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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1 Lukla To Phakding







The Dudh Kosi River follows the Everest Base Camp trail for much of its route, cutting through the mountainous Himalayan landscape.

Intro: After arriving into Lukla Airport, we were on the Everest Base Camp trail heading towards Phakding, with spectacular Himalaya scenery, suspension bridge crossings, and Nepalese prayer flags to welcome me.

I had just had a successful landing at Lukla Airport, the sun was shining in the deep, blue sky, I had met my wonderful tour guide Ram and porter Suzan, who were going to be with me for the next twelve days, and I was yet to have any issues with altitude sickness and felt absolutely great. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek!

The snow-capped Himalayan Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop to the small town of Lukla – the starting point of the Everest Base Camp trek.

After a quick stop at a local tea house to grab a cup of mint tea, I made sure my camera was ready to go, extended my REI hiking poles, stretched my arms and legs, and I was on my way to the small town of Phakding where I would spend the first night.

Stopping to grab a cup of mint tea in a local restaurant before starting the 12-day trek to Everest Base Camp.

In case you forget anything, like a pair of gloves or trekking poles, Lukla has practically everything you would need for the EBC trek, as well as shops where you can stock up on water and snacks. Keep in mind that prices increase as you go farther into the trek and higher up in elevation, as all items are carried by the hardworking Sherpa porters, and it takes insurmountable energy, effort, and coordination to transport goods all this way. The item I bought the most on the entire 120-kilometer round-trip hike from Lukla to the Everest Base Camp was water. If I remember correctly, a 2-liter bottle was about $1 in Lukla, but around $4 in Gorak Shep, the last town before Base Camp.

Looking out across the agricultural landscapes of Lukla as we departed towards Phakding on day 1 of the Everest Base Camp trek.

Even in the first ten minutes of hiking, I already knew this entire EBC trek was going to be everything I had hoped for…and much, much more! Not only was the weather perfect, but the scenery was spectacular, no matter where I looked. In addition, the locals were really friendly, the trails weren’t crowded with other trekkers, and I was able to go at my own pace, stopping for photos whenever I wanted to.

With my f-stop Tilopa BC backpack strapped on, my camera around my neck, and trekking poles in my hands, I was able to hike for several minutes, stop and enjoy the surroundings, wave to the kids, listen to Ram tell me more about his home country, and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

The start of the EBC trek was (to my surprise) actually a slow and gradual decrease in elevation. After passing by some local stores and restaurants in Lukla, as well as stopping by the first checkpoint of the hike, Ram and I were on our way to Phakding. My porter Suzan, who carried the duffel bag with all my clothes and MacBook Air, had already sped way past us. Not to get too sidetracked here, but it still amazes me to this day how porters like Suzan seem to defy the laws of physics and carry such an incredible amount.

My porter Suzan carrying my duffel bag as he flies down a set of stairs en route to Phakding.

I joked with him that he only had to carry one bag – mine – since I was the only one in the “group” as I had signed up for a private tour. Usually an EBC trekking tour porter would carry 2-3 duffle bags, weighing in anywhere from 13-27 kilograms each! Even with all that weight, no trekking poles, and wearing jeans and sneakers, guys like Suzan still blazed through the trails like they’re marathon runners with nothing but a bottle of water in their hands – simply amazing!

A curious young Himalayan child peers out through an open doorway en route to Phakding.

Some of my most memorable moments on the trek from Lukla to Phakding involved the kids I ran into. You’ll see this as an ongoing theme throughout the whole Everest Base Camp trek, but just an hour or so into the hike, three kids ran up to my camera, and not only smiled, but threw up peace signs and made silly faces. Such goofballs they were! Safe to say, I think they’ve had a lot of experience posing for other travelers :). Then there was a shy and curious young girl, probably about three years old, who looked at me from behind a door.

“Peace” signs all-round from the local children along the Everest Base Camp trekking route.

About half-way through the 8km hike to Phakding, Ram and I came across a breathtaking view of not only the mountains in the background, but also the Dhudi Kosi River flowing right through the bottom of the valley. This famous river runs along most of the EBC trek, providing a great source of water for the nearby vegetation.

A string of colorful prayer flags wave in the breeze as we pass through a Himalayan village en route to the Everest Base Camp.

Already on the first day of my Everest Base Camp trek I saw the first of my five-colored Buddhist flags which have become synonymous with Nepal travel photography. It was one of the many “I can’t believe I’m actually here” moments that I had throughout this trip. Not long after seeing those flags, I crossed the first of a dozen or so suspension bridges along the trek. Used not only by trekkers and porters, but also four-legged friends like donkeys, mules, and oxen, these bridges make it possible to cross the valley to the villages on either side.

Oxen loaded down with goods which they transport from one village to the next throughout the Khumbu region.

Just don’t forget, the animals always have right of way, so make sure you yield to them and their owners. As the mid-afternoon approached, clouds began to gather in the sky. Ram explained that we would get to Phakding around 2PM, just in time for a late lunch and walk around town. I was excited to see what the lodges looked like, how the bedroom/restroom situation was, what kind of food I’d be getting, and (of course) who and what I could take photos of!

By far my favorite part of the hike from Lukla to Phakding was towards the end when I saw hundreds of Tibetan scriptures carved into stone blocks along the trail. I felt like I had stepped back in time and was getting a glimpse into the lives of the monks who lived here thousands of years ago. The sound of silence and solitude, coupled with the majestic landscape and Tibetan writing surrounding me, made that moment truly unforgettable and one of many that I hope to share with Charlene one day.

With the ancient Tibetan scriptures as we arrived in the village of Phakding on the first day trekking towards Everest Base Camp.

As we approached our lodge for the night in Phakding, I was reminded that this whole trek wasn’t (just) about getting to Everest Base Camp. Sure, that was the final destination and something to be very excited about, but just the 8km hike from Lukla had already showed me how rich in scenery, culture, history and life Nepal was. I knew without a doubt that this trip was going to change me forever…and I was ready for it!

Day: 1 of 12
Start: Lukla (2,804 meters)
End: Phakding (2,610 meters)
Elevation change: -194 meters
Distance: 7.9 kilometers
Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes


  • 1: There’s no need to rush on the first day, you actually go down in elevation and it’s only a few kilometers to Phakding.
  • 2: Be sure to stop and enjoy the scenery, interact with the locals, and turn (clockwise) the Tibetan wheels for good luck.
  • 3: You can buy some snacks and water in Lukla, though there’s plenty of places for those items along the way and certainly in Phakding.
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