This 12-day tour incorporates the sights of Chengdu with the best of Tibet, starting with the amazing giant panda reserve, and a trip to some of the places within the city. Then you will be able to enjoy the amazing sights along the railway route to Lhasa, including Tanggula Pass, Namtso Lake, and the Qarhan Salt Flats. In Lhasa you will get to see the best of the monastic institutes in Tibet, including Jokhang Temple and Sera Monastery, where you can watch monks debating in the afternoons. Further afield, you will travel to Shigatse, and get the chance to view the spectacular Mt. Everest from close up. The tour takes you to the Everest Base Camp, which is the closest anyone can get to the mountain without being on a mountaineering expedition. In Rongbuk you will see the inside of this famous monastery, before traveling back to Lhasa.
Itinerary Day by Day
Day 1: Chengdu Arrival
When you arrive at Chengdu, our guide will pick you up from the waiting area, and transport you to your hotel. There you will be able to rest after your flight, or explore the area around the hotel.
Stay overnight in Chengdu.
Day 2: Chengdu tour: Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center, Jinli Street and Wuhou Shrine
Your second day in Chengdu will start with a visit to the unique Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center. Catch the pandas at feeding time, when they are very active, and you may even get to see baby pandas, if there has been a recent litter of cubs. The center is the main hub of panda breeding and research in the world.
In the afternoon you will head back to downtown Chengdu, and will first visit Jin Li Street, a perfect replica of an old commercial center, in the style of the Qin, Han, and Three Kingdom dynasties. After a leisurely stroll along Jin Li Street, you can take in the famous Wuhou Shrine. The shrine tells the history of the renowned warriors of the Three Kingdoms, and is full of Chinese calligraphy and poetry.
Stay overnight in Chengdu.
Day 3: Board the train to Lhasa
Your morning today is spent at your leisure, so you can go and do some shopping, or wander around the local sights. After lunch your guide will transfer you to the railway station for the trip up to the heady heights of Tibet. The rest of the day will be spent on the train, and while it does stop at various stations along the way, it is not advised to get off, as the stop is for a few minutes only. The train will pass through Xining on its route, which is the start of the Qingzang railway, the first rail line into Tibet and the highest railway in the world.
Tips: The trip up to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Lhasa takes around 43 hours, so two nights are spent on the train. It is advisable to prepare snacks and packaged food for the journey, as well as some books, music, and other entertainment.
Stay overnight on the train.
Day 4: Enjoy the train ride
Traveling along the most scenic railway in the world, you will experience sights that will leave you breathless, and cross a plateau with an average elevation of over 4,000 meters. Do not forget to check out the view as you go over the Tanggula Pass, the highest railway pass in the world at 5072 meters above sea level. There are many sights to see along the route, and the train staff will point them out over the train’s speaker system just before they come into view. The notice and explanation of each sight is given in English as well as Chinese, so you will have no problem understanding.
Some of the best sights to look out for are:
Qarhan Salt Lake – the largest salt lake in China, with flowers made of salt in grotesquely unusual shapes
Yuzhu Peak – at 4,160 meters this is one of the best peaks for entry-level mountaineers
Kekexili Nature Reserve – in one of the least populated areas of China, the reserve is the home to herds of wild Tibetan antelope, wild yaks, wild Tibetan donkeys, and many species of local birds.
Tanggula Pass – the highest railway pass in the world, and one of the most spectacular views on the trip
Tsonag Lake – one of the highest freshwater lakes in China, the railway line passes by it only meters away, and you can see the stillness of the water like a huge glass mirror reflecting the mountains around it
Lake Namtso – the second largest saltwater lake in China, and one of the holiest lakes in Tibet
Stay overnight on the train.
Day 5: Arrive in Lhasa
When you arrive in Lhasa, our guide will greet you warmly with the phrase, "Tashi Delek", which means 'wish you all the best'. Your tour guide will meet you at the exit of the station, and a private car will transport you to your hotel to allow you to rest and acclimatize for the rest of the day.
Tips: High Altitude Sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can be avoided by resting and acclimatizing to the increased elevation. We recommend that you rest and eat plenty of high-protein foods and drink lots of water while you get used to the high altitude. It is also a good idea not to shower for the first two days to avoid catching a cold.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 6: Lhasa Tour: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street
The following day your first stop will be the world famous Potala Palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. Sitting atop Moburi (Red Hill), the palace looks down on the town of Lhasa from its 3,750-meter vantage point. The temple dates back to the 7th century, and houses artifacts and works of art from throughout Tibetan History. The palace also has the gilded burial stupas of the past Dalai Lamas, and below ground lies the ancient meditation cave of the 33rd King of Tibet.
After some lunch, you will head downtown to Jokhang Temple, the primary seat of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built by the 33rd King of Tibet in 647AD, and is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. Inside sits the most precious object in the temple, a life-sized statue of Buddha Sakyamuni when he was just 12 years old. Adorned with many precious gems, this gilded statue is the most sacred object in Tibet.
Running around the temple is the famed Barkhor Street. As well as the route of the holy kora, or religious circumambulation, it is also the site of many sellers where you can buy authentic souvenirs from across the region. You can join the pilgrims on their clockwise walk around the temple.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 7: Lhasa Tour: Drepung and Sera Monastery
The next morning you will leave early for a trip outside Lhasa, first to Drepung Monastery, one of the Great Three monasteries of the Gelugpa sect. Sitting at the foot of Gambo Utse, 5 kilometers outside Lhasa, it was founded by Jamyang Choge, one of the disciples of Tsong Khapa, in 1416. The Ganden Potrang, sited in the southwest corner of the monastery, was the former residence of the Dalai Lama, until the move to the Potala Palace.
In the afternoon you will travel back across the city to the northern suburbs, to visit Sera Monastery, another of the Great Three monasteries. Founded in 1419, the name, Sera, means "wild rose" in Tibetan, and was named because of the roses that were in bloom on the hill behind it when it was built. The main attraction of the monastery is the colorful and animated debating of the monks, held under the trees in the debating field every afternoon. Definitely something to watch, even if you do not understand what is said.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 8: Head to Shigatse with passing by Yamdrok Lake and Karola Glacier
In the morning our guide will drive you from Lhasa to Shigatse, Tibet's second largest city. En route to Shigatse you will pass over Gampala Pass, which lies at an elevation of 4,790 meters, and will pass the amazing Lake Yamdrok. At 4,400 meters above sea level, the lake lies nestled between lofty mountains, and you will see the holy mountain, Nyenchen Khangsar, its 7,191 meter peak standing tall in the distance.
The trip to Gyantse passes close by the Karola Glacier, and at Manak Dam Lake you will be able to hang a prayer flag at the Simila Mountain Pass. In Gyantse, you will get to visit the unique Pelkor Monastery, which is rare due to it housing three different sects of Tibetan Buddhism under one roof. You will also get to see the Gyantse Kumbum, a giant architectural stupa that stands 34 meters high.
After another hour and a half of driving you will reach Shigatse, and will be able to visit the traditional barley mill and in summer you can view the spectacular sight of the barley fields in full crop.
Stay overnight in Shigatse.
Day 9: Shigatse to Everest Base Camp
After obtaining your Alien's Travel Permit, which is needed to tour this area, you will leave Shigatse for Lhatse, a small town where you can get a nice lunch. On the drive on to Shegar, weather permitting, you will get your first look at the amazing sight of Mt. Everest, or Mt. Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan.
The drive on to Rongbuk Monastery crosses one of the highest passes in Tibet, the Pang La Pass, at 5,050 meters, from which you can see all five of the world's highest peaks. After arriving at Rongbuk you will be able to rest from the long drive, ready for the trip to EBC.
Stay overnight in a tent or at the Rongbuk Monastery Guest House (depending on availability)
Tips: The location is very remote and inhospitable, and the accommodation facilities are very basic here. Water is in short supply, there is no hot water, and toilets are just a pit in the ground. You should also be aware that in this remote region, you will be "roughing it", and sleeping facilities are not ideal. However, it is more than worth it to put up with the basic facilities for the amazingly spectacular views of Everest, and we will do our best to ensure that your personal requirements can be met, and you get the very best service from us.
Day 10: Everest Base Camp and return to Shigatse
In the morning, you can catch the stunning sunrise of Everest Peak if weather permits at the lodging area and then pay a visit to Rongbu Monastery - the unique highest monastery with nuns and monks living together. You’ll have the chance to take the closest picture of Mt. Everest at the base camp.
After visiting EBC, and taking all the photographs you can manage, you will head back to Rongbuk for a tour of this amazing monastery. The highest monastery in the world, at 5,000 meters above sea level, it is part of the Nyingmapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and is unique in that both monks and nuns live together in the same monastery.
After Rongbuk you will be driven back to Shigatse, and stay overnight there.
Day 11: Shigatse back to Lhasa
The day is spent driving back to Lhasa along the famous Sino-Nepal Friendship High-way. The road to Lhasa is 280 km long and it takes around six hours to drive. The road follows the course of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, which is the longest and largest river in Tibet. The evening will be yours to rest from the long drive.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 12: Lhasa Departure
On the last day of your tour, our guide will take you to the airport or train station, and help you with checking in and boarding.
- Tibet Travel Permit and all other necessary permit to Tibet
- Domestic train/flight tickets as indicated in the itinerary
- All lodging listed in the itinerary
- Meals listed in itinerary
- Entrance fees of all tourist sites listed in the itinerary
- Local Tour Transfers according to group size
- Excellent English-Speaking Tour Guide in China Tour and local Tibetan English-speaking guide in Tibet
- Government tax and travel agency service
- Chinese visa
- International flight to and out of China
- Domestic flight/train not listed in the itinerary
- Meals not specified the itinerary
- Tips and gratitude to tour guide and drive
- Personal expenses, like laundry, phone call, snacks, soft drinks, optional tour activities, etc.
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