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Hiking the Mount Everest Region in Nepal: A Complete Backpacker Guide for Trekking Gokyo Ri


Panoramic view from Gokyo Ri summit in 2023. A view from the biggest glacier in Asia.
Panoramic view from Gokyo Ri peak summit.

The trek to Gokyo Ri is one of the most scenic trekking routes in the entire Everest region. Often overlooked due to the well-known Everest Base Camp trek, Gokyo Ri's isolated trails offer a feeling of peace and tranquility for anyone who wanders them.


In this detailed guide, I will share my Gokyo Ri trekking experience. I will go over many topics, from why you should choose Gokyo Ri and what to expect on the trek. I will also share a detailed day-by-day recommended trekking itinerary along with relevant information, such as how much money you should take with you and much more practical information. I hope you enjoy it!


Article Overview:

  • Why Choose Gokyo Ri?

  • Trekking Solo or With a Guide (pros and cons)

  • Passes and Permits

  • Accommodations (Teahouses)

  • Food and Water on the Trail

  • Showers and Toilets on the Trail

  • How much Cash Should you Take With You?

  • Altitude Sickness

  • Travel Insurance

  • Recommended Itinerary (day-by-day)


Mount Everest on a sunny day. The best time to travel to Nepal in 2023, 2024, 2025.
A clear view of Mount Everest.

Why choose Gokyo Ri Trek over the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek?

There are several reasons I would recommend trekking to Gokyo Ri over the famous Mount Everest Base Camp Trek. To start, the trail is less crowded, and the views are breathtaking! Furthermore, from Gokyo Ri, you can summit Gokyo Peak at 5,357 meters (17,575 feet), where you can see four of the world's tallest mountains, Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Uyo! Also, on Gokyo Ri's west side is Nepal's largest glacier, the Ngozumpa glacier, which is visible from Gokyo Peak on a clear day. Last but not least, Gokyo Ri is home to the Gokyo Lakes, which consist of six major lakes filled with pristine clear glacier water. The lakes are among the world's highest freshwater reserves!


A typical suspension footbridge in Nepal Mount Everest Base Camp Trek 2023, 2024, 2025.
A typical suspension footbridge along the route.

Where Is Gokyo Ri?

A picture of the biggest glacier in Asia, Nepal, 2023. 2024, 2025.
Screenshot of Gokyo on a map (using Maps.me)


Gokyo Ri is a small village located in Nepal's Everest Region (Khumbu Region). The trail to Gokyo Ri shares the same route as the famous Mount Everest Base Camp trek, although once you leave Namche Bazaar, the paths split.


Some trekkers consider going to Gokyo Ri as an alternative route to the favored Mount Everest Base Camp Trek. For other backpackers, Gokyo Ri is a prominent stop during the Three-Passes circuit trek of the Mount Everest Region.






Should You Trek with a Guide or Solo?

The trail to Gokyo Ri is easily accessible and straightforward to find. Booking a guide is entirely up to you and can quickly be done through one of the many trekking agencies in Kathmandu or upon landing in Lukla.


Before you make your final decision on whether or not to hike with a guide, let's take a quick at some pros and cons.


Guided:

  1. Pros - If you book a guided tour, you contribute to the local economy, which highly depends on mountain tourism to thrive. Furthermore, most tours include porters, flight tickets, park entrances, food, and accommodations as part of their exclusive tour package. Also, booking a guided tour will teach you much about Nepalese culture.

  2. Cons - The main con of booking a guided tour is the lack of flexibility. Like most guided tours, you must follow a tight schedule and will have little time for exploring. Let's say you reach a small village and wish to stay there exploring for a few days; your options will be limited. Although I must say, there are individual guides (not part of a larger company) who will guide you at your own pace, meaning you can personalize your trek as much as you want.


Self Guided:

  1. Pros - the most significant advantage of trekking without a guide is flexibility. By trekking without a guide, you will have more time to explore and relax. This means you don't need to follow a strict itinerary and can hike at your own pace.

  2. Cons - the are serval cons to trekking without a guide. To start, you will need to carry your own backpack. Usually, on guided tours, porters will use yaks or donkeys to haul your equipment from one village to the next. As an independent trekker, it will be up to you to trek with your belongings the entire time you are hiking. Carrying your own weight might not seem like a big deal, but if you are not used to altitude trekking, your pack will feel heavier as you gain altitude. Furthermore, as an independent hiker, you must arrange your own accommodations in each village you visit. This can be tricky sometimes, especially if you are hiking in the high season when most Tea Houses are fully booked.


As you move forward with your decision to go solo or with a guide, keep in mind the pros and cons of each option. Also, If you are worried about the tour's group size, keep in mind that there are endless options for how big or small of a group you would like to join.


Nepalese prayer wheels, also known as mani wheels in Nepal.
Nepalese prayer wheels, also known as mani wheels.

TIMS Card

If you plan on hiking without a guide, you should get your Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) card as soon as you arrive in Nepal. The TIMS card is a mandatory trekking registration card to allow the Nepalese government knows who is on what trail at all times. The TIMS card was implemented for the safety of all trekkers, and you will need one if you plan on hiking the Everest Base Camp Region.


If you are trekking with an organized guide, they will most likely take care of your TIMS card for you.


To obtain your TIMS card, you will need your passport, two passport-size photos, and pay a $10 fee to the Tourist Service Centre in Kathmandu. In the Tourist Service Center, you can also purchase your trekking permits.


A sign with a reminder to take your permit with you before entering Sagarmatha National Park.
A sign with a reminder to take your permit with you before entering Sagarmatha National Park.

Permits

The Sagarmatha National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you are hiking the Mount Everest Base Camp Region, you will be entering the Sagarmatha National Park and must show your TIMS card and pay a registration fee to enter the park. The Sagarmatha National Park permits cost $30 per person and can be purchased in advance at the Tourist Service Centre in Kathmandu. You can also buy the permit on the trail in the village of Monjo, the gateway to Sagarmatha National Park.


Again, if you are hiking as part of an organized tour, they will most likely purchase all trekking permits needed for your hike.



What are Teahouses?

A typical Teahouse in Nepal on the way to Mount Everest Base Camp Trek 2023, 2024, 2025.
What a typical Teahouse looks like along the trail.

Teahouses are nothing more than mountain lodges located along the trekking routes in Nepal. In other words, Teahouses are usually where all trekkers end up in the evening for a warm meal and a place to sleep. If you are hiking without a guide, you must find your own Teahouse in each village; and using the internet to book a Teahouse is not an option. The easiest way to find a Teahouse is to walk around the town and ask if they have space available. We did this every day during our trek and never had any issues with availability.


An overnight in a Teahouse will cost anywhere from $5-$15, excluding meals which will run you another $15-$20. If you are trekking solo, It is safe to say you should budget for around $30-$40 a day.

Traveler Tip: Some Teahouses will let you stay the night free of charge as long as you agree to eat dinner on the evening you arrive, and breakfast on the morning you depart. Just ask around!



Food on the Trail

Typical Dal Baht meal they served in Teahouses in Nepal 2023,2024, 2025.
A typical Dal Baht meal they served in Teahouses.

Most Teahouses have small menus with a handful of options for each meal. The most common food you will find is thukpa (noodle soup), momos (dumplings), stew, pasta, pizza, toast, eggs, yogurt, porridge, and of course, the delicious Dal Bhat (rice and lentils). Dal Bhat is a traditional local dish and a local favorite. Most Teahouses will even serve "bottomless" Dal Baht, meaning you can eat as much as you like for no extra charge!


Note: The food will already be included in your tour package for those hiking with a guide.


Drinking Water

You have a few options for potable water on the trail. One option is buying bottled water, although the higher your trek, the more expensive it becomes. Another option is purifying the water yourself with water purification tablets, ultraviolet (UV) water purification bottles, or other purification bottles such as the LifeStraw. Last, you can ask for boiling water in the Teahouses, although this option is only suitable for hydrating before or after the trek.


Whatever you do, I highly recommend you purify your water before drinking it. I used a combination of both water purification tablets and the LifeStraw during my trek and I never got sick.


Selfie with a Yak in Nepal, Asia, 2023, 2024, 2025.
Yak selfie :)

Showers on the Trail

Showers are scarce on the trail; the higher you trek, the fewer options there are for showering. Also, if you wish to shower, you must be prepared to pay and wait while they warm up the water. A shower can be anything from a plastic hanging bag with warm water (camping style) or a huge bucket full of warm water with a small cup to pour the water over you. Nonetheless, a shower feels amazing after a few days of trekking.


Note: You will need to bring your own soap and towel.


Toilets

You will find typical western toilets along the lower parts of the trail. However, the higher you trek, you will see the western toilet replaced with "squat toilets" (a hole in the ground). I highly advise you to bring your own toilet paper and hand soap.


How Much Cash Should I Bring With Me on the Trek?

Taking cash with you on your hike is extremely important, as most Teahouses and businesses only accept cash. I highly recommend withdrawing all the money you will need while in Kathmandu. Once you land in Lukla, your chances of finding an ATM with cash are limited. The last place you will probably be able to pull out some last-minute cash will be in Namche Bazaar, but you shouldn't risk it as some ATMs could be out of money.


Note: For a guided tour, you probably only need to take $100-$200 (12,760 - 25,521 Nepalese Rupees) for miscellaneous costs since your guided excursion already includes meals, accommodations, and entrance fees. If you are trekking without a guide, I recommend you take $600 (76,564 Nepalese Rupees) for food, accommodations, and fees. You will probably only spend around $360 on a solo trek, but you should always take more in case of an emergency.


Gokyo Ri summit on a beautiful day in 2023, 2024, 2025.
Perfect clear day for Gokyo summit!

Altitude Sickness

Altitude, or mountain sickness, occurs when you travel to a high elevation without allowing your body time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. Common symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.


Altitude sickness is very real and should be taken seriously. No matter how physically fit you are, you must let your body acclimatize to higher altitudes. During my trek, I heard multiple horror stories of trekkers who would "race" up the mountain and later need emergency air evacuation due to suspected altitude sickness.


Note: Before your trek, consult your doctor for medical advice on preventing and treating altitude sickness. In my case I was prescribed Diamox, which helped me prevent mountain sickness.


Travel Insurance

Whatever you do, don't go trekking without travel insurance! Travel insurance will help you cover your medical expenses in an emergency. Multiple travel insurance agencies, such as World Nomads, Safety Wing, and Insured Nomads (to mention a few), provide excellent coverage for a fair price.


Don't Hike Alone!

Whatever you do, do not trek alone. If you decide to trek without a guide, you should find yourself a trekking buddy before beginning your hike. You can easily connect with other hikers in the backpacker neighborhood of Thamel in Kathmandu. Another way to connect with other solo travelers is by staying in a hostel or using the "Hangouts" option on the Couchsurfing phone application.


Incredible view of the worlds highest mountains from Gokyo summit in 2023, 2024, 2025.
Incredible view of the worlds highest mountains from Gokyo summit!

Solo Trekking: 12 Days Gokyo Ri Trek Recommended Itinerary


Day Itinerary Altitude (m) Time

1 Fly to Lukla

2 Trek from Lukla to Phakding 2,652 3-4 hrs

3 Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar 3,440 5-6 hrs

4 Acclimatization Day at Namche Bazaar 3,440

5 Trek from Namche Bazaar to Dole 3,680 5-6 hrs

6 Trek from Dole to Machhermo 4,470 4-5 hrs

7 Trek from Machhermo to Gokyo Valley 4,800 4-5 hrs

8 Day Trek to Gokyo Ri Summit 5,357 4-5 hrs

9 Trek from Gokyo Valley to Dole 3,680 6-7 hrs

10 Trek from Dole to Namche Bazaar 3,440 5-6 hrs

11 Trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla 2,800 7-8 hrs

12 Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu 1,400 40 mins


Note: The following itinerary is based solely on my personal experiences in Nepal and can be altered in any way that suits you.


Day 1: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla

The most dangerous airport in the world as of 2023, 2024, 2024, in Lukla, Nepal.
The notorious Lukla Airport!

There are three ways you can reach Lukla from Kathmandu:

  1. By Plane - The Lukla airport is also often considered one of "the most dangerous airports in the world" due to its elevation, incline, and short runway length. Nonetheless, getting to Lukla by plane is the preferred option for most trekkers. Two leading airlines offer daily flights to and from Lukla airport Tara Air and Yeti Airlines. A return ticket can cost around $350, and the total flight time is an estimated 30 minutes. The only downside of flying by plane is the constant delays due to inclement weather. Although, keep in mind that any delays and cancellations are for your safety, and you should remain flexible during your trip.

  2. By Helicopter - getting to Lukla by helicopter is an excellent option if you are on a tight schedule. The only downside to taking a helicopter is the high price. There are serval private booking agencies in Kathamandu where you can book a chopper ride. A group shared ticket costs around $465 per person (one way), while a private helicopter flight will start at about $2,500 (one way).

  3. By road and trekking - the last option for reaching Lukla is driving (taxi or bus) 10-14 hours from Kathmandu to Shivalaya, which takes you to the trailhead of the forgotten Jiri to Lukla trail; from there, you will need to trek seven days until your reach Lukla. The Jiri to Lukla trek was once the starting point for those aspiring to climb Mt. Everest.

Whichever option you choose, I recommend spending one day in Lukla to explore and acclimatize to the altitude. If you are trekking solo, there are plenty of Tea Houses in Lukla where you will be able to find food and accommodations for the night.


Day 2: Trek from Lukla to Phakding – 3 to 4 hours

A Yak and Mules carrying supplies to mount Everest base camp 2023, 2024, 2025.
A typical encounter on the road to Gokyo.

The route from Lukla to Phakdign is relatively short and easy. In under 4 hours, the trail will take you to the Dudh Koshi Ghat village, where you will cross the river and reach Phakdign in no time. Once in Phakdign, you can explore the cozy cafes, Teahouses and visit the beautiful Rimishung Monastery.


Day 3: Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar - 5 to 6 hours

Trail marker showing the way to Namche Bazaar in Nepal 2023, 2024, 2025.
Trail marker showing the way to Namche.

The trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar is a strenuous hike due to the significant elevation gained. Nonetheless, the trail to Namche Bazaar is full of suspension bridges, prayer flags, and breathtaking views of Mt. Everest. Also, remember that before reaching Namche Bazaar, you will arrive at Monjo's village, where you must show your TIMS card and pay for the Sagarmatha National Park permit if you didn't purchase it in advance.


Day 4: Acclimatization Day at Namche Bazaar

A Khumbu welcome sign along the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025.
A Khumbu welcome sign.

Upon reaching Namche Bazaar, you will have time to acclimatize to the high altitude while exploring the many sites in the area. Namche Bazaar is considered the gateway to the Himalayas and is well known for its incredible views and rich culture. In Namche Bazaar, there are plenty of cafes, Teahouses, bars, and monasteries to explore. There is so much to do and see in Namche Bazaar that you could easily spend two to three days in the village.


Traveler Tip: Take the short day trek to Everest View Hotel, where you can catch a glimpse of Mount Everest.


Day 5: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Dole -5 to 6 hours

Namche Bazaar from the top of a mountain. The best views of Mt Everest in Nepal 2023, 2024, 2025.
Leaving Namche Bazaar on our way to Dole.

On the Dole hike, you will begin to see fewer backpackers since the trail will split with the Everest Base Camp Trail shortly after leaving Namche Bazaar. The trek to Dole will take you through Mong La Pass until your reach the village of Phortse. From Phortse, you will trek up the beautiful pine forest until you begin your descent toward Dole with dazzling views. If you are into stargazing or sky photography, Dole is a great place for both since the village is very secluded and away from light contamination.


Day 6: Trek from Dole to Machhermo -4 to 5 hours

Authentic Tibetan prayer flags for sale in Nepal 2023.
Prayer flags along the route.

The trail to Machhermo is tranquil and solitary. As you trek along the valley side, you will rarely encounter people, although you will encounter many yaks grazing on the summer grass. Also, along the way, you will get great views of the world's sixth-highest mountain, Mount Cho Oyu (8,190m).


Day 7: Trek from Machhermo to Gokyo Valley - 4 to 5 hours

Picture of the sacred lakes in Gokyo Ri, a must visit in 2023, 2024, 2025.
One of the lakes on our way to Gokyo.

The hike from Machhermo to Gokyo is quiet and peaceful. During your accent, you will have an excellent view of Cho-Oyu (8201m) and climb up the steep moraine of the Ngozumpa glacier. Once you reach the top, you will arrive at the first Gokyo lake, Longponga. Once you pass the lake, the terrain begins to level, and you will trek by two more lakes before reaching the gorgeous village of Gokyo. Also, keep your eye open for a chance to see the Brahmin ducks (Red ducks), which migrated to the Gokyo lakes many years ago.


Note: Do not swim, drink, or throw rocks into the lake, as they are sacred to the Buddhists and Hindus who live in the region.


Day 8: Day Trek to Gokyo Ri Summit - 4 to 5 hours

Gokyo Ri summet day with the lakes and highest mountains in the background.
Me on Gokyo Ri summit with the lakes, glacier and Mt Everest in the background.

I highly recommend you wake up early to begin your summit to Gokyo Ri. The climb is very steep and tiring, but it will be well worth the effort once you reach the summit. Once you reach the top you will have the most astonishing panoramic views of the Himalayas, including serval of the world's tallest mountains, the immense Ngozumpa Glacier, and Gokyo valley. On a clear day, you will be able to see Mt. Cho Oyu (8201m), Mt. Everest (8848), Lhotse (8516m), Nuptse (7879m), Makalu (8481m), Cholaste (6335m), Tabuche peak (6495m) and Gychung Kang (7922m).


Day 9: Trek from Gokyo Valley to Dole - 6 to 7 hours

There are serval options for returning to Lukla. You can either cross the Cho La Pass, which connects you with the Mt. Everest Basecamp trail; or cross the Renjo La Pass, which is the highest of all passes in the region and leads you straight back towards Namche Bazaar; or you can return the same way you came. For this itinerary, we will go back the same way we came. Since you will be trekking downhill most of the time, you will cover more distance in less time, reaching the village of Dole in under seven hours.


Note: Do not attempt to cross Cho La Pass without a guide unless you have prior experience in glacier hiking. There is a high possibility you will run into crevasses which could lead to fatal consequences if you are inexperienced with glacier crossing.


Day 10: Trek from Dole to Namche Bazaar - 5 to 6 hours

A suspension bridge covered in prayer flags in Nepal.
A suspension bridge covered in prayer flags.

During your trek from Dole to Namche Bazaar, you will have the opportunity to cross many suspension bridges once again and take pictures from a different perspective. Once you reach Namche Bazaar, you can finally relax and enjoy yourself. Take a shower, connect to the internet, share your stories with other backpackers, and take in as much as possible from the postcard views. Depending on your schedule, you could spend a couple of days in Namche Bazaar, relaxing in one of the many backpacker cafes.


Day 11: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla - 7 to 8 hours

On your way back to Lukla, you will encounter many backpackers, local guides, and porters. Once you reach Lukla, it will be your last chance to purchase any last-minute mementos before you leave for Kathmandu.


Day 12: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu

Taking a helicopter ride back to Kathmandu from Lukla in 2023, 2024, 2025.
Taking a helicopter ride back to Kathmandu.

Finally, It is time to fly back to Kathmandu. Remember that flights are delayed or canceled regularly due to bad weather. In some extreme cases, be prepared to spend a few extra nights in Lukla while you wait for your flight.


******


In conclusion, the trek to Gokyo Ri is one of my most memorable travel experiences thus so far. Have you been to Nepal? What was the highlight of your trip? Let me know in the comments below!

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