Everest’s daunting summit soars so high that trekking to its base camp (17,590') is still an adventure of the highest sort. Join National Geographic on a 14-day Himalayan trek to Everest’s Southern Face Base Camp through some of the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Spend two days discovering the historic treasures of Kathmandu. Stay in villages set against soaring, jagged pinnacles; get to know the unique culture of the Sherpas; and walk trails lined with mani stones, engraved with Tibetan Buddhist prayers. Discover remote mountain monasteries and learn about the Sherpas’ spiritual perspective on the mountains they call home.
Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel, where we’ll gather for an orientation. Spend the following day discovering medieval Kathmandu. Venture into Pashupatinath and visit Nepal’s largest Buddhist stupa, the Bodhnath Stupa, both part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Weather permitting, fly over the mountains to Lukla (9,200'), perched high on a slope in the Khumbu region of the Himalaya. Here, we’ll meet our porters, Sherpa guides, and pack animals and start out on our trek, descending 1,500 feet to the Dudh Kosi (River of Milk). As we follow the trail to the village of Phakding, we’ll pass mani walls, boulders carved with Tibetan Buddhist prayer inscriptions. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
The trail continues north up the Dudh Kosi valley to Monjo, where it officially enters Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, a World Heritage site. Catch a first glimpse of Everest during a steep climb that brings us to the Sherpa market town of Nāmche Bāzār, our home for the next two nights. We’ll spend an extra day here to acclimatize, heading out on short hikes to take in views of Everest. (Day 4: 6 miles hiking, 5-6 hours; Day 5: 3-4 miles hiking, 2-3 hours)
Set out on a trail along the Bhote Kosi to the remote village of Thami, the last outpost on the ancient trading route over the Nangpa La (pass) between Tibet and Nepal. Cross the Bhote Kosi and hike steeply uphill to Thami. (2-3 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Venture into Thami Monastery (13,000'), then retrace your steps before turning uphill toward the lovely village of Khumjung, where Sir Edmund Hillary established a school in 1961. Pay a visit to the school and learn about “Sir Ed’s” other projects in the community. (7 miles hiking, 5-6 hours)
Set out through the Dudh Kosi gorge to Tengboche Monastery on one of the most beautiful valley walks on Earth. The monastery is the home of the Rimpoche of Tengboche. After our visit, descend to our lodge in Debuche. (7-8 miles, 5-6 hours)
Today’s hike takes us down through a scenic forest to the village of Pangboche. With the stunning peak of Ama Dablam towering directly overhead, hike up to the remote village of Pheriche, where we will spend two nights at a lodge. The next day, head out on one of the most stunning hikes of the trip, an optional 2,100-foot climb to Nangkartshang Peak (16,672') to see Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu (three of the six highest peaks in the world). (Day 9: 6 miles hiking, 5-6 hours; Day 10: 5 miles hiking, 6-7 hours)
Continue along the valley floor to Dughla (15,157'), where we stop for lunch before hiking on to Lobujya. The next day, walk to the edge of the Khumbu Glacier, then hike up to the village of Gorak Shep, nestled under the soaring summits. Climb up Kala Pattar (18,192') for a dramatic close-up view of Everest. (Day 11: 4 miles hiking, 5-6 hours; Day 12: 5 miles optional hiking, 2-3 hours)
Weather permitting, we’ll head out on the final climb to Everest Base Camp, tucked into the mountainside under the sparkling Khumbu Icefall. Return to Lobujya for the night. (9 miles hiking, 9-10 hours)
Retrace your steps along the Imja Khola to Debuche. The following day, hike down a steep trail to the Dudh Kosi and climb to Nāmche Bāzār for the night. The final day of our descent, we’ll have a long and leisurely trek back to Lukla. (Day 14: 9-10 miles hiking, 6-7 hours; Day 15: 8-9 miles hiking, 5-7 hours; Day 16: 9 miles hiking, 8 hours)
Weather permitting, fly back to Kathmandu today and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. We have scheduled an extra day in case of a delay in our flight.
Explore the town of Bhaktapur, which has preserved its ancient character. See the temples and palaces of Durbar Square and examine the intricate Sun Dhoka, a gilded copper gate crafted in 1753. This afternoon, Kathmandu is yours to explore. The following day, depart Kathmandu on your homeward-bound flight.