Covering an area twice the size of Germany, the west of Tibet is rugged, sparsely populated and breathtakingly beautiful. With a mean elevation of around 4,500m (14,763ft), it is also high and very dry, requiring several days of altitude acclimatisation along the way, which is the main reason so few visitors explore this magical region.
The main incentive to do so is to glimpse Tibet’s most sacred mountain, Kailash – a jaw-dropping, pyramidal ice peak standing proud of its neighbours and the surrounding tundra, and which Tibetans, Hindus and Jains regard as holy. A mass pilgrimage takes place each summer in which worshippers make an auspicious circuit of the mountain. The 32 miles (52km) route, known as the ‘Kailash Kora’, reaches a high point of 5,640m (18,500ft) and takes three days to complete.
At the foot of the mountain, set against a mesmerizing backdrop of snowy summits and grasslands, lies ethereal Lake Mansarovar. Several small Tibetan guesthouses are dotted along its shores, allowing you to linger for a night or two and enjoy the extraordinary interplay of light, cloud, and shimmering reflections off the glassy water.