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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.
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 Gongar 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: 11,647 ft/3,550 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).
Day 11: Ronguk Monastery — in the Shadow of Mt. Everest
We drive today from Tingri 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.
Day 12: Hike 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.
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.
Day 14: Tingri to Saga
We begin our adventure into one of the most inaccessible regions in Tibet, towards Mt. Kailash in the western region. The roads begin to deteriorate and the accommodation is very basic, but the reward is some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. We overnight in Saga (guesthouse, shared facilities or camping).
Day 15: Saga to Paryang
We travel through the small, dusty settlement of Zhongba en route to Paryang. Overnight in Paryang (guesthouse, shared facilities or camping).
Day 16: Paryang to Lake Manasorovar
We travel today to the holy lake of Manasorovar at the base of the Mount Gurla Mandhata. Lake Manasorovar is believed to be where Buddha's mother, Queen Maya, was washed by the gods prior to giving birth to Buddha. The lake itself is said to have been formed in the mind of Braham. Covering 206 sq miles (330 sq km) at 14,954 ft (4,558 m) and surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks, the beautiful turquoise water seems to be almost touching the sky.
Day 17: Lake Manasorovar to Darchen
We spend the morning exploring Lake Manasorovar and then continue on to Darchen. Overnight camping.
Day 18: Mt. Kailash
“Gan Rinpoche” (Jewel of Snow) in Tibetan, Mt Kailash is the most sacred mountain in all of Asia, venerated by Hindus, Buddhists, the Jaines of India and also by the ancient Bon religion of Tibet.
Day 19: Mt. Kailash Kora
Our hiking today may take up to 8 hours, but today's hike is the most difficult of the three-day Kora. We head out into Drolma Chu Valley and towards the Drolma-la Pass.
Day 20: Mt. Kailash Kora, Darchen
Today's hike may take up to 5 hours along the gorge to the Bharka Plain. We then walk through this high plateau desert for about an hour before arriving back to Darchen. Overnight camping.
Day 21: Darchen to Paryang
Our return trip from Kailash follows along the same rough road past Lake Manasorovar to Paryang. Overnight Paryang (guesthouse, shared facilities or camping).
Day 22: Paryang to Saga
We continue our travel towards the Everest region, overnighting in Saga tonight (guesthouse, shared facilities or camping).
Day 23: Saga to Tingri
On our journey today, we may get our first view of the mighty Mt. Everest from the Friendship Highway en route to Tingri. The town of 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).
Day 24: To Zhangmu
We continue driving across the dramatic Tibetan plateau to the border town of Zhangmu. Enroute 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 25: 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 Dulikhel, an ideal spot to take in the spectacular Himalayan panorama.
Day 26: 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.
Day 27: Depart Kathmandu
A morning departure from Kathmandu for international flights home.
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