The High Road from Lhasa with The Backdoor to Everest
13 Days. Hotels, Guest Houses and Tented Camps
Tibet: the forbidden land on the roof of the world. The exotic characteristics of Buddhism’s powerfully sublime and mystical spiritual forces. The rugged terrain and the raw and intense environment. The limitless sense of scale, the breathtaking vistas and the amiable people. And the art and architecture owing everything to the above - all concocting to give the intrepid traveller a riveting experience. With four of the world’s highest mountains flanking its southern border, with numerous ridge-top monasteries gazing unblinkingly at the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, with true adventures lurking around almost each and every corner and characterized by high altitude and climatic extremes, here, Tibet offers one of the world’s most spectacular journeys.
Pre-tour Briefing: HE Office (Kathmandu Guest House) 3 pm on day prior to Day 1. Full attendance necessary for briefing with emphasis on visa, flight ticket and individual equipment checks.
See ‘First 48’ Dossier for pre-trip services.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY:
Day 1: Fly Kathmandu to Lhasa
Depart on an early morning. Arrive at Lhasa Airport (3,700m) after a one hour fifteen minute flight, probably the most dramatic International flight anywhere, flying over Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and the southern Tibetan Plateau. Entry formalities then a one hour 30 minute drive to Lhasa.
Especially during the first few days at this altitude it pays to moderate activity and take short breaks. And after the first of these, we'll explore Lhasa's Old Quarter.
We'll find the interesting pilgrimage kora (circuit) of Barkhor and watch as pilgrims perform their ritual prostration. Here too is a classic Tibetan market; hundreds of merchants, traders and craftsmen, all with something to sell to Lhasa’s inhabitants, to innumerable pilgrims and to the likes of you and me.
Day 02: Sightseeing in Lhasa
If you’ve pictured Tibet at all, chances are you‘ve pictured the Potala Palace, the most potent symbol
for the Tibetan Community worldwide. It's a treasure trove of traditional culture, an architectural marvel and it’s World Heritage-listed site. Stroll through its 13 storeys, housing 1,000 rooms.
In the late afternoon, we'll visit the Jorkhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibetan beliefs. It literally hums with pilgrims murmuring chants and spinning prayer wheels amidst the myriad flickering of yak butter lamps. We'll also attend the evening prayer recital in the temple. Later, take the opportunity for an insight into the world of ancient Tibetan holistic healing at the Metzekhang medicine centre. (B)
Day 03: Lhasa & Environs
In the morning, travel 5 km north to one of the great monasteries of the Gelugpa, yellow hat, order. Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery became famous for its Tantric teachings. At Sera, the monks perform a clapping ritual which is good-natured, boisterous fun, and visitors can also partake. Also just outside Lhasa stands Drepung, once the largest of all monasteries. Within the periphery lies the Ganden Palace, home to the Dalai Lamas from the time it was founded by the 2nd Dalai Lama until the 5th built the Potala. The Dalai Lama's erstwhile Summer Palace, Norbulingka, is a shady retreat a short distance from town and a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. (B)
Day 04: To Ganden, Drak Yerpa & Drigung
Drive 40 kms northeast of Lhasa to Ganden Monastery (4,500 m). Perched at the rim of the Kyi-chu Valley, Ganden commands a dramatic view up and down the Lhasa River. Attend the daily ritual of worship in the monastery before taking a low ‘kora’ walk (1 hr), and perhaps making a respectful visit to a surreal sky burial site.
Later, set out for the cave-dotted cliff-top of Drak Yerpa, the inspired citadel of Tibetan Buddhism. The most important feature here is the holy cave, which has long served as a meditation retreat for sages and ascetics; most noteworthy have been Guru Rinpoche and King Songsten Gampo. We now drive to Drigung (4,150m) perched dramatically on an elevated ridge over the river. Overnight camping. (B, D)
Day 05: To Nam-tso
A walk away from Drigung leads to a holy sky burial site, then follows a three hour trek north-west to Tidrum, effort being aptly rewarded with a dip in therapeutic hot springs, ideally located at the confluence of two streams. It is then an afternoon drive to reach Nam-tso. Behold the grandeur of Nam-tso Lake and exquisite views of the Nyenchen Tanglha range, with peaks of 7,000m plus, dominating the lake to the south. Overnight Camping. (B,L,D)