Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £5010 per person
Places Visited: Chengdu, Lhasa, Tsetang, Gyantse, Shigatse, Shegar, Rongbuk, Everest Base Camp
Experience the unique landscapes and traditional Buddhist culture of the world’s highest mountain kingdom on this two-week tour. Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan Province, serves as our gateway. Having spent a night in the city, you’ll fly on to the Tibetan capital Lhasa for of days of acclimation, with leisurely visits to the Jokhang and Potala Palace. Next up, an epic road trip featuring the cream of the region’s monasteries, vistas, villages, market towns and turquoise glacial lakes. You’ll encounter pilgrims measuring their progress by prostrations along the road, herds of grazing yaks, windswept passes festooned with prayer flags and, the icing on the cake, an astounding view of Everest from base camp below the peak’s ice-encrusted north face.
Altitude acclimatisation is essential. We plan all our itineraries to ensure sufficient time is allocated for your body to get used to the thin air, and your guide will make sure you do everything necessary to stay healthy. Aside from negotiating flights of steps in Buddhist monasteries, this trip does not require any strenuous exercise – although you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs should you desire!
Fly from the UK to Chengdu, in south-west China.
On arrival at Chengdu airport, you’ll be met by your TransIndus guide and escorted to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day recovering from your journey, perhaps venturing out to the ‘Wide Lanes, Narrow Lanes’ pleasure district in the evening for a taste of authentic Sichuanese culture.
After breakfast, travel to the airport to catch your flight to Lhasa. You’ll be met on arrival by your guide and accompanied to your hotel. Once checked in, drink plenty of fluids and avoid strenuous exercise while your body acclimatises to the altitude.
Dubbed the ‘Forbidden City’ during the 19th century, Lhasa has been the spiritual and political capital of Tibet since the Fifth Dalai Lama moved here in 1642. Protracted isolation from the rest of the world meant the arcane way of life led by its kings, clergy and citizens remained largely unaltered until the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960s. In more recent times, mass migration from Han China has had a major impact. However, plenty of old-world Tibetan atmosphere survives – as you are about to discover!
Your first full day’s sightseeing begins, naturally enough given its symbolic importance to the Tibetan people, with a visit to the iconic Potala Palace – the greatest of all Tibetan buildings – followed by a tour of the bustling Jorkhang.
Stacked up the sides of Marpo Ri Hill, the various halls and apartments of the Potala Palace are interconnected by long flights of steps. Savour the views across the mountains and plains around Lhasa – a landscape of almost surreal grandeur. After Potala Palace, you’ll explore the atmospheric old town, which is busy with pilgrims year round, the majority of them bound for the Jokhang Temple – Tibet’s holiest shrine. Around the sacred precinct runs a bustling belt of shops known as Barkhor Street, where you’ll encounter people from across the Tibetan Plateau, some of whom will have travelled huge distances to get here.
A tour of pretty Norbulingka Park gets the fourth day of your trip underway. Afterwards, travel to the outskirts of the city to visit two great Gelupga monasteries dating from the 15th century, Sera and Drepung.
The Norbulingka gardens enclose the former summer palace of the Dalai Lamas. It’s a lovely place to savour the morning sunshine before you head to the outskirts of Lhasa to visit one of the three greatest monasteries in Tibet. Although badly damaged by Chinese bombing in the 1950s, Sera has since been restored to its former glory. The main prayer hall, or Tsokchen, is the focus of intense ritual activity throughout the day, as is Drepung monastery, which you’ll visit next at a spectacular site up a valley overlooking the city. In the evening, enjoy a performance of Tibetan folk music and dance back at your hotel.
Today you’ll drive for 6–7hrs to Tsetang monastery on the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River, pausing at Changzhou en route, and continuing south to Yumbulakhang, whose whitewashed monastery tower rises against a backdrop of awesome mountains. The landscape is grandiose from start to finish.
Seat of Tibet’s ancient emperors, Tsetang, on the Tsongpo (Brahmaputra) River 113 miles (183km) southeast of Lhasa, is the region’s fourth city and most convenient base for exploring the spectacular valleys to its south, where a number of ancient monasteries reside amidst a landscape of surreal grandeur. Foremost among them is Yumbalakhang, which surveys a sublime spread of cloud-swept peaks from its rock perch above the Yarlung Valley. A Buddhist shrine has stood on this spot for 2,000 years, making it the oldest temple in Tibet. The original was destroyed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, but its replacement is a faithful replica and one of the most marvellous sights in the Himalayas.
Still based at Tsetang, you’ll make a day trip today to Samye Monastery. Scale the ridge behind for a magnificent view over the complex and its epic setting.
Dating from the 8th century, Samye is reputedly the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet and one that enjoys a particularly spectacular setting, amid soaring, barren mountains and dunes splashed with occasional patches of green barley fields. A circular wall encloses the complex and is approached by crossing the river in a flat-bottomed ferry. The finest view of the complex is to be had from the summit of nearby Hepo Ri, a hillock that features on a ritual circuit (‘Kora’) following the ridges and cliffs behind Samye. You TransIndus guide will be happy to accompany on the route should you wish to join the Tibetan pilgrims on their sacred circuit.
You’ll experience some of the most wonderful scenery in high Asia today as you drive west from Tsetang to Gyantse, Tibet’s ‘Hero City’ and the site of the famous, nine-storey Kumbum Chorten.
The day’s journey skirts the vast, turquoise expanse of Yamdrok Lane, flanked by dramatic snow peaks and ice fields, and then scales the Gampa La Pass (4,790m), from where you are able to see the summit of Nyenchen Khangsar (7,191m), this region’s highest mountain. The road also runs close to the foot of the Karo La Glacier before dropping down into Gyantse County. On arrival in Gyantse, Tibet’s third city, you can have supper in your hotel and enjoy a well-earned rest after today’s long, but memorable road trip.
After breakfast, take a tour of Gyantse’s striking Pelkor Monastery, site of the Kumbum Chorten, before continuing on to the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. It’s a much shorter drive than yesterday’s, mostly running along the floor of broad valleys.
Shigatse, Tibet’s second city, is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, a political and spiritual rival to the Dalai Lama whom the Chinese authorities have long promoted as a more compliant alternative to the exiled leader. Pilgrims pour through the town to worship at the stately Tashilunpo Monastery at its western end, which holds some of the most sumptuous chapels and Buddhist art outside Lhasa. Time permitting, in the late afternoon after checking in to your hotel, your guide will be able to lead you along the 2-mile Lingkhor circuit of Tashilunpo.
Spend the morning exploring the Tashilunpo complex, one of the largest and best-preserved monasteries in Tibet. After lunch, continue southwest along the Friendship Highway towards the main Himalayan range, pausing for the night in the town of Shegar, a few miles off the main road.
Centrepiece of Tashilunpo is a colossal statue of Maitreya, the Buddha to come, clad with 275kg of solid gold – a miraculous survivor of the Cultural Revolution’s purges, when many of the monasteries ancient treasures were burned or thrown into the river by the Red Guard. Most of the afternoon will be spent on the road, though on arrival at Shegar you may wish to visit another small monastery, where porters on expeditions to Everest traditionally paused during treks to the foot of the mountain.
One of the world’s most spectacular road trips awaits on the eleventh day of your tour as you approach the Great Himalayan watershed, flagged by a phalanx of 8,000-metre mountains, including Everest, which weather permitting you’ll have your first clear sight of today.
Rongbuk, where you’ll be spending the night, is a truly extraordinary place – not merely the world’s highest monastery (at an altitude of 5,100m) but also the only one offering uninterrupted views of Everest’s summit. You can, as Michael Palin did during the filming of his series ‘Himalaya’, literally lie in bed and gaze at the moonlit peak, first scaled by Hilary and Tenzing in 1953. A minibus will drive you the remaining few miles from Rongbuk to Everest Base Camp for a magnificent front-row view of the mountain before returning to Rongbuk for an early night.
Rise before dawn to see Everest’s summit burnished crimson by the first rays of daylight. After breakfast, you’ll return along the Friendship Highway to Shigatse.
A day of dramatic contrasts marks your journey from Shigatse to Lhasa, where you’ll transfer straight to the airport for your flight back to Chengdu. On arrival, your local TransIndus guide will greet and escort you to your hotel.
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £5010 per person
✓ International flights from the UK
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast and lunch daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
Dubbed the ‘Forbidden City’ during the 19th century, Lhasa has been the spiritual and political capital of Tibet since the Fifth Dalai Lama moved here in 1642. Protracted isolatio...
Tsetang & Yumbu Lakhang
The seat of Tibet’s ancient emperors, Tsetang, on the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River 113 miles (183km) southeast of Lhasa, is the region’s fourth city and most convenient base for ex...
The first Buddhist monastery ever founded in Tibet, Samye occupies a suitably epic spot on the north side of the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) Valley. Tapering golden finials crown the to...
The distinctive profile of Gyantse’s Kumbum is almost as recognizable as that of the Potala. Capped with a gilded dome and finial, the nine-storey chorten is a red-and-white weddi...
Shigatse, Tibet’s second city, is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, the highest ranking lama after the Dalai Lama. Pilgrims pour through the town to worship at the stately...
Rongbuk & Everest Base Camp
A dusty, bumpy track running south off the Friendship Highway leads to the most spectacular close-up view of the world’s highest mountain you can have from ground level – at least...
Lake Mansarovar & Mount Kailash
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 ...
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