Day 1: Join tour Kathmandu
Today we arrive in Kathmandu and check in to our hotel. After a briefing your Tour Leader will collect the groups passports ready for the permits to enter Tibet to be finalised.
Day 2: In Kathmandu
After breakfast, we'll make a walking tour visiting the bazaars and temples of Old Kathmandu accompanied by a local Nepali guide. Much of the everyday life of Kathmandu takes place in the local bazaars. There is a fascinating mixture of people selling spices and vegetables; potters spin their wheels to produce small household bowls and containers for temple offerings; pilgrims visit their favourite gods at small shrines dotted along the sides of the alleyways; rickshaw wallahs honk their horns and the ever-present sacred cow wanders among it all. On our second day here, a morning's sightseeing tour includes the Temple of Pashupatinath on the Bagmati river - the holiest Hindu shrine in Nepal - and Bodnath Stupa, the largest in the country and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims from all over Nepal. The afternoons are left free for individual sightseeing. There are a multitude of interesting places within easy reach of the Nepali capital. Perhaps you could take in Swayambunath, the monkey temple (a short taxi ride or about 40 minutes walk from the city centre). And there's also Patan, Nepal's one time capital situated just a short taxi ride from Kathmandu or Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient cities of the Kathmandu valley.
Day 3: Explore Kathmandu
Today we continue exploring Kathmandu.
Day 4: Discover the Monkey temple and ancient Patan
This morning we visit Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple. Built 2000 years ago and situated on a small hillock, there are great views of the surrounding area. The four sides of the stupa depict the Buddha's eyes of wisdom, which see through all existences.
Next we drive to Patan, a beautiful city in its own right which rivalled ancient Kathmandu in terms of the splendour of its temples and squares and is now better preserved, less polluted and less crowded. The city boasts of many famous sites and unique architecture including the Krishna Mandir temple, which was built to honour Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple has scenes from the Indian epic 'Mahabharata' carved on its walls.
Day 5: Fly to Gongkar and drive to Tsetang
We board a flight from Kathmandu to Gonkar in Tibet enjoying views of the Himalaya and sometimes even Everest piercing the clouds. We should arrive early afternoon local time (Tibet time is 2 1/4hrs ahead of Nepal time). After formalities, we'll drive eastwards to Tsetang. If time and conditions still allow, we'll visit Yumbulagang. Reputedly the oldest dwelling place of the Tibetan kings (5th century), it is erected on the rocky spur of a hill with panoramic views over the entire valley.
Day 6: Drive to Lhasa visiting the Samye and Mindroling Monasteries
After breakfast we leave Tsetang and drive to Samye Monastery. We visit the Samye Monastery and village, an oasis of willows in a sandy desert. The monastery, designed to mirror the structure of the Buddhist universe, is built as a Mandala around the main shrine. (A Mandala is a concentric symbol which represents Buddhist cosmic and individual psychic forces, sometimes expressed as here in three-dimensional architectural form). We drive and cross the YarlungTsangporiver to visit Mindroling Monastery. After our visit, we follow the River YarlungTsangpo until we pass the airport and again we cross the river YarlungTsangpo to enter the tunnel and after crossing the tunnel we follow the Lhasa Kyichu river in the express highway to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet which lies at an altitude of 3658m, in a bowl-shaped valley - the name means 'Abode of the Gods'. We arrive in Lhasa in the evening and check in at our hotel. This evening, if time permits, there will be a short introductory tour of the famous Barkhor Market which lies in the heart of the city.
Day 7: In Lhasa
Our next two days are dedicated to extensive sightseeing of Lhasa. The city's location is spectacular. Set in a ring of bare mountains (snow covered in winter), the valley is cut through by the gushing Kyi Chu (the Happy River), one of the headwaters of the mighty Indian Brahmaputra. For most of the year the sky above Lhasa is a deep intense blue, and the air is crisp and dry. Weeping willows wave over little streams and lakes, and peach trees blossom. Our sightseeing will include the Potala Palace, the former seat of the
Dalai Lamas, where the genius of Tibetan architecture finds expression in the glistening white walls that seem to soar directly from every stone and rock face. The present (fourteenth) Dalai Lama, whose title has been carried through the centuries by an unbroken lineage of reincarnations, now lives in exile in India. On one of the days we plan to visit the famous Jokhang Temple, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in the country and an object of circumambulation by devoted pilgrims. We will also spend time at the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace. You'll also have free time to stroll around the colourful stalls in the market (Barkhor), or just sit back quietly and observe the noisy and jostling crowds of pilgrims and haggling merchants. We will also visit Ani Tsangkung Nunnery (the only active nunnery in Lhasa) and see the monastic university of Sera where the monks practice philosophical debates which take place in the Monastery garden and Gregorian -style ritual chanting in the assembly halls.
Day 8: Explore Lhasa
Today we continue exploring Lhasa.
Day 9: Drive over the Kamba La & Karo La to Gyantse
Today we drive west across the high plains to Gyantse, one of the most beautiful places in Central Tibet. Our route climbs over the spectacular 4790m Kamba La and then follows the Yamdroq (Turquoise) Lake before climbing the 5045m Karo La, or pass. The whole journey to the old town of Gyantse, including stops takes about 5/6 hours. On arrival we will visit the famous Kumbum Stupa (1440), one of the most magnificent buildings in Tibet. Gold-capped with two bewitching eyes painted on its circular upper wall above the ascending symmetrical storeys, it is built in Newari (Nepalese) style. The monastery walls are covered with extraordinary paintings and sculptures.
Day 10: Visit Pala Manor; drive Shigatse (3890m)
This morning we visit the old feudal manor house of Pala Manor before continuing to Shigatse. In the afternoon we visit the monastic city of Tashilumpo, the largest & most vibrant religious centre in Tibet. As one of the Great Six centres of the Gelugpa Buddhist sect, it's adherents follow the moral & philosophical teachings of the Master Atisha (982-1054). The sacred red buildings topped by gleaming golden roofs form the spiritual home of the Panchen Rinpoche (Great Precious Teacher). We stay in nearby Shigatse for the night. Drive time of approximately 90km (2hrs).
Day 11: Drive to Shegar (4350m)
Today we have a long drive along the 'Friendship Highway' to Shegar, also known as New Tingri. We reach a height of 4350m above sea level for our stay tonight.
Day 12: Visit Everest Base camp; overnight in Old Tingri (4480m)
This morning we leave the main highway behind and drive via the Pang La (5120m) to Everest Base Camp (approx 5150m). En route to Base Camp, we will stop off in Rongphu where we'll have lunch and explore an ancient monastery. Please note: tonight's accommodation will be in a very basic guesthouse which is the only accommodation available here.
Day 13: Drive to Kerung (2800m)
Today we have a long day's drive towards the Nepal border. Heading north up the Dzakar Chu valley on the very bumpy base camp road through villages and terraced mountain sides, we cross Gya-u La (5,090m) from which on a clear day we can see the panoramic views of all the main peaks of the Himalayan range. Rejoining the Friendship Highway for few kilometres, we head west toward to Mt. Shisapangma and Peiguo Tso Lake then to south towards the Kerung, our last nightstop in Tibet, after a drive of approximately 6/7 hours.
Day 14: Drive to Kathmandu
We continue our journey today following a series of steep switchbacks to the sub-tropical landscapes of the Nepali border . (Depending upon road conditions and landslides, we may have to walk for several hours on the way down- porters will carry our luggage.). We cross the border before driving on to Kathmandu through the Langtang National Park. (The drive is approximately 7-8hrs but as this is a new border crossing there can be delays due to extra security checks).
Day 15: Tour ends Kathmandu
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.
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