Going on an Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour; All You Need to Know in 2023
Seeing Mount Everest close up is a true item for our travel bucket lists, well perhaps not crossing the Khumbu icefall!. And with Everest Base Camp treks taking up to 2 weeks, Often people don’t want to walk for days to reach it. Wonderful as trekking in the Himalayas is (from Gokyo Lake treks to Poon Hill treks), you may wanted something less taxing and more unique. That is where the Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour comes in!
But how does it work with taking a helicopter tour to Everest Base Camp?
Can you ride a helicopter to Everest Base Camp?
Yes! And here’s how….
Table of contents
- How Does the Everest Base Camp Helicopter Trip Work?
- How Much Does it Cost to Take a Helicopter to EBC?
- What are the Advantages of Hiring a Whole Helicopter?
- How Many People will be on the Helicopter to Everest Base Camp?
- Do we Land at Everest Base Camp?
- What about the Breakfast Part? Do we have Breakfast on the Mountainside?
- What else do I Need to Know About this Trip?
How Does the Everest Base Camp Helicopter Trip Work?
Actually, there are two options. One is to hire your own helicopter, and the second is to join an existing group, which is what I did. Naturally the first is more expensive (unless you have your own group of friends or family willing to join you and pitch in with the cost). The second is less expensive and involves exactly the same experience – just with strangers.
How Much Does it Cost to Take a Helicopter to EBC?
If you want to hire the whole helicopter, it will cost you around USD 4,000 to 5,000.
If you want a seat on a helicopter trip the price will be divided by the group – I paid around USD1,000.
What are the Advantages of Hiring a Whole Helicopter?
If you hire the whole helicopter you can customize your trip. For example, next time I would add on a trip to Goyko Lake. I would make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience with my loved ones or besties. I would even hire a professional photographer (but that takes up one seat) to get the best possible photographs/ videos.
How Many People will be on the Helicopter to Everest Base Camp?
A helicopter normally holds 4 or 5 people, which are then split into two groups. Let me explain how this works.
The four or five passengers will be flown from Kathmandu, via Lukla to Pheriche Village. Here the group will be split into two. This is due to the high altitude encountered when landing at Kalapatthar (5,644m).
Do we Land at Everest Base Camp?
I was also a bit confused at first. Although it is called the Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour or Breakfast on Everest, the helicopters don’t actually land at base camp. This is to avoid disturbing the climbers. And because there is not really a good place to land there.
But more importantly, the base camp is too close to Everest to give a good view of the mountain from there. With the helicopter, we get to fly over EBC and then land at Kalapatthar.
Kalapatthar is often referred to as the viewpoint for Everest. It is simply the most wonderful place to see Mt Everest and its neighbouring peaks! The panoramic view is out of this world. When the helicopter lands, depending on weather conditions, we get 10 or 15 minutes to take in the breathtaking beauty of the area and get those unique photographs. I know it doesn’t sound like a long time, but being at such a high altitude for a longer time would impact our health. Unlike the trekkers. we haven’t spent days acclimatizing on the route. And of course, there is the helicopter to consider – they don’t like to spend too long at high altitudes either!
Having said that, it is perfectly safe for everyone (and the heli) for short periods of time.
What about the Breakfast Part? Do we have Breakfast on the Mountainside?
While it would be lovely to picnic in the snow or sit on rugged rocks, it’s a bit impractical.
Instead, the helicopter lands at either Hotel Everest View or Kongde Lodge for breakfast. Both locations have stunning views of the mountains, including Mount Everest. Around 30 minutes is given for breakfast (there is that high altitude thing again!).
What else do I Need to Know About this Trip?
Best Time for Everest base camp heli tour:
The whole experience takes around four (4) hours from Kathmandu to Kathmandu, depending on the weather.
If the weather is bad the flight will be cancelled – no point in going with zero or little visibility. The flight will be rescheduled, probably for the next day. If there is more delay or it doesn’t fit your itinerary, a refund will be given.
Let me break down the time spent on the trip: –
- Fly Kathmandu to Lukla. Stop for refuelling and the first of a ton of fabulous photo opportunities!
- Fly from Lukla to Pheriche where the group is divided into two. If you have a private, and smaller party, then no need to stop at Pheriche.
- Pheriche to Kalapatthar. Land for 10 to 15 minutes for more jaw-dropping photos.
- Flight from Kalapatthar to Hotel Everest View or Kongde Lodge. Land for breakfast – approximately 30 minutes.
- Fly back to Kathmandu, stopping for refuelling at Lukla again if necessary.
If you are hiring the whole helicopter you can choose your own date. For chartered tours, you need to search for a tour with given departure dates. Helicopter tours to Everest Base Camp are becoming more popular so there are now several departures in a week, particularly in the main season (spring and autumn). If you are booking a chartered tour, please ask how many people are on the flight as the cost will reflect the number of passengers – i.e. less passengers, more cost per person; more passengers, less cost per person.
Although we are not trekking we land in Sagarmatha National Park so are required to pay the entrance fee. This is approximately USD25 per person. It is easiest to buy this permit at Lukla on the way up.
Don’t worry about the food – that is not the main attraction! While sipping hot tea or coffee, gaze at the views of Everest and surrounding mountains. Where else will you get such a view with your morning coffee? I should point out that both hotels are luxury ones – Hotel Everest View is one of the world’s highest five-star hotels (appropriate, right?). Kondge Lodge is part of a locally based luxury resort group.
Aside from ‘breakfast with a view’, the highlight has to be Kalapatthar where the views of Mount Everest are simply amazing. Being the closest you can get to Everest without joining a climbing expedition, you can only imagine the scenery. The reality certainly met my dreams!
You also get to fly over Everest Base Camp and the Khumbu Glacier, a name well known in climbing circles. The icefall sections between Everest Base Camp and Camp 1 will bring home how comfortable it is to see this wonder of nature from above.
If you can hire your own helicopter it is possible to add some other sightseeing experiences to the overall trip. The most popular is Goyko Lake, which is actually a series of several high-altitude lakes. Pikey Peak and Dudh Kunda are also worth checking out. Naturally, these ‘extras’ are only possible on private hire and if the weather is suitable.
Your pilot is your guide! However, if you are hiring the whole helicopter you can allocate a seat to a guide or a photographer. A guide will be able to give you more information about the mountains and the photographer will record your memories forever, and professionally.
While it is highly unlikely to suffer from altitude sickness on this short trip, some unlucky people may experience discomfort. Rest assured, each helicopter has its own oxygen supply in case of emergencies.
What to Wear:
Warm clothes are a must for those times out of the helicopter! At the very least a wind-cheater and a down jacket. Down jackets can be rented in Kathmandu. Don’t forget your warm gloves and hat and something sensible on your feet! If you don’t have trekking boots, at least a good pair of sports shoes and accompanying socks!
If you don’t like trekking, or for whatever reason find hiking hard, then the helicopter tour to Everest Base Camp could be perfect for you. And you don’t need Everest Insurance this way! Even if, like me, you do love trekking, this is a very different experience and view of the Himalayas. A birds-eye view!
Likewise, if you don’t have much time, what’s better than this short trip? And while might be short the memories it provides will last a lifetime. Words 1,386
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