15 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Kathmandu
Namaste! Welcome to Nepal. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Those who have pre-booked an arrival transfer can meet their driver outside the airport terminal, a few metres from the exit door – look out for the Intrepid signboard. There will be a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception for the location of this meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details, next of kin information and permit application details (including a passport-size photo) at this meeting. Please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Afterwards, your evening is free, but your trip leader will usually organise an (optional) evening meal at one of Kathmandu's fine Nepali restaurants. Alternatively you can enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Notes: Remember not to obtain a Chinese visa in advance, as you will use a group visa when entering Tibet from Nepal. Any other valid Chinese visa in your passport will be cancelled if you do obtain one.
Day 2 Kathmandu
Explore this alluring city on a walking tour with your local leader. Check out the Newari architecture at Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces. Perhaps visit the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as Monkey Temple) – Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. You might also like to join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. Visiting Pashupatinath is also highly recommended – it's a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan (a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu) dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).
Day 3 Bhaktapur - Changu Narayan - Kathmandu
Today, we leave in the morning on a private bus to visit one of the most highly rated ancient town near Kathmandu – Bhaktapur. 14 KM away from Kathmandu, Bhakatapur was one of the 3 royal cities in Kathmandu valley, and remains a living museum with stunning architecture and art, rich history and fascinating religion of Buddhism and Hinduism. Take a stroll with your leader through the zigzagging alleys and learn about the stories of the kings and the saints of the past, say hi to the locals and admire the intricate wood carvings and pottery making. Continue on to Changu Narayan, a hidden gem in Kathmandu’s religious scene, being one of the oldest Hindu temple in the region. Enjoy some time of tranquillity and nature here before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.
Day 4 Lhasa
Fly to Tibet's capital, Lhasa (approximately 2 hours) (3,940 m). Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley. Unknown to the outside world for years, even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reached the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. Nowadays it welcomes tourists, but remains an enchanting city, steeped in culture and mythology. In Lhasa you will stay at a basic but centrally located hotel with twin-share accommodation decorated in traditional Tibetan style.
Day 5 Lhasa
This morning, take it easy to adjust to the altitude. At noon, take a cooking class and learn the fine art of preparing momo, traditional Tibetan dumplings for lunch.Though the dish appears in neighbouring countries Nepal and Bhutan, it’s believed to originate in Tibet. In the afternoon, we'll visit Sera Monastery where the fascinating Buddhism debate takes place between the Tibetan monks. We won't understand a thing that they are debating about, but it's purely joy to see how they heatedly discuss the philosophies in a very exaggerated and eye catching manner.
Day 6 Lhasa
Visit Jokhang Temple, considered the spiritual heart and most sacred temple of Tibet. It always attracts a steady waves of pilgrims. Spend some time exploring this 6-acre World-Heritage listed site and learn a thing or two about its history. According to legend, the temple was built on top of a lake after many failed attempts to build monasteries in other nearby locations. Feast your eyes on golden Buddha which stands in the centre. Then we will continue to the Potala Palace, the incredible former home of the Dalai Lama that’s perched 130 metres above the city. The palace is divided into two parts, the White Palace (secular and used as offices and the like) and the Red Palace (home to chapels, shrines, and tombs of Dalai Lamas). Although you must stick with your guide while exploring Potala Palace, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world.
Day 7 Drak Yerpa - Lhasa
Take a private bus to the Drak Yerpa Monastery. Known variously as Brag Yer-pa, Yerpa, Dagyeba, Dayerpa or Trayerpa, this is one of the holiest cave retreats in Tibet, the 'life tree' of Lhasa. It’s located in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley, with views of prayer flag-covered mountains. Here you can explore some of the caves, including ones where pilgrims sip holy water or slip through a small gap in the rock, and perhaps talk with the few remaining monks that live there. Monks have begun to return to Yerpa, but numbers are strictly controlled by the government, which carries out regular patriotic study sessions.
Day 8 Gyantse
Continue to Gyantse (approximately 8 hours) (3,980 m). The drive is long but rewarding, with spectacular views and plenty of photo opportunities. If the group does stop at Karo La (4,960 m) there will be a tourism charge of CNY 40 per person. We will stop out at Yamdrok Lake, it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. Gyantse (3,950 m) is a small agricultural town that's famous for its wool carpets. It has a very traditional feel to it, and indeed everyday Tibetan rural life continues here much as it has done for centuries. There are a number of interesting buildings around town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414 comprising five stories, each one representing a different stage on the path to enlightenment. The backstreets of Gyantse are a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life, with pilgrims, pop music, cows, 'cowboys' on motorbikes, kids and monks mingling in a lively mixture of cultures. There are also many interesting religious sites to visit.
Day 9 Gyantse - Shigatse
Today we will enjoy lunch with a local family at their home before leaving for Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city. You will visit Pekor Monastery and Kumbum Tower. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the myriad monastic buildings – each with their own intricate decorations, legends and religious imagery – you can ask for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world's largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks prepare for ceremonies. In the evening, perhaps join the pilgrims on their kora, spinning prayer wheels as you walk around the perimeter of the monastery and take in the lovely views and atmosphere (approximately 1 hour). Back in the city, if your stay coincides with market day, perhaps browse Shigatse bazaar – it has everything from yak butter and yak wool to prayer wheels and rosaries. You might also be able to visit the carpet factory where traditional hand-woven rugs are made.
Day 10 Sakya
Continue to Sakya (approximately 6 hours) (4,280m). Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. The monastery is built in medieval 'Mongolian' style. Rather than being whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and white stripes. Perhaps explore inside the monastery in your free time this afternoon. At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries you have visited, but after spending some time here you'll see that Sakya has a subtle, ancient beauty unlike any other. You might also like to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction, as this is a kora route (prayer circuit). You can also hike a little further afield to the nunnery, which sits high on the hill and overlooks the town. For dinner tonight, perhaps try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants. You will stay the night in a basic guesthouse (note that hot water is usually unavailable here).
Day 11 Everest National Park
An exhilarating drive (approximately 5–6 hours) brings you to Everest National Park. Stretch your legs, rest your lungs, set up camp and get settled in. Enjoy some lunch before taking the gentle 4-kilometre round-trip hike up to Everest Base Camp (approximately 2 hours). Follow the prayer flags up the slope, crossing your fingers for a clear and sunny sky. Visiting Rongphu Monastery is also possible, depending on the wishes of the group. This is the highest monastery in the world. On a clear day you might even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma, as it is called in Tibetan. Today, around 50 monks and nuns remain in this relatively modern Tibetan monastery (in the early 1900s, some 500 lived here). You will be greeted warmly by the monks and nuns here, and it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers.
In summer months, the group will stay at Rongphu in the tent city that is set up along the road to Everest Base Camp. Accommodation here is in nomad-style tents. Tents sleep up to seven people with basic mattresses and bedding provided, but we recommend using a sleep sheet and preparing some warm clothes, as it can get quite cool in the evenings. There are basic pit toilets nearby. For heating there is a yak dung stove in the central open area of each tent. At such close proximity to the tallest mountains in the world, the surroundings more than make up for the basic sleeping conditions. In colder months, when the tent city is not operational, the accommodation will be a monastery guesthouse, or lodgings in a nearby town. Rooms here are quad-share with very simple, shared facilities. Also note that Everest Base Camp can close without any prior notice because of political issues and/or bad weather. Prior notice will be given where possible. When it's closed, passengers will stay in Old Tingri, where a beautiful view of Everest is still possible on a clear day.
Day 12 Shigatse
Return to Shigatse today (approximately 4 hours) and enjoy free time after we visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the few monasteries in Tibet to have come away virtually unscathed from the Cultural Revolution. With its expansive territory inside thick stone walls, it's almost like a town in itself. In your free time why not join the pilgrims on their kora, spinning prayer wheels as you walk around the perimeter of the monastery and take in the lovely views and atmosphere.
Day 13 Lhasa
Journey back to Lhasa (approximately 6–7 hours). Though it's a long day of driving, the scenery along the way is spectacular, so sit back, relax and enjoy it. There will be stops for lunch and to take photographs of the mountains.
Day 14 Kathmandu
Head back to the airport to board your flight to Kathmandu (approximately 1.5 hours). Your journey comes to an end where it all began, back in Kathmandu. You'll check back into your hotel, then head out for a final (optional) group dinner. Boasting a delicious array of international and local cuisine, Kathmandu is lovely place to dine, especially after your adventure across the 'Roof of the World'.
Day 15 Kathmandu
Your trip comes to an end. There are no activities planned, and you are free to depart the hotel at any time before 12 noon. If you are departing later, luggage storage can be arranged at the hotel.
All This Included
Join an adventure across the top of the world. From the serene former home of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa to the ancient narrow laneways of Kathmandu, traverse the world's highest mountain range and delve into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Mingle with locals, rub shoulders with pilgrims and take in spectacular scenery – this is most definitely Tibet and all its treasures uncovered.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
Due to visa regulation changes by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, we now need 2 full days in Kathmandu for the embassy to process the group visa. Therefore, we have to make adjustment to the itinerary to meet this new visa process. No included activities have been affected though and we've added extra included activities in the extra time we have in Kathmandu. Details please see day to day itinerary.
Hotel/Guesthouse (13 nights)
Permanent Tented Camp (1 night)
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.