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Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal
Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our centrally located hotel. The rest of the day is free to explore this historic and vibrant city. Tonight we meet for an orientation session. Overnight in Kathmandu. (Altitude 4,600 ft/ 1,400 m)
Day 2: Kathmandu - Old City
Today, we explore the old city of Kathmandu. We visit Swayambhunath, an ancient stupa sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, and the majestic stupa at Boudhanath.
Day 3: Fly to Lhasa - Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Bazaar
Fly from Kathmandu or Chengdu (if coming from ElderTreks' Yunnan trip) to the high altitude airport of Gonggar outside of Lhasa.
Day 4: Lhasa - Drepung and Sera Monasteris
Explore more of Lhasa today with some of the "must-sees", which are the Drepung and Sera monasteries, two of the largest religious centres in Tibet. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries and at its peak, the monastery housed 15,000 monks. It was also known for the high standards of its academic study.
Day 5: Lhasa - Potala, Dragon Pool, Chagpori Hill
In the morning, we explore the magnificent Potala, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama. Built of earth, wood and stone, the 13 stories of the palace rise to a height of 380 feet and are filled with a maze of rooms - over a thousand in all. After leisurely taking in the astounding beauty of the Potala, we head to the Dragon Pool and then up to Chagpori, the hill that commands an excellent panoramic view of the entire Potala complex.
Day 6: Lhasa - Norbulinka
Today we visit Norbulinka, the former summer palace of the Dalai Lama, with 370 rooms of different sizes and a large garden covering an area of 46 acres. We overnight in Lhasa.
Day 7: Tsedang - Yambu Lakang Fort, Samye Monastery
On the wide open plains of the Tibetan plateau, we acclimatize to the high altitude. We cross the Yarlung Tsampo River and explore Tibet's first monastery, Samye, built in the 8th century. Architecturally, it is built as a representation of the universe; the central temple represents Mount Meru and the temples around it represent the oceans, continents, and subcontinents that ring Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmology.
Day 8: To Gyantse via Kamba La and Karo La Pass
In the morning, we begin the scenic drive to Gyantse, crossing Kamba La Pass (16,000 ft/4,794 m) and the scenic Karo La Pass (16,800 ft/5,010 m), which climbs between two lofty mountains, Nozin Khang Sa (24,000 ft/7,223 m) and Ralung (16,000 ft/6,236 m).
Day 9: Palcho Monastery, Khumbum Stupa, to Shigatse
In the morning we visit the Palcho Monastery, which is comprised of 16 monasteries representing different sects and schools of Buddhism in Tibet. It is regarded as a unique and fine example of tolerance between different Buddhist practices. We also visit Khumbum Stupa, one of the largest and holiest monasteries in Tibet. We continue from Gyantse to Shigatse and enroute we will stop at Shalu monastery which dates back to the 11th century. Overnight in Shigatse. (Altitude 12,600 ft/ 3,840 m)
Day 10: Shigatse Sights
Today we explore the fantastic Tashilhunpo Monastery, the official residence of the Panchen Lama and home to over 700 monks.
Day 11: Xegar; base of Mount Everest
Our journey today takes to the monastic town of Sakya (4,280 m), crossing two passes; the Tropu La (4,950 m) and the Lhakpa La (5,200 m). With clear skies, the Himalayas now stand ahead of us on the horizon of the plateau, like icebergs in a sea of sand. The highlights of Sakya are its two monasteries, located on either side of the Trum-chu River. After our deviation to Sakya, we take the road turning off the Friendship Highway and head west for Xegar. Overnight in Xegar. (Altitude 13,287 ft/ 4,050 m)
Day 12: Rongbuk Monastery - in the Shadow of Mt. Everest
Today we drive from Xegar to Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world at 16,338 ft (4,980 m). While Rongbuk is not the oldest monastery in Tibet, it is located in a spectacular setting with Everest towering in the background. The Tibetan name for Everest is Qomolangma which means "mother goddess of the universe" and for many, even the name inspires visions of its snow-capped peak and black north face rising up into piercing blue sky. It is the highest mountain in the world, at 29,035 ft (8,850 m).
Day 13: Mt. Everest Base Camp Hike (driving option)
Up early with the sunrise for our 2 hr morning hike to the Everest Base Camp. For those that do not want to hike, a local bus from the camp will be arranged to meet the group at camp. After a group photo with majestic Mt Everest behind us, we can either walk back or hop on the bus back to camp.
Day 14: To Zhangmu
We continue driving across the dramatic Tibetan plateau to the border town of Zhangmu. En route we cross three high mountain passes: Tso La (14,760 ft/4,500 m) and Gyatso La Pass (17,122 ft/5,220 m) and Lablung La Pass (17,000 ft/5,100 m). Prayer flags flutter continuously, with the eternal Himalayan panorama facing us, leaving the rooftop of the world behind. The surreal scenery will leave you in awe.
Day 15: Through the Himalayas to Bhatkatpur
We continue our descent through the Himalayas, as we cross the border into the Kingdom of Nepal. Breathtaking vistas capture the eye as Nepalese work their steep terraces against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks. In the afternoon, we reach the hill-station of Dhulikhel, an ideal spot to take in the spectacular Himalayan panorama.
Day 16: Bhaktapur, to Kathmandu
Today explore the walled city of Bhaktapur, an ancient city that has been lovingly restored to its authentic style. Visit Patan and its lesser known, but equally impressive Durbar Square. The second largest city in the valley, Patan is also known as the "City of Arts". Overnight in Bhaktapur. (Altitude 4,600 ft/ 1,400 m)
Day 17: Depart Kathmandu
A morning departure from Bhaktapur for international flights home. Bhaktapur is 30 minutes away from the Kathmandu airport.
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