One of the best hikes in the world
Gosainkund & Helambu
Ridge walk with sacred lakes, high Laurabina pass and Shivapuri National Park.
- aka Gosaikunda, Gosainkunda, Gosain Kunda
AT A GLANCE
- 6-8 days
- 3rd most popular trekking area of Nepal after Everest & Annapurna, but surprisingly uncrowded
- Langtang National Park established 1970
- majority of hikers hire a guide, porter guide and/or porters but it’s easy to hike independently
- sleep and eat in basic lodges (tea houses)
- mid-October to mid-December best months
- beginning of March to mid-May next best. (Laurabina pass MIGHT stay closed until early May.)
- the best hike is Langtang first (top of the map), then walk back south to Kathamandu via Gosainkund & Helambu. Combining both hikes might be 12-19 days.
- days are short in the Autumn. There’s much more light in the Spring.
- the reputation is “generally easy hiking” on good trails with a light pack. Some challenging, potentially dangerous sidetrips, possible. Everyone agrees that this trek is not as easy as they expected. Ups and downs.
- it is easier than the other main trekking areas of Nepal in that maximum altitude is lower … unless you add trekking peak(s)
- lodges are not expensive, but many spend more than they anticipate on luxuries. We spent about $30/day in 2014. The cost was about the same in 2019. Budget $40/day if you want beer.
- be clear — you might have to QUIT if by bad luck or rushed ascent you suffer altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS).
- some suffer respiratory problems, headache and fatigue.
Why We Like This Hike
- subtropical to high alpine environs
- sacred lakes of Gosainkund
- full moon July–August, Janai Purnima, Hindu pilgrims trek to Gosainkund
- wonderful photographic opportunities
- colourful Hindu, Buddhist and mountain cultures
- rhododendron forests
- very little gear is needed
- you can easily get pack weight down to 10kg (22lbs)
- walk with no tent, stove or food. Stay in lodges, eat in simple restaurants.
- safe and easy to hike independently. Even solo.
- no need to speak Nepali, only English
- no vaccinations required for Nepal
- food is good and quite safe
- guest houses sell “hot (solar warm) showers” for about $3.
- near guaranteed to see monkeys and langur in the wild
- might see Himalayan goral, wild boar, Rhesus monkey, Hanuman langur, Himalayan pika, marmot, blue sheep, thar
- slight chance to see Red Panda (we saw one)
- bird lovers will be thrilled with this region. Lammergeyers fly highest.
There’s a long, awful bus ride to our recommended traihead. Some vomit on this trip.
- our recommended route crosses 4600m Laurebina La, walking back to Kathmandu via the Helembu. But the high pass is sometimes closed due to weather.
- November 1995 a freak snow storm killed dozens (46 some say) of hikers, porters and guides throughout the Himalaya, most by avalanche. The October 2014 Nepal snowstorm disaster killed at least 43 people including at least 21 trekkers.
- virtually no medical assistance available
- respiratory problems, stomach problems, headache, sunburn are common ailments
- you MUST bring footwear you love and trust
- altitude symptoms are less problem than on other major Nepal treks
- some hikers buy Diamox in Nepal. It’s called Diamox Sequels in the USA. Others bring homeopathic coca as is used in the Andes.
- some even carry a course of antibiotics, just in case
- both men and women are advised to wear modest clothing respecting local culture
- some lodges have very poor pillows and mattresses. Consider bringing your own air mattress and/or inflatable pillow. Some bring ear plugs.
- Dengue Fever reached Nepal 2004. Cases increasing ever since. Tourists advised to avoid mosquito bites.
- treat all water (except the H20 coming off the highest peaks).
- try not to buy bottled water on the trek
- many use a scarf or buff to protect face and mouth
- “squater” pit toilets are the norm. Many are not sanitary.
- you’ll be tempted by pizza, beer, bakeries and everything else. Almost everyone spends more money than they expect.
- bring a combination padlock
The most expensive guided tours charge about $185 / day in 2019. By shopping around you might pay $60 / day (minimum 2 people) for a guide, but you’ll be carrying your own pack. It will be more if you also want porters or a porter / guide.
This site posts information for independent hikers. If you hire a guide, they’ll handle all these logistics.
Consider purchasing good insurance coverage for this trip. World Nomads, for example, offers policies covering hikers up to 3000m, 4500m or 6000m.
In 2019 we bought 30 day visas for Nepal. And World Nomads insurance for those same 30 days.
Evacuation by helicopter is expensive. Payment must be guaranteed in advance. Bring your credit card, just in case.
- carry more Nepali rupees in cash than you think you need, in case of emergencies. Lodges and restaurants normally only accept rupees.
- In 2019 the most we could take out of a bank machine at one time in Pokhara was 35000 NPR (about $300). We used Nabil Bank machines withdrawing directly from our bank cards, not credit card, to reduce the transaction fee cost and avoid interest.
- a Mars bar in Kathmandu might cost Rs.70. At high altitude, the price could go up to Rs.200. The higher, the more costly.
- boiled water is surprisingly expensive. Bringing your own stove and fuel is a good idea.
- there’s a slight chance you’ll need to be evacuated. Bring a credit card just in case.
Independents need to buy their own hiking permits for Langtang:
- 2019 $20 (NPR 2,000) / person TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card.
- 2019 $30 (NPR 3,000)/ person Langtang National Park permit – single entry
Happily, both permits are available at the checkpoints en route.
Visa on arrival for most nations at Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu in 2019:
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 125
You can pay with credit card or other major currencies. The visa on arrival process is much faster and simpler than in the past. No need to bring passport photos as machines now take your mugshot photo.
- tip guides & staff about 15% if happy with service
- if you have a guide, listen to his advice on where to stop each day
- if you are doing this adventure independently, get a trekking guidebook well in advance. Then decide on your destination each day as you go. That way you can adjust for weather and fitness. It’s fairly common to take a rest day while ascending to acclimatize for altitude.
- Gosainkund is high (4610m) so you need to acclimatize. Many do that on the Langtang trek first.
- best is to start from Thulo Syaphru or Lama Hotel from the Langtang trek. Or via Syabrubesi (better) or Dhunche (worse).
- Here’s our recommended route. Driving to Syabrubesi, trekking Langtang first. Then continuing to the Gosainkund and walking back to Kathmandu.
- Syabrubesi (1500m) is a grueling 6–10hr bus ride from Macha Pokhari, in Kathmandu. Consider hiring a private car to shorten and sweeten that journey.
- As with many Nepal hiking adventures, the biggest challenge (and risk) for the independent trekker is getting to the trailhead. Bus rides in Nepal can be more dangerous than high alpine passes.
- It’s simple to organize transport back from a small town, but in Kathmandu it’s not so easy to find transport up into the mountains. Our guidebook (by Bob and Siân) was useless on this critical point.
- The boss at Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) told us there were 4 main modes of transport:
• Jeep … best
• Super Express mini-bus $5
• Express mini-bus
• local bus … worst
- They all left from the same area of town – Macha Pokhari.
- A taxi from Thamel should cost about $3. Get there as early as possible to be sure to find a seat. 6am would be ideal. No later than 7am, to be sure. Ask around to find the ticket booth.
- Another good option is to combine the Tamang Heritage Trail with Langtang and/or Gosainkund. Acclimatize on the Heritage Trail.
Should you sign on with a guide?
Consider that you will then be tied into the group itinerary. You’ll travel only as fast as the slowest person in your group.
If not sure, go independently. And — if it turns out you need help — hire a porter, porter-guide or guide and porters yourself on the trail. That can be arranged next day from most lodges.
A guide will show you around, but not carry your gear. They may be Nepali or foreign. Many hikers are happier to be led. A good guide may enrich the trip for you.
A porter guide is a local who speaks English who may also carry a limited load, perhaps 15kg (33lbs). There is often an insurance fee added.
If you are not confident to go independently, check Trip Advisor, Trekking Partners and other online sites for recent recommendations. Don’t sign on with any company until you are sure they can deliver what you want. We don’t recommend any on the list below. It’s simply a starting point.
- Asian Trekking – Langtang, Gosainkund & Helambu 14 days
- MHE – Langtang, Gosainkund & Helambu 14 days
- Peak Paldor – Langtang, Gosainkund & Helambu 16 days ($1,639 lodges or $2,009 camping)
- Himalayan Glacier – Langtang, Gosainkunda & Helambu 17 days
- Himalayan Rock – Langtang, Gosainkunda & Helambu 16 days
Only TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara can legally organize treks and provide the services of a guide and/or porter with insurance. Be aware that no one else, no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons the agencies run regular group treks, both tea-house and camping styles …
If you sign on with a guide, let them organize everything. You are there simply to follow. And enjoy. There’s plenty of time to go off day hiking on your own.
For independent hikers …
- get a guidebook early
- decide on what weeks of the year you could trek
- finalize how much time you can spend on the trail
- get to Syabrubesi (good luck with that)
- once on the trail, decide day-to-day on your itinerary
- visit Kathmandu after you trek, not before. Many get sick in Kathmandu. Get sick after trekking, not before.
- donate any clothing or gear you don’t want to take home to the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP)
- Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP)
- Himalayan Rescue Association – altitude FAQs
- Himalayan Rescue Association – Mountain Medicine
- Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN)
Best Trekking Guidebooks
We used Pritchard-Jones and Gibbons in 2014. It was disappointing. We wished we’d simply taken the Lonely Planet Langtang chapter, instead.
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (2009) – Bradley Mayhew & Joe Bindloss – is the first guide you should pick up.
- A Trekking Guide to Langtang: Gosainkund, Helambu and Tamang Heritage Trail (2014) – Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons. Essential information for independent hikers is missing.
- Cicerone Langtang, Gosainkund and Helambu (1996) – Kev Reynolds
- Trailblazer Trekking in Langtang, Helambu & Gosainkund: Nepal Trekking Guides (2007) – Jamie McGuinness
- Trailblazer Nepal Trekking & the Great Himalaya Trail – (2011) Robin Boustead
Best Travel Guidebooks
Yep. We still like Lonely Planet best. Get the most recent edition.
Other Recommended Books
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen … best Nepal book ever
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer
- Insight Guides – Nepal (2014)
- A Beard In Nepal (2012) – Fiona Roberts
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (2011) – Conor Grennan
- Travelers’ Tales Nepal – Rajendra S. Khadka
- Nepal Trek – A Woman Alone (2006) – Kay Petterson Shaw
- The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman
Best Maps / Apps
Navigation is not difficult in this region. We use the free Maps.me app.
You are not likely to get lost, though an Australian hiker was once famously lost for 43 days! Guidebooks are enough. Still, opening up a big map is a good excuse to take a break from walking. 🙂
Every shop in Kathmandu sells maps for $2-3. Pick one up when you get there.
Best Web Pages
- wikitravel – Trekking in Nepal
- living if (2012) – Nepal Trekking Tips
- Rough Guide – Langtang, Helambu and Gosainkund
- Nepal Trekking Holidays
- World Nomads travel insurance
- Trekking Partners
Best Trip Reports
- site editor Rick McCharles Nov 2014 (independent)
- The Getting There – Langtang, Gosainkund & Helambu (independent)
- Rich – The Sojourner – Helambu-Gosainkund-Langtang 2009
- Mountainlove – Langtang, Gosainkund and Helambu Trek 2012 (with porter)
- David Vanneste solo, independent Feb 2014
- The Trek Blog 2009 (Gosainkund first, then Langtang)
- Cam Honan 2008
Leave a comment if you’ve got an up-to-date trip report to recommend.
Click PLAY or watch David Vanneste’s solo, independent highlights Feb 2014 on YouTube. Off season. Lots of snow. A lovely edit.
Click PLAY or see some of the vistas on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a 2015 adventure on YouTube.
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