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

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 on what to expect on the journey.

Trekking the Three Passes Independently

This guide is dedicated to independent trekking. This means planning your own trip and carrying your own gear, staying in teahouses along the way.

Of course, you can hire a guide and a porter, which is a great thing because it supports the livelihoods of local sherpa communities.

However, you are not obligated to hire a guide or porter. Independent trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, including the Three Passes Trek, is completely doable and common.

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.

Again, independent trekking is more about flexibility and freedom than saving money. I encourage everyone who wants to trek to Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes to contribute by paying for meals and teahouses.

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Three Passes Trek Itinerary Overview

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

Day 1: Lukla to Phakding

TREKKING TIME: 3 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 200M DESCENT 50M ASCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 2610M

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.

Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

TREKKING TIME: 6 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 1000M ASCENT 100M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3450M

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: 450M ASCENT 450M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3450M

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.

Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Milinggo


TREKKING TIME: 5 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 750M ASCENT 450M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3800M

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

Day 5: Milinggo to Panboche and Ama Dablam Base Camp

TREKKING TIME: 6 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 850M ASCENT 670M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3930M

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: 460M ASCENT 30M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 43600M

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 Chukhung and Side Trip to Imja Tse Base Camp

TREKKING TIME: 2 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 405M ASCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4730M

Another short trek to Chukhung, where you’ll have the optional comfort of dropping your pack and continuing along the Imja Tse route on an impressive side-trip.

Day 8: Acclimatization Trek to Chukhung Ri (5550M)

TREKKING TIME: 4 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 815M ASCENT 815M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4730M

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

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

TREKKING TIME: 8-9 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 800M ASCENT 620M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4950M

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.

Day 10: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp

TREKKING TIME: 8 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 450M ASCENT 200M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 5160M

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!

Day 12: Kala Patthar (5643M) Sunrise Side-Trip to Lobuche

TREKKING TIME: 6 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 400M ASCENT 650M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4950M

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

Day 13: Lobuche to Dzonghla

TREKKING TIME: 3 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 120M ASCENT 200M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4830M

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.

Day 14: Cho La (5420M) to Tagnag

TREKKING TIME: 6 HOURS TO TAGNAG
ALTITUDE: 525M ASCENT 650M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4700M

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.

Day 15: Tagnag to Gokyo and Gokyo Ri (5357M)

TREKKING TIME: 3 HRS TO GOKYO AND 5 HOURS FOR GOKYO RI
ALTITUDE: 150M ASCENT TO GOKYO, 570 ASCENT & DESCENT FOR GOKYO RI
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4790M

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 16: 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 17: Renjo La Pass (5345M) to Lumde

TREKKING TIME: 6 HOURS TO LUMDE
ALTITUDE: 550M ASCENT 650M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4350M

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.

Day 18: Lumde to Thame

TREKKING TIME: 3 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 530M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3800M

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.

Day 19: Thame to Namche Bazaar

TREKKING TIME: 4 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 370M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 3440M

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

Day 20: Namche Bazaar to Lukla

TREKKING TIME: 6-7 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 1200M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 2860M

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

Day 21: Fly to Kathmandu

Pat yourself on the back and prepare yourself for the thrilling flight back to Kathmandu.

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 as well as information on towns and teahouses. eBooks on a kindle is 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.
  • WelcomeNepal 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 4000M). World Nomads is one of the only companies I know that covers the Three Passes Trek.
  • Skyscanner
    Very useful for finding the cheapest flights to Kathmandu and Lukla.
  • Booking.com
    Useful for finding cheap accommodation in Kathmandu and Thamel before flying to Lukla.
  • Free Three Passes Trek eBook – Get all the information in this guide + more in ebook format for free. Write your email on the popup or here to get your free book.
THREE HIGH PASSES TREK CHO LA PASS

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.

Everest Three Passes Trek Itinerary

Below is a complete Three Passes trek itinerary, which breaks down the trek day-by-day. This trekking plan follows a 19 or 20-day itinerary in an anti-clockwise direction. It’s highly recommended to hike it in this direction, for reasons which I’ll get into further on.

Remember that I’ve also written comprehensive trekking guides for each day, which you’ll find in the links to below.

I’ve also written detailed guides on what to expect on the acclimatization and side-trips included on this Three High Passes trek itinerary:

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.

THREE PASSES AND 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 apposed to the mostly over-trafficked Everest Base Camp Trek.

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

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.

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 for any trekking activities above 4000M.

One of the only insurance companies that I was able to find that covers trekking on the Three High Passes is with World Nomads.

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.

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 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 1000M elevation gain to 5345M 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.

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 avalanche is higher due to quickly melting ice and snow on the Himalayan peaks.

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.

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 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. If you’re on a tight budget, expect to pay around $800-$1000 for the entire trek, including accommodation, flights, and food.

However, for those who like some regular comforts, you can expect to pay up to double that. This is especially true as the cost for simple things like hot tea and food goes up in proportion with altitude. Overall,  Three Passes trek is typically going to be more expensive than most other hikes in Nepal. This is for a few 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 the primary costs involved with the Three Passes trek.

COSTPRICETOTAL (20 Days)
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
$42$42
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.

LUKLA AIRPORT, NEPAL

Three Passes Permits

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 (NPR 2000/$17)
Sagarmatha National Park Permit (NPR 3000/$25)

You are not required to purchase a TIMS card for this trek.

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.

Three Passes and Everest Base Camp Trek

Hotels and Hostels Before and After the Three Passes Trek

The best place to stay before and after the Three Passes trek is in the main tourist area of Thamel in Kathmandu.

Choosing the right place to stay before and after the trek is important because you will most likely need to leave some non-trekking gear with a trustworthy caretaker. Secondly, trust me when I say that you will want a nice bed with a warm shower once you return from the mountain.

Therefore, it’s best to choose the same hotel or hostel for the nights both before and after the Three Passes trek.

I stayed at Beehive Hostel, which is a budget lodging just 3 minutes from the main shopping district and offers warm showers and large, comfortable private rooms. They also let us leave our bags there for 20 days for free while we were in the Khumbu.

If you’re looking for something a bit classier, try Hotel Blue Horizon or the Fairfield by Marriot.

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?

For anyone attempting this or any Three Passes trek itinerary, you will need to understand the risks of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness.

Clearly, I’m not a doctor or an expert regarding health practices and therefore I can’t give you advice. However, you do need to understand that hiking at an altitude in the Khumbu does entail a risk of AMS.

So what is it?

Altitude sickness is caused by ascending too quickly. It is caused by low air pressure and less oxygen at higher altitudes.

It is important to slow down and to take acclimatization hikes and rest-days to prevent it.

While many people take Diamox to prevent AMS by acting as a respiratory stimulant, the only way to truly prevent AMS is to trek slowly and take rest days. Of course, many trekkers including myself take Diamox (available cheaply in Thamel) in their first-aid kit just in case.

Remember to do your own research and to consult a doctor.

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:

Free Three Passes: Independent Trekking Guide Ebook

Three Passes: Independent Trekking Guide By Olly Gaspar at We Seek Travel

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. I’m currently offering this book free for new subscribers, so enter your email and download the book.

Dzonghla Three Passes Trek

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3 thoughts on “Three Passes Trek Itinerary & Independent Trekking Guide”

  1. 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

  2. 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.

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