It might be one of the most overused cliches in the travel universe but the idea of a kingdom deep in the Himalaya’s inspired by James Hilton’s classic Lost Horizon has thousands of backpackers and jet setters alike grabbing their warm coats and hiking boots in search of this mystical kingdom.
The sheer remoteness of the Himalaya’s have certainly been the focus of plenty of mythical tales but one thing that surely does exist in these mountains are some of the most unique and beautiful cultures which exist on the planet. Many westerners’ fantasize about one day visiting such distant places such as Tibet, Nepal or Bhutan but with each one having its own flavor and attractions it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. Instead struggling with this we visit all three.
Starts in Lhasa Tibet and ends in Kathmandu Nepal, this tour will shower you the magnificent mountain vistas of Everest as well as Tibetan and Nepalese cultures.
- Go down into the bowels of the Potala, the impressive but spiritless citadel of the Dalai Lamas.
Join the shuffling, murmuring pilgrims around the shrines of the Jokhang, the spiritual heart of Tibet.
- Follow monks, mendicants and fellow pilgrims around the Barkhor, Lhasa’s fascinating medieval pilgrim circuit.
- Take in a prayer meeting or some monk debating at Sera and Drepung, two of the largest and most intact of Tibet’s great monasteries.
- Marvel at the turquoise waters of Yamdrok-tso, one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes.
- Climb the dazzling Gyantse Kumbum, a monumental chorten with mural-filled chapels.
- Worship before a 26m gold Buddha at Tashilumpo Monastery, a walled complex the size of a village.
- Sleep in nomad tents and gaze upon the north face of Mt. Everest.
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 welcome you with Hada (traditional Tibetan scarves). Then be escorted to your hotel in Lhasa city at the comfort of your own private vehicle.
Along the way you can view the beautiful scenery of Kyichu River and see Tibetan homes with their trapezoid shaped windows and fluttering prayer flags, and Tibetans walking on 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.
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.
In the afternoon we go inside of the Jokhang. 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 go to Drepung monastery, which used to be the 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. In Tibetan language, Drepung monastery means Monastery of Collecting-Rice. Learn about the lives of Tibetan monks 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: Lhasa-Gyantse-Shigatse
After fully explore 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 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 pass 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 cross 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: Snake down to Gyirong County
Open your eyes, and wake up to the first sunlight shining over the pyramid-shaped summit of imposing Mt. Everest. Grab your camera for an epic shot and stroll to the Rongbuk Monastery, exploring this world’s highest Buddhist compound. If you wish, you can do the meditation and experience the unparalleled tranquility and harmony there. Or you can interact with monks and nuns with the help of guide to learn more of their unique spiritual life.
The temperature can get bitterly cold in the early morning. Do wear enough cloths like your down jacket, scarf and mittens to protect the extreme coldness.
Then in the afternoon back to Old Tingri and continue go west to Gyirong County. Our Tibetan guide will arrange the proper accommodation for you in Gyirong county and we are about to spend the night here.
Day 7: Exit Tibet via Gyirong Border to Kathmandu
In the morning, our Tibetan guide will escort you to Gyirong border. Then, you are kindly required to hike on your own to cross the border bridge which is 50m long, then check in Nepal side, you can get the Nepal visa upon arrival with US$ 30, please prepare one photo at passport size to get Nepal Visa.
Day 8: Day tour to Kathmandu City, Swayambhunath and Patan City
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is one of three durbar (royal palace) squares in the Kathmandu Valley. It is the site of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex, which was the royal Nepalese residence until the 19th century and where important ceremonies taken place. Swayambhunath the golden spire of the 5th-century Swayambhu stupa is adorned with a colorful fluttering of prayer flags; it crowns a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley and offers fantastic views over the city of Kathmandu.
The last site we visit for today is Patan City which is the second largest town in Kathmandu valley. Patan's central Durbar Square is entitled in the World Heritage Site and absolutely packed with temples, the Golden Temple which is the unique Buddhist Monastery was founded in the 12th century, is a large rectangular building has three roofs and a copper gilded facade with the images of Buddha and Avalokitesvara where there are Buddha images and illustrations on the walls.
Stay overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 9: Day tour to Pashupatinath, Bodhnath and Bhaktapur City
Pashupatinath the most important Hindu temple in Nepal, the old buildings on the site were destroyed by Moslem invaders in the 14th century, its stone linga smashed to dust, but it rose again behind their retreating backs. Succeeding monarchs reinstated the temple and the images. Bouddhanath is among the largest stupas in South Asia, and it has become the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. The white mound looms thirty-six meters overhead. The stupa is located on the ancient trade route to Tibet, and Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers here for many centuries.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a conglomeration of pagoda and shikhara style temples grouped around a fifty-five window palace of brick and wood. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the Valley as it highlights the ancient arts of Nepal.
Stay overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 10: Fly from Kathmandu to Paro, then Drive to Thimphu
During your flight to Paro, you will experience breathtaking views of the Himalayan Peaks including sacred Chomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake in Bhutan. On arrival at Paro International Airport you will be received by our guide. Then drive for 1 hr 30 min to Thimphu.
In the afternoon, we will head to visit the landmarks in Thimphu, including the Kyichu Lhakhang and Paro Rinpung Dzong. Kyichu Lhakhang is also known as Kyerchu Temple and is the oldest and most beautiful temple in Bhutan. Paro Rinpung Dzong, built in 17th century as a fortress to protect Paro valley, offers you picturesque scenery and a sense of inner peace.
Stay overnight in Thimphu.
Day 11: Thimphu Sightseeing & Drive back to Paro
Today we will enjoy a sightseeing in Thimphu. You will pay a visit to National Library that houses the world’s largest book and many ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, Painting School which is famous for traditional Thangkha paintings, Traditional Medicine Institute where the centuries old herbal medicine is still practiced and the folk heritage museum.
And the highlight comes as you tour the Tashichho Dzong, the most beautiful Bhutan dzong as well as the headquarters of Bhutan government. After that, we will driver back to Paro.
Stay overnight in Paro
Day 12: Trek to Taksang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest)
Today, we will enjoy the wonderful trek to Taktshang Goemba, also known as Tiger's Nest. Perched on the cliff of Paro Valley, Taktshang Goemba (3120 meters) is the landmark of Paro as well as the holiest temple in Bhutan. It’s said that Guru Rinpoche had flied here on the back of a tigress and meditated in the caves on the cliffside for three months. From here, you can catch a panoramic view of Paro Valley.
In the afternoon, you may opt for a stone bath or enjoy free exploration nearby.
Stay overnight in Paro
Day 13: Departure from Paro
Our guide will pick you up from the hotel and send you to the airport so that you can board the flight back home after this pleasant tour. Tour service end.
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.
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.
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.
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.