This trip incorporates a 5-day trek into the classic overland route between Lhasa and Kathmandu. In Lhasa visit the awe-inspiring Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple as well as the great university monasteries of Drepung and Sera – leaving time, of course, for shopping on the Barkhor pilgrim circuit. From the ruins of the great monastery of Ganden head for the high valleys. The scenery is spectacular and herders are often camped beside the small lakes and streams, their herds of sheep, yak, and goats scattered across the high pastures. The trek brings you to Samye, on the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo, is Tibet's oldest monastery and one of its most beautiful. The route to Kathmandu takes you across high passes and along the shores of Yamdrok-Tso, the sacred turquoise lake to Gyantse and Shigatse with their famous monasteries. From the tiny gompa at Rhongphu the view of Qomolangma (Everest) is simply spectacular and there is time for a trip up to base camp before heading for the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and the dramatic plunge towards Zhangmu and the Nepal border.
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: Ganden (4500m) is the seat of the head of the Gelukpa order, the Ganden Tripa.
Founded by Tsong Khapa in 1417, the monastery has exercised powerful political influence and perhaps because of this suffered almost total destruction in the 1960s. Rebuilding is well underway, but the extent of the damage is quite evident. The kora, pilgrimage circuit, here is one of the most fascinating with numerous pilgrims and great views of the Kyi Chu valley.
Day 8: From the high point of the Ganden kora continue to ascend towards the top of the ridge.
marked by a cairn. From here the view is down the Kyi Chu Valley to Lhasa. Pass through Hepu village with its red and yellow protector-deity residence on the edge of the village – the Divine White Yak. The trail continues along the stream as the valley narrows to the site of a ruined nunnery before emerging onto marshy meadowland and Yama Do.
Day 9: Damp alpine meadows continue to the pass, Shuga La (5250m).
where cairns, prayer flags and yak horns mark the summit. Descend past a small lake into the Tsotup Chu Valley, an area of rich pasture supporting yak, sheep, and goats. There are often herders camped here and it is an ideal opportunity to get a glimpse of this traditional Tibetan lifestyle.
Day 10: Climbing a wide basin the Chitu-La (5100).
is visible as a rocky rampart at the head of the valley. On the far side, small lakes dot a shrub area where herders have carved out small level areas for their tents. A narrow gorge leads out onto the wider meadows where there are larger herder's camps along the river.
Day 11: Scrub willow and rosebush forest become thicker as you descend down the river.
Into the forest of juniper and rhododendron. This is one of the most attractive sections of the trek, especially in May and June when the rhododendrons are in flower and the hillside is a blaze of color. There is a shrine to the protectress of the area, Dorje Yudronma, and further down the valley, the first permanent settlement since Hepu – Chanda. Looking south the mountain range across the Yarlung Tsangpo is visible in the distance.
Day 12: A detour leads to Yamalung hermitage where Guru Rinpoche meditated.
and received empowerment from the Buddha Amitayus. There are several small temples, a sacred spring and numerous carvings; the temple enclosing Guru Rinpoche's meditation cave contains a hand and footprints of the saint. From the tiny hamlet of Pisha, you can see Hepo Ri, one of Tibet's most sacred mountains, in the middle of the Samye Valley below. From here the valley is a tapestry of fields, woods, and villages contrasting with the sandy river bank. Tiny temples and shrines dot the path down towards the golden roofs of Samye. Samye, built in the form of a mandala, was the first monastery to be built in Tibet and where Guru Rinpoche subdued many local demons, converting them to Buddhism.
Day 13: Today may be spent exploring the village.
a typical and fascinating Tibetan farming community, climb to the top of nearby Hepo Ri for magnificent views, wander the willow studded sand dunes along the river, a life with bird life or, for the more energetic, a trek to the Chimphu hermitages. At the head of the beautiful Chimphu valley, there is a small and gompa (nunnery) and the hillside is littered with meditation huts.
Day 14: An early morning ferry across the Yarlung Tsangpo.
is a fitting beginning to one of the most scenically spectacular drives in Tibet. Cross the Khamba La and Kora La (passes), along with the shores of Lake Yamdrok Tso to Gyantse. Once an important trading town, Gyantse retains a feel of 'old' Tibet.
Day 15: 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 16: Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchen Lama.
second only in importance to the Dalai Lama. Its numerous halls contain a 21.6-meter wooden statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, and elaborate, jewel-encrusted reliquary chorten. In the afternoon we drive to Xegar.
Day 17: Turn off the Friendship Highway.
for a stunning drive through Qomolangma National Park to reach the tiny Rhongphu Gompa at 5000m. The view from here is utterly spectacular!
Day 18: Trek or drive the 7kms to Everest Base Camp (5200m).
before heading to Lao Tingri via a rough, yet scenic track crossing small rivers and passes.
Day 19: 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 20: Completing border formalities.
the drive back to Kathmandu continues down the Bote Khosi valley.
Day 21: Depart or join yours.