Planning Your Visit to Everest Base Camp
Although we often talk about Everest Base Camp (EBC) as if it were a single place, there are actually four base camps: one in Nepal on the southern side of the mountain, and three in Tibet on the northern side. So, figuring out how long it takes to get to EBC depends entirely on where you want to go, and how.
Traveling to the Tibetan side of Everest is a totally different experience from traveling to the Nepali side. In Nepal, you generally have to trek, as there are no vehicle roads that reach that far into the mountains. Some travelers choose to take a helicopter tour to Base Camp, instead of trekking.
Read more about the different approaches to EBC in the following article: Everest Base Camp: Nepal or Tibet?
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Everest Base Camp from Tibet
Duration: At least two days from Lhasa
In Tibet, there are two base camps on the North Col climbing route: 'Everest Base Camp' and 'Advanced Base Camp'. In the Kangshung Valley, beneath Everest's sheer east face, is the rarely used third base camp. In Tibet, most travelers reach EBC by comfortable private vehicle, as well-made roads reach almost the whole way there.
From Lhasa, the main EBC near Rombuk is a two-three day drive, although most travelers stop at several places en route, such as Gyantse, Shigatse, and/or Sakya. The roads are very good (perhaps surprisingly so if you've been traveling in Nepal), so the journey is quite comfortable. However, if you suffer from car sickness or have an altitude-induced headache, the journey may not be so comfortable. You'll probably find the views worth any discomfort, though.
The last settlement before Everest is Rombuk, which isn't much more than a couple of very basic guesthouses and a monastery. From there, a mostly unpaved road leads the last couple of miles to EBC. You can drive all the way up to EBC if you like, although many travelers choose to walk the last mile or so beyond the parking lot. This can be quite challenging as the air is very thin at 17,056 feet, and if you've come overland in a vehicle you're unlikely to be well acclimatized to the the altitude.
Various routes to EBC in Tibet are possible, but a straightforward overland journey from Lhasa looks like this (after a couple of acclimatization days in Lhasa first):
Day 1: Lhasa to Gyantse
Day 2: Gyantse to the Qomolangma National Park, via Sakya
Day 3: Qomolangma National Park to Rombuk (EBC)
Day 4: Rombuk to Shigatse
Day 5: Shigatse to Lhasa
On Foot from Tingri
Duration: 5 days
It's much less common to trek to EBC on the Tibet side than it is from Nepal, as there isn't the same extensive infrastructure. Plus, the altitudes are very high, requiring good acclimatization in Lhasa and other places en route before you even start. It should only be attempted by experienced trekkers. But, trekking to EBC in Tibet is possible.
The most common starting point is from Tingri, from which it's a 43-mile trek to EBC. Accommodation is in tents or basic village guesthouses. A standard trek to EBC in Tibet looks like this:
Day 1: Old Tingri to Lungthang
Day 2: Lungthang to Lamna La
Day 3: Lamna La to Zommug
Day 4: Zommug to Rombuk
Day 5: Rombuk to EBC
An alternative trekking route is between Rombuk/EBC and Advanced Base Camp (21,325 feet), which is just 17 miles but takes five days. This is said to be the highest trekking trail in the world, which is a good indication of the level of care that should be taken.
Everest Base Camp from Nepal
Nepal is a more popular gateway to EBC partly because it's easier to access. If you're very short on time, it's also possible to make a quick half-day trip to EBC from Kathmandu, if your budget allows.
Unlike in Tibet, it's not possible to drive to EBC in Nepal as the nearest road ends just past Phaplu, many days' walk away. Most travelers fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, and then trek from there. Many route options are possible. Read more about getting from Kathmandu to Lukla in the following article: How to Get from Kathmandu to Lukla
Classic Everest Base Camp Trek
Duration: 8 days of trekking from Lukla to EBC (including rest days)
The EBC trek is the most popular trek in Nepal as the lure of the tallest mountain on earth is strong. Most trekkers start at Lukla and trek through the small settlements of Phakding, Namche Bazaar (the biggest 'town' in the region), Tengboche, Dingboche, and Lobuche, before returning the same way. It's standard to take at least one acclimatization day in Namche, and another in Dingboche. (Find out more about what to do on your rest day in Namche in the following article: 5 Things to Do During Your Acclimatization Stop in Namche Bazaar).
Read more about the classic EBC trek here: Everest Base Camp - 16 Days
Alternate Trekking Routes
Duration: 13-21 days of trekking (including rest days)
The above-mentioned EBC trek is very popular, and during peak season (spring and autumn) the trails and accommodation can get very crowded. Trekkers who want to see or visit EBC while avoiding the thickest crowds can opt for an alternative route. These add a couple to a few extra days on to the standard EBC itinerary.
- The Pioneers' Route from Jiri adds several days onto the EBC trek, but very few people take this route these days. It's so-called because it was the trail that pioneering mountaineers like Sir Edmund Hillary took to reach Lukla before the airport was built in the 1960s.
- The Three Passes Trek is a challenging high-altitude trek in the Everest region that crosses three very high passes, best suited to fit and experienced trekkers.
- The Gokyo Lakes Trek skirts EBC and continues on to the beautiful glacial Gokyo Lakes, the highest freshwater lake system in the world.
- The Arun Valley Trek passes through the remote Makalu Barun National Park before joining the EBC route in the Sagarmatha National Park.
Duration: Half a day
Travelers who have a generous budget but who lack the time or physical ability to trek to EBC can take a helicopter tour from Kathmandu. These are a spectacular way to experience the mountainous landscape of the Sagarmatha National Park, and it's especially beautiful to see the progression from inhabited farmland in the hills to tundra to barren rocky land at the foot of the world's tallest mountains.
Helicopter tours usually stop once in Lukla, and then again somewhere else for breakfast with a view. You may not actually stop at EBC itself, as this isn't always possible, and the sharp increase in altitude would be uncomfortable for most people anyway. But you'll get excellent views. Tours return to Kathmandu by the afternoon.
It's also possible to shorten a trek to EBC by incorporating a helicopter drop-off or pick-up. This offers the best of both worlds, for travelers who may want to trek but don't have the time for the full round-trip. Check out the following article for more details: Luxury Everest Heli Trek - 4 Days