Daniel Dawson
May 03, 2021

An estimated 400,000 trekkers flock to Nepal each year to explore the small but diverse South Asian country on foot. 

Boasting eight of the world’s tallest mountains, its deepest valley, high deserts and traditional mountain villages, it is little wonder that roughly one-third of the tourists that visit the country opt to head out on a trek.

However, one of the most iconic features of Nepal’s stunning and varied landscapes is its many high-altitude lakes. 

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Boasting hundreds of glacially-fed lakes, many of which sit at an elevation of 4,000 metres (13,100 feet) or higher, these scenic geological features have become prominent trekking destinations in their own right and highlights on many other treks. 

While dozens of treks visit one or more of the country’s most prominent Himalayan lakes, below are some facts and information for five of the most popular high altitude lake treks in Nepal. 

1| Everest Three High Passes

Gokyo Lakes from above. Photo: Zielonamapa.pl (https://www.flickr.com/photos/147010603@N08/)

Passing through traditional Sherpa villages, picturesque mountain passes and the foot of the world’s highest mountain, the Everest Three High Passes trek is one of the most popular high-altitude lake treks in the world.

One of the trek highlights comes at the very end when hikers steadily ascend from Thangnak to the Gokyo Lakes. Most guides opt to climb Gokyo Ri, too, which provides stunning panoramic views over the lake system from its summit.

Keep reading: Everest Base Camp Guide: What to Know Before You Go

Situated between 4,700 and 5,000 metres (15,400 and 16,400 feet) in elevation, the Gokyo Lakes are the highest freshwater lakes in the world and were labeled as a UNESCO Ramsar site in 2007.

The Everest Three High Passes trek takes hikers past the first two of the six main lakes but offers views of several others from the summit of Gokyo Ri (5,357 metres/17,575 feet). 

Before arriving at the lake system, the trek takes hikers from Lukla to the Kongma La Pass (5,345 metres/18,430 feet), on to Everest Base Camp and westward to ChoLa Pass (5,368 metres/17,612 feet).

From here, trekkers visit the Gokyo Lakes before returning to Lukla and getting one last stunning view of the Himalayas from Renjo La (5,360 metres/17,580 feet).

Quick facts:

  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Starting point: Lukla
  • Best period: February to May, September to December

2| Gokyo Valley Trek

Approaching third Gokyo Lake. Photo: McKay Savage (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/)

While visiting the Gokyo Lakes is a highlight on the majority of the treks through Sagarmatha National Park, many hikers opt to make it the main attraction and head on a Gokyo Valley trek.

By dedicating a week or two to visiting the lakes, trekkers can take more time to explore the lake system and the Ngozumpa glacier, the longest in the Himalayas. 

Starting from Lukla, the Gokyo Valley trek follows the traditional route to Namche Bazaar before veering west and continuing to Dole and Machhermo en route to the lake system. Along the way, trekkers will enjoy phenomenal views of Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu and Makalu, among other peaks.

On the classic trek, which usually takes about two weeks, visiting the town of Gokyo and climbing Gokyo Ri serve as the highlights of the trip. However, all of this can be seen on the abbreviated version of the trek, which is only one week.

Slightly longer versions of the trek also include hiking to the foot of Cho Oyu and getting up close to the fourth and fifth Gokyo Lakes. Many other trekkers also opt to head east to Everest Base Camp afterward, extending the trek by a week.

Along with the stunning natural beauty of the lakes, the Gokyo Valley trek also brings visitors to the Hindu temple of Vishnu and Shiva, which is located on the western corner of the main lake.

Quick facts:

  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Starting point: Lukla
  • Best period: February to May, September to December

3| Arun Valley Trek

Salpa Lake is one of the main highlights of the Arun Valley trek. 

Sandwiched in between Mount Everest and Makalu, the Arun Valley is the deepest in the world. Running from the base of Everest southeast into the lowlands, trekking through the valley provides an immersive cultural experience along with some of the best views of the Himalayas.

Among the many highlights of the trip is visiting Salpa Lake, which sits just underneath Salpa Bhanjyang, the highest point on the trek. 

Salpa Lake is considered holy to Hindus and is believed to be where the jhakari – Nepalese shamans – derive their power. Trekkers heading to Arun Valley in April will often plan their trip around the Full Moon festival, during which they will be able to witness the ceremonies and rituals.

Keep reading: Five Trekking and Climbing Destinations In the Nepalese Himalayas

The trek generally begins from Tumlingtar, which can be reached via a short domestic flight from Kathmandu. From here, trekkers will follow the Arun River northwest, enjoying stunning views of Everest, Makalu, Baruntse, Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and Thamserku, among others.

Aside from the incredible mountain views, the trek also takes hikers through diverse natural features, including thick rhododendron and bamboo forests, as well as over several rocky passes before arriving in Lukla.

While the trek does not reach the same immense altitudes as many others in Nepal –  the highest point is just 3,400 metres (11,200 feet) – hikers will gain and lose at least 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) on several different days, including three consecutive days at the beginning of the trek. As a result, it is one of the more physically challenging treks in the country.

Quick facts:

  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Starting point: Tumlingtar
  • Best period: March to May, September to December

4| Upper Dolpa Trek

Phoksundo Lake. Photo: Everest Expeditions Nepal

Situated in the arid northwest of Nepal, Dolpo is among the most popular trekking destinations in the country. 

Due to its remote location and lack of infrastructure, the region is hard to reach and boasts thousands of square kilometres of unspoiled scenery.

The Upper Dolpa Trek is perhaps one of the most popular in the region. Among its numerous highlights are stunning views of numerous snowcapped peaks, visiting ancient and remote villages and passing by the beautiful Phoksundo Lake.

The expedition generally begins from Juphal with trekkers heading north to Phoksundo National Park, passing through terraced fields, a narrow canyon and along the banks of the Thuri Bheri and Suli Gad rivers en route.

Once in the national park, trekkers will continue ascending to Phosundo Lake, enjoying various panoramic views along the way. Phosundo Lake is the deepest lake in Nepal and serves an essential role in the region, which lead to it receiving UNESCO recognition as a Ramsar site.

After camping on the shores of the lake and enjoying the stunning views of the national park, trekkers will ascend to Kang La pass (5,151 metres/16,900 feet), the highest point on the trek. From here, trekkers continue along the circuit, passing over Saldang La Pass and Jeng La Pass before returning to Juphal. 

Along the way, trekkers will get the chance to see several different climate zones and a wide range of plant and animal life. Trekker will also visit various cultural and religious sites in this culturally Tibetan area of the country,

Quick facts:

  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Starting point: Juphal
  • Best period: September to May

5| Tilicho Base Camp trek

Tilicho Lake. Photo: Chris Koons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_koons/)

Rising to an imposing 7,134 metres (23,406 feet) in elevation, Tilicho sits just north of the Annapurna massif, on the southern shores of one of the world’s highest lakes.

At 4,913 metres (16,119 feet) in elevation, Tilicho Lake boasts stunning surroundings. Trekking to the base camp and on to the lake has become an increasingly popular undertaking in its own right.

Starting from either Jagat or Syange on the Besisahar–Chame Sadak road, trekkers will steadily ascend out of the lush gorge, passing massive waterfalls and snowcapped peaks along the way.

Once out of the gorge, trekkers continue to ascend through alpine scenery and eventually reach high desert terrain before arriving at the base camp. The trip’s highlight is the next day when climbers will briefly ascend to the lake before returning to base camp.

Throughout the two-week trek, hikers will get to visit many unique villages, meeting the local people and experiencing their different cultures. Trekkers will also enjoy phenomenal views of the Annapurna massif, including Gangapurna, Chulu East and Chulu West, among various others.

For climbers who would like to see the lake and spend more time in the stunning Annapurna Conservation Area, Tilicho Lake is also a prominent highlight of the Annapurna Circuit Trek.    

Quick facts:

  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Starting point: Jagat or Syange
  • Best period: March to May, September to December

Book your next Nepal lake trek now!

One of the best ways to experience Nepal is by heading out to explore its vast Himalayan wilderness on foot. Trekking to one of the country’s diverse and incredible lakes is the perfect way to do this. Enjoy amazing views and experience some of the country’s immense cultural and natural diversity en route!

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