Hands down, flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, or (Ramechhap to Lukla these days) is the shortest and most popular route taken by the trekkers on their trek to the Everest Base Camp. However, Lukla airport sees several flight disruptions every season due to bad weather. Hence, a lot of people inquire about the alternative routes to get to Lukla. If you are a thrill seeker who wants more peace, authenticity and have extra days to spare, we’ve listed all the possible alternatives on how to get to Everest base Camp trek that you can take to avoid the uncertainties of Lukla flights and save some good bucks!
Kathmandu to Phaplu Flight and Trek to EBC
Flying from Kathmandu to Phaplu and trekking to the Everest Base Camp is your shortest alternative to Lukla. This route takes you on a ride through the highs and lows of the mid-hills through real villages inhabited by ethnic groups like Sherpas and Rais. Here, you will be greeted by Khachhars (mules) more often than travellers. Mules are one of the most prominent sources of transporting food and supplies to the higher altitudes. Hence, some broken trails are expected! However, walking through this route will definitely give you an amazing experience.
- Chortens seen on Salleri to Everest Base Camp Trek
Additional Days: 4 (to reach Phakding)
Total length: 143 km (if you exit via Lukla)
Best time to go: Anytime except for June – August.
Kathmandu to Phaplu Flight: USD 155 one way
1. The downside is that flights to Phaplu are not regular. Tara Air operates Kathmandu to Phaplu flights only 2 days a week (on Mondays and Thursdays) and Summit Air on Sundays.
2. Flights can be expensive.
3. Flight cancellations is a possibility.
Difficulty level: HARD
The walk in the second and third day between Kharikhola and Chheplung can be strenuous as hundreds of Mule herds pass every day, making the trails slippery.
Outline Itinerary: Kathmandu – Phaplu (flight) – Thamedanda(Drive) – Puiyan – Phakding – Namche – Deboche – Dingboche/Pheriche – Lobuche – Gorakshep – Everest Base Camp/ Kala Pathhar
Accommodation: The tea houses below Phakding are rather basic and comparatively cheaper. See the accommodation comparison between a few places:
Above Lukla: Namche, Dingboche, Gorakshep
Below Lukla: Surke, Kharikhola, Salleri
Additional Permits: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (USD 33) and Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (USD 20) will do. No additional permits required.
1. Chiwong Monastery at Chiwong.
Getting out: As per your time and budget, you have an option to:
1. Either fly out via Lukla (Can be completed in 18 days)
2. Walk back to Salleri and take a bus/jeep (Can be completed in 21/22 days)
Drive from Kathmandu to Salleri / Phaplu
If you don’t want to risk flying and save some money, you can drive to Salleri/ Phaplu instead. Salleri is around 265 km away from Kathmandu, and Phaplu is a 20-minute walk from Salleri. The ride is about 8 hours and you can catch buses or jeeps from Koteshwor (that operate every day until Midday).
Since your trek starts from the same point, all the information (including additional days) is similar as mentioned in Kathmandu to Phaplu Flight Section.
Cost from Kathmandu to Salleri/Phaplu
- Buses- NPR 1,100 (~USD 10)
- Jeeps- NPR 1700 (~ USD 16)
Number of hours from Kathmandu to Salleri: 8-9 hours
Drive to from Kathmandu to Thamedanda [Updated]
As the roads have been extended, you will now find jeeps up to the village called Thamedanda (6-7 hours drive from Phaplu). You will go to Phaplu as mentioned above and then take a jeep to Thamedanda. From here, Phakding is only 2 days walk, saving you two days.
Additional Days from Thamedanda – Phakding: 2 days
Jeep Cost from Phaplu – Thamedanda $15- $20
Number of hours from Phaplu- Thamedanda: 6-7 hours
Outline Itinerary: Kathmandu – Phaplu- Kharikhola-Thamedanda – Puiyan – Phakding – normal trail continues
Risks: The roads might be damaged and extremely slippery during monsoon. (Please avoid the June, July and August)
Drive from Kathmandu to Jiri / Shivalaya
Everest base camp trek route via Jiri is the classic route taken by the early day explorers like Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when the Lukla airport wasn’t into existence. Comparatively less popular and way longer, Jiri – Everest trek is still preferred by adventurers, as well as nature and culture lovers who wish to explore the authentic self of Nepal beyond the mountains. The trail is filled with pristine views of mountains, terrace farms, monasteries, and hospitable locals. These days, you can also start your trek from Shivalaya (often preferred by travelers) as it saves you 4 hours of your precious time.
After the earthquake, the tea houses of this section have been affected, and there are limited tea houses here. But, since this trail doesn’t see a huge number of travelers, accommodation shouldn’t be a major problem. More people trekking through this route can help bring back hope and uplift the economy back to rebuild tea houses in the villages along this trail.
Additional Days: 8 (to reach Phakding)
Total trip length: 175 km (if you exit via Lukla)
Distance from Kathmandu to Jiri: 190 km
Kathmandu to Jiri Bus fare: NPR 535- NR 700
Best time to go: Anytime except for June – August.
Getting to Jiri / Shivalaya:
Buses to Jiri leave every morning at 5 am, 7 am and 9 am from Ratnapark. You can also get on the bus to Mali or Shivalaya for the same price from the same location. If you are worried about not getting a seat, you can pre-book your tickets a day ahead from ticket counters in Ratnapark itself.
1. Cost Saving
2. No risk of flight cancellation and delays
3. Authentic Rural Villages
4. Low risk of AMS
The trails between Jiri and Chheplung (the point that connects the trail from Lukla) is pretty strenuous encompassing multiple steep uphills, downhills, slippery mule trails, etc. The trails are well marked, however, aren’t maintained regularly.
Outline Itinerary: Kathmandu – Jiri- Bhandar – Sete – Junbesi – Nunthala – Bhupsa – Surke – Phakding – Namche – Deboche – Dingboche/Pheriche – Lobuche – Gorakshep/ Kala Pathhar
Accommodation: The tea houses below Chheplung (intersection where trail from lukla meets) are very basic and comparatively cheaper. Tea houses in this trail have been affected by earthquake. However, they are being rebuilt and you can find places to stay. Please don’t expect services like in the commercial trails via Lukla. See hotels in Junbesi and Nunthala.
Additional Permits: Besides Sagarmatha National Park Permit and Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit, you will also need Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit (USD 20). You can buy it either in Kathmandu or get it on the trails from Shivalaya.
1. Thupten Choling Monastery at Junbesi.
2. Pikey Peak Trekking [Side trip]
Getting out: As per your time and budget, you have an option schedule to:
- Either fly out via Lukla (Can be completed in 22 days)
- Walk back to Salleri and take a bus/jeep (Can be completed in 25 days)
- Walk back to Jiri and take a jeep (Can be completed in 28 days)