We start our epic journey to Asian’s holiest mountain with a short visit in Kathmandu and a stay in Lhasa where we enjoy the warm hospitality of the Tibetans and you plenty of time to discover ancient palaces, temples and monasteries. Then we embark our jeep expedition with a beautiful ride over the Friendship Highway where we will take a pause at the Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse and the Tashulinpo Monastery in Shigatse. We follow the scenic northern and southern route of Western Tibet until we reach the foot of Mount Kailash. Many pilgrims make themselves ready here to walk the holy pilgrim path around Kailash because they believe it will erase the sins of a lifetime. After completing the kora we continue west to the sacred Manasarovar Lake. We end this once-in-a-lifetime trip with an unforgettable scenic journey over the Himalaya and a stay in the temple city of Bhaktapur near Kathmandu .
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (1 350 m)
Day 2: Sightseeing in Kathmandu Valley
Day 3: Free day in Kathmandu
Day 4: Flight to Lhasa (3 500 m)
Day 5: Free day Lhasa
Day 6: Lhasa/Visit Drepung and Sera Monastery
Day 7: Lhasa/Potala Palace
Day 8: Lhasa – Gyantse (3 980 m)
Day 9: Gyantse – Sakya (4 316 m)
Day 10: Sakya – Chung Riwoche
Day 11: Chung Riwoche – Tsochen (4 680 m)
Day 12: Tsochen – Gertse (4 445 m)
Day 13: Gertse – Gegye (4 530 m)
Day 14: Gegye – Ali (4 280 m)
Day 15: Ali – Tsada (3 760 m)
Day 16: Sightseeing Guge Kingdom – Tsaparang (4 280 m)
Day 17: Tsaparang – Tirthapuri (4 330 m)
Day 18: Tirthapuri – Darchen (4 670 m)
Day 19: Restday Darchen
Day 20: Start kora: Trek Tarbochen – Dhira Phuk (5 080m)
Day 21: Trek Dhira Phuk – Dzutrul Phuk (4 820m)
Day 22: Trek Dzutrul Phuk – Darchen & drive to Lake Manasarovar (4 560 m)
Day 23: Lake Manasarovar & afternoon drive to Saga (4 610m)
Day 24: Saga – Nyalam (3 750 m)
Day 25: Nyalam – Bhaktapur (1 400 m)
Day 26: Bhaktapur – Fly out Kathmandu
Pick-up at Tribhuvan International Airport. First impressions of Kathmandu (1,350 m) – walk to medieval Kathmandu Durbar Square and explore the beautiful complex of palaces, temples, shrines and courtyards built by the ancient Nepali kings between the 12th and 18th centuries. We bring you to our office and Thamel – the vibrant tourist area with hotels, restaurants, bakeries and outdoor shops. We check formalities and discuss your itinerary. Overnight in 2 ** hotel.
Today we discover the highlights of Kathmandu and the valley. We adapt the programm to your interests and desires and what you have seen before. Usually, we go to Pashupatinath on the bank of the Bagmati River, where the most important Hindu temples and burning ghats of Nepal are situated. In Boudhanath we circumambulate together with Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist pilgrims the whitewashed Stupa. Our sightseeing usually ends in Patan, the city of Beauty, an astonishing center of fine art and Buddhist and Hindu culture. Welcome dinner at Nepali Chulo and overnight in 2** hotel.
We drive to Tribhuvan Domestic Airport to connect our early morning flight to Lhasa. With beautiful weather you enjoy wonderful panoramas over the Everest, Kanchenjunga and other Himalaya ranges. We meet our Tibetan guide and driver at Gongkor airport and make the 60 km long drive to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet situated 3,500 m above sea level. We check in at the hotel, after you can visit the Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibet which is encircled day and night by prostrating pilgrims. From the rooftop you have wonderful views over the Potala Palace, the pilgrim circuit and the market bazaar where vendors sell woodcarvings, statues, carpets, jewels and prayer wheels. We spend a few days in Lhasa for good acclimatization, visiting the beautiful highlights of the city and for preparation of the travelling days ahead. Overnight in 2** hotel.
Today we visit two majestic monasteries of the Gelukpa sect, Drepung and Sera, just outside Lhasa which were once the home to over 15,000 monks. The Drepung monastery holds huge numbers of white monastic buildings including Ganden palace from where the earliest Dalai Lamas ruled, chapels with exquisite interiors, colleges and the Nechung oracle. Afternoon debating sessions with the monks in the courtyard of Sera monastery is an experience not to be missed. Overnight in 2 ** hotel.
We climb the nine – story high winter home of the Dalai Lama, the Potala Palace from where the Dalai Lamas executed their political and religious power over Tibet from 1645 till 1959. Perched on a hilltop, the winter palace offers brilliant views over the city. Inside you explore several throne rooms, assembly halls, bedrooms, libraries and chapels with tombs of the Dalai Lamas. Back at the foot of the Potala you can follow the pilgrim path leading to rock paintings and prayer halls or visit more highlights in the city like the Norbulinka Palace, the Ramoche Temple or the Ani Sangkhung Nunnery. Overnight in 2 ** hotel.
We leave the holy city of Lhasa and make a scenic drive to Gyantse 140 km west from the capital. Soon we climb the 4,794 m high Kamba La from where you have wonderful panoramas on the scorpion-shaped turquoise Yamdrok Tso lake. We drive several hundred meters down and spend some time at the shore to enjoy the beautiful views over the sacred lake and the Mount Noijin Kangtsang massive. After leaving the lake a short descent brings us to the 5,010 m high Karo La and its magnificent glacier. Before descending to the fertile valley of Gyantse (3,980 m) we climb the the Simi La pass. Gyantse is an attractive farmers town with medieval whitewashed houses which can be well observed from the top of the dzong, the fortress that dominates the town. From there you also see the compound of the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the splendid Kumbum Stupa, a 35 m high chorten with numerous tiny chapels holding exquisite paintings, statues and mandalas. The stupa is described to be the finest of Tibet!
Overnight in 2 ** hotel.
Before driving to Shigatse (3,900 m) and Sakya (4,316 m) we visit the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the Kumbum Stupa. After a short 1 hour drive through the fertile Nyangchu Valley we reach Tibet’s second largest town Shigatse. The modern city – divided into a tiny old Tibetan city at the foot of the fortress and a rapidly expanding Chinese city. We visit the main attraction of the city, the Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama. The monastery is one of the 6 great Gelugpa institutions, contains numerous impressive chapels and prayer halls and was largely untouched in the Cultural Revolution. The 26 m high statue of the Future Buddha and the tombs of the Panchen Lamas are absolutely impressive. Leaving Shigatse we climb steadily to the top of the Tso La (4,500 m) and cross a few remote valleys before we turn off the main road to drive to Sakya. In the 13th century Sakya was the capital of Tibet because of its close links with the Mongols. The immense grey thick walled monastery contains magnificent statues, fine silver stupas and superb wall paintings. Overnight in 2 ** hotel.
Today we drive in approximately 7 hours to Chung Riwoche via Ngamring (distance 210 km). In Lhatse Chaksam we cross the Brahmaputra river from where the road ascends a rocky river valley. While driving we’ll see Mount Yakri (5,614 m) to the north east and Lake Langtso to the south. A large valley leads up to Ghekha township (53 km) from Lhatse. From here it takes another 3 hours to reach Chung Riwoche. Chung Riwoche has an impressive multi chapel chorten which overlooks the Brahmaputra and is situated at the ruins of Chung Riwoche Monastery. Overnight in guesthouse.
We continue our journey with a 300 km (6-7 hours drive) long scenic journey from Chung Riwoche to Tsochen (4,680 m) via the beautiful lake and bubbling hot springs in Tagyel and the Sangmo pass (5,570 m). Overnight in guesthouse in Tsochen, a pleasant town filled with Tibetan atmosphere. Overnight in guesthouse.
Leaving Tsochen we cross desolate lands and numerous attractive valleys. We first climb to the Small Wild Yak Pass (5,090 m) and descend to the charming turquoise Dawa lake situated at 4,680 m. We conquer a few other passes including the Wild Yak Head Pass and enjoy a dramatic range of 6,000 m plus glaciated mountains. After Dung – Tso Lake we drive 2 hours to the west through a gorgeous broad valley to Gertse (4,445 m) where we sleep in a guesthouse.
It’s a seven-eight hours drive from Gertse to Gegye (4,520 m). On the way we encounter several salt lakes like Tarab Tso and Tsaka Tso. In Tsaka lives a small salt–processing community. We enjoy a tasty noodle lunch here and head further to Pangong Tso and the 4,895 m Gya La. Before reaching the wool trading centre of Zhungba we traverse another pass and salt lake and a stony desert. From Zhungba we follow for 2 hours the Indus River until Gegye. Overnight in guesthouse.
Ali (4,280 m) or Sengge Khabab (Town of the lion in Tibetan) is just 112 km from Gegye. On the way, we cross the infant Indus River and enter a swamp with an abundance of birdlife, including golden ducks and large black-necked cranes. After passing canyon landscapes Ali emerges like a desert mirage. Ali is a trade center situated on the road from Kashgar to Lhasa with a Chinese character and is occupied by spend the night in a comfortable 2 ** hotel.
We leave Ali and drive in 9 hours through barren, eroded landscapes to Tsada (Zanda), which is situated at 3,760 m in the heart of the former Guge Kingdom. From here we starting to explore the sights of Guge Kingdom tomorrow. Overnight in guesthouse.
Today you will visit the ruins of Tsaparang Citadel and Tholing Monastery. The ruins of Tsaparang (4,280m) are situated 26 km from Tholing and 18 km from Tsada. The ruins seem to grow organically out of the hills and are crowned by a red Summer Palace. Tholing Monastery is the most significant building in far west Tibet. It was constructed in the 10th century under the guidance of the great Tibetan translator Rinchen Sangpo and was once a major centre in of Tibetan buddhism. The monastery was closed by the Red Guards in 1966 and badly damaged. In the Dukhang main assembly hall you can still enjoy fine original wall paintings that show Kashmiri and Nepali influences. Overnight in guesthouse.
We drive in 6 hours to Tirthapuri (4,330 m), a place where pilgrims traditionally bathe in hot springs after completing their circuit of Mount Kailash. On arrival you can visit the Tirthapuri Monastery which encloses a small cave where Guru Rinpoche and his consort Yeshi Tsogyel meditated. The one-hour kora around the site is a good opportunity to stretch your legs and to observe the different religious rituals practiced along the pilgrim path. Overnight in guesthouse.
After 3 hours driving we reach the starting point of the Mount Kailash Kora, Darchen, situated at 4,670 m. The small town, nestled in the foothills of Mount Kailah is rapidly growing and offers modern facilities. Mount Kailash is 6,714 m high and is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Bon-pos who consider Mount Kailash as the heart of the world and the residence of their gods. Four of the great rivers of the Indian subcontinent originate in the breathtaking surroundings of Kailash. Thousands of pilgrims walk every year the Kailash Kora in search of good fortune and nirvana. The kora is a 52 km long pilgrims path that leads you through gorgeous mountain scenery and over the 5,630 m high Drolma pass. Walking the kora is a test of mind and spirit and an unforgettable spiritual experience!
Overnight in guesthouse.
Today we enjoy a restday at the settlement of Darchen (4,670 m) at the foot of the 6 714 m high Mount Kailash.
We start walking the kora today and hand over our luggage to the yaks. We trek for 6 hours with a light backpack from Darchen to Dhira Phuk (5,080 m). The kora starts near Tarboche where pilgrims raise a prayer pole on the morning of Saga Dawa. Today is a long but relatively easy walking day, between Chiu Monastery and Dhira Puk Monastery you enjoy some of the best scenery of the entire kora. Overnight in guesthouse.
A long ascent up the Drolma-chu Valley brings us today to the 5,630 m high Drolma pass. The pass is marked by thousands of prayer flags and soon you will see pilgrims circumambulating the Drolma Rock pasting money onto the rock with yak butter, other taking a pause with refreshments. When descending, soon the Lake of Compassion comes in view where Hindu pilgrims are supposed to immerse themselves in the lake’s green waters. Before arriving in the guesthouse of Dzutrul Phuk monastery, we encounter footprints of Milarepa and Buddha on our way. Overnight in Guesthouse.
Today we finish the kora with a 4-5 hours trek from Dzutrul Phuk back to Darchen from where our driver brings us to the holy Manasarovar Lake (4,560 m). While hiking we cross several rivers and enter the Gold and Red Cliffs, a narrow canyon with stained purple, cobalt and rust walls. We make a scenic drive to the holy lake of Manasarovar where we spend the night in a guesthouse in Chiu Village.
We take a rest at the beautiful environments of the holy lake of Manasarovar and make in the afternoon a 435 km long drive to Saga. After Paryang we enjoy a photogenic section with sanddunes, lakes and mountains.We pass numerous stupas and monastery ruins on the way. We spend the night in a guesthouse in Saga, the last town situated on the southern route at an altitude of 4,600 m.
We leave Saga and drive in 250 kms to Nyalam, situated at 3,750 m. Overnight in guesthouse.
Today we cross the Tibetan-Nepali border. On the way back to Kathmandu we overnight in Bhaktapur, a vibrant medieval city with squares, palaces and towering temples dating back to the 13th century. Overnight in a centrally located cosy guesthouse.
Transfer to Tribhuvan Airport. We hope you enjoyed your journey!
If you wish to stay longer in Nepal: Traveltimes Treks can offer you plenty of suggestions, we can arrange treks, rafting and safari trips, helicopter flights, mountain biking, multi-day tours to the old historical city of Bhaktapur, the mountain stations of Nagarkot & Dhulikhel or retreats in the serene monasteries of Namobuddha and Kopan.