Top Solo Travel Destinations-Ancient Passes of Nepal
Gokyo Ri & Rinjo-La
Created by MTS’s brother guiding team Binoy and Pranoy Rai, this amazing new Nepal adventure is a modern-day classic combining the magic of lodge-to-lodge trekking with the challenges of topping Gokyo Ri (17,575’) and Rinjo-La Pass (17,519’). You’ll take in breathtaking views of Everest and other iconic Himalayan peaks as you trek among high mountain villages filled with warm Sherpa hospitality, away from the throngs of tourists. Enter Gokyo Valley, a hidden treasure of the Everest region, and experience its turquoise, glacier-fed lakes, then soar to Gokyo Ri’s summit for spectacular panoramic views. After crossing Rinjo-La Pass and returning to Kathmandu’s cultural riches, you’ll agree that our new adventure—and new path—through this magical land is, indeed, the trip of a lifetime.
Welcome to Kathmandu (4,600′), Nepal’s capital city, and its cultural and spiritual center. Our local MTS guide meets you at the airport and transfers you to your hotel, where you meet your fellow travelers. Depending on your arrival time, you may want to stretch your legs and explore the area around the hotel, which is situated in the heart of the city, for a few hours in the afternoon. Come evening, it’s time for a group briefing on the trek and a festive welcome dinner with the group.
Day 2: See the sights of Kathmandu Valley
After breakfast, we kick off our Nepal adventure with a tour of Bhaktapur, a medieval city-state in Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur was incredibly preserved, though was tragically devastated by the 2015 earthquake. The city is still in recovery mode, but some simple meandering leads to the remaining stunning medieval squares lined with towering temples, and narrow cobbled streets dotted with brick buildings, hidden squares, and hawking artisans.
In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to relax, wander or just pack for your upcoming trek. This evening, enjoy an Everest summit talk given by a Nepalese female Seven Summiteer.
Day 3: Fly to Lukla and trek to Phakding Village
This morning we depart Kathmandu on a small plane bound for Lukla (9,382′), a popular stop for Everest-bound visitors. This spectacular flight offers unparalleled views over the mighty Himalaya. From here, we lace up our boots and begin our trek, making our way about 3½ miles through pine and cedar woods to Phakding village (8,563′). Phakding sees many travelers and thus is full of many guesthouses and warm Nepalese hospitality, which we experience tonight. While we may feel eager to walk more today, we stop here to help our bodies acclimatize.
(Hiking time: 3 hours)
Day 4: Trek to Monjo
Today we enjoy an easy, acclimatizing walk to Monjo (9,428′). We cross several picturesque suspension bridges and are likely to pass quite a few working yaks before arriving in Monjo, nestled in mountainous blue pine and rhododendron forest. We’ll overnight at Everest Summit Lodge – Monjo, where our meal will be prepared by the lodge chef.
(Hiking time: 3½ hours)
Day 5: Catch your first glimpse of Everest!
Get your cameras ready! Today we enter Sagarmartha National Park en route to the delightful town of Namche Bazaar (11,286′). More rocky terrain (including a stretch of rock steps), suspension bridges, and yak crossings make for a strenuous day. But all becomes worth it when we pause on the steep ascent for the rewarding and spectacular first glimpse of Mount Everest.
Arriving in Namche Bazaar—the gateway to Everest and the high Himalaya—early allows us to drop our packs and spend a relaxing afternoon strolling around this bustling village. Colorful prayer flags frame the stunning backdrop to this amphitheater of shops, Internet cafes, eateries, and lodgings.
(Hiking time: 4½ hours)
Day 6: Trek to Tashinga via the Hillary School
Above Namche Bazaar, the trail to Tashinga follows the classic approach to Everest and a steep uphill takes us to the beautiful Khumjung village, where we’ll have a chance to visit the first Hillary school. Founded in 1961 by legendary mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, the institution—with just over 300 students—is the only high school in the Khumbu region. After visiting the school, we’ll descend down to Tashinga (11,350′).
(Hiking time: 4 hours)
Day 7: Follow the flags to Phortse
From Tashinga, we’ll follow sacred stones and colorful prayer flags to Phortse (12,959′), a traditional Sherpa village off the main trail. A terraced knoll dotted with stone buildings, this hamlet is seldom visited, leaving a pristine, genuine experience for those who veer off the beaten path to explore it.
(Hiking time: 4 hours)
Day 8: Ascend to Dole
A gradual uphill hike, with only the occasional section of steep steps, takes us up and along the shady side of a valley through mossy rhododendron forest. The wooded trail emerges above the tree line and into the village of Dole (13,248′), home to musk deer, a variety of Himalayan birds, and a cluster of trekking lodges.
(Hiking time: 4 hours)
Day 9: Short climb to Machermo
Today we trek only about 2½ miles but gain about 1,200 vertical feet, which makes it feel like a significant 2½ miles! Exiting Dole there is a slight descent that can be tricky if snow-covered, but it quickly shifts to a steep climb up a hillside covered in tundra grasses and scrub junipers. Continuing north up through the valley, mountain views abound, including of Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak at 26,906 feet. The slope eases as we approach Luza, then we finish with an easy walk into Machermo (14,665′), where in the 1975 a villager and her yaks were allegedly attacked by a yeti!p
(Hiking time: 4 hours)
Day 10: Behold Gokyo Valley, Nepal’s Land of Sacred Lakes
The views today are incredible. We leave the foothills and head up another 1,100 feet into the desolate, high-mountain tundra and breathtaking Gokyo Valley and Gokyo Lake (15,419). Here, wedged between soaring peaks and awesome glaciers, lie six main (and 19 total) lakes that comprise the world’s highest freshwater lake system. The emerald green lakes are sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus, and traditional beliefs that birds and wildlife should remain unharmed have long protected the region’s fauna. We soak in the beauty of this remarkable area at the first two Gokyo lakes before pushing on to the third and largest, Gokyo Tsho. Lording over this lake is the village of Gokyo, where we will stay for two nights as we explore this magical area.
(Hiking time: 5 hours)
Day 11: Summit Gokyo Ri
As tomorrow will be long and strenuous, the hike to Gokyo Ri today is optional. If you want to take it easy, you can walk around the lake shore or simple stretch your legs and recuperate. If you are game to climb Gokyo Ri, we rise early, take a quick breakfast, cross the stream that feeds the Gokyo Lakes, and start climbing. We respect the altitude and take it slow, resting often if for no other reason than to look around at the spectacular surroundings: endless sky above, mighty mountains all around, the enormous Ngozumpa Glacier and holy Gokyo Lakes below. After about 3 hours, we reach the summit of Gokyo Ri (17,575′) and revel in the awesome beauty of some of the world’s highest mountains: Cho Oyu, Makalu, Lhotse, and, of course, Everest. The panoramic Himalayan views—and the powerful feeling of accomplishment—from atop Gokyo Ri are truly unforgettable.
(Hiking time: 5 hours approx.)
Day 12: Cross Rinjo-La Pass into Thame Valley
Today you’ll feel our proximity to Tibet as we cross Rinjo-La Pass (17,536 feet). This adventurous and challenging route affords more unforgettable mountain and lake views—some of the best in the Everest region, we think! From here we descend into the little-known Thame Valley, a former “salt route” along which traders would journey from Tibet to Namche Bazaar to sell their goods. The village of Thame, the largest in the valley, is also known for being home to Tenzing Norgay, the first Sherpa to climb Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Our hike ends in Lungden (14,370′), a tiny village comprising little more than several lodges.
(Hiking time: 9 hours)
Day 13: Rest up in Lukla
Your weary feet and wobbly legs will enjoy today, as all they have to do is climb aboard a helicopter bound for Lukla. Here we’ll enjoy a well-deserved day of R&R, with the option to wander around the lodge garden or the town.
Days 14-15: Explore Kathmandu
This morning we transfer by small plane back to Kathmandu, where it all began. We spend two leisurely days exploring more of this magical city, including the sacred Pashupatinath Temple. Straddling the Bagmati River, Kathmandu’s oldest Hindu temple is an architectural marvel. It is also the most important temple dedicated to the god Shiva. Elderly and ailing Hindu worshippers arrive from near and far to find shelter in their final weeks, as it is believed that those who die here are reborn as human, regardless of any bad karma they may have accrued earlier in life. We will also explore Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal’s largest temple and one of its holiest sites. Boudhanath is Kathmandu’s center of Tibetan culture and rich in Buddhist symbolism: five statues representing the five elements (earth, fire, air, water, and ether), nine levels representing Mount Meru (the mythical peak at the center of the Buddhist cosmos), and 13 rings from its base to its apex (representing the steps to enlightenment). Dinner on your own on Day 14. Gather for a festive farewell dinner on Day 15.
Day 16: Bid farewell to Nepal
This morning we bid a fond farewell to our new friends and this magical country, then transfer to the airport.