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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, Drive to Tsedang
Fly from Kathmandu or Chengdu (if coming from ElderTreks' Yunnan trip) to the high altitude airport of Gonggar outside Lhasa. Upon arrival we head to Tsedang, a small city in the Yarlung Valley considered the cradle of Tibetan culture. Overnight in Tsedang. (Altitude 10,170 ft/ 3,100 m)
Day 4: 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 5: To Lhasa, Norbulinka
En route to Lhasa, we take an easy excursion to see the old earth tombs of former kings and enjoy great views of the surrounding area.
Day 6: 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 7: Lhasa - Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Bazaar, Drepung and Sera monasteries
Today we explore the beauty and mysteries of Lhasa, from narrow winding streets and bazaars, to palaces and temples. In Lhasa, highlights include the Jokhang Temple, which is the religious and geographical center of Lhasa. From morning until night, the area is alive with the chants and prostrations of pilgrims, and the bartering in the nearby Barkhor Bazaar.
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, Tashilhunpo Monastery, 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 have an opportunity to visit the Khumbum Stupa, one of the largest and holiest monasteries in Tibet. We continue from Gyantse to Shigatse.
Day 10: Shigatse to Lhatse
We depart this morning along the Friendship Highway to the small town of Lhatse. Enroute we visit Sakya Monastery. Sakya, means "Grey Soil" in Tibetan and the monastery is the seat of the Sakyapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Its walls are painted in red, white and grey stripes, making it noticeable in the surrounding forbidding landscape. We arrive into Lhatse for dinner and overnight (hotel). (Altitude 13,287 ft/ 4,050 m)
Day 11: Rongbuk Monastery - in the Shadow of Mt. Everest
We drive today from Lhatse 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 Chomolungma 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 12: Excursion to Everest Base Camp
From Rongbuk Monastery, we hike to Everest Base Camp at 17,060 ft (5,200 m). At this extreme altitude, our hike can take up to 4 hours each way. We hike along a route that passes huts, where hermits once meditated in solitude for periods of time from three years to a lifetime (there is an optional bus ride for those who choose not to hike).
Day 13: Rongbuk to Tingri
We head back to "civilization" today as we travel by vehicle back to the small town of Tingri, where we can still have views of Mt. Everest. Situated on the Friendship Highway, Tingri is located on the side of a hill with the spectacular Himalayas surrounding a vast plain and a view of the summit of Cho Oyu. Overnight in Tingri (guesthouse, shared facilities). (Altitude 14,107 ft/ 4,300 m)
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: To Dulikhel through the Himalayas
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. Overnight in Dhulikhel. (Altitude 5,085 ft/ 1,550 m)
Day 16: Bhaktapur, to Kathmandu
In the morning we drive to the medieval town of Bhaktapur, known throughout the centuries for its woodcarvers and "peacock" windows. We visit the former King's Palace and a collection of pagoda-like temples. In the afternoon, we drive to Kathmandu and the rest of the day is free for further exploring. Overnight in Kathmandu. (Altitude 4,600 ft/ 1,400 m)
Day 17: Depart Kathmandu
A morning departure from Kathmandu for international flights home.
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