Tibet - Mountains and Monasteries on Top of the World

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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.

We visit Pashupatinath "the holiest place in Nepal" located on the shore of the Bagmati River. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, particularly from Nepal and India, pay homage to this temple every day. Overnight in Kathmandu. (Altitude 4,600 ft/ 1,400 m)

 

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.

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. Overnight in Lhasa. (Altitude 11,450 ft/ 3,490 m)

 

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.

Sera (wild rose in Tibetan) Monastery is well-known for its monks' colorful debates on Buddhist doctrines. Overnight in Lhasa.
(Altitude 11,450 ft/ 3,490 m)

 

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.

Tonight we have dinner in a Tibetan family restaurant. Overnight in Lhasa. (Altitude 11,450 ft/ 3,490 m)

 

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.
(Altitude 11,450 ft/ 3,490 m)

 

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.

We take a short walk up the hill to see Tibet's oldest building, Yambu Lakang, a fort perched high in the mountains overlooking a vast plain. Overnight in Tsedang. (Altitude 10,170 ft/ 3,100 m)

 

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).

The descent leads us to the sacred moraine blue lake of Yamdrok Tso (Turquoise Lake or Upper Pasture Lake in Tibetan). Our drive concludes in Gyantse, a small bustling town steeped in history, once a capital of a small kingdom. Overnight in Gyantse. (Altitude 13,050 ft/ 3,977 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.

In the afternoon, there will be some time to explore on your own. Overnight in Shigatse. (Altitude 12,600 ft/ 3,840 m)

 

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).

We then journey a little further past Rongbuk to our simple camp, which is the starting point of our Mount Everest hike. Get settled into our Yak tents and talk to the locals that live here as we get use to the altitude. Our camp is very basic with communal living. Basic beds line the walls with a wood stove in the middle for heat. Bring some warm sleeping clothes as it tends to get a little cold at night at this altitude. Overnight in Tibetan Yurt (tents) with shared facilities.

 

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.

After catching our breath and some lunch, we journey back to "civilization" today as we travel by 4WD vehicles to the small town of Old 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 Old Tingri. (basic 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.

We descend through the Himalayas to the border town of Zhangmu, a convenient stop for our onward journey to Nepal the next day. Overnight in Zhangmu. (Altitude: 7,546 ft/2,300 m)

 

Day 15: Through the Himalayas to Kathmandu

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.
We continue to Kathmandu. Overnight in Kathmandu.

 

Day 16: Exploring ancient Bhaktapur & Patan

Today we explore the walled city of Bhaktapur, an ancient city that has been lovingly restored to its authentic style. This medieval town of Bhaktapur, is known though for its woodcarvers and "peacock" windows.
We also 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 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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