There are a few ways to see Mt Everest in person: climb to its snowy peak (after saving your pennies for years and training for months to make the challenging eight-week trek), take the 15-day round hike to Base Camp and stand in its shadow, or book yourself onto a 60-minute scenic flight from Kathmandu.
After arriving at the airport and going through customs, take a rickety bus across the tarmac and board the 19-seater twin-engine propeller plane. Each passenger is given a map of the region, outlining the mountains the plane will pass – the area is home to several of the world’s tallest mountains, but you’ll know when Everest comes into view!
Pulling out from Kathmandu Valley, fly above the sprawling city and over lush lowlands, stepped rice paddies, banana plantations and forests of juniper, rhododendron and pine. Slowly, the verdant greenery gives way; the hills get more precipitous and the vegetation becomes spindly, revealing lichen-covered rock and smatterings of snow. Prayer flags draped across teahouses and monuments become a common sight as the ground dips further and further away. Finally, all you see is a panorama of the Himalayas across the horizon.
The best seat in the house
Everyone gets a window seat on the twin-engine propeller plane out of Kathmandu; two rows of single seats line the cabin, so everyone has an unobstructed view of the Himalayas. For ultimate bragging rights, sit on the left-hand side of the plane so you’re first to see the mountain, and try to get a seat just in front of the wing for an uninterrupted vista of the area. During the flight, each passenger will also spend a few minutes in the cockpit with the pilots.
Experience a Mt Everest scenic flight on our Essence of Nepal & Bhutan and our India & Nepal Heritage tour.
What to take
Your camera! You’ll get pictures that’ll turn your friends and family green with envy. Be sure to wear warm clothes that can be layered; it’s freezing on the tarmac in the morning before the sun comes up, but you’ll get warm quite quickly on the plane.
When to go
The best time to take a scenic flight is before you go trekking, to get a better sense of the mountain’s scale. The sky is generally clearer between September and May.
Around or over?
Scenic flights don’t actually circle the mountain, nor do they fly over Everest’s peak. Instead, you’ll approach the mountain from Kathmandu airport, passing over the Sagarmatha National Park to the southern side of Mt Everest.