Namche Bazaar, the biggest and largest settlement in the Everest base camp trekking route is a quaint town surrounded by gorgeous mountains. In the middle of nowhere and then, you come across this amphitheatre of a town at 12,000ft with coffee shops, bakeries, bars and shops. It’s a melting pot of old versus new and mountain versus the city. Almost all trekkers/climbers spend at least 2 nights here as part of acclimatization before heading up in the mountains.
Now a major tourist hub in Everest region, Namche was once a historic trading point. Tibetan traders used to sell various items and locals used to trade homemade yak cheese and butter. Even now, every Saturday morning, there is a market fair in the town and locals from surrounding villages come to do shopping.
This sherpa town at the base of a lofty Himalayan peak despite its popularity still retains its ancient culture, traditions and heart-warming hospitality. Every trekker and climber going in upper Everest region pass through this town and spend at least one night here. For many, Namche is the highlight of their trek/climb. It is a once in a lifetime experience on the side of a mountain.
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Where is Namche Bazaar?
Namche Bazaar is a town in Everest region, Nepal located at an altitude of 3450m/11,319ft. It lies inside the Sagarmatha national park, a UNESCO world heritage site and is the last frontier for trekkers and climbers before heading up to the mountains, be it Everest Base Camp Trek or Everest Expedition. This place is the capital of the Khumbu region, boasting every facility and luxury you could possibly imagine.
Namche is a gateway to the higher echelons of the Himalayas, namely Everest. From here one may branch towards the village of Thame or continue on to take one of the two main routes, to Gokyo lakes or towards the Everest base camp. This bowled shaped village is a huge Sherpa settlement so high up and far from any other sizeable settlement.
How do I get to Namche Bazaar?
To get to Namche Bazaar, you could either trek for one and a half days from Lukla, the nearest operational airport, Lukla airport or, fly straight to Namche from Kathmandu or Lukla on a helicopter.
Namche is located 21 km north of Lukla and takes one and a half days of trek to reach there. From Lukla, every trekker and climber stop in between either at Phakding or Monjo. This is to due to the flight delays and also to minimize the rapid gain in the elevation as Namche sits at 3450m.
The second day of the trek is the hardest as you will be ascending most of the walk and gaining altitude. Walking alongside Dudhkosi river and crossing high suspension bridges makes the walk interesting and fascinating.
The only option to reach Namche via air is by a helicopter. There is a well-built helipad in Namche and several helicopter flights are carried out for commercial and rescue purposes every day. From Kathmandu, it takes about an hour to reach Namche and from Lukla, it is only 5 mins out.
Flying straight to Namche from Kathmandu may result in altitude sickness for people without any previous visit to high altitude. So, if you don’t want to walk and is afraid of altitude sickness then perhaps spending a night in Lukla and flying to Namche the next day will be a perfect choice.
What can I do in Namche Bazaar?
There are several things you can do in Namche besides enjoying a good cup of coffee and freshly baked cakes. The town has several attractions for you to visit and explore. There are also great day hikes in the vicinity making it a perfect place for acclimatization purpose. This bustling community has a great array of shops, stalls, bars and other attractions. The views getting to it and moving away from it are stunning and dramatic.
Hike to Everest View Hotel
This is the most common and usual thing to do in Namche. It is only a half-day activity and aids with acclimatization too. The walk to Everest view hotel takes around 2 hrs and from there the view of Everest and other peaks are surreal. You may find the hike exhausting heading up, but the views on the way back down looking on to Namche will quickly make you forget everything. Hike early morning after breakfast as the weather tends to be clear in the morning. The morning view is the best and you could also spend the remaining day exploring the town.
Visit Sherpa museum
If you prefer learning about the culture and tradition, visit the Sherpa museum at the top of Namche. The museum is well worth a visit even though it is at the top of a very steep climb. The artefact of village life is amazing and you get to learn about the Sherpa culture. There is also an exhibition of Everest expeditions from the early days which makes it even more interesting.
Explore the town
Namche is not just called the capital of Everest due to its large settlement but also due to its boasting facilities and amenities. The town has amazing coffee shops and bakeries, bars, branded to local outdoor gear shops and even a hair salon. You could easily spend a full day exploring the market and relishing the coffees and freshly baked cakes. The trails are fixed with cobblestones so it is very easy to walk across the town. The streets are alive with locals and trekkers; yaks, donkeys, horses and Jhopkes.
Hike to Khumjung or Thame
Another hiking activity would be to hike to Khumjung or Thame. You can visit Khumjung or Thame in a day time making it a perfect place for a Lunch stop. Thame village is home to world-famous mountaineers and it is also the less visited places in the Everest region. There is an old monastery in Thame where you can visit and pay homage.
Khumjung is another beautiful village which can be reached by 2 hrs walk. It is just below the Everest view hotel so if you wish you can visit Everest view hotel and Khumjung at the same time. Khumjung is also famously known as a green village due to all houses consisting of green roofs. The notable attractions in Khumjung are Khumjung monastery and Khumjung school. You can see the Yeti scalp at the monastery. Khumjung school is the first school to be built in this region and was founded by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Perhaps the best accommodation you will find in the whole region is in this town. From luxurious lodges to basic ones, this town has a wide range of accommodation as per your choice. All the lodges are well built and are clean and cosy. Since Lukla is only a day and a half walk out from here, the supplies are frequent and thus the lodges are nicest.
From $200 to $5 per room per night, you can find a wide range of accommodation. Almost all lodges have proper running water with hot shower and with few extra bucks, you can get yourself a room with an attached bathroom.
Every individual spends at least a night here and the majority of them spend 2 nights as part of acclimatization before heading up further. So book a room in advance to avoid the non-availability at your desired lodge. Most of the rooms are quickly filled during the peak season, so making a booking in advance will help you get your preferred accommodation.
Your accommodation will be booked already if you are going through the guided company, leaving you only to admire the beautiful quaint village.
If you are going on your own, you could book directly by searching it online or check with the lodges at Phakding or Monjo where you stayed the previous night and they will guide you in the right direction.
From working ATM to a cyber cafe, you can find almost anything here you need. Namche has a number of lodgings and stores catering to the needs of the tourist. The town has become more commercialized in recent years due to its popularity. Several lodges, restaurants, bars and shops fill the town. This is also your last place to shop essentials before heading up. If you need to buy any last-minute items then there are branded and local outdoor shops too.
If you are headed down after completing your trek & climb, Namche is a perfect place to unwind and celebrate. The bars have happy hours every night. And the world’s highest Irish Pub is here in Namche. Yes, the highest Irish pub in the world serving Guinness.
When to visit?
Namche can be visited all year round and the lodges are open throughout the year. If your plan is to visit Namche only then you can visit this place at any time of the year. But, if your journey continues upward Namche, then it is best to schedule your visit during the season time.
During the peak season time (March to May & Oct-Dec), the town is filled with tourists and the lodges will all be packed. The shops are all open during the season time and the bars are well rationed too at these times. During the monsoon season visiting Namche may not be interesting due to poor weather condition and there is also a great chance of Lukla flights being cancelled during the monsoon season (June to Mid Sept). But, the monsoon season brings with itself a lush and green beauty.
In Winter it is perfectly fine to visit Namche and at this time, the town looks even beautiful with clear skies and snows. The temperature will drop sub-zero but you get the views that you’d never get during the peak season.
Cover image provided by Xjilien Tan.