Top of many people's travel bucket lists, the trek to Everest Base Camp is often the first thing people think about when they start dreaming of a trip to Nepal

The walk takes trekkers past Sherpa villages and Tibetan-style monasteries, right up into the heart of the high Himalaya, into a breathtaking world (literally) of iconic glaciers, lakes and the tallest peaks on earth. It's probably the world's most famous trek.

But what is it actually like to trek to Base Camp? Is it something within your capabilities or budget? What should you bring? And, most importantly, can you get a proper coffee en route? 

I just returned from trekking to Everest Base Camp for Lonely Planet's Nepal guide. Here’s what I think you need to know.

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A couple with trekking poles and backpacks follow a trail through the mountains
Follow in the footsteps of famous mountaineers on your way to EBC © Solovyova / Getty Images

What's so great about the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek anyway?

Firstly, the mountain scenery surrounding the world's highest peak is truly spectacular. The sublime views of Ama Dablam, Pumori, Nuptse and Thamserku peaks are unbeatable and constantly change as you progress along the walk. The Sherpa villages and monasteries are fascinating places to visit and the lodges (called teahouses) are the best in the world. 

The knowledge that you are walking in the expedition footsteps of Hillary, Tenzing, Messner and others is a thrill. Anyone who has read Into Thin Air will be moved by the memorial stupas of Rob Hall, Scott Fischer and others who have lost their lives on the mountain. And then there's the fact that you will have reached the base of the world's highest peak; whether you call it Chomolongma (Tibetan), Sagarmatha (Nepali) or Everest, it’s a rush all the same.

And what’s not so great about the Everest Base Camp trek?

Well, if you force us to play devil's advocate… EBC is one of the busiest trails in Nepal. In the high season months of October and November you'll be walking with thousands of other trekkers, competing with them to get a bed, a lunch order or an airplane seat. There will be lines at checkpoints and even at moments on the trail itself. In bad weather you might be stranded at Lukla airport with hundreds of other trekkers, all trying to get on the first flight out. It's not quite the Zen-like wilderness experience you may have been imagining.

Bear in mind also that even after a solid week of walking, your view of Everest will be partial at best (for infinitely more dramatic Everest views visit the northern Everest Base Camp in Tibet). If you trek outside of May's expedition weather window you won’t actually find much to see at Base Camp beyond a boulder hastily spray-painted with "Everest Base Camp".

If this has put you off, don’t worry; there are dozens of other fantastic treks in Nepal.

Crowds gather outside traditional teahouses (lodgings) on the trail to Everest Base Camp with colorful flags fluttering in the breeze
Lodges along the EBC route are called teahouses © fotoVoyager / Getty Images

How long does it take to trek to Everest Base Camp?

The walk from the airport at Lukla to Everest Base Camp and back takes a minimum of 15 days. Several of the days are surprisingly short, but this is because you have to figure in time to acclimatize to the high altitudes.

If you can, it's definitely worth adding on a couple of extra days to this basic itinerary. Some of the most dramatic (and least visited) views are from detours off the main trail. I always add two days to visit Thame, two days to visit Chhukung and, if possible, three or four days to visit the lakes of the Gokyo Valley – probably the most beautiful scenery in the Everest region.

Be sure to also budget an extra day or two as a transport buffer. Weather-related flight delays in and out of Lukla are not uncommon (I had to wait six days for a flight to Lukla on my recent trip) so you need some buffer time if heading back for an international flight home.

How challenging is the trek to EBC?

In terms of physical effort, the EBC trek itself is not especially tough. There are only a couple of steep climbs, lasting about an hour each, and most days involve less than four hours of walking.

The thing that makes the EBC trek tough is the altitude. Base Camp is at 5600m (18,373ft) and you will need to spend one or two nights above 5000m (16,404ft). Above 4000m (13,123ft) you are going to feel increasingly lethargic and out of breath as the amount of oxygen in the air decreases. Combine this with the cold, the discomfort of being at altitude and the compounded tiredness from walking for two weeks straight, and you can see why the whole trek experience is definitely a physical challenge.

While you don't need to be an athlete to walk to EBC it is still a good idea to start a fitness regime in the weeks leading up to your trek. You'll enjoy the walk so much more if you are in decent shape.

When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?

October and November bring the best weather and the clearest skies but these are also the most popular months. The second most popular season is April to early May, when spring blooms and expedition traffic bring extra interest to the trail. To avoid the crowds but still enjoy clear views, pack an extra thermal layer and come in December or March.

A female trekker stands on a high point looking down towards a mountain settlement
The town of Namche Bazaar is one of the essential stopping points to help avoid altitude sickness © hadynyah / Getty Images

What can I do to avoid altitude sickness?

The majority of people who fail to reach Base Camp do so because they failed to acclimatize properly to the altitude. It's essential not to gain altitude too quickly by following the recommended overnight stops and limiting your daily altitude gain to a maximum of 400m (1312ft) when above 3000m (9843ft).

Be sure to add in acclimatization days at both Namche Bazaar and Dingboche, during which it's a good idea to hike to higher altitudes during the day, returning to sleep lower at night.

What are the teahouses like?

At lower altitudes the Everest lodges are the most comfortable in Nepal. Private rooms are the norm, many of which have private bathrooms. Showers are available at most places, though the hot water supply can be patchy. All have cozy dining rooms with tables arranged around a central dung-fueled stove. There are even a few luxury lodges along the trail.

In budget lodges, or when you get above Dingboche, things get simpler, with rooms offering little more than a collection of plywood walls, a solar light and a foam mattress. Toilets are a mixture of seats and squatters; sometimes outdoors, always freezing. A blanket is normally supplied but be sure to bring a four-season sleeping bag rated to well below 0°C (32°F).

What's the food like?

Menus in teahouses range from pasta and pizza to spring rolls, fried potatoes and soups, though the most popular meal is a daal bhaat, a set Nepali meal of rice, lentil soup and fried vegetables, normally served with a papad and pickle, and with a refill included. It's the most filling and environmentally sustainable meal you can order.

In villages such as Namche Bazaar and Dingboche you will also find bakery-cafes serving espresso and slices of delicious apple pie, plus shops selling everything from Snickers bars to bottles of beer. This is one trek where you might actually gain weight!

Can I get wi-fi or phone coverage?

Most lodges offer wi-fi, either free of charge or for a few dollars per day (at higher elevations). Above Namche Bazaar you will likely have to buy a scratch card, giving you unlimited data for twelve hours (AirCell) or a specific amount of data over a month (Everestlink). Depending on your network provider you'll likely get data and a phone signal at lower elevations, and possibly even at Everest Base Camp, but not at other high altitudes. So yes, in theory, you can Skype all your friends from Base Camp!

What should I bring?

Warm clothes are a must, and you should pack thermal underwear, a down jacket and fleece hat. Comfortable hiking boots and good, padded socks are also essential. Sun block, a sun hat with a brim and good sunglasses are important against the strong high-altitude light. 

Morale-boosting snacks like chocolate and salami are always helpful, as is a book and smartphone with mapping software like Bring water purification of some sort. If you forget something, don’t worry, you can buy almost anything you might want in Namche Bazaar these days (from ice axes to cans of Pringles), though at prices higher than in Kathmandu.

A person, carrying a large loaded basket on their back, heads up a mountain trail with huge snow-covered peaks in the distance
Porters carry around 15kg for about US$20 per day of the trek © yai112 / Getty Images

Do I need a porter and guide?

In terms of finding your way you don't need a guide if you are an experienced walker, as the route is clearly marked and well-trod. A guide can be useful for smoothing your way at teahouses, making sure you get your food on time and helping you pay your bill. It's important not to trek alone, so solo trekkers should find a companion or take a guide or porter.

A porter will carry a bag of around 15kg, freeing you up to pack a few extra chocolate bars and enjoy the walk with little more than a day pack. Not having the strain of carrying a full pack is worth its weight in gold for anyone over the age of 50. Trust me.

How much does the Everest Base Camp trek cost?

For a room in a lodge and three meals a day, figure on US$20–25 per person per day, a bit more if you want a room with a private bathroom and the occasional slice of apple pie. Add on another US$5 every time you want a shower. Figure on an additional US$20 per day for a porter, and US$25–30 for a guide, and budget 10–15% of that fee for an end-of-trip tip.

You'll pay a bit more to have a Kathmandu-based trekking company arrange your entire trek, and a lot more for the convenience and backup of an international trekking tour.

Do I need any permits?

You will need to buy an Everest region permit (US$20) at Lukla, as well as a Sagarmatha National Park entry ticket (US$30) at Monjo. Currently that's all you need.

How can I trek more sustainably?

With 60,000 trekkers and guides headed to the Everest region, it’s important to minimize your impact on the region. Firstly, don't buy bottled water on the trek, as the bottles are nonrecyclable and are a huge problem throughout the region. Bring a system of water purification, like a Lifestraw or Sawyer filter, a Steripen or chemical purification.

Secondly, carry all your trash out (especially batteries), and sign up for the Carry Me Back program, whereby you carry a 1kg bag of trash from Namche Bazaar to Lukla, for it to be recycled in Kathmandu.

Finally, be polite to the Sherpas and porters you meet en route, as well as your fellow trekkers. Walk clockwise around stupas and be respectful at monasteries and shrines.

How do I get to Lukla to start the trek?

Flights run multiple times daily between Kathmandu and Lukla, taking around 30 minutes. During high season however you may have to drive five hours from Kathmandu to Ramechhap airport to catch your Lukla flight there.

It's also possible to fly or drive to Phaplu and walk two days to Lukla from there, or walk from Shivalaya to Lukla in seven days as an excellent pre-trek warm-up.

This article was first published Jan 14, 2013 and updated Jun 20, 2023.

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