The Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek is Nepal's most famous (and most popular) adventure. There is no vehicle road leading to the foot of the world's tallest mountain. Most travelers fly from Kathmandu to the small mountain village of Lukla and then hike for eight days, with an acclimatization stop in Namche Bazaar. With a generous budget, you can also opt to take a helicopter straight there from Kathmandu.
A journey to EBC typically starts with a flight from Kathmandu Airport to Lukla, but as of this writing, the Kathmandu airport is undergoing lengthy renovations. Flights to Lukla are being re-routed from Ramchhap Airport in Manthali, a 4-5 hour drive from Kathmandu. Nine flights operate daily, between 6 am and 10:30 am. You can either drive to Manthali the day before your trek and spend the night (keep in mind that accommodations are basic) or you can leave Kathmandu at midnight on the same day. For those with more money than time, it's still possible to take a helicopter from Kathmandu to Lukla.
By Plane and Trekking
Duration: 30-minute flight, 8 days trekking (including acclimatization days, not including return trek)
The first leg of the journey to EBC involves getting to Lukla, 85 miles (138 kilometers) east of Kathmandu. Most travelers make the trip by plane. It's a very scenic 30-minute flight as you approach the mountains. The Tenzing-Hillary Airport is infamous as the runway is short and there are no fly-around options here, making it a potentially dangerous flight, but in reality, the vast majority of flights arrive and leave from there without a problem. Weather-related delays are very common though, so build some buffer days into your itinerary in the Everest region to account for setbacks.
After arriving in Lukla, most travelers spend about eight days trekking to EBC. The trail rises steadily in altitude, from the 9383 feet (2860 meters) of Lukla to the 17,600 feet (5380 meters) of EBC. Some days require more walking than others, but it's essential to pace yourself properly so you don't increase too rapidly in altitude and thus risk altitude sickness.
The trail passes alongside the Dudh Kosi River, over high suspension bridges, past Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, stupas, and mani walls, through forest, and across the drier, rockier high-altitude landscape as you reach EBC itself. Nights will be spent in trekking lodges (called teahouses in Nepal) of varying levels of comfort, depending on your preferences and budget!
Notable stops along the way to EBC include the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar, Tengboche with its important monastery, and Kala Patthar peak, with its sweeping views of Everest and friends.
Aside from the standard, popular EBC trek, there are some alternative routes that approach from a different direction, or take detours into side valleys. The Three Passes Trek and Arun Valley to Everest Base Camp Trek are two great options.
By Road and Trekking
Duration: 1 day of road travel, 12-14 days trekking (not including return journey from EBC)
Although this option is much less common than flying, it's also possible to get to EBC by a combination of road travel and trekking, avoiding the flight to Lukla. From Kathmandu, take a private jeep to the towns of Jiri or Phaplu, both of which are about a day's travel from the capital. It's also possible to fly to Phaplu from Kathmandu. From Jiri or Phaplu, trek through the Solukumbhu region to Lukla, and then onwards to EBC. The trek from Phaplu to Lukla takes three days, while from Jiri it takes five.
The trek from Jiri is called the “Pioneers’ Route” because it’s how pioneering mountaineers used to reach Lukla before the airport was constructed in the 1960s. These trails hardly see any visitors these days. Although these treks add extra days to the EBC trek, this might suit travelers who are not short on time and would like to see a relatively untouristed trekking trail in the Everest region.
Duration: 1 hour/1 day tour
Travelers with a generous budget but lacking the time or physical ability to trek to EBC may enjoy traveling there by helicopter. Day tours can be arranged, which leave from the domestic terminal of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport, and arrive in Lukla less than an hour later. Tours then continue on to EBC, sometimes stopping but not always, as it's dependent on the conditions. It's common to stop for breakfast or lunch at a scenic spot on the way back, before returning to Kathmandu. These tours aren't cheap, but if you can gather a small group and divide the costs, they may be more affordable than you think. And, they're certainly an unforgettable experience.
It's also possible to combine helicopter travel with trekking. This cuts down on the trekking time while still giving you the best of two different and incredible experiences. Find out more here: Luxury Everest Heli Trek - 4 Days.