Day 1: Fly Kathmandu to Lhasa (3,600m)
Depart on an early morning flight to Lhasa. Arrive at Lhasa Airport (3700m) after an hour and ten minutes flight which over flies the panoramic peaks of Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and the southern Tibetan Plateau. Transfer and check-in to your hotel. After a short break, explore Lhasa's old quarter. Here is the interesting pilgrimage kora (circuit) of Barkhor where 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. In the late afternoon, visit the Jorkhang Temple, the spiritual centre of the region. 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. Also attend an evening prayer recital in the temple.
Day 2: In Lhasa
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. Later, there is an opportunity to gain an insight into the world of ancient Tibetan holistic healing at the Metzekhang medicine centre. (B)
Day 3: Lhasa and Environs
In the morning travel north of central Lhasa to one of two great Gelugpa monasteries. Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery became famous for its Tantric teachings. At Sera, the monks perform a clapping ritual which is good-natured, boisterous and fun, and visitors are welcome to join. Just outside Lhasa lies the Drepung Monastery, once the largest in the world. Within the periphery of the monastery lies the Ganden Palace which was the home of 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 out of town and a pleasant place at which to spend an afternoon. (B)
Day 4: Lhasa and Environs (3,600m-4,500m)
Morning drive 40 kms north-east of Lhasa to Ganden Monastery (4500 m). Perched at the edge of the bowl-like Kyi-chu Valley, Ganden has dramatic views up and down the Lhasa River Valley. Attend a ritual prayer session in the monastery before taking a low ‘kora’ walk (1 hr) to visit a surreal-looking sky burial site.
Later, set out for the cave dotted cliff-top of Drak Yerpa, a citadel of Tibetan Buddhism. The most important landmark here, amongst many, is a holy cave which has served in the past as a meditation retreat for numerous sages and ascetics, most noteworthy of them being Guru Rinpoche and King Songsten Gampo. Late afternoon drive back to Lhasa. (B)
Day 5: Fly Lhasa to Kathmandu (1,330m)
Your insightful journey concludes with the transfer to Gongkar airport and the flight back to Kathmandu. (B)
MEAL CODES: (B=breakfast)