Upon your arrival at the Lhasa airport, your tour guide will greet you and escort you to your hotel and help you get checked in. You will have the rest of the day and evening to rest and relax to become acclimatized to the higher altitude of Tibet.
After breakfast at the hotel, we will visit the incredible Potala Palace – the highest palace in the world. As we climb to the entrance gate, you will have a spectacular view over all of Lhasa. After exploring the numerous interesting chapels and learning about the traditional culture and history of the palace and the city, we will move on to the spiritually significant Jokhang Temple, one of the most important temples in Tibetan Buddhism. To see the “real” Lhasa, we’ll stroll through Barkhor Street with its thriving local market where you can pick up some local Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian handicrafts and souvenirs.
Today features visits to 2 of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism – the Drepung and Sera Monasteries. Drepung Monastery is located on the hillside west of Lhasa – at one time the world’s largest monastery with about 10,000 monks living there. A pleasant walk up the hill leads to the solemn ambience inside the monastery’s many halls and chapels. After Drepung, we will move on to the Sera Monastery. The main highlight of the Sera Monastery is watching the crowd of monks debating inside the shady courtyard behind the main temple. Every day except Sunday, hundreds of red-robed monks assemble in small groups and practice their debating skills – a very impressive sight to behold, as the monks are very animated in their debates about the various attributes of Buddhist scriptures.
This morning we’ll take a drive up to the Kampala Pass (elevation 4797 meters) where you’ll have a glimpse of Yamdrok Lake down below as well as spectacular views of the holy Mount Nyenchen Khangsar in the distance. You will want to have your camera at the ready for the turquoise waters of Yamdrok Lake, which is one of the three holy lakes of Tibet, and the beautiful Mt. Nyenchen Khangsar glacier as seen from the Karola Pass. Later on we’ll be able to visit the Karola Glacier before continuing along the southern Friendship Highway to Gyantse, where you will be able to see the famous Gyantse Kumbum, one of the most stunning architectural wonders in Tibet. Late in the afternoon we will continue on to Shigatse where we will spend the night.
After breakfast we’ll set out towards the peak of the world – Mount Everest. Departing from Shigatse and traveling via Lhatse and Tingri, you will see some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in the world – incredibly blue skies, floating high clouds, endless grasslands and the highest mountain peaks in the world. We’ll also stop by the Rongbuk Monastery – the world’s highest altitude monastery before spending the night at the Everest Base Camp.
Today we will drive the old Tingri Road to Saga County, with views of Mount Everest and Mount Shishapangma (elevation 8012 meters), which was the last of the world’s 8000-meter peaks to be climbed. The road conditions get rougher from the old Tingri Road as it runs parallel to the to the Himalayan mountain ranges and the Nepalese sides known as the Anapurna Ranges. The main road passes through the desolate plains of Digur Tang, with its enormous sand dunes contrasting with the neighboring snow peaks of Shishapangma and Langtang to the south. As we leave the Bum-chu basin, we will descend into the relatively lower elevations of the Pelkhu-tso (elevation 4600 meters), a cobalt blue lake. After checking out the lake, we’ll drive the additional 69 kilometers on to Saga County and spend the night in the small town of Saga.
On this 7th day we will drive to Drongpa County, which was founded around the bountiful resources of the Brahmaputra River. We will make a stop in a small village along the main road that consists of only a few basic guesthouses, restaurants and a small monastery known as “Old Drongpa”. Scattered around the monastery you will be able to observe a pile of yak heads that are carved with “sutras” and “mantras”. New Drongpa is another small town with a few shops, hotels and restaurants located about 25 kilometers from Old Drongpa monastery. We will continue on to the Baryang Township (elevation 4750 meters) and drive around Lake Manasarovar before reaching our final destination for the day, Darchen, where we will spend the night.
With this more relaxing option you can spend a full day on the lakeshore exploring the natural beauty and wildlife of Lake Manasarovar. In the summer, flocks of swans gather on the lake, giving a sense of grace and life to the area as they feed to prepare for the long winter months ahead. Many Tibetan and Hindu Buddhists can also be found around the lake as they make a religious trek along the lakeshore. With the snow-capped mountains and wonderfully blue skies in the background, the swans on the lake and the beauty of the lake itself attract tourists and photography enthusiasts from all over the world. It is a truly beautiful place in which to relax and spend the day just enjoying the wonders of nature.
Drive from Darchen to Zanda along the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, and drive off the main highway after 150Km, go across a few mountain passes, you will see the magnificent Zanda Clay Forest. Entering into Zanda county, the clay forest standing on both sides of Elephant Spring River winds over more than five kilometers. The clay is like warriors defending the mountaintop, some like thousands of horses galloping, and some like devout followers of a religion nurturing themselves, standing there quietly. From different angles, you can see wonderful scenery. The clay forest in geology is known as "the Level Terrane Physiognomy," formed by erosion, where the sediment of lakes and rivers, mainly composed by sandstone and clay, have formed into various shapes. The Level Terrane has developed upright qualities, and the valley is deep. Overnight at Zanda.
After breakfast, we will visit the ruins of the ancient Guge Kingdom and the Torling Monastery. Located in the Ngar Region of Tibet, the ruins of the Guge Kingdom were once an imperial estate that fell into disrepair after the civil war revolt and the invasion of the 8 Allied Forces of foreign countries that destroyed the once prosperous state. Luckily the legendary kingdom has not been totally lost as much can still be learned from what remains of it. After our visit there, we will continue on with more scenic driving to Darchen where we will spend the night.
Today we will drive through the windswept territory of rural Tibet, passing through numerous small villages as well as camps of yak and sheepherders on our way back to Saga. With all of the beautiful scenery surrounding us, we will have plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos if you like.
More spectacular scenery awaits us as we continue on our leisurely drive back to Shigatse where we will spend the night.
We will get an early start today to visit the Tashilunpo Monastery, which was founded in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama. After visiting this ancient monastery, one of the most important sites in Tibetan Buddhism, we will head back to Lhasa in the afternoon.
Today you will have free time until your tour guide escorts you to the Lhasa train station or airport for your departing train or flight from Lhasa. This will end your tour services in Tibet.