The internet is filled with various Everest Base Camp tours. And the majority of these involve flying from Kathmandu to Lukla (not the safest flight in the world), and then the classic Lukla to Everest Base Camp trek. A great alternative is to opt for the Jiri to Everest Base Camp trek, a longer itinerary. But this one doesn’t involve any flying. You get from Kathmandu to Jiri by bus (an 8-to-10-hour ride), and from Jiri to Lukla you enjoy a quiet and charming trek.
Our itinerary involved 29 days of trekking, but that’s because we also did the Gokyo Ri trek. And enjoyed massively the Gokyo Lakes trek. This is an optional extension, but one that we strongly recommend. So this guide will help you get ready and plan for the Jiri to Everest Base Camp trek independently, with no guides or porters needed.
An overview of the Jiri to Everest Base Camp trek
Before you start organizing your Mount Everest Base Camp trek, you deserve to know some highlights of the trek. Some incentives that will help you understand why Everest Base Camp is one of the most famous trekking routes in the world.
When choosing this trek, you will find yourself immersed in the famous Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, home of some of the world’s highest peaks, including Mt. Everest. But leaving Everest aside, with its mesmerizing altitude of only 8,848m, you will meet some other giants as well. You get close to Mt. Lhotse – 8,516m, Mt. Cho Oyu – 8,188m, Mt. Nuptse – 7,861m, Mt. Pumori – 7,161m, Mt. Thamserku – 6,608m and my personal favorite, Mt. Ama Dablam – 6,812m.
You will also experience authentic Buddhist culture, as the Everest region is home to the Sherpa community, with their close affinity to the Tibetan language, culture, and religion. There are some Buddhist monasteries, including the famous Tengboche Monastery, where you can observe the religious ceremonies of the monks living in the mountains.
If you are a fan of mountaineering, you will feel proud to walk in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary himself. Although nowadays the short Everest Base Camp trek is getting more and more popular, with more than 35,000 people visiting the region each year, it still has its charm. But it’s no wonder that almost each and every single recommendation of Nepal itineraries recommends it.
And the trek from Jiri to Lukla is probably one of the least visited areas. When we were there, we met only 4 other tourists up to Lukla, when it started to get crowded. This is one big reason for choosing to trek from Jiri: the experience of walking an entire day from village to village with no other tourist in sight is definitely rewarding.
Last but not least, the trek will also spoil you with an impressive cocktail of fauna and flora. Depending on the season when you are trekking, you can hike through rhododendron forests, mossy forests, bamboo forests, blue pines and so much more.
As for animals, Sagarmatha is home to a couple of rare species, such as the snow leopard, the red panda or the musk deer, but you need to be very lucky to spot these. We did encounter though a couple of Himalayan thars, a female monal and, I don’t know if they count, but a whole bunch of donkeys.
Plan your Everest Base Camp Trek itinerary
Depending on how many days you have at your disposal, you can adjust the itinerary presented below. However, you should really take your time, make sure to rest when you feel tired (this also prevents altitude sickness), and don’t forget to acclimatize properly.
We planned our itinerary when we started from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp, but we also left some buffer days. And these were needed, as I suffered a terrible allergy (will tell you all about it), and had to rest for some extra days. It is also essential to make sure that above 3,000m (10,000 feet) you increase your elevation with no more than 300m (1,000 feet) per day.
So here is our itinerary for the Everest Base Camp trek via Jiri with Gokyo Ri included (this is a fantastic side trip, and the views from the top of Gokyo Ri will leave you speechless). We liked Gokyo more than Base Camp, so if you have time, don’t miss it. Our Everest Base Camp itinerary does not include the Gokyo route via Cho La Pass, the classic one, as it had snowed heavily, making it too difficult.
- Day 1 – Bus from Kathmandu to Jiri (around 9 hours) – 1,905m
- Day 2 – Trek from Jiri to Bhandar via Shivalaya (6 hours) – 2,200m
- Day 3 – Trek from Bhandar to Sete (6 hours) – 2,529m
- Day 4 – Trek from Sete to Junbesi (7 – 8 hours) – 2,680m
- Day 5 – Trek from Junbesi to Nunthala via Ringmu (6 hours) – 2,250m
- Day 6 – Optional rest day in Nunthala
- Day 7 – Trek from Nunthala to Bupsa (5-6 hours) – 2,360m
- Day 8 – Trek from Bupsa to Surkhe (6 hours) – 2,293m
- Day 9 – Trek from Surkhe to Monjo (6 – 7 hours) – 2,840m
- Day 10 – Trek from Monjo to Namche Bazaar (4-5 hours) – 3,440m
- Day 11 – Acclimatization day in Namche, optional hike to Hotel Everest View – 3,962m
- Day 12 – Trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (5-6 hours) – 3,870m
- Day 13 – Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche (5-6 hours) – 4,360m
- Day 14 – Acclimatization day, optional hike to the village of Chukkung (2 hours from Dingboche)
- Day 15 – Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche (5-6 hours) – 4,940m
- Day 16 – Trek from Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5,160m), leave bags and hike to Everest Base Camp (8-10 hours) – 5,363m
- Day 17 – Optional hike to Kala Pathar (5,545m) and then to Pheriche (8-10 hours) – 4,280m
- Day 18 – Trek from Pheriche to Phortse (4-5 hours) – 3,750m
- Day 19 – Trek from Phortse to Machermo (8-9 hours) – 4,470m
- Day 20 – Trek from Machermo to Gokyo (3-4 hours) – 4,750m
- Day 21 – Optional hike up to Gokyo Ri (5,357m) and back to Gokyo
- Day 22 – Optional day to explore the Gokyo lakes
- Day 23 – Trek from Gokyo to Phortse Tenga (8 hours) – 3,650m
- Day 24 – Trek from Phortse Tenga to Monjo via Namche (5 hours)
- Day 25 – Trek from Monjo to Phakding or Lukla
- Day 26 – Optional rest day in Phakding or Lukla
- Day 27 – Trek from Lukla to Khari Khola (7-8 hours) – 2,000m
- Day 28 – Trek from Khari Khola to Phaplu (9-10 hours)
- Day 29 – Jeep from Phaplu to Kathmandu
How to get ready for your Mt. Everest Base Camp hike
I will not lie and say that the Mt. Everest Base Camp trek is a piece-of-cake-type of trek. Training and preparing for Everest Base Camp is something that you should consider irrespective of the itinerary that you choose, be it 14 days or 30 days. So if you want to make sure that you will hang in there until the end, it’s better to reach Nepal fit enough. If you’re going to trek in the Himalayas without any accidents or injuries, you need to take it seriously.
Start training as early as possible
If you are not a physically fit person, you should consider starting to exercise at least 3 or 4 months before the trek. The best way to prepare your body for the Everest Base Camp trip is to hike as much as possible. Try to start gradually, begin with easy hikes and then aim for ones that require at least 6 hours of walking per day. This is also the best excuse to spend more time in nature and distance yourself from the busy city life.
We live in Bucharest, so that’s within a two-hour drive from some good starting points for trekking in the Carpathians. And we started training seriously 4 months before our first trek in Nepal, the Tamang-Langtang trek. We spent almost all our weekends trekking somewhere in the mountains. We eventually found a two-day trek with more than 8 hours of walking each day, which we decided to repeat at least three times before our departure.
Unfortunately, the highest peak in Romania is only 2,548m high – a hill in Nepali standards – so, not the best place to practice some acclimatization. However, we tried to search for itineraries that involved at least a difference of 1000m in altitude.
Help your heart with some cardio exercises
Not all of us have the possibility to go hiking every weekend. And even if you do, you should aim to train your muscles during the weekdays as well. Of course, the best types of exercises for trekking in the Himalayas are the ones that stimulate the muscles that will help you the most. And by this, I mean walking, running, going up and down (for this you can efficiently use stairs).
Running will also help get your heart in shape for the multiple days where you will be at high altitude. The Everest Base Camp altitude is 5,364m, so it definitely helps to have a healthy heart. Try to go to the gym as often as you can, maintain a schedule that will improve your muscular strength, your lung capacity and get you ready for the mountains.
Get ready mentally
Being in the mountains for so many days is not for everybody. We actually met people that were doing the Lukla to Everest Base Camp trek, and they were complaining that it is way too long. I personally felt that spending almost one month in the mountains tested some of my mental endurance.
There are a lot of factors that, if you put them together, can bring a lot of people close to a nervous breakdown. You will not live in luxury; the accommodation is basic, sometimes not very clean, sometimes with insects all over the place. You will have a lot of days when you will need to forget the word “shower.” Even going to the toilet can prove difficult for some, as only a few places offer Western-style toilets. And you also need to take into consideration the food, the fact that most of the days you will eat the same thing.
My advice would be to focus all your expectations on the experience, on the cultural and natural aspect of the trek and not on the comfort. This way you will not feel disappointed. And if you go as a couple, it will undoubtedly have an impact on your relationship. For us, it was a period when we felt very connected to each other, as I explained here.
What’s the best time to go to Everest Base Camp?
The Everest Region has two main trekking seasons: one in autumn, from September to November, and the other one in spring, from March to May. In autumn you will probably get blue skies, but in spring you will see the flowers blossoming, the rhododendrons, and the expedition tents all set up at Base Camp. Bear in mind that in spring, at lower altitudes, the sky will not be that clear and there are fewer chances of spotting peaks. Also, the Everest Base Camp weather may drastically change from one hour to the other.
We started from Kathmandu end of April, and we were pretty lucky regarding the weather. At lower altitudes, we didn’t always have clear skies, and the views were smoggy. But starting from Namche, we had only utterly clear weather with plenty of jaw-dropping views available.
Let’s talk about the Everest Base Camp trek cost
If you trek independently, without having a porter or a guide, you will lower your costs significantly. We were surprised at the end of the trek to discover that our daily average was around USD 50-60, for two people. And we really spent a lot on food, as sometimes I would eat even three dal bhats per day.
So it was a pretty cheap Everest Base Camp trek. But beware, as prices go up the higher in altitude you go. For example, the accommodations in Gorak Shep and at Gokyo were the most expensive ones. But these were also the places at the highest altitude.
Another interesting thing we noticed is that in the starting and ending places of the trek, the prices are much higher. We paid Rs 500 (USD 5) for a room in Jiri, and then the next day in Bhandar we only paid Rs 200 (USD 2). There were a lot of places that didn’t even charge us for the room provided we had dinner and breakfast there.
The price of a regular meal goes from Rs 150 (USD 1.5) at lower altitudes to Rs 500 (USD 5) at higher altitudes. Showers range from Rs 200 (USD 2) to even Rs 600 (USD 6). Furthermore, you will notice that even tea gets more expensive at high altitudes, with prices ranging from even Rs 30 (around 30 cents) to Rs 120 (USD 1.2).
I find the cost of trekking in Nepal a very subjective issue. We met trekkers that were spending less than what we were. So, in the end, it really depends on your necessities, on how much you eat, on whether you want to indulge in a shower every now and then or not.
To hire or not to hire a guide/porter?
For the Jiri to Everest Base Camp trek, you don’t really need a guide. In Kathmandu and even on the internet, you will find tons of Everest Base Camp tours and guides, but you can surely manage it independently as well.
The trails are marked; even up to Lukla, there are slim chances of getting lost, as any local will help you. Locals are used to tourists, and most of them speak some basic English, so you won’t have any significant communication issues. I would recommend a guide if it’s your first time in Nepal, if you feel insecure, or if you want to find out more about the local culture.
As for the porter, this is an entire debate of whether or not you should have one for getting to Everest Base Camp. Some people will say that you should take one to support the local economy. We actually talked to some locals, and they were telling us that this encourages young ones to limit their ambitions and just rely on carrying stuff for foreigners. It’s up to you if you can carry your backpack or not. I would have used a porter for some days, but that’s because I have severe scoliosis.
Getting ready for the trek – permits and visa
Permits for Lukla to Everest Base Camp
To trek from Lukla to Base Camp, you will need two permits:
- The Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit – this costs Rs 3390 per person (around 33 USD). You can get the permit either from Kathmandu or from Monjo, before entering the Park. You will need to fill in a form with the necessary details.
- The Local Entry Permit – this one costs Rs 2000 per person (around USD 20). This one is a replacement of the old TIMS starting from October 1st, 2017 and it can be issued in Lukla or in Namche Bazaar (if you don’t pass through Lukla). You will also need to fill a particular form.
Permits for trekking from Jiri
When trekking to Everest Base Camp via Jiri, you will need an additional permit:
- The Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit – it costs Rs 2000 per person (around USD 20). You will need 2 passport-type photos and to fill an application. This permit can also be obtained from Kathmandu.
Getting your permits done in Kathmandu is very easy and straightforward. You need to go to the Nepal Tourism Board office at Pradarshani Marg, a 15-20 minutes’ walk from Thamel, opened from 10:00 t 17:00. It is a simple process, you just have to make sure you have some passport-type photos with you (if necessary), and I would also recommend carrying some passport copies with you.
You should also make sure that your visa covers your trek. We decided to extend our visa just to make sure that we wouldn’t have any problems in case our trek becomes longer than planned. The visa for Nepal costs USD 40, and is valid for 30 days. To extend it, we paid a fee of USD 30 for another 15 days.
What to expect from staying in teahouses
If you dream about double beds, comfortable mattresses, personal bathrooms, cakes, fancy meals, etc., then think again about trekking in Nepal. The conditions are pretty basic, and they are far from luxurious. However, we found the teahouses on our Jiri to Base Camp trek much cleaner than the ones in the Tamang – Langtang area.
The rooms are simple, but most of the times you will get clean bed sheets and a pretty comfy single bed. Given the Everest Base Camp height, it’s actually impressive that the locals manage to take care of the teahouses and provide such excellent services at these altitudes.
You also have to keep in mind the fact that the rooms are not heated. However, each teahouse will light a fire in the common area in the evening. So you will get your share of heat before jumping in your sleeping bag.
Regarding food, you should start loving rice before starting a trek in Nepal. The classic Nepali meal is called dal bhat, and it consists of a mix of rice, lentil soup, and some vegetables. It is a very efficient meal as it provides the carbs that are so needed for trekking.
We ate dal bhat in 90% of the days for both lunch and dinner. And sometimes we would get some soup just to warm ourselves. For breakfast, we always opted for the banana porridge. Vlad sometimes had omelettes, but my stomach was not handling well the oil in which they would fry the eggs, so I just stuck to my oatmeal or got some banana pancakes as well.
Of course, there are also other types of food. Imagine having a burger or a pizza at 4,000m and even at 5,000m. However, I would recommend not to try too many of these Western foods and also to stay away from meat. We have seen plenty of tourists getting sick from them, as locals are not used to cooking them or they cannot store them properly. When we dared to order a pizza at Gokyo, we received a steamed one (definitely not tasty!). So try to go as local as possible, and your tummy will be grateful.
Take acclimatization seriously
Read again how high is Mount Everest Base Camp positioned, and you will understand why I am writing about acclimatization and taking it seriously. Trekking at this elevation comes with the risk of altitude sickness.
And we have seen way too many trekkers merely ignoring the rules that are meant to protect us from getting altitude sickness. Because yes, you can die from the severe forms of altitude sickness, such as HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) or HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).
But how do you know if you have altitude sickness or not? The symptoms of altitude sickness usually appear early, within a maximum of 24 hours from reaching a specific elevation, but should improve if you don’t go higher. Some of the symptoms are:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Problems with sleep
- Appetite loss
The moment you feel the symptoms, you should stop ascending further until you feel better. Make sure to drink plenty of water and rest. If you don’t feel any amelioration in the following 48 hours, you should immediately seek medical support.
However, there are a couple of rules which should help you prevent any altitude sickness symptoms:
- Follow the golden rule of mountaineers – climb high, sleep low. This means that you shouldn’t increase your sleeping altitude by more than 300m per day. If you do, then try to get an extra rest day to acclimatize better.
- Drink a lot of fluids – above 3,000m we forced ourselves to drink at least 4-5 litres per day. It wasn’t easy, but we experienced minor headaches compared to other trekkers who we met and were continually complaining of fatigue or headaches.
- Don’t think about diets – it’s time for a rich carbohydrate life! When trekking at high altitude, you need to make sure that you eat plenty of carbs.
- Take plenty of rest – if you feel tired, take the day off. This is when the buffer days come to the rescue.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol.
- Take it slowly – nobody is in a race. You actually need to enjoy the trek, being on the mountain each day and spoiling your eyes with the majestic views.
And yes, make sure you have a proper health insurance, one that covers emergency evacuation as well.
What to carry – the Everest Base Camp Trek packing list
This list contains the items and the gear which we brought (and some which we wish we had taken) during our 29-day trek. It is probably longer than other ones, given that we also cooked some snacks in some days. Feel free to adjust it according to your own necessities.
1) Trekking gear and equipment
- Good 45 – 65 L backpack (make sure it has a rain cover and that it adjusts well to your waist to help with the weight)
- Warm, but light sleeping bag (And if you feel cold, teahouses will provide enough blankets. Here is a list of sleeping bags that might be useful when choosing one for your trek.)
- Liner – we have silk ones, which were really useful at low altitudes where it was too warm to use the sleeping bag
- Trekking poles – trust me, these are not for newbies! They are a real blessing for your knees, and if, like me, you have a bad back, they will help with taking some of the weight off
- Map (you surely find an Everest Base Camp trek map in Thamel)
- Light, solar panel charger (we used a small one and it was great not to have to pay for recharging our phones in teahouses)
- Watch (we used one that had an altimeter, a thermometer, and an alarm)
- Hydration bladder – don’t go for less than 2 litres, as at high altitude hydration is extremely important
- Towels (microfiber – we had a small one and a medium one)
- Lock – for the times the teahouses’ rooms do not have their own locks
- Cooking kit – we had a little cooker, a gas tank and a metal pot with two small cups (we used them a lot of times to cook some soups, tea, noodles)
2) Electronics (if you don’t want to carry a solar panel bear in mind that you will need to pay in teahouses for charging our electronics)
- DSLR camera – you definitely want to keep some good memories (with a spare battery)
- Sports camera – we used the GoPro and were glad to have it with us
- Portable charger and USB cable
- Batteries (we didn’t need any as even our headlamps were charging with USB cables)
- Phone (we only had one phone with us which I used to keep a diary and to read)
- Portable keyboard (optional – I carried it just because I type faster than I write)
- Book or e-reader (you will have plenty of time to read)
- 4-5 T-shirts (go for the breathable, quick-drying polyester ones)
- 2 Long sleeved base layers (preferably quick-drying ones)
- 1 Fleece layer
- 1 Wind jacket (extremely helpful at high altitude where the sun made it too hot for the warm jacket)
- 1 Down jacket (preferably a light one but with goose insulation)
- Underwear (it’s up to you how many)
- 2 Sports bras for ladies
- 2 Trekking trousers (you can opt for the ones that have zip-off bottoms)
- 2 Pairs of hiking socks
- 1 Cap/Hat
- 1 Headband/buff (can also use it as a neckband)
- 1 Pair of flip-flops or sandals to relax your feet after a day of walking
- 1 Pair of trekking boots (make sure to wear them beforehand)
- 1 Pair of gloves (I only had some thin ones, and in Namche, I paid a lot on warm ones as my hands were freezing)
4) First aid and toiletries
- A general antibiotic (just in case)
- Immodium – you don’t want diarrhea to ruin your trek
- Nasal drops/moisturizer
- Lip balm (this one is essential)
- Water purification pills (you will find them in Thamel)
- Toilet paper
- Tiger Balm
- Bandaids and betadine
- Isotonic powder
- Baby wipes (handy for those days when you are not using the shower)
- Hand sanitizer
- Sunscreen (don’t forget this one!)
- Diamox (we took only one pill and felt very sick afterward. If you can avoid it, the better, but it’s good to carry some as well)
- Baby powder (super useful against sweating)
These ones are really optional but trust me, they will make your trek much sweeter:
- Chocolate bars
- Chocolate jar (we bought a plastic jar in Thamel and filled it with some delicious Nepali Nutella-like chocolate. It literally saved our lives because you will need some sugar while trekking)
- Money belt
- Playing cards
- Small notebook and a pen
Be a responsible trekker
- If you love mountains, then keep them clean
Don’t assume that the locals will take care of your garbage, as they will most likely burn it. Which is not something our planet needs at the moment. Try to avoid disposing of any plastics while you trek, or carry it back to Kathmandu. We had a bag in which we made sure to keep any potential harmful garbage.
Try to also avoid buying plastic bottles for water, get a hydration bladder and save the nature. I was shocked to find out how many problems there are with the waste management at Base Camp. But after seeing the tents, I understood. There’s a bunch of them, and I highly doubt they all carry their garbage back to Kathmandu. Let’s show the Himalayas some love by keeping them clean.
- There’s another way to show respect to the mountains: be quiet!
I totally understand that some people might want to listen to music while trekking. But I am pretty sure this is one of the reasons for which headphones were invented. I, personally, prefer to listen to the sound of nature, the trees, the birds, the crunch of leaves, the wind blowing kind.
Unfortunately, from Lukla to Base Camp, we did meet a couple of trekkers that were listening to music loudly on their speakers. Everybody was visibly irritated, but that didn’t seem to mind them. There’s an unwritten code in the mountains to respect the other trekkers around you as well. Try to obey it.
- Stop offering sweets and money to local kids
I get it, they will steal your heart in each village. They are so sweet and playful that you will definitely feel the need to give them something. But you are not helping them by encouraging them to beg. On the accessible route, especially from Luckla onwards, we met kids that were visibly being pushed by the adults around them to ask from tourists. We instead played with them or decided to eat with their family so that we gave them money in return for food.
- If you do decide to hire a porter, please don’t ruin his spine
The rule is to not make your porter carry more than 25 kilos. If you ask me, I think that even 25 kilos are too much to carry on that terrain and at that altitude. Try to pack as if you were the one carrying. Do not pack extra things just because you have a porter, as he is not a robot. I have to admit that although they look thin and fragile, Nepali porters are really tough. But don’t take advantage of this.
- Respect the locals and the local culture
Try to take some time and read about the traditions and the things which are considered disrespectful. Nepalis are a conservative people. You might want to face the heat at lower altitudes in shorts and sleeveless shirts, but this would be disrespectful. Try to cover your knees and your shoulders, especially as a girl. In Kathmandu, you will see locals in shorts, but you will be trekking in the rural areas.
And another example, don’t use your left hand while eating or even when offering any object (including money). Be mindful of the local culture and the locals will love you.
- Learn a few Nepali words
It’s hard to describe the glow in the locals’ eyes when they heard us saying something in Nepali. Here are some handy ones while trekking:
Hello or Goodbye – Namaste (Namaskar if you want to be more respectful)
Thank you – Dhanyabaad (although in Sherpa language they say Tashi delek)
What is your name?- Tapaiko naam ke ho?
My name is – Mero naam (your name) ho
How are you? – Timlai sanchai cha
I am fine/ok – Thik cha
Good nigh – Subha raatri
Tea – Chiya
Water – Paani
Food – Kanna
Let’s go! – Jaam
Good – Ramro
How much? – Kati paisa?