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Overview

Discover Tibet, a land awash in dramatic scenery and spiritual traditions. Take a compact, insightful journey over stunning mountains to pristine lakes and glaciers. Join pilgrims at sacred temples, witness monks deep in prayer and listen to prayer flags flapping in the breeze. This is Tibet at its very best.

Trip Highlights

Tibet Express, Lhassa, Gyantse, Shigatse

See incredible highland landscapes

Drive across the ‘Friendship Highway’, stopping to admire Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier and Manla Reservoir.

Understand Tibetan Buddhism

Explore the venerated Jokhang and Barkhor temples, see unique religious debates and learn about Tibetan Buddhism’s different sects.

Get a glimpse of Tibetan culture

Walk through Lhasa and Gyantse’s old towns and visit handicraft markets for a look into local lifestyles and traditions.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Lhasa (altitude of 3700 meters)

Estimate distance and journey time: Lhasa airport– Lhasa city (60 km): approx. 1 h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Welcome to Lhasa, the administrative, political and religious capital of Tibet! While the city is divided into Chinese and Tibetan halves, the majority of this trip will be covering the Tibetan areas.

Upon arrival, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the hotel. Before starting the Tibet tour, enjoy some down time at the hotel to relax and get acclimated to the altitude changes.

Note: For those arriving by plane from Shangri-La (in Yunnan) or from Qinghai province by train, an adjustment period is not necessarily required.

Note: This region of China is considered to be the “Roof of the World.” As such, it is imperative to bring sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and to stay regularly hydrated. It is also strongly recommended to consult a doctor before visiting, as not everyone is conditioned to climbing at altitudes sometimes greater than 5000 meters.

Depending on the location of the hotel, it is possible to either walk or drive to the old town. Lunch will be provided in a restaurant with views of Barkhor and the Jokhang Temple.

In order to fully immerse oneself in the Tibetan world, a visit will be made to the Jokhang Temple. Boasting both Nepalese and Indian influences, this temple dates back to the 8th century and is famous for being the most venerated religious site in Tibet. Attracting a daily crowd of pilgrims, the temple  amply reflects the diversity present in the demography of the Tibetan region. Pilgrims travel the Barkhor (“kora” or pilgrimage routes that circle sacred sites), all the while spinning their prayer wheels before tirelessly prostrating themselves in front of the temple doors. Enter the dimly-lit temple, which is filled with the smell of yak butter and the sound of monks’ chanting. Inside are 3000 icons of Buddha, Buddhist deities, and historical figures, but it’s the golden statue located at the heart of the temple that’s the most notable.

After exploring the temple, take a walk through Lhasa’s old town, providing a great first opportunity to scout out souvenirs (Tibetan hats, thangkas, incense, etc.) Tibet is also known for its precious stones and fine jewelry; a visit to a local handicrafts shop will be arranged.

Overnight in Lhasa.

2

Lhasa

Estimate distance and journey time: Lhasa Potala Palace – Sera monastery (7 km): approx. 15 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin the Tibet tour with a visit to the iconic Potala Palace: the one-time residence of the Dalai Lama, the religious head and political leader of Tibet. The Palace is an a true architectural masterpiece, magisterially overlooking the whole city of Lhasa from its 130m vantage point. The Palace is comprised of two main buildings: the Red Palace, the religious center housing relics belonging to previous Dalai Lamas, and the White Palace, housing the private apartments of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas (the latter fled to India with the arrival of the Chinese army in 1959). The visit takes around 3 hours to explore the labyrinth of staircases, apartments, ceremonial rooms, and chapels.

Continue by taking part in a section of the Kora next to the Palace. Here it is possible to appreciate the dedication and endurance of the pilgrims who still consider the Potala as a major sacred site… despite the absence of its principal resident.

While there are several sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelugpa) is the most well known. Three of its most important structures are found within the Lhasa region. Begin by paying a visit to the Sera Monastery (located 5km from the city center). Once home to over 5,000 monks, the monastery today holds around 600 monks who still devote every afternoon from 15:30 to 17:00 (except for Sundays) to their famous religious debates- true examples of verbal sparring.

Return to the hotel. Overnight in Lhasa.

3

Lhasa - Ganden (3900m) - Lhasa

Estimate distance and journey time: Lhasa city – Ganden monastery (approx. 40 km): 1h30 Ganden monastery – Drepung monastery (approx. 65 km): 2 h Drepung monastery – Lhasa city (approx. 13 km): 20 min *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin Day 3 with a visit to the Drepung monastery, the third of the trio of Gelugpa temples (Yellow Hat Sect). Built in the 15th century, Drepung was once thought to be the largest monastery in the world with a community of 7,000 monks. The second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas are buried here, the fifth lived here before taking up his residence in Potala.

Continue on to the Ganden monastery, the original monastery and stronghold for the Yellow Hat Sect. Established in 1416 by Tsongkhapa (two years before the Sera monastery), the monastery is literally stuck on top of a hill overlooking the whole of the Kyi-Chu valley. Innumerable religious texts can be found in its various chapels, copied every day by the monastery’s “printers.” Get a chance to see these studious monks at work, conscientiously copying around 500 pages a day –  the equivalent of around five books. Mix with the crowd of pilgrims along the kora, which offers wonderful views of the monastery and the valley. Transfer back to Lhasa.

Note: it is advised that this trip is undertaken after an acclimation period of two or three days. Ganden monastery is located at around 3900m altitude, 200m higher than Lhasa.

Overnight in Lhasa.

4

Lhassa - Yamdrok lake - Karola glacier - Gyantse (altitude: 5000m)

Estimate distance and journey time: Lhasa city – Yamdrok Lake (approx. 160 km): approx 3h45 Yamdrok Lake – Gyantse (approx. 100km): approx 2h 30 *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Rise early this morning for a relatively long day of travel. Despite the hours spent in the car, the passing scenery and landscapes will make the experience well worth it. Follow the famous Friendship Highway (linking Tibet to Nepal), along which can be found Yamdrok Lake. Stop off at the Kamba-la Pass (altitude of 4800-5000) where some amazing views of the lake (and imposing Nojin Kangtsang)  can be seen. 

Enjoy a photo opportunity with the roaming yaks or the Tibetan Mastiffs, formerly used as watchdogs by Nomadic Peoples in the Himalayas and as guard dogs in monasteries.

Continue the journey along the lake to Nagarze, a small town where lunch will be provided. Pay a visit to the small Samding Temple, boasting some great views of the lake. Next stop is the Karola Glacier (altitude of 4960m), which at the start of the 20th century was the location of the highest battle in the history of the British Empire.

The final stop of the day will be at the Manla Reservoir, which is of interest for both its turquoise waters and also for being fed by Yamdrok Lake – one of the most sacred lakes for the Tibetan people.

At the end of the day, arrive in Gyantse. Previously an independent kingdom, Gyantse was a commercial crossroads on the trans-Himalayan route, linking central Tibet to Sikkim.

Overnight in Gyantse

5

Gyantse (3980 m)

Begin Day 3 with an early departure for the 15th century Pelkhor Chode (or Palcho Monastery). The centerpiece of the site is the famous “Kumbum”, an architectural masterpiece of six tiered floors which once featured 108 chapels (nowadays just fewer than 80)- the largest chorten in Tibet.

The chorten was built in 1447 by the Prince of Gyantse, Tabten Kunzang, whose main residence is found in the Dzong (“fortress”) located a few hundred meters away on the crest of a hill. The Gyantse Dzong was partially destroyed during the British Young husband Expedition in 1904 and today houses a small museum of “British Imperialism.” Visit to the fortress and the museum.

After exploring the museum, the Tibet tour continues with a walk in the Tibetan old town, which has miraculously avoided urban development and which is probably the most authentic town in Tibet. Magisterially overlooked by the Dzong, it consists of a main road with perpendicular alleys bordered by traditional white Tibetan houses.

The end of the day is at leisure, during which there will be an opportunity to purchase a rug in one of the workshops which make Gyantse famous.

Overnight in Gyantse.

6

Gyantse - Shigatse (4280m)

Estimate distance and journey time: Gyantse – Shigatse (approx. 95 km): approx 2h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Begin the day with a departure for Shigatse. The second city of Tibet, Shigatse was once the capital of the Tsang kingdom, a rival to Lhasa’s dominance.

Pay a visit to Tashilhunpo, a Gelugpa monastery (Yellow Hat Sect) founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama (whose remains are on site.) The monastery became the seat of the Panchen Lama (second most important leader for Tibetans.) While the monastery remains very active with a community of around 800 monks, the divergence between China and Tibet over the identity of the real Panchen Lama has led the 14th Dalai Lama (today based in Dharamsala) to “re-establish” Tashilhunpo in India.

The monastery is like a small village with its maze of paved alleyways, which can all be explored on foot, along with the site’s remarkable golden roofs. The monastery is also home to the incredible Stupa of the 10th Panchen Lama, covered in several hundred kilos of gold and decorated with a multitude of precious stones. The Maitreya Chapel is also located here, housing a 26 meter-high Buddha statue that took nearly ten years to make.

After exploring the monastery, take a stroll through the Tibetan market where there are some more great opportunities to pick up some truly unique souvenirs.

Night in Shigatse

7

Shigatse - Chengdu

Estimate distance and journey time: Shigatse city – Shigatse airport (approx. 50 km): approx 1h *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

After breakfast in the morning, wrap up the Tibet tour with a transfer to Shigatse airport for the departing flight to Chengdu (flight quoted separately) - the best means of avoiding the long transfer back to Lhasa.

Note: Flight Shigatse / Chengdu only one operate every day. Please consult us for differing flight options. 

We advise that do not talk sensitive politics topic with guide and locals to avoid any unpleasant experience.

Important Information

Our services include:

  • Tibet Travel Permit
  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner).
  • English speaking guide (no shopping basis rates) (for other languages supplements apply)
  • Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees for mentioned visits
  • One oxygen metal bottle

Our services do not include:

  • Other meals not mentioned
  • Visa for China
  • Other services than mentioned
  • International and domestic flights
  • Laundry, telephone calls and expenditure of a personal nature
  • Tips, Travel insurance
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

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