Trekking to Everest Base Camp is the classic way to get up-close-and-personal with the world's tallest peak. But there's another way to go that's quicker, cheaper, and less exhausting: hop aboard a plane or helicopter. Here's how to do it, and what to expect.

Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is Nepal's most famous attraction. But it's not easily accessible, as some travelers learn the hard way. In short, there's no paved vehicular road leading there (as there is on the other side, in Tibet). By land, you can only reach it by trekking several days from Lukla—a town that you'd likely reach by plane from Kathmandu. 

There's an alternative for travelers who want to see Everest but can't (or won't) trek all the way there. Consider taking a scenic flight to get as close to the mountain as you can, taking in breathtaking views from the comfort of a plane or helicopter. These trips are usually much cheaper and quicker than hiking, and of course, they require considerably less effort than trekking to Everest Base Camp.

By Plane

Views of the Himalaya from the plane
Views of the Himalaya from the plane

This is the most affordable and common type of flight tour to Everest. The planes are small, seating 15-20 passengers and depart at 6:30 in the morning. The journey takes about an hour. Everyone gets a window seat, so everybody on board gets to face optimal mountain views, either on the flight out or the flight back. Some companies make the excursion extra festive, serving sparkling wine onboard and offering souvenir certificates at the end. You might also get a chance to visit the cockpit, where you can greet the pilots and enjoy views from the front of the plane.

Keep in mind that mountain flights can often be canceled when the weather is poor, so be aware that you may wake up early and get to the airport only to discover that you'll need to reschedule or request a refund. Also, airplane flights don't actually get that close to Everest itself, which is partly a safety issue. But if the weather is good, you'll see Everest clearly in the mid-distance as you approach the mountainous region from the southwest.

By Helicopter

A helicopter in the Everest region

Helicopter flights seat four to five passengers and usually last the entire morning. Flights actually include a stop near Everest, at Kala Patthar (18,192 feet), for once-in-a-lifetime photo ops. You can't stop for long, however, because the rapid increase in altitude from Kathmandu (4,593 feet) to Kala Patthar could be dangerous if you linger. A breakfast stop at Syangboche (12,303 feet) is usually included, as is a refueling stop at Lukla.

Most travelers find a helicopter flight much more spectacular and rewarding than an airplane flight. Of course, there's a price tag to match. The cost of helicopter flights varies depending on how many people are on the flight. Generally speaking, the cost of chartering a whole helicopter is around US$5,000—if you divide that between five people, you're looking at around $1000 each. Note that you can't buy tickets through the airlines that fly the helicopters: you'll have to go through a travel agency, as helicopters run on a charter basis.

Plane vs Helicopter

  Plane Helicopter
Price $140-200 USD Approx. $1000 USD
Duration 1 hour Half day
What's included Cockpit visit, glass of champagne, certificate Breakfast stop, short photo stop at Kala Patthar, refueling stop at Lukla

Keep in mind: Flight prices often change without prior notice according to the current cost of fuel in Nepal.

Full List of Peaks You'll See

  • Everest (8848 m)
  • Lhotse ( 8516 m)
  • Makalu (8463 m)
  • Cho-Oyo (8201 m)
  • Shisha Pangma (8013 m)
  • Nuptse (7855 m)
  • Gyachung Kang (7652 m)
  • Chamlang (7319 m)
  • Langtang Lirung (7234 m)
  • Melungtse (7181 m)
  • Pumori (7161 m)
  • Gauri Shankar (7134 m)
  • Dorje – Lakpa (6966 m)
  • Numbur (6957 m)
  • Ama Dablam (6812 m)
  • Phurbi – Ghyachu (6637 m)
  • Pigferago (6620 m)
  • Karyolung (6511 m)
  • Chugimago (6297 m)
  • Choba -Bhamre (5970 m)