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17 Days Himalaya Journey from Tibet to Xinjiang

Tour Route: Lhasa-Gyantse-Shigatse-Mt. Everest-Mt. Kailash-Lake Manasarovar-overland to Kashgar

Trip Overview:

For centuries Tibet remained as an inaccessible goal for numerous intrepid, determined and hardy explorers. While Lhasa is no longer a secret city, it remains mystical. The ancient route west along the top of the Himalayas to the desert oasis of Kashgar is hardly ever travelled beyond the sacred Mountain of Kailash – the source of four great holy rivers. It is remote and wild with some fascinating sights and truly spectacular scenery. The long forbidden  and desolate  Aksai  Chin,  a corner of the  high  plateau  annexed by China  from India,  almost  without noticing,  has remained as a political  barrier for years.  It is now traversable, and this land of ancient kingdoms where herds of wild ass roam and eagles soar high above the immense landscape is waiting to be explored.

 

  • Tour Code:
    TTO-TT-LK-17 Days
  • Max Altitude:
    5,150 m
  • Tour Type:
    Private tour with private guide and vehicle
  • Phisycal Demand:

    Phisycal Demand Level Guide:
    1. Easy (1 point) - suitable for all level of fitness, family with kids and senior groups.
    2. Moderate (2-3 Points) - suitable for those having average level for fitness, family with kids bigger than 12 years.
    3. Moderate to Strenous (4 Points) - suitable for those physically fit and have experiences of high altitude trekking.
    4. Strenuous (5 Points) - suitable for adventures and individual with physically fit and healthy.

  • Season:
    springSpringautumnAutumn

Highlights:

  • Fully explore the sunlight city Lhasa with its well-known palace of Potala and holy monasteries of Jokhang, Sera and Drepung.
  • Follow monks, mendicants and fellow pilgrims around the Barkhor, Lhasa’s fascinating medieval pilgrim circuit.
  • Marvel at the turquoise waters of Yamdrok-tso, one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes.
  • Have a deep discovery of the two important cities of Tsang, Gyantse and Shigatse, climb the dazzling Gyantse Kumbum, and worship before a 26m gold Buddha at Tashilumpo Monastery.
  • Sleep in nomad tents and gaze upon the north face of Mt. Everest.
  • Join the pilgrims looking to erase the sins of a lifetime on the three-day trek around holy Mt. Kailash.
  • Hike the sandy shores of scared Lake Manasarovar, or just marvel at the turquoise waters and snowcapped-mountain backdrop.
  • Overland the ancient route west along the top of the Himalayas to the desert oasis of Kashgar.

 

Detailed 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 would follow the Kyichu River and then see Tibetan homes with their trapezoid shaped windows and fluttering prayer flags and Tibetans walking beside the roads wearing their distinctive national costumes. You can have a comfort stop near Nietang Buddha where a giant statue of Buddha has been carved out of a stone cliff-face centuries ago and 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.

Day 2: Lhasa sightseeing

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. With the golden roof shinning in the sun, it is visible from any distance. You can spend one hour wondering around the inside of this magnificent building and exploring the rooms previously used by the Dalai Lama and the many Buddhist icons within.

 In the afternoon we go inside of the Jokhang. 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, 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. You can spend the afternoon  touring Sera Monastery and have a little hike for the beautiful valley scenery nearby and picnic there. Sera monastery 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 Shigatse via Gyantse, 360km

After fully exploring Lhasa, you'll have a chance to get lost in the endless Tibetan landscape while you take a short hike along the turquoise waters of Lake Yamdrok, one of the four holy lakes in Tibet. This dazzling lake is normally first seen from the summit of the Kamba-la (4700m). The lake lies several hundred metres below the road and it is shaped like a coiling scorpion. Far in the distance is the huge massif of Mt. Nojin Kangstsang (7191m). 

Afterwards passing by the 5,010 m high Karo-la and the Simi La forward to Gyantse (3,950m). Visit Pelkor Monastery as well as the splendid Kumbum Stupa (100-Thousand-Buddha Pagoda) nearby, both of them built in the15th century and situated in the northwestern edge of Gyantse. In the afternoon drive about 90 kilometers to Shigatse (3880m), the second largest city with 40,000 inhabitants in Tibet and the traditional capital of the Tsang. Upon arrival, you’ll have an opportunity to explore the Tashilumpo Monastery, the holy seat of the Panchen Lama, which is essentially a walled town with cobbled and twisting lanes that revolve around a magnificent monastery.

Day 5: Shigatse to Rongbuk Monastery

Today we have an early start to drive westwards the Friendship way to Rongbuk. On the road, the drive is full of magnificent scenery and crosses some extremely high passes including Gyatsola (5248m). The road to Everest diverts off the newly paved Friendship highway near the town of Shegar and turns into bumpy gravel trail, which is still 90km to get to Rongpuk.

 If it is in clear weather, you can have a glimpse of 4 mountains which is 8000m high or more, such as: Mt. Lhotse (8516m),Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Qowowuyag (8201m),Mt Mayalu (8463m).

Day 6: Rongbuk to Saga, 350km, 10+hrs

Get up early for sunrise. The morning is frigid and as the wind howl your fingers must be frozen trying to take pictures of the iconic mountain Everest but it is worth the pain to view such an amazing site. Then we will drive to the stunning alpine lake Peiku-tso.

An amazing picture of the lake with Shishapangma in the background will come into your sight when you arrive there. Then keep driving to Saga. Today's driving is amazing with excellent views of Himalaya Mountains, a lot of wildlife including wild horses, wolves, foxes, deer, gazelle, black-necked cranes as well as yaks and sheep.

Day 7: Drive to Lake Manasarovar, 500km, 8-9hrs

From Saga it is 145 km to Zhongba, the road is good and there is also a small monastery at the western end of town on a hill. From Zhongba onwards the southern road deteriorates. There is also danger of vehicles getting stuck. But this section of the road has panoramic views of mountains on either side of the road. There will be several river crossings and we drive past Mayum la pass (4600 M) from Paryang to Lake Manasarovar The scenery is stunningly beautiful with panoramic views of the Himalayas.

Day 8: Drive to Darchen (4560m), 30km

In the morning, you can hike around the lake and take pictures of Mt. Kailash in distance. Lake Manasarovar is one of the holiest lakes in Tibet which covers 400km sq. Lake is devoted by billions of buddhists and hindus. In the afternoon, drive forward to Darchen, the main gateway and the village in front of Mt. Kailash.

At Darchen, accommodations are very simple and basic. You can relax and rest and prepare for next day trekking. The guide will help you organize yaks or ponies for the Kailash circuit trek at Darchen. And Darchen is also the Point of Exit to the Sacred Mount Kailash (Kang Rimpoche) for the Kailash Pilgrimage Circuit (Kailash Kora). Overnight in Darchen.

Day 9: Start Kailash Circuit Trekking, O/N: Camp

Start the Kailash circuit today, this kora covers 53 kms and can be done in 3 days. We head west in clockwise direction. Only 4 kilometers from Darchen the trail climbs up over the southwest end of the ridge to reach a cairn (4,730m). Then, trail bends around to north to the Tarboche flagpole.

The flagpole is replaced each year at the Saga Dawa festival. After passing the Lha-chu valley, we arrive in Chuku monastery where we can have a break. Another 3 hours' trek along the river, we hit our first day’s stop, the Dirapuk monastery.

Day 10: Trekking, O/N: Camp

Trek along Drolma Chu and reach the Jarok Donkhang (5,210m). A little while, Shiva-tsal (5,330m) comes in front. It is a rocky expanse dotted with stone cairns draped with items of clothing. Our next challenge is to get over Drolma La Pass (5,630m), the highest point of the entire kora, where you can look south for your last glimpse of the north face of Kailsh. After the ascent, we are experiencing a steep descent. Almost immediately, Gauri Kund Lake comes into view. Finally, after a long valley and river, we reach our second day’s stop, the Zutulpuk monastery. O/N: Camp.

Day 11: Trekking, O/N: Camp

The final day's walk begins with the easy stroll down to where the river emerges onto the plain. The valley narrows and the prayer flags flutter across the river. There is a rough road from here back to Darchen and it’s less than an hour's walk, passing many mani walls embellished with yak skulls. Finally, our kora end up at Darchen, then drive to Tirthapuri to have a rest. 

Day 12: Drive to Tsada

Northwest from Trithapuri, in the middle of the canyon erosion landscape of the Sutlej River, lie the impressive ruins of Toling and Tsaparang - flourishing centers of the former Kingdom Guge. Tsaparang is the oldest center of Guge Kingdom, the former Summer Palace of the kings, and disappeared in the middle of 17 Century. And the Toling monastery, founded by Richen zangpo in the 10th century, was once Ngari's most important monastic complex.  And the monastery is still important cultural heritage of Ngari.

Day 13: Tsada to Pangongtso Lake, 395km

Experience various landscapes on the way to Ali, the capital of Ngari prefecture where nothing special to visit but is good place to clean up yourself. Indus river is divided from mount Kailash and flows through this region and finally towards into Pakistan. It is a modern city with centre of administration, business and shopping. Continue to Pangongtso Lake, you can visit the mysterious lake Pangongtso which the one part of lake is inside Tibet and other part is situated inside Indian. Camp by the Lake Shore.

Day 14: Pangongtso - Dorma - Dahongliutan, 433km

The road condition is very bad as moving far towards north, especially after leaving Dorma. The roads have been disturbed by the heavy trucks and soon reach a pass called Tialongtan-la pass with more than 5000m above the sea level. After then there is still 7-8 hours way to reach Dahongliutan.

Day 15-16: Dahongliutan to Yecheng, 499km

You need to drive 499km to reach Yecheng from Dahongliutan, but the journey duration depends upon the climate and road condition. Then you will be in contact with beautiful Kunlun mountain ranges on the right side and the Karakorum mountain range on the left side (more close to Indian border). Your trip begins to cross the Kunlun mountain range soon after passing by Mazar. The Chiragsaldi is the last pass that you need to cross and steep down towards the Yecheng ravine to Xingjiang. Situated at the edge of the Taklamakan, Yecheng is a city with a pretty Bazaar inhabited by Uigur and Han Chinese.

Day 17: Yecheng to Kashgar, tour ends

Kashgar is about 250km from the Yecheng and is the largest oasis in the whole china. The road condition is very smooth with black tar road running through the edge of Taklamakan desert. The scenery is very excellent with grey-black rocks and sand dunes composing the major features of the landscape of Taklamakan. The most interesting thing you should not miss is the Sunday market which is one of the largest weekly markets of Asia. Especially in the morning you can observe that the highway is crowded with full-load donkey trucks carrying vegetable, fruits men, children and women. Tour ends after arriving in Kashgar.

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. Tibet Travel Permit

Tibet Travel Permit is a must for Tibet tour. Its cost is included in the tour quotation. Send your passport and China visa copies to us 20 days in advance, and we will apply for the permit after you book a Tibetan tour with us. Shortly after we get your permit from Tibet Tourism Bureau, we will inform you and mail it to your hotel in China via express.

In some extreme cases, our staff will hand it over to you at the airport or railway station. In our experience, we can virtually guarantee to get your permit during times when Tibet is open to foreign travelers.

2. Accommodation

Tibet is never known for its 5-star luxury resorts, though you can find some like Intercontinental Lhasa Paradise, St.Regis Lhasa Resort, Sheraton hotel, etc in Lhasa. Overall, the accommodation facilities and services are not as good as those in coastal and central parts of China. However, from cheap and clean youth hotel, to distinct Tibetan style 3-star and international 5-star luxury hotel, you will find one that suits your interest and pocket in Lhasa.

We’ve handpicked cozy and safe hotels in the central area of Lhasa, where you will find Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street are just steps away from you. You can easily experience more of the local life and culture. Normally, as you travel to remote areas in some parts of Shigatse like Tingri, or EBC, Ngari, Nagqu, etc. the accommodation would be much poorer. Some may have air-conditioning in the hotel;others may only have electric blanket in the guesthouses. And the food is also very basic.

3.Guiding and Tipping

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 minor your health and provide prompt help to you. If you run into any trouble, please do not hesitate to reach them or our customer service manager.

Travelers’s tipping to Tibetan guide and driver is taken as an extra gratitude to their good service, just like what you do in the west. Normally, a tipping of 7 USD/day is acceptable. The basic rule is good service for good pay.

4. Toilet

Admittedly, to many western tourists, using toilets in Tibet is the most dreadful experience. So, please down play your expectation. If you take Tibet train to Lhasa, both western toilet and squat toilet are available in the train. If you stay in hotel above 3-star hotels in Lhasa, Shigatse, etc. you will have no complaining using standard western flash toilet.

However, if you visit some of the attractions like Yamdrok or Namtso, EBC outdoor, mostly you will see the smelly and filthy pit toilet.It's better to carry enough toilet paper.

5. Tibet Weather

One of the biggest features of weather on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the dramatic temperature change between day and night. The annual temperature in Lhasa is -2℃-- 12℃(spring), 9℃-- 22℃(summer), 7℃-- 19℃(fall), -7℃-- 9℃(winter). Do wear clothes properly such as thermal tops, fleece jacket, breathable underwear, down jacket, jeans, beanie, etc.

Of course, sun screen, lip balm, sun glasses are essential to shield you from powerful blinding sunlight on the plateau. Do drink more water and eat more vegetable as you travel in Tibet. It can prevent you from dehydration.

6. Acclimatization to the High Altitude

For the first timer to Tibet, either by flight or train, a good rest is a must for quick acclimation to the high altitude in Lhasa. Never rush to tour the street or attractions on your own. Walk slower and do not exert yourself like running or jumping. Spending at least two days in Lhasa is a good way to get acclimatized before heading to Shigatse or Namtso. If you have any discomfort, do tell it to your guide,and he will help you out.

7. Other Dos and Don'ts

Normally, taking photos is forbidden in the monastery. If you want to take photos of Tibetan pilgrims, a gentle ask of permission would be appreciated or you can do it from a long distance. Swimming and fishing are not allowed in holy lakes in Tibet; Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics; International tourists are not allowed to travel alone in Tibet according to the policy; Walk clockwise around Barkhor Street; Never venture into the unknown trails; do as much as you can to protect the fragile eco-system in Tibet, etc.

As Tibetan Buddhism is deeply-rooted in every facet of Tibetans' life, always follow and respect the unique customs in Tibet. If you are uncertain about something, it’s advisable to ask your guide before you do it at will.

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