Kanchenjunga Trails : Lush rhododendron forests, dramatic mountain vistas, communities that abound in folklore and the 3rd highest peak in the world, Mt Kanchenjunga, all combine to make this a paradise for trekking off the beaten path. Located in far-eastern Nepal, on the border with Sikkim, the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) was one of the first areas of the Himalaya to be explored in the nineteenth century and yet, it remains largely unvisited by tourists outside of October.
The Nepal side of the Kanchenjunga massif is split into two sections: the remote valleys that lie beneath the horseshoe-shaped southwest face and ridges, around Yalung, and the north face where the Base Camp for mountaineering groups is sited. Dozens of peaks form a maze of ridges that isolate communities from the lower valleys. Treks to this region are a little longer than those to the most popular areas, but spending a little extra time here will prove more than worthwhile as you get to explore one of the wilder corners of the Himalaya.
Most trekkers arrive at Taplejung (Suketar airstrip), which attracts a lively combination of Sherpa, Limbu, Rai and Gurung people, especially for the Saturday market. You then drop to the Tamor Khola, through dense jungle and picturesque villages, before reaching some magnificent rhododendron forests on the way to Kanchenjunga Base Camp at Pangpema. A challenging side trip is up to the Jhinsang La, the starting point of the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal. The GHT follows a route down through Ghunsa and heads west to Olangchun Gola, which also makes for a great side trip. From Olangchun Gola the GHT crosses the untamed wilderness of the Lumbha Sambha, home to snow leopard, blue sheep and, for the believer, the Yeti! Then you descend to what is perhaps the most isolated community in Nepal, Thudam, before reaching the welcoming and charming Lhomi people of the Arun Nadi valley.
The KCA is the first region in Nepal to be managed by local communities and has so far proved very successful along the main trail, but is yet to be fully effective in remoter valleys. Trekking is still in its infancy in much of the KCA so tread lightly and encourage sustainable practices wherever you can.