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Three Passes Trek Itinerary & Trekking Guide (2023)

Three Passes Trek Itinerary & Trekking Guide (2023)

Are you planning to embark on Everest’s greatest trekking adventure? This guide outlines a typical Three Passes Trek itinerary, as well as hopefully answers all questions you have about tackling the Three High Passes and Everest Base Camp in the Nepalese Himalayas.

It’s no secret that the Three Passes Trek is the ultimate Everest trekking experience. Not only will you be getting off the beaten trail into the lesser-traversed alpine regions of the Khumbu, but you’ll also be immersed in the beauty and warm hospitality of Sherpa culture.

In this Three Passes trek guide, I have included numerous useful resources and information, and after having completed the trek in 2019, I can give a personal account of what to expect on the journey.

However, if you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I’ve returned to the Khumbu several times since and continue to update this blog post to make sure that trekkers receive up-to-date information.

Olly Gaspar

I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.

Trekking the Three Passes Independently

I initially wrote this guide dedicating it to independent trekking. This means planning your own trip and carrying your own gear, staying in teahouses along the way. While it used to be possible to trek without a guide in this way, this is no longer the case due to sudden regulation changes.

Now you need to at least hire a guide. Hiring a guide and a porter is a great thing because it supports the livelihoods of local sherpa communities.

However, while many people feel obligated to hire a guide or porter, many trekkers, including myself, prefer a sense of independent trekking achievement. I believe I share this sentiment with many when I say that I enjoy the freedom of planning my own trips and adventures.

However, with the new rules, we have no choice.

Tips for Booking & Arranging a Guide For The Three Passes Trek

Although I personally trekked without a guide for my trek of the Three High Passes, I've returned to Nepal several times for other treks and climbs.

And, since these days you must have a guide to trek in the Nepalese Himalayas I can recommend my favorite trekking company– Himalayan Masters. Over these years, I've met and worked with a few trekking organizations in the Himalayas and these guys are now my favorite for top service and excellent value for money.

This is a small local trekking & climbing company but they are very professional and it's the reason why I now do all my trekking and climbing in Nepal with them.

Plus, since you're reading this blog make sure to use the code OLLY5 at checkout and they'll give you a discount of 5% off any of their trips & treks in Nepal, including the Three Passes, which makes for excellent value.


Update 2023: The Nepal Tourism Board has announced thas as of April 1, tourists are no longer allowed to trek in the Himalayas without a licensed guide.

Three Passes Trek Itinerary Overview

  • Distance: 166 km (varies on side trips)
  • Days: 16-21 days
  • Total Ascent: 8495 m
  • Highest Point: 5643 m (Kala Patthar)
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Below I've provided a day-by-day rundown of what a typical Three Passes itinerary looks like. This follows the plan I took, but you'll find links throughout for a more detailed breakdown of each day's trekking.

Day 1: Lukla to Phakding

  • Trekking Time: 3 hours
  • Altitude: 200 m descent 50 m ascent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 2610 m

The typical Everest Three Passes Trek begins in Lukla. While it is possible to walk from Jiri, this will add another five to six days to your itinerary. From Lukla, this Three Passes itinerary continues to Phakding.

Read: Day 1 to 3

Olly Gaspar Mountaineering We Seek Travel

Insurance for Trekking & Climbing in Nepal

Read the fine print– Most travel insurance companies void coverage as soon as you step over 5,000 m. That's why I use and recommend Global Rescue, which offers yearly or expedition-based rescue coverage with no altitude caps.

Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Altitude: 1000 m ascent 100 m ascent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3450 m

The second day of the Everest Three High Passes Trek begins with a short descent, following the Dudh Kosi valley through the pine-tree hills with. a steep climb to Namche Bazaar.


Day 3: Acclimatization Hikes to Khunde and Khumjung Village

  • Trekking Time: 4 hours
  • Altitude: 450 m ascent 450 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3450 m

Most trekkers are encouraged to spend a second night in Namche Bazar to help with acclimatization. Luckily, there are plenty of day trip treks from Namche, so you don’t need to stop walking.

Three Passes guide book by Olly Gaspar

Three Passes: Trekking Ebook

Since internet connectivity is limited in the Khumbu, I've written a comprehensive trekking guide to the Three Passes which you can download as an eBook for use on your mobile, tablet, or e-reader.

Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Milinggo

  • Trekking Time: 5 hours
  • Altitude: 750 m ascent 450 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3800 m

After a comfortable day trekking without your pack to the Sherpa villages, it’s time to continue onwards and upwards towards Tengboche, and push an extra hour on this Three Passes itinerary to Milinggo.

Read: Day 4 to 6

Bridge on the Everest Three High Passes Trek

Day 5: Milinggo to Panboche and Ama Dablam Base Camp

  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Altitude: 850 m ascent 670 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3930 m

Trekkers will need to aim to leave Milinggo early in order to get a full acclimatization day in at Panboche and optionally complete the Ama Dablam Base Camp hike.


Day 6: Panboche to Dingboche

  • Trekking Time: 3 hours
  • Altitude: 460 m ascent 30 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4360 m

After the big hike to Ama Dablam base camp, you’ll be ready and acclimatized to continue on your Everest Three High Passes itinerary on the short hike to nearby Dingboche.


Day 7: Dingboche to Chhukung and Side Trip to Island Peak Base Camp

  • Trekking Time: 2 hours
  • Altitude: 405 m ascent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4730 m

Another short trek to Chhukung, where you'll have the optional comfort of dropping your pack and continuing along the Imja Tse (Island Peak) route on an impressive side trip.

Read: Day 7 to 9

Yaks on the Everest Three High Passes Trek, Three Passes Guide, Kongma La Pass

Day 8: Acclimatization Trek to Chhukung Ri (5550 m)

  • Trekking Time: 4 hours
  • Altitude: 815 m ascent 815 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4730 m

After a solid day of trekking, you’ll be rewarded with a very important acclimatization day to climb Chhukung Ri before attempting the Kongma La Pass the following day.

Chukung RI Peak Viewpoint

Day 9: The Kongma La (5545M) to Lobuche

  • Trekking Time: 8-9 hours
  • Altitude: 800 m ascent 620 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4950 m

The first of the Three High Passes and also the longest. The trail is also incomparable to previous segments and is best attempted in a larger group.

hiking the konma la pass

Day 10: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp

  • Trekking Time: 8 hours
  • Altitude: 450 m ascent 200 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 5160 m

Legs sore from the Kongma La? Good, you've got another huge day ahead with a long ascent to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp!

Read: Day 10 to 12

Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal

Day 11: Kala Patthar (5643M) Sunrise Side-Trip to Lobuche

  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Altitude: 400 m ascent 650 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4950 m

Arguably one of the best trekking views in the Khumbu are best seen at sunrise. After, it's a relaxing stroll back to Lobuche.

Kala Patthar Viewpoint in Nepal

Day 12: Lobuche to Dzonghla

  • Trekking Time: 3 hours
  • Altitude: 120 m ascent 200 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4830 m

The trek from Lobuche to Dzonghla begins by heading back down for a short stint along a short stretch of the EBC trail that you would have missed by going over the Kongma La and continues on a steep ridge to the picturesque Dzonghla.

Dzonghla Three Passes Trek
Grayl GeoPress water filter in the mountains

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Day 13: Cho La (5420 m) to Tagnag

  • Trekking Time: 6 hours to Tagnag
  • Altitude: 525 m ascent 650 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4700 m

The second of the Three High Passes on this anti-clockwise itinerary. A steep, slippery climb and subsequent descent over one of the most beautiful passes on the trek.

Read: Day 13 to 15


Day 14: Tagnag to Gokyo and Gokyo Ri (5357 m)

  • Trekking Time: 3 hours to Gokyo
  • Altitude: 150 m ascent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4790 m

With heavy legs, push on over the Ngozumpa Glacier to Gokyo and then climb Gokyo Ri for the best views of the entire itinerary.


Day 15: Rest Day

Go on, you've earnt it. Explore side trips like the Gokyo Lakes and Scoundrel's Viewpoint. Or, just kick back in Gokyo's picturesque bakeries.

Day 16: Renjo La Pass (5345 m) to Lumde

  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Altitude: 550 m ascent 650 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 4350 m

After climbing Gokyo Ri, and spending an optional day or two recovering in beautiful Gokyo, it’s finally time to tackle the final pass of the Three High Passes trek; the Renjo La.

Read: Day 16 to 20


Day 17: Lumde to Thame

  • Trekking Time: 3 hours
  • Altitude: 530 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3800 m

With the Three High Passes behind you, take the rewarding decline back down to Thame or Namche through the Bhote Koshi Valley and into the Langmuche Khola valley.

Thame Village in Nepal

Day 18: Thame to Namche Bazaar

  • Trekking Time: 4 hours
  • Altitude: 370 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 3440 m

A continued journey back to Namche Bazaar following a regularly commuted trail through mountain villages and for the first time in weeks; forests.


Day 19: Namche Bazaar to Lukla

  • Trekking Time: 6-7 hours
  • Altitude: 1200 m descent
  • Sleeping Altitude: 2860 m (Lukla)

The familiar trail back to Lukla is a fulfilling and much lighter experience than the initial descent.


Day 20: Fly to Kathmandu

Pat yourself on the back and prepare yourself for the thrilling flight back to Kathmandu. If you have time, check out these fun things to do in Kathmandu.

Lukla Airport, Khumbu Region, Nepal
Lukla Airport

Where to Stay Before and After the Three Passes Trek

The trekking and tourist hub in Kathmandu is called Thamel. This is where you will find all of the best trekking shops, hostels, restaurants, bars, and hotels in Kathmandu.

If you're planning a trek in the Himalayas, you'll want to find a hotel or hostel that allows you to leave your luggage there until you return. Read my guide to Kathmandu's best hotels, or take a pick from the three best accommodation options below that offer this service.

  • Aloft Kathmandu - overlooking the city from the heart of Thamel, this is "the place" where climbers stay before big expeditions. It's a luxury pick with epic amenities like a gym, rooftop pool, and an EPIC buffet breakfast. This is where I stay every time I'm in Kathmandu before heading to the mountains.
  • Flock Hostel - the best backpacker hostel in Thamel. This place has very clean dorms with curtains and private rooms with excellent views. There's also an amazing on-site cafe and restaurant serving delicious coffees and international meals and is rated #1 on Trip Advisor for breakfast and dinner in all of Kathmandu!
  • Vastu Boutique Hotel - if you'd prefer a peaceful boutique hotel to escape the hustle & bustle, then Vastu will be the best mid-range pick. This place has a 9.7/10 rating on with over 300 reviews!
Thamel, Kathmandu Nepal

Essential Trekking Resources for the Three Passes Trek

Before we get into this Three Passes Trek itinerary blog, here are some more essential resources for everyone planning to tackle the passes. I used most of these on my treks in Nepal but some I discovered in hindsight.

  • The Lonely Planet: Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya eBook - Having this guide on a kindle is a great complement to other resources. It includes maps, day-by-day trekking information, and information on towns and teahouses. eBooks on a kindle are great because it's much lighter.
  • A Physical Khumbu Trekking Map - This is essential to have. You can buy one before you get to Nepal, or purchase one in Thamel. Make sure to look for one that includes the Three Passes loop.
  • website - The best source for up-to-date information about park entrance fees and permits.
  • Maps.Me App - Has a rough route for the Three Passes. However, it definitely shouldn't be used as a primary source of navigation but can come in handy.
  • Understanding of Altitude Sickness - Make sure to read up on AMS and how to minimize risk and exposure. Do your own research and consult a doctor if necessary.
  • Travel Insurance - I'd highly recommend travel insurance for any Three Passes trek itinerary. Make sure to read your PDS to see if there are exclusions for trekking above certain altitudes (usually 4500 m). World Nomads and Global Rescue are among the only companies I know covering the Three Passes Trek.
  • Skyscanner - Very useful for finding the cheapest flights to Kathmandu and Lukla.
  • - Useful for finding cheap accommodation in Kathmandu and Thamel before flying to Lukla.
Hiker with Garmin InReach satellite device

How I Stay Connected Off-Grid

I've been using the Garmin InReach Mini satellite communicator for all serious treks and expeditions since 2020. It lets me send unlimited SMS anywhere on earth and has an emergency SOS feature that could save your life.

Nepal Trekking Regional Map

The Three Passes trek is essentially a large alpine loop of the Khumbu region. Below is a small map showing where the Three Passes and Everest Base Camp trek is located.

Everything You Need to Know About Tackling the Three Passes Trek in Nepal

I know that when I was planning my Everest Three High Passes trek itinerary, I really struggled to find accurate and up-to-date information on the journey.

Therefore, this section is dedicated to answering all the questions you may have about tackling the Three Passes and EBC trek.

Standing at Everest Base Camp

What are the Three Passes?

This trek is named after the "Three High Passes" that trekkers need to traverse in order to complete the loop. These passes offer a much more difficult, yet rewarding challenge as opposed to the mostly over-trafficked Everest Base Camp Trek.

The Three passes are Kongma La (5454 meters), Cho La (5420 meters), and the Renjo La (5360 meters).

The Kongma La Pass Chortens and Prayer Flags on the Three High Passes Trek, Nepal

The word: La or Lha, literally means that of which is "higher" or "above" in Tibetan. This is also the name given to mountain passes.

Jessy Sicard Trekker on Mera Peak with Skis

Looking to Step it Up?

Why not check out my guides to climbing Mera Peak (6476m), or Island Peak (6,189 m), two of Nepal's best trekking peaks? These are great entry-level summits in the Khumbu requiring no prior mountaineering experience.

Travel Insurance for The Three Passes Trek

For most trekkers looking to tackle the Three Passes, travel insurance is high on their list of priorities.

If you've already got insurance, or you're in the buying process, make sure to read the PDS for any exclusions for activities above a certain altitude. Many insurance companies do not cover any trekking activities above 4000 m.

One of the only insurance companies that I was able to find that covers trekking on the Three High Passes is Global Rescue, which I always use.

Related: 3 Best Trekking Travel Insurance Policies for High Altitude Hiking

How Hard is the Three Passes Trek?

The Three Passes trek is widely considered to be the most difficult trekking route in the Khumbu region. That being said, I believe that the difficulty is somewhat over-hyped.

The truth is, anyone with a good level of fitness, basic navigation experience and a strong will should be able to complete this trek. Of course, carrying your own pack makes things a lot more difficult, so make sure to keep it light.


What is the Accommodation Like on the Three Passes Trek?

One of the great things about trekking in the Nepal Himalayas is that there is comfortable accommodation on offer in all villages.

This means, that on the Three Passes Trek, as well as most other popular treks in Nepal like EBC or the Manaslu Circuit, hikers will stay in Tea Houses– unlike the K2 base camp trek in Pakistan, where you'll sleep in tents.

These tea houses are essentially small lodges, each offering warm food, a bed, and sometimes a warm fire in the evening. The price for a stay in a tea house ranges between 200-500 ($1.50 - $3.85) rupees per night, as long as you buy a meal at the tea house.

Typical teahouse accommodation

How Long Does the Three Passes Trek Take?

Usually, the Three Passes Trek takes anywhere between 16-21 days, depending on how acclimatized trekkers are and if side trips are planned. This Three Passes trek itinerary follows a 19-day trekking plan, not including the final flight from Lukla on day 20.

Three Passes Trek Distance

The approximate total distance of the Three Passes trek is 166 kilometers (103 miles). However, when trekking at altitude, it's more important to consider your elevation gain and time spent at altitude than the distance covered.

Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?

Starting the Three Passes Trek in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction is perhaps the first question you might have when planning your trekking itinerary.

It is widely recommended that this trek should be attempted in an anti-clockwise direction. That is, starting with the Kongma La and finishing with the Renjo La.

Not only will you have a higher chance of clearing the passes when trekking in this direction, but you will largely minimize AMS risk in the first few days. This is because attempting to gain the Renjo La first requires at least 1000 m of elevation gain to 5345 m in a single day.

Hiking the Three Passes Trek in an anti-clockwise direction gives plenty of time for acclimatization hikes and allows for more gradual increases in altitude gain.

Olly Gaspar at Kalla Patthar Viewpoint in Nepal
Enjoying the view at Kala Patthar

What is the Best Time to Attempt the Three Passes Trek?

While you can trek in the Himalayas most of the year, there are two primary climbing seasons that offer the best trekking conditions: March to May and September to November.

During the Winter Season, the passes are very icy, and heavy snowfall can interrupt routes. While it could be attempted, the passes would be much more difficult to traverse during winter, with closures common.

During Summer, the risk of avalanches is higher due to the quickly melting ice and snow on the Himalayan peaks.

1. March to May

From March to May, the Khumbu region enjoys Spring climates. This is the most popular season for trekking and expedition climbing. There is little rain during this time, the skies are clearer and the days are warmer. You’ll also be able to see blooming plants and lush rhododendron forests in the lower altitudes.

2. September to November

Another popular season for many Three Passes trekking itineraries is just after the monsoon in September to November. During this period, the clouds are clearing and there the weather is less hot. The landscapes at lower altitudes are also much greener and the weather is typically devoid of storms.

However, during the night it can be a little colder than in the Spring trekking season, so be prepared by bringing an extra thick sleeping bag.

How Much Does it Cost to Hike the Three Passes Trek?

Costs will vary depending on your lodging and meal expectations. Since I did this trek independently before the rules regarding guides, I paid between $800-$1000 for the entire trek, including accommodation, flights, and food.

However, for those who like some regular comforts, and now the need to hire a guide, you can expect to pay more than double that.

This is especially true as the cost of simple things like hot tea and food goes up in proportion to altitude. Overall, the Three Passes trek is typically going to be more expensive than most other hikes in Nepal.

This is due to two main reasons.

  • The trek is longer - you will need to pay for more teahouses and meals on the mountain
  • The return flight to Lukla is expensive

However, for the experience, the money is 100% worth it and you might be surprised about just how affordable Khumbu teahouse trekking can be.

Here's a breakdown of my costs for the Three Passes trek when I did it independently. Now that you need to hire a guide for the Three High Passses, you can expect to pay between $1500 to $4000 USD in a trekking package.

Return flight to Lukla$360 USD$360
Average teahouse bed per night$6.50$130
2x Meals and trekking snacks daily $15$300
National Park Fees and Permits
Total:$41.60 USD per day$832 USD

Tips For Booking the Lukla Flight

There are a couple of airlines that regularly fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. The most common and most reliable are Yeti Airlines and Summit Air.

It's recommended to book a flight at least one week prior to departure. When booking flights, always aim for the earliest flight. This is due to the fact that delays occur daily, and the system works in a way that passengers with the earliest tickets leave first.

Note that if you book a trekking package, this will likely be included in the price.


Three Passes Permits & Fees

Permits and National Park fees change regularly. The most up-to-date information regarding fees and permits is that you will be required to pay one Government fee and one National Park permit.

These are:

  • Local Government Fee (Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit:) - NPR 2000
  • Sagarmatha National Park Permit - NPR 3000

Both of these fees and permits can be purchased on the track, the local fee in Lukla, and the National Park Fee in Monjo. This means you don't need to worry about arranging any fees or permits in Kathmandu.

These fee stations are en route to Namche Bazaar, and you simply won't miss them.

TIMS cards are also back as of 2023. This comes with the changes that require all trekkers to hike with a licensed guide. Your guide should arrange the TIMS card for you. The fee is 1000 for Nepali citizens and 2000 for foreigners.

Three Passes and Everest Base Camp Trek

Tip: Leave Your Non-Trekking Related Gear in the Hotel

Chances are that you've got more things in your pack than needed on the trail. Most trekkers leave bags with items like chargers, laptops, and clothes with their accommodation during their trek.

While most, if not all accommodation options in Thamel offer this service, some charge for it. To save money, book a place that does it for free and perhaps leave a tip to say thanks instead.

What About Mountain Sickness?

The Three Passes take you to altitudes of over 5500 meters above sea level and therefore AMS is something that you should think about. Some people feel this at much lower altitudes, so it's a good idea to speak to your doctor about it.


Three Passes Packing List

Here’s a quick list of gear you’ll need on the trek. I’ve also written a separate, more comprehensive Three Passes packing list to help you plan out everything you need to bring on the trek, so make sure to check that out.

The essentials are:

Dzonghla Three Passes Trek

Himalayan Exploration

Saturday 25th of December 2021

This is a piece of information about the Three Passes Trek in the Everest Region. Appreciate reading it. Thank you so much for your great efforts towards crafting this piece of blog. It is helpful who is seeking a trip to Three Pass. Here is the itinerary of the Everest Three Pass Trek

Willie Chien

Sunday 7th of November 2021

Hi Olly,

Enjoyed and so encouraged by your independent trekking of the 3 Passes. I read many articles encouraging hiring of guides or porters. I went to EBC solo, without guide and porter and enjoyed it!

I am preparing to trek the 3 Passes next year with my son but perhaps the local government may not allow such independent trekking due to COVID-19.

Any words of encouragement if independent trekking is allowed next year in which I shall trek the 3 Passes

Olly Gaspar

Monday 8th of November 2021

Hi Willie,

I can't comment on the current situation regarding independent trekking but I wouldn't be worrying too much. I know a few people who have been trekking in Nepal this year. Best to do your research though!

Things are certainly opening up and I'd say next year should be good to go regardless.

User name

Thursday 29th of October 2020

It seems from the story that each day was very short, what did you do on the rest of the time?

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Hi mate,

Each day definitely didn't feel short. The trekking times that I've written in the itinerary only account for hours walking from each destination. Of course, trekking times will end up longer as you'll probably want to stop for photos, take some side trips and spend some time in the tea houses between each destination. The Khumbu is absolutely incredible, from the sights to the people— you certainly won't get bored.

This itinerary follows a fairly safe acclimatization plan. While it is tough, your body could physically walk further and longer each day, but it's the attitude that will give you trouble if you push your limits.

Raacho Trekkers

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

Loved the post, Olly. The pictures are mesmerizing. Are there any conditions(like medical checkups etc.) to get the permit or it is issued to all? There is a 3-pass trek route in the Indian Himalayas too. Do check my blogs. Thanks