Sagarmatha National Park: Facts, Permits, and Travel Guide

  • Ram Khadka
  • May 20, 2024

Table of Contents

Sagarmatha National Park (SNP), widely known as home to Mount Everest, has been a popular trekking destination with 50,882 annual visitors(Foreign tourists only) in recent years.

While Mount Everest understandably garners much of the attention, Sagarmatha National Park has a rich mountaineering history beyond Everest. Numerous other peaks within the park offer challenging climbs for experienced mountaineers.

The park is more than just mountains, it has glaciers, deep valleys, rare species, flora and fauna, world-renowned Everest trekking trails, and lovely Sherpa people.

There are a ton of beautiful glacial lakes such as the Khumbu Glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in the park, and Ngozumpa Glacier among others. These glaciers feed into lakes like Gokyo Lake and help regulate water flow downstream to places like Lukla and Namche Bazaar while adding to the scenic beauty of the region.

The park is inhabited by the indigenous Sherpa people, who have a rich cultural heritage and a deep connection to the land. Their traditional way of life, including yak herding and mountaineering, adds cultural significance to the area. There are also special places like sacred sites and monasteries that are very important to the Sherpa people and Buddhists.

Home to diverse flora, fauna, and wildlife, Sagarmatha National Park contains various species of rhododendron, juniper, and fir, as well as rare wildlife such as snow leopards, red pandas, and Himalayan black bears.

Did you know that, Sagarmatha is a Nepali word derived from Sagar meaning “sky” and matha meaning “head”. Thus Sagarmatha means forehead of the sky. Not to mention, “Everest” is the western name given to the mountain and the surrounding region.

Mt. Ama Dablam seen from Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Established on July 19, 1976, Sagarmatha National Park is Nepal’s first national park to be inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

The park is huge, covering 1,148 square kilometers (443 square miles). In January 2002, after realizing they needed to protect the park more, a Buffer Zone comprising 275 square kilometers (106 square miles) was added to the park. This Buffer Zone Management Guidelines prioritized the conservation of forests, wildlife, and cultural resources, ensuring the sustainable management of this precious ecosystem.

Not to mention, tourism has played a vital role in the area’s development with lots of tourists visiting since the 1960s, around 19,000 in 2003 alone. In recent years, the number has been rapidly increasing with 50,882 annual visitors (Foreign tourists only).

Topography and Geography of Sagarmatha National Park

Map of Sagarmatha National Park

The park covers a big area, including the upper parts of three rivers called Bhote Kosi, Dudh Kosi, and Imja Khola. These rivers start high up in the mountains and meet near a village called Namche Bazar. The park also stretches southward along the Dodh Kosi Valley to another village called Lukla.

Surrounded by mighty mountain ranges and characterized by rugged terrain, deeply incised valleys, and vast glaciers, Sagarmatha National Park is dominated by the iconic peak of Sagarmatha, known globally as Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth.

Surrounding Sagarmatha are numerous other towering peaks, including Baruntse, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumo Ri, Guachung Kang, Cho-Oyu, and Nangpai Gosum, all exceeding heights of 6,000 meters. Not to mention, seven of these peaks soar to heights exceeding 7,000 meters.

The mountains are surrounded by glaciers, which are big chunks of ice that slowly move over time. The rivers in the park get their water from these glaciers. But because of changes in the climate, some of these glaciers are getting smaller, and new lakes are forming. One of these lakes, called Imja Dzo Lake, is now quite big and deep.

The landscape in the park is very rugged, with steep valleys and rocky terrain. As you go higher the valleys become U-shaped, and you'll see fewer trees and more snow.

Diverse Flora and Fauna in Sagarmatha National Park

Himalayan Monal (Pheasant) spotted at Sagarmatha National Park

As you explore the park, you'll notice different types of forests. In the lower areas, there are fir, Himalayan birch, and colorful rhododendron trees. As you go higher, between 4,000 to 5,000 meters, juniper and rhododendron become more common. Beyond 5,000 meters, where it's really high and cold, you'll mostly find mosses and lichens.

The park is a bird paradise too. There are over 200 bird species, including the stunning Impeyan pheasant(Himalayan monal), the big bearded vulture, the elusive snowcock, and the lively alpine chough. These birds make the park's skies lively and colorful.

When it comes to animals, there are plenty to see too. In the mountains, you might spot Himalayan thar, Himalayan serow, and musk deer. And if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the majestic snow leopard, which lives way up high above 3,500 meters. Closer to the ground, in the forested areas, the Indian leopard roams secretly.

Some rare and endangered species include the elusive Snow Leopard, the graceful Musk Deer, the majestic Himalayan Black Bear, the clever Wolf, and the nimble Goral. Additionally, rare mammals include the Red Panda, and birds like the Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, and Snow Cock.

Snow Leopard

Sagarmatha National Park is the Sherpas’ Beloved Territory

Sagarmatha National Park holds a special place in the hearts of the Sherpa people (famous for their mountain skills) who have called this rugged terrain home for centuries. Originating from Tibetan roots, the Sherpas bring a rich cultural heritage with influences from their ancestral land.

Around 6,000 Sherpas reside in approximately 20 settlements scattered throughout the park's vicinity, including Namche Bazar, Kunde, Khumjung, Tengboche, and Pangboche. During the tourist season, these villages bustle with activity as Sherpas temporarily settle along the trekking trails, providing essential services to the tourists. Besides tourism, they also raise animals and grow crops to make a living.

In Sagarmatha National Park, the Sherpa people have strong beliefs linked to Tibetan Buddhism. For over four centuries, they have safeguarded their traditions, building a deep bond with the beautiful land they call home.

They truly treasure the environment and uphold the principles of conservation. To show respect for their sacred surroundings, the park strictly prohibits any kind of animal slaughter. As a result, people mostly rely on a healthy and delicious diet that mainly consists of grains and vegetables.

You can see Sherpa culture all around the park, with its beautiful monasteries, prayer walls, and colorful prayer flags. Not to mention, the sacred phrase "Om mani padme hum" is frequently inscribed on stones, rocks, and pebbles. These symbols show their devotion to their religion and their respect for the mountains.

In the park, the Sherpa people are not just residents; they are the guardians of its natural beauty and the keepers of its traditions.

Permits, Accommodations, and Transportation options

Visitors must first obtain a Sagarmatha National Park Permit to explore the park. These permits can be acquired either at the Sagarmatha National Park Entry Gate located in Monjo or at the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu.

The cost of the permit varies depending on your nationality. For Nepali citizens, it's NRS 100, for citizens of SAARC countries, it's NRS 1,500, and for all others, it's NRS 3,000. Keep in mind that payment must be made in Nepali Rupees, as foreign currency isn't accepted in the Everest region. Remember to bring your passport when obtaining the permit.

As for accommodations, there are various options available ranging from resort hotels to cozy lodges and traditional tea houses. For those looking for a more adventurous experience, camping is also permitted in designated areas within the park.

In terms of transportation, the most common way to reach Sagarmatha National Park is by flying to Lukla, which is just a 30-minute flight from Kathmandu. Alternatively, you can opt to take a bus to Jiri and then trek onward to the park.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal times to explore the National Park are from October to November and March to May, as it has beautiful weather and clear skies. During these months, you can revel in the breathtaking vistas of the Himalayas and indulge in thrilling hikes and camping experiences.

It’s wise to avoid visiting the park from June to September, as heavy rainfall, averaging around 1000 mm, can make trekking and camping quite challenging, not to mention the increased risk of landslides and other hazards.

During the winter months, from December to February, it gets extremely cold, and there's snowfall. Overall, each season has its own beauty in Sagarmatha National Park, so you can visit whenever you feel comfortable. Find the detailed information on our other blog on the best time to trek the Everest region.

Things to consider while visiting Sagarmatha National Park

To have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring SNP, here are important considerations. 

  • Be mindful of high altitude sickness, which can occur if you ascend too rapidly without proper acclimatization. Symptoms may include headache, difficulty sleeping, breathlessness, loss of appetite, and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, stop ascending immediately and descend to a lower elevation, and seek medical advice.
  • Avoid using firewood, as it's prohibited in the park.
  • Cook with kerosene or gas stoves instead of lighting campfires.
  • Choose lodges that use alternative energy sources for cooking and heating.
  • Pack out all trash and avoid purchasing items that contribute to pollution.
  • Use safe drinking water or purify water yourself to minimize contamination.
  • Refrain from using polythene/plastic materials and leave no trace behind except footprints.
  • Obtain a Sagarmatha National Park Permit before entering the park.
  • Obtain special permits from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation for filming or documentary purposes, along with necessary fees.
  • Respect flora and fauna by refraining from damaging or disturbing them.
  • Dispose of rubbish properly in designated areas and respect cultural and religious sites.
  • Camp only in designated areas and carry out non-biodegradable items.
  • Trek with a companion and guide and avoid trekking alone for safety.
  • Avoid bringing mountain bikes or motorbikes into the park.
  • Adhere to nighttime restrictions and avoid walking within the park between sunset and sunrise.

Must Visit Landmarks

Sagarmatha National Park is filled with incredible landmarks to explore, including Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lakes, Khumbu Glacier and Icefall, Kala Patthar, Namche Bazaar, and Tengboche Monastery. Here are three must-visit landmarks in SNP.

Everest Base Camp

One of the most iconic landmarks within this pristine wilderness is the Everest Base Camp. Situated at an altitude of over 5,300 meters (17,500 feet), Everest Base Camp serves as the starting point for climbers aiming to conquer the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest.

However, even for those not attempting the summit, reaching the base camp is a remarkable achievement. The trek to EBC offers stunning views of towering peaks like Everest, Nuptse, and Thamserku. Along the way, trekkers traverse through picturesque Sherpa villages, dense rhododendron forests, and rugged mountain terrain, immersing themselves in the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region.

Sublime Trails offers a variety of Everest Base Camp Trek packages:

The Everest Base Camp Trek 12 Days is a thrilling adventure that takes you through the heart of the Himalayas. You will experience scenic mountain flights, immerse yourself in Sherpa culture at Tengboche Monastery, and explore the wilderness of Sagarmatha National Park. You’ll also be reaching the summit of Kala Patthar for breathtaking views of Mt. Everest and surrounding peaks, making memories to last a lifetime.

This package is one of a kind and interesting. Sublime Trails offers a unique opportunity to sleep overnight at Everest Base Camp, providing an unforgettable experience with gorgeous views of the world's highest mountain. This package is specially designed for visitors to spend a memorable night under the stars at Everest Base Camp, making this a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The Everest Base Camp Luxury Trek is an unforgettable adventure with all the comforts you could ask for. From the comfort of 5-star accommodation in Kathmandu to luxurious lodges along the trekking route, everything is meticulously crafted for a lavish experience. You will enjoy scenic helicopter transfers, extended acclimatization days, and attentive staff ensuring your comfort at every step in this trek.

The Everest Base Camp Tour is an incredible adventure that lets you experience the majestic Himalayas in just five days. Unlike the longer trek, this tour is designed for those with limited time or physical fitness, but still, want to witness the beauty of Everest up close. Starting with a scenic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, you'll trek to Namche, where you'll acclimatize and explore Sherpa culture. Then, a helicopter ride takes you to Everest Base Camp and Kalapatthar, where you’ll see breathtaking mountain views. With comfortable accommodations and opportunities to witness wildlife and local traditions, this tour provides an unforgettable experience.

The Everest Base Camp Trek with Helicopter Return offers a unique twist on the classic Everest trail allowing you to experience the highlights of the Everest region in less time. After trekking to Everest Base Camp and enjoying the breathtaking views from Kala Patthar, you'll board a helicopter from Gorakshep for a scenic flight back to Kathmandu.

This trek is perfect for those who want to explore the Everest region but have limited time or prefer to avoid the return trek. By skipping the return journey on foot, you'll save time and energy, while still immersing yourself in the beauty of the Himalayas and experiencing the local culture along the way.

With the convenience of helicopter travel, you'll avoid the challenges of flight delays and cancellations at Lukla airport, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free journey. This allows you to make the most of your time in the Everest region.

Gokyo Lakes

Gokyo Lakes are incredible glacial lakes surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Located at an altitude of 4,700–5,000 m (15,400–16,400 ft) above sea level, these lakes are the world's highest freshwater lake. The system consists of six primary lakes, with Thonak Lake being the largest among them.

For Hindus and Buddhists alike, the Gokyo Lakes hold profound spiritual significance. During the Janai Purnima festival in August, hundreds of Hindus make a pilgrimage to the lakes to take a holy bath and seek blessings.

Legend has it that the lakes are home to the 'Nag Devata' or Snake God, and there's even a temple dedicated to Hindu deities Vishnu and Shiva at Thonak Lake.

Not to mention, the Gokyo Lakes offer incredible trekking opportunities. Sublime Trails offers trek packages that take you through stunning landscapes, ancient glaciers, and the awe-inspiring Gokyo Lakes.

The Gokyo Lakes Trek is a thrilling 13-day adventure where you hike to six stunning lakes in the Himalayas. Walking through Sherpa villages, meeting friendly locals, and learning about their way of life, the trek takes you to Gokyo Ri, a tall peak with amazing views of huge mountains like Everest. Along the way, you'll see the Dudh Koshi River and the massive Ngozumpa Glacier.

The Everest Base Camp Cho-la Pass Gokyo Lake Trek is an epic 17-day adventure that combines three iconic destinations: Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Valley, and the challenging Cho La Pass. You'll experience breathtaking views of Everest and other towering peaks, immerse yourself in Sherpa culture, and explore the stunning biodiversity of Sagarmatha National Park.

Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery, also called Thyangboche or Dawa Choling Gompa, is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It is a spiritual hub for trekkers and mountaineering expeditions in the Everest region where they receive blessings for safe journeys. The monastery hosts various festivals throughout the year, including Mani Rimdu and Dumje, where visitors can witness traditional rituals, dances, and ceremonies.

Sublime Trails offers a special trekking package called the Everest Mani Rimdu Festival Trek, made for experiencing the Mani Rimdu Festival.

Ram Khadka

Ram Khadka

CEO and Managing Director at Sublime Trails Trekking, Ram has been leading adventure-hungry souls into the mountains of Nepal for over 15 years.