Tibet on Shoestring
Fixed Departures every Saturday and Tuesday
8 Days. Simple Local Guesthouses,
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.
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. Once only limited to the domain of affluent travellers, now we’re making it affordable to any free-spirited travellers.
DAY TO DAY PLAN –
DAY 1: Kathmandu (1330to NyalamM)(3,750m)
156km/ 8-9hrs approx.
Take to the road north-east of Kathmandu and pass by the fringe towns of Banepa and Dhulikhel. Skies permitting, mountain views will slowly open up. The road now winds through colourful pastoral scenes as the route travels down through the Bhote Kosi valley to Kodari (114km). After Nepalese Immigration and Customs it’s a short walk to the ‘Friendship Bridge’, the border between Nepal and China. On passing Chinese Immigration, you’ll be greeted by your Tibetan guide. Start your journey to Zhangmu (2,250m) and continue to Nyalam.
(O/N at a simple guest house with dormitory accommodation.)
Day 2: To Tingri/Lhatse (3,950m)
244km/ 8-9hrs approx.
You’re in for a visual feast on today’s drive, as the route continues through the Himalayas via the Nyalam (3,800m) and Lalung-La (4,910m) passes. The dramatic change in vegetation and landscape in such a short distance is truly astonishing. Clearly now the High Himalaya stand ahead of us on the horizon of the plateau, like icebergs in a sea of sand. One can also take in a magnificent view of Mt Everest (8,850m) from Tingri/ Lhatse.
Please note well: during the first few days at this altitude it pays to greatly moderate activity, take short rest periods and keep fluid intake up.
(O/N at a simple guest house in dormitory accommodation.)
Day 3: To Xigatse(3,840m)
190km/ 5-6hrs approx.
Another scenic drive, over the highest point of the tour - Gyatchu La pass (5,220m) – with views of Everest and other surrounding giants along the route.
(O/N at a simple guest house with dormitory accommodation.) (B)
Day 4: To Gyantse (3,950m)
90km/ 2hrs approx.
Morning visit to Tashilunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama. This monastery houses the spectacular golden statue of Maitreya Buddha. It is 26m high and weighs 275kgs. Drive now through some of Tibet’s most verdant lands to Gyantse. Reaching Gyantse, in the latter part of the day, head to Kumbum Stupa and Pelkor Monastery. Pelkor monastery has a special influence over Buddhism in Tibet, owing to its unifying influences on the Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Bhuton sects. The centre piece of Pelkor and the pride of the city, Kumbum, is the largest stupa in Tibet. It is probably the finest example of 15th century Newari art in the world. (O/N twin-share hotel accommodation.) (B)
O/nt hotel on twin sharing.
Day 5: To Lhasa (3,600m)
280km/ 8-9hrs approx.
The route to Lhasa goes over the Kampa-La pass (4,794m), from where you’ll have the first glimpse of the stunning Yamdrok-tso lake (Turquoise Lake) - the 3rd largest and one of the four holy lakes of Tibet - and Karo-La pass (5,010m). (O/N twin-share hotel accommodation.) (B)
Days 6 and 7: In Lhasa
At our disposal are two full days with which to explore Lhasa, the epicentre of Tibetan culture and history.
If you're imagining Tibet, chances are you're picturing the Potala Palace. It remains a symbol of Tibetan autonomy and seat of the government in-exile of the Dalai Lama. It's also a treasure trove of traditional culture, an amazing architectural marvel and a World Heritage Site. Climb through some of its 13 levels, housing 1000 rooms.
We'll also visit the Jokhang Temple – the first and most religious structure in Tibet - its principal attractions lie in its various chapels. Founded in the mid-7th century, today it hums with pilgrims murmuring chants and spinning prayer wheels amidst a myriad of flickering yak butter lamps. Later, you can roam around Lhasa's old quarter. There is the interesting pilgrimage kora (circuit) at Barkhor. Some pilgrims perform ritual prostration around the entire kora. Barkhor is also popular for its typical Tibetan open market where hundreds of merchants, traders and craftsmen set up shop to sell their wares to the people of Lhasa and the innumerable pilgrims.
Just outside Lhasa lies the Drepung Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries and once the largest in the world. It’s also an important Gelug-pa religious centre for Tantric Studies. Within the periphery of the monastery lies the Ganden Palace which was also home to the Dalai Lamas from the time it was founded by the 2nd Dalai Lama until the 5th built the Potala. Sera Monastery, 5km north of central Lhasa is also an important Gelugpa learning centre and its fame comes in part from the active role it has played it Tibet's politics. At Sera, the monks perform a good-natured, boisterous clapping ritual, which visitors can partake in.
Consider also a visit to the Dalai Lama's erstwhile Summer Palace, Norbulingka. It is a shady retreat from town and a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.
(O/N twin-share hotel accommodation.) (B)
Day 8: Fly Lhasa to Kathmandu (1,330m)
Early morning drive (1.5hrs approx.) to Gongkar airport for the flight to Kathmandu. An hour and ten minutes flight gives you an opportunity to view from the air the peaks of Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, and the southern Tibetan Plateau. (B)
(Meal Codes: B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)