How do you see Mt Everest without trekking for two weeks?

When someone plans to visit Nepal, probably the first thing on their mind is the Himalayas, world heritage sites, or the old civilization of the country.  But in fact, did you know you have to spare at least two weeks and hike all the way up to 5,550m in order to get a close-up view of Mount Everest?

While this might be many people’s idea of heaven, not everyone has the time and the level of physical fitness required for trekking.   So the question is how do you see Mt Everest and the Himalayas without trekking for many days on the trail? Indeed, there is an option available for someone who wants to visit the base camp of the world’s tallest mountain within 4 hours without spending a tremendous amount of money. How can it be done?  Today in this article I am prepared to give you everything you need to know about Everest mountain flights in Nepal. 

Everest mountain flight

Everest Mountain Flight options

As of now, there are only two options available to anyone willing to see Mount Everest from Kathmandu within just a few hours. The first one is on a small aircraft that flies around the Himalayas and back to Kathmandu. The second is by helicopter.  Going by helicopter means you can fly to the base camp of the highest mountain in the world. Below I will explain and break down everything you need to know about these two available options.

Buddha Air mountain flight

Buddha Air has a well-established market reputation in the Everest Mountain flight sector. Buddha Air currently has three ATRs and a Beech 1900D with 19 passenger capacity. Their  ATR 42-300 can carry 24 passengers, whereas the ATR-72-500 carries 36 passengers. These are small aircraft especially design in the United States to fly at high altitudes. Every morning at 0630, 0730 and 0830 Buddha Air flies over Mount Everest. During the one hour 15 minutes flight each passenger onboard gets a window seat as only the smaller aircraft are used. A crew member on board also acts as a guide telling you about all the different mountains you see.

Buddha Air also offers an opportunity to see the mountains and Mt Everest from the cockpit.  From Kathmandu to Mount Everest it is roughly about 100 miles (161 km). Buddha Air flies as close as 20 miles (32.1km) away in order to show the 360-degree view of Mount Everest. You will be able to see four of the tallest mountains in the world. Cho-yu (8,201m), Everest (8,848m), Lhotse ( 8,516m), and  Makalu (8,463) and many other smaller peaks below 7,000m and hundreds of green hills along the way.

Before I dive into the details deeply, let’s look at a quick 3-minute video that explains everything about mountain flights in Nepal. 

Mountain flight cost

As of 2018, the Buddha Air mountain flight cost online was USD 198 per person for foreigners.  Indian nationals were charged  INR 7,281 per person.  For local Nepali tourists, it was NPR 11,650. However, the price online and in the local market is different by 10-15%.

Nationality  Cost Nepali NPR 11,650 Indian INR 7,281 All others USD 198 Yeti air USD 175 -198 Buddha air USD 198 Cheapest market price (Budget Airlines) USD 165 Highest market price USD 198 + Transportation USD 20

If you look for a local company that can help you reserve the ticket it might be slightly cheaper.  However, Buddha Air is not the only airline that conducts flights to Mount Everest. There are a few other air companies that also fly over Mt. Everest such as Yeti Airlines and other budget air companies. By market value, Yeti Airlines is one of the largest air companies in Nepal with a 60% market share. Your flight ticket could be even cheaper if you consider flying with Yeti Air. It could be as low as USD 175 per ticket if you look for a local agency to book your flight.

  Nationality  Cost
 Nepali NPR 11,650
 Indian INR 7,281
 All others USD 198
 Yeti air USD 175 -198
 Buddha air USD 198
 Cheapest market price (Budget Airlines) USD 165
 Highest market price USD 198 + Transportation USD 20

Cancellation and refund policies

There might be delays if the weather is not good.  A lot of my clients ask me what if we don’t see Mount Everest on the mountain flight?   The airlines have a full refund policy if the plane takes off and you don’t see mountains because of bad weather or if the flight is canceled due to the same. You will be refunded 100% of what you paid.  Or a  refund stamp will be provided if the reservation was made from a local agency. In case you would like to still do the flight the next day, they will re-schedule it for you.

Buddha Air Vs Yeti Air

In my personal experience, both airlines are the same and offer a similar service. However, Buddha Air has bigger windows and can fly closer to Mount Everest.  Yeti airlines have slightly old design aircraft with smaller size windows but it is undoubtedly cheaper to fly compared to Buddha Air.  When it comes to the air safety ranking, Buddha Air is by far the safest domestic airlines flying over the Nepalese sky. Since 1998 Buddha Air had one crash reported in September 2011 (which was, by the way, a mountain flight). Buddha Air has fewer accidents partly because they do not fly into high altitude, dangerous airports.  Their good safety record also makes them one of the most expensive airlines in Nepal.  It can be noted that the UN only uses Buddha Air if there is a choice of airlines in the sector their staff is traveling.

When it comes to  YetiAirlines, they were the king of the domestic sector.  They are among only a few companies that fly into local airports at high altitudes, such as Lukla, Jomsom, Phaplu, Simikot, etc.  So their safety rating was terrible possibly because they took the risk to fly to these areas.   But they lost market credibility due to the multiple crashes.

In order to increase air safety and lead the market, in 2009 Tara Air, a sister company of Yeti Airlines was officially opened.  Yeti Airlines now mainly only serve Kathmandu Mt Everest sightseeing, Pokhara, Bharatpur, Bhadrapur, Nepalgunj etc. where there is less risk (following the same path as Buddha). Yeti Airlines and Tara Air combined to form the largest domestic airline group in Nepal with more than 60% of the total market share.

Since then Yeti Air doing really well in the overall market and the service they are providing. The bottom line is, there is nothing wrong with going with Yeti Airlines especially as over the past few years they are trying to build trust in the market and also are cheaper.

simrik-air

Some facts about the Everest flight

  • Book the flight ticket along with a private car and driver. Don’t rely on a taxi if you have an early flight. You may not find a cab early in the morning.
  • Usually, the best views are seen on the first flight so book accordingly.
  • Each passenger will get the window seat. Designated seats are only available during check-in. It is recommended to be airport earlier and queue up on the first row. If possible request the left side of the aircraft either at the front or back, which have better views than the middle area.
  • Cotton wool will be given to you by the crew for your ears.  Make sure you remove it when the cabin crew explains about the mountains as you fly past!
  • The plane will circle round Mount Everest; it will not land at any point. It is roughly about a one hour 15 minutes flight to and from Kathmandu.
  • If the weather is nice and clear, you will see over 20 mountains above 7,000m including 4 of the tallest mountains in the world. Cho-yu (8,201m), Everest (8,848m), Lhotse (8,516m), and Makalu (8,463m), as well as many other small peaks below 7,000m and hundreds of green hills.

Everest helicopter tour

If you are among those who would like to have a memorable Mount Everest experience that doesn’t involve hiking for two weeks, then the Everest helicopter tour might be the answer! This is probably the best option for someone who doesn’t have the time and/ or physical fitness to trek for two weeks but is willing to make a trip of the lifetime. Everest helicopter tours offer a magnificent view of the Himalayas.  Local travel companies work with helicopter companies in Nepal to organize group flights to Everest Base Camp daily.

First things first! Before throwing up my flowery words let me show you Everest Base Camp through an eagle’s eyes. You don’t want to miss this 4 minutes video that shows how beautiful this tour truly is. 

How does the Everest helicopter trip work?

AAS350/B3e series helicopter is used for the Everest flight with a passenger capacity of six at a time. The helicopter flies to Lukla and stops for about 10 minutes for refueling. Then you fly onto Kalapatthar(5,550m) to view  Mount Everest. Depending on the group size and weight limits the helicopter does two shuttles from Everest View Hotel or Yeti Mountain Homes inKongde. If the group size is six, they fly twice with three passengers at a time so each passenger can get a window seat. While half the group is flying around Everest, the other half will have a chance to have breakfast at Everest View Hotel. Situated on a mountain ridge at a Guinness Book record-setting height for a hotel at 3,880m (12,729ft), this luxury property offers 360-degree views of the Himalayas. The Himalaya’s most famous mountain – Everest – is visible while having breakfast.

Everest View Hotel Vs Yeti Mountain Home

There are two resorts where the helicopter usually stops for breakfast. One is the Everest View Hotel, and the other is the Yeti Mountain Home. What is the difference between these two resorts and which is the best point to stop for breakfast?  Personally, I recommend both properties as both offer a magnificent view. But if you ask me to be specific regarding the location and view, I would give a score of 9 out of 10 to the Yeti Mountain Home and 8 out of 10  to the Everest View Hotel.

This may help you decide where to make the stop. Based on my knowledge, here is everything I know about these two properties:-

  • Everest View Hotel is listed in the Guinness Book of the World Records (2004) as the highest placed hotel (3,880m) in the world.
  • Yeti Mountain Home is a privately owned guest house and the highest resort of the Everest Region located at the elevation of 4,250m. This guest house was built after 2004.
  • the Everest View Hotel is closer to Mount Everest in terms of aerial distance compared to Yeti Mountain Home.
  • Yeti Mountain Home offers the best view of other sister mountains,  valleys, and Namche Bazaar.
  • The Everest View Hotel offers more close-up views of Everest, Lhotse, and Amadablam.
  • Yeti Mountain Home is located on higher ground compared to the Everest View Hotel.

Note: Depending on the weather and wind speed that day, the pilot may make the decision where to stop for breakfast based on those factors. If the weather conditions are good, you can certainly request your preferred location for breakfast.

Itinerary and schedule

  Time       Activities
5:30Drive from Kathmandu hotel to airport
6:00Boarding
6:30Kathmandu to Lukla Flight
7:15Refueling in Lukla
7:30 – 7:45Lukla to Everest View Hotel or Kongde Resort (Yeti Mountain Home)
7:45 – 8:00The first shuttle of three persons to Kalapatthar. Land for 10-15 minutes.
8:15Kalapatthar to Everest View Hotel or Kongde Resort via EBC
8:15 –

9:45

Champagne breakfast while the next three depart for Kalapatthar and EBC
9:50Everest View Hotel or Kongde Resort to Kathmandu

Why only 10 minutes at Kalapatthar and 30 minutes for breakfast?

This is the question we are frequently asked. Indeed, everyone would like to spend more time and enjoy the view as much as possible. As a matter of fact, spending more time at the high altitude of 5,550mincreases the risk of being sick (altitude sickness).  Imagine the hiker who treks up to base camp over a period of two weeks. And you reached the same altitude in 3 or 4 hours!  Due to safety concerns for passengers, the helicopter company wouldn’t allow more time in the high altitude. But I am sure 10-15 minutes is enough to capture the memory in your camera.

Everest Base Camp helicopter tour cost

For a group of 5-6, it is USD 1,200 per person. Which is literally the same price you would pay if you were to hike to EBC over a two week period.  If you are in a group of  3-4 this flight will cost USD 1,500 per person.

  Group Size  Total Cost  Per Person  Cost
 1 person USD 4,000 Per person USD 4,000
 2 person USD 4,200 Per person USD 2,100
 3-4 person USD 4,500 Per person USD 1,500
 5-6 person USD 6,000 Per person USD 1,200

The local company gets a 5-10% commission from the helicopter company. You may want to look for a local agency. The commission they get from the helicopter company may be passed on to their customers. Then you could get the price slashed by at least 5%. NEST Adventure can bring you quality service at a competitive market price.  Feel free to check with us.

What is included in the price?

  • Chartered helicopter
  • All government taxes
  • Sightseeing for 4 hours as per in the itinerary
  • Passenger insurance from the helicopter company

What is excluded in the price?

  • National park entry permit (NRS. 3,400 per person)
  • Airport tax (NRS. 200 per person)
  • Any meals, drinks or personal expenses
  • Tips

FAQ

How can the passenger in the middle enjoy the view with 5/6  people on board?

All six passengers fly from Kathmandu – Lukla and up to Everest View Hotel or Yeti Mountain Home. Once you get to the viewpoint, there will be two shuttles of three passengers each ensuring everyone gets a good view on the Everest helicopter tour. In this way, everyone gets the window seat when it comes to viewing Mt Everest.  At the same time, everyone gets the opportunity to spend time at the hotel enjoying the view and breakfast. Sometimes the shuttle point could change to either Pheriche or the two resorts mentioned above. Depending on the weather condition and wind speed the pilot will decide where to take the shuttle point. His decision is final.  However, there is still time for breakfast at Everest View Hotel or Yeti Mountain Home even if the shuttle point is Pheriche.

What is the weight limit?

As we all know, there is a weight limit for helicopters. At high altitude, the weight limit is lower.  The helicopter used for the Everest tour can hold up to 450kg. But after 4,500m the helicopter can only hold 250kg. It is necessary that you provide your weight details while processing the bookings.

What is the best time to go?

The most uncertain part of the EBC helicopter tour is the weather.  Therefore we recommend you take this trip only at the best time of the year weather-wise. Autumn and spring is the best time to plan this tour. From the last week of September until mid-December is the best autumn weather. From the first week of March until May the sky also remains clear. These times of year see a large number of tourists visiting Nepal. So you have a higher chance of meeting other groups who could share a flight with you. Here is the weather report of the autumn season of the Everest Region.

  Elevation  Wind Speed  Temperature
 Lukla 2,800m/9,842 ft 19km/hr 12oC / 53oF
 Kalapatthar 5,550m/18,044 ft 28km/hr -10oC / 14oF
 Top of Everest 8,848m/29,028 ft 157km/hr -32oC / -25oF

What types of clothes should I wear on the Everest helicopter trip?

Depending on the season, the weather varies at different elevations and places where you stop. The universal principle is the higher the altitude colder it becomes. So regardless of the season, be prepared for freezing temperature at this high elevation!

Here is the list of items you should consider for EBC helicopter tour 

20-25l day pack -1 
Down jacket – 1 
Inner thermal wear set-top and bottom – 1 set 
Pants – 1 
Warm socks and shoes 
Warm gloves – 1 pair 
Warm hat – 1
Sunglasses – 1 
Sun cream or cold cream – 1 
Lip guard – 1 
Water bottle – 1   
Camera, power bank and extra batteries 
Go-Pro (if you have) with a big mounting frame (you can mount GoPro in the helicopter)

Will the helicopter land at Everest Base Camp?

There will be two choices; either landing at Kalapatthar  (5,550m/ 18,208 ft) or at Everest Base Camp(5,380m/ 17,600ft).  You don’t get good views of Mt. Everest from Everest Base Camp. But as Kala Patthar is a viewpoint located on high ground this has spectacular views of Everest. Most of the tourists who chose to take a helicopter tour land at Kalapatthar from where you will see extremely close views of Mt. Everest and Base Camp (from above). When you take off, the pilot will fly over Everest Base Camp on the return to Kathmandu. It is also hard to find a landing spot on EBC due to it is located near a moving glacier. During the months when Everest climbing expeditions take place (April/ May and Sept/Oct/Dec) expeditions may make a temporary helipad at Base Camp. If you are in the region at this time, you may request the pilot for a quick landing to get pictures of Everest Base Camp as well. Some pilots may allow you to land in Base Camp some may not. The pilot’s decision is final.

Cancellation policies due to bad weather conditions

Typically, there is a higher chance of flying when in a helicopter than in a regular mountain flight fixed-wing plane. Even if the regular flight to Lukla is canceled helicopters can carry out the rescue operation and transport the passengers to Lukla. But in case the weather is very bad, even the helicopter couldn’t make it, your money will be 100% refundable or your flight schedule for the next day. Or Flying to Annapurna Base Camp is also an option.

Can I bring an infant or child in this tour?

Yes, a child under two years can travel free of cost. Children above two years are required to pay the full amount as an adult. It is entirely safe.

Should I worry about altitude sickness?

Not at all! Let me tell you why. Ascending 5,550m in 4 hours it may sound crazy but the concern about altitude sickness is the timing and itinerary.  As long as you will not spend more time at high altitudes, you will be fine. Altitude sickness is not something that appears instantly.  It takes time for your body to change due to altitude.

Is there supplementary oxygen available onboard?

Yes, there is! The same type of helicopter is used for search and rescue, and they always have an extra oxygen cylinder onboard in case anyone required supplementary oxygen.

What happens if the weather changes suddenly and we cannot take off again from Everest?

In my many years of experience, this has never happened.  If the weather looks bad or likely to become bad,  your trip will be rescheduled for the next day before you leave from Kathmandu.

Are Nepal helicopter pilot’s experiences and safe?

The same helicopter and pilot is used for search and rescues missions up to 7,000m will do the Everest helicopter tour.  So you can be sure of the level of experience.  I can confidently say this is a piece of cake for the pilot. You may have heard of some helicopters crashing in Nepal.  But there has never been a helicopter crash on the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour.

Can someone with hyponatremia, asthma or physical disabilities take this tour?

The answer is YES! Someone with hyponatremia and/ or asthma can still do this tour as we always carry oxygen with us in case it is needed.  Someone who is physically disabled could also do the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour. A wheelchair can be stored in flight and used on the ground at breakfast etc. The Everest Base Camp helicopter tour is also suitable for elderly people.  This could be a trip of a lifetime for them also!

How to book the Everest flights?

Once you have decided to take this tour, it is straightforward if you decide to go with a fixed-wing mountain flight with Buddha Air or Yeti Air. You just need to find an agency that can reserve a ticket for you. Or if you are happy to pay full fare, you can also book from the airline’s website itself.

Regarding helicopter flights, you should be more careful when looking for an agency. The helicopter companies don’t book passengers directly. All they do is schedule the flight once bookings arrive. For example, Air Dynasty has a fixed date departure on their website, but if you are only one passenger, they will simply ask you to contact them again closer to the date.  That means they also have to wait for a reservation to come through the local agency. A lot of local agencies post similar packages online but very few of them are specialized.

How to find a good company that specialized in EBC helicopter tours?

Here are some tips on how to find a suitable travel company for your next adventure to EBC via a flight. Some of my suggestions below could save you a couple of hundred dollars while providing the best service.

  • Look for a company that is not listed on the top advertising section page of Google.  Because these companies pass on the cost of the advertisement to clients.
  • Avoid third party booking agencies like Bookmundi, Getyourguide, Viatour, etc. as it is likely the local travel companies are required to pay at least 25%-30% commission to these third-party websites. And pass the costs on to you.
  • Look for a company’s legal document page to make sure they are registered and appropriately licensed by the Nepal Government.
  • Check what other travelers say about the company such as on Tripadvisor.  These are independent reviews by clients and verified by Tripadvisor so you can be sure of the type of service these companies are capable of.  If they treat 90% of their clients well, chances are you will experience the same service.
  • Make sure it is a secure and safe payment gateway! Like Paypal, e-transfer, etc. for advance payment. Do not pay 100% in advance until you are sure you have a group to join. However, most of the companies require at least some percentage of the total amount as a booking confirmation. It is recommended you try to make a deal to pay after the flight for the following reason: – .  If you pay by credit card and the flight is canceled you will have to be refunded in cash USD as there is no system in Nepal to refund you through your credit card. It may be difficult for the agency to also pay back in USD (the issue of which is restricted by the national bank).  However many agencies may not accept this deal. But if they do not, try paying in USD cash so you know they have this money in hand should you need to be refunded!
  • Bring cash if you can instead of paying by card. You will save 4.2% if you pay in cash as 4.2% is added onto payments by card.

Conclusion

Whether you chose a fixed-wing plane tour around Everest or whether you opt for a helicopter tour to Everest Base Camp, you will thoroughly enjoy your trip!  Even if you have trekked the Himalayas before, this is a very different viewpoint.  If you want to know more about these trips, please contact us.  If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to rate us below.  Or if you have any questions, leave a comment below.

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Rating: 5.0/5. From 2 votes.
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Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide, leader, to being a manager. And finally today I am the founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say I know my way well enough in the Himalayas, especially in some of the off-the-beaten-trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga and Mustang!

I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!). I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central America, USA, Canada, one-third of Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and Latin America.

I studied in the UK and moved to the United States. During that period, I had the opportunity of working with multinational companies which taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. As a world travelling backpacker myself, and travel expert for the Nepalese Himalayas, I started writing about my own country. Which I would love to share with you. In case you required free information about Nepal or join a group with our existing departure, (particularly If you are a solo hiker for the restricted area) please do not hesitate to visit my office in Thamel. We are located in the centre of Kathmandu called Thamel. I am happy to share a cup of Nepali tea and free information.

Our team at NEST has earned 5/5 star ratings on TripAdvisor. Don't forget to visit our customer feedback page on TripAdvisor. If you believe our expert team can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on WhatsApp  +977- 9851052042. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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