Everest Base Camp Trek: Phaplu to Lukla

The traditional Everest Base Camp trek begins in Lukla. Fortunately for you, I’m not traditional, and that’s definitely not my style of travel! The off-the-beaten-path Everest Base Camp trek that I completed begins SOUTH of Lukla, in Phaplu or Jiri. Pre-Lukla vistas look something like this:

ebc trek

phaplu to lukla 

This post highlights the segment of the trek from Phaplu to Lukla. You can also read about the second segment, from Lukla to Base Camp.

The Route from Phaplu to Lukla

Most EBC trekkers fly into Lukla and head north from there, but you can fly into Phaplu instead and tack on an extra 4-5 days of trekking before reaching Lukla (or alternatively, take a 10 hour bus ride to Jiri and add on an extra 8-9 days of trekking before Lukla).

phaplu to lukla map

Why Trek From Phaplu?

I completed the trek from Phaplu to Lukla comfortably in 5 days, though it’s doable in 3-4.

Now, why would you want to add extra days to an already-grueling trek to EBC? I argue that starting the trek south of Lukla will give you a more well-rounded experience of the Khumbu. With the standard Lukla-EBC trek, you have nothing but dramatic alpine scenery – a constant backdrop of snowy mountains. By contrast, the Phaplu-Lukla trek provides you with the following:

  • warmer weather
  • hilly, green scenery
  • livelier villages
  • less trekkers (if any at all!)
  • better acclimatization before reaching higher altitudes

phaplu to lukla

The trek itself is challenging at times: altitude will not cause any problems, but the steep up/down segments will leave you with burning thighs and shaking knees! In particular, the stretch from Kharikhola to Lukla (the last 2 days or so) is relentless in its ascent from the valley and does not provide much in the way of scenery or attractions. Before Kharikhola, however, you are constantly rewarded as the trail winds through rice terraces, farmland, and small villages dotted with stupas and monasteries.

phaplu to lukla

One of my favorite parts of the entire trek was observing daily life in each of the villages I passed through. These villages are almost entirely self-sufficient. Families grow their own vegetables, tend their own farm animals, and run their own tea houses. Anything else they need is transported from other villages via donkey or porter.

Villages from Phaplu to Lukla

Phaplu

phaplu to lukla

Salleri

phaplu to lukla

Junbesi

I wrote about my perfect day in Junbesi here!

ebc trek
phaplu to lukla trek

Jobhing

phaplu to lukla

Kharikhola

phaplu to lukla trek

The Children of the Himalayas

The children I encountered along the way were so friendly and curious! Many of them would greet me with ‘namaste’ as I passed by and let me take their picture.

phaplu to lukla
phaplu to lukla

On a tea break in Bupsa one day, I was approached by a smiling little girl. Before long I had her sitting on my lap as we took turns hitting the shutter button on my camera for a little self-portrait action. Her laugh was so adorable! Her habit of double-dipping her spoon in the sugar bowl, maybe not so much. But she was so precious that even someone who isn’t the biggest fan of children (ahem, me) couldn’t help but adore her.

phaplu to lukla

The Bottom Line

My #1 tip for doing the Everest Base Camp trek is to start the trek south of Lukla.

Do it. Find a way to add an additional 5+ days to your trek. It will make your Khumbu experience so much more fulfilling. You can thank me later :)

Got any questions about the trek from Phaplu to Lukla? Ask in a comment!

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Everest Base Camp Trek: Phaplu to Lukla

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

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  • Shannon Buckley

    um, the picture of you holding the little girl is probably the cutest thing i’ve ever seen! you better look that jubilant holding mine & jamie’s kids someday! ;)

    • lindsaypunk

      hahahaha! hilarious :P

  • These photos are amazing. Do you think if I make Tom get a part time job as a wedding photographer right now, we can save up enough to go on adventures? Worth a shot.

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  • Marije Bouwman

    Were did you stay at night? I am planning to go to EBC but without my own tent…

    • lindsaypunk

      There are lodges in every village you pass through, so you can just stay in one of those! No one really camps on the trek, there’s not really a need when there are so many places to stay. You can order food and drink there as well!

      • Marije Bouwman

        Thanks a lot for ur answer! It includes the trek between Phaplu and Lukla? Since this area is less known..

        • lindsaypunk

          Yup! Plenty of villages with lodges :)

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  • Jimmy

    Hi there, I am considering doing this trek from Phaplu to Lukla then possibly to EBC from mid-December. Will it be possible to fly from Kathmandu to Phaplu in mid-December? And what will it like trekking from Phablu to Lukla and beyond at that time? Will any lodges be open? Cheers and thanks, Jim in Sydney !

  • lindsaypunk

    Hey Jimmy! I think it should be possible to fly to Phaplu in December. People do trek at this time of year and find it nicer because there are less crowds – so if you can handle the cold and possible snow, it might be worth it!

    As for lodges, I’ve heard that some do close over winter but there will always be some open in each village you pass through. Most lodge owners do not own multiple homes in Nepal, so they stay at their Himalayan lodge year-round.

    I found the Lonely Planet forums helpful when planning my trek, so this might be of use: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-indian-subcontinent/nepal/everest-base-camp-trek-in-november-december?page=1

    Best of luck!! :D

  • Tèjaswini Muppalla

    Hey! I´m planning to trek to Gokyo Ri this Decemeber. I want to trek to Lukla instead of flying there, so is there a set route or map that can help trekkers with no guides pr sherpas? Also is there a way to travel to Phaplu from Kathmandu by road and not by air?

    • Hey there! Yes, the route from Phaplu to Lukla is pretty straight forward, and definitely doable on your own with a map. There are plenty of tea houses in the villages along the way where you can stop and ask for help (assuming they can speak a bit of English!). And you can get from Kathmandu to Jiri by bus, but then you’d have to trek in from Jiri (which tacks on a couple extra days before you reach Phaplu).

    • Dil Gurung

      You can drive to Phaplu from Kathmandu, It will takes 10-11 hours to reach to Phaplu. Few jeep leave every morning from Kathmand to Salleri/Phaplu. You can do this trek by yourself as well but still better to do with guide or porter for your safety and comfortable. You can do Gokyo Ri in December as well but it will be extremely cold, you should bring good quality trekking gear with you for you safety.

  • Hey Jon! I don’t have the breakdown of my itinerary anymore, but I can try to find it when I’m back in the US next month (you may have to remind me though!). If I recall correctly, most of this hike is easy going except for one day near the end where it’s mostly uphill, so you should be fine with distances.