This 18-day tour is perfect for discovering more about Tibet, the land of snows and mountains. Starting in Xining, you will visit Qinghai Lake, the largest saline lake in China, before your journey of discovery to Tibet on the world famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The railway traverses the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Lhasa, passing over the highest railway pass in the world, and giving you the chance to see some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Once in Tibet you will visit several of the regions ancient monasteries, the holy mountain of four religions, Mt. Kailash, as well as walking the holy kora around the mountain. Then you will visit the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse, before taking that all-important trip to view the massive height of Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.
Itinerary Day by Day
Day 1: Xining Arrival (take flight to Xining by transferring in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou or Chongqing)
From Hong Kong you need to take a connecting flight to travel to Xining, in Qinghai province of China. On arrival in Xining, our guide will transfer you to your hotel, where you can rest. Feel free to take in some of the sights of Xining, the gateway to Tibet.
At 2,275 meters above sea level, Xining is the ideal place to start acclimatizing to higher altitudes. While getting used to the increased elevation it is advised not to exert yourself too much, as this can bring on altitude sickness, even at the altitude of Xining. Rest, eat plenty of green vegetables and high energy foods; these are recommended when acclimatizing to a new altitude.
Stay overnight in Xining.
Day 2: Qinghai Lake Day Tour and Take overnight Train to Lhasa
Early in the morning you will take the short drive up to Qinghai Lake, the largest inland saltwater lake in China. The lake is the home to many different varieties of birds, and Bird Island, near the western shore of the lake, is a haven for both local and migratory species. The lake is elliptical in shape, and the crystal clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains and the clear blue sky. A great way to see the lake is from the deck of a boat, and 30-minute cruises are a popular attraction.
In the afternoon you will drive back to Xining, and will get to see the beautiful view of Riyue Mountain, known locally as “Sun and Moon Mountain”. Legend tells that it was on this mountain that Princess Wencheng lost a mirror called Sun and Moon, that allowed her to see her home in Xi’an, and the Datong River was born from her tears.
Later you will transfer to the Xining Railway Station, to begin the ride over the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to Lhasa. 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.
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 on the train.
Day 3: 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.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 4: 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 5: 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 6: Lhasa - Shigatse via Gyantse (360km)
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 7: Shigatse to EBC (350 km)
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 8: EBC to Saga (450km)
In the morning you will be able to watch the sun rise over Mt. Everest before taking the road to Saga. On the way you will get a great view of Mt. Shishapangma, the world’s 14th highest peak at 8,012 meters, and the spectacular Lake Peiku tso, with its clear, turquoise waters, and one of the highest lakes in Tibet at 4,590 meters. In the open plains alongside the road you can see plenty of wild animals such as donkeys, antelopes, yaks, etc.
Stay overnight in a guest house in Saga.
Day 9: Saga to Darchen, via Lake Manasarover (450km)
167km outside Saga town lies Drongpa County, and before you get to today’s destination at Darchen, you will take a short detour to visit one of the holiest of Tibetan lakes, Lake Manasarovar. During the summer, the lake is full of swans, which bring their own form of grace to this holy lake. There is a kora that runs around the lake, and you can often see Tibetans or Hindus circling the lake and praying on its shores. Manasarovar is one of the three holy lakes of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the highest freshwater lake in the world at 4,590 meters. It is the source of four of the greatest rivers in Asia, the Brahmaputra, Ghaghara, Sindhu, and Sutlej. For Buddhists and Hindus, it is believed that by bathing in the clear blue waters of the lake you will wash away all your sins.
In the late afternoon you will reach the small town of Darchen, at the foot of the holy mountain, Mt. Kailash. Your tour guide will prepare everything that is needed for the next four days of trekking around the mountain.
Stay overnight at a local guesthouse in Darchen.
Day 10: Darchen to Drirapuk (driving 7km, Trek 13km)
Mt. Kailash is the holiest mountain in Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, Bonism, and Jainism. The name means “mountain of the god”, and it is one of the holiest sites in the world. Pilgrims will traditionally walk the 52km kora around the base of the mountain, and you can see many of them prostrating themselves before it in prayer at regular intervals.
The trek starts at Darchen, and after 8km you will come to the village of Sarshung, where you will meet your porters and yaks. After walking northwards for around two hours you come to a huge, grassy plain, where you can often see herds of yaks and nomad encampments. From here it is another two hours trek to the first stop of the kora, Drirapuk Monastery, at an elevation of 4,920 meters. You can stay in the monastery’s guest house, or you can camp in tents for the night.
Stay overnight at Drirapuk.
Tips: The kora around Mt. Kailash is one of the hardest tests of endurance in Tibet. The kora has an average altitude of around 4,680 meters, and at its highest point it reaches a heady 5,630 meters. Accommodation along the trail is not very good, and the makeshift guest houses have poor facilities and sanitation. A sleeping bag is necessary, whether camping or not. At this high altitude, you must be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness, and if you feel any of them, let our guide know so he can monitor your condition. Having said that, completing the kora around Mt. Kailash is an experience that should not be missed.
Day 11: Drirapuk to Dzultripuk (Trek 18km)
The second day of the trek is a walk upwards to the highest part of the kora, Dolma-la Pass. At only 6.4km from Drirapuk, it lies another 762 meters above the monastery, and you will set off early in the morning. After reaching Dolma-la, you can take a rest at the highest point of the trek, which is 5,630 meters above sea level. After, you will descend a natural staircase formation to the Lhachu valley floor, which takes around an hour from Dolma-la. From there it is another four hours to the next destination, at Dzultripuk Monastery, and the miracle cave of Milarepa. The guide will keep you on the right side of the river, as the ground is firmer and the going is a little easier. Again, you can stay in the monastery guest house, or camp in the field nearby.
Stay overnight at Dzultripuk Monastery.
Day 12: Dzultripuk to Darchen (Trek 7km, driving 5km).
Before leaving the monastery, you will have a chance to see Milarepa’s cave, which has had temples and shrines built around it. The cave was the home of the Buddhist mystic for several years, in the 11th century. After the visit to the cave, you will take the easier walk along the last part of the kora back to Darchen. The exit from the valley can be reached in around three hours, and the driver will meet you there to drive you back to Darchen.
Stay overnight at a guesthouse in Darchen.
Day 13: Darchen to Saga (450km)
In the morning you will be driven back to Saga, briefly stopping at Lake Manasarovar for a last look.
Stay overnight in a guest house in Saga
Day 14: Saga to Sakya (350km)
The day is spent driving the 350 km from Saga to Sakya.
Stay overnight in a guest house in Sakya.
Day 15-16: Sakya to Shigatse (170km)
Before leaving you will be able to visit the ancient “old town” in Sakya, and the famous Sakya Monastery. The main monastery of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakya sect is unique in that it does not believe in the reincarnation of the lamas, and the head of the sect wears white robes, and is allowed to marry and have children. Consisting of two separate parts, the northern monastery is now only a ruin, while the southern monastery - which was built like a fortress, complete with moat - is still in constant use. Then you will be driven to Shigatse.
Stay overnight in Shigatse.
Day 17: Shigatse 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 18: 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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