Namche Bazaar: A Vibrant Place in the Journey to Everest.
Namche Bazaar – A proverbial Shangri La
Lost in the midst of snow-capped peaks, lies a beautiful Shangri-la, in the form of Namche Bazaar. This small little town is nestled deep in the Himalayas of Nepal, accessible only by high altitude trails. As you embark on a pilgrimage to the Everest Base Camp, your journey will take you to this stunning town positioned high above the flowing waters of the Dudh Kosi river, in the shadow of Mt. Kongde. Namche Bazaar is truly one of the most vibrant places in the journey to Everest.
Namche Bazaar is the official capital of the Khumbu District. It governs the administration of the villages located in the upper Everest valley. Situated at an impressive altitude of 3400 meters above sea level, this horseshoe-shaped town is burrowed into a fold of the mountain, providing the inhabitants’ natural protection against the severe cold.
The Origins of Namche Bazaar
With the popularity of the Everest Base Camp Trek attracting adventure enthusiasts from around the world, Namche Bazaar has transformed from a sleepy little rural mountain village into a vibrant town full of urban amenities.
Home to the Sherpa Community, its colorful market stands out, reflecting an amalgamation of East meets West. The lanes have locals selling beautiful trinkets and souvenirs, a testament to the rich Tibetan culture. These shops are interspersed with German Cafés and Italian Baristas, offering a cup of cappuccino or hot chocolate to the weary traveler. All this is set against the stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Brightly colored Tibetan Prayer flags adorning the streets, give the entire town a festive look and feel.
Namche Bazaar is definitely the ultimate destination to experience the famous hospitality of the Sherpa Culture. This is one of the most unique communities in the entire world. Tracing their roots back to Tibet over two centuries ago, the Sherpas crossed the high mountain passes in search of greener pastures. Following their Yak herds, they finally settled in the beautiful high altitude alpine forests in the shadow of Everest.
Living undisturbed for several generations, they were only discovered by the western world in the 20th century. When the first Europeans began exploring these high mountains as recently as the 1940s, the Sherpas blessed with natural strength and adaptability to high altitude became instrumental in their expeditions. Often outpacing the White Sahibs, quickly their reputation grew.
The term ‘Sherpa’ soon became synonymous with Everest, firmly establishing the fate of this incredible community in the history of mountaineering.
Getting to Namche Bazaar
The most common and modern way of reaching this town is by taking a flight. These flights leave daily from the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu into the Everest valley, landing in Lukla. From here, we follow a mountain trail over the next two days, spanning 22 kilometers to finally reach Namche Bazaar. Fair Warning! There are no motor-able roads to Namche Bazaar.
The commercial flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is an exciting experience, in itself. This is a small propeller-driven 15 seater plane; usually, a Dornier-228 or a Twin Otter, flown manually by two pilots. This 35-minute flight will be one of the scariest experiences of your life. With turbulence constantly jolting you in every direction, it is gut-wrenching, to say the least. Looking out of the window does nothing to ease your nerves as we fly dangerously close to the mountains which appear to skim the bottom of the plane.
As Lukla airport appears in sight, one glance at the runway is certain to give you a heart attack. This narrow runway lies on the side of a mountain at an angle of 20 Degrees, with a drop at one side and a cliff wall at the end. The plane touches down at the bottom of the runway and with the aid of gravity and squealing breaks rolls up the hill. The plane stops with a screeching halt a few meters before the cliff face.
This airport has officially been rated by Lonely Planet as the most dangerous airport in the world. The incredible dexterity of the pilots and the stringent regulations do make these flights quite safe. However, weather conditions sometimes cause delays. Do keep a day or two extra in your whole trip.
The Trek to Namche Bazaar
Post this flight, the trek begins from Lukla to Phakding. This is an easy 8 kilometer stretch with gradual ascents. We finally descend to the river after an easy 3-hour hike to spend our first night in the Everest Valley.
The next morning, we take up the journey once more. From Phakding to Namche Bazaar, the trail is steep and challenging but enjoyable. You cross several high suspension cable bridges over the Dudh Kosi River, including one of the highest in the world. ‘The Hillary Suspension Bridge’.
By noon, we reach the small village of Monjo, which marks the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park. This may create some confusion so it’s important to know that Sagarmatha is the Nepali term for Everest. Once your trekking permits are validated, you will have to pay the National Park fees. This stop can take anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes. After completing these formalities, you are allowed entry by the soldiers of the Nepal Army, stationed in the park to provide constant security for tourists.
As you begin the trek once more, you begin to notice a dramatic reduction in the number of settlements, within the national park. Beautiful mountain waterfalls, alpine forests, and lush greens rhododendron captivate your imagination. If you’re lucky with the weather, you may have the chance to witness your first-ever glimpse of Mt. Everest!
Alternate accesses to Namche Bazaar
One can also take a helicopter from Lukla to Namche Bazaar. This helps you avoid the trekking route but this does depend on the weather. This is not the most recommended means of commute as you gain altitude rapidly, increasing your risk to Mountain Sickness.
Apart from this, a helicopter ride will make your trip more expensive. But, this experience will give you a bird’s eye view of the Everest Valley, transforming your 2-day trek into a journey of 15 minutes.
There is also an airport above Namche Bazaar called Syangboche Airport which is the closest airstrip to Mt. Everest. However, at a height of 3800 meters, due to acclimatization reasons, it is not recommended to directly fly here.
Reaching Namche Bazaar
Namche Bazaar is 137 km from Kathmandu. Earlier when the flight options didn’t exist, people had to first take an 8hr bus ride from Kathmandu to Jiri. You then began the trek from Jiri to Lukla for about 7 days. This was followed by another 2 days to reach the market. This was called the ‘Pioneer’s route’ as the early mountaineers used this very route to reach the Khumbu region.
Today, this route is not frequented very much. If you do want to escape the crowded trails of the Everest Base Camp trek, this becomes an incredible option. Experience the wilderness of the Himalayas, and the authentic rural culture on this adventurous path. However, do keep in mind that it would increase the duration of your trek, substantially.
If you want a flavor of trekking but not as long and difficult as the Everest Base Camp or Gokyo Ri, it can be a good option to trek till the Namche Bazaar, spend a few days, and then return.
Accommodation in Namche Bazaar
Many comfortable Sherpa tea lodges have come up over the years in this region. The Sherpa community is very warm towards their guests and they prepare local homemade dishes for the travelers, be it dal bhat, noodles, fried rice, etc.
With the increase in the number of International tourist trekkers, the Tea houses have evolved from basic hygiene to some high-end luxuries. Basic dormitory accommodation and outdoor plumbing, several of the tea houses now have options of private rooms with attached bathrooms, indoor dining, hot shower, and laundry facilities. It isn’t uncommon to find a few luxury resorts with heated rooms and blankets as well as gourmet cuisine dining services. Some of the most famous properties are the Everest View Hotel ( Also a World Heritage property) and The Yeti Mountain Home chain of Hotels. These deluxe amenities come at a substantial price ranging from 300-350$ a night.
One of the biggest charms of a Tea house is the common dining area, where you inadvertently interact with other trekkers from different countries and cultures, linked by a shared desire to explore the beauty of the Greater Himalayas.
Tourist Attractions in Namche Bazaar
Namche Bazaar is among the wealthiest districts of Nepal. Several shops offer all trekking and climbing equipment, everything from sleeping bags, down jackets to crampons, ropes, and snow bars. Premium brands like the North Face and Mountain, Columbia, and The Mountain Hardware even have showrooms catering to the needs of high-end trekkers and Everest Climbers.
Historically, Namche Bazaar was a trading hub for all the nearby 60 villages. Till date, every Saturday is still considered the official Bazaar day, where traders from different villages and even from Tibet, come to barter goods. The market offers everything from traditional handicrafts, jewelry, singing bowls to even staples like pulses, wheat, and Yak butter. Don’t forget to stop and shop on your way back. But do remember the weight restrictions on the return flight.
Namche Bazaar is also a food lover’s delight. It is buzzing with restaurants and even an Irish pub- make sure to grab a drink here to celebrate your trek but only on your descent. You can also play pool here and relax. I would definitely not recommend a drink on your way up as alcohol is a dehydrating agent. The headache you feel the next morning could either by the alcohol or the altitude.
Make sure to stop by some delicious bakeries and cafes, some offer great wifi too! The market has a currency exchange which is pretty useful as there are hardly any ATMs beyond this market.
One of the unique aspects of this market is that it has a Namche Museum of Sherpa Culture which shows aspects of their life in the mountains; make sure to check that out! It also has writings on the wall by climbers and their experiences in the Everest Valley.
Before leaving this market, give the prayer wheels spin at the Namche Bazaar Stupa. Stupas are an essential part of Buddhist culture. When you step into this place, you feel a sense of calm wash over you. connected with your inner self and it gives you positive energy for your journey ahead.
Namche Bazaar is a great place to unwind and get used to the cold weather and high altitude. A two-day halt is recommended on the way up. Even on the way down, this is a perfect place to celebrate your success, especially at the Irish Pub, Namche Bazaar. It has the distinction of being the highest Irish Pub in the world.
Namche Bazaar is also considered a hub for several alternate trekking routes other than the Everest Base Camp. One can trek to the nearby villages of Thame, Khumjung, and Khunde. You can even head towards the Gokyo Lakes, Renjo La pass, or the remote settlement of Rowling.
Such trails make Namche an ideal Himalayan getaway, not only for the Everest Treks.
By Kriti Jain