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.
Buddhist pilgrims traditionally begin the 52-kilometer religious trek around Mt. Kailash at Darchen (elevation 4574 meters), which is also the finishing point for the circumnavigation of the sacred mountain. After hiking for a few hours out of Darchen, we will reach a valley known by the locals as “Sarshung” where we will meet an eager group of porters who will be happy to help us carry our gear on yaks and horses along the rest of the trek. After another couple of hours of trekking, we will find a grassy plain populated by nomads, who will be happy to offer up their tents as a place to relax with some soft drinks for a while. From here, we will travel on for another approximately two hours to a place known as Drirapuk (elevation 4920 meters) where we will spend the night in a monastery’s guesthouse that offers the best accommodations in this area (although it is still very rustic.)
This second day of our circuit of Mt. Kailash will be the toughest as we ascend 762 meters up to the Dolma-la Pass. The peak of this pass lies about 5630 meters above sea level, so we’ll get an early start as the sun begins its rise over the mountain ridges above us. Once we have reached the peak of the Dolma-la Pass, we’ll stop for a rest and the opportunity to admire all of the fantastic scenery around us. Then we will begin our descent to the Lhachu Valley, which will take us about one hour. After another short rest, we’ll trek on for another four hours to our final destination for the day. We will walk along the right side of the river to finally reach Dzultripuk, whose name means “miracle cave of Milarepa” in the local language. We will be glad that we got an early start to reach Dzultripuk so that we will get there before the other groups – there are a limited number of rooms available here. We will have time this evening for some rest and relaxation in the guesthouse as we prepare for the final stretch of our trek tomorrow.
Today we will complete our trek around Mt. Kailash, beginning by visiting the many caves, temples and shrines that have been built upon around Milarepa’s cave. It is an easy walk back towards Darchen, taking only about 3 hours of trekking to reach the end of the valley where our driver will meet us to take us back up 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.