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10 Days Walk into Tibetan Village & Nomads' Life (Ganden to Samye Trek)

Tour Route: Lhasa - trekking from Gandan to Samye Monastery - Tsedang - Lhasa

Trip Overview:

This demanding trek from Ganden to Samye has much to offer: lakes, beautiful alpine landscapes, herders’ camps and sacred sites, it crosses tow passes of over 5000m, connects two of Tibet’s most important monasteries and begins less than 50km from Lhasa.

It has emerged the most popular trek in Tibet. The best time for the trek is from May to October. Summer can be wet but wildflowers spangle the alpine meadows. You’ll experience at least three seasons on this trek, probably in the same day! From the wintry feel of the Chitu-la you rapidly descend to the spring-time rhododendron blooms of the middle valley until the summer heat hits you on the final approach to Samye.
 

  • Tour Code: TTO-CT-10A

  • Trip Level:

  • Tour Type: Private tour with private guide and vehicle

  • Time to Visit:

Highlights:

  • Go down into the bowels of the Potala Palace, the impressive but spritless citadel of the Dalai Lamas.
  • Join the shuffling, murmuring pilgrims around the shrines of the Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibet.
  • Follow monks, mendicants and fellow pilgrims around the Barkhor Street, Lhasa’s fascinating medieval pilgrim circuit.
  • Take in a prayer meeting or some monk debating at Sera and Drepung Monasteries, two of the largest and most intact of Tibet’s great monasteries.
  • Challenge yourself with Gandan-Samye Trekking, with the fabulous views of lakes, beautiful alpine landscapes, herders’ camps and sacred sites.
  • Hike the Yarlang Valley, explore the iconic Yumbulagang - the first building in Tibet.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa, get the first impression of Tibetan daily life

Welcome to the roof of the world. Your Tibet journey starts with a warm Tibetan style greeting from your local tour guide who will present you with Hada (traditional Tibetan scarves). Then be escorted to your hotel in Lhasa city at the comfort of your own private vehicle.

For most of the way, you follow the Kyichu River, you could see Tibetan homes with their trapezoid shaped windows and fluttering prayer flags, and Tibetans walking beside the roads wearing their distinctive national costumes. Do have a comfort stop near Nietang Buddha where a giant statue of Buddha has been carved out of a stone cliff-face centuries ago. One of the first buildings you could see as you enter the city is the Potala Palace, sitting majestically on a hill dominating Lhasa.

Stay at the hotel after arrival for adapting to the high attitude. It is helpful to take things easy for the first few days, and try to drink some water just and now.

Day 2: Lhasa highlights escorted tour

After breakfast, we go to the Potala Palace, a golden feather upon the roof of the world, which Tibetans proudly claim to be the prime miracle since the creation of this world. It is visible from any distance, with the golden roof shinning in the sun. Spend one hour wondering around the inside of this magnificent building exploring the rooms previously used by the Dalai Lama and the many Buddhist icons within.

In the afternoon we go inside of the Jokhang Temple. The Jokhang, like most of the larger temple structures have numerous individual temples within it dedicated to specific enlightened beings, protectors, high lamas, or saints. Images, both sculpted and painted, are everywhere. Every inch of wall and ceiling is brightly painted with images of clouds, beings, mandalas, or decorative patterns. Colorful silk banners, three stories high, hang in various places. Color, pattern, and images crowd in around you. The central image inside the building is a 30-foot high gilded image of Maitreya Buddha.

Then stroll around the back alleys of the Barkhor area of Old Lhasa. The streets smelled of yak butter and incense while hordes of pilgrims shuffled along the main Kora (circumambulations) around Jokhang Temple. If someone just walked at a normal pace, one kora would take about 15-20 minutes.

Day 3: Drepung and Sera Monastery

In the morning have a tour for Drepung Monastery, the ever largest monastery with more than 10 thousand monks, Buddhist debates often occur there. Seen from afar, its grand, white construction gives the monastery the appearance of a heap of rice. As such, it was given its name which, in the Tibetan language, means Monastery of Collecting-Rice. Learn about the lives of Tibetan monks there.

The afternoon is spent touring Sera Monastery, have a little hike for the beautiful valley scenery nearby and picnic there, in the afternoon, visit Sera monastery, which was created in 1419 and has always been an important Buddhist seminary. As rose are planted everywhere in the monastery, it is also called “the court of wild rose”. Today still 200 lamas live in there. Catch the famous debate session of the monks before returning back to Lhasa.

Day 4: Drive to Ganden and start Trek from there

In the morning we visit the Gandan Monastery and our trek begins from here. The trail gradually ascends for 1.5 hrs before reaching a saddle marked by a cairn with views of Kyichu valley to Lhasa. Traversing the west side of the ridge from the saddle, the trail reaches a spur surmounted by a cairn, a spring and then the village of Hepu in 2 hrs. 1 hr from Hepu reach Ani Pangong, a small nunnery. The trail climbs steadily for 1 hour through marshy meadows to Yama Do.

Day 5: Trek from Yama Do to Tsotup Chu Valley

In 2 hrs past Yama Do we ascend Shug-la pass (5250 m). It takes at least 1.5 hrs from the basin negotiating boulders and lumpy ground along the final steep climb to the pass. The route continues over the Shug-la pass following the cairned trail descending gradually and reaching the valley in 1.5 hrs from the pass. Cross the Tsotup Chu. Nomad herders with their herd of yaks, goat and sheep can be found here.

Day 6: Trek from Tsotup Chu to Herder's Camps

From the Tsotup Chu valley, follow a small tributary entering from the south-west. The route follows steeply upwards for 30 mins until you reach a large basin. The terrain is not particularly difficult to reach Chitu-la pass (5100 m) which is marked by several cairns. A short steep descent will bring you into a basin with three small lakes. The trail at many points is not clearly marked and goes past several seasonal camping sites before it reaches the valley floor.

Day 7: Trek from Herder's Camp to Yamalung

The trail is now wide and easy to follow and goes through forest of shrubs and rhododendrons for 3 hrs. The trail winds through a series of meadows before reaching Gen Do, a place with a ruined stone structure. The forest thins rapidly and we reach the first permanent village of Chantan (4020 m) after leaving Hebu.. In 30-40 mins we arrive at the turn off at Yamalung Valley. Yamalung Hermitage is another 1 hour steep climb from the valley floor.

Day 8: Yamlung-Samye-Tsedang (4 hours / descent)

From Yamalung Valley it takes 3.5 - 4 hrs to Samye. We go past the villages of Nyango, Wango and Pisha. From Pisha the entire lower valley of Samye and the golden spires of Samye Monastery can be seen. Surrounded by barren mountains and dramatic sand dunes and approached via a beautiful river crossing, the monastery has a magic about it that causes many travelers to stay longer than they had intended. As Tibet’s first monastery and the place here Buddhism was established, the monastery is of major historical and religious importance. No journey in central Tibet is complete without a visit to Samye.

Then have a tour for Mindroling Monastery, the largest and most important Nyingmapa monastery in central Tibet. In this monastery, you can have a chance to enjoy the process of making Tibetan incense, which will leave you with a deep impression. The monks at Mindroling Monastery mix Tibetan drugs into Tibetan incenses which become the most famous incenses of Tibet. Afterward continue to Tsedang, the capital of Shannan Prefecture. It's reputed as "the cradle of Tibetan Civilization", mainly for two reasons: First, the mild weather and fertile land in Shannan gestated the great Tibet dynasty. Second, it's the birthplace of the first Tibetans who were said to be the offspring of a monkey and a demoness. So Tsedang literally means "monkey's playground".

Day 9: Tsedang Highlights Escorted Tour

Begin this day with the tour to Yumbulagang. A fine, tapering finger of a structure that sprouts from a craggy ridge overlooking the patchwork fields of the Yarlung Valley, Yumbulagang is considered the oldest building in Tibet. It is a remarkably impressive sight, with a lovely setting. You could ride horses and yaks up the mountain to the temple if you prefer.

Then visit to the Trundruk monastery, one of the earliest Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan history. It is said that King Songtsan Gampo built the monastery to suppress the demon for prospering his kingdom in 641 A.D. And later it became the winter palace of King Songtsan Gampo and Princess Wencheng in Shannan. Of all the treasures and relics kept in this monastery, the pearled Tangka -- "Avalokitesvara at his rest" is the most remarkable one.

Day 10: Finish this unforgettable tour

Free time at your disposal this morning, explore the Tsedang city or buy some souvenirs for your families and friends. Then departure transfer to see off, tour services end and Tibet welcome you back forever.

What’s included?

1.Tibet Entry Permit

2. Comfortable, clean and safe vehicle depending on your group size with reliable local driver;

3. Admission fees of tourist sites listed in the itinerary;

4. Professional English speaking tour guide;

5. Accommodations depend on your preference. Please tell us your preferred accommodation class when submitting the enquiry, and we will arrange the best-value hotels for you.

6.All measl listed in the itinerary;

7.Tourist Accident/Casualty Insurance

What’s not included?

1. International flight to and out of China;

2. Chinese Visa

3. Domestic flight / train not listed in the itinerary (If you need ticket booking service, please leave your requirements in the Online Inruiry form.)

4.Meals not specified in the itinerary;

5.Tips to driver and tour guide, Tip as you wish

6.Personal expenses, such as laundry, phone call, optional tour activities and so on.

Trip Notes

  • 1. How to Get the Tibet Travel Permit?

    The Tibet Travel Permit is essential for any Tibet tour. We help to obtain this permit free of charge when you book your Tibet tour through us. Simply send us copies of your passport and China visa at least 20 days in advance. Once we receive your documents, we will promptly process the permit application with the Tibet Tourism Bureau. After obtaining your permit, we will notify you and send it to your hotel in mainland China.

    In exceptional cases, our staff can personally deliver the permit to you at the airport or railway station. With years of experience in handling Tibet Travel Permit, we assure you a smooth visit to Tibet by ensuring the acquisition of your permit.

  • 2. Where to Stay in Tibet?

    Accommodation facilities and services in Tibet might not match those found in the coastal and central parts of China. However, there's a diverse range of hotel options available. However, you can choose from a wide range of hotel options. In big cities like Lhasa and Shigatse, from cheap and clean youth hostels to distinct Tibetan-style 3-star and international 5-star luxury hotels, you will find one that suits your interests and budget.

    As you travel to remote areas of Tibet, such as EBC and the Mount Kailash region, the accommodations tend to be more basic. Some may have air-conditioning in the hotel, while others may only offer electric blankets in the guesthouses. Nonetheless, we always handpick cozy and safe accommodations for you along your itinerary in Tibet, ensuring a pleasant night's stay for your Tibet tour.

  • 3. How about the Guiding and Tipping in Tibet?

    Our English-speaking guides are natives of Tibet with good knowledge of Tibetan culture, history, and Buddhism. Most are trained to offer Western-standard service. Throughout your stay in Tibet, we will monitor your health and provide prompt assistance to you. If you encounter any trouble, please do not hesitate to contact them or our customer service manager.

    Travelers' tipping to Tibetan guides and drivers is seen as extra gratitude for their excellent service, much like what you do in the West. Normally, a tipping amount of 7 USD per day is acceptable. The basic principle is rewarding good service with fair pay.

  • 4. How are the Toilets in Tibet?

    Undoubtedly, for many Western tourists, using toilets in Tibet can be a challenging experience. Therefore, it's advisable to moderate your expectations. If you travel to Lhasa by Tibet train, both western-style and squat toilets are available onboard. Staying in hotels rated above 3 stars in cities like Lhasa and Shigatse ensures access to standard Western flush toilets, eliminating any discomfort.

    However, when visiting attractions like Yamdrok or Namtso or outdoor sites like EBC, you're likely to encounter smelly and unclean pit toilets. It's recommended to carry sufficient toilet paper for such occasions.

  • 5. How is the Weather in Tibet? What to Pack for Visiting Tibet?

    One of the notable weather features on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the significant temperature fluctuation between day and night. In Lhasa, the annual temperatures range from -2℃ to 12℃ (spring), 9℃ to 22℃ (summer), 7℃ to 19℃ (fall), and -7℃ to 9℃ (winter). Ensure proper clothing, such as thermal tops, a fleece jacket, breathable underwear, a down jacket, jeans, a beanie, and other essentials.

    Moreover, essentials like sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses are crucial to shield yourself from the intense, blinding sunlight of the plateau. Staying hydrated by drinking more water and including vegetables in your diet is advisable to prevent dehydration during your travels in Tibet.

  • 6. How to Prevent from Altitude Sickness in Tibet?

    For first-time visitors to Tibet, whether arriving by flight or train, allowing ample rest is crucial for quick acclimation to the high altitude in Lhasa. Avoid rushing to explore the streets or attractions independently. Walk at a slower pace and refrain from exerting yourself by running or jumping. Spending at least two days in Lhasa before venturing to places like Shigatse or Namtso allows for better acclimatization. If you experience any discomfort, inform your guide, and they will assist you.

  • 7. Are There some Dos and Don'ts while Touring Tibet?

    Photography is generally prohibited in monasteries. If you wish to capture images of Tibetan pilgrims, kindly seek their permission or maintain a considerable distance while taking photos. Swimming and fishing are prohibited in the sacred lakes of Tibet. Avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics. According to policy, international tourists are not permitted to travel alone in Tibet.

    While navigating Barkhor Street, adhere to the custom of walking clockwise. Refrain from exploring unfamiliar trails. Take proactive steps to preserve Tibet's delicate ecosystem.

    Given that Tibetan Buddhism profoundly influences the lives of Tibetans, always show reverence and respect for their unique customs. If uncertain about any practice, it's advisable to seek guidance from your tour guide before proceeding.

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