The Makalu Base Camp trek takes you to the world’s fifth-highest mountain, 14 miles east of Everest and 50 miles west of Kangchenjunga, which is the third highest in the world. Seven valleys radiate from Makalu, giving trekkers spectacular sights and opportunities for exploration.
On this page, you will find a comprehensive and impartial guide to the Makalu Base Camp Trek.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Overview
The Makalu Base Camp Trek takes around three weeks, and the sight of Nepal’s highest peaks is the main attraction of this trail. 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, you will usually be in a tent. Tea houses might be closed in the off-season months.
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 but rare-to-see creatures in the area 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. The region’s isolation entails that its distinctive culture, flora and fauna have been well-preserved. On the Makalu hike you'll see some of the last remaining pristine mountain ecosystems found on earth.
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.
The Makalu Base Camp hike is situated in the Khumbu or Everest region of Nepal, orange square below.
We recommend the following map - Makalu Base Camp, Trekking Map (NE511) by Nepa Maps.
We have also provided links and recommendations to new guides and maps below for the Makalu hike.
Makalu Trek Itinerary
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.
You arrive in Kathmandu. While your operator prepares your trek, you have the second day to explore the city.
You fly to Tumlingar, on the upper reaches of the Arun River, which takes an hour. You then make for Khadbari. You take lunch among kabra trees. Walking continues and you cross a plateau for about 45 minutes. The trail climbs gradually to Khadbari. You camp above the village.
You walk through many picturesque villages, mostly uphill. You pass through bamboo groves and one rhododendron forest. The rhododendrons found here have the most vibrant colours in all of Nepal – fuchsia, scarlet or plain white. Camp is at Chichela, a small Gurung settlement.
The day commences, surprise surprise, with walking, snow-capped peaks in the distance. The views of Makalu, which means the Great Black One, are astonishing. The path is straight and goes up and down marginally. You enter forest and then descend to Num Camp.
You descend rappidly through the cornfield of Lumbang. The ground here is very rocky. The climb to Sedua Camp is a fairly tough one.
You cross meadows and streams before climbing to the Sherpa village of Tashi Gaon, the final permanent settlement in the valley.
Climbing very steeply, this is the hardest day of your trek. You walk through thinly populated forest along a ridge then over a hillock. You finally descend to Kauma, where your tent comes out.
This day is spent acclimatising.
You begin the day with another steep climb through rhododendron forests to the top of a ridge, where you have magnificent views of Chamlang (24,152 feet), Peak 6 (22,110 feet) and Peak 7 (20,030 feet). Then you descend through a forest of rhododendrons and firs to Mumbuk Camp.
You descend a steep gully for a few hundred feet. The trail is ill-defined and rocky with sloppy mud in places. It begins to ascend through a glacial valley. There are impressive views of Peak 6. You arrive at Nhe Kharka, which sits in a large, open and grassy plain with stunning mountain views. Here, you camp.
Today, you go west, young man or no. You swap rhododendron forests for alpine tundra. There are grand views of Pyramid Peak (23,517 feet) and Peak 4 (22,047 feet). With a gain in altitude of more than 5,000 feet, this day has a risk of altitude sickness, but this is unavoidable as there is no suitable camp between Nhe Kharka and Sherson, your destination, 15,142 feet up.
Today, you face no more than a gradual climb to Makalu Base camp, where the south face views of Makalu are wondrous. Before you sit a panorama of some of the highest mountains of the world: Everest (29,035 feet), Lhotse (27,940 feet), Makalu (27,766 feet), Chamlang (24,012 feet) and Baruntse (23,688 feet).
Today you explore the area.
You trek to Barun Valley where you camp for the night.
Your descent continues, bringing you back to Mumbuk.
You cross Shipton La pass (13,875 feet) and then descend to Kauma.
You walk to Tashi Gaon where you camp for the night.
You trek through farming settlements. The next stage is through forests, passing some streams. You get to Pukuwa.
A path through forests leads to exposed, narrow tracks where the views are tremendous. You cross rocky ridges before camping near the village of Bumling.
You walk along the eastern bank of the Arun river. You pass through Chyawabesi and then have a short climb that stops at Tumlingar.
You are driven back to Kathmandu.
Makalu Base Camp Trek FAQ
How much does the Makalu Trek cost?
The Makalu trek costs somewhere in the region of $3,000 to $4,000, depending on which trek operator you use.
Are permits required for the Makalu Base Camp trek?
Yes, permits are required for the Makalu Base Camp 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.
When is the best time to trek to Makalu Base Camp?
The best time to trek Makalu Base Camp is most commonly undertaken pre- or post-monsoon season, from March to May or September to November. The weather in post-monsoon season is better, and so are the views, since the atmosphere has been cleared of dust. Trails can be blocked by snow in winter.
Is altitude sickness a risk on Makalu?
There is a risk of altitude sickness on Makalu because the 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).
How difficult is the Makalu Base Camp trek?
The Makalu Base Camp Trek is one of the most difficult treks in all of Nepal due to its high altitude and longevity. Hikers will need to have done several long hikes previously and be at a very good level of fitness condition.
Are there any recommended guidebooks for the Makalu Base Camp hike?
Yes, there are recommended guidebooks for the Makalu Base Camp trek. Makalu earns mentions in many guides.
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 (unfortunately it is not on Amazon US yet).
Are there other Nepal trekking routes?
Yes, there are plenty of other Nepal treks to explore. If the Makalu Base Camp trek isn't your cup of tea, you can always try your hand at the Everest hike to base camp, the Langtang hike or the Manaslu Circuit Trek.
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