Gokyo Lakes, Nepal: A Trekking Guide
Let us begin this article with a disclaimer: we are not avid trekkers. In fact, we had never completed a serious trek before arriving in Nepal. So to say that we approached our trekking adventure in Nepal with some trepidation is a total understatement. However, despite our lack of trekking prowess, we absolutely loved it!
After plenty of research and recommendations from other travellers, we eventually decided to tackle the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek.
However, we were not content with the normal 12-day trek. No siree. We had to make it a tad more difficult for ourselves. We added a side trip to Gokyo Lakes – and we are so glad we did. It was the highlight of our trek in Nepal!
Here are a few frequently asked questions about the trek to Gokyo Lakes to help plan your trip.
What are the Gokyo Lakes?
Gokyo Lakes are a series of six spectacular glacial lakes. The lakes are at altitudes of between 4,700m and 5,000m, making them some of the world’s highest freshwater lakes.
The lakes are situated in the beautiful Sagarmatha National Park, which is also home to Mount Everest. Trekkers often visit Gokyo Lakes as a side trip on the popular Mount Everest Base Camp trek.
Why Should I Visit Gokyo Lakes?
For starters, the Gokyo Lakes are spectacularly beautiful. The panoramic views over the turquoise lakes with 8,000m-plus peaks in the background is a pretty unforgettable experience.
You will also get the opportunity to climb Gokyo Ri, the mountain overlooking the small village Gokyo. This climb offers some of the most incredible views of Mt Everest and Cho Oyu you will find.
The views are arguably even better than Kalapathar, which is the most popular viewpoint along the traditional EBC trek route. Unfortunately, we didn’t get great views of Mt Everest when we climbed Gokyo Ri due to poor weather, but it was still a great climb.
We also loved that there were almost no other trekkers on the Gokyo Lakes route.
The Gokyo Lakes side trip is still a fairly quiet route, which means you can often walk a couple of hours without seeing other people. The traditional EBC trek route is pretty crowded, which can take away from the ambiance at times.
The Gokyo Lakes side trip is also a rewarding extra challenge. Climbing Gokyo Ri and crossing the Cho La Pass are two of the hardest things we have ever done, but we were so proud of ourselves once we had done it. You will have to push yourself, but you will also be rewarded for your efforts.
How Do I Get to Gokyo Lakes?
Most people visit Gokyo Lakes as a side trip on the way to EBC. You can also visit Gokyo Lakes as a stand-alone trip.
You will begin your trip by flying from Kathmandu to Lukla. Be warned: this flight is not for the faint-hearted. Also, you should prepare for some serious delays at Kathmandu airport.
Our trek started with a 7-hour delay sitting in the Kathmandu airport while we waited for the weather to improve in Lukla.
Katherine is a very nervous flyer, so the wait was not a great start. Her fears were compounded by the fact that we were flying with an airline that had 3 weeks earlier crashed into the side of a mountain. We had one false runway start before we finally took off.
The scenery during the flight is spectacular, but the landing is rather hair-raising. The Lukla airport is set into the side of a mountain and there is pretty much no descent. We would describe the ‘runway’ more as a driveway with a slight incline.
If flying isn’t for you, it is also possible to catch a bus from Kathmandu to Jiri. From Jiri, it is an extra 7-day’s trek to Lukla.
From Lukla, you will gradually ascend through the Khumbu Valley along the usual EBC trek route. After Namche Bazaar you will peel off the main EBC trek route towards Gokyo Lakes.
You will cross the Cho La pass after visiting Gokyo Lakes to rejoin the main EBC trek route. The itinerary we followed is set out below.
EBC via Gokyo Lakes Trek Itinerary
There are small villages every couple of hours along the route to Gokyo Lakes. This means you can be somewhat flexible with your itinerary. However, whichever itinerary you choose, make sure you do not ascend too quickly.
If you ascend too quickly (especially after Namche Bazaar), you could end up with altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness is potentially deadly, and the only cure is to head back down to a lower altitude. Listen to your body and descend if you start feeling the effects of altitude sickness.
We followed the following itinerary on our EBC via Gokyo Lakes trek:
- Day 1: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla (2,860m), then trek to Phakding (2,610m)
- Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)
- Day 3: Acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar
- Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Dole (4,038m)
- Day 5: Dole to Machhermo (4,470m)
- Day 6: Machhermo to Gokyo (4,750m)
- Day 7: Gokyo to Dragnag (4,940m), with morning hike up Gokyo Ri (5,357m)
- Day 8: Dragnag to Dzongla (4,830m) via Cho La Pass (5,420m)
- Day 9: Dzongla to Lobuche (4,940m)
- Day 10: Lobuche to Everest Base Camp (5,380m), staying in Gorak Shep (5,164m)
- Day 11: Gorak Shep to Pheriche (4,371m), with optional morning hike up Kalapathar (5,550m)
- Day 12: Pheriche to Tengboche (3,860m)
- Day 13: Tengboche to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)
- Day 14: Namache Bazaar to Phakding (2,610m)
- Day 15: Phakding to Lukla, with flight home to Kathmandu
However, you should be prepared for itinerary changes along the way. You made need to have extra acclimatization days or there may be delays due to bad weather. We almost got stuck at Dragnag for an entire day due to an overnight blizzard!
Should I Use a Tour Company?
For non-trekkers (like ourselves), it is probably wise to use a tour company as the Gokyo Lakes path is not quite as well-trodden as the usual EBC trek route.
However, it is possible to hire a guide just for the trickier parts of the route from lodges along the way. For example, in Dragnag you can hire a guide from your lodge just to take you over the Cho La Pass.
We chose a small local tour company for our trek called Base Camp Adventure Treks & Expedition. Our 15 day/16 night trek cost US$1240 per person.
This included flights to Lukla, a guide, a porter, accommodation, meals and park entrance fees. Overall, we were pretty happy with their service. We recommend shopping around, reading online reviews and speaking to a few different companies to pick the right one for you.
For more experienced trekkers, this route is definitely achievable without a guide or porter.
You need to be in good shape to tackle the Gokyo trek. It’s classified as moderatly difficult, but due to the remoteness, ruggedness and altitude, it can be a challenge for anyone. Expect to hike 6 hours per day.
There are a couple of ways to get to Gokyo Lake. Either take a plane from Kathmandu to Lukla, or a bus to Jiri from Kathmandu and then hike to Gokyo Lake.
The lakes are between 4,700 meters to 5,000 meters (15,400 feet – 16,400 feet) above sea level.
There are many hikes in Nepal. Some of the best include the hike to Gokyo Lakes, Annapurna Circuit, trek to Everest Base Camp, and Annapurna Base Camp.
Hiking in the towering mountains of Nepal is an exhilarating experience, one that you’ll never forget. While the beauty can be mesmerizing, it’s important to be properly prepared for the mountains. Hiring a guide is a great way to support the local economy, and ensure you have a safe and healthy trek. Enjoy!
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