Goechala Trek

Bagdogra | India
  From  INR 18,900  | From 11 Days

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All You Need to Know About the Goechala Trek

The treks to the Eastern Himalayas of Sikkim are notable for their views of snow-capped peaks, glacial passes and lakes, subtropical climate, and biodiversity. The trekking trail to Goechala is one such popular route amongst seasoned trekkers.

The Goechala Trek height is over 4572 meters. You pass through the thick mountainous vegetation to the rough, uneven terrain embracing the freezing cold air at such great heights. One of the high points of this trail is the Kanchenjunga National Park. The walk through the Kanchenjunga National Park is characterized by the picturesque sunrises on the mountain range, scenic glades, alpine lake, and a multitude of flowering trees that abound the mountainous forests.

Unlike the other popular treks to the Eastern Himalayas, the Goechala trek is not an easy one. Experts have classified this as a challenging trek, so trekkers have to be ready to face any challenges and eventualities.

An Overview of the Goechala Trek

The trek to Goechala takes around ten days, starting from Yuksom (1780 meters), and the trail covers a distance of 65.7 km back to the starting point. It takes longer to reach the actual Goechala Pass but currently, trekking beyond ViewPoint 1 is not permitted.

The original trek continues onward to the Goechala Lake, termed as ViewPoint 2, going up to the Goechala Pass at ViewPoint 3. These are located at an even higher altitude of 4907 meters. But due to some sightings of the wild snow leopard around ViewPoint 2, the trek was contained till ViewPoint 1 from the spring of 2017.

You will be closest to the third highest peak of the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga (8586 meters), from ViewPoint 1. The trekking trail to Goechala is often compared to the highest treks of Nepal in terms of difficulty level and challenges involved.

Here is a list of highlights that the trek to Goechala has to offer:

Experience breathtaking views on the trek:

From Viewpoint 1 and Dzongri Top, the sunrise on the Kanchenjunga range is always an enchanting sight. The massif starts changing colors from when the first ray of the sun hits. As the sky erupts in the clear morning light, the panoramic view of the peaks becomes an ideal photographic subject.

The scene around will change drastically as one proceeds through the trekking days. On the trail to Dzongri Top (4250 meters), the hike will start through the canopy of rhododendron and pine trees with a view of the lush green meadows at the foothills. Even at an altitude of 3657 meters, you will be walking through thick vegetation here, which usually tapers off at around 3045 meters in other parts of the Eastern Himalayas. Then you will suddenly encounter an entirely barren and rough terrain from Phedang for the rest of the way.

In another part of the trek, the Prekchu river that is distantly seen flowing through the valleys and gorges will suddenly be at the side of the trail. There are three wooden suspension bridges on the way - Pha Khola, Tshushey Khola, and Mentogang Khola - out of which the last one offers an exciting view of the Prekchu river rippling down the narrow valley between the mountains.

Besides Kanchenjunga, peaks like Mt. Kabru (7412 meters), Mt. Pandim (6691 meters), Mt. Kokthang (6147 meters), and Mt. Narsing (5806 meters) can be seen from here.

Beautiful stops on the way:

On a trail slightly off the campsite of Tsokha sits a monastery that can be visited after setting up your camps.

The Thangsing campsite is located at the base of Mt. Pandim. An extension of the Prekchu riverbed, this location is ideal for sitting and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere around you while marveling at the massive natural structures with reverence.

The crystal clear aqua colors of the Samiti Lake reflecting the mountaintops surrounding it is a splendid sight. Unfortunately, camping for the night is no longer allowed here.

Rare species of flora and fauna:

A hotspot of the Himalayan biodiversity, you can glimpse rare mountainous species of flora and fauna inside the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve in spring. Spring is ideally the Goechala Trek best time. For wildlife photographers, avid bird-watchers, and enthusiasts, this is a rewarding experience. You will spot bulbul, woodpecker, barbet, sunbird, thrush, fulvetta, magpie, wren babbler, finches, accentors, and grandala among the numerous bird species here during spring. The State Bird of Sikkim- the blood pheasant, may also be spotted easily. Red pandas are very rarely seen in this region. Other mountainous animals like yellow-throated marten, mountain weasel, pika, and Himalayan blue sheep, also called Bharal, can be spotted.

Approximate cost for the trek and acquisition of permits:

The state of Sikkim requires the issuing of tourist permits to allow trekkers to access this region. When estimating the Goechala Trek cost, one must consider that the fees for these permits are different for Indians and foreign nationals. If you are a student, carry your institution ID card to apply for student concessions.

  • Indian trekkers will have to carry two passport-sized photos, a photo ID card with address proof, and some photocopies with a self-declaration. These will be submitted at the Yuksom police outpost via their Goechala Trek guide to get the entry permit to the Kanchenjunga National Park. The permit, along with extra charges for cameras, will cost you USD 11 (INR 800) approximately.
  • Foreigners and Overseas Citizens of India will need to obtain the Inner Line Permit (ILP) from Bagdogra airport or the check post at Melli to enter into any part of Sikkim. Additionally, they must get a Protected Area Permit (PAP) through an authorized tour operator in Gangtok since the Goechala Trek is classified as a protected area. It costs around USD 27 (INR 2000). Following this, they can access the Kanchenjunga National Park entry permit once they have arrived at Yuksom.

The Goechala Trek cost is approximately USD 202 to 242 (INR 15000 to 18000) per person for a trekking package from Yuksom. If a group of 8-10 trekkers is already formed beforehand, the package can also be worked out at USD 161 (INR 12000) per person.

Sikkim has also made it necessary for Indian tourists to take an authorized Goechala Trek guide from Yuksom. This will cost around USD 9 to 11 (INR 600 to 800). Porters are also available here at similar rates if needed.

Apart from these, the Sikkim government has also introduced the Sikkim Travel Card, a compulsory online card for all travelers to the state. This has been done to maintain safety protocols according to the COVID-19 guidelines. The details entered in the online form for this card keep track of the tourists' health and their duration of stay in Sikkim. It is instantly available free of cost from the Sikkim Government website. This travel card needs to be updated every day online, which is usually done by the hotel or tour operator on the visitor's behalf.

How difficult is the Goechala Trek?

The Goechala Trek difficulty is ranked as difficult by expert trekkers for its long trekking days and quick ascent. It is pretty demanding and requires the trekkers to be physically fit and have high endurance. It should be undertaken only by trekkers who already have some experience in high-altitude trekking.

Best time to visit Goechala Trek:

The blooming rhododendrons and the rare species of birds are the attractions of the months of spring, March, and April. The temperatures are optimum and range between 15°C to -3°C during this time, making this season the Goechala Trek best time. However, there is the scare of occasional bursts of rainfall and the sky becoming hazy with clouds.

In autumn, from late September to early November, the weather gets colder quickly, and the temperature can drop to -5°C to -10°C. You can experience a clear blue sky during the day in autumn, ideal for photography.

Gear guide and checklist for Goechala Trek

One of the crucial things to keep in mind about a mountain trek is to pack light. Heavy luggage can be quite inconvenient to carry all by yourself.

A list of necessary gear can be found here:

Mandatory Clothing Items and Footwear:

Polyester full-sleeve t-shirts along with joggers or track pants are quick to dry and take up less space. 2-3 sets of these can be packed for the daytime treks with a windcheater at hand. Wearing thermal inners will help to keep the body warm. One or two jackets should be carried along with fleece sweaters to layer up when it gets colder. Padded puffer jackets are ideal for keeping the cold out.

Woolen ski-caps or a beanie paired with a muffler can protect your entire head and face from the biting cold. Thick, woolen gloves and socks should be carried along with some extra pairs. Spare sets of underwear will also be required.

Rainfall in mountainous regions is difficult to predict. So a trekker should be prepared for it with an umbrella, a waterproof raincoat with a hood, or a water-resistant poncho.

The hiking boots for this trek must be sturdy and broken into weeks prior to ease walking in. Waterproof hiking boots with an excellent grip and high ankle support should be chosen according to the trekker's comfort for rugged terrain.

Essential Baggage Requirements:

For a trek to the Goechala Pass, a rucksack of 50-65 liters capacity, with good hip support and multiple pockets, is required. Smaller necessary items like wallet, money, permits, electronics, etc., can be packed into a smaller purse so that you can reach them at once whenever needed. Waterproof covers for backpacks and a waterproof bag to put in your electronics and money are essential for when it rains.

First-aid kit:

A first-aid kit should contain a bottle of antiseptic liquid, a tube of ointment, bandaids, gauze swabs, crepe bandages, and pain-relieving sprays. Common medicines like painkillers, paracetamols, antihistamines, antacids, and anti-nausea pills should be carried. Water-purifying tablets will also be needed to ensure the safety of drinking water.

Toiletries and Hygiene products:

The following products will be necessary to maintain hygiene:

  • Personal set of toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap, lip balm, moisturizer, deodorant
  • For menstrual hygiene of women-menstrual cups, tampons, and sanitary napkins
  • Individual sets of steel cutleries and stainless steel/aluminum water bottles
  • Rolls of toilet paper, face wipes, and tissue paper to freshen up quickly

Essential travel documents and other essentials:

Carrying all the essential documents needed to get the entry permits issued for the trek to Goechala is a must. These permits should be kept safe throughout the trek.

Foreign nationals must carry their passports and Visa, along with multiple photocopies of the same. A doctor's certificate declaring the trekker to be fit enough is always required for all Indians and foreign nationals.

On the trek to Goechala, electricity is not available. So, it is best to carry power banks to charge your phones. Torches with long battery life are a requirement. A pair of robust and sturdy trekking poles will aid you in climbing the steep slopes.

A heavy sleeping bag is also necessary on the trek. This will be required for sleeping at night in the tents at the campsites.

Goechala Trek Itinerary:

The Goechala Trek takes around nine nights and ten days to complete. The itinerary includes a week-long ascent.

From the nearest railway station at New Jalpaiguri (NJP) or Bagdogra airport, one will need to arrive at Yuksom, which is the basecamp for the trek. There are several tourist lodges here for overnight accommodation, including a handful of hotels offering up to 3-star rating facilities. If you are a group of 8-10 trekkers, you can also reserve dormitories here.

  • Day 1: The trekking starts from Yuksom on this day. After receiving the needful permit documents, you will embark on an ascent of 1020 meters for the day to Bakhim (2743 meters). This route stretches for 14 km and will take around 6 to 7 hours to trek. You can either plan accommodations at the Forest Bungalow at Bakhim or camp for the night.
  • Day 2: Here onward, the climb gets steep till Dzongri, where the trekkers shall stop for the night. It has a distance of 8 km, which can be covered in 6 hours. Within an hour of climbing, you will come across the village of Tshoka, which is the last village on the route. After a lunch break at Phedang, the trail through the thick rhododendron forest brings one to Dzongri. This is a plain terrain with a view of the Himalayan peaks, ideal for camping in tents. Alternatively, accommodation at the trekkers' hut is also available.
  • Day 3: This is a rest day at Dzongri to get used to the high altitude of 4219 meters. The trekkers visit the viewpoint called Dzongri Top, which takes about 45 minutes of hiking to reach. From here, the peaks of the Kanchenjunga range and the Singalila Range can be seen on two sides.
  • Day 4: The trekking trail from here descends to the valley at the foothills of a mountain called Jopine and then ascends for a short while to Thangsing (3800 meters), covering a total distance of 7 km in 4.5 hours. The guides here usually arrange for a riverside lunch along the Prekchu river, finally camping at Thangsing for the night.
  • Day 5: Another day of ascent takes the trekkers to Chemathang at the base of Mt. Pandim. This location is 8 km away from Thangsing along the valley of Olathang. Majestic views of Kanchenjunga and Pandim will accompany you along the trail. The guides usually get ready to camp for the night at Lamuney if the trekkers can no longer trek for the rest of the day. Otherwise, they move on to stop at Chemathang and camp overnight after visiting Lake Samiti on the way.
  • Day 6: The trek to Goechala is finally here. The terrain is rugged and full of boulders, so it is advisable to proceed with caution. This 1 km stretch will take around an hour to climb because of the steep slope. The trekkers must return to Chemathang base camp before sunset and stay here for the night.
  • Day 7: The return journey starts from this day. The trekkers follow the same route back to Thangsing, and the guides show them the various species of flora and fauna on the way before camping at Thangsing overnight.
  • Day 8: To get back to Dzongri, this bit is now an ascending path. It will take around 5 hours to reach Dzongri and stay here for the night. If you reach well before sunset, you can once again visit the Dzongri Top viewpoint.
  • Day 9: From Dzongri to Bakhim, a different route can be taken than the one by which you had arrived. This is through the village of Jamling Gaon or Jamlingthang. The forest of rhododendrons is accompanied by beautiful magnolias here. The trekkers will again stay here overnight.
  • Day 10: The final descent from Bakhim to Yuksom is an easy four hours hike. Though many prefer to stay for the night here, you can also book a cab back to Gangtok, Darjeeling, or Siliguri on the same day itself. Another cab will take you to NJP or Bagdogra.

Getting fit for the Goechala Trek:

The Goechala Trek difficulty tests your endurance, so intense workouts and gym sessions are a must. Walking, jogging, squats, skipping, and stair climbing exercises will enhance the trekker's stamina. Yoga and meditation will help to build the mental grit and determination required to overcome any difficult situation.

The trek to Goechala will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any trekker. It is a thrilling adventure through the rough terrain of the Eastern Himalayas accompanied by fantastic views. Remember to follow safety protocols and exercise precautions to enjoy the trek to the fullest.