Everest Basecamp Trek – Day 1 (Lukla – Phakding)

After a long overnight flight, we arrived at the town of Lukla, which marks the starting point of the Everest Base Camp trek. The journey to this small village involves a change of planes, as well as a short walk from the International to the Domestic terminal in the capital city of Kathmandu. We achieved this transit within one hour, which was perfect.

Mani wall with view over the lower Khumbu valley
Mani wall with view over the lower Khumbu valley

Our GPS map for this day

Preparation and red tape

However, this involves downloading and preparing the Arrival Visa application form at home. Together with the exact fee in US dollars (cash) and two photographs, this allows jumping the queue at the arrival customs. Moreover, we managed to organize the domestic tickets before leaving – which is not for the faint at heart: As online ticketing systems are non-existent for domestic airlines, I had to fax a copy of both sides of my credit card to the airline in Nepal.

Another challenge was the weather situation, since arriving mid-September bears still a risk of entering during the monsoon season. Heavy rain is impacting the flights between Kathmandu and Lukla. They quickly get canceled during severe weather.

Plane at Lukla airport
Plane at Lukla airport

The most dangerous airport in the world

Despite all the “if’s” and “when’s”, our trip went as planned and we arrived at the most dangerous airport in the world (video). Here we changed money and repacked our rucksacks for the trek while sitting outdoors in a coffee-shop soaking in the sun.

Most tourists will trek from Lukla to Phakding on their first day. Our initial plan was to hike a bit further to Monju. This could save us time for the second, more strenuous trek next day. Leaving Lukla, the trail first leads downhill, then loosely follows along a small river. The views over the valley are beautiful, and the small pagodas and temples are a constant reminder that we’re trekking in Nepal.

Mani stone walls and a prayer wheel
Mani stone walls and a prayer wheel

Start of the trek

Being just a bit ahead of the main tourist season, we didn’t encounter that many foreigners. Yak transports were the only reason to have to stop walking and let pass others. Clearly, this day was a perfect warm-up for things to come once we would trek further up the Himalayas.

However, we underestimated the effects of a long overnight airplane journey. We were tired when we arrived in Phakding. So we decided to settle here for the night. Most of the lodge prices along this trek are quite cheap. Therefore, tourists are expected to stay at their lodge for the meals to provide some small additional revenue for the owners. The room came at 2 US$, plus hot water (4 US$). Dinner and breakfast for two brought the overall total for both of us to 18 US$ for the first night.

Domesticated yaks transporting goods
Domesticated yaks transporting goods