A spiritual and cultural journey across Tibet, crossing high passes and visiting peaceful monasteries. We visit the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama's former residence and admire the sculptures of the Palkhor Choide Monastery. We also visit the Tibetan Everest Base Camp in the shadows of the mighty mountain before making our way down the Friendship Highway to Nepal.
Kathmandu - Explore the riverside temple complex at Pashupatinath and Buddhist Stupa at Bodnath
Tsetang - Visit Yumbulagang Palace, the oldest dwelling place of Tibetan kings
Samye - Visit Tibet's first monastery
Lhasa - Soak up at atmosphere at the dramatic Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Summer Palace
Kumbum Stupa - View the famous paintings and sculptures inside this uniquely shaped stupa
Tashilumpo - Reflect in the spiritual home of the Panchen Rinpoche.
- Small Group
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: Fly to Gongkar; drive to Tsetang
Today 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 5: In Tsetang; visit Samye Monastery
After breakfast we cross the Brahmaputra (Tsangpo) River to reach 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). Then we will visit Yumbulagang if not visited the day before. After our visit we return to our hotel in Tsetang for a second night.
Day 6: Drive via Mindroling Monastery to Lhasa
Today we drive westwards along a rugged road 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'. On our way we stop to visit Mindroling Monastery, one of the most important in Central Tibet and the seat of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. We arrive in Lhasa in the afternoon and check in at our hotel. This evening, there will be time for a short introductory tour of the Tibetan capital.
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 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. (Approximately 7-8hrs drive).
Day 15: Tour ends Kathmandu
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.
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