Kanchenjunga is in a remote northeast corner of Nepal. In Taplejung District to be precise. In fact, Taplejung Bazaar is the starting point of the Kanchenjunga Trek.
There are weekly flights between Kathmandu and Suketar scheduled by Tara Air and Goma Air. Alternatively you can fly to Bhadrapur by Buddha Air or Yeti Air, who fly daily.
While flying to Bhadrapur has more options, you need to then drive from Bhadrapur to Taplejung to start you trek. Flying directly to Suketar gets you straight to the trekking area in the mountains.
In May 2016 I drove all the way from Kathmandu to Taplejung in two days. (An alternative way to get there which involves time but is as interesting way to see more of the countryside). At the end of the trek I drove from Happo Khola (Khamdime) to Birtamod and on to Darjeeling in India. (You will need to have a current Indian Visa for this option.)
My idea was to see Kanchenjunga from all sides so I could produce this trip report for you here.
So basically, depending on your time, there are three ways to reach the start of the Kanchenjunga trek:-
Kathmandu to Suketar Flight
This is the easiest way; you just fly in and start walking. Done! However, this is remote part of Nepal so the flights do not take place daily and as it is a tiny mountain airport, weather is a huge factor in whether your (weekly) flight will leave or not. Please bear that in mind if you are on a tight schedule. If all goes according to plan, this is a one hour and twenty minutes flight.
Kathmandu to Bhadrapur Flight and Drive to Taplejung
Bhadrapur is situated on the Terai or plains in the south of the country. Therefore, there is no problem with mountain weather or difficult landings so the 45 minute flight takes place every day. In fact there is a minimum of four flights a day operated by Buddha Air and Yeti Air. On the down side, after the flight you need to drive for around 10 hours to reach Taplejung. This will be by either local bus (not recommended!) which departs every morning, or by private jeep.
Kathmandu to Taplejung by Road
If you want a different experience then you can drive from Kathmandu to Taplejung with an overnight in Bhadrapur or Birtamod. This will be a lovely way to see different aspects of countryside and meet local people. There are regular buses which depart daily from the New Bus Park in Kathmandu to Birtamod. This is a 12 hour journey on mainly flat roads. Then overnight, and another local bus journey through the hills to Taplejung which takes 9 or 10 hours. The better alternative is to hire a private jeep or mini bus in Kathmandu. More expensive than the local bus for sure. But not as expensive as flights if there are 3 or 4 of you and way more comfortable than the overcrowded local buses!
Recommended Option for Kathmandu Taplejung
You have come all this way to experience something different, so let’s experience!
By hiring a vehicle in Kathmandu you have the flexibility to stop off on the way, take things at your own pace and arrive at the start of this wonderful trek with a clear, adventurous mind!
Not got enough time? Then we highly recommend you take a flight, and not go for the local bus from Kathmandu option!