Our Everest Itinerary
We spent 14 days hiking from Phaplu to Everest Base Camp, and another five days getting back to the airport at Lukla. Below is a breakdown of the itinerary we trekked, which will give you an idea of the overall route.
If you fly into Lukla, the route above Namche will be the same, but how you break up your trek and how long it takes you to cover ground varies widely between trekkers.
It might be impacted by the time of year that you trek, how long you wait behind ponies and yaks, your health and fitness, and the pace of your group (especially if, like us, you are holding the hand of a six-year-old child).
Our trekking times are a guide only; if you walk fast and alone, you can easily shave time off those listed below.
Another irregularity occurs in the altitude of towns recorded on different maps and guidebooks. We’ve based ours on Lonely Planet, mainly because lots of trekkers use their online notes.
Day 1: Phaplu to Trakshindu (3070m)
The wide, as yet unpaved road out of Phaplu makes for a fairly easy start, rising and dipping gradually all the way to Ringmo, about three hours away.
We stopped halfway to rest our first-day legs over noodle soup packed with fresh garden vegetables and sweet milky tea, then pushed onto Ringmo where we joined the trail from Jiri.
Climbing beyond Ringmo we avoided the road and tackled the much steeper path through blooming rhododendron forest all the way to the pass above Trakshindu (about 1.5 hours). The ancient beehive-shaped stupa below the pass was incredible, don’t miss it!
From the pass we dropped down 15 minutes to Trakshindu where a cluster of trekker lodges surrounds the sprawling monastery.
While we didn’t make a great choice of room here (we stayed at Mountain View Lodge), the lightning storm overnight was brilliant.
Our trekking time: 5 1/4 hours
Day 2: Trakshindu to Jubing (1680m)
This day was a total knee-cruncher: almost 1400 metres descent from the pass to the Dudh Koshi river and up the other side to Jubing. Donkey trains had really ploughed up the trail which shortcuts the newly-cleared road around agricultural plots.
Sloshing through their excrement was almost as disgusting as the stench in the hot, hot sun! We spent four hours just getting to the river.
We checked out most of Jubing’s spread out lodges and threw down our packs in the cleanest which had a nice little garden to enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine.
Our trekking time: 5 hours
Day 3: Jubing to Khari (2840m)
An early uphill start to the pass where we climbed to Pema Namding Ghompa to sit and reflect over salty cups of Tibetan butter tea served by a smiley 11-year-old monk.
He offered us delicious pastries and prawn crackers too in a bright, colourful ghompa and the experience kick-started our day!
Full of tea we ambled downhill through Khari Kola to the river and over the bridge to begin the steep, hour-long climb to Bupsa for lunch.
There was lots of waiting for donkey trains to pass en route and some patient walking on slippery trails ripped up by their hooves.
The trail beyond Bupsa climbs around the side of the valley, sometimes steep and meandering, to reach Khari after about an hour. Looming storm clouds meant we stopped trekking early and no sooner had we downed our packs, hailstones began to rain down.
We snuggled in with tea at Chamling Hotel and fell asleep to the jingling of donkey bells, corralled just across the trail.
Our trekking time: 4 1/5 hours
Day 4: Khari to Surkhe (2290m)
This was one of our longest days, not only because there was a lot of distance to cover, but because we spent most of the day trying to overtake hundreds of donkeys as they inched along the skinny, precarious path carved into the side of the hill.
It was a less than enjoyable experience, slopping and slipping through donkey excrement, trying to wriggle our way around beast after beast because they were far too many of them on the trail just to stand behind them and wait for the trail to clear.
Sadly, although it was no surprise to us, one of the donkeys lost its footing and fell to a terrible death over the mountainside.
We finally pushed our way through and around them and reached a sunny courtyard in Paiya for omelette chapattis and fragrant milk tea.
Time on the trail improved beyond Paiya and we enjoyed the gently curving trail to Chutok La, and then hiked up and down to the river at Surkhe.
If you overnight here, try the first lodge on your right before you cross the bridge.
Our trekking time: 6 1/2 hours
Day 5: Surkhe to Benkar (2710m)
Today’s long, easy and mostly effortless walk was a real change from yesterday and entirely enjoyable.
The climb above Surkhe to the junction started steeply, and then meandered to Mushe, a gorgeous village where long Mani walls divide the trail full of prayer wheels to spin.
We spent a lovely hour in a sunny courtyard, sipping tea while our daughter played with a local girl who slipped her sweets for the trail.
An easy climb through Mushe and suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of freshly laundered trekkers from Lukla.
Blending into the flow and enjoying the wide, neatly paved pathway, we chatted our way to Phakding and kept on going, nibbling on fat samosas as we walked the steeper, airier trail beside the Dudh Koshi to Benkar.
Here we checked out a pair of lodges and came back to the Everest Mini Guesthouse at the southern entrance to the village.
The owners were lovely, the food was generous and best of all, there were new, real doonas and thick fresh mattresses.
We sipped tea on a terrace edged with flowerpots and slept so well! In the morning we bought a freshly baked loaf of bread (500rp) and devoured it with boiled eggs in a sunny picnic spot down by the river.
Our trekking time: 6 1/4 hours
Day 6: Benkar to Namche Bazaar (3440m)
A pleasant stroll beside the river leads through Monjo after which you pass through the national park’s checkpoint where you have to show (or pay for) an entry permit (3390rp per person).
We bought ours here without hassle and pushed down the hill to Jorsale and continued up the valley.
The final steep, switchbacking climb to Namche Bazaar is the last challenge of the day and takes around two hours.
After spending so many days on the trail, I felt my new-found fitness kick in on this uphill slog, while friends fresh off the plane were still finding their groove. Despite not enjoying some of the trek from Phaplu,
I was pretty grateful for the warm-up it gave me once I started the gruelling climb up to Namche.
Our trekking time: 6 1/4 hours
Day 7: Acclimatisation Day in Namche Bazaar
Day 8: Namche Bazaar to Debuche (3820m)
Leaving Namche from the top of the town, the broad, gentle trail that skirts the hillside high above the Dudh Kosi provides an easy start to the journey.
Buzzed by early morning helicopters, we strolled through a promenade of pale purple rhododendrons and wandered down to the river, passing wildly panting trekkers ending their trips on the steep, uphill climb.
Across the river, past a row of old water-driven prayer wheels, it was own turn to pant and the stiff, switchbacking trail takes two solid hours to tackle, topping out in Tengboche where a stunning monastery dominates the saddle, surrounded by four trekker lodges.
The two largest are favoured by (noisy) tour groups and the two cheapies have thin walls and cramped rooms, so we sauntered down to Debuche, 20 minutes on for some breathing space at a lodge offering us a free room for the night.
The attraction at Debuche for us was an early morning visit to the tiny ghompa where we shared prayer time with chanting Buddhist nuns, sitting cross-legged amidst flickering butter candles and sipping steaming mugs of sweet milky tea to the chiming of bells.
The kindly nuns treated our daughter with chocolate and gave us one of the most precious memories of our entire journey!
Our trekking time: 5 hours
Day 9: Debuche to Pheriche (4240m)
Floating after our morning of prayer, the day began gently enough, drifting downhill to cross a high suspension bridge to Pangboche for a sunny noodle lunch in a local teashop.
Beyond though, a tiring, undulating trail pushed through to Shomare and veered left to climb a high saddle, dropping down the other side to reach Pheriche.
This misty, windy town is a good choice for those keen to maintain a 300 metre climb in altitude per day, but many trekkers opt for nearby Dingboche, 120m higher and just over the hill.
Whichever you choose, there are two nights to spend at this altitude to aid acclimatisation.
Our trekking time: 4 1/2 hours
Day 10: Acclimatisation Day – Pheriche to Dingboche (4360m)
We choose to move to Dingboche for our acclimatisation day. Doing so meant we had a more reasonable climb in altitude to tackle the following day to Dughla.
In Dingboche we scored another free room with our own toilet attached (a mixed blessing as it turns out in Nepal where plumbing is not as air-tight as you might hope).
Prices at the Summit Hotel were steep and food portions meagre, but I can recommend the cheese pizza and the milky sweet tea.
There are lots of tempting bakeries in Dingboche that will charge your phone for free while you sip espresso and nibble on rich chocolate brownies and pastries (win-win).
Our trekking time: 30 minutes
Day 11: Dingboche to Thukla (Dughla) 4620m
Beyond Dingboche, the recommended daily increase in altitude is just 300 metres, but most people skip a night at Thukla and hike onto Lobuche where a lot of acclimatisation problems arise: sleeplessness, breathlessness, headaches, nausea and worse. Helicopter evacuations are not uncommon from Lobuche.
With a child in our trio we were happy to stop early at Thukla after a pleasant, easy stroll above the Lobuche Khola and enjoy time out in the sunny courtyard with a big pot of tea and our books.
There are just two places to stay in Thukla – an indication of how few trekkers stay there – and the lower one has a cheaper menu and a nice warm heater at night.
Our trekking time: 2 hours
Day 12: Thukla to Lobuche (4930m)
From Thukla, a steep, hour-long climb tops out in a saddle studded with stone memorials to fallen Everest climbers that sets a sobering pace for the rest of the morning.
There are exceptional views back down the valley, and beyond we spotted snow cocks camouflaged amongst the rocks en route to Lobuche.
Lobuche is the only place on the route that sets a standard room price (500rp), sometimes collected at a ticket booth at the entrance to the village, or in your lodge itself.
There’s little point bargaining for a free room here, but do look around because some lodges offer more for the money and menu prices vary quite a bit.
Lobuche is the place where many trekkers start experiencing AMS symptoms, especially if they have skipped a night a Thukla.
Our daughter Maya had a headache on arrival, but slept if off and was soon up for dinner and cards.
It may not be the nicest village to spend extra time, but if you feel unwell, sit tight or drop back down the valley to Dingboche for a night.
Our trekking time: 2 1/2 hours
Day 13: Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5160m)
The easy trail up the valley finally turns tricky as you climb up onto the Changri Shar Glacier and begin to rockhop across it into Gorak Shep.
Here I checked out three lodges and found the Himalayan Lodge on the left to be the friendliest. As a bonus they offered us free charging or a free room, so we dropped our packs and ordered hot tea.
Most trekkers spend the afternoon trekking to Everest Base Camp or Kala Pattar, but we were keen to experience both in the clear morning light (afternoons were misty in May), so we relaxed and let our child snooze.
Our trekking time: 3 1/2 hours
Day 14: Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp (5340m)
Our morning walk to EBC was tougher than expected, following the Khumbu Glacier up the valley before climbing a ridge and dropping down to base camp.
The multi-coloured tent city, the choppers flying overhead, the gleaming blue Khumbu Icefall, wildly flapping prayer flags: all of it was as intoxicating as finally realising that the only ground left to cover was all downhill.
Our trekking time: 5 1/2 hours
The Return Trip: Gorak Shep to Lukla
After EBC there’s a side trip up Kala Pattar to revel in perfect Everest views and absorb one of the world’s most incredible mountain scenes before you are forced to turn around.
Getting back to Namche takes two long or three more leisurely days. We made stops at Pheriche and Tengboche en route, and after Namche split the trek to Lukla over two days.
For many though, it’s just a long day’s walk to Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu, but if there’s more miles in your tank, the trip from Namche all the way to Phaplu takes about four days where you can bus or jeep back to the big smoke.
If you plan to fly out of Lukla, make sure you have loose plans at the other end because flights are routinely delayed or cancelled, forcing trekkers to charter pricey helicopter flights to get back urgently to Kathmandu.
On our recent trip, heli flights to the city were in high demand and in the thick of plane flight cancellations, heli prices jackpotted to US$800 a seat!
What did we pack?
We carried our own backpacks so to offset the excess of work gear we had on board (two laptops, camera gear, batteries, chargers, hard drives, cables, adapter plugs and phones), we tried hard to pack light. David and I split the gear to allow our six-year-old daughter Maya to walk free. This is what we had in our packs:
- Waterproof backpack liners
- 3 sleeping bags
- Down jackets
- 1 set of t-shirt/shorts each
- 1 pair of long pants (or leggings) & a long shirt each
- 1 thermal top & thermal pants each
- Fleece pants for Maya
- Lightweight boots (sneakers for Maya)
- Trekking poles (for me), a monopod trekking pole (David)
- Shower thongs (flip flops)
- 1 quick-dry towel (to share)
- 1 head torch
- 1 beanie & hat each
- 2 pairs of socks each
- Sunscreen & sunglasses each
- 1 first aid kit
- Basic toiletries (including hand sanitiser)
- 3 water bottles
- Maya’s toys: pens, pencils, colouring cards and a few tiny dolls.
- Snacks: chocolate, nuts, cookies, yak cheese, crackers, soup mix, instant potato and more.
- Plenty of cash
- MY FAVE ITEM: Steripen UV water treatment which we used to treat more than 100 litres of local water during our trek, saving more than 100 plastic bottles!