For most of us, a trip to Mount Everest (Zhūmùlǎng Mǎfēng, 珠穆朗玛峰)—better called by its Tibetan name, Qomolangma—means a few tentative forays in the general direction of the world's highest peak, which towers 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) above sea level.
There are two Everest Base Camps (EBC), one in Tibet and one in Nepal. If you're fit enough and have acclimated to the altitude, you might manage to make it to a higher camp, though this level of adventuring is only advised for those with serious mountaineering experience and equipment, not to mention the necessary permissions from the regulating authorities.
Regardless, Qomolangma is a sight to behold, and both EBCs are a fine place from which to view the mountain whose Tibetan name translates as "Goddess Mother of the Universe." If traveling through Tibet, most people arrive at the camp via Land Rover from Shigatse (a two-day drive); a newly constructed road (and a rather controversial one, considering cultural and environmental sensitivities) provides easy access from nearby Rongphu Monastery
(4.8 km/3 mi above sea level), which boasts a commanding view of Qomolangma's north face as well as a popular guesthouse, the Monastery Guesthouse
. Travelers should learn about the latest restrictions when traveling to Tibet before booking anything. Rules often change and people of certain nationalities may not be able to enter the area.
Another way through Tibet—and a more spectacular one—is to trek in from Tingri on the Friendship Highway, a three or four day hike. From Rongphu, you can either pay for a ride or make the roughly hour-and-a-half hike to EBC, though you should definitely give yourself time to acclimatize if you intend to make this—or any—hikes without problems (adjusting generally takes a couple of days).
EBC itself is home to a spring, post office and a slew of tents, some of which serve tea and snacks, and others of which belong to climbing expeditions.
The best time is in May before the monsoon season brings storms. Between May and November the temperature is most pleasant. July and August are the best months for the Tibet-side north face, during its brief respite from sub-zero temperatures.
Another option is getting to Everest Base Camp through Nepal
. Many connecting flights from China stop in Kunming
before landing in Kathmandu
. Plenty of trekking companies and supplies can be found in this colorful city, but if you choose to go in a group, do your homework and choose an experienced guide.
EBC in Nepal is home to a group of tents situated in the valley. Trekkers can hike to a sign overlooking the tents for a photo opportunity. Two other not-to-miss spots are Kala Patthar with one of the best 360-degree views of the region and Gokyo Peak, or Gokyo Ri (5357 m/17,575 ft), which offers stunning views of emerald green lakes and five 8,000 m (26,247 ft) peaks. Kala Patthar and Gokyo Peak are equally, if not more beautiful, than EBC. Peak season is between October and December and then again in March through May.
And for those who want to hike to the highest place on Earth, climbing Everest is no joke—over 200 climbers have lost their lives attempting the feat. But, since sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary made the first documented ascent in 1953, over 3,000 climbers have successfully topped Qomolangma.