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Gokyo Ri Trek, Nepal

Gokyo Ri, Nepal

I never thought that a non-whitewater trip would make it onto my Top Three Favorite Trips list, but Gokyo Ri did just that! Gokyo Ri is a peak in the Nepal Himalayas that offers spectacular views of four 8000 meter peaks: Mount Everest (8848), Lhotse (8516), Makalu (8463), and Cho Oyu (8201).

In many ways, the trek has the flow of a multi-day river trip due to the pace, layover (acclimatization) days, and spectacular side hikes. With the added benefit of staying in inexpensive tea houses along the way and not having to pack a tent or food, this was a very easy trip! If you are reasonably fit and are experienced and comfortable with wilderness first aid, winter camping, and basic navigation – a guide and porter(s) are unnecessary. If you are traveling solo, it may be worth hiring a guide, even if you have the appropriate skills, to ensure that a minor medical emergency does not mushroom into a very serious and life-threatening situation.

For me, the great unknown for this trip was the high altitude. The Gokyo Ri trek reaches a height of 5357 meters (17,575 feet), much higher than I had ever hiked before. Acute Mountain Sickness is a very serious and dangerous medical condition that can occur above 2500 meters (8,000 feet). Much of my pre-trip research was focused on altitude sickness recognition and prevention. Our itinerary was planned to give us the best chance to acclimatize, avoid altitude sickness, and to safely reach our goal of Gokyo Ri.

I broke our 18 day trip into 3 separate parts:

  1. Pre-trip preparations in Kathmandu – 3 days (2 days would have been sufficient, 3 days made it leisurely.)
  2. Gokyo Ri Trek – 12 days (We planned 13 days – we made the decision to trim a day from our stay at Gokyo since we were able to summit Gokyo Ri on the day we arrived. This gave us the the option to break up the longer hikes out, or to reach Lukla a day early and move our flight forward a day since the weather was turning more unpredictable.)
  3. Post-trip Kathmandu – 3 days (We planned 2 days.)

The days on either end of the trek are flexible based on pre-trip equipment shopping needs and the possibility of weather delays at Lukla.

Pre-trip Itinerary – 3 Days

Days 1 – 3 Kathmandu
Altitude: 1365 meters (4478 feet)

Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepalese currency is not available outside of Nepal, so before leaving Tribhuvan International Airport, we purchased enough Nepalese Rupees (NPR) to get us through the first few days. Our hotel had a better rate, and we made subsequent purchases for our trek through the front desk. While we were in Nepal the spot rate was 1 USD = 108 NPR. The airport money exchange was selling at 105.5, and our hotel was selling at 106.2. For quick mental conversions – think 100 NPR = 1 USD.

We stayed at Hotel Ganesh Himal (27 USD/night). They offered free airport transportation that we used for international arrival and departure. We were very pleased with the hotel facilities, restaurant, and location. It was quiet and removed from the busy party scene, but close enough to walk everywhere that we needed to go to prepare for our trip.

We used the Kathmandu prep days to:

  • Purchase gear that we needed.
  • Rent down sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners, and down coats from Shona’s Alpine (170 NPR / 1.61 USD each, per day). We asked to substitute the 20,000 NPR deposit with 200 USD. We did not want to be stuck with 20,000 NPR right before flying out of Nepal.
  • Get our required Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) Card (2000 NPR / 18.96 USD each) and Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit (3390 NPR /32.13 USD each) at the Nepal Tourist Board Service Centre. January 2020 update after returning from a recent trip: The Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit (2000 NPR) has replaced the TIMS Card in the Everest region. The permit is sold in Lukla. Since the Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit (3000 NPR) is available in Monjo, the entire permitting process is more convenient. Everything is simply right by the trail!
  • Review our itinerary and finalize our route.

After getting all of our gear and necessary paperwork, we organized our packs for the early morning flight to Lukla. Prior to arriving in Kathmandu, I had booked our flights to and from Lukla through Yeti Airlines (149 USD each, one way). The tickets are flexible. If you find that you are ready a day early, you can try to get on an earlier flight at no additional cost.

Gokyo Ri Trek Itinerary – 12 Days

Tea House Lodges – The per night rate is very inexpensive (200 NPR shared bathroom, 500-1200 NPR private bathroom), but you are expected to eat breakfast and supper at the lodge. Tea house lodges only heat the communal dining areas for a short period in the evening with a central yak-dung stove; the rooms in the lodges are unheated. With the exception of our lodges in Namche Bazaar and Gokyo, none of the rooms that we stayed in had power outlets to recharge cameras or phones. If you have electronic devices that you want to charge, they provide the service via solar power for a fee.

Our tea house lodging expenses with breakfast, lunch, and supper averaged 35 USD per day.

Here is an example of our actual expenses for our stay at Namgyal Lodge in Machhermo:

Room – 200 NPR

Potato Momo – 590 NPR
Potato Momo – 590 NPR
Coffee – 100 NPR
Milk Tea – 100 NPR

Pot of Hot Orange Drink – 550 NPR
Garlic Noodle – 420 NPR
Pasta – 680 NPR

Pasta – 680 NPR
Muesli – 430 NPR
Tea – 100 NPR
Coffee – 100 NPR

Total = 4540 NPR / 43.03 USD

On the way up, we stayed in the lodge that we thought looked the nicest in each village. Once we were past Namche Bazaar, being late in the trekking season, we were usually the only guests. On the way down, we stayed in whichever lodge was still open. Most had closed for the season, but at least one remained open in each village.

As you get higher, prices increase for food, snacks, and bottled water. It makes sense since they have farther to pack it in. We carried a water pump and chlorine tablets and pumped our own water along the way.

On the Gokyo Ri trek, it would be very easy to ascend too quickly. The goal is to keep ascension between 300 and 500 meters per day to allow proper acclimatization and to reduce the likelihood of altitude sickness. The daily distances hiked are short on the Gokyo Ri trek because the way is steep!

Trek Day 1 (Day 4) – Flight: Kathmandu to Lukla, Hike: Lukla to Monjo
Flight Time: 30 minutes
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: Lukla 2840 meters (9318 feet), Monjo 2835 meters (9301 feet)

We took a taxi (700 NPR / 6.64 USD) to Tribhuvan International Airport and were able to change our flight to the 6:15 AM flight (we were originally scheduled for 7:45 AM). Even with the change, due to weather, we did not take-off until almost 7:45 AM.

The flight offers spectacular scenery and a very exciting approach to the infamous Lukla Airport (Tenzing–Hillary Airport).

Lukla Airport, Nepal
Approaching Lukla Airport

The very short runway slopes uphill to slow the planes and ends at the side of the mountain – no do-overs! Take-off is downhill with a 2000 foot cliff just beyond the runway!

Lukla Airport, Nepal
Lukla Airport

After collecting our gear from the plane, we immediately started our journey toward Monjo.

Lukla, Nepal
Trail leading out of Lukla.

Along the trail you will pass many Buddhist symbols. These include prayer flags, prayer wheels, mani stones, and mani walls.

Buddhist Mani Stones
Painted Buddhist mani wall constructed out of mani stones.

A major highlight of the trek is the many river crossings on high cable suspension bridges. Do not enter the bridge if Yaks are on it! Let them exit first.

Dudh Kosi River Crossing

On the first portion of the trip, between Lukla and Namche Bazaar, you will see lots of people and porters. It can feel like a hiking super-highway at times. Don’t fret! After Namche Bazaar, most of these people continue toward Everest Base Camp, and you will find that you have the trail to Gokyo all to yourself!

Nepalese Porters
Porters carrying trekker’s packs.

From day 1 the scenery is spectacular, and it keeps getting better each day.

Thamserku Mountain, Nepal
The views of distant peaks are beautiful! Thamserku Mountain (6623 meters / 21,729 feet) was one of the first that we saw after starting our journey.

By the time you arrive in Monjo, you will be ready for a big supper and a good night’s sleep!

Monjo, Nepal
Monjo village

Trek Day 2 (Day 5) – Hike: Monjo to Namche Bazaar
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 3440 meters (11,286 feet)

After a good night’s rest, we awoke early and started our hike to Namche Bazaar. Namche Bazaar, the unofficial capital of the Khumbu region, is the primary destination for most of the yak trains and porters that you see.

Goyko Ri, Nepal Trek
Heavy loads! I see toilet paper, rum, beer, onions…

Always stay on the uphill side when being passed by a yak train. You do not want to be pushed off of the mountain. They do not yield.

Yak Caravan
Yak caravan carrying supplies toward Namche Bazaar.

We decided to spend 3 nights in Namche Bazaar to give us a better chance to acclimatize.

Trek Day 3 (Day 6) – Acclimatization Day: Namche Bazaar, Hike to Everest View Hotel
Hiking Time: 4 hours, round trip
Altitude: Everest View Hotel – 3,880 meters (12,730 feet)

Don’t confuse acclimatization days with sitting around doing nothing! There are spectacular day hikes surrounding Namche Bazaar that allow you to incorporate the acclimatization strategy “hike high, sleep low.” This is the strategy where you hike to a higher altitude during the day, then sleep at a lower altitude at night. For our first acclimatization day, we hiked to the famous Hotel Everest View.

Ama Dablam, Nepal
View of Ama Dablam on the trail to Hotel Everest View.

It was nice to hike without a pack! The views are gorgeous.

Namchi Bazaar, Nepal
Looking back toward Lukla.

Having lunch at Hotel Everest View while enjoying views of Mount Everest makes for a spectacular afternoon.

Mount Everest
View of Mount Everest (center) from Hotel Everest View

Trek Day 4 (Day 7) – Acclimatization Day: Namche Bazaar, Visit Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre
Hiking Time: 1 hour
Altitude: 3540 meters (11,614 feet)

We awoke to changing weather. We had low cloud coverage, and it was starting to get much colder. We decided to do a short hike to the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre.

Just as we arrived, the clouds parted and we had beautiful views of Mount Everest and Lhotse. It actually surpassed the views from Hotel Everest View.

Mount Everest
View of Mount Everest (left) from Sagarmatha National Park Visitor’s Centre.

The visitor centre had very good facilities with lots of interesting information.

Trek Day 5 (Day 8) – Hike: Namche Bazaar to Phortse Thenga
Hiking Time: 6 hours
Altitude: 3680 meters (12,073 feet)

Winter fully settled in as we began our hike to Phortse Thenga!

Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Winter arrives in Namche Bazaar!

The hike leaves Namche Bazaar along the Everest Base Camp trail which was filled with many people. Once we made the turn toward Phortse Thenga at Sanasa, we had the trail completely to ourselves. While the low clouds blocked the views of the surrounding mountains, there were still plenty of interesting things to see.

Mong Village, Nepal
Stupa and mani stones at Mong Village.

Before we knew it we were right in the middle of a large herd of Mountain Goats! We were treated to a incredible display of climbing and leaping prowess.

Himalayan tahr (Himalayan mountain goat)
Himalayan tahr (Himalayan mountain goat).

Trek Day 6 (Day 9) – Hike: Phortse Thenga to Dole
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Altitude: 4110 meters (13,484 feet)

The sun was back out, but the cold was there to stay for the rest of our trip.

Gokyo Ri Trek, Nepal
It is getting much colder at the higher elevations.

Trek Day 7 (Day 10) – Hike: Dole to Machhermo
Hiking Distance: 3 hours
Altitude: 4470 meters (14,665 feet)

Every day the scenery continued to get better and better. By now we have settled into a nice daily routine, and the hiking is at a very relaxed pace.

Gokyo Ri Trek, Nepal
A stone shepherds hut along the trail to Machhermo.

This is big country, very big.

Gokyo Ri Trek, Nepal
The views along the trail are stunning.

As seemed to be the norm on the Gokyo trail, we had our lodge in Machhermo all to ourselves!

Machhermo, Nepal
Namgyal Lodge in Machhermo

Trek Day 8 (Day 11) – Hike: Machermo to Gokyo, Summit Gokyo Ri
Hiking Time: 5 hours to Gokyo, 2 hours to summit Gokyo Ri, 1.5 hours to return to Gokyo
Altitude: Gokyo – 4790 meters (15,715 feet), Gokyo Ri – 5357 meters (17,575 feet)

We took our time and made our way to Gokyo at a relaxed pace, conserving energy.

Gokyo Ri Trek, Nepal
It is a long day and slow going!

We knew we were getting close to Gokyo when we reached the first of the Gokyo Lakes. Located at an altitude of 4,700 to 5,000 meters (15,420 to 16,404 feet), Gokyo Lakes are the world’s highest freshwater lake system.

Gokyo Lakes
The Gokyo Lakes are beautiful!

We made it to Gokyo by 2 PM. After checking into our tea house, we had a tough choice to make – attempt Gokyo Ri now, or wait until we are rested and go tomorrow? The sky was clear and the day beautiful. If we waited, there was a chance of clouds rolling in and spoiling our view.

We weighed the options and decided to go for it. We would gain a day that would give us the opportunity to break up the long hikes out, or allow us to get into Lukla a day early and give us a weather delay buffer. We quickly packed a day pack with warm layers, water, headlamps, and first aid supplies. We bought two packs of cookies from our tea house to eat on the hike and headed up Gokyo Ri.

Gokyo Ri, Nepal
As you climb Gokyo Ri, you gain perspective of the massive size of Ngozumpa Glacier sitting above Gokyo Village.

It took us about two hours to reach the summit. The hike is difficult. At the summit, oxygen levels are only 53% of those at sea level. (The Altitude air pressure calculator is a great tool that measures the % of the oxygen available compared to the % at sea level.)

Gokyo Ri, Nepal
Reaching the summit of Gokyo Ri.

From Gokyo Ri, it is possible to see four 8,000-metre peaks: Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu.

Gokyo Ri, Nepal
Sara posing with Mount Everest.

The views were worth the effort. It was breathtaking.

Gokyo Ri, Nepal
My favorite photo from our Gokyo Ri trek.

We started back down just as it started to get dark; we did not wait to watch the full sunset. We were able to catch just a little of the sunset on Mount Everest as we headed back to Gokyo. We had to use headlamps for the last third of our decent.

Gokyo Ri, Nepal
On our decent, we were able to watch the sun setting on Everest and Lhotse.

Trek Day 9 (Day 12) – Hike: Gokyo to Dole
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Altitude: 4110 meters (13,484 feet)

The only limitations on hiking distance on the way back down are your energy and fitness level! We opted to retrace our steps, although there are other routing options depending on your time frame.

Trek Day 10 (Day 13) – Hike Dole to Namche Bazaar
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 3440 meters (11,286 feet)

We really enjoyed this hike since we did not get to see it the first time due to the low cloud coverage.

We had learned earlier that Namche Bazaar had a power outage. It is the one place in the region that you expect power, so this was certainly a disappointment! We had to use our headlamps in the tea house and only food that could be cooked on gas could be prepared.

Trek Day 11 (Day 14) – Hike Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Hiking Time: 7 hours
Altitude: 2840 meters (9318 feet)

This was a long day. We considered staying the night in Phakding if it did not look like we could make Lukla before 4 PM, the time that the airline office closed. It was very close, but we rallied and made it just before they closed for the day. We got placed on the list to fly out the next morning.

Trek Day 12 (Day 15) – Flight Lukla to Kathmandu
Flight Time: 30 Minutes
Altitude: 1365 meters (4478 feet)

It started to look like all of the flights may be canceled for the day. The weather was bad and getting worse. After a very long delay, we were loaded and safely in the air.

Flights into and out of Lukla are never a sure thing. It is best not to arrange your schedule too rigidly. The more important it is for you to get out on a certain date, the more important it is to give yourself a large buffer. The largest buffer being the amount of time it takes to walk back to Jiri and take a bus back to Kathmandu – 6 days.

Lukla Airport, Nepal
The dense, low clouds made the flight uncertain!

Back in Kathmandu we took a taxi back to our hotel (800 NPR / 7.58 USD). We returned the rental gear (retrieving our 200 USD deposit and paying the amount due in NPR) and finished the day with very long, very hot showers!

Post-trip Itinerary – 3 Days

Day 16 – 18 Kathmandu

We ended up with two full days to explore Kathmandu. Our favorite activity was playing at the Casino Royale! We really enjoyed this casino and spent time there on both of our full days. They offer complimentary drinks and a wonderful complimentary Indian buffet for lunch. It was the best food that we had in Kathmandu.

We loved our Gokyo Ri trek! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how often I have thought about it afterwards. I am very glad that we opted for Gokyo over Everest Base Camp. This was the decision that I wrestled with the most prior to our trip. The portions of the EBC trail that we did hike seemed much busier, with large groups of noisy, impatient, and inexperienced trekkers. The few people that we met on the Gokyo trail were seasoned outdoorsmen and women carrying their own packs. We love to choose the road less traveled!

Trip Details

  • Time of Year: December 2016
  • Length of Stay: 18 Days, 17 Nights
  • Total Trip Cost – 2 People:  1787 USD*
  • Cost Per Day / Per Person:  48 USD*
  • Visa Information: Nepal Department of Immigration Note: We secured our visa prior to landing to avoid delays at the airport.

*Excluded from the cost analysis:

  • International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
  • Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy. Note: Our policy covers high altitude, make sure to check!
  • Personal gear purchased (hiking boots, long underwear, rain pants, etc.) that we would have had if we did not live in a tropical environment. Cold weather gear rented (down coats, sleeping bags and sleeping bag liners) is included since it is more practical to rent than to bring or purchase.

GPS Coordinates:Click to expand

Day 1
Tribhuvan International Airport @ 27.70045,85.35673
Hotel Ganesh Himal @ 27.709892,85.30662

Day 2
Nepal Tourist Board Service Centre @ 27.701833,85.317014
Shona’s Alpine @ 27.713315,85.312222

Day 4
Tribhuvan International Airport @ 27.70045,85.35673
Lukla Airport @ 27.687778,86.731384
Phakding @ 27.74004,86.712555
Monjo @ 27.771303,86.723237

Day 5
Sagarmatha National Park, Jorsale Entrance Gate @ 27.775698,86.721943
Namche Bazaar @ 27.804684,86.710495

Day 6
Hotel Everest View @ 27.816537,86.723682

Day 7
Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre @ 27.803097,86.714796

Day 8
Phortse Thenga @ 27.84985,86.744356

Day 9
Dole @ 27.866683,86.73105

Day 10
Machhermo @ 27.903892,86.715575

Day 11
Gokyo @ 27.953706,86.694886
Gokyo Ri @ 27.961564,86.683086

Day 12
Dole @ 27.866683,86.73105

Day 13
Namche Bazaar @ 27.804684,86.710495

Day 14
Lukla @ 27.689088,86.729996

Day 15
Lukla Airport @ 27.687778,86.731384
Tribhuvan International Airport @ 27.70045,85.35673
Hotel Ganesh Himal @ 27.709892,85.30662

Day 16
Casino Royale @ 27.712143,85.319232

Day 18
Tribhuvan International Airport @ 27.70045,85.35673

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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.