Saga Dawa is the most auspicious day of the Tibetan calendar and for centuries pilgrims have travelled from all over Tibet and Asia to circumambulate Mt Kailash on this sacred day. The circuit (kora) of Mt. Kailash (6714m) is been a religious sanctuary since pre-Buddhist times, and a trek here wonderfully integrates the spiritual, cultural and physical dimensions of any trip to Tibet. For the devout pilgrim a visit to Mt. Kailash & Lake Manasarovar forms the ultimate realization of their spiritual pursuit. And for the adventure-lovers it offers rugged beauty, remoteness and solitude. This June tour visits Kailash during the annual Buddhist festival of Saga Dawa will give all participants a rare experience, it’s a journey once-in-a-lifetime.
- Involve yourself to celebrate and experienceSaga Dawa Festival, one of the most solemn religious festivals.
- 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.
- 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.
Day 1: May 18th 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. 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: May 19th 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. 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. 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: May 20th 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.
The afternoon is spent touring Sera Monastery, 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: May 21st 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 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.
Day 5: May 22nd Shigatse to Saga, 450km, 8-9hrs
This morning you'll have a chance to visit Tashilunpo Monastery, the home of the Panchen Lama, which is essentially a walled town with cobbled and twisting lanes that revolve around a magnificent monastery. Then be driven to Saga via Lhatse and Sang sang, pass several lakes, towns and high plateau nomadic sites. In Saga, you will find a number of Indian pilgrimages heading toward Mt. Kailash. Overnight in Saga.
Day 6: May 23rd Drive to Lake Manasarovar, 500km, 8-9hrs
From Saga it is 145 km to Zhongba, the road there 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 7: May 24th 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 cover 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 8: May 25th Saga Dawa in Darchen
Prior to beginning the Kailash kora, pilgrims gather at Darchen, where the flag-bedecked pole is raised anew each year. While pilgrims walk in clockwise circles around the pole, ceremonies are performed under the direction of the oracle. The raising of the pole is breathlessly awaited as the pole's final position portends Tibet's fortunes for the coming year. Today we will attend the festival here.
Day 9: May 26th 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: May 27th 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: May 28th 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 fluttering 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.
Day 12: May 29th Drive back to Saga
drive back from Darchen to Saga
Day 13: May 30th Saga - Peiku-tso – Gyirong
Today we will drive to the stunning alpine lake, Peiku-tso for Lunch. An amazing picture of the lake with Shishapangma in the background will come into your sight when you arrive there. After lunch, keep driving to Gyirong. 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 14: May 31st See you off at Nepalese Border
Our Guide will drop you off in the morning at the border bridge, 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. Next step, you need to find a car or bus towards Kathmandu, 50m ahead from border bridge, dozens of car or bus are parking here to pick up travelers; 3,000 Nepali Rupee for a taxi rental to Kathmandu (around US$ 50) , 50 Nepali Rupee(around US$ 1) for a bus seat. Tour ends at the border in Tibet side. Optional Service: Our company provide Kodari(Nepal border) to Kathmandu private transfer service at 150USD/car, if you need, please ask it from your travel advisor.
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.