Camping in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Photo by Samir Jung Thapa.
Base camps are famously known for being a starting point for mountaineering expeditions. This makeshift communications and supply hub at the foot of a mountain usually marks the end of a long winding footpath and the beginning of ropes and crampons. However, ever since trekking started gaining popularity as a recreational sport, base camp treks have become attractive destinations in and of themselves.
Everest Base Camp is probably the most well-known base camp trek in Nepal, but there are arguably more challenging, remote and scenically spectacular options out there in the vast Himalayan range. Whether you are looking for a short and accessible trek like Mardi Himal Base Camp, or a remote and long journey like the rugged Kanchenjunga Base Camp, the following list will introduce you to some of the best base camp treks along the Great Himalaya trails.
1) Everest Base Camp (5335 m)
On the Everest Base camp trail. Photo provided by Nepal Tourism Board
Everest Base Camp is a bucket-list destination for many trekkers, and it is easy to see why. The trail, which starts from the thrilling 520 m landing strip at Lukla airport, winds through stunning alpine landscapes and along some of Nepal’s most iconic peaks. The many chortens, prayer flags and monasteries along the way add to the spiritual setting that attracts many to the Himalayas, and the viewpoints like Kala Patthar (5550 m) adds a physical challenge to the enthusiastic trekker. For many, the highlight of the trek is reaching the base camp itself, getting a close view of the notorious Khumbu Icefall and watching expeditions prepare for their bid to the highest summit on earth.
See the Everest base camp itinerary for this trek (including a detour to the famous Gokyo Lakes).
2) Kanchenjunga Base Camp (5143 m)
On the Kanchenjunga Base camp trail. Photo By Samir Jung Thapa
If you are the type that prefers stretches of remote and empty trails to the busy teahouse treks, Kanchenjunga Base Camp is the destination for you. Kanchenjunga Conservation Area is one of the least densely populated areas in Nepal, creating an unspoiled wilderness waiting to be explored. This easternmost region of the country endures the full force of the monsoon in the summertime and is consequently bursting with life. Cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation and thousands of species of plants await those who take the long trail to Kanchenjunga Base Camp. The approach to the base camp will not be short on spectacular mountain views either. The trail gets its name from the massif that holds the world’s third tallest mountain, Mount Kanchenjunga (8586 m). The trek can be done in a 26-day long circuit, including a visit to the Pathibara Temple, an important religious site for many Indian and Nepali pilgrims
See the Kanchenjunga base camp itinerary for this trek.
3) Annapurna Base Camp (4130 m)
Annapurna Base camp. Photo provided by Nepal Tourism Board
The Annapurna Base Camp trek (also known as the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek) was the first commercial trekking route in Nepal and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world have been flocking to the region for over 50 years to see what it’s all about. The trek owes its popularity primarily to the incredible Himalayan views, but its well-marked trails, frequent lodges along the way, long trekking season and easy access to trailheads from Pokhara, has done a lot to bolster its reputation as one of the best places for trekking in Nepal. At 4130 m, the base camp is surrounded on all sides by spectacular snow-capped peaks, like the supreme Annapurna I (8091 m) and her neighbors Annapurna South, Annapurna Fang, Annapurna III. Our favorite way to approach the final stages of the ABC trek is to spend the night at Machapuchare Base Camp, get up early the next morning and trek the last 2-3 hours up to Annapurna Base Camp in time to watch the sun rise over the Annapurna mountain range.
See the Annapurna base camp itinerary for this trek.
4) Mardi Himal Base Camp (4500 m)
On the Mardi Himal Basecamp Trail. Photo Provided by Nepal Tourism Board
Neighbouring one of the most popular treks in Nepal (the Annapurna Base Camp trek) the Mardi Himal trek is truly a hidden gem. The trailhead being only a one-hour drive from Pokhara and taking only 8 days to complete, makes this a perfect base camp trek for those short on time.
The trail winds through vibrant rhododendron forests until leaving the tree line at 3300 m and entering into a rugged high altitude mountain landscape. The slog up to Mardi Himal Base Camp at 4500 m is well worth the effort as it brings with it spectacular views of the Annapurna mountain range, including a close-up of the iconic Machapuchare (Fishtail) mountain.
There are simple guesthouses and homestays along the entire route saving trekkers from having to carry camping equipment like tents, sleeping bags and food. The lighter load makes all the difference at 4000 meters!
See the Mardi Himal base camp itinerary for this trek.
5) Makalu Base Camp (5000 m)
On the Makalu Base camp Trail . Photo By Jamie McGuiness.
Because of the challenging terrain and its remote location Makalu Barun National Park is a rarely visited section of the Great Himalaya Trails. The spectacular mountain views, empty trails and vast wilderness is waiting to be explored by the adventurous trekker prepared to forgo the comforts of the traditional teahouse treks . The constant ascending and descending trail makes for quite arduous trekking, but the stunning natural environment following you every step of the way for this 18-day trek, more than makes up for it. The lush Arun and Barun river valleys lead to Makalu Base Camp taking you deep into the high Himalayas with Makalu (8462 m), towering above you and Everest, Lhotse and Baruntse in view. In the lower reaches of the trail you’ll come across some of the most colorful rhododendron forests you’ll ever see.
See the Makalu base camp itinerary for this trek.
The network of trails that makes up the Great Himalaya Trails offers treks for every level of fitness and interests. Explore more spectacular routes along the Great Himalaya Trails in Nepal with our handy trek finder.