Part of the Everest Base Camp trek trail with prayer flags and a gompa on a sunny day

The 4 different Everest Base Camp routes

Oct 31, 2022
Reading time: 10 minutes

You can trek to and from Everest Base Camp via a handful of different routes. You can also catch a helicopter ride back from base camp. We describe the different Everest Base Camp routes (and the pros of each) to help you decide which is for you!

The Everest Base Camp trek is a truly exhilarating and once-in-a-lifetime experience. The few different routes that you can choose from all take you deep into the Himalayas, where you enjoy fantastic views of Mount Everest as well as some of the world’s other mighty peaks.

Not only do you come into close proximity with some of the world's highest and most famous mountains on the Everest Base Camp trek, 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?
  • How high do you trek?

We answer all of these questions and more, so please read on!

 

 

The four different EBC trek routes

Here are the four most common routes that you can take to and from Everest Base Camp ...

1. Everest Base Camp classic trek

The classic or traditional Everest Base Camp route involves trekking along a trail that is 65 km (40 mile) from the town of Lukla to Everest Base Camp. You then retrace your steps on the return journey. So the total trek distance is 130 km.

Everest and Lhotse

Everest and Lhotse

Most of the trek takes place within Sagarmatha National Park. This is a region where the famous Sherpa people live and the villages and towns you visit and stay in belong to the Sherpa.

The route starts in a lush, forested and beautiful area and then ascends into a dry and unforgiving rain shadow area.

The route starts in a lush, forested and beautiful area and then ascends into a dry and unforgiving rain shadow area.

2. EBC trek via Gokyo Lakes

The Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes route is a popular alternative to the classic Everest Base camp route. It involves trekking the usual route to Everest Base Camp, but 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.
Gokyo Lake Everest Base Camp trek

Tonak Pokhari, one of the Gokyo Lakes, is a glorious sight in any season. The settlement of Gokyo where we spend two nights can be seen on the far shore.

We tell you more about this trek route in a moment, but first, let’s look outline the helicopter option ...

3. EBC and Three Passes

The Everest Base Camp and Three Passes trek sees you do a big loop through the Himalayas, stopping to visit Everest Base Camp en route. The three mountain passes make this the toughest of the EBC trek routes, as you have climb to high elevations on multiple occasions, and must navigate tricky landscapes that include snow and scree. Snow shoes are good idea.

The three mountain passes that you climb and descend on the trek route are:

  • Kongma La (5,535m / 18,154ft)
  • Cho La (5,420 m / 17,782 ft)
  • Renjo La (5,360 m / 17,560 ft)
View of Everest from Renjo La

View of Everest from Renjo La

From these three passes you enjoy views of Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse, Ngozumpa and Khumbu glaciers, and Gokyo Lakes. And you actually climb higher on this trek than on the classic Everest Base Camp, because Konga La is roughly 200 metres higher than Everest Base Camp!

This is an exhilarating trek into some of the wildest and quietest corners of Sagarmatha National Park. And if offers the very best views of all the different EBC trek routes!

4. EBC trek with a helicopter return

There is the option of trekking to Everest Base Camp along the classic 65 k route and then hopping in a helicopter for a breathtaking ride back to Lukla (the starting point of the trek route). This option has three main advantages:

  • You don't need to find as many days to have the adventure of a lifetime!
  • You avoid the possibility of trekker fatigue by shortening the time on the trail, whilst still reaching a famous landmark.
  • You got to view Everest, other famous peaks, renowned glaciers and the incredible scenery from the truly memorable vantage point of up in the sky!
EBC trek FA group helicopter

A Follow Alice trek group after their flight back to Lukla

 

There would be a youtube video here.

Sadly, the youtube player requires cookies to work.

 

How many days is the trek?

The Everest Base Camp trek takes anywhere between eight and 13 days depending on the route that you choose. This is the number of days that you're actually on the trail. And while we've outlined below what we feel are the ideal number of days per route, it's very doable for us to customise the trip to include more days. 🤓

Two trekkers and their Nepali guide on the Everest Base Camp trek route

There's plenty of time to get to know your crew and fellow trekkers really well!

Let's now look at the four most popular trek routes and the duration of each ...

1. Classic EBC route

The Everest Base Camp trek is 65 km each way when you walk the most direct route. This is the traditional – or classic – trek route.

The shortest possible Everest Base Camp route is 65 km (40 miles) each way. So that's 130 km (80 miles) in total.

This route usually requires you to be on the trail for 12 days. We say "on the trail for 12 days" and not "trek for 12 days", as we're including an important acclimatisation day on the ascent. You can learn more about this important topic by reading Acclimatisation and the Everest Base Camp trek.

EBC trek Nepal suspension bridge route prayer flags packhorse forest, Dennis and Antonia pic cropped

Walking along the classic EBC trek route

When you factor in the time needed to travel to the trailhead from Kathmandu and then back again, you need a total of 17 days for this trip.

Important note

Please note that we're allowing for a sightseeing day in Kathmandu at the end of the trip in this total day count. And we do this for all of our Everest Base Camp itineraries.

Not only is it great to explore the vibrant and historic city Kathmandu, but this extra day provides invaluable wriggle room should you be delayed by a day when flying out of the Everest region due to bad weather. Aircraft is regularly grounded in the Himalayas because of bad weather, and we don't want anyone missing their international flight because of such a delay.

2. EBC via the Gokyo Lakes

There are, however, variations to this classic EBC trek route, a common one being the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Lakes. This is a longer trek, as you hike to base camp on the classic route, but then take a detour on the return journey.

You're on the trail for 13 days on this trek. And when you factor in the time needed to travel there and back from Kathmandu, the entire trip requires a commitment of 18 days.

Pur. Aerial view of Sherpa village Gokyo (4,860 m)

The small lakeside village of Gokyo

3. EBC and Three Passes

You can also opt for the famous Everest Base Camp and Three Passes route. This is the toughest route, and also the longest – you're on the trail for 15 days. We include two acclimatisation days on this trek. However, there are fantastic day hikes that you can do on each day, so they don't need to be idle days if you don't want them to be.

When you factor in travel times to and from Kathmandu, this trip requires 20 days in total.

4. EBC with helicopter return

Finally, there's our very popular EBC trek and helicopter itinerary. Here, you trek the shortest route to EBC, then fly back to the starting point. You're on the trail for just 8 days with this itinerary.

When you include travel times to and from the trailhead, this trip requires 13 days in total.

EBC trek FA group helicopter

The relief of a helicopter ride for tired EBC trekkers!

An EBC trek with a helicopter return is ideal for those who want a shorter adventure.

A note about acclimatisation ...

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.

You need to have at least one acclimatisation day on the classic EBC trek. This is usually taken in Namche Bazaar, as you make a big jump in altitude to reach it that day. On the EBC and Three Passes trek, we recommend including two acclimatisation days, as you go even higher on this trek.

These acclimatisation days are included in our proposed itineraries.

 

There would be a youtube video here.

Sadly, the youtube player requires cookies to work.

 

How hard is the trek?

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?)

Way to Kala Patthar sign EBC trek Nepal

The climb up Kala Patthar is a particularly tiring stint of any EBC trek

The classic route with a helicopter return is a much more manageable route than the Gokyo Lakes or Three Passes routes. The latter require you to trek for many more days, and so we recommend those only for the fitter traveller.

If you’re relatively healthy, you can most definitely set your sights on hiking the Everest Base Camp trek.

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.

That said, we do recommend packing detachable crampons for the EBC and Three Passes route, just in case.

To learn more about what you'll need, read our blog post Everest Base Camp packing list. You might also like to download our packing checklist PDF on offer below.

 

 

Altitude makes everything harder

Finally, we also want to point out that the trek route can be tough in terms of its altitude. While you might easily hike the same distance and duration at lower elevation, things are much tougher at such high altitude, where you must exert yourself much more to achieve the same output. You also often feel a bit wonky at high altitude. Common altitude symptoms include headaches, nausea and sleeplessness. It's better to know this going into the trek, since forewarned is forearmed.

We discuss this topic further in How hard is Everest Base Camp?

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!

Contact

+44 20 3289 2088

+1 (785) 859-4930

travel@followalice.com

Chat to us

 

Follow Alice Ltd

207 Regent Street

London, W1B 3HH

United Kingdom

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

PO Box 1923, Moshi

Tanzania

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD is registered in Tanzania and holds all the necessary licences to run Kilimanjaro climbs and safaris.

 

Our Credentials

Follow Alice is rated 5/5 stars across all major platforms

We are an approved partner company with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project

 

 

International Mountain Explorers Connection – IMEC – Partner for Responsible Travel Program.

 

 

Copyright Follow Alice LTD. 2021, registration number 10374382 (England & Wales)