The Gosainkunda trek takes hikers to one of Nepal’s most beautiful lakes of the same name, at an altitude of 14,374 feet. According to legend, it was formed when the Hindu god, Shiva, pierced a glacier with the trishul, his trident, so he could obtain water after he swallowed poison that made his throat turn blue and sting.
The lake is now a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, with the peak period being the full moon festival of Janai Purnima in August, when 25,000 visit. It is believed that bathing in the lake will wash away one’s sins. There is much dancing. Shamans demonstrate their skills to teachers to qualify for the post of village shaman. Many pilgrims fall prey to altitude sickness, having climbed too fast. Dehydration can be worse if they are fasting.
People have often claimed that they could see Shiva asleep in the water. If so, he was one of not many lifeforms present. This lake is oligotrophic – low in nutrients. As a result, there are few fish and little algae, the latter making the waters very clear and eminently drinkable. Gosainkunda Lake is 40 square miles in size. There are around 108 other lakes in the vicinity.
The Gosainkunda trek is one of the shortest treks around and a relatively easy hike. Altitude sickness is far from inconceivable, although less of a risk than on the other major treks of Nepal.
The inhabitants are mostly Tamangs, who constitute 5.6 percent of the population of Nepal and have their own language.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the Gosainkunda trek.
Gosainkunda Trek – FAQ
What is the main drawcard for the Gosainkunda trek?
The highlight of this trek is sunrise at Laurebina, where there is a panoramic view of Langtang ridge. This is the sunrise of a lifetime. You can see the time of the next sunrise yonder, although this will not be possible while trekking, as there is no internet access or mobile phone coverage. You can at least see what time is sunrise a few days before. At 15,120 feet, this is the highest you will be.
How long is the Gosainkunda trek?
The Gosainkunda trek can take anything from eight to 16 days
When is the best time to do the Gosainkunda trek?
The best time is autumn, from mid-October to mid-December, while the next best is spring, from the beginning of March to mid-May. Laurebina Pass may remain closed until early May.
Where is the Gosainkunda trek situated?
The Langtang region, where Gosainkunda is located, is a stone’s throw north of Kathmandu. The lake is the source of the Trishuli River. It is frozen in winter, from December to February, although this period is growing shorter due to climate change. On a clear day, the Annapurna range can be seen to the north.
What is the general day-by-day itinerary for the Gosainkunda trek?
In this itinerary, accommodation is entirely at tea houses
- Day 1: You disembark in Kathmandu. It overflows with attractions such as Durbar Square, whose temples date to the 12th century, Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest in the world, and the Pashupatinath Temple, the most important Hindu temple in the country.
- Day 2: As your trek is prepared, you explore Kathmandu and the surrounding valley.
- Day 3: Your first move is a drive to Dhunche, seeing you on a bus for around eight hours. The buses of Nepal are sometimes more dangerous than high alpine passes. From Kalikasthan onward is prone to landslide in the monsoon season. As you go, there is a view of majestic mountains that include Ganesh Himal. Dhunche is a pleasing village containing large stone houses.
- Day 4: Now it is time to walk up through forests of oak, fir and the customary rhododendrons. When you show up in Sing Gompa, you find a monastery and a cheese factory that employs yak milk. You have a good view of Langtang Himal and Langtang Valley on the way.
- Day 5: You go up through forest once more, eventually showing up in Gosainkunda. Visible are the mountains Dorje Lakpa, Ganesh Himal, Langtang and Langtang Lirung.
- Day 6: The trail continues upwards. It is now a rough path. Moraines – patches of dirt and rock – are crossed. Laurebina La pass is also to be crossed. Next, you descend to Phedi. Things now head up again. Then down among rocky hills and pine and rhododendron forest. You breeze in to Ghopte.
- Day 7: The trail now descends along a ridge, with forest to either side. You ascend to Tharepati, with a stream en route. Tharepati is in the lap of the mountain.
- Day 8: You climb to a ridge above the village and enter forest. You follow the Melamchi River and ascend to Melamchi Goan. You hit town, well, actually village, in Tarkeghyang.
- Day 9: After crossing a small forest, the trail leads to the small and beauteous village of Gangwal. There is a small monastery there. Your next pit stop is Sermanthang, another very pretty village.
- Day 10: It is a short way down to Malamchi Pul Bazaar. You board a vehicle that will convey you to Kathmandu.
Are there any good trekking maps or guidebooks for the Gosainkunda trek?
No paper maps are published. The only book dedicated to Gosainkunda Lake is Application Of GIS In Bathymetric Mapping Of Gosainkunda Lake by Sudip Raj Niroula, which discusses the lake’s morphometry (shape, size, volume and depth) and is of little interest to trekkers.
In terms of a guidebook we recommend A Trekking Guide to Langtang: Gosainkund, Helambu and Tamang Heritage Trail by Sian Pritchard-Jones, Bob Gibbons and the Himalayan Map House
Are permits required for the Gosainkunda trek?
You require a Langtang National Park Entry Permit ($30) and Trekkers Information Management System registration ($10 through a company, $20 as an individual).
How much does the Gosainkunda trek cost?
Prices range from $650 on the low end to $1500 on the top end.
Other useful nuggets of information
Scientists often make use of Gosainkunda Lake for research into climate change and geography.
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References: (1) Cicerone Guidebooks