The famous Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world above sea level and runs parallel to the Nepal-Tibet border. While the foreigners know it as Mount Everest, Tibetans refer to it as Qomolangma, and Nepalese refer to it as Sagarmatha. Everest towers above all other mountains in the world so do the Everest Base Camp tops above other destinations.
There are actually two major Everest Base Camps existing on the opposite slopes of the Great Himalaya. The South Base Camp is located in Nepal at an elevation of 5,364 meters (17,598 feet) (28°0′26′′N 86°51′34′′E) while the north base camp is located in Tibet at an elevation of 5,150 meters (16,900 feet) (28°8′29′′N 86°51′5′′E).
Both of the Everest Base Camps are well-liked by the hikers and mountaineers. And almost every adventure enthusiasts have the Everest itself or the Everest Base Camp on their travel bucket list. As there are two major base camps on Mount Everest, travelers can get quite confused about which to pick as their destination. The primary differences between the south and the north base camps are the varied terrains, different climates, the ways to travel, and a significant difference in the experiences.
So, read this blog comparing the two Everest Base Camps in terms of a few important factors and figure out which Everest Base Camp could be the best choice for you.
Ways to get to Everest Base Camp(s)
How to get to Everest Base Camp in Nepal side?
Nepal’s Himalayan landscape is rugged rocky preventing ground vehicles from reaching the Everest Base Camp. So, the visitors either have to trek or use a helicopter to get there. Trekking is the most chosen one as the trek to the base camp that goes by Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the most classic trekking journeys in Nepal.
Whether it is a trekking journey or a helicopter tour, the trip starts with a 25 minutes adventurous flight from the capital, Kathmandu to the most dangerous airport in the world, Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla (2860m).
The Everest Base Camp Trek then starts from Lukla and progressively ascends to Phakding (2610 m), Namche Bazaar (3440 meters), Tengboche (3860 meters), Dingboche (4410 meters), Lobuche (4930m), Gorak Shep (5140 meters), Kala Patthar (5545 meters) and finally to Everest Base Camp (5364m). It takes about 13-14 days to walk from Lukla to EBC and return.
The majority of the time during the EBC trekking on the Nepal side is spent on mountain trails and the final two days are spent on the lateral moraine. There are a few hard hills to climb, but the paths are zigzagged to make it easier, and there is plenty of time to sit and talk. The ground on the moraine can be slick with ice at times, but no technical equipment or expertise is required. It's a simple hike, and the only thing you'll need is some little spikes to place on your footwear when it becomes icy.
Trekkers typically trek three to six kilometers per day, with rest days in between to help acclimate to the high altitude. The first acclimatization place is Namche Bazar and for the remainder of the days, acclimatization day can be placed on any day or any place. Last but not least, the trekking route to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal is well-marked, and there are numerous guesthouses and lodges along the way.
By Helicopter Ride
You can reach the lap of Everest without long and strenuous trekking and walking by taking the 4 hours of a Helicopter tour. Kathmandu is the starting point for an amazing aerial helicopter tour. This thrilling adventure takes you across the gorgeous Khumbu region in a luxury helicopter for an unforgettable experience.
Travelers will get unparalleled vistas of the world's greatest peaks and close and personal with the surrounding snow-capped peaks during this helicopter journey. The shuttle flies over the Himalayas in the Everest Region and also directly over the Everest Base Camp. The ride lands at Everest Base Camp or Kala Patthar (5545m) depending upon the season. Not only Mount Everest but you will also be able to see Nuptse West Face, Lhotse, Khumbutse, Pumori, and Ama Dablam up close and personal during the Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour.
Above all, travelers can enjoy a delicious breakfast at the hotel at the highest elevation on the earth named Everest View Hotel in Syangboche with the delicious 360-degree mountain views.
By Trekking from Jiri
Another available way to reach Everest Base Camp in Sagarmatha National park is to take a bus from Kathmandu to Jiri, followed by approximately 21 days of trekking known as the "Walk-In". This long version gives you the advantage of getting yourself fit and slowly acclimatizing en route to Lukla.
Ways of getting to the Everest Base Camp on the Tibet side
The Everest North Base Camp Region in Tibet is about 500 miles from Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. And unlike the need of trekking to reach the South EBC, the journey to North EBC is easily possible via any four-wheeler or two-wheeler as there is a fully-built paved road. A journey from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp and returning to Lhasa typically takes 8 to 12 days. During the interval between those days, you will see many magnificent sights such as the serene Yamdrok Lake, the historical towns of Gyantse and Shigatse, and many spectacular monasteries.
The Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side is also accessible through the Nepal-Tibet Friendship Highway, which passes through New Tingri on the southern rim of the 5,220 m high Gyatso La Pass. Then the drive further continues to the Rongbuk Monastery from where you can take half an hour drive or a 1.5 to 2 hours trek to the Everest Base Camp.
Thus, the North Base Camp in Tibet is surprisingly simpler to reach than the one in Nepal, as it is connected to the camp by a well-paved road. However, because the height reached by a vehicle is significantly faster, there are chances of altitude sickness. There are no helicopter rescue teams accessible here, as there are on the Nepalese side.
Permits and Travel Documents to get to Everest Base Camp(s)
Getting to any of the two Everest Base Camps requires permits. While a traveler needs to obtain a Nepal Visa, TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System), and a Sagarmatha National Park Entry Fee to reach the base camp on the Nepalese side, it is mandatory to carry a Tibet Travel Permit, Chinese Group Visa and a special permit called Alien Permit to enter the Base Camp Region.
In comparison, getting permits in Nepal is a lot easier than in Tibet. Travelers can get Nepal Visa on arrival or online or via a Nepal consulate within a few days. Both the TIMS and Sagarmatha National Park Entrance can be obtained in Kathmandu Tourism Board or Monjo at National Park Entrance Gate. Also, if you are taking the route from Jiri, along with these permits, you need to obtain another permit named Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit in Kathmandu.
Almost every tour operator already includes these permits other than the Nepal Visa in the package. However, you can obtain them by yourself if you are an independent traveler. You just need to carry the required documents to obtain them.
For your Tibet visit, the first thing you need to know is that the travelers cannot travel to Tibet or Everest Base Camp Region independently. Only those who have pre-arranged organized tours with the authorized travel agency are allowed in.
Your travel partner will arrange the required Tibet Entry Permit, and Alien Permit to enter the Everest Base Camp region, as well as a tour guide, transportation, and driver. It is suggested to apply for Tibet Entry Permit a couple of months prior to your trip departure.
Travelers also need a Chinese Group Visa or Chinese Visa in addition to a Tibet Permit except for citizens of Singapore, Brunei, and Japan. These visas are can be only obtained from Nepal and it takes around 3-4 working days. Once you get all the Tibet Entry Permit and Chinese Group Visa in your hand, you can enter the Tibet Autonomous Region where you will meet your Tibetan guide with the required other permits accordingly to the pre-planned destinations.
Best Time to Visit South Everest Base Camp vs. North Everest Base Camp
Best time to visit South Everest Base Camp
The pre and post-monsoon seasons, Spring and autumn, from March to early May and mid-September to early November, are the finest times to face the long trek to EBC. The region is usually dry at these times of the year, with little rain and clear skies. The weather isn't scorching, but it's warm enough to accomplish the walk without becoming too cold; however, you may need heavier clothing at night.
The spring starter March month also brings color to the dense jungles. The lower parts of the region with lush forests turn into a mixture of red, pink, and white colors due to the blooming of the Rhododendrons. The pastures also sprout various Himalayan wildflowers making the green meadows into colorful canvas art.
With the similar temperatures and sky patterns as spring, autumn in the Everest region is laid-back receiving most of the trekkers throughout the year. The trekkers get to enjoy the fine mountain views, fine weather, fine scenery, and the greatest celebrations of the country during the interval between October and November.
The summer/monsoon months are not recommended for the EBC trekking journeys as you may encounter severe rains, making trekking arduous and challenging. The flights might get delayed for days or even canceled. Also, there are high chances of landslides along with already wet, slick, and slippery trails.
The EBC journey in Nepal can also be done in other months, such as December and early January before the Himalayan snows arrive. Temperatures might drop to dangerously low levels, especially during the nights, so you'll need to be well prepared.
However, both the day and night skies are usually clear in the winter, allowing for spectacular mountain views during the day and starry nights during the night. Another plus point of doing Everest Base Camp Trek in winter is that you will be able to explore without any disturbance from tourist crowds.
However, Everest Helicopter Tours can be done any time of the year on clear weather days except the months of summer/monsoon seasons. The months of April to May and October to November are ideal for visiting Nepal, especially for Everest helicopter rides, as there are fewer chances of flight cancellations and delays. These are the ideal time for solo travelers to join groups.
The temperature is also neither too hot nor too cold, making it the ideal time to take in the breathtaking scenery. The covering of snow deepens during the winter season, enhancing the splendor of the mountains. So, if you can't make it in the spring or fall, winter can be an option.
Best time to visit North Everest Base Camp
Tibet's peak season for visiting EBC is longer than Nepal's, lasting from late April to late October. These are the best times to visit the gorgeous base camp at the foot of the world's highest peak, with clear skies, little to no rain, and spectacular views of the summit, in the spring and autumn.
The temperature gradually climbs from April to June, and the weather becomes warmer. Days begin to lengthen, providing more daylight for travelers to explore, and nights are not as frigid as they are in the winter.
Flowers are in full bloom down the valley route, and plants and trees start turning green once the winter bids goodbye for a year and welcomes the spring. The meadow grows lush and vibrant in every direction. This is often regarded as not just the greatest season for an Everest Base Camp visit, but also for Mount climbing.
Summer in Tibet is a beautiful time to visit, and while there may be a few light showers, this part of Tibet receives far less rain than the eastern parts during the monsoon season. Meanwhile, there is always sunshine following the sporadic rain. The light becomes considerably brighter, and there are even instances when a rainbow appears over the blue sky.
The thin cloud-shrouded mountain top adds to the mystique of every location of the sacred Mount Everest, creating yet another spectacular panorama vista to capture.
With the yearly monsoon season ending in September, the fall months, October, and November are gradually dominated by consistent bright sunlight, pleasant temperatures, and fresh air.
The thick cloud cover is blown away by the wind, revealing the Everest top once more. With the increased visibility, a variety of trees and flora begin to turn yellow or crimson, making the EBC path the most colorful and scenic of all seasons.
Even in the dead of winter with rapidly decreased temperature, you can visit the base camp because the routes to EBC are kept clear of snow. Winter weather can be chilly, especially at night, but it is nice during the day with pleasant temperatures and spectacular views of the top. The deep blue sky during the day, the star-studded sky at night, and a golden sunrise and sunset glow painted on the mountain could be far more gorgeous than most days during the peak tourist season.
Accommodations & Meals: South EBC vs. North EBC
Nepal Everest Base Camp
The Nepal Everest Base Camp is well-known around the world. And this renowned trail has some of the best accommodations out of all trekking trails in Nepal to suit all budgets, ranging from hostels to five-star hotels. This path is also known as the "tea-house trekking route," because it passes via a small village or a teahouse.
Finding a place to stay during your EBC trekking journey would not be any problem but there are a limited number of accommodations in Gorakshep. So, during the peak seasons, you might have to sleep in tents or even in the dining rooms.
The accommodations at the lower elevations have western-style toilet facilities with an adjacent bathroom with hot showers available 24 hours a day. But, you might have to do your business in squat toilets at the higher elevations and take a bath with lukewarm water provided in the bucket.
Talking about food, trekkers do not have to worry about whereabouts to eat given the plenty number of hotels, lodges, and tea houses along the EBC trail, in fact within a few hours’ distances. Dal Bhat, a typical Nepali dish, can be found throughout the trail. In the lower regions like Lukla, Phakding, and Namche Bazaar, you can see western and continental menus too.
Along with the Nepali traditional menu, there are many Sherpa dishes and Tibetan dishes available in the EBC trek trial. As the elevation gains, these menus seem to decrease and decrease. Namche Bazaar even has internet cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries that cater to your needs for them.
One most important thing to be noted is that, with the increase in elevation, the prices of accommodations and food also increase. Bottled mineral water can be highly expensive in the region.
Tibet Everest Base Camp
The accommodations vary depending upon the route you choose to visit the EBC on the Tibetan side. If your itinerary start via Lhasa, you can opt. to have luxurious services to budget services till the town of Tingri.
The Everest Base Camp itself does not have any lodgings like in EBC in Nepal. It has a Tented Guest House in Base Camp which is sharing many beds under safari tents. And, the only option to stay near the base camp is at the guest house of Rongbuk Monastery. Or you can tent out in the monastery ground. If you choose the EBC trip that starts from Nepal, the places till EBC itself have a very basic lodge and guesthouse accommodations. And the further accommodations depend upon your continuation route.
Since no crops can grow at such a high altitude, fresh foods are scarce in both EBC regions. Most of the food that is available is delivered from the cities or the lower regions. As a result, the higher the altitude, the higher the price of the foods and drinks.
During your EBC journey on the Tibet side, you do not have to worry about not getting to eat as you will be able to find something to eat but the menus are very limited mainly in the higher region or the exact EBC region. Accordingly to your route, you will have to eat from the menus from the accommodations you stay at in places such as Tingri, Nyalam, or Kerung. You will find plenty of restaurants in Lhasa and Shigatse with plenty of Tibetan, Western and continental dishes. And for the food in Tibet EBC, you can eat at Rongbuk Monastery's restaurant, which is about 8 kilometers distant from EBC.
You might also buy food at the tent guest rooms run by Tibetans along the way from Rongbuk Monastery to EBC. The majority of the meals and dishes served by both are fried rice, noodle items, and soups. Green veggies are scarce, and their prices are substantially higher than in other parts of the country.
Be it the south or the north, these two have their own scenarios and own beauty and nothing beats being under the shadow of the world's highest mountain merely to say you've done it. Each side has its own specific characteristics that distinguish it from the other and impose ecstasies for every visitor and climber to discover.
The North Face allows you to do something the South Face does not and vice versa. After all, having the opportunity to visit Everest Base Camp and have a close look at Mount Everest's top is already a once-in-a-lifetime event. So, choose the route that appeals to you the most, and you will not be disappointed.