Our trip begins today in Kathmandu. After clearing immigrations and customs, you are greeted by our staff and transferred to our host hotel in bustling Thamel. The Thamel district of Kathmandu is filled with restaurants, unique shops and outdoor outfitters. The afternoon is left open to rest and explore the area. Meals are on your own.
On our first full day in Kathmandu, we enjoy a day-long, guided tour of the ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal is rich in religious diversity and exploring numerous Buddhist and Hindu sites is an excellent introduction to the area. At Swayambhunath (or "the Monkey Temple") gilded Buddhist and Hindu shrines overlook the valley where monkeys and dogs squabble and pilgrims come to pay respect. Durbar Square boasts some of the most spectacular palace temples and pagodas in the valley and teems with significance to local Hindus. We also visit Boudhanath, the largest and perhaps most impressive Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, along with the adjoining monastery. Time allowing, we'll visit a Tibetan Refugee carpet center in Jawalakhel before returning to our hotel in Thamel. There will be time for a short rest before dinner, which is on your own tonight, before a thorough orientation meeting this evening. Breakfast included.
Early today (around 6:30 a.m.) we transfer to the airport where we board a scenic flight to Lukla. There, our gear and supplies will be loaded onto our support animals. Our trek begins with a leisurely and scenic four-hour hike down to the riverside village of Phakding. We note a huge boulder inscribed with the Buddhist prayer, "Om mani padme hum"; throughout the trek we encounter the local Buddhist people reciting this mantra. Prayer flags stream in the breeze as we cross sturdy suspension bridges over the roaring Dudh Kosi River to arrive at our first lodge this evening in Phakding. Our lodge rooms have large windows and attached baths. Relax on the patio with a beverage and enjoy the sounds of the river below. All rooms on our trek are furnished with twin beds. All meals included.
Trekking: 3-4 hours; about 4.5 miles. From Lukla (9,320'/2,840m) we lose 920'/280m over the first 3 miles of our hike, then hike a relatively flat final 1.5 miles to arrive in Phakding (8,560'/2,610m).
As we continue trekking today, expect the air to be cool and the trail to be shaded for a couple of hours before the sun reaches the bottom of the Dudh Kosi River valley. The trail occasionally wanders past farmhouses and crop fields, through small villages and past giant prayer wheels, and crisscrosses the river on sturdy suspension bridges. Long needle pine trees and stunning views of massive Himalayan peaks like Kangtega and Thamserku line the route as we approach the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park. An early lunch today prepares us for a steep ascent to the village of Namche Bazaar, a good day's workout of about six hours. Namche is the world's highest marketplace, the largest Sherpa village in the Khumbu and the jumping-off point for many Everest expeditions. Our lodge rooms in Namche Bazaar have private bathrooms. All meals included.
Trekking: 6 hours; about 5.6 miles. We gradually gain 920' over the first 4.2 miles, then quickly gain an addition 2,000' in the final1.4 miles for a total of 2,920' of gain to reach Namche Bazaar (11,285').
We awaken to yak bells and a sunrise illuminating the 20,000' mountains that surround us! The surrounding peaks include Kwangde (20,930'), Thamserku (21,680'), and Kangtega (21,932'). Though this is a layover day, excitement is in the air. A slow-ascent day hike to the world's highest hotel, the Everest View, will help us acclimatize and provide our first breath-taking views of Mount Everest (29,035') and other legendary Himalayan peaks, including Nuptse (25,790'), Lhotse (27,605') and Ama Dablam (22,493'). We enjoy afternoon tea and snacks at the hotel's outdoor patio as we gaze out at the panorama. We then return to Namche Bazaar for one more night before continuing higher into the Himalayas. All meals included.
Trekking: 4-5 hours; about 3-3.5 miles. Elevation gain and loss is 1,250'.
Hiking out of Namche Bazaar, we traverse the lower slopes of Khumbi Yulha, a mountain held sacred by the Sherpa people. We'll descend to the river once again then ascend to Tengboche Monastery. Tengboche is surrounded by views of the snowy Himalayas and hosts the most impressive Tibetan Buddhist temple in the region. Everyone living at the gompa is in some way associated with the operations of this very important religious center. Along the way, we'll keep an eye out for the Impeyan pheasant, Nepal's national bird, which is easily one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Tonight we visit the monastery to observe this unique and remote monastic life before retiring to our nearby lodge. While it is perhaps the most primitive of the lodges used on our trek, with shared bathroom facilities, this lodge is ideally situated adjacent to the monastery. All meals included.
Trekking: 5 hours; about 5 miles. From Namche Bazaar, we gradually ascend 360' over 2 miles to reach Kyangjuma (11,645'). Then we descend 985' in 1.75 miles to the Imja Khola River (10,660') where we cross the river by bridge, then ascend 2,005' in 1.25 miles from the river to reach Tengboche (12,665'). Total elevation gain: 2,365'. Total elevation loss: 985'.
Relax around Tengboche as the morning sun slowly illuminates the ancient buildings and shrines along with the massive snow-covered peaks that surround us. After breakfast we begin our descent of the route we followed earlier as we return to the Dudh Kosi River before heading west into the Sherpa village of Khumjung, nestled into the slopes of the sacred mountain Khumbi Yulha. Sir Edmund Hillary, credited with Everest's first ascent, helped build the first school in the Khumbu region; its other claim to fame is a mysterious relic housed in Khumjung's monastery—a dome-shaped object covered in hair believed by some to be the skull of a Yeti. We'll spend one night at a small lodge in this very traditional village where Sherpa life endures as it has for ages. Water conservation is critical in this remote settlement, so plan to use water wisely. All meals included.
Trekking: 3.5-4 hours; about 3.75 miles. From Tengboche (12,665'), we descend 2,000' in 1.25 miles to reach the river, then we cross by bridge and climb 1,735' in 2.5 miles to reach Khumjung (12,400').
Leaving Khumjung, we travel west beneath the rock spires and massive boulders of Khumbi Yulha en route to the unspoiled, hidden village of Thame. This day is mostly a gentle uphill grade as we pass through a number of small villages rarely visited by trekkers, then cross the thundering Bhote Kosi River as it bursts through the narrow gorge. Our final hour of trekking is a steep uphill section. Few trekkers stray far enough from the main trekking routes of the Khumbu to experience this picturesque place, an important trade route between India, Nepal and Tibet and the childhood home of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on the first ascent of Everest. We'll spend the night at a lodge in Thame, again off the standard trekking route where we'll see even fewer foreign visitors. In Thame our lodging is very basic, without private bathrooms. All meals included.
Trekking: 5-6 hours; 6 miles. From Khumjung (12,400'), we descend 1,100' to Thamu over 3.5 miles, then climb 815' over the next 1.5 miles to reach the Bhote Koshi River. Crossing the river by bridge, our final mile of hiking gains 285' to reach Thame (12,400'). Total elevation gain and loss: 1,100'.
We awake in Thame to glorious views of Thamserku and Kangtega. Thame offers very few services for trekkers aside from a few lodges and campgrounds; it provides a unique glimpse into life in the Khumbu region prior to the influx of adventure travelers that began decades ago. After exploring Thame's very old cliff-side monastery, we begin trekking down to Namche Bazaar. Passing through the villages of Somde, Thamo, Tscheso, and Phurte, we'll arrive back in Namche Bazaar and stay at a lodge with private bathrooms.
Trekking: 4-5 hours; 6 miles. From Thame (12,400') we descend 285' to the Bhote Koshi River, then, crossing by bridge, we descend an additional 815' over 1.5 miles of hiking to reach Thamu. From Thamu, we begin climbing again, gaining 350' over 3 miles before our final half-mile descent of 365' to reach Namche Bazaar (11,285'/3,440m). Total elevation gain: 350'. Total elevation loss: 1,465'. Optional morning hike to Thame Monastery adds about 1.5 hours round trip. All meals included.
Departing Namche today, we retrace our route back to Phakding. We will descend more than 1,300' today, passing through small villages and fields along the way and enjoying our final views of the big peaks from the trail. The setting in Phakding is serene along the Dudh Koshi River, nestled beneath the cliffs with high rugged mountains rising from the valley floor. We'll rest by the warm stove in the dining room and enjoy another great dinner prepared fresh by our cooks. In our Phakding lodge we'll once again enjoy private bathrooms.
Trekking: 4-5 hours; about 5.6 miles. We descend 2,000' in the first 1.4 miles of today's hike, then gradually descend an additional 920' over the final 4.2 miles to arrive in Phakding (8,560'). All meals included.
Our final day of trekking brings us to Lukla. Tonight we have a real celebration at our final lodge and enjoy music and dancing, great food, local drink and the companionship of our support staff, who by now have become familiar faces and friends as well. Our lodge here also has private bathrooms. Additionally, the bar/dining room is ideal for celebrating, dining and dancing. We'll bid farewell to our amazing trekking crew before turning in for a good night's sleep. All meals included.
Trekking: 3-4 hours; about 4.5 miles. From Phakding (8,560') we hike a relatively flat first 1.5 miles before ascending 920' over the final 3 miles of our trek to reach Lukla (9,320').
Very early this morning we will check out of our lodge and board a flight to Kathmandu. Upon our arrival in Kathmandu, we are met by our staff and transferred to our hotel in the Thamel District. The remainder of the day is free. There are many more opportunities for exploration, souvenir shopping and sightseeing. Breakfast is included.
Note about flights: MFlights to and from Lukla are not always dependable; weather conditions may cause flight cancellations. Delays are possible any time of year but are more typical on summer departures. Most treks run during the best weather conditions of the year; however, our final full day is designed to accommodate some weather delays (or sightseeing and shopping if all goes as planned).
Enjoy a free day exploring on your own or join us for an optional city tour. The tour is likely to feature Kathmandu Durbar Square or the ancient city of Bhaktapur. The reminder of the day is at your leisure to shop or relax before your journey home. Breakfast included. (Note: Today serves as a reserve day for return flight from Lukla in case of inclement weather delays).
This morning we transfer to the airport for departures back to the United States. Breakfast included.