The sacred Mount Kailash is a beacon to pilgrims and travelers alike. People visit Mount Kailash to see its unique pyramid-like shape, and surrounding scenic beauty, and also to do a spiritual trek around the mountain. There are different routes to take circumambulating Mount Kailash. What’s the difference, and which one should you do? Here’s the guide to the Mount Kailash inner Kora.
What is the Inner Kora of Mount Kailash? Why It is so Important?
In the spiritual practices of religions in the area, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and the Bon religion, walking the route around a sacred site is a way of generating merit as part of seeking enlightenment. Kora, in the Tibetan language, literally means circumambulation or revolution. To perform a Kora, pilgrims walk in a clockwise direction around sacred places such as the Barkhor Street Kora in Lhasa, or the Mount Kailash Kora.
The inner Kora around Mount Kailash is one of two routes taken by pilgrims. It is the shorter but more challenging route. With that challenge comes greater spiritual rewards, and the inner Kora is seen as a deeper journey of self-realization and enlightenment that also facilitates purification. Tibetan Buddhists believe that pilgrims should accumulate the merits from doing the outer Kora 13 times before attempting the inner Kora.
What is the Difference between Mount Kailash Inner Kora and Outer Kora?
The routes of the inner and outer Koras follow different paths around the mountain.
The outer Kora is around 52 km long and usually takes three days to complete. On day 1, pilgrims start from Darchen with a short ride on an eco-bus and a 13 km trek to Dirapuk Monastery. The second day is a longer trek that starts with a rapid ascent to Dolma La Pass at 5,630, and then a gradual descent to Zutulpuk Monastery. The trekking distance is 24 km. The Kora is completed on day three with a 12 km trek from Zutulpuk and bus back to Darchen.
One will arrive at Dirapuk Monastery following the outer kora on day one.
Pilgrims encounter some beautiful scenery and some rough terrain on the outer Kora. The view from Dolma La Pass is breathtaking, and includes glaciers and the emerald-green Lake of Compassion. The high-altitude sections of the trek can be icy all year round, and loose rock and uneven surfaces are common. The change in altitude, starting from 4,675 m in Darchen to 5,630 m at Dolma La Pass, also imposes physical demands on pilgrims.
Although shorter, the inner Kora is the more difficult route. It reaches higher elevations than the outer Kora, with steep slopes, cliffs and high passes to hike over. The inner Kora route is around 30 km long. It’s possible to finish it in one day, but most tourists spread the trek over two days because of the challenging conditions.
Section one of the inner Kora is from Darchen to Selung Monastery. You can choose to drive or hike the first 4.5 km. From there, it is a trek along the western face of Mount Yinjietuo to the Thirteen Pagodas. The distance is around 8 km and it takes about 5 hours to complete.
Selung Monastery on the inner kora route of Mount Kailash
You will know when you arrive when you see a cliff full of colorful prayer flags, marking the location of the Thirteen Pagodas. Ambitious and physically fit pilgrims can ascend the cliff to the Thirteen Pagodas at over 5,800 meters, but it is not recommended for people new to the region. Next, it’s on to Gyangdrak Monastery, crossing a 5,300 m mountain pass through rock and landslide zones. The final path back to Darchen is mostly gentle.
Can I Do the Inner Kora around Mount Kailash? The Outer Kora is More Suggested
Due to its deeper spiritual significance, usually the inner Kora is done by religious pilgrims. It is important to respect local beliefs and customs when visiting Tibet, and recognize that the inner Kora is seen as something that is earned through previous spiritual devotion. Religious pilgrims undertaking the inner Kora may not be appreciative of ordinary tourists follow the route.
The outer Kora is recommended not only for cultural reasons, but, with reasonable preparation, it can be done safely and successfully by ordinary tourists. Challenges facing tourists on the outer Kora are well-understood by experienced guides and tour companies. The inner kora has more difficulties, and is best only done by people accustomed to local conditions.
Can I Touch Mount Kailash while Doing Mount Kailash Kora?
It is not permitted to climb to the peak of Mount Kailash for religious and cultural reasons, but travelers can approach and touch the sacred mountain to deepen their impression on the kora route. Our 16-day Mount Kailash Pilgrimage Tour during Saga Dawa festival makes it possible for ordinary tourists to have the experience of touching Mount Kailash.
Locals gather together to celebrate the Saga Dawa Festival at Mount Kailash.
The Saga Dawa Festival is a special time at Mount Kailash. Believed to be the most auspicious time to do a Kora at the mountain, pilgrims arrive to generate the multiplied merits of acts of devotion during the festival. Our tour offers an extended Kora during this time. On day 2, you’ll take a longer trek from Dirapuk Monastery, crossing glaciers and ice rivers to get up close and touch the west slope of the mountain. It’s a unique opportunity, during a festive time.
Travelers should be aware that trekking conditions can be unpredictable. Harsh weather, or more difficult trekking conditions can prevent touching Mount Kailash. Our guides will get you as close to Mount Kailash as possible, but will always make safety the top priority.
How to Prepare for Mount Kailash Kora?
Preparation is key to having a safe and successful Kora experience. You can prepare mentally by understanding the conditions you will be facing during the Kora. Our Mount Kailash Kora guides will give you the critical information you need to know in advance. Talk with a doctor beforehand to learn about potential altitude sickness, and what steps you can take for prevention and treatment.
Make sure you are in good health before you travel. A physical checkup is essential, and preparing your body with cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises will ensure you can meet the physical demands.
In addition to the Tibet Travel Permit needed by all travelers to Tibet, you will also require an Alien’s Travel Permit, Military Area Entry Permit, and Foreign Affairs Permit to visit Mount Kailash. Our tour packages include the costs and services involved in obtaining these permits. We will apply for the Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf before you arrive, and your guide will handle the other permits once you’re in Tibet.
Tibet Travel Permit is needed by all international tourists to Tibet.
You will also need to know what essentials to pack. Layered clothing should be prepared that includes a thermal base, warm layers, and rain/wind proof outer shell. Sun protection in the form of a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm is essential. Essential medical supplies include bandages, blister treatment, altitude sickness medication, and any personal medication. And don’t forget personal items like a good camera, extra batteries, and some high-calorie snacks to keep you energy up during the trek.
The Mount Kailash inner Kora is a unique spiritual journey through rough conditions of the mountain. Travelers considering the inner Kora should be aware of the physical challenges it involves, and the religious importance it has in the local culture. The outer kora is still the recommended route for tourists to Mount Kailash. With the right preparation, it can be completed safely, and brings a strong sense of personal accomplishment. Find out more about the Mount Kailash Kora tours from our expert travel consultants.