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A few days ago somebody on social media asked me what my favorite, all time, travel memory was. Without hesitation I told the lady-of-travel that it was the time I trekked to Tengboche Monastery with my son, then 11 years old. I added a footnote, that I doubted he would agree. I was curious though so I interrupted his online gaming to ask him his favourite travel memory. He said the same, no hesitation, no prompting, we hadn’t been talking about Nepal or our trek recently and I knew full well he’d had a tough time up there, but that was his answer. It brought silent motherly tears to my eyes. This post is about Tengboche Monastery and the trek to Tengboche Monastery from Lukla via Namche Bazaar.
In February-or-was-it-March we look the white-knuckle plane ride to Lukla from Kathmandu to start our little walk in the Himalayas. We hadn’t gone to Nepal to trek, we didn’t bring any gear and it wasn’t in our plan for that month but once we hit the ground in magical Thamel, we just couldn’t help ourselves and had to get up into the mountains.
Adventure travel is what we love, particularly adventures in the Himalayas, trekking or hiking. The mountains called us once more.
Tengboche Monastery Nepal
In this post we share photos of Tengboche Monastery, outside only, it’s not appropriate to take photos of the monks in the prayer hall, and Tengboche Itself. We’ve visited Tengboch 3 times now. The first time we trekked from Lukla to Tengboche, a trek that only take about 4 days. On the second and third visits to Tengboche we were on the Everest Base Camp trek, which we completed with our children when they were 12 and 14 yrs old.
Tengboche is one of my favourite places on these treks, and offers stunning views of Mount Everest. Can you see Everest from Tengboche? Yes you can, but that view is weather dependent, you need clear skies and no clouds.
Where is Tengboche Monastery
Tengboche Monastery (also called Thyangboche Monastery or Dawa Choling Gompa) is a high altitude Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Tengboche Village, which is in Khumjung, in the country of Nepal. Nepal is in the sub region of Asia, South Asia. It is one of the monasteries trekkers pass on the Everest Base Camp trek.
The Monastery is inside Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park, which is in the Everest Region or Khumbu Region of Nepal for which visitors must purchase a permit. Tengboche is in the Mahalangur Himalayan range sub-range of the Himalayas.
Nepal and Tegboche are entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, at 27.8 degrees north of the equator. It is 86.7 degrees east of the Greenwich Meridian.
Tengboche Monastery is in Nepal, not India, it is in north east Nepal close to China (Tibet).
When was Tengboche Monastery Built?
Tengboche Monastery was first bult in 1916 by Lama Gulu, however since then it has been destroyed twice, by earthquake and then by fire in 1834 and 1989 respectively. Tengboche Monastery today is a working monastery and home to up to 60 monks, but visitors are allowed inside.
Can You Go Inside Tengboche Monastery?
Yes, visitors can go inside Tengboche Monastery. Shoes and boots must be removed to enter, there is no admission ticket or entrance fee. If you’re on a trek with a group I don’t know if you’ll be given time to go inside, but as we trek independently we’ve been inside several times. It’s very much worth going inside, its a beautiful place and deeply spiritual.
Just before you enter the monastery at the top of the brick steps and after the curtain in our photo, you will see a large stone footprint relic.
Inside the monastery there are icons, thanka, murals, very traditional decorations and religious items, plus cushioned rows of seating for the monks. It’s very much worth taking your boots off to go inside.
Many of the monasteries precious prayer books and documents were destroyed in the 1989 electrical fire.
You are quite likely to see monks praying, chanting and playing musical instruments. It’s a very spiritual and moving place. No photography was allowed inside at the time of our last visit.
Interestingly Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was once sent here to join the monks. He was born in this region. There’s a statue of him just past Namche Bazaar at the Everest lookout above the town.
How To Get To Tengboche Monastery
You can walk to Tengboche (Thyangboche) Monastery, or you can get to Tengboche Monastery by helicopter, the latter is not advisable if you’re unacclimatised. There is a helipad at Tengboche village. You may also be able to arrange a horse or mule to ride to Tengboche.
Many people walk from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche in one day, if you choose to do this the Tengboche Hill climb, when you’re tired, will be tough. Tengboche Hill normal takes us about 2 hours.
Hike To Tengboche Trek
The normal route for most trekkers is to fly to Lukla then walk for 3-4 days to Tengboche. There are also alternative trekking routes up to Lukla which add 4-7 days to your journey.
On arrival in Lukla, it’s normal to begin your trek immediately, people don’t normally spend a night in Lukla. Your first day’s walk is to Phakding. This is an easy walk, ideal for beginners, as you go down in altitude.
In Namche, it’s normal to wait a day to acclimatise. After this you could walk to Tengboche in one day, or spend a night in Phungi Thenga or near Sanasa.
Khumjung Village is between Namche Bazaar and Tengboche if you take the longer route. It’s worth visiting Khumjung Monastery to see the Yeti skull, the Everest View Hotel, the highest hotel in the world, is also near Khumjung.
What’s In Tengboche?
Other than the monastery, there are a few lodges and hotels in Tengboche along with a bakery and tea houses. Most people keep going past Tengboche to Dingboche (9.1km or 6 miles as the crow flies) for that night’s lodging. This extra journey should take about an hour and a half and this section is quite easy and flat, if I remember correctly.
Tengboche Monastery Altitude
Tengboche Monastery is at an elevation of 3861m or 12667feet. At this altitude, trekkers experience barometric pressure of 63 KPa. The thin air will be very noticeable for trekkers arriving in Tengboche as the village and monastery are at the top of “Tengboche Hill” one of the most difficult uphill sections on the Everest Base Camp trek.
This hill has an ascent of over 600m in altitude gain from Phungi Tenga, at the lowest point in the valley below. Here you need to cross a suspension bridge over the Dudh Khosi river and there are places to eat or get tea. This will be your last chance to eat before reaching Tengboche.
Can You See Everest From Tengboche
Yes, Tengboche has a good view of Everest if there is no cloud and indeed, Tengboche has panoramic views of many mountains. As with all views of Everest on the Everest Base Camp trek, you only ever really see the summit of Mount Everest above the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
However, you don’t need to walk as far as Tengboche Monastery to see Everest, there are several view points earlier in the trek, the first being just before Namche Bazaar. There is no “best” place to see Mount Everest, it all depends on cloud conditions and time of year. October usually brings the clearest skies and is peak trekking time.
The summit of Mount Everest (on the Nepal/China border) is 23.1 km, 14.3 miles as the crow flies. The distance to walk to Everest Base Camp from Tengboche is 24.5 km, 15.2 miles, a walk that under normal conditions should only take 6 hours or so. But you are still several days from Base Camp yet!
Distance From Namche Bazaar to Tengboche Monastery
Namche Bazaar to Tengboche Monastery is only 5.9 km as the crow flies, however, the walking route is much longer at 8.6km. This is the standard Everest Base Camp Trek route, but there is an alternative route via Kumjung Village and Khumjung Monastery.
This detour adds 3.2 km to Khumjung Monastery (you can make a side trip to the Everest View Hotel, adding more distance) and then from Khumjung Monastery and Khumjung town (where you will find The Hillary School and a Yeti Skull) you descend to Phungi Thenga.
From memory, this took about half an hour to rejoin the main trail below. I don’t know the exact distance. It’s certainly an interesting detour and not included on most Everest Base Camp group package tours. These tours normally go to Everest View Hotel from Namche, and back, as an acclimatisation walk.
Namche To Tengboche Trek
You can walk from Namche Bazaar, to Tengboche and on to Dingboche in one day, but this would mean the hard ascent of Tengboche Hill would be in the afternoon and you may be tired.
That said, the first part of this walk is easy, flat, and then downhill to Phungi Tenga, so the morning’s walk shouldn’t be too hard.
The distance from Namche to Tengboche is only 5.9 km as the crow flies, but the walking distance is more at 8.6km. The given walk time is just under 2 hours, but most people will need to stop for breaks and to catch their breath as the steep Tengboche Hill and thin air make the going hard.
There’s an alternative way to walk between Namche and Tengboche, via the town of Khumjung and the Khumjung Monastery, this is an interesting side trek as you can see the Hillary School, the yeti skull at the monastery, and the Everest View Hotel and Hillary chortens. Being at greater elevation, you’ll also have a better view of Everest (photo above).
Walking this way will add distance and time to your walk and should not be attempted without proper acclimatisation hikes from Namche first.
Lukla to Tengboche Trek
From Lukla (whether you arrive by plane or helicopter at Lukla airport, or walk to Lukla) the classic Everest Base Camp trek normally takes 4 days to get to Tengboche.
After arrival in Lukla the first day of the trek is an easy one, you descent to Phakding where you spend the night. There are suspension bridges along the way.
The next day is hard, not only do you cross the Hillary Bridge, you have to tackle Namche Hill, one of the EBCs harder ascents (along with Tengboche Hill). On arrival in Namche Bazaar you will be tired and feeling the effects of lack of oxygen as you just gained several hundred metres.
You need to spend at least 2 night in Namche and take acclimatisation treks before walking on to Tengboche. There is plenty to see and do in Namche, including an Everest lookout, small museum, historical mountaineering sites, a monument to Tenzing Norgay and Namche monastery. There is also the highest Irish bar in the world and the German Bakery. Namche is a good place to hang out, as an independent trekker allow yourself some extra time here if you can.
The distance from Lukla (2860m) to Tengboche (3860m) is 17.1 km or 10.6 miles as the crow flies, the trekking trail is 27.1 km (16.8 miles). The entire Everest Base Camp Trek is not very long, only a 130 km (80 miles) round trip. It’s not the distance, it’s the altitude and the conditions.
Tengboche Monastery Trek (Blog)
What follows is our personal Tengboche Monastery trek blog. I hiked (walked) to Tengboche Monastery with my 11 year old. On this occasion we only walked as far as Tengboche and this is a great trek without going all the way to Everest Base Camp. A year or two later, we completed the trek to Base Camp, passing through Tengboche again. Tengboche is a great destination in itself with incredible views of Everest (weather allowing) so if you’re short of time or doubt you could make it to Base Camp, maybe just complete this shoter hike, either from Lukla airport or up from Phaplu. Read our post about the difficulties of the Everest Base Camp Trek. They are the same for Tengboche, but the altitude isn’t as severe.
Chef and I had trekked in Nepal before, we’d completed the 3 week Annapurna circuit in blizzards and waist deep snow in our days before kids, so we knew what to expect up there.
We knew some things were difficult, like the altitude, but that walking is actually no big deal and the kids could probably cope with that easily. My biggest concern after altitude was keeping the boys safe and close at hand on narrow, sometimes crumbling paths etched into steep mountain slopes.
Convoys of yaks, donkeys and mules can be a real hazard in The Himalayas and a stumble into the melt waters of the Khumbu Ice Fall thundering below, was a vaguely terrifying possibility.
My personal demon in the Himalayas, scary bridges, is something I overcome, I thought the boys would handle those better than their mum.
To help with the child wrangling, we hired a Sherpa guide, you don’t really need one, but we felt a larger adult:child ratio would be a good idea. He was gold, it was really helpful to have somebody extra keeping them safe.
By sheer good luck we bumped into Nima our guide a couple of years later on the full Everest Base Camp trek. It was wonderful to see him again.
So we set off from Lukla in a motley assortment of jeans, running shoes and leggings, to just see how far we would get. Chef and I carried the gear, we didn’t want to make the boys’ lives harder with backpacks. (We have a post on gear for Nepal here).
We wanted to see Everest of course and Namche Bazaar was looking like a probable destination, but we weren’t planning on walking all the way to Everest Base Camp (5362m) with a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old. We didn’t think it would be fair on them.
Our first day of walking went well, we descended from Lukla at 2860m and entered the Everest National Park, spending a comfortable night in a huge lodge at Phakding with a room for 4 people. That was the last time we saw rooms for 4, from here on in it was all twin cubicles.
Day two was always going to be the hard one. The path follows the Dudh Koshi River valley over tumbled rocks and through pine forest before the first steep ascent to the bridge from hell. Yes, the top one, the one you see in the opening of the movie “Everest”.
I’m not good with bridges. D, 11, doesn’t bat an eyelid, Boo and I sing and curse our way across, me doing our best to hide my absolute, almost paralysing terror. The terror is intensified by my children being there but what to do? You just have to get across.
As the bridge came into view it started to snow. It started to snow sideways. So we crossed that bridge in high winds, slippery conditions and poor visibility.
On the other side of the abyss the road snakes up a pine-clad mountain side, thankfully sheltered from the worst of the snow. This is the hard part, 1000m of almost straight up and this is where things got hard. Boo wasn’t feeling too good, the kids were plagued by tummy bugs since we arrived in Kathmandu and the altitude started to get to us all. We plodded on all afternoon, ultra slowly, walk a little, wait a little, leaning heavily on trekking poles.
Towards the top of the slope trekkers reach a view-point. Our promised first sighting of Everest wasn’t to be as the snow clouds refused to co-operate. We kept pushing forwards, past the next check point and permit purchase, into Namche Bazaar. The snow obliterated the view, we really had no idea what was around us as we entered Namche at 3440m, we were exhausted. The altitude had kicked in and it was a massive struggle to get up the steps to our guest house that night.
Next morning the clouds had cleared and we woke to this. Wow!
We spent 2 nights in Namche Bazaar exploring and acclimatising. Just above the town there is another Everest view-point and this statue of Tenzing Norgay, the “tiger of the Mountains”. I can’t express how incredibly moving it was to be there, in this place full of climbing history. Just behind the statue there is a cool little museum which we explored with the boys.
I hiked the 40 minutes up to the view-point 3 times, sitting on the hill waiting for the clouds to part. They never did, I got little more than an impression of my mountain.
We needed to keep going so day 4 took us on short, easy fairly level hike to our 3rd trekking lodge. The views of Nuptse, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam were magnificent, but still no Everest. We could see Tengboche Monastery perched high on the next mountain ridge, it was calling me.
My little Boo and his dad weren’t doing too well, both had tummy problems, so it was decided that the next morning D, I and Nema would carry on to Tengboche.
This day hike is a tough one, there’s wasn’t a huge difference in height between our stop and Tengboche at 3870m, but the path drops right down to river level, 3250m, before climbing steeply to the ridge.
What can I say? We did it, it was beautiful and it was hard. It was wonderful to do it with my son. We crawled up that last section, Nema walking ahead of us. He reached the top first.
“You can see Everest!”
You never saw such a transformation, I sprinted up those last 100 m before throwing myself down in the dirt just to sit, look and watch. That mountain has an incredible hold on me. I was so busy looking I missed the best views with my camera.
D was impressed, but more excited by his promised Snickers, so he shot off with Nema to find a tea shop.
It was magnificent, magical, stunning and so worth it.
We explored the monastery as yak caravans and monks wandered around the Tengboche plateau.
I ached to keep going higher, but we had to turn back.
We took a slightly different route back to Lukla enjoying more spectacular views and no cloud while visiting the Hillary School and an ancient, locked Khumjung monastery housing a yeti skull. That is in Everest Trek, Part 2.
Reliving these memories is incredible, so thanks for letting me share them with you. Nothing, no travel experience in the world, comes close to being high in the Himalayas in sight of Everest.
Further Resources For Your Nepal Trek
Will We Return to Everest Base Camp?
Yes, it will happen, (it did happen) D is keen and so am I. Little Boo doesn’t want to go back up there again (he went, with bribery, and did great) so we two will be going solo. There are a number of side treks up there too, which we hope to complete, some requiring crampons for ice walking. It will almost certainly be this year, it could be next month. Nepal, we’re coming back! Update: We completed the full Everest Base Camp trek 2 years later, visiting the Monastery at Tengboche again, twice, and being lucky enough to catch the monks chanting.