Things You Need to Know Before Participating Kailash Trekking
The trekking around Mount Kailash is renowned as more than just a sacred kora pilgrimage. For Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims, this is the most spiritual way to show their devotion to their religions. For others that are not so religiously devout, the route around Mt. Kailash is known for being the hardest high-altitude trek in Tibet. A hike of around three days and a pass to conquer at more than 5,600 meters, this trek is a test of the mind, body, and spirit rolled into one. So before you head off to the remotest areas of the plateau to tackle this epic adventure, there are a few things you should know first.
Basic information of 3-day Kailash trekking
Covering a distance of around 52 kilometers, the trekking around Mt. Kailash takes three days to complete. As the highest mountain in the Gangdise Range of the Transhimalaya, Mt. Kailash stands only 6,636 meters above sea level and can be well appreciated at the infamous Drolma La Pass, which sits at an altitude of 5,630 meters.
Trek Day 1: Darchen (4560m) to Drirapuk Monastery (5210m) (20km)
The first day of the trek starts from an 7 kilometers’ eco-bus ride from Darchen to Sarshung Village, the traditional starting point of the Kailash Trek. After meeting your yaks and porter in the village, you will trek to Drirapuk Monastery about 13km away.
You will follow the route turning northwards into the Lha-chu Valley, clambering over the small ridge with its flag-bedecked cairn of stones and passing by the flagpole at Tarboche, an important site for the Saga Dawa Festival at Mount Kailash. The first promising attraction of the trek is Qugu Temple which dates back to around the time of the Guge Kingdom. From here, the trek up the valley is a gradual ascent through some beautiful landscapes to the bridge across the river, which leads you to the Drirapuk Monastery.
Trek Day 2: Drirapuk (5210m) to Dzultripuk Monastery (4790m) (18km)
The second day of the trek is the hardest, and you will need to get a good night’s sleep before moving on. The first stretch of the hike takes you on a steep climb up the valley to the crest of the highest pass of the trekking route - Drolma La Pass. Standing 5,630 meters above sea level, the pass is one of the best places along the hike to see both the summit of the sacred mountain and the stunning views out across the entire mountain range. The route to Drolma La passes by the local sacred Sky Burial site, and while you cannot enter the burial grounds as they are sacred, you do pass close by the entrance.
The pass is the perfect place to stop for a rest and cup of tea, and the views are stupendous. Strewn with prayer flags and Mani Stones piled up all around the pass itself, there is little room to move, save for the lath that leads you through the mass of flags and hada. From the top of the pass, the trail heads downwards into the Lham-chu Valley, as you head for the second stopping place at the Dzultripuk Monastery. Once you reach the valley, you can trek through lush grasses alongside the river that flows down through the valley. After a few hours of hiking, you will soon see Dzultripuk Monastery coming into view on the slopes of the valley ahead.
Trek Day 3: Dzultripuk (4790m) - Darchen (4560m)
On the last day, you will trek about 7km to Zongto, and then take eco-bus to Darchen 7km away. As you depart from the monastery, you pass by an ancient Mani wall covered with inscribed stones. Remember to pass on the clockwise side of the wall as you head down into the valley again. The route follows alongside the river for an hour, before heading upwards into a narrow canyon filled with hand-dug holes. The holes are dug out by pilgrims looking for holy relics.
Food and accommodation during 3-day Kailash trekking
Generally speaking, both food and accommodation during Kailash trekking is simple and basic when trekking around Mount Kailash.
Stay at Drirapuk Monastery Guesthouse on night 1
The stop for the first night of the trek is normally at the Drirapuk Monastery which offers a basic guesthouse for you to stay in, but if you take the trek during the more popular periods, you may find there is no room. The monastery guesthouse has basic dormitory rooms with no heating and basic beds. However, they are relatively comfortable, just bring a sleeping bag for keeping out the cold.
Food available at the guesthouse is basic and simple, and consists of mainly Tibetan cuisine. Tsampa, noodles, soups, and stews are the dishes most served, and if you do not like Tibetan food, you can buy packet noodles and things to eat instead. Running water and indoor toilets are not available, but you can get hot water for tea, coffee, and packet foods.
Stay at Dzultripuk Monastery Guesthouse on night 2
The monastery guesthouse at Dzultripuk is a little better than the one at Drirapuk, and has been more recently refurbished to improve standards. As well as dorm rooms for up to eight people, you can also sometimes get a twin or double room, for added privacy. However, while they are well-furnished with beds, table, chairs, and have power sockets, they are still not heated, and the bedding may have been used by several other people before you. Bring your sleeping bag to stay warm at night.
The guesthouse has a small eatery alongside, which offers a range of simple Tibetan cuisine as well as packet soups and noodles. The rooms do have electric blankets, but the power goes off at around midnight, so make sure you are tucked up before that and your gadgets are all charged before you sleep.
The best time to practice Kailash trekking
The time of the Saga Dawa Festival is the best time to visit Mt. Kailash, as it is a religious festival that is held at the flagpole at Tarboche and is an amazing experience for anyone traveling to Ngari. The festival culminates with a mass move of pilgrims and tourists to start the trek around the kora route, and you can find yourself walking alongside Tibetan and Indian Hindu pilgrims that are there to perform their ritual kora circuits to gain merits, which are multiplied on this auspicious day.
You can hire yaks, horse, or port to assist you to finish the trekking
If you want to be a little freer when trekking, you can always hire porters, yaks, or horses to carry both you and your packs. The porters can carry your pack around the trek, so that it is easier to hike in this high altitude for you. You can also hire horses to carry you around the kora route, a popular thing for Indian pilgrims to the mountain. However, it is generally understood that any merits gained from riding the kora route is shared equally with the horse. Your guide can arrange the porters or horses for you.
You can choose 1-day leisurely Kailash trekking instead of the 3-day trekking
Instead of the 3-days trekking around the mountain, you can enjoy a leisurely Mt. Kailash trekking from Darchen to Qugu Temple, then trek back to Darchen on the same day. This is a good idea for those that are not up to the whole three-day exhausting trek, and the gentle hike to the Qugu Temple and back is a much more relaxed and enjoyable hike for some.
At the monastery, you can stop and tour around the grounds and inside, get some great views of the pyramid-like mountain, and enjoy sweet tea and relaxation in the tents around the monastery site. And if you want to perform a full kora, you can take the kora circumambulation around the Chuku/Qugu Temple before you head back to Darchen.
A trek around Mount Kailash is something you need to plan in advance for, as the 52km hike is daunting and challenging. However, this is the best of the treks you can find in the Himalayas, and is a spiritual experience for everyone. So if you are thinking of taking on the trek around the world’s most sacred mountain, plan carefully and get in touch with us to help you arrange it properly.
Mount Kailash Tour from Malaysia: how to travel to Kailash from Malaysia
For Malaysian citizens, the best ways to reach Kailash are fly from Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu, then take train/flight to Lhasa, and overland from Lhasa to Kailash, or fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu and then head to Mt. Kailash via Gyirong Port.
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