Sacred Tibet (LZ-KAM-24/26)
A true pilgrimage
Discover the sacred sites of central Tibet and make the long overland journey through the incredible landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau to make a holy circumambulation two of the most sacred sites in the Tibetan world Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar.
Where are you going?
Days 1-2 : Flying into Kathmandu is an unforgettable experience with the Himalaya spread out before you. You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. In the morning of day 2 a half-day city tour will introduce you to some of the highlights of Kathmandu.
Day 3: The flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is spectacular. From Gongkar airport it is about 1½ hours' drive to Lhasa, first along the Yarlung Tsangpo then into the Kyi Chu Valley.
Days 4-6 : With a relaxed pace to allow for the effects of altitude, explore this fantastic city on the roof of the world. The spiritual heart of Tibet is the Jokhang Temple and every morning is full of life as pilgrims bring offerings of butter and barley flour. The Potala Palace rises above the city and, more than any other sight, symbolizes the history and culture of Tibet. Nearby are the huge monastic universities of Drepung and Sera still active institutions.
Day 7: A long, yet scenic day's drive across the Khamba La and Kora La (passes), along the shores of Lake Yamdrok Tso to Gyantse. Once an important trading town, Gyantse retains a feel of old' Tibet.
Day 8: In the morning visit Gyantse's monastery Pelkor Choede and the justifiably famous Kumbum, within the same complex. There may also be time to visit the dzong (fort) that towers above the town. In the afternoon we make the short (2-3 hour) drive along the valley to Shigatse.
Day 9: Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchen Lama, second only in importance to the Dalai Lama. Its numerous halls contain a 26-meter statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha and elaborate, jewel encrusted reliquary chorten. After lunch it is a 4-hour drive to Lhatse.
Days 10-12 : Long, yet spectacular days as we head west. Even along the road settlements are few as we cross vast, open valleys and prayer flag topped passes. Depending on the season there may be families of nomadic dropka moving their herds of sheep, yaks, goats and horses across the plateau.
Days 13-15 : The 53-kilometer kora of Mount Kailash is one of the most sacred of pilgrimage circuits in the world. Kailash (Kang Rinpoche in Tibetan) is the earthly manifestation of Mount Meru and is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Bonpo and Jains the entire route is lined with prostration points, places to check you sin-level, drink or immerse yourself in sacred waters, make offerings and hang prayer flags. The high point, both physically and spiritually is the Drolma Pass (5636m) on the second day.
On day 15 it is a short walk to Darchen before heading to Chiu Gompa on the shores of Lake Manasarovar to soak in the hot springs.
Days 16-19 : According to both Hindu and Buddhist cosmology the four great rivers (Brahmaputra, Sutlej, Indus and Ganges) have their source in Lake Manasarovar. Actually only the Sutlej does, but the sources of the other three are close by.
It is an incredibly beautiful lake, usually cobalt blue, though can turn into an angry, churning black during storms. For most of the way the kora route follows the lake shore. Most of the monasteries around Manasarovar belong to the Kagyu tradition, the exception being Trugo, which is Gelukpa and an important place for ritual bathing.
Days 20-21 : The drive retraces the outward route as far as Saga.
Day 22 : Another long day's drive, but again scenically magical as we take a barge-ferry across the Yarlung Tsangpo and head south via Pelkhu Lake. Rejoining the Friendship Highway cross the Lalung Pass and head to Nyalum.
Day 23 : Dropping suddenly and steeply off the Tibetan Plateau descend through the Himalaya to cross the China/Nepal border at Zhangmu Kodari before continuing the descent to Kathmandu.
Day 24 : Depart
Everest Base Camp Extension
Day 22 : Another long day's drive, but again scenically magical as we take a barge-ferry across the Yarlung Tsangpo and head south via Pelkhu Lake. Rejoining the Friendship Highway turn east to the small town of Lao Tingri.
Day 23 : Make a day trip to the tiny monastery of Rhongphu. The drive is magnificent and the views of Qomolangma (Mt Everest) are stunning, as the mountain stands alone at the head of the valley. Either drive or walk the last 7kms up to Base Camp. Return to Lao Tingri.
Day 24 : Another high pass gives a last, spectacular view of the Himalaya before we leave the Tibetan Plateau, descending to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border.
Day 25 : Completing border formalities the drive back to Kathmandu continues down the Bote Khosi valley.
Day 26 : Depart