In the far west of Tibet is Mt Kailash, the most sacred mountain in Asia, which is venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and the ancient Bon devotees of Tibet. From it flow four great rivers - the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej, and the Brahmaputra - which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau. It is an important site for Tibetan and Indian pilgrims who make a 53km circuit, or kora, of the mountain. This circumambulation, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus and anti-clockwise for Bon followers, is said to erase the sins of a lifetime. The mountain itself is 6714m high and with its four sheer walls and the snow-capped peak is an awe-inspiring sight.
Only 30km from Mt Kailash is another important pilgrimage site, the beautiful and serene Lake Manasarovar. According to mythology, it was formed in the mind of Brahma, and Indian and Tibetan pilgrims can also be seen circumambulating this lake, a distance of 90km.
On this trip, we fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa and spend 3 days visiting the wonderful sights of this fascinating city. We then drive across the wide-open spaces of the Tibetan Plateau to Lake Manasarovar, before completing a kora around Mt Kailash. From there, we re-cross the vast arid plains before heading south to the Nepalese border and returning to Kathmandu. This is truly the trip of a lifetime with stunning scenery and cultural highlights.
Arrive at Kathmandu airport and transfer to the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel. Sightseeing tour of 'Kathmandu City' once called 'Kantipur' or 'City of Glory'. We will be visiting Kasthamandap, Temple of the living Goddess called 'Kumari', Hanuman Dhoka, Kal Bhairab-God of Terror, Taleju Temple, and 'Swayambunath', or 'The Monkey Temple'. Swoyambhunath stupa is majestically set high upon a hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley. Lunch on your own and can be had at one of the many good standard restaurants around town. Our guide will recommend the same. We visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur, or the city of Devotees, also known as Bhadgaon. We will explore Durbar square, Lion gate, the five-storied Nyatopolo Temple, and the palace of 55 windows. The film, LITTLE BUDDHA was shot here, among other places in Nepal. Overnight at the hotel.
Morning transfer to the airport for the hour-long flight to Tibet. This spectacular flight, on an Air China Boeing 757, takes us right across the main Himalayan range and provides us with magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a further 2-hour drive by Land cruiser jeep to Lhasa where we will check-in at Hotel Dhood Gu. It's advisable to rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa's altitude.
Today will spend our time visiting several of Lhasa's many monasteries in the company of a guide and interpreter. One of these is the Sera Monastery, one of the best-preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within its white-washed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. After lunch, we'll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as well as the Jokhang Temple. This temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet and there is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor - a maze of narrow cobbled streets which is the central market of Lhasa.
This morning we will visit the Potala Palace which dominates the city of Lhasa. A spectacular building, it contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as numerous grand staterooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century. A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe-inspiring day. Founded in the 14th century, this monastery was once the largest in the world, with a total population of around 10,000 monks. These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was preserved even during Cultural Revolution.
Today we start our overland journey with a 261 km drive to Gyantse. Traveling by jeep along the Friendship Highway, we cross the Khamba La [4794m] from which there are stunning views across the waters of Yamdrok-Tso Lake to the snowy summit of Nazin Kang Sa [7252m]. We continue westwards over another high pass called the Karo La [5045m] where we are treated to the spectacular sight of a huge glacier tumbling down to within a few hundred meters of the road. After passing through beautiful valleys and colorful Tibetan villages we arrive in the town of Gyantse.
Before leaving Gyantse we have time this morning to visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating from the 14th century from which there are amazing views of both Gyantse itself and the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley. The Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals. We then continue on to Shigatse, a short drive of only 90kms, arriving in time for lunch. Shigatse is the second-largest city in Tibet and after exploring the local market we will make a detailed visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery. This monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls.
It's only 157km from Shigatse to the small, dusty town of Lhatse, but en route, we will make a side trip to the monastic town of Sakya. The main attractions here, apart from its red and white striped buildings, are its monasteries. The main southern monastery with its immense thick walls and watchtowers was established in 1268 and contains several interesting chapels. Very little remains of the northern monastery, but it is said to be even older than the southern monastery. From Sakya, we continue on to Lhatse.
A few kilometers beyond Lhatse, we cross the Brahmaputra River, and afterward, the road enters a river valley with scattered villages. This is a beautiful area for photography. We continue on, past the turn-off for the northern route, and arrive at Saga, having covered 295km during the day.
From Saga, we drive another 255km through the amazing Tibetan landscape, passing through the small town of Zhongba, before arriving at Paryang. The scenery along this section is some of the most panoramic of our journey.
It's 270km from Paryang to Lake Manasarovar, and along the way, we must make several river crossings. Eventually, we arrive on the shores of the serene and beautiful lake, surely one of the most stunning places on earth.
Today we will explore Manasarovar. We will visit the picturesque Chiu Monastery on the northwest shore of the lake with the imposing sight of Mt Kailash/Mt. Tise in the background.
Leaving the lake, we drive for about 35 km towards Mt Kailash and Tarboche which is marked by a tall pole adorned with prayer flags. This is the starting point for our kora, the 53km trek around the mountain.
From Tarboche, we walk up the Lha Chu Valley through beautiful green meadows and streams with Mt Kailash towering above us. We follow the river which enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Continuing up the valley, the north face of Kailash comes into view before we reach the 13th-century monastery at Dira-Puk.
We now leave the Lha Chu Valley and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards a high pass, the Drolma La [5630m]. It's a tough climb to the summit which is festooned with prayer flags but from there it is all downhill or flat to Zutul-Puk, with views of one of the highest lakes in the world, Thukpe Dzingbu Lake, known as the Lake of Compassion. As well as the monastery at Zutul-Puk, there are several meditation caves and another cave containing an image of Milarepa.
On the final day of the kora, we cross several streams and follow an impressive gorge. Along the way, we are once again treated to magnificent views of Mt. Kailash (Tise). We then enter the Barka plain and it's about an hour's walk through this desert-like landscape to Darchen.
Today is a long drive, about 300km, to Paryang. Along the way, we cross the Mayan-la and make several river crossings. The scenery along this section is some of the most panoramic of the entire journey.
We continue driving today along a 255km stretch of road to Saga, passing through the small, dusty town of Zhongba en route.
Today we drive 180km south towards the Nepalese border, joining the Friendship Highway. We cross two high passes and come to the small town of Gyirong.
It's a short drive to the Friendship Bridge that marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control and get luggage transferred. Depending on road and weather conditions, should take about 7 hours. Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel. Free until departure transfer to the airport. TOUR ENDS.
Here’s a complete rundown of what to bring if you’re planning a camping or tea-house trek in Nepal. Proper preparation and equipment for the conditions will go a long way to ensuring you have a great trekking experience. What follows is a pretty comprehensive list and will make sure you are covered in the coldest months of the year. If you have questions on what you might need just ask us and keep in mind that Kathmandu is a great place to buy trekking gear at affordable prices.
IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND ITEMS
ON THE TRAIL DAYPACK
CLOTHING: BASE, MIDDLE AND OUTER LAYERS
FOOTWEAR: SHOES AND SOCKS
DUFFEL BAGS AND DAY PACKS
FIRST AID KIT AND TOILETRIES
Our team brings along a basic first aid kit but we recommend you also carry the following;
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