The Everest Base Camp trek is a truly exhilarating and once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trek route takes you deep into the Himalayas, where you enjoy fantastic views of Mount Everest as well as some of the world’s other mighty peaks. You also see glaciers, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and wild animals. And you do all this while staying in traditional villages and experiencing the unique Sherpa culture. But of course you have many questions, like where exactly is Everest Base Camp, how long does it take to get there, and how high do you trek? We answer all of these questions and more, as well as outline the Everest Base Camp route for each day, all the better to get you excited for what’s to come!
How far is the trek to Everest Base Camp?
The Everest Base Camp trek is 65 km each way when you walk the most direct route. This is the traditional trek route. There are, however, variations to this route, a common one being the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes.
Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes
We at Follow Alice hike the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes. This is a popular alternate route to the classic one. It involves trekking the usual route to Everest Base Camp, then taking a detour to the Gokyo Lakes on the return journey.
There are a few pros to doing the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes. Firstly, it creates a loop in the trail, meaning for most of your return hike you walk through fresh territory. There’s so much cultural and natural richness in Khumbu, we feel it would be a pity to tramp the same path when you can divert just a little and enjoy more of it. Secondly, this alternate route gives us the chance to cross Cho La Pass, summit Gokyo Peak (5,357 m), see the magnificent Ngozumpa Glacier, and visit the beautiful Gokyo Lakes. And finally, this slightly longer route is quieter than the main one, allowing us to experience an even more remote part of the Himalayas. We tell you more about the trek route in a moment, but first…
Let’s answer a few more of your questions …
How long is the Everest Base Camp trek?
The Everest Base Camp trek takes roughly two weeks. It’s up to each trekker or trekking group to decide how long to take to complete the trip. There are many towns and villages along the various routes that offer trekkers hospitality, so you can decide how far to trek before stopping for the night. Some of the things that will determine the length of a trek are physical fitness, your budget, and the need to acclimatise.
Proper acclimatisation is an important aspect of any high-altitude trek. Altitude can start to be a problem from anywhere above 3,000 m. On the Everest Base Camp trek, we climb to well above 5,000 m. The graph below shows the Everest Base Camp route via Gokyo Lakes as trekked by Follow Alice. The entire route, as you can see, takes place at high altitude.
Why we need acclimatisation days
One of the key ways to help your body adjust to a higher altitude is to ascend slowly, and also allow for acclimatise days. Acclimatisation days help your body adapt to the reduced oxygen level. Those who climb too high too quickly can experience altitude symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. In the worst cases, people who ascend too quickly develop acute mountain sickness (AMS), which can prove fatal if ignored. Anyone with AMS symptoms has to descend to a lower altitude straight away.
Taking everything into consideration, we at Follow Alice have put together a two-week trek that includes an important acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar.
How hard is the Everest Base Camp route?
The Everest Base Camp trek isn’t easy. You trek for roughly five to eight hours a day. The path is often uneven, rocky and loose. There are plenty of steps to conquer, and some of the climbs are long and steep. Furthermore, the higher you ascend, the harder everything becomes as you’re working off less oxygen. You don’t, however, have to carry a heavy rucksack, as we’ve organised porters to transport our belongings. This means you only need to carry a daypack containing your water, snacks and other essential trekking items. (Learn more in How hard is the Everest Base Camp?)
But while the Everest Base Camp route isn’t easy from a physical viewpoint, you don’t need any special equipment or training to do it. There’s no rock climbing involved. And you always walk along a well-marked path. All that’s needed to do the trek is a decently strong pair of legs, as well as some essential gear like good trekking boots and winter trekking clothes. To learn more about what you’ll need, read our blog post Everest Base Camp packing list.
If you’re relatively healthy, you can most definitely set your sights on hiking the Everest Base Camp trek
Where is Everest Base Camp?
It’s worth noting that there are actually two Everest Base Camps: one to the south of Mt Everest in Nepal, and one to the north of it in Tibet. The one in Nepal is sometimes referred to as south base camp to distinguish it from north base camp in Tibet. The base camp we’re talking about in this blog post is south base camp, and we simply refer to it as Everest Base Camp.
Everest Base Camp is inside Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park. Most of the Everest Base Camp trek, which starts in Lukla and ends at base camp, is also inside Sagarmatha.
Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha National Park is famous for its high peaks, glaciers, steep, forested valleys, elusive snow leopards, and the Sherpa people who live there. The name Sagarmatha is actually the Nepali name for Mount Everest. It means ‘forehead in the sky’, which is rather more poetic than Everest, which is the surname of the Welsh surveyor who mapped much of the subcontinent in the mid 1800s. Sagarmatha has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.
How do you get to Everest Base Camp?
There are only two viable ways to get to Everest Base Camp: be flown in by helicopter, or hike there along the Everest Base Camp route. It’s mostly just mountaineers who fly to Everest Case camp; the rest of us bask in the challenge of trekking there.
The trek route starts and ends in Lukla, a small mountain town. Lukla, which is in Nepal’s Solukhumbu region in the east of the country, is 2,860 m (9,383 m) above sea level. It’s known as the gateway to the Everest Base Camp trek. You might also be interested to know that Lukla sits at the same elevation as Ecuador’s Quito, the world’s second highest capital city.
How do I get from Kathmandu to Lukla?
You cannot drive to Lukla, as there are currently no roads leading into it. (The Nepalese Government has, however, announced plans to build a road to Lukla). That leaves us with the following travel options:
- fly from Kathmandu to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla
- hike in from a nearby town, which will take at least three days
- take a helicopter ride to Sangboche, a town inside Sagarmatha National Park
Like most other trekkers, we fly to Lukla. All flights to Lukla are courtesy of light aircraft, as the single runway that constitutes Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport is sloped and very short. The flight lasts for just 25 minutes. Delays in and out of Tenzing-Hillary Airport are frequent, as weather conditions need to be favourable to make take-offs and landings safe.
Tips for flying from Kathmandu to Lukla
We have a few top tips for you when flying to Lukla:
- pack snacks and reading material in case there’s a delay
- pick a seat on the left of the plane for better views
- bring something to suck on to prevent your ears from hurting
- pack rescue drops if you’re a nervous flyer, as this flight isn’t for sissies!
Lukla’s airport is named after the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and the Englishman Sir Edmund Hillary. Norgay and Hillary were the first to summit Mt Everest. They accomplished this amazing feat in 1953.
How high is Everest Base Camp?
Everest Base Camp sits at 5,364 m (17,598 ft) above sea level. At this altitude oxygen levels are pretty low, and those of us unused to such rarified air will most certainly feel the impact.
The starting point for the Everest Base Camp route is Lukla, as you already know, which sits at 2,860 m above sea level. This means we ascend roughly 2,500 vertical metres over the course of the Everest Base Camp route! It’s one serious step climber of a route.
Where is base camp on Mount Everest?
Everest Base Camp is on the south side of Mt Everest. Mountaineers use the camp as a staging post for climbing Mt Everest via its southeast ridge.
Everest Base Camp is also located at the foot of the Khumbu Glacier, which flows between Mt Everest and the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge. This is the world’s highest glacier. At the head (top) of the glacier is the infamous Khumbu Icefall, a steep part of the glacier that is known to form large crevasses with little warning. Those ascending Mt Everest have to cross the Khumbu Icefall, and most try to do this early in the day when the ice hasn’t yet had a chance to thaw and potentially crack.
Mt Everest, to remind you, is a whopping 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level. That’s almost 3,500 m higher than Everest Base Camp! But climbers don’t hike to the peak in one go – there are four further overnight staging posts for climbers that help them to acclimatise each step of the way before the final push.
Everest is a whopping 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level
Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes itinerary
The table below outlines the Follow Alice itinerary for the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes.
|Day 1||Arrive in Kathmandu||NA||Fly into Nepal and gather together at the hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu.|
|Day 2||Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, then trek to Phakding (2,610 m)||5.5 hours||Take an exhilarating plane ride from Kathmandu to Lukla. Trek to Phakding and enjoy the rivers, green mountains and relatively mild temperatures.|
|Day 3||Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3,440 m)||5.5 hours||Trek from Phakding up the valley to Namche Bazaar, the largest town in Khumbu. This day involves a big jump in elevation.|
|Day 4||Acclimatisation day||NA||Explore Namche Bazaar (attractions include the Sherpa Museum and Namche Monastery) and take a day hike if you’d like to the beautiful village of Khumjung.|
|Day 5||Trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3,867 m)||5 hours||Trek from Namche Bazaar up to Tengboche, where you can visit the Tengboche Monastery, which is the largest monastery in the Khumbu region.|
|Day 6||Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche (4,260 m)||5.5 hours||Trek from Tengboche to the small settlement of Dingboche. Today involves another big jump in elevation.|
|Day 7||Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche (4,940 m)||5.5 hours||Trek from Dingboche to the tiny village of Lobuche.|
|Day 8||Trek from Lobuche to Everest Base Camp (5,364 m), then trek back a little way to Gorakshep (5,164 m) for the night||7.5 hours||Trek to EBC and snap 10,000 selfies. Turn around and trek down to Gorakshep for the night.|
|Day 9||Hike up Kala Patthar (5,643 m) from Gorakshep, then trek to Dzongla (4,830 m) for the night||6.5 hours||Hike up Kala Patthar for the best view of Mount Everest. Then trek to Dzongla for the night.|
|Day 10||Cross Cho La Pass (5,420 m) and then descend to Thagna (4,500 m) for the night||7.5 hours||Climb the summit pass of Cho La and descend to Thagna for the night.|
|Day 11||Trek from Thagna to Gokyo||4.5 hours||Trek to the tiny settlement of Gokyo to see beautiful, pristine lakes.|
|Day 12||Hike up Gokyo Peak (5,357 m), visit Machhermo (4,470 m), then return to Gokyo for the night||4.5 hours||Hike up to Gokyo Peak for panoramic views, then visit the small valley village of Machhermo before returning to Gokyo for another night.|
|Day 13||Trek from Machhermo to Namche Bazaar (3,440 m)||4.5 hours||Descend to Namche Bazaar.|
|Day 14||Trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla (2,860 m)||5 hours||Descend to Lukla along the same route as Days 1 and 2.|
|Day 15||Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu (1,400 m)||Fly to Kathmandu. Relive the memories over a lifetime!|
Let’s now look at each day in turn, including some of the natural and cultural highlights along the way. We dare you to remain unexcited as you read on.
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu
Today is simply about arriving in Nepal and getting together as a group. We take care of all your travel once you land in Kathmandu, so you’ll be met at the airport and brought to the hotel in Thamel, a vibey district of Kathmandu. We’ll have dinner together and get to know each other a bit. Then it’s time to rest well, as it’s all go from the moment we land in Lukla tomorrow!
Day 2: Fly to Lukla and trek to Phakding
Today starts with the short flight to Lukla, which you’ll do dressed in your trekking gear, as the moment we land, we’re off on the trail!
Many people picture bare rock and snow when they imagine the Everest Base Camp route. While this is true of the higher portion of the trek, the lower part is quite lush. For the first few days of the trek you’ll be hiking in a temperate zone. You can expect pine, fir and juniper forests as well as rushing rivers, bridges and waterfalls. If you trek in the Everest Base Camp route in summer (April and May), you’ll see the beautiful and iconic rhododendron trees in bloom.
Everest Base Camp animals
Note that you want to keep your eyes open for wildlife during the entire trek. Some of the wild animals to look for are red panda, musk deer, langur monkeys and snow leopard (though the latter is an extremely rare sighting). Also look for birds, such as choughs, the Himalayan monal, and the blood pheasant. Sagarmatha is home to 118 species of birds, so bring your binoculars as there’ll be plenty of spotting to do.
Domesticated animals are also an important component of the Everest Base Camp route. Would it actually be a Himlayan trek if there wasn’t the gentle jangle of yak bells? One can also expect to farmers and herders looking after horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep and even yattle, which are cow-yak hybrids.
Our first night’s destination is the picturesque village of Phakding (2,610 m). The main industry in Phakding is tourism, so there are plenty of teahouses. We’re confident you’ll love Phakding, as it sits in a lush, forested valley alongside the Dudh Khosi river.
Day 3: Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Today we trek for around five to six hours to the town of Namche Bazaar. The hike involves a big jump in elevation of about 800 m. So you’ll be working those calves hard. The trail runs roughly parallel to the Dudh Khosi river for most of the day, and then finally we have a steep climb up to reach our rest stop of Namche Bazaar.
Namche Bazaar sits high on a mountain, overlooking the confluence of two rivers. It’s the largest town in Sagarmatha National Park as well as the entire Khumbu region. But this is, of course, quite relative, as with fewer than a hundred buildings and around 2,000 residents, it’s actually a very small town. Namche is an historic trading hub, and continues to be an important trading post among the Sherpa today. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Saturday, you can visit the weekly market.
It’s very important that we rest in Namche Bazaar for a day to allow our bodies to acclimatise to the high altitude. Remember, Namche is 3,440 m above sea level!
Following Hillary and Norgay’s successful Everest climb, tourism in the Everest region has grown tremendously. Namche’s topography makes it a natural departure point for a few different trekking trails, including the main one to Everest, so the town has grown in prosperity over recent decades. In fact, Namche is one of Nepal’s wealthiest districts, with a higher average income than that of the capital city.
Namche is an exciting place to visit. For starters, there’s Namche Monastery, the Sherpa Culture Museum, Sagarmatha National Park Museum, Lawudo Gompa, and more. It’s also a great base for some fantastic day trips, one of which we do during our acclimatisation day. More about that in just a moment.
Namche offers trekkers their first breaktaking view of the mountain Ama Dablam to the northeast. This mountain keeps trekkers company for much of the Everest Base Camp route. It’s a favourite peak in the Everest region for its striking shape: it looks a little like a mother with outstretched arms. The word ama means ‘mother’ and dablam means ‘necklace’. The mountain’s glacier is somewhat reminiscent of the necklaces worn by Sherpa women.
Day 4: Acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar
Today we live by the adage ‘trek high, sleep low’, as we do a five-hour hike up to Khumjung (3,790 m) and back.
Khumjung is a widely spread valley town. Almost all of the buildings have green or blue roofs, giving it an attractively cohesive look. Drystone walls divide the land into dozens of small fields. In summer, the village and surrounding mountains are covered in green. It would be very appropriate to get excited about visiting Khumjung, as many consider it the prettiest of all the Sherpa villages!
Khumjung is home to the first school started by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust. Speaking on the topic, Hillary said: “Reaching the summit of a mountain gives great satisfaction, but nothing for me has been more rewarding in life than the result of our climb on Everest, when we have devoted ourselves to the welfare of our Sherpa friends.”
One can also visit Khumjung Monastery, a small working Tibetan Buddhist monastery that’s colourfully painted and decorated. The monastery is famous for housing a purported yeti scalp (though you’ll be forgiven if you decide you don’t wish to actually see an ancient, severed scalp).
Khumjung sits at the base of Mt Khumbila (5,761 m). Khumbila is said to be an old god, and its name actually means ‘God of Khumbu’. Most Sherpa people believe the mountain is too sacred to be climbed.
Day 5: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
Today’s trek takes about five hours. You’ll feel the altitude as you climb, but hopefully the acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar has steadied your body enough to cope. We again head up the valley, which involves trekking along forest paths, passing through small traditional villages, crossing some narrow suspension bridges, seeing magnificent snow-capped peaks … just another day on the Everest Base Camp trek!
Tengboche, much like Namche, sits at the meeting point of two valleys. It overlooks the confluence of the Dudh Khosi and Imja Khola rivers. Head northeast out of town and you’re on the main trail to Everest Base Camp; head northwest and you’re heading to Gokyo Ri.
A highlight of stopping at Tengboche is visiting Tengboche Monastery, a working monastery and the largest in the Khumbu region. It’s a relatively new gompa (religious building), having been built in 1916. The large gateway to the monastery is highly impressive, with a mythical creature on a pedestal standing guard to each side. The gompa’s exterior is covered in colourful and ornate decorations and religious symbolism, but nothing can beat the exuberant display of colour on the inside. The monks themselves add to the mix, wearing traditional maroon robes. The monastery is very welcoming of visitors.
Day 6: Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche
Today we hike for five to six hours to reach the village of Dingboche. We hike up out of the valley, leaving Imja Khola river well behind.
Dingboche is a small settlement. It isn’t much of a looker: the buildings are utilitarian, and trees are a distant memory. But the mountains surrounding it are sublime, and Ama Dablam is on your porch.
The area has an alpine climate, and is always cold. Dingboche has an average temperature of just 1° C, and the thermometre doesn’t even crack 10° C at the height of summer. You can expect to feel the altitude keenly every time you exert yourself. Some find it starts to affect the quality of their sleep too. We’re really in the thick of the trek now!
Day 7: Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche
Today we wind our way up a wide valley for five to six hours to reach Lobuche. The terrain in this area is pretty barren.
The settlements grow ever smaller and more modest the higher and further into the Himalayas we climb, and Lobuche is no exception. This far into the mountains we no longer look for cultural and religious gems but are just grateful for a hot meal and a bed to drop onto at night.
Lobuche is particularly busy in spring when porters pass through while transporting supplies to Everest Base Camp in preparation for summiting season in May.
Day 8: Trek from Lobuche to Everest Base Camp, then Gorakshep
Today is a big day: it’s Everest Base Camp day! It’s also one of our longest and toughest days, as we trek for nearly eight hours and for the first time climb above 5,000 m in elevation. Time to strap on some determination.
Everest Base Camp
For most of the year Everest Base Camp is empty, marked just by a sign and a flurry of wind-battered prayer flags. It’s a barren, rocky site, though of course the views in every direction are amazing. If it’s important to you that you see Everest Base Camp when it’s in operation, then you need to do the trek in May. This is when the camp is awash with tents and teems with mountaineers and support staff. It’s exciting to watch people from around the world readying themselves to summit Everest.
After glorying in having reached Everest Base Camp, we turn around and trek back the way we came for a little while to reach the small settlement of Gorakshep. You can expect a cold night whatever the time of year, as shown by the graph below.
Day 9: Hike up Kala Patthar, then trek to Dzongla
Today we hike up Kala Patthar, reaching our highest elevation (5,643 m) along the entire Everest Base Camp route. We then trek to Dzongla for the night. We’ll be on our feet for six to seven hours today.
Kala Patthar means ‘black rock’ in Hindi, Urdu and Nepalese. This black rock near Gorakshep has become an absolute must on the Everest Base Camp route as it offers you your best and closest view of Mt Everest. You don’t actually see Everest from base camp, which is good to know beforehand so you’re not disappointed. Kala Patthar is therefore where it’s at. The climb up Kala Patthar is a steep and tough one, so it’s good that we tackle it first thing in the morning.
After standing in the conqueror pose atop Kala Patthar, we leave the main Everest Base Camp route to trek to the village of Dzongla (4,830 m). This is another small and remote settlement in the vein of blink and you might miss it.
Day 10: Summit Cho La Pass, then head to Thagna
Some might think that having visited Everest Base Camp, the excitement of the trek is mostly over. So wrong. Today’s trek route takes us all the way up to Cho La Pass (5,420 m) for some panoramic views. We then hike down to Thagna (or Thagak) for the night. Today is another very long day: we walk for nearly eight hours, and there are some steep ascents. Hopefully you haven’t eaten all your energy bars just yet.
Cho La Pass
Cho La Pass can be dangerous if you’re unfamiliar with it, which is why it’s vital that one hike it with a trek guide, as we do. The going is steep, and the ground can be rocky, loose and icy, with large boulders along the way. This is arguably the wildest, most formidable part of the entire Everest Base Camp route.
Day 11: Trek from Thagna to Gokyo
Today we trek to the village of Gokyo (4,750 m), and see the beautiful Gokyo Lakes! This is a spectacular day indeed. And after yesterday’s huge effort, it’s a relatively tame trek of just four to five hours.
The Gokyo Lakes are six lakes sitting between 4,700 m and 5,000 m above sea level. The largest lake is Thonak Lake. The Gokyo Lakes are the world’s highest freshwater lake system, and they serve as an important wetland for migratory birds. Depending on when in the year you visit Gokyo, you can look out for ruddy shelducks, known locally as Brahminy ducks. These ducks are some of the most attractive you’ll ever see, being a beautiful mix of tan, white and black. They each have a black ‘choker’ encircling the neck, which makes them easy to identify.
In late spring and summer the lakes are surrounded by green banks and mountains. In autumn there are red shrubs with snow starting to encroach on the lakes’ shores. And in winter, snow lays a white blanket over the entire landscape. The Gokyo Lakes are important to both Hindus and Buddhists. Every year about 500 pilgrims come to the lakes in August to take a dip during Janai Purnima, a sacred festival in Hinduism.
The tiny settlement of Gokyo on the shore of Dudh Pokhari Lake is a popular overnight stop with trekkers. Gokyo receives about 7,000 visitors annually. But it’s a seasonal village, with locals moving in during the warmer months to service tourists, then moving down to milder villages like Namche Bazaar for the colder months.
Day 12: Summit Gokyo Peak, visit Machhermo, then back to Gokyo
Today we head northeast out of Gokyo to summit Gokyo Peak (5,357 m), known locally as Gokyo Ri. Next we head south to visit the village of Machhermo, before returning to Gokyo for another night. We trek for four to five hours, the same as yesterday.
Gokyo Ri and Ngozumpa Glacier
Standing on top of Gokyo Peak you can see four of the world’s 14 peaks reaching above 8,000 m! They are:
- Everest, which at 8,848 m is 237 m taller than the next highest mountain, K2
- Lhotse, which at 8,516 m is the fourth highest mountain
- Makalu, which at 8,485 m is the fifth highest mountain
- Cho Oyu, which at 8,188 m is the sixth highest mountain
Also, to the east of Gokyo Peak is Ngozumpa Glacier, Nepal’s longest glacier.
Standing on Gokyo Peak, you really won’t know which way to look first. Happy problems.
Machhermo and the Dudh Khosi
Machhermo sits in the Dudh Khosi River valley. It’s a small village, and while it’s not much in and of itself, the hike there and back is what makes this excursion incredibly special. We walk along contour paths and witness the Dudh Khosi in its infancy – a brisk, boulder-strewn stream in a steep mountain valley. (Eventually the Dudh Khosi is fed by the waters of the Imja Khola and widens out, flowing through the valley we trekked in our outward journey.)
The views today are truly inspiring, whether decked with snow or covered in grass and shrub. It’s also easy to feel this little neck of the Himalayas is yours entirely, as we’re far from the trekking crowds here.
Day 13: Trek from Gokyo to Namche Bazaar
Today’s trek from Gokyo to Namche Bazaar takes about four to five hours. It’s a very pretty part of the Everest Base Camp route, and we pass through a handful picturesque mountainside villages like Dole along the way.
As the trek is relatively short, we reach Namche in good time, and you might like to visit any of the sites in the town you weren’t able to fit in on the outgoing trek.
Day 14: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Today’s trek takes about five hours. We’ll be on familiar turf here, hiking the same route as Days 1 and 2 in reverse. Having built up you trekking muscles over so many days, as well as descending into more oxygen-rich air, you might feel like you have the strength of a star athlete today.
Day 15: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu
Today we say goodbye to Khumbu and fly to Kathmandu. While it’s a sad day in many ways, our hotel in Kathmandu is ready to comfort us with hot baths and plush towels. At dinner tonight we’ll relive the adventures of the past two weeks.
And that’s it, folks! If you’d like to know anything more about the Everest Base Camp route, or the trek in general, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you. Or if you’re ready to take the plunge, book your spot on the Everest Base Camp trek now!