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How to Plan a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

Last Update: March 25, 2020

Tibet is a popular destination for tourists from the United States, and the region sees thousands of American tourists heading to the plateau throughout the year. If you are planning a trip to Tibet to travel to Mount Kailash, for the outstanding trek around the world’s most sacred mountain, then you will need to book your trip with a registered Tibetan tour operator, as there is no allowance for independent travel in Tibet. However, taking a trip from the United States to Mount Kailash is not as hard as you may think. Since you need to be on a pre-arranged tour, the travel agency do most of the world for you, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the trip.

Getting to Mount Kailash from USA

Traveling to Mount Kailash in Tibet from the United States can actually be done via two different routes. One is to get from the US to mainland China and then on to Lhasa from there. The other is to get from the US to Kathmandu in Nepal, from where you can fly to Lhasa and then travel overland to Mount Kailash. Whichever route you prefer to take, you are guaranteed to have an awesome experience on the world’s highest plateau.

Via Mainland China

USA - Mainland China – Tibet

In order to get to Tibet via mainland China, you will first need to take flights to get you to one of the cities in China that has direct access to Tibet’s capital of Lhasa. Flights do depart from several cities that run direct to some of China’s major airports, and you can find the best flight deals on the various comparison websites to get the best deal and flight from your home location.

Once you are in mainland China, you have a choice of routes to take to get to Lhasa for the start of your epic tour to Mount Kailash. Flights depart from several cities across the country to Lhasa, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Kunming, Xining, and many others. Flights to Tibet are not the cheapest option for traveling to Lhasa, but they are fast and convenient, and will get you to the Tibetan capital in the shortest time. Flights to Tibet from mainland China can take anywhere from 2-8 hours, and when you arrive at the Lhasa Gonggar International Airport, you will be met by your guide and driver and transferred to your hotel in the Tibetan capital.

Lhasa Gonggar AirportFlights to Tibet will land at Lhasa Gonggar Airport.

The popular alternative to flights to Lhasa are the Trains to Tibet, which depart from seven gateway cities across mainland China every day or every other day. The trains run daily from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, and Xining, and every other day from Chengdu and Chongqing. Trains may not be the fastest option for getting to Tibet, taking from 21 hours to 53 hours to reach the Tibetan capital, depending on the departure city.

However, they are a lot cheaper than flights from the same departure location, and have other advantages over flights, though altitude acclimatization is not one of them, despite what you may read on the internet. One of the main advantages of the trains, aside from being cheaper, is the amazing views you get of northern Tibet as the train steams down across the plateau after crossing the massive Kunlun and Tanggula Mountain Ranges.

Lhasa - Mount Kailash

Once you reach Lhasa, you will get to rest and relax for a couple of days as you acclimatize to the higher altitude and get in some sightseeing around the capital city. Then you will take the long overland drive to Darchen, at the southern foot of Mount Kailash.

The drive to Darchen, the start of the three-day trek around the sacred mountain, takes four days, and you will stop along the way in Gyantse and Shigatse for some amazing sightseeing, as well as at the famous Everest Base Camp (EBC), where you can get great views of the world’s highest mountain. The drive across the plateau is one of excitement and discovery, and you will find some of the most beautiful scenery and landscapes in the world passing by through the car window.

Via Kathmandu, Nepal

The other option for travel to Tibet is to travel first to Kathmandu, and then on to Lhasa, before taking the overland tour to Darchen at the foot of Mount Kailash. Regular flights run to Nepal from around the United States, and you can find the best deals on the comparison sites for flights around the world.

Once you arrive in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu, you will be met by our representative, who will process your visa, and then you will get the connecting flight to take you to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport, in Lhoka Prefecture. Flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa take around 90 minutes to cross the massive Himalayas, and Nepal is the only country in the world with international access direct to Tibet.

Kathmandu in NepalIt's also popular for toursits to travel to Mount Kailash via Kathmandu.

After your arrival in Lhasa, you will spend the first couple of days acclimatizing and sightseeing, before taking the overland journey through Gyantse, Shigatse, EBC, and Saga, to reach Darchen. For most travelers heading for Mount Kailash, this is the preferred option for getting to the sacred mountain from Kathmandu.

The alternative to flying to Lhasa and traveling overland to Mount Kailash is to travel overland from Nepal into Tibet, and then take a direct trip up to Mount Kailash from Gyirong. While this is the shorter route to take, it is also the more expensive, as trips from Kathmandu direct to Mount Kailash can only be done as a private tour, which are more expensive and with customized itineraries.

Best Time for Mount Kailash Tour from USA

Tibet is a land that can be visited throughout the year, but Mount Kailash, unfortunately, is not. Lying in the far west of Tibet, winters in Ngari Prefecture can be intensely cold and snow-bound, and travel to the sacred mountain in the winter months from December to March is not recommended.

The ideal time for a trip to Mount Kailash is normally in the spring and autumn, from April to May and September to November. These two shoulder seasons are the optimum times of the year for trekking in Tibet, as the weather is at its best for hiking around the massive mountains of the plateau. In the spring and autumn, the weather and climate in the area around the sacred mountain is calm and clear, with clear skies, little to no rain, and bright sunshine for almost all of the days. However, this time of year can still be a little cold, and you will need to pack warmer clothes for the trek around the sacred mountain.

Summer, from June to August is possible to take trips to Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture, despite it being the monsoon season in Tibet. Out in the far west of Tibet, at higher altitudes, there is a lot less rainfall in the monsoon season than in central and eastern Tibet, which means that the trek is still open in the summer months. You may find a few light showers can pester you during the trip and the trek, but the chances of heavy intense rain is negligible, and you can complete the trek without any problems.

Travel Permits for Mount Kailash Tour from USA

Before you can travel to Mount Kailash, there are a number of permits that you are required to have, which are easily obtained before you travel. The first permit is the Tibet Travel Permit, which is required to enter Tibetan and travel in the area of Lhasa, while the Alien’s Travel Permit allows you to travel to the unopened areas of Tibet outside Lhasa. For getting to Mount Kailash, you will also need the Restricted Areas Permit, or military permit, and for all travelers touring close to China’s borders with Bhutan, Nepal, or India, the Frontier Pass is required.

While this may sound like a lot of hard work, you will not be required to obtain these permits and passes yourself. Once you have booked your tour of the region, we will be making all of the applications for the various permits and passes on your behalf, and we will make sure that your permits are all in order before you depart for your vacation in Tibet, or once you arrive in Lhasa.

Packing List for Mount Kailash Tour from USA

Mount Kailash can be a chilly place to visit in Tibet, and it is best to make sure that you have the right clothing for the time of year in which you are traveling. The “onion” principle is the best way to stay warm, which means wearing several thinner layers of clothes to maintain your body temperature. You can add or remove layers depending on the temperature.

Clothes and Trekking Gear

Ideally, clothing should be breathable for trekking around Mount Kailash, and layers should be used with the innermost layer being the most important. Thin t-shirts, hiking shirts, or long underwear is ideal for this, and is comfortable to wear.

trekking around Mount KailashClothing should be breathable for trekking around Mount Kailash.

The middle layer should be warm and able to trap the air to help maintain a good body temperature. Fleece, wool, and feather or quilted clothing is the best option here, and should be thin enough to be comfortable but not too thin that it will not keep you warm. Sweaters, sweatshirts, fleece sweaters or jackets, or quilted jackets are deal for this, but you should not allow yourself to get too hot.

Your outer layer should consist of rain coats, windproof jackets, or mountaineering jackets, and should only be used depending on the time of year in which you are traveling. You do not want to get too hot on the trek, so if the weather is already arm, these are not required while trekking. However, they are useful for the evenings, when it can get colder.

Trekking pants are the best option for the lower body, and can be useful for keeping out the cold and the wind together. Long underwear is essential in the periods of the year when it is colder on the mountain, but you should not add too many layers to the legs, or you may find it harder to move freely.

Footwear should really be a good strong pair of hiking boots, which have adequate grip and are waterproof up the ankles. Strong ankle support from the boots is also essential as the ground around the sacred mountain can be rough and rocky, and you do not want to twist your ankle on the hike.

Medicine and Personal Items

It is recommended to bring a small first-aid kit with you, which should include small bandages, Band-Aids, gauze, tape, antiseptic cream, isopropyl alcohol, and iodine. You should also add medications for headaches, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen and a recommended over-the-counter medicine for nausea. If you have any regular medication from your doctor, make sure you bring enough to cover your entire trip, and a week or so longer, just in case. And you should check with your doctor if it is safe to take on a trek in Tibet if you are on any continuous medication.

Budget the Cost for Mount Kailash Tour from USA

There are ways to reduce the cost of the trip from the US to Mount Kailash, for those that are working on a budget. There are ways to reduce the cost of the trip to Mount Kailash, so that it can be more affordable.

Trip from the US to Mount KailashTrip from the US to Mount Kailash

Choose to Travel to Tibet by Train

The simplest option for reducing your travel costs is to travel by train from mainland China to Lhasa, which is a lot cheaper than traveling by flights. While it is a lot slower than flying to Tibet, the cheaper train tickets can make the trip a little more affordable.

Join in our Mount Kailash Group Tour

If you are planning to travel to Mount Kailash, another option for budget travelers is to join one of our Mount Kailash group tours to the sacred mountain. Group tours allow you to join in on a pre-arranged tour with a pre-set departure date and itinerary, and you will be traveling with other tourists that are on the same trip to the sacred mountain. Joining a group tour means that certain tour costs, such as the cost of the guide, driver, and private vehicle, are shared between all the members of the party, which can reduce the overall cost of the trip by up to 50 percent.

Conclusion

A trip to Mount Kailash from the United States is an epic adventure that can take you to one of the most amazing destinations on the Tibetan plateau. You can choose to travel via either mainland China or Nepal, and have the option of taking a private or group tour to Mount Kailash, so that you can choose to save on the overall cost of the trip if you want to. While the tour to the sacred mountain in the far west of Tibet is a long and arduous journey, you are guaranteed that it will be the ultimate trip of a lifetime.

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