The Gokyo Lakes is a great and challenging trek that can be done within two weeks by camping or by teahouse – with guides or independently.
It also has incredible additions you can add on to explore Everest Base Camp, Renjo Pass or embark on the Three Passes Trek.
Gokyo Lakes hike just on its own still boasts many highlights and has much less foot traffic to contend with than you’ll find on Everest routes.
The turquoise Gokyo Lake, which is fed by six glacial lakes, is a major highlight of this route, as is hiking along the largest glacier in the Himalayas, Ngozumpa Glacier.
The climb up to Gokyo Ri (5,357 m), which is at the same altitudes as Everest Base Camp, has spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu – some of the best views you’ll find.
The time range to complete this trek will be 10-18 days, depending on whether you hike to Lukla from Kathmandu or if you fly into Lukla (details below).
The rest of the time will depend on how fast you want to hike, how quickly it takes you to acclimate etc.
While I’ve done the Mount Everest Basecamp during the colder months already, so is this guide to Gokyo Lakes done during summer.
Hiking Guide To Gokyo Lakes
OVERLAND: This route, the “Pioneer’s Route to Everest”, which was taken by expeditions to Everest in the 1950s, will lengthen a round-trip trek by an additional seven days (give or take) round trip.
The Pioneer’s Route connects to the trailhead at Jiri, passing beneath Lukla and includes crossing several passes (the highest being over 3,500 meters.)
The disadvantages of this route include the extra time and the extra challenge, but if you have the time and you’re up for the challenge, the benefits include better acclimatization and more adventure along the way.
FLYING To Gokyo Lakes: The first part of the Gokyo Lakes hike is the same as heading to Everest Base Camp (splitting off just after Namche Bazaar), in which the most common mode of transportation to the trail is to fly into Lukla (the views are spectacular).
And the airport, Lukla airport, is often named the most dangerous airport in the world, but it´s really not.
The village boasts a small airport and some guesthouses if you catch a late flight and can’t hike the day you arrive (though it’s best to get a morning flight in the hopes of better weather).
There are many flights made daily from Kathmandu, taking around 30-minutes.
We were lucky that our flight left to Lukla was only slightly delayed (by 40-minutes) as many flights were greatly delayed or cancelled due to weather.
That said, if you have the extra time to create buffer days in case of flight problems at the beginning and end of your trek, you’ll be glad you had the built-in flexibility.
What´s The Best Time To Hike To Gokyo Lakes?
The high season for Gokyo Lakes is the months of September, October and November.
March and April are very popular months and can be a bit crowded.
That said, I went the first two weeks of August (height of the rainy season to decrease crowds and costs, and it was amazing;) but the month following had awful weather, so you can never be sure what you’re going to get.
My friend and I did this trek in the rainiest month of the year (August), and we lucked out with incredible viewing weather.
From 5:00 AM – 12:00 PM every day, we had a beautiful weather window (and sometimes in the evening) before the rain and fog swept in, so you can never be sure but the best times (and as a result of the busiest times) are in Autumn (September to November) and in Spring (March-May).
The weather is most likely to be clear and warm during these seasons though the Khumbu region is cold and dry, and you should prepare for cold weather, especially at night.
While December is also an amazing time to do hikes in Nepal, with often blue sky, so is it also the coldest time of the year in Nepal, which means fewer people along the trail, similar to the Annapurna Basecamp trek, which I did in late December.
What´s The Food And Accommodation Like On The Gokyo Lakes Trek
The food in the teahouses along the trek is as good as you are going to get on a Himalayan trail and but the food gets more expensive the higher you climb as getting supplies there is more and more work.
Food expenses depend on how much you eat at each stop and how much of your own food you’ve brought along. We loved the popcorn and had some at every stop, as well as copious amounts of tea and hot water.
If coming from the west, excellent items to bring along include dried kiwi, mango and banana, as well as nut mix and electrolyte packets that have extra vitamins and minerals included in them.
Also, bringing a jar of peanut butter is well worth it when you add it to Tibetan bread and other bread-like eats. The best food on the trail is the pizza at Gokyo lake.
They are delicious! Other good eats along the way include rice, curry, noodles, pasta, momos, Thukpa (Tibetan soup)m egg warps, Sherpa Stew, Momos, Tibetan Bread, Chapatti, macaroni and cheese and roasted potatoes and cheese.
There are few fresh vegetables, so get them in when you get a chance or bring vitamin replacements with you. Avoid meats, especially during the game off-season.
The Accommodations along the trail are generally comfortable and quite good considering the remoteness, and there is a variety of budget and high-quality tea houses depending on what you are looking for, but guesthouses make their money off of the food you order more so than the room you take so find a place you want to eat and negotiate your stay from there.
Some guesthouses offer hot showers and charge your electronics for a fee, but the fees change from year to year.
I suggest bringing your own jacks with you, and travel solar panels are also good if you get enough sun to charge things along the way.
Like on other hikes in Nepal, so are there not much meat available along the trails; the reasons are because there´s not allowed to slaughter animals inside the national park.
While meat is available in some places, so are the meat rarely fresh since it has to be carried up by sherpas, and very few places have a fridge.
Hiking Maps To Gokyo Lakes
Region Map For Nepal: by Trekking Nepal
Gokyo Lakes and Mount Everest Basecamp map
Itinerary To Gokyo Lakes.
See the map below for distance to give you an idea (though so much depends on altitude rather than distance).
There are smaller villages with guesthouses in between some of the villages shown on the map, and if you ask around, you can always get the information you need to find out trekking durations and interesting detours to make your next decision.
Provided on the map is an example itinerary for a beginner to the moderate hiker with acclimatization spots added.
What Permits Do I Need For Gokyo Lakes And What´s The Price
The Khumbu region does not require a TIMS Card (Trekkers Information Managing System) as most treks in Nepal do, nor is it required for Sagarmatha National Park.
You will, however, need two other permits that will cost around 5000 NPR, which is roughly $45 USD (pre-Covid pricing).
For Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lakes and/or Three Passes Treks, you can attain both permits on the route while trekking from Lukla to Namche Bazaar.
Sagarmatha National Park: This permit includes all the fees and costs 3000 NPR (around $25 USD) and can be purchased just after Monjo, just before Jorsall.
If you are going solo or independently, you can arrange the permits yourself, so check your maps and make sure you don’t miss the permit point because if someone checks in Namche Bazaar and you don’t have your permit, you will have to return to the entrance or pay double.
If you are going independently, a photo of yourself is not required, but ensure you have the 3000 NRP in cash.
If going with a guide, the guide permits will be arranged and paid for by your guide from the fees you paid the company.
Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality: This permit (which you must purchase before Monjo) of 2000 NPR ($20 USD) is not as closely monitored as the SNP Permit, but it supports the local economy and should be paid.
Do I Need A Guide For Gokyo Lakes?
No, there are many people who hike this independently. However, guides can be well worth it.
My friend insisted we take a guide and due to very foggy weather conditions and her ability to speak Nepalese, our trip went very smoothly having a guide.
They can take a lot of the decision-making and stress away from the hike so you can relax and enjoy.
That said, you run into people fairly often along the trail, even in the rainy season.
The trip is significantly cheaper without a guide, so it depends on what kind of budget you are working with and how much you care about investing in the local economy.
If you are avoiding the majority of money going to the guiding company instead of the guide themselves, you can ask around and even find a guide once you arrive in Lukla or Namche Bazaar.
Independently, you may meet lots of other people to hike along with – if you do join a group for a couple of days before splitting off, I suggest tipping their guide as a thank you before you set off on your own again.
How Long is the Gokyo Lakes Trek?
Gokyo Lakes: 10-12 days
EBC: 10-12 days
Gokyo Lakes + EBC via the Cho La Pass: 16-20 days
Three Passes:16-18 days minimum, but an extra 3-4 days is best as it allows for rest days, illness and any side hikes or unexpected interruptions that may arise.
How Difficult Is The Gokyo Lakes Trek?
Gokyo Lakes is the easiest of the three from ascension to altitude adjustment.
Everest Base Camp adds more incline and altitude and if joining the two through the Cho La Pass, be prepared for a long (8-11 hours) and an arduous but stunning trip through some of the most spectacular mountains in the world.
Three Passes is the most strenuous but combines all three locales and is an incredible hiking opportunity.
The route to Gokyo is the least strenuous and would be considered moderate difficulty – cross the Cho La or Renjo passes would increase the difficulty between moderate-high.
How Expensive Is The Hike To Gokyo Lakes?
Costs depend on whether you take a guide or not as you pay the guide’s food and accommodation as part of your package each day they are with you.
Regardless you will find yourself spending more than you expect on luxuries (especially when you get back down to lower altitudes and are ravenous again).
Per meal, you will spend anywhere from $7-12 depending on what you get and how much you eat, which is $21-36 per day on food.
Accommodation is anywhere from $4-10/night depending on where you are staying and how many are sleeping in a room.
Your accommodation cost is often dependent on how many meals you will eat there as the local economy is most supported by the meals trekkers eat; you can use meals to help you negotiate your price, but please be respectful of the local livelihood.
The average cost of a hot shower is 500 NPR – wet wipes.
For a 17 day trip from Kathmandu to Lukla that includes Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base Camp via the Cho La Pass, you are looking at around $1600/person (including a porter), but again this will then depend on how many of you are splitting the costs of a guide (which generally cost from $20-30/day) and a porter ($15-20/day).
You should ensure you have a registered guide whose insurance is covered by the company or purchase insurance for a guide yourself.
You should purchase hiking insurance for yourself (cost depends on the company used)
Is The Gokyo Lakes Trek Safe?
AMS Altitude Sickness – no more than 600m increase per day.
Diamox is a small cost (you can buy it there or from home) as an option to help with altitude, but it does come with side effects that can be as not taking anything at all – so much will depend on your body and the rate at which you are hiking and acclimating.
Diamox may give you some peace of mind, but it may also cause you to constantly have to pee (waking up in the night in which it can be hard to get back to sleep because of the altitude and cold.)
Occasionally, you can get numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, but they are better than the downsides of altitude sickness, which include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, headaches and difficulty sleeping.
It is likely you will get mild headaches regardless.
In fact, while I took Diamox the entire trip and two days preceding, I still had headaches, nausea and difficulty sleeping, so just stay aware of your bodies response and rest as much as necessary – don’t push yourself too hard or too fast and don’t let your itinerary push the pace, it is extremely easy to rearrange flights and guesthouses if you need to have an extra rest day or two.
The best possible thing to do is add yourself a few flex days to your trip, just in case.
Without a guide or porter, expect to spend $30/day without flights and $60/day with flights.
For general reference, depending on your plan (again, it will fluctuate based on how many people are splitting the costs and how much food of your own you bring along the way etc.)
International Tour Company $1800
Local Tour Company $1650
Independent Trekking w/ guide and porter $1400
Independent Trekking with guide only $1200
Independent Trekking with porter only $1000
Independent Trekking Only $800
Wildlife around Gokyo Lakes?
Wildlife sightings could include the Musk Deer, Himalayan Tahr, Himalayan Monal and maybe even the rarest sighting of a Snow Leopard.
Lukla to Gokyo and return the same way
You can choose to stay at the same places as you stayed at on your way up, or you may find the descent faster heading down and choose to stay in different villages on the return.
Lukla to Gokyo and return via Renjo Pass
Head west just above the village of Gokyo to take the Renjo La pass. It will descend into a picturesque valley that will take you back to Namche Bazaar.
This route is a way to get off a well-beaten path to something a little less trodden.
The Sherpa villages of Thame and Thamo are worth admiring along the way.
Lukla to Gokyo – Cho La Pass – Everest Base Camp – Lukla
This is well worth it if you have the chance for a variety of stunning landscape and challenging hikes which could including navigating an icy glacier (bring crampons depending on the month you’re travelling).
The valley from the Cho La pass to eastern Dzongla is stunning and well worth the extra miles.
This will lead you to the route to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp, which speaks for
Lukla – Three Sisters Pass – Lukla
If you want to combine these treks, it is recommended that you start on the Three Passes trek and join the Gokyo Lakes trek, rather than the other way around, due to the altitudes and acclimatization.
It is one of the most stunning and adventurous routes you can take in the region but is not without its challenges.
The difficulty is high but is well worth it for greater solitude, diversity and beauty.