I researched this trek diligently in the months prior to our departure. Looking back, I think my research paid off in that we were not caught by many bad surprises. But there were two topics that I wish I would have gathered more information on before leaving. The first issue is the crossing of Cho La pass, which I will talk about more when I write about (what has become to my wife and I) the infamous trekking day #6. The second issue is the teahouses.
When I was researching teahouses, I read many blogs stating that teahouses are standard and are very similar across the board. I was left with the impression that they are all the same, but I don’t think that’s exactly true. There are some really good teahouses that you should definitely use if you are in town. And then, there are really bad ones you should avoid. The ones in the middle of the spectrum are comparable in quality but variable somewhat in its amenities and comfort.
Let’s start by establishing some baseline expectations:
- Room: expect very basic rooms, usually with two beds with foam pads. Blankets are usually provided. From our observation these blankets are never or rarely washed. Things to consider when you pick a room:
- What’s outside your window? If you can see Mt. Everest or Gokyo lake, it’s obviously going to improve your stay.
- What/who is next door/upstairs/downstairs? These walls are paper thin. We had a room in Tengboche with the view of Everest and Lhotse, but it was also next to the main dining room. A bunch of drunken Italian guys decided to bust out a banjo and party it up that night, which– needless to say– was not ideal for us before and after a long trekking day.
- How far is the toilet? You do NOT want a toilet outside of your building. It’s cold at night. You also probably don’t want to be too close to the toilet if it smells bad, which many do.
- Hosts/Servers: We found that the attitude of hosts and servers can make or break your experience at a lodge. We had hosts ranging from warm and responsive to cold and dismissive. Take note of your first impression when you encounter the owner(s) of a teahouse. It’s usually a pretty accurate indicator for the kind of treatment you will receive throughout your stay.
- Food: Unfortunately, you really have no idea what the food quality is until you are served. For better or worse, I didn’t find too much variability in food quality. But if you are like me, you are going to be starving by the time you sit down for dinner and will want quantity! For example, when you order Daal Baht, you want to know if they will give you refills (they should and almost always do! It’s pretty standard to give one refill on all the items of Daal Baht but in many places you have to ask for it).
- Toilet: have you ever used a squatter toilet? If you can’t squat down to poop, don’t stay in a teahouse without a western toilet. None of the toilets have toilet paper. Only two teahouses in our two weeks trek had soap.
- Shower: Most of the places have showers available. The deeper you go on this trek, the more likely you will get a bucket of warm water instead of a running shower. If you want a satisfying shower, make sure you ask if they have gas shower prior to check in. Still, you’ll likely have to walk outside to get to and from the shower, which can be chilly.
- Wifi: In Lukla and Namche, you will find free wifi in some teahouses, but we found that wifi speed and bandwidth varies from never able to load a page to reasonably able to upload a picture in 5 mins. If you really care about having internet on a particular day, you should ask the host to sign you onto their network to verify the connection and speed before committing to a lodge.
- External battery charge: This one varies quite a bit. Some places allow you to charge for free in the dining area and some places have outlets for you to charge in your own room, but the majority charge you a fee ($1.50 per phone, $3-5 per external battery).
Now that we’ve talked about the common amenities of these lodges, let’s go over the places we actually encountered on this trip. I will rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest rating.
- Waterfall lodge: We had lunch here on the way in and took a break here on the way out. Benkar is a tiny little village with a beautiful waterfall on its south end. I had a great feeling at Waterfall Lodge even though we didn’t stay here. People were smiley and very courteous. I suspect we’d have a good experience there had we decided to stay overnight. (rating: 4)
- Kamal Hotel: This was our first teahouse experience on this trek and it wasn’t great. It was rainy when we got to Namche, we had been hiking for 9 ½ hrs, we were exhausted, and we checked in the first teahouse that looked legit. I do NOT recommend this place. The hosts were not pleasant. The food quality was suboptimal. We encountered two English trekkers who were on their way down from EBC. They told us that this place was probably the worst lodge they had stayed in on their entire trip. There was western style toilet and a shared sink on our floor. There was hot shower available. Wifi was supposed to be free but it was down the entire time we stayed. (rating: 1)
- Dipa Restaurant: This place is on the first floor of Kamal hotel. Food was delicious with good quantity. Wifi worked very well. Servers were pleasant. Tell them to bring food out as they are ready otherwise they will try to bring out all your orders at the same time, which may delay things. (rating: 4)
- Nirvana hotel: So we moved from Kamal after one night and found this place on the other side of the town. This place was AWESOME. We ended up staying here on the way down, too. The place was owned by Kami and Chinling who were very nice. Chinling’s father is Kancha Sherpa who is the last living member of 1953 Everest expedition which was the first ever successful attempt to summit Everest. Yes, he was a sherpa for Norgay and Hillary. The stories he told were legendary. Food was standard. Hot shower was $4/person. Wifi $3/device. The place was spotless. I used their blankets for the first time and probably the only time on this trip. Highly recommended. (rating: 5)
- Mountain View Lodge: you will find this place on your left hand side to the hilltop when you first come into town. It had a red rooftop. Host was very smiley and nice. Food portions were good. Toilet was at the end of the hallway: one squatter and one western. (rating: 3)
- Yeti Lodge: had lunch here. Seemed like nice people. We ordered a plate of vegetables, which is rarely on menus (a little surprising, given how many vegetables we saw in the fields on the way up). We loved it so much that we ordered a second plate. One western style toilet (weirdly without a seating lid), one squatter. (rating: 3.5)
- Lakeside Lodge: owned by the sister of the owner at Mountain View. Also very warm hosts. Good view of Gokyo lake from the window of our room. Food was good quantity. Shower was a bucket of hot water. Wifi by Everest link card. One squatter toilet, one western style toilet (a bit wobbly). Sink was outside the building. (rating: 3)
- Maison Sherpa Lodge: the lodge next door was blasting music when we came in so we quickly decided on this one. There was only one room left when we got in around 4 pm. Food was good. Host was busy but courteous enough. Two Squatter toilets. (rating: 3)
- Pyramid: I cannot tell you how glad we were to find this place. It was an Italian research lab that lost funding two years ago. Now it’s open to public as a lodge. It’s located about 15 minutes north of Lobuche. You will see a sign for it on your left side as you hike up towards Gorak Shepp. It’s more expensive than other places, but it’s worth packing a little extra cash. For my wife and I, it was $70/night including all meals, all the hot tea you want, hot shower, wifi, flushing toilet, etc. There is also a jar of peanut butter!! The host’s name is Kaji and he’s an incredibly nice guy! We stayed here two nights. I will write more about the place in my future articles.(rating: 5)
- Khungri Resort: I think there are only 3 or 4 teahouses in this town. The first one we checked out was dark and felt like a large dungeon. Khungri has an open courtyard, which we enjoyed at lunch. The young server, Sky, is a very pleasant guy who is quick to start a conversation. Good food. Only one western toilet next to the main dining room. The annex we stayed in had two squatter toilet and no sink. There is a gas shower and we heard the water is hot and refreshing. (rating: 3.5)
- Wind Horse Inn: We enjoyed our stay here. The rooms are larger than most places. Two flushing western toilet. Good food, pleasant host who even offered us free coffee when we came back from Ama Dablam BC. Blankets seemed clean. I was tempted to use them. (rating: 4)
- Hotel Himalayan: There are only four lodges in this small town where most trekkers going up to EBC will stay for a night so the lodges get very crowded. We had a room with an Everest view but also a wall adjacent to the main dining room, which got loud. Bedding and blankets were old– they didn’t have odor per se but did not look very clean. One western toilet on the first floor which smelled terrible. Two western toilets upstairs (much much better upstairs if you have the choice). Food was good. I asked for a third refill on my Daal Baht which was probably not received well by the host, but they gave it to me anyways. (rating: 2.5)
- Lukla lodge: free wifi didn’t work. Food was ok. Western style toilets available. Rooms were much smaller than other lodges. The host was very distracted due to the large number of tourists who were trapped in Lukla by the flight cancellations. There is a club not that far from the lodge and you can hear the music/beats very clearly when you sit in the dining room. Surprisingly we didn’t hear much of it in our room, but heard that other folks did. (rating: 2.5)
I hope this list provides you with some insight into the lodging situation on this trek. I’d recommend staying at Nirvana in Namche and Pyramid north of Lobuche (and maybe Wind Horse Inn in Pangboche). Avoid Kamal Hotel which is on the lower end of the spectrum in Namche.
What do you think? Do you have any questions regarding any specific teahouses I mentioned? Any other questions? Let’s talk about the itinerary next.
Interested in reading about our food adventures in Kathmandu? Click here.
Are you planning a trekking trip of own? Check out my packing list.