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Famous for its spectacular mountain peaks and the loyalty and friendliness of the Sherpas, the Khumbu-Everest region is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Nepal.

While trekking is possible in this area the whole year round, the best times to visit are from the beginning of March to mid May and from the beginning of September to end of November. The winters are very cold and snow may make it difficult to travel higher than Tengboche, and also lodges may be closed above this altitude. Summers, on the other hand, are wet, and the spectacular peaks often lost in the clouds. April and early May is a good time to see the hedgerows and trees bursting into bloom, with Rhododendrons, in particular, adding a spectacular splash of colour to the landscape. However, dust from the plains of India during the spring routinely provide less than ideal conditions for clear mountain views. The views are much better after the summer monsoons have cleared the atmosphere of dust, but the days are shorter and cooler.

TIMS (Trekking Information Management System) permits are required to venture forth for any trek, also for the Khumbu region, they are easy to obtain in Kathmandu at Nepal Tourism Board against US$20, a recent passport size photo and filling in the required form before you embark to your trek. If you are with an organised trekking party your tour operator will do this for you.

Also a National Park Entry Fee is required and can be obtained either in Kathmandu or while entering the Park.

Sagarmatha Park official website

Lodges and restaurants in Khumbu only accept Nepalese rupees. Budget can vary hugely between Rs 1,500-2,000 per person per day for food and accommodation - prices rise with the altitude, though you may spend more in Namche because there is more on offer. Add more if you consume beer, softdrinks and other amenities.

Language

Sherpas speak their own language called Sherpa, which is related to Tibetan. Most Sherpas under the age of fifty can also speak English and Nepali. In addition, because many Sherpas have travelled overseas to work, it is not uncommon to meet Sherpas who are fluent in German, French and Japanese.

Getting Here

Plane

There are numerous flights flying the Kathmandu - Lukla route, though with a much reduced service during the off-season months. Sita is considered to be one of the more reliable airlines flying this route and operates two flights every morning from Kathmandu Domestic Airport at 07:00 and 08:20, with return flights at 07:40 and 09:00. Flights from Kathmandu take around 25 minutes. Be aware that during the summer rainy season there may be substantial delays, and even a wait of one week is not uncommon.

Foot

There is a bus running between Kathmandu and Jiri. Some buses are going a bit further to Shivalaya. From here to Namche Bazaar it is about a six-day walk. A less popular alternative is to walk from Tumlingtar.

Another route tried entering from Jaynagar, India, by train or bus. From Jaynagar its about 1-1½ day by bus or jeep to Phaplu via Madar, Sirha, Mirchaya Ramnagar, Katari, Okhaldunga and Salleri. Phaplu to Ringmo and 5 days trek to Namche.

Just after the village of Monju, there is check point for entering the Sagarmatha National Park. Passports need to be shown and there is a 1,000 Rs entry fee. At Monju two fees. For SAARC country TIMS fees rs 650 and for Sagarmatha National Park Rs 1695 with VAT for four weeks.

Food and Drink

Most lodges offer similar menus - porridge, hash browns, omelettes, dal bhat, spaghetti, fried rice, apple pie, etc. - although those in Namche tend to have a wider selection, which includes such things as pizza and juice.

Bakeries, which began as a Namche phenomena, now also operate in Khumjung and Tengboche, offer such luxuries as freshly baked pizza, German breads, pastries and even cappuccino - or as one lodge in Monju advertised: Sherpaccino!

Local dishes include:

Riki-Kur - the Sherpa dish of potato pancakes, which are delicious eaten straight off the griddle and covered with dzo (female yak) butter and a sauce made of mature cheese and spices called sorma. Due to the effort involved in making them, they are generally not listed on lodge menus. However, most places will oblige if you order well in advance.

Tzen - a heavy patte made from millet and flavored with spices.

Locally bottled water is available everywhere in Khumbu, though the price rises with the altitude. A bottle in Namche costs about 100rs. Beer and juice are flown from Kathmandu to Lukla and carried from there by porters; consequently the price is very high. Tea, instant coffee and a drink made from lemon concentrate are the cheapest beverages in the region, and are available in every lodge or tea shop for Rs 50 to 150 a cup. As there is no way to recycle plastic bottles in Khumbu (there are bins available on all walks for plastic and paper), you might consider bringing your own container and either purchasing boiled water or purifying spring water with iodine tablets.

Camping and Lodging

Accommodation is in an abundance in Khumbu, and ranges from the luxurious Everest View Hotel near Khumjung to the very comfortable lodges in Namche down to those offering very basic facilities. Generally, the higher the altitude, the simpler the accommodation.

Safety

Khumbu is a very safe region and violent crime is almost unheard of. However, owing to the number of people flowing through the area on treks, it is advisable to always keep your valuables in sight.

Altitude sickness affects even young and healthy people and is a genuine problem in Khumbu. If you feel dizzy, suffer palpitations or a severe headache, return immediately to lower altitude. Do not take altitude sickness lightly. It can and does kill.

Yaks may be photogenic, but they are aggressive and unpredictable. Always stand on the upper slope (i.e., above the path, away from the drop-off) to let yaks pass. Every Sherpa has a tale about Westerners who have stood on the lower side of a trail to let a herd of yaks pass and been killed after being pushed off.

Don't drink the water no matter how pristine it appears. Use iodine tablets as a purifier or purchase boiled water. Exceptions: Namche and Phortse have clean water supplies that the locals drink directly from the tap. However, this may not be a good idea for outsiders lacking immunity to local bacteria, but certainly it should be OK for brushing teeth.

There is an emergency rescue centre in Namgyal lodge in the village of Machermo in the Gokyo Valley manned by two volunteer doctors. Note: This is purely an emergency rescue centre, and the doctors will not treat common ailments.

  • Clinics are sparse in Khumbu. Should you require medical attention there are several options:
    • Western medicine - Kunde Clinic, in Kunde Village (above Namche) has Western trained doctors and is a surprisingly well equipped facility - they even have a decompression chamber for those suffering with severe altitude sickness. On your return journey, you might like to donate any unused medicines to Kunde Clinic, though ensure that they are clearly labelled in English - even the most valuable medicine is useless if there are no instructions on how to use it.
    • Tibetan medicine - the Healing Centre [1] in Namche offers treatments using natural formulas. It is next to the Camp de Base hotel, but entered from the path in front of the library. This clinic provides free treatment for porters and other patients on low income. In order to continue this service, donations are greatly appreciated.
    • Medical Stations. Along the trail, you will also see small medical stations. These stations generally have very rudimentary facilities and can only realistically offer treatment for very minor ailments, such as cuts and bruises and (non-altitude sickness related) headaches.
    • Dental clinic. Namche also has a dental clinic, located on the right side slope of the village when looking up.
  • Water. Only drink water that has been thoroughly boiled or otherwise purified. Do not drink water directly from streams.

Communications

There are no telephone lines or mailing addresses in the Everest region.

Namche has a post office, but there are mixed reports of letters reaching their destinations. Postage stamps are also available in local shops.

International phone calls can be made in Namche, however this is very expensive compared to Kathmandu. The cheapest place is the one-phone government telephone office, on the second floor of the nondescript wooden building behind Hotel Buddha, identified with an official yellow sign in Nepalese with a faded paper sign in English stuck on to it. Expect a lengthy queue on Saturdays (market day).

Namche also has several Internet cafes. Satellite access costs between Rs 20-25 per minute, so keep a sharp eye on the clock when online.