The Makalu Base Camp Trek is an out-and-back hike that takes about two weeks to complete. It goes to the base of Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world. It is located just east of the more famous Everest region and reaches an elevation of 17,225 feet/ 5250 meters.
Locals say that Makalu Base Camp trek is what Everest Base Camp trek was 50 years ago. You will see other trekkers out, but not very many of them. The upper villages typically have only one guesthouse each, which are rustic. There are no menus to order off of; the option is dal bhat and tea.
Sometimes the trail is confusing to follow. There are two high passes that must be crossed in one day, Tutu La and Keke La. Both are about 14,000 feet/ 4270 meters. And there is snow on the path at times, which can be challenging to hike through.
The trek begins in the jungle where you can see monkeys and cross suspension bridges that dangle over raging rivers. You climb up and over snowy, high elevation passes. There are cliffs with dozens of cascading waterfalls that rival the views of Yosemite National Park. And finally the trek ends at the world’s fifth highest mountain.
Overall this is a challenging hike that would be great for experienced trekkers who want to get out of the tourist bubble. I did Makalu Base Camp trek in 2017 as a part of my Great Himalaya Trail thru-hike.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Fast Stats
- Length of Time: 12-16 days
- Hight Point: Makalu Base Camp at 17,225 feet/ 5250 meters
- Accommodation: Can be done as a guest house trek, but space is limited
- Permits: Trekkers Information Management Systems permits (TIMS) and Makalu-Barun National Park Permit; total cost about $52 USD
- Guide: Not mandatory, but recommended for everyone except very experienced trekkers
- Start and End Point: Num
- Best Time to Hike: Spring and Autumn
Preparation for Makalu Base Camp Trek
Organizing a Guide
Guides are not required for this trek. If you are an experienced trekker who is skilled at navigation then you probably don’t need to hire a guide. Everyone else should.
Also consider whether you want to hire a porter or not. This is a difficult trail with drastic elevation changes. You will have an easier time if you are not carrying all of your gear.
Guides for this trek will charge about $35 a day and porters will charge $10-15 a day.
You can also pay several thousand dollars for an all inclusive hike. But other than having transportation covered, you’re really not getting anything beyond what regular trekkers are getting.
You must get the TIMS permit in Kathmandu before traveling to the trail. Go to the Nepal Tourism Board office. You will need your passport and several passport sized photos. It will cost about $20.
Here is a map for where to find the permit office.
The Makalu-Barun National Park permit can be acquired at the park entrance for about $32.
Gear for Makalu Base Camp Trek
Should You Bring a Tent?
This is a guesthouse trek, as I’ve already mentioned. I went in the spring and didn’t need to use my tent. I did bring a tent, but a guesthouse owner in Tashigion told me I wouldn’t need it and offered to store it for me while I was away, which I happily did.
If you’re trekking in the autumn, the trail is going to be more busy. I recommend bringing a tent and to scope out the situation. Talk to some guesthouse owners and ask if they think you’ll need it. You can likely store it at a guesthouse along the way if it’s unnecessary.
It’s better to have a tent and not need it than to need it and not have it.
I wouldn’t bother bringing a cooking set up. Even if you’re staying in a tent, you can still camp outside of the guesthouses and eat your meals there.
- Sleeping bag
- Water purification device
- Hiking shoes
- Clothes to wear while hiking
- Base layers- top and bottom
- Rain gear
- Insulated jacket
- 2-3 pairs of socks
- 2-3 pairs of underwear
- Water bottles
- Hat and gloves
- Electronics, charging cords, power bank
- Evening entertainment such as a book or journal
Bring a copy of Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal guidebook. And pick up a map in Kathmandu.
Getting to the Trail
The easiest way is to take a domestic flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar. From Tumlingtar, you can take a local Jeep to the village of Num.
If you want to save money, you can take a bus from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar. It will take the entire day to make the journey, but it’s cheaper than a flight. It’s difficult to find information on that route. I hiked in from the east, so I didn’t have to take the bus. Your best bet is to go to the bus station the day before departure and ask.
Food & Lodging
Guesthouses on this route are very basic. Rooms won’t be heated, so bring a warm sleeping bag and warm clothes. There won’t be food menus. Your options will mostly be dal bhat, fried noodles, and chapati and eggs for breakfast.
I recommend bringing snacks for lunch. The villages are not as close to each other as other Himalaya trails.