Embark on an adventure in Tibet, travelling between Lhasa and Kathmandu, walking among Tibetan pilgrims and standing before Everest.
Join an adventure across the top of the world. From the serene former home of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa to the ancient narrow laneways of Kathmandu, traverse the world’s highest mountain range and delve into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Mingle with locals, rub shoulders with pilgrims and take in spectacular scenery – this is most definitely Tibet and all its treasures uncovered.
Day 1: Kathmandu
Namaste! Welcome to Nepal. Your evening is free, but your trip leader may organise an optional evening meal at one of Kathmandu’s fine Nepali restaurants.
Day 2: Kathmandu
This morning, as you’ll have to be ready to be called into the embassy for any further enquiry about the group visa, your tour leader will take you for short walks near the hotel and sites. After 2 pm when the embassy procedures are finished, your tour leader will take you on a walking tour (2-3 hrs) to explore the excitement and allure hidden in the lanes and alleys of Kathmandu. Step out into the streets of Kathmandu, whose mixture of ancient architecture and modern development, and rich artistic and cultural heritage, means it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows. Experience these all on the walking tour with your tour leader.
Day 3: Bhaktapur – Changu Narayan – Kathmandu
Today, we leave in the morning on a private bus to visit one of the most highly rated ancient town near Kathmandu – Bhaktapur. Take a stroll with your leader through the zigzagging alleys and learn about the stories of the kings and the saints of the past, say hi to the locals and admire the intricate wood carvings and pottery making. Continue on to Changu Narayan, a hidden gem in Kathmandu’s religious scene, being one of the oldest Hindu temple in the region. Enjoy some time of tranquillity and nature here before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.
Day 4: Lhasa (3,650m)
Fly to Tibet’s capital, Lhasa. Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley. Unknown to the outside world for years, even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reached the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. Nowadays it welcomes tourists, but remains an enchanting city, steeped in culture and mythology. In Lhasa you will stay at a basic but centrally located hotel with twin-share accommodation decorated in traditional Tibetan style.
Day 5: Lhasa
This morning, take it easy to adjust to the altitude. At noon, take a cooking class and learn the fine art of preparing momo, traditional Tibetan dumplings for lunch. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Sera Monastery where the fascinating Buddhism debate takes place between the Tibetan monks. We won’t understand a thing that they are debating about, but it’s purely joy to see how they heatedly discuss the philosophies in a very exaggerated and eye catching manner. (B, L)
Day 6: Lhasa
In the morning, visit the Potala Palace, the incredible former home of the Dalai Lama that’s perched 130 metres above the city. Although you must stick with your guide while exploring Potala Palace, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. Then visit Jokhang Temple, considered the spiritual heart and most sacred temple of Tibet. It always attracts a steady waves of pilgrims. Spend some time exploring this 6-acre World-Heritage listed site, learn a thing or two about its history and feast your eyes on golden Buddha which stands in the centre. If you still feel energetic enough, perhaps join the pilgrims walk around the Barkhor Street or around the Potala palace (clockwise direction), both of which are considered sacred Koras by the Tibetan Buddhists. (B)
Day 7: Drak Yerpa (4889m) – Lhasa
Take a private bus to the Drak Yerpa Monastery. It’s located in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley, with views of prayer flag-covered mountains. Here you can explore some of the caves, including ones where pilgrims sip holy water or slip through a small gap in the rock, and perhaps talk with the few remaining monks that live there. (B)
Day 8: Gyantse (3,977m)
Continue to Gyantse. The drive is long but rewarding, with spectacular views and plenty of photo opportunities, including at Karo La (5,039m). We will stop out at Yamdrok Lake (4,441m), it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. Gyantse is a small agricultural town that’s famous for its wool carpets. The backstreets of Gyantse are a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life, with pilgrims, pop music, cows, ‘cowboys’ on motorbikes, kids and monks mingling in a lively mixture of cultures. (B)
Day 9: Gyantse – Shigatse (3,840m)
Today start your day with a visit to the Pelkor Chode Monastery and its Kumbum Tower, aka ‘Ten Thousand Buddha Pagodas’ with an architecture style featuring Han, Tibetan and Nepali. Then enjoy lunch with a local Tibetan family at their home before leaving for Shigatse. Shigatse is home to the massive Tashilhunpo Monastery, traditionally the seat the Panchen Lama. Your leader will take you on a tour through the myriads of the monastery – you can ask for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world’s largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks prepare for ceremonies. In the evening, perhaps join the pilgrims on their kora, spinning prayer wheels as you walk around the perimeter of the monastery and take in the lovely views and atmosphere. (L)
Day 10: Sakya (4,300m)
Continue to Sakya. At first the halls of Sakya’s monastery may seem similar to other monasteries you have visited, but after spending some time here you’ll see that Sakya has a subtle, ancient beauty unlike any other. For dinner tonight, perhaps try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants. You will stay the night in a basic guesthouse (note that hot water is usually unavailable here).
Day 11: Everest National Park (4,980m)
An exhilarating drive brings you to Everest National Park. The road is winding but the you’ll be compensated with great view of world’s greatest snow-capped mountains standing together afar like giants. Visit the world 2nd highest monastery Rongbuk Monastery. Then a short drive to where you’ll stay tonight – the camp ground of the yak hair tents set up by Tibetans to accommodate the travellers who come here for a night close to the Everest. Enjoy some lunch before taking the gentle walk up to Everest Base Camp monument. The monument is the closest you can get to the Base Camp on the Chinese/Tibetan side but standing in front of the Everest will simply leave everyone speechless as it becomes clear why it’s a sacred mountain to the Tibetans. For the more energetic, your leader can take you for a hike to the upper Rongbuk Monastery (the highest!) and visit some caves where the monks meditated in the ancient times.
Day 12: Shigatse
A full day travelling ahead after breakfast. If you would like to, wake up early and get some last shots of Everest during sunrise time.
Day 13: Lhasa
Journey back to Lhasa. Though it’s a long day of driving, the scenery along the way is spectacular, so sit back, relax and enjoy it. There will be stops for lunch and to take photographs of the mountains.
Day 14: Kathmandu
Head back to the airport to board your flight to Kathmandu. Your journey comes to an end where it all began, back in Kathmandu. You’ll check back into your hotel, then head out for a final (optional) group dinner. Boasting a delicious array of international and local cuisine, Kathmandu is lovely place to dine, especially after your adventure across the ‘Roof of the World’. (B)
Day 15: Kathmandu
Your trip comes to an end. There are no activities planned, and you are free to depart the hotel at any time before 12 noon.
- Meals: 5 breakfasts, 2 lunches
- Transport: Plane, Private Bus, Public Bus
- Accommodation: Hotel/Guesthouse (13 nights), Permanent Tented Camp (1 night)
Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup