Trekking to Everest Base Camp requires packing for a trip of 14 grueling days, not to mention the demanding trek from a starting altitude of 2,860 meters (Lukla) to over 5,000 meters at Kala Patthar.
Only after days of strenuously pushing the body to its limits, acclimatizing, and resting at modest teahouses do you finally reach the promised land – the infamous Everest Base Camp.
The helicopter tour to Everest Base Camp and back, on the other hand, takes only 4 hours.
You wake up in Kathmandu on an otherwise typical day, unassuming of the amazing journey that lies ahead. But what’s ahead is a memory that will remain forever. The helicopter tour to Everest feels exactly like how it is advertised – getting to the heart of the Everest region, witnessing majestic mountains from up close, and having breakfast at the highest-altitude hotel in the world as the mighty peaks smile back at you.
How to stumble into paradise
Nepal is a country that is always welcoming, greeting you with both hands joined. The Nepalese culture regards travelers as gods, and this is probably why you’ll come across a lot of hospitable faces the moment you land at the country’s only international airport. Hospitality comes naturally to Nepalese people: expect to greet back exhilarated children on the streets and during the entire trip.
Get a cab to Thamel, the city’s tourist hub always bustling with travelers from all over the world. If you already have a booking for the helicopter trip with a travel agency, they’ll even shuttle you from the airport to your hotel, most likely also located in Thamel.
If you haven’t booked the trip to Everest Base Camp with a travel company already, you’ll get good recommendations from people in Thamel. The author also owns a travel company that specializes in Everest trips, but he’d rather you hear his company’s name from a hotelier in Thamel. (The author’s here to sell you the experience and not his package.)
Jetlagged from the international flight, you’ll probably want to call it a day today. For this very reason, I have also taken the liberty of postponing the Kathmandu tour until the end of the helicopter trip. Nevertheless, a light stroll around Thamel can still fit into your bucket list for the day.
Helicopter Flight to Lukla
After sleeping off that jetlag, your body finally sings a tune in sync with Nepal today. After an energizing coffee, your travel company shuttles you for a (very) early helicopter ride from Kathmandu to Lukla.
The journey starts as soon as the chopper takes off from Tribhuvan International Airport at around 6:30 am. First, you’ll be blessed with an aerial view of Kathmandu itself. A traveler on one particular trip described Kathmandu as a cramped, chaotic city that somehow manages to keep its cool every day.
Along the route to Lukla, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of numerous forests, village settlements, and the elaborate mountain range in the northern sky.
Lukla to Pheriche
The Lukla airport is one of the most bizarre airports in the world, compactly managed and situated at an eccentric altitude. For an airport its size, it is given an incredible amount of responsibility every day.
The chopper lands at the Lukla airport in about 45 minutes. It then takes a refueling break of about 15 minutes after which you’ll be headed straight to Pheriche.
You can utilize this break to familiarize yourself with the chilly mountain air.
Pheriche is an important stop in the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour. At higher altitudes, helicopters can’t bear their normal weight limits. This is why passengers are divided into groups of two. Each group is shuttled to Kala Patthar and back before eventually teaming up again for breakfast.
Flight to Kala Patthar, the Viewpoint of Everest
You’ll now be shuttled to Kala Patthar in a smaller group. This allows for an even more spacious view from the helicopter just when you’re nearing the highlight of the trip.
The helicopter hovers so close to the snow-capped massif, it’s scary. The route is embellished with uninterrupted views of moraines, glaciers, and steep peaks.
The chopper almost grazes through Everest Base Camp and lands in the vicinity of Kala Patthar. If you look down, you’ll notice numerous expedition tents at Everest Base Camp.
Time at Kala Patthar
Most travel companies allow a maximum of 15 minutes at Kala Patthar. This is to avoid getting stuck because of bad weather – weather in the Everest region is always unpredictable – and also because spending too much time at this altitude may cause altitude-related complications.
Because the body hasn’t taken the usual route of acclimatizing and ascended straight to such a high altitude, it isn’t prepared for the sudden change in environmental conditions.
Nonetheless, 15 minutes in Kala Patthar is the sweet window to take in the magnificent view and take a lot of pictures. You’ll witness Mt. Lhotse, and the mighty Everest just behind it, almost as if the former is guarding the latter, rightly deemed to be the king of all mountains.
Descent to Everest View Hotel, Breakfast
You’ll descend to Pheriche. After regrouping, the helicopter swishes towards Syangboche, a tourist village that houses the popular Everest View Hotel.
Hotel Everest View, established in 1971, holds a remarkable distinction in the hospitality industry. It proudly earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2004 as the highest-located hotel globally, situated at an impressive altitude of 13,000 feet.
This recognition has garnered significant attention, with the hotel being prominently featured in various guidebooks and receiving extensive media coverage. As a result, it has gained immense popularity, becoming a sought-after destination in its own right.
For those seeking an even closer encounter with the majestic mountains, a short hike from Hotel Everest View presents an enticing opportunity. The hotel’s strategic location allows guests to venture into the surrounding pasturelands, providing an enhanced perspective and breathtaking views of the towering peaks.
Setting off on this hike, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of natural wonders. From vantage points along the hike, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas that showcase the iconic peaks of the Everest region. Mount Everest, standing proudly as the world’s highest peak, commands attention, while neighboring giants like Lhotse, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam reveal their striking features.
Return to Kathmandu
After a nourishing breakfast at Hotel Everest View and a scenic hike to the pasturelands, the helicopter takes you back to Lukla for refueling.
The return trip presents a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the mesmerizing vistas once again, enhancing your collection of cherished mental snapshots. With each passing moment, you’ll find yourself reflecting on the incredible experiences and adventures you’ve had during your time at Hotel Everest View.
As the helicopter soars through the sky, you’ll be filled with a sense of awe and wonder, knowing that you have seen the world from a unique perspective. The landscape that unfolds before you is not only a breathtaking panorama but also a reminder of the memories and stories that you’ll fondly share with others.
Exploring the Bustling Streets of Kathmandu
Now is finally the time to wander around Kathmandu, the city that has been calling you from the day you landed.
Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, Kathmandu is a treasure trove of experiences that will awaken your senses and ignite your spirit of exploration. Kathmandu boasts a cultural tapestry woven through centuries of history. The city is adorned with ancient temples, palaces, and monasteries that showcase exquisite architecture and intricate craftsmanship.
Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will transport you back in time with its captivating palaces and courtyards, echoing stories of kings and queens who once ruled over this magnificent valley.
Additionally, the spirituality that permeates the air in Kathmandu is palpable. From the mystical sway of prayer flags in the breeze to the melodic chants resonating from Buddhist monasteries, you will find solace and tranquility amidst this bustling city. The sacred temple of Pashupatinath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a place of profound devotion and a hub of spiritual energy that will leave you in awe.
Cost for Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour With Landing
With its premium services, state-of-the-art helicopters, and expert pilots, this extraordinary expedition does demand a price that matches its exclusivity. The cost of the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour with landing is a remarkable investment, placing it among the most sought-after and extravagant adventures on the planet.
Most travel companies in Nepal offer a helicopter tour package in the ballpark of US $1,000. If you tell them you’re bringing your own group, they will graciously offer you discounts on the booking price. Nonetheless, if you’re coming alone, you can also choose to join another group, and the cost per individual will still go down.
While the price tag might be steep, the memories and the sheer awe-inspiring moments to experience during this extraordinary adventure are truly priceless.
Food in Nepal
Nepalese cuisine is a delightful reflection of the country’s rich cultural diversity, geography, and climate. One of the staples of Nepalese cuisine is dal bhat, a wholesome dish consisting of lentil soup (dal), rice (bhat), and various accompanying side dishes. Dal bhat is the traditional everyday meal for most Nepalese people and is often served with vegetables, pickles, and sometimes meat or fish.
Another popular dish is momo, which has gained international recognition for its mouthwatering taste. These bite-sized dumplings are filled with minced meat, such as chicken, lamb, or buffalo, mixed with herbs and spices. They are a beloved street food and a must-try when visiting Nepal.
The Newar community in Kathmandu Valley has its own distinct cuisine, known for dishes like bara (a lentil pancake), choila (spiced grilled meat), and samay baji (a platter of beaten rice, curried meat, and various accompaniments).
For those with a sweet tooth, Nepalese desserts provide a delightful ending to any meal. Sweets like sel roti (a crispy, sweet rice flour bread), juju dhau (a creamy yogurt), and sikarni (a sweetened yogurt with nuts and fruits) are popular choices.
Permits Needed for the Trip
Before embarking on your Everest Base Camp helicopter tour, there are a few important things to keep in mind regarding permits and fees. Firstly, make sure to bring your passport with you to the Tribhuvan International Airport domestic terminal for the check-in process.
During the course of the journey, there are specific permit fees and charges that you’ll need to cover.
One important fee is the Sagarmatha National Park permit fee, which costs $30 per visitor. As you’ll be entering the territory of Sagarmatha National Park during the tour, it is mandatory to pay for this permit.
Additionally, there is a local government tax that amounts to approximately $20. You can pay both the national park permit fee and the local government tax either in Lukla or at the Everest View Hotel.
I recommend carrying Nepalese equivalents for the permits in cash. They are hesitant to accept foreign currencies as the conversion process is tricky.