altitude from 430 to 5150 meters
- A rustic lifestyle of Rai, Sherpa, and Bhotiya communities belonging to Hindu and Buddhist religion
- Opportunities to witness rare and endangered wildlife such as Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Wild Boar, and Himalayan Thar
How do you get to the trailhead?
Usually, the most itineraries available on the Internet mention Chichira as the starting point of the trek. As of March 2020, vehicles regularly ply to Num village (1560m). Availability of transportation has pushed the trail one camp further making Num village the starting point of the trek.
The actual trek starts from Num village of Sankhuwasabha district in eastern Nepal. To get to Num, take 45 minutes long flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar and drive for another five to six hours via Khandbari. Daily flights operate from the domestic terminal of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu to Tumlingtar. One way airfare to Tumlingtar costs USD 139 per person.
The convenient way is to get on the flight, while there is local transportation is also available!
You can also take a bus to Tumlingtar or Khandbari from Gongabu Bus Park in Kathmandu. Tumlingtar is 586 kilometers (364 miles) from Kathmandu. This is ideal only if you have enough time to be on the road for 11 to 12 hours. This will be a cost-saving option, as the bus fare to Tumlingtar is around only USD 15.
From Tumlingtar, you can hire an off-road vehicle to Khandbari or Num. First 45 minutes of the drive to Khandbari is on a blacktopped road. Then, four to five hours off-road drive to Num is bumpy and dusty. This will be your first thrill of rural mountain roads. You will also have an option to take a public four-wheeler often also known as jeep ride to Num. But, note that these shared vehicles depart only when the seats are full or you may have to wait until the next day.
If you are wondering if getting tickets of these travel options is going to be a hassle. Leave that to the experienced team of NEST Adventure who are organizing treks to Makalu Base Camp every season. We are there to help you make your trek enjoyable and stress-free. Let us know your preference in advance. We will tailor your trek as per your needs.
If you follow a classical route to Makalu Base Camp it is no longer a restricted area. But, you will still need an entry permit into Makalu Barun National Park. Some parts of the Makalu region require permits to trek.
Depending on which itinerary you follow, you have to make sure the types of permits you will need. If you want to enter restricted areas around Kimathangka, Chepuwa, Hatiya, and Pawakhola, you need a restricted area permit. The permit costs USD 20 per person per week for the first four weeks and USD 25 beyond 4 weeks.
Only two permits required If you are not entering the restricted area of Kimathangka, Chepuwa, Hatiya.
Independent hikers can trek to Makalu Base Camp without joining a trekking agency or accompanied by a guide. If you are planning Makalu Base Camp solo, be careful that the trail is not marked. It is easy to miss the main trail and get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Although it is not recommended to hike without a guide in this remote area, some hikers decide to take the risk. Here are some tips from our experts, for those who would like to embark on a trail without a guide.
- Multiple trails lead to your destination. Choose the right one.
- Even during the busy month, you will rarely meet other hikers. This means there is no helpful hand along the way to ask for directions.
- Most of the time, you should expect to walk alone in dense forests
- Make sure you read a map well before embarking on this trail and have a GPS device with you
- Bring a satellite phone in case of any emergency
- Make sure you will not enter the restricted area without a permit. The penalty levied by local authorities and trouble you have to go ruins your holiday.
Makalu Base Camp trek requires Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) card. An additional entry fee to Makalu Rural Municipality is USD 20 per person per week for the first four weeks. It costs USD 25 per person per week after the fourth week. TIMS is acquired in Kathmandu while the entry fee is collected at the entrance of Makalu Barun National Park. Our guides will support you get your permits from Kathmandu and on the trail.
To get a TIMS you need:
- estimates of trekking entry and exit dates
- details of entry and exit points
- Makalu Base Camp trek itinerary
- emergency contact person in Nepal and in your home country
- insurance policy number and insurance coverage,
- copy of your passport
- two passport-sized photographs.
Guides and Porter
If you are well prepared and have previous experience hiking in a remote area of Nepal, you can independently trek Makalu Base Camp. There are no restrictions for independent trekkers and hiring a guide is not mandatory to follow a classical route.
You will hardly find someone on the unmarked trail to ask for direction. And, the settlements and lodges are quite far away, usually, four to six hours walk apart. So, getting lost is easier than you imagine. The trail also does not have proper telephone connectivity to look for help when you need the most.
It is not safe but you can trek without a guide. Hiring a professional guide costs you USD 30 to 35 per day.
The safest bet is to trek with someone. Based on our experiences, we advise you to hire a professional guide to maneuver you through the challenging trail. Our guides will not only help you show the path, but they are also there as your trek buddy to bring you back safely in case of any emergency.
Hiring a professional guide costs you USD 30 to 35 per day. Similarly, the charge for a porter is USD 20 to 25 per day. The cost of hiring a guide for this region is higher compared to the other classical treks in Nepal. It is because the area is remote and the crew has to go through a lot of hardships in the absence of tourism facilities. Guides and porters also have to pay the same price for food you pay as a tourist.
Available Food In Makalu Base Camp Trail
You will eat in the same tea house where you will spend the night. It is considered inappropriate to sleep in one tea house and dine in another.
Tea houses at all resting camps serve basic food so that you will not have to go hungry. But you will not get a menu to choose a variety of cuisines which you may be craving for. Tea houses serve basic food like ‘Dal Bhat’, fried rice, noodles, chow mein, and eggs. Ask the owner of the tea house and he/she will tell you a list of available food and you have to choose from the limited option. If you have special dietary requirements, you may need to have to carry canned or packaged foods.
You don’t need to carry food, as you can buy basic food in the tea houses.
Be careful while ordering meat items as they may not be hygienic and fresh. The price of food goes higher as you gain altitude. All the food prepared in the tea house is carried from Tumlingtar or cities further down the mountains.
There are no teahouses or eateries between most of the resting camps. You start the day after having breakfast. Then, you have to reach the next camp for lunch. So, it is best to either pack your day meal from the tea house or rely on the food you carry.
There are basic homestay style tea houses and lodges throughout the route. Fancy lodging and dining facilities are not available. Most tea houses have basic rooms with twin beds, hard mattresses, and blankets. Carrying sleeping bag, mattress and travel liner will keep you warm, on cold nights.
No Camping required as the basic tea houses are available along the way to Base Camp
There are three tea houses at most of the camps including at Makalu Base Camp. But, Mambuk has only one tea house. One lodge can accommodate only six to eight persons per day. For larger groups, you either have to split between the tea houses or go camping. Booking in advance will help you secure a room for you.
When you are staying at the tea houses, the rooms are basic with shared toilets and bathrooms. The toilets have Nepali style commodes. For bathing, tea houses can arrange you a bucket of hot water.
Drinking-Water Along The Way
Bottled water is available at lower altitudes. As you gain the altitude, it is more difficult to find and a bottle of water costs you as high as USD 3.
Locals and crew members drink directly from Natural water sources without a problem. We recommend you to use a water filter or purification tablets to treat before drinking. Seek guidance from your guide before drinking water from natural sources.
Bottled water is available but it’s too expensive and also not an enviromental friendly. Plenty of water re-sources will allow you to re-fill your bottle.
We advise carrying an extra water bottle suitable for hot and cold water. You can fill your bottle with cold or warm water at tea houses for the day. There are a few places between the two camps to refill your water. It takes at least three to four hours of walk to reach the resting camp. So, carrying at least two liters of water for the route will meet your hydration needs.
Drinking water is the first precaution to prevent altitude sickness. Remember to remain hydrated and drink plenty of water while trekking.
Telecommunication services on the Makalu Base Camp trek are limited. The connectivity is strong and reliable at lower altitudes. It gets rarer and weaker as you go higher.
GSM and CDMA connectivity of NTC and Ncell are available with an Internet connection. Wi-Fi connectivity is a distant wish. This is a wilderness trek, so enjoy a few days of your life away from the Internet connectivity.
Most of the area below 3,000m, the cell phone works partially. while satellite phones are available in camp once you reach the upper ground.
For any emergency situation, our guides are equipped with satellite phones. So you are a call away from emergency response. The absence of a telephone connection should not make you nervous.
How difficult is the trek
Our experiences tell us aloud, Makalu Base Camp trek is not the easiest hike. This is a strenuous trek in an outstanding natural paradise. The remoteness, unpredictable weather, high altitude passes and few trekking amenities and terrain of the trail makes Makalu region a less unfrequented trekking destination despite its natural grandeur.
The altitude varies from 430 meters to above 4870 meters at Makalu Base camp. You gain this altitude within a few days. The trail is either steep uphill or downhill gaining as much as 1500 meters in a day. You need to walk up to eight hours a day.
The level of comfort in this route is quite basic as there are a few lodges and tea houses unlike in popular routes. You will need to walk as much as eight hours a day. And, there are no tea houses or settlements to take shelter or eat between two camps after Tashigaon. So, carrying food and ample water for the trail is how you do it.
It is one of the challenging treks as the altitude varies from 430 meters to above 4870 meters at Makalu Base camp.
Weather conditions will add extra difficulty to the trek. Pay attention to instructions of our experienced guides who have trekked in the region many times. One of the most challenging days is the fifth and 11th day when you cross three passes, Kauma La, Tutu La, and Keke La. If you get stranded between, due to bad weather, it will be difficult to either return to the same camp or make to the next one. Get expert advice from your guide or lodge owners about rail conditions.
To trek to the Makalu Base camp, it is recommended to have prior trekking experience. Even if you are a less experienced trekker, do not get discouraged. NEST Adventure will arrange the guided trek with an experienced crew of guide and porters for your best experience. We recommend you to prepare well in advance to be fit for the trek. This is doable, with proper preparation, even if it is your first high altitude trek in Nepal.
An alternative route to traverse to the Everest region from Makalu is very challenging and requires mountaineering experiences. This route passes through two high passes above 6,000 meters – Sherpani Col and West Col. You will reach the base of Island Peak and join the Everest Base Camp trail from here. Usually, the trekkers on the Great Himalayan Trail cross these high passes.
Best Time to travel
Alike trekking to any other routes in Nepal, the best time to trek to Makalu Base Camp is in autumn – from September to November, and in spring – from March to May. Weather conditions in both seasons have ample clear skies with pleasant temperatures.
Spring is warm and sunny with occasional chances of snowfall in high altitudes. You are likely to find snow and ice on high passes. And, the sky is mostly clear offering stunning views of mountains. The temperature keeps rising as the summer approaches. This season is further beautified by greenery, and a myriad of colors as the whole mountainside comes to the full bloom of wildflowers and Rhododendron.
Mid-October until mid-December in Autumn and Mid-March until mid-May is the best time to hike Makalu Base Camp.
Autumn is the best season for trekking in Nepal for a reason. Skies are clear with little rainfall. The daytime temperature is pleasant and sunny. Even during the nights, it is not extremely cold. However, the temperature may go below freezing during nights, depending on the altitude. Average temperatures drop 6°C for every 1,000 meters you gain in altitude. During September to November high passes are less likely to be snow-covered. Pay extra attention to the weather conditions and updates on the day of crossing Kauma La, Tutu La, and Keke La.
Apart from these peak seasons, it is still possible to trek in the winter or monsoon. You need to take extra precautions to tolerate extreme temperatures and weather conditions. If you prepare well and best use the weather window to cross three passes on the fifth day and 11th day, you can make through the trek even in offseason. Makalu Base Camp Trek is so beautiful that you will have unique experiences and views in each season.
The trail to Makalu Base Camp has basic tea houses in each camp. Camping arrangement is not necessary unless you are looking for a full camping trek. Lodging and food item is not the main thing you will pack as you will find them at tea houses. But packing the right gear suitable for this trek is the key to a successful hike. Based on our experiences we have listed basic things that you should not miss in your backpack.
- Energy bars
- Dry fruits
- Snacks of your choice
Essential trekking gears
- Backpack to fit all your gear (60-70l) with rain cover
- A day pack with rain cover
- Or duffel bag if you plan to hire a porter (We provide this complimentary from our office )
- Trekking poles
- Water bottle or hydration bladder
- Micro-spikes for walking on icy sections
- Waterproof trekking shoes
- Floaters or flip flops
- Trekking pants
- Fleece T-shirts
- Fleece jacket
- Thermal inners
- Down jacket
- Wind and waterproof jacket and pant
- Sun cap
- Woolen cap
- Neck gaiters
- Waterproof globes
- Woolen/fleece globes
- Cotton and Woolen socks
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Camera with extra memory cards and battery
- Power bank or solar-powered charger to charge your electronic equipment
- Chargers for electronic devices
Toiletries and medicines
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Antibacterial powder
- Toilet paper
- Travel towel
- Water purifier tablets
- Prescribed medicines
- Diamox for altitude sickness
- Anti nauseant as you tend to feel nauseous at high altitude.
- Imodium as diarrhea is also common at altitude.
- Blister Band-Aids or moleskin
Makalu Base Camp trek is a hidden gem, obscured from the crowd. The stunning beauty the region makes it worth to hike the arduous trail. If you are looking for a challenging trek into the remote wilderness of Nepal and experience the culture untouched by the westernization trek to Makalu Base Camp will exceed your expectations.