They’re the two most popular trekking regions of Nepal: the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp. Many first-time visitors to Nepal have a hard time deciding between the two. They do offer very different experiences, in terms of landscape, culture, accommodation, logistics, and accessibility. Plus, each has distinct advantages—as well as a few disadvantages. So, which one should you choose? Read on to weigh your options.
The Everest region is highly popular for many good reasons: views of the tallest mountains in the world, Sherpa culture, forests and rivers, birds and wildlife. But not everyone has the time to make the full Everest Base Camp trek, a (roughly) two-week expedition. There are many other incredible trekking routes in the Everest area that pass through the Sagarmatha National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the Solukhumbu District. Whatever your interests and needs, there is likely a trek in the region to suit you. Read on to find out more.
For travellers seeking a shorter trek at lower altitude with unparalleled views and fascinating culture, the Everest Panorama trek is ideal. This 9-night trek starts with a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, the gateway to the land of high peaks, pure blue skies, friendly people and strong yaks. Trek from Lukla into the mountains, visiting small villages and ancient temples along the way. Stop to acclimatise in lively Namche Bazaar, in the Sherpa heartland, and break off the main Everest Base Camp route here for the remote valley of Thame. Continue to the important monastery at Tengboche, where would-be Everest summiteers stop to receive blessings from the head lama. Retrace your steps back to Lukla, and onwards to Kathmandu.
The challenging Three Passes Trek offers unparalleled views of dramatic summits and captivating valleys. It follows part of the traditional Everest Base Camp route but also diverges to lesser-visited paths. Take in the entire Himalayan Range from Chukking-Ri and Gokyo-Ri including the best views of Mount Everest’s summit. As with most treks in the Everest region, begin with a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Follow the Dudh Koshi River to Namche Bazaar and onwards to Tengboche Monastery and Dingboche. Make a side trip to Chukkum before crossing the first of the three passes, the Kongma La. From here, follow the well-worn trail to Everest Base Camp via Kala Patthar, before leaving the main trail to climb the Cho La Pass to the cobalt blue Gokyo lakes and up to Gokyo Ri. The views are spectacular, particularly of the Khumbu icefall cascading from the Western Cwm. Crossing the Renjo La pass, follow parts of a route used for centuries by Tibetan Traders via Nangpa La to get to Thame. Rejoining the EBC route, drop down to Lukla and fly back to Kathmandu.
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This stunning Gokyo Lakes Trek also takes you to Everest Base Camp, and is a great choice for people who want to experience the magnificence of Everest combined with the beauty of these remote lakes. This trek takes you to the attractive Gokyo Valley, where tranquil turquoise lakes are surrounded by snowy peaks and Nepal’s biggest glacier. The views of Everest from Gokyo are exceptional. After Namche Bazaar, Tengboche and Dingboche, reach Gorak Shep and ascend to Everest Base Camp (5,380m). The next day, enjoy sunrise at Kala Patthar (5,540 m.). Cross the Chola Pass to Dzongla, and cross the Ngozumba Glacier, the largest in Nepal, to reach the Gokyo Lakes. The small herding settlement of Gokyo (4,750 m.) lies on the banks of the third lake. Four peaks above 8,000 m. rise above Gokyo: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu.
This trek follows most of the above Gokyo Lakes itinerary, but also includes a challenging high pass, the Renjo La (5,360 m.). This is one of the three passes that features on the Three Passes Trek, too. From the Renjo La there are great views of the Gokyo Lakes and Everest. The trail winds down a sometimes icy path to the south bank of Angladumba Tso Lake. Trek back via Thame, a hidden valley near Namche Bazaar, where you can experience the quiet of the area without many other trekkers around. The Gokyo Lakes & Beyond itinerary is an ideal option for travellers who enjoy a physical challenge and want to experience the best of the Everest region while limiting their time on the most heavily-beaten paths.
If you’ve considered the alternatives and still have your heart set on the classic Everest Base Camp trek, there’s nothing wrong with that! Classics tend to be classics for a reason. The natural beauty, fascinating culture and a personal sense of achievement, as well as warm Nepali hospitality, makes the Everest Base Camp trek one of the world’s most unforgettable treks. The standard itinerary includes 12 nights trekking.