September 4 to 27, 2012
From Kathmandu, Nepal
Overview: Join us for this in-depth exploration of Tibet. We'll fly to Lhasa and continue on to Shigatse and Gyantse, with sacred Mt. Kailas as our goal. In addition to the kora (pilgrimage) around Mt. Kailas, the trip includes a visit to the ancient kingdom of Guge and time to sightsee in Kathmandu. Our trek begins September 4, 2012 from our meeting point in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The trekking is short (four days of hiking) but much of the hiking is on steep trails at high elevation (15,000 to 18,000 feet). Landslides, weather or political conditions may cause detours, delays or turning back. This trip is appropriate for experienced hikers who have been to altitude before and are prepared to "rough it." Conditions in Tibet are variable. Be prepared for changes in weather, limited toilet facilities and the rigors of the wilderness. Travel in Tibet is an adventure; its long isolation and the fact that tourism is relatively new make for exciting travel. With flexibility and an open mind, you will enjoy the challenge. The pilgrimage to Kailas is the experience of a lifetime!
Leadership: The Mount Kailas Trek Leader is Priscilla McKenney, trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and maintains current first aid certification. Priscilla has guided for over 20 years and Tibet remains one of her favorite areas. She made her first journey to Nepal in 1987 and became fascinated with Himalayan trails and cultures. She has studied both the Nepali language and Tibetan Buddhism. Priscilla has a great sense of humor, is highly energetic and very safety conscious.
Mount Kailas Day-To-Day Itinerary Detail:
Pre Trip Days: In transit from your home (Americans lose one day crossing the international date line). Fly to Kathmandu, changing planes in Bangkok or Singapore. Your group leader or guide will meet your flight at the Tribhuvan airport in Kathmandu (elevation 4,428 feet). They must wait for you outside the customs hall, so we meet after you get your visa, collect your luggage and pass through Nepal customs on your own. Transfer to a delightful hotel in the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu.
Day 1: Please note that you must arrive in Kathmandu by Tuesday, September 4, 2012. If you arrive early, it is possible to stay at our hotel for a discounted price. See the Travel Details section at the end of this document for more information. Our guests enjoy the hotel's good food, friendly staff and tranquil, retreat-like quality. After a busy day of sightseeing near the hotel, you can always find a place to relax; either in the hotel garden, with its greenery, on your own private balcony or on the roof with views of the spectacular mountains and city skyline all around.
After taking time to settle in, we'll enjoy the late afternoon light at the Buddhist stupa of Swayambhunath (a stupa is a large dome and pyramid-like structure containing religious relics). Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple because of the large band of monkeys that make it their home. At one time the Kathmandu Valley was a huge lake. Legend has it that the hill on which the Monkey Temple stands was an island. There is evidence that the great Buddhist Emperor Ashoka visited the site 2,000 years ago. Enjoy an introductory dinner with the group. (Dinner)
Day 2: We embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the Kathmandu Valley. Places of interest include the Hindu temples and the burning ghats of Pashupatinath on the holy Bagmati river and the nearby Buddhist stupa at Bodhnath. (Ghats are steps leading up from a river. There are, for example, bathing ghats, where people wash themselves and their clothes. Burning ghats are where Hindus cremate dead bodies in readiness for disposal in the river.) This will be a good introduction to the Buddhist and Hindu religions. There is also an important Shiva temple at Pashupatinath. Shiva is the great destroyer and creator god of the Hindu religion. Free time in the afternoon, then enjoy lunch at an Indian or Nepali restaurant and an optional evening walk. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 3: After breakfast, meet for the 45 minute drive to Kopan Monastery and its sister nunnery Khachoe Ghakyil, outside the town of Boudhanath. One of the best monasteries in Nepal, it is home to 300 monks and at the nunnery, an additional 300 nuns. It has hosted foreigners since 1970 and people travel from around the world to attend their monthly courses.
Drive onward to Bhaktapur, another World Heritage Site. Enjoy sightseeing plus workshop visits with local artists. Continue on to Nagarkot, where we will stay high in the foothills above Kathmandu. In the evening, depending on the weather, enjoy terrific sunset views of the Himalayan range. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4: This morning, rise early for a walk with more spectacular views. You may even catch a glimpse of Mount Everest. After breakfast, we return to Kathmandu for some final preparations in Nepal before our departure in the morning. Free time this afternoon for shopping, a massage or special interests in Kathmandu. (Breakfast)
Day 5: Early this morning we fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa (11,830 feet). Spectacular views appear as we fly to the Gongkar Airport in the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. The drive from the airport into Lhasa takes us through a new tunnel to shorten the drive to one hour. We're in store for an easy afternoon of relaxation and high– altitude acclimatization at our hotel, located near Jokang temple and Barkor Market.
It is very important that this afternoon be spent resting. Typically, you do not feel the effects of altitude right away. A short, easy stroll just before dinner is a good option. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Days 6 & 7: Two full days of sightseeing in and around Lhasa. Highlights include the Jokang temple, the majestic 13–story, 1,000–room Potala Palace and the Dickey Orphanage. Recently relocated to a new home on the outskirts of Lhasa, the orphanage was started by Tendrin "Mama" Dadhon — who sold her family jewels to found the orphanage in 2002. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8: After breakfast we depart for Shigatse (12,800 feet). Our travel is by Land Rover across the vast Tibetan Plateau. On the way, we will visit Gyantse (13,500 feet), where the Tibetans tried to stop the 1904 invasion of British soldiers led by Sir Francis Younghusband. Kumbum Stupa is an incredible site at the Phalkor Monastery, also along the way. We continue to Shigatse to spend the night. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9: Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and the capital of the traditional Tibetan province of Tsang. We visit the Tashilungpo Monastery and impressive temples that still remain at this large Gelugpa Monastery. We'll continue driving on the Tibetan Plateau, approximately 120 miles, to Lhatse and stop on the shores of the Tsang Po River — where we will meet up with our trekking staff. Together we cross the river and drive west to camp at Ngamring. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10: Drive along the shores of the Tsong Po River to Saga. Note that the fords of this river can be as much as 200 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep. You'll notice many nomadic Drokpa camps surrounded by yaks as well as countless sheep and goats being milked, sheared and otherwise cared for. Our camp is just past the point where the road splits into northern and southern routes. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 11: Continue driving through the interesting village of Zongba to camp near Paryang. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 12: Drive over the Mayum La Pass (16,900 feet) for spectacular first views of Mt. Kailas and continue on to Darchen (15,150 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 13: Our four–day, 32 mile Kora of Mt. Kailas (22,028 feet) begins today. Mt. Kailas is known to Tibetans as "Khang Rimpoche" (precious jewel of snow). Four major rivers originate near here: the Indus, the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Karnali and the Sutlej. Mt. Kailas is associated with Milarepa, a the poet who spent several years meditating in a cave nearby. We will see pilgrims of the Hindu, Buddhist and Bon Po religions. Lined with rocks and small cairns, the kora leads us first west, then north. Camp is at a large meadow with views of the west face of Mt. Kailas. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 14: Start the day with the wonderful sight of Choku Gompa, which clings to the side of an immense cliff face. After a series of stream crossings along the Lha Chu (river), the north face of Mt. Kailas comes spectacularly into view. We climb a moraine to later camp in a meadow at a 'breathtaking' 17,100 feet! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 15: Climb past the Shiwachal cemetery (17,482 feet). Along the way we pass the reddened footprint of Milarepa embedded in a rock. We continue up to the Drolma La Pass (18,200 feet), the spiritual (and physical) 'high point' of our trek. There, a big prayer-flag-covered boulder crowns the pass. Continuing east, we spy Gaurikund and follow steep switchbacks down to a lush green valley. Here the atmosphere is festive and Tibetans are picnicking along the way. Our camp is in the Lham Chhu Khyr Valley at about 15,750 feet. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 16: Today we follow along the river valley until we finally reach the sight of the 'miraculous cave' where Milarepa meditated. We’ll stop briefly here to see his hand and finger prints on the ceiling of the cave shrine. The trailhead still remains about two hours away. Once there, we'll celebrate the success of our trek, rejoin our drivers and travel to Tirthapuri — a pilgrimage site with several hot springs and a nice place to camp. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Days 17-18: We drive on to the guest house at Toling, our base to explore the monasteries of Tholing and Tsaparang, twin capitals of the medieval kingdoms of Guge. Located within a large canyon, this area contrasts dramatically with the rest of Tibet. We will have ample time to closely examine the many splendid murals to be found here. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Days 19-20: Drive to Lake Manasarovar (14,790 feet) and camp nearby. Hindus believe Lake Manasarovar was formed in the mind of God, and that bathing in the lake will wash away all the sins of 100 lifetimes. In Tibetan it is "Mapham Ytsho," which means the "unconquerable lake." Manasarovar is sandwiched between two high snow ranges. To the north is Kang Tise, the crescent-shaped mountain range that sweeps from West to Central Tibet. To the south is the Gurla Mandhata Range and Memo Nani (25,236 feet), the third highest mountain in Tibet. Here we will enjoy a chance to relax and bathe in the sacred waters. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Days 21-22: Today we drive to Nyalam (12,400 feet) along the Tsong Po river to the small village of Zhong Ba. We continue surrounded by a sensational view of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range. These mountains are rarely seen from the north side. Frequent sighting of animals such as wild asses, marmots, picas and spectacular birds including eagles keeps the driving interesting. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 23: Today we drive to Khasa and finally back to Kathmandu. Khasa at 7,500 feet is a rapidly expanding border town in the forested, rain soaked Bhote Kosi Valley. Walk across the border at the Friendship Bridge (goodbye Tibet friends and hello Nepal) and then continue by vehicle. We follow the Sun Kosi River to Kathmandu. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 24: Depart from Kathmandu. We may have a few hours for last minute shopping and a farewell garden brunch. An option many travelers enjoy is to stay in Nepal a few extra days to enjoy a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park! (Breakfast)
Post Trip: Same day return date for Americans crossing the international date line — to arrive home about midday. A day filled with wonderful memories of new faces and places you'll never forget!
Important Note: This itinerary is only meant as a guide to the plan of our trek. Changes can occur as we go and are based on local conditions, acclimatization, health and fitness levels, etc. Times and elevations noted here are all rounded off. Be aware that conditions in Tibet are very rugged. Roads are unpaved and vehicle maintenance can be required at any time. This is a strenuous trek with environmental exposure on trails and bridge crossings. Landslides may cause detours. This will be an amazing experience if you enjoy nature and prepare for physical activity and the outdoors. There can be abrupt weather changes, rustic toilet facilities and exposure to the elements.
Tibet tourism is controlled by the Chinese government and is completely subject to the authority of local tourism authorities. Changes in their regulations, may cause cancellations or rerouting. We will pass through Kathmandu, Nepal and the main road between the Tibet border and Kathmandu. You will enjoy the challenge of this trip creating many fond memories and great pictures. It's the experience of a lifetime!
Travel Details: When arranging your flight to the meeting point, note that you must arrive in Kathmandu no later than September 4, 2012 and that you should not depart earlier than September 27, 2012. You are welcome to travel early or stay for extra days at the end. We can arrange additional nights at any of our hotels or guest houses for you.
If fewer than six people book on this trek a small group surcharge of $400–600 will apply.
For those arriving early, staying late or wishing to extend their visit, we can offer airport transfers, guide services, car & driver, tours and accommodations to create a memorable and custom experience. Contact us with your specific interests and budget — we can help make it happen!
Please refer to the booking information section of our application form for more information.
Mount Kailas, Tibet Trek • Administrative Details:
(+) Land Cost (land cost as itinerary has described):
(+) In-Trip Airfare Estimate (air during itinerary program):
(=) Total Program Cost (Land & In-Trip Air costs combined):
Trip Deposit (submit with application):
Single Supplement (optional single accommodation):
Maximum Group Size:
Other Cost & Need Considerations:
Passport, Visa(s), Physicians Visit, Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance, Travel to/from Kathmandu (Nepal), Meals Beyond Above Itinerary, Beverages, Spending/Personal Money.
Strenuous: Usually involves high-altitude hiking along rugged trails and crossing passes as high as 18,200 feet. Weather can be variable and snowfields may be encountered. Daily hiking is extensive — sometimes for as much as eight or nine hours. This trip is long in overall duration and are designed for experienced hikers who want to be challenged. No technical climbing skills are needed and days for rest are appropriately included, but overall this trip is arduous and meant for hearty hikers.
July 4, 2012 ($100USD late fee thereafter)
The Mount Kailas Trek Printable Itinerary:
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