Standing at 8848 meters, Mt. Everest, known as Sagarmatha to the locals, towers over the Khumbu region of Nepal. Considered one of seven natural wonders of the world, Everest holds a sacred place in the hearts of all mountaineers, trekkers and locals alike. Though Everest Base Camp Trek becomes increasingly popular with each passing of trekking season, there are still some secrets of Everest which evade the common eye. The trekking trail to Everest is as popular and iconic as the mountain itself, after all, it’s not only the destination that counts but also the journey.
The Everest Base Camp Trek route is by itself also an adventure with formidable obstacles, starting at Lukla Airport and ending at the Everest Base Camp. The journey takes the adventure lovers through cultural hotspots that are abuzz with life and excitement, contrasting landscapes which are cold and barren yet a majesty to behold, and finally ends at the magnificent Mt. Everest’s shadow. To put it simply, the trail alongside the shadow of Everest is every bit as exciting as an attempt on the mountain itself. Here are some of the sights you will encounter if you decide to traverse the Himalayan mountainside:
Everest Base Camp
The end of the trail, and the beginning of another adventure. Everest Base Camp is divided into the north and south camp, depending on which approach to the mountain is taken. The south camp lies at a higher altitude of 5,364 than the Tibetan based north-camp. Funny enough, you can’t actually see the base camp when you’re climbing Everest due to the plethora rocky bluffs and snow-capped peaks. We recommend Kalapathar, for a photo opportunity which captures Mt.Everest perfectly in all its glory. Even if you don’t plan on climbing the world’s tallest mountain, you can be secure in the knowledge that you stood at the base of the greatest natural wonder in the world.
A small township that is constantly changing to accommodate the yearly influx of mountaineers and tourists, Lukla is nestled in the mountains at a height of 2,860 meters. The name Lukla actually means, “a place of goats and sheep” but since the urbanization of the town, there is hardly any such animal to be found. So why’s this town on the list? Well, besides the fact that it is the starting point of the quest to conquer Everest, Lukla also happens to be the home of the world’s most thrilling airfield, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport. This airport also has a unique history of being built upon the wonderful power of booze. Just landing here is enough to give somebody bragging rights for a few months.
Considered the most expensive place in Nepal, Namche houses a mere approx. 1647 permanent locals of which the majority are Sherpas. Spread alongside the hillsides of the Solukhumbu region, Namche was originally a trading hub for the entire region but in recent years, it has become the biggest commercial spot for the entire zone. Many of the local population of sherpas are engrossed in the tourism industry, working as porters and guides. Namche has all the facilities and amenities you would require on your trek, as well as being the perfect place to acclimatize to the thin mountain air. The view from Namche is that of an alpine resort, with bars and bakeries all over. You can easily spend a day or two enjoying the cool and refreshing environment and not want for anything else so it is definitely a “must-see” locale on the way to Everest.
Perched in the Himalayas at a dizzying 3,970 meters, the view alone from Khumjung Monastery would be enough to earn a place in this list. However, the most interesting thing about Khumjung isn’t its high altitude location or the religious significance of the monastery, it’s what’s inside the monastery that drives people in hordes here. This remote place of worship houses a purported scalp of a yeti, also known as the abominable snowman. This mythic creature had been the focus of many expeditions, including that of Sir Edmund Hillary. And while all of these expeditions ended in disappointment, the same sentiment won’t be shared by those who go to Khumjung Monastery and take a look at the relic which is housed here.
Snow-Leopard and Himalayan Tahr
While there is an abundance of wildlife in the forested areas of the Khumbu region, the higher you climb the less likely it is that you will find any exotic fauna, with the exception of yaks and mountains goats. Don’t fret just yet, because the region isn’t just known for its natural wonders but also rare animals such as the Snow Leopard amongst others. Snow Leopard (Sci.name:Panthera Uncia) is a member of the feline family that inhabits specific areas of the Himalayan range. While not exactly a common sight, in fact during his ten-month long expedition in the region Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t even see a single one, the camera-shy creatures are nonetheless residents of the area. Contrastingly, a much common sight is that of the Himalayan Tahr, which closely resemble mountain goats. However, unlike its cousin, the Himalayan Tahr forages nocturnally to avoid predators. If you sight a tahr in the early hours of the day or late into the evening, chances are a snow leopard might be in the area as tahrs frequently serve as dinner for the rare feline. If you would like to know exactly where to find these animals on the trek, check out our Everest trekking app.
As you descend into the Khumbu valley on your way to Everest, you are bound to stop in your tracks when you lay your eyes upon Dawa Choling Gompa, widely known as the Tengboche Monastery. This monastery is unlike any other in the entire region primarily due to its significance to the Sherpa community as well as being a religious periphery to the better known Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet. The monastery was first built in 1916 but due to earthquakes and other disasters was rebuilt multiple times since. As it stands today, this sacred place of worship is the end point of the Sacred Sites Trail Project and one can visit ten monasteries that are situated in a clockwise direction, ending at Tengboche.
One of the highest farming villages in the world, Phortse is a refreshing cultural stop during the trek to Everest. The denizens of this mountainside community are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet and more than willing to share their stories and experiences with passing tourists and trekkers. While a large portion of the local population engages in the tourism industry and provides shelter and facilities to visitors, the simplicity of a village life is all too evident as you will chance upon yaks and mountain goats that are herded for their milk and fur. You might want to try the local delicacies here, such as yak meat and butter tea to give you that true mountaineering feel.