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Makalu Base Camp Trek – Set Foot Among Giants

  • Updated: December 9, 2019
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On this page you will find a comprehensive and impartial guide to the Makalu Base Camp Trek.

As this is a very long and detailed article on the Makalu Base Camp Trek, we recommend using the quicklinks below to navigate to the sections that interest you most. Alternatively, bookmark this page for future reference.

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Makalu Base Camp Trek Overview

The Makalu Base Camp trek takes you to the the world’s fifth-highest mountain, 14 miles east of Everest and 50 miles west of Kangchenjunga, the third-highest. Seven valleys radiate from Makalu.

The trek takes around three weeks and the sight of Nepal’s highest peaks is the main attraction of this trek. It is possible to use tea houses on this trek, with one or two of a basic nature in any given village where you stop, however usually you will be in a tent. Tea houses might be closed when it is cold.

The trail takes you through the Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area, which is famed for its natural beauty and amazing biodiversity: there are 315 species of butterfly, 43 of reptile, 16 of amphibian, 440 of bird, 88 of mammal and more than 3,000 of plant!

Some of the more popular creatures are the red panda, snow leopard, clouded leopard, Himalayan wolf, Assamese macaque, barking deed and Asian golden cat.

The people in the lower sections are Rai, who make up less than three percent of Nepal’s population, while in the higher they are Sherpa. The region’s isolation entails that its distinctive culture, flora and fauna have been well-preserved. Here are some of the last remaining pristine mountain ecosystems found on earth. Rare breeds of animal and plant flourish.

Being somewhat inaccessible, this area is little-known to tourists and there are only a few hundred trekkers and mountaineers a year. It was closed to the outside world until 1952 when Eric Shipton came and gave his name to the Shipton La pass.

Please Note

The altitude of the Makalu Base Camp Trek makes it formidable. It is widely regarded as one of the toughest treks in Nepal. There is a high risk of altitude sickness, which is best avoided by acclimatisation.

Regional Map

The trek is situated in the Khumbu or Everest region- see below.

everest-base-camp-trek-regional-map

Recommended Map

Makalu Base Camp, Trekking Map (NE511)

We recommend the following map:

We have also provided links and recommendations to new guides and maps below.

Recommended Guidebook

A Trekking Guide to the Nepal Himalaya: Everest, Annapurna, Mustang, Nar Phu, Langtang, Ganesh, Manaslu & Tsum, Rolwaling, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Lumbasumba, Dolpo, West Nepal (Himalayan Travel Guides)

The Makalu Base Camp Trek earns mentions in many guides. For a good general guide of Nepal and this trek we recommend Insight Guides: Nepal
 or Lonely Planet Nepal by Bradley Mayhew.

For a more specialist trekking guide we recommend A Trekking Guide to the Nepal Himalaya: Everest, Annapurna, Langtang, Ganesh, Manaslu & Tsum, Rolwaling, Dolpo, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, West Nepal by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons

In terms of a single detailed map we recommend the Himalayan MapHouse’s, New Annapurna Trekking Trails Map, which can be bought in Kathmandu, Pokhara or on Amazon UK here (unfortunately it is not on Amazon US yet).

You are also welcome to have a look at our recommended list of Nepal books and guidebooks Library for more options.


Makalu Trek Itinerary

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Please note that there are several Makalu Base Camp trek itineraries that can be done. 

Below we have laid out the most popular version – 22 days, leaving from Kathmandu. If you want to make your own way to Tumlingar then you could probably organise this with your operator or guide.

Click each day to read more.

Day 1-2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7 

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11​​​​

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20

Day 21

Day 22

Video Overview

A useful video overview of the Makalu Base Camp Trek by breathein15 and set to the music of Country Mile by Johnny Flynn. 

It’s 07:44 long.

Frequently Asked Questions about Makalu Trek

1.

How much does the Makalu Trek cost?

The trek itself will cost somewhere in the region of $3,000 to $4,000.

2.

Are permits required for this trek?

You require a permit granting entry to the Makalu Barun National Park Conservation Area, which costs around $30. You must also have a Trekker Information Management System card, which must be obtained in Kathmandu or Pokhara.

3.

When is the best time to trek to Makalu Base Camp?

This trek is most commonly undertaken pre- or post-monsoon, March to May or September to November. The weather post-monsoon is better, and so are the views, since the atmosphere has been cleared of dust. Trails can be blocked by snow in winter. Foul weather can put the dampers on things considerably.

4.

Is altitude sickness a risk?

The Makalu Base Camp trek ascends to some high altitude points. At its highest point, Makalu Base Camp, you will reach an altitude of 4,800 meters (15,750 feet). There are steep section on this trek where you will ascend very rapidly.


Therefore, it is important to have a clear understanding of the risks associated with high altitude trekking and how the body acclimatises to high altitude.


We recommend reading our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.

5.

How difficult is the Makalu trek?

The high altitude and longevity of the Makalu Base Camp Trek makes it one of the most difficult treks in all of Nepal. Hikers will need to have done several long hikes previously and be at a very good level of fitness condition.

6.

What gear do I need?

Trekking to the Makalu Base Camp requires a number of essential pieces of trekking gear. The Makalu Base Camp trek is long and moderately difficult. It exposes you to a range of altitudes where temperatures fluctuate dramatically between night and day.


Much of your gear can be rented or bought in Kathmandu, but we strongly suggest bringing the most important pieces of gear and equipment with you.


To help you plan and prepare for your trek we recommend reading our gear section.

Do I need Insurance for Makalu Trek?

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Climbing insurance is vital for Makalu Base Camp Trek. If an accident or incident should occur that requires immediate medical assistance and evacuation you will most definitely want adequate trekking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.

Make sure you have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage; interruptions and flight delays and tour operators default.

Please read our article on travel and trekking insurance in Nepal. The article provides great information on what type of insurance you'd need.

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