As one of our longest tours, this 19-day trip will take you on an adventure from the ancient capital city of China, Xi’an, with its famous Terracotta Army, to the wilds of western Tibet. From Lhasa and Potala Palace, you will travel to the far west of the region, visiting monasteries, lakes, and temples, and making the 52 kilometer, three-day trek around the holiest of Buddhist mountains, Mt. Kailash. An experience not to be forgotten, this adventure incorporates the culture, heritage and religious significance of the Tibetan people, and shows how Buddhism is interwoven into their daily lives.
Itinerary Day by Day
Day 1 - Arrive in Xi'an
When you arrive at Xi’an Airport, 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 Xi’an.
Day 2 - Xi’an Tour: The Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, Big Wild Goose Pagoda
The next morning will see you visiting the Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, a must-see when in Xi'an. Around 8,000 ancient, life-sized figures were created to accompany the first Emperor of China to the afterlife, and were part of his mausoleum. Each figure has a unique facial structure and expression, as if they had been made from living people. The warriors were buried with the Emperor in 208BC and were not discovered until 1974.
After the warriors, you will head over to another of the most visited sites in Xi'an, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Built in 652, the pagoda is a repository of Buddhist figures and scriptures brought to Xi'an from India by, Xuanzang, the first abbot of Daci'en Temple.
Stay overnight in Xi’an.
Day 3 - Xi’an Tour: Shaanxi History Museum, Cycling on the top of Ancient City Wall, and Muslim Quarter
The first trip of the day will be to visit the Shaanxi History Museum, where you can take in the glory and ancient history of China. The museum holds artifacts that date back as far as the Paleolithic era, up to the more recent Qing Dynasty. The museum is packed with thousands of exhibits from all periods of history, and is a busy, popular attraction.
In the afternoon you will be able to enjoy the ancient City Wall of Xi'an by bicycle tour. The wall around the inner part of the city was built in the 14th century and is 14km long. It is an amazing example of ancient defensive structures.
In the evening you will be able to travel to the Muslim quarter, with its famed gourmet street full of tasty delights. It is the largest area of Muslim business in the city, and is the perfect place to buy souvenirs of Xi'an and China, with a wide range of local snacks and handicrafts.
Stay overnight in Xi'an.
Day 4 - Take train to Lhasa and enjoy the train scenery
In the morning you will transfer to the Xi'an 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 5 - Arrival in Lhasa
When you arrive in Lhasa in the mid-afternoon, 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 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 - Lhasa - Yamdrotso Lake - Shigatse (10 hrs, 370km)
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.
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 seat of Tibet's second highest spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama, at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.
Stay overnight in Shigatse.
Day 9 - Shigatse - Sakya - Tingri (10hr, 290km)
Before leaving Shigatse, you will get to visit the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, with its ancient statue of Jampa, the “future god”. Tashi Lhunpo is also the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.
After the monastery, you will drive out into the countryside of Sakya County, where you will visit the famous Sakya Monastery. The main monastery of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakya sectis 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.
Then you will drive on to Ggyatso-la Pass, the highest mountain pass in the world at an elevation of 5,200 meters. The road then continues on to Tingri, the main entry point to the Himalayan Nature reserve.
Stay overnight in Tingri.
Day 10 - Tingri to Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp (3 hrs, 90km)
In the morning, it is just a few hours' drive to Rongbuk, and the road that winds its way through the mountains is new and smooth running. On the road you will pass by wild grasslands, lofty mountains, and deep river gorges, and will get to see the Himalayan panorama, if the weather is clear enough. There are four mountains in the range that are over 8,000 meters high - Mt Lhotse (8516m), Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Cho Oyu (8201m), and Mt Makalu (8463m).
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 11 - Rongbuk Monastery - Everest Base Camp - Saga (13hrs, 460km)
In the morning you will be taken along the Old Tingri road to Saga, over 460km away. The road passes the foothills of Mt. Everest, and Mt. Shishapangma, and runs parallel to the Himalayan Range as it heads towards the arid, desolate plains known as Digur Tang. With mountainous sand dunes framed by the lofty peaks of the Himalayas, this arid desert looks lifeless, but beautiful. As you leave the Bum-Chu basin, the road descends to Pelkhu Tso Lake, with its cobalt-blue waters shining in the sun.
Stay overnight at a local guesthouse in Saga.
Day 12 - Saga to Lake Manasarovar to Darchen(14hrs, 550km)
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 13 - Trek Day One - Darchen to Drirapuk (6.5 hrs, 20km)
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 14 - Trek Day Two - Drirapuk to Dzultripuk (18km, 7-8hours)
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 15 - Trek Day Three- Dzultripuk to Darchen (14km, 3-4hours)
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 16 - Drive from Darchen to Saga (530km, 14 hours)
In the morning you will be driven back to Saga, where you will stay for the night.
Day 17 & 18 - Saga to Shigatse to Lhasa (2 days, 750km)
The next two days will be spent driving back to Lhasa, via Shigatse. It is advisable to have a book or something to read, as the trip is long and hard, though the scenery and landscapes along the way are absolutely breathtaking.
Day 19 - End the Tour, Airport Drop off
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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