June 11 – 28, 2012
From Kathmandu, Nepal
Overview: Our travel dates this year are June 11–28, 2012 from our meeting point in Kathmandu, Nepal. Your adventure begins the moment you arrive — with time to explore or relax at a Kathmandu hotel famous for its hospitality. After time to recover from your flight to Nepal, you'll board a breathtaking flight, taking a first glimpse of Everest, destined for Lhasa's Gonggar Airport in Tibet. Here you'll acclimatize and explore the local Yambulagang Tombs, Samye Gompa and Lhasa city itself — with highlights including the Tibetan Barkhor neighborhood surrounding the Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace — before the famous "Friendship Highway" guides us across the historic overland route from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp and back to Kathmandu — climbing over high passes and through deep, breathtaking gorges.
It is a 500–mile odyssey across the high plateau, passing secluded villages and pastoral farms to eventually descend 8,800 feet through a spectacular gorge spilling into the Kathmandu Valley. Along the way we detour south for several days exploring the base camp of Everest's towering north face. The vantage points from Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp provide expansive panoramas of the rugged and snow–capped Himalaya.
Landslides, weather or political conditions may cause detours, delays or turning back. This trip is appropriate for adventurous travelers who are prepared to "rough it" from time to time. Conditions in Tibet are variable — so be prepared for weather changes, some less–pleasant toilet facilities and the possibility of sickness. Recently opened to tourism after its long isolation, it is still closed to the outside world from time to time. Tibet promises exciting travel experiences and memories. With flexibility and a smile you will enjoy and long–remember the challenge and mystery of our unique exploration through this ancient land. Travel in Tibet really is the experience of a lifetime!
Leadership: Our Trek Leader is Pemba Tashi. Pemba is HHT's principal Tibetan trekking guide and also supports our Chasing Buddha Tibet Pilgrimage. His extensive mountain trekking experience combines with his easy humor and ability to help explain many complex cultural and Buddhist–oriented subjects to travelers. He is an ideal interpreter of this ancient and fascinating mountain region.
PreTrip Days: Fly to Kathmandu, Nepal. Those in the Americas 'lose' one day crossing the international date line. Note that you must arrive in Kathmandu no later than June 11, 2012. If you arrive early we can arrange a transfer and additional hotel nights for you on request.
Day 1: Arrive at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport where you will meet our staff after you complete arrival customs and immigration formalities and exit the secured area. You'll transfer right away to our comfortable hotel to refresh from a long journey. From the airport it's just a twenty minute ride to the Durbar Marg area in Kathmandu. Our five-star hotel is quite famous for its warm hospitality and has won accolades from climbers such as Sir Edmund Hillary. Enjoy very comfortable deluxe rooms with ensuite bathrooms (and that means good hot showers), telephone, wireless, room service, laundry service, free safety deposit box and luggage storage. Overnight at hotel. Enjoy a special welcome dinner with the group. (Dinner)
Day 2: Enjoy your day in Kathmandu. In the morning, we experience a guided sightseeing tour of the Hindu site at Pashupatinath and the Buddhist site of Bodhanath. Your afternoon is at leisure to explore Kathmandu's narrow, bustling streets lined with small shops and restaurants. We return to our hotel overnight. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 3: Enjoy a second free day in Kathmandu. We return to our hotel overnight. Get plenty of sleep tonight for tomorrow's flight to Tibet! (Breakfast)
Day 4: Flight to Lhasa. This morning we fly to Lhasa's Gongkar International Airport. In a little over one hour, our Kathmandu – Lhasa flight covers rugged terrain that once took trade caravans months to cross. The views are spectacular, and on a clear day, as many as eight of the world's 14 highest peaks — including Everest — lie before our gaze. As we cross the great backbone of the Himalaya, the landscape beneath us dramatically changes from Nepal's green–terraced and sloping hillsides to become the seemingly–barren high, dry plains of Tibet. Nearing our approach, we soar over the deep-blue Yamdrok Lake. At the airport we are met by our Tibetan guide who will take us to Tsedang, a small country town for a relaxing afternoon adjusting to our "breath taking" altitude! We overnight at our comfortable hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 5: Yumbulagang. This morning we visit Yumbulagang, said to be the oldest palace in Tibet. Although the original building was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution it was replaced by a replica. The current building is used as a chapel and perches on the spur of a ridge overlooking the entire valley. The shrines, thangkas (painted scrolls), statues and murals are a first introduction to Tibet's rich artistic heritage.
A short afternoon drive takes us to the "Valley of the Kings" — so named because it is the chosen burial site for the early Tibetan kings. Their tombs (dating from 617 C.E. to 950 C.E.) resemble dirt mounds, but they actually contain small chapels. The ruins of the Chingwa Tagtse Castle overlook this valley amid a spectacular setting. We return to our hotel for the evening. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6: Samye. Today, we journey to the ferry docks and hop onboard our boat to cross the Yarlung Tsangpo (or Brahmaputra River) for Samye. Said to be the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the world, Samye was established in 767 C.E. by the Indian teacher and mystic Padmasambhava, a founder of the Buddhist faith in Tibet. Legend says he won over the demon gods of the Bon religion. Samye was built in the Mandala form, which reflects the cosmic view of Tibetan Buddhism. Crossing to the south shore of the river, we continue our journey to Lhasa. The golden roof of the Potala beckons. Overnight at the former home of the late senior tutor to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama — now a comfortable hotel for our rest. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7: A day of Palaces and Monasteries. We make a morning visit four miles west of city center to Norbulingka Palace, the former summer residence of the 14th Dalai Lama. Although the 7th Dalai Lama began construction in the 1700s, most of the palace buildings of "Jewel Park" were constructed during this century by the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas. Completed in 1926, many rooms of the palace have never been used, since it was from the palace that the 14th Dalai Lama fled for India in 1959, thus far not to return.
In the afternoon we visit Drepung Monastery, built in 1416 C.E. by a pupil of Tsongkhapa. For 500 years, Drepung was a major pillar of the theocratic state — the main political headquarters for the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Drepung was the residence of the Dalai Lamas until the Potala was constructed in 1645. Before 1959, Drepung housed more than 10,000 monks. Numerous prayer halls are inside, decorated with ornate thangkas — iconographic painted scrolls. The frescos are said to represent a synthesis of the Indian and Central Asian styles. Dating back to 1081, it was severely damaged during China's Cultural Revolution. Return to our hotel for overnight. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8: Chokpuri and Sera. This morning we enjoy the ambience of Chokpuri, a large hill in Lhasa's center, the former site of the Tibetan Medical School. Before scaling this 500–foot hill for a commanding view of the city and Potala Palace, we pause at Palhalupuk Temple near the base of the hill. Delightfully alive with Buddhist pilgrims, this grotto surrounds a score of statues carved into the cave's subterranean walls. Time permitting, we'll stop by the Men-Tsee-Khang, the traditional Tibetan medical center. In the afternoon, we are stimulated by the ambience of Sera Monastery. Sera was a center of learning and monastic training like its sister monasteries at Drepung and Ganden. Until recently, 300 monks live here in the principal buildings and were renowned for lively debates about Buddhism's major theological tenants. Return to our hotel for overnight. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9: Potala Palace and Barkhor. We tour the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lamas' former winter residence. Thirteen stories high,the palace includes chapels, assembly halls, meditation halls, mausoleums, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. It is built entirely of wood, earth and stone. Its most splendid and valuable feature is the crypt of the 5th Dalai Lama, 48 feet high and adorned with almost four tons of gold, diamonds and turquoise. For many years it was the world's tallest building, constructed in 1645 by the Great 5th Dalai Lama.
We move on to Jokhang Temple, the holiest temple in all of greater Tibet. Successive temples have stood on this site since the 7th century. The present temple houses a gold Buddha, a gift from the Chinese princess Wen Cheng in 641 C. E. This Buddha, called "Jowo," is the temple's namesake. Pilgrims walk hundreds of miles to be here and prostrate themselves full-length in front of the temple doors in religious devotion. It is a truly moving experience to join them in dark hallways filled with the sound of low chanting and lit only by Yak–butter lamps.
Outside in Lhasa's main Tibetan neighborhood, the Barkhor, we experience the lively market and bazaar. The Barkhor has been the center of the Tibetan capital's trade for centuries. When the Silk Road was at its zenith, one could see caravans from as far west as the Balkans; from as far north as Yarkand, Kashgar, Samarkand and Bukhara; from as far south as Kathmandu and India; and from as far east as Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing. Night and day Tibetans walk clockwise around this ring–shaped marketplace, earning religious merit as they shop, people–watch and chat with friends. The Barkhor is on the pilgrimage route for the devout who continually prostrate themselves en route to the Jokhang Temple. Return to our hotel for overnight. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10: Tsurphu. After breakfast, we journey to Tsurphu Monastery, about two hours northwest of Lhasa. In the 8th century, the Buddhist mystic Padmasambhava foretold that Tsurphu would be the center of activity for a series of Karmapas — religious leaders who would liberate inconceivable numbers of sentient beings. Tsurphu, founded in 1189, is the proto-monastery of the Karma Kagyu order, one of Tibetan Buddhism's four major sects. The present 17th Karmapa — Urgyen Trinley Dorje — lived at Tsurphu until he left in December 1999 and went to Dharamsala, India. (The 16th Karmapa left Tsurphu and fled for India in 1959 with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.) We return to our hotel in Lhasa for the night. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 11: To Gyantse. Departing Lhasa early, we drive past the turquoise–blue lake, Yamdrok Tso on our way to the ancient trading center of Gyantse. The sacred lake is revered as a talisman — supporting the life-spirit of the Tibetan nation. It is said that if its waters dry up, Tibet will become uninhabitable. After our visit to this beautiful lake, we continue on the Friendship Highway passing through the "Grand Canyon" of the river, Yarlong Tsangpo. Before Shigatse, we detour on a side route through a high desert of giant sand dunes to reach Gyantse. We overnight at a comfortable Gyantse hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 12: To Shigatse. This morning we tour the remarkable Pelkhor Chode and its towering Kumbum Pagoda. The complex has survived since its construction in the 14th century and is one of the most amazing architectural works in Tibet. It contains over 70 interlocking chapels with about 100,000 religious images. Its fortress or dzong dominates the landscape for miles around.
After lunch, we continue to Shigatse, about three-hours further. With a population of 50,000, Shigatse is Tibet's second largest city. We visit Tashilumpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by a pupil of Tsongkhapa. The most important building in the complex is the red stone Maitreya Chapel housing the 86-foot Maitreya statue of Buddha — the "Buddha of the Future" — constructed in 1914 by the 9th Panchen Lama. We overnight at a comfortable Shigatse hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 13: Chomolungma. After breakfast, we'll visit to the Chomolungma National Park headquarters. Along the way, we pass through small Tibetan villages and small, family farms. Note the gray, gold and red strips on the houses which indicate each family's devotion to the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. Upon arrival at the national park, our staff will set up camp and prepare dinner for us . Overnight tent camping under the stars. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Days 14 & 15: Exploring Everest Base Camp. From our Rongbuk camp site, we'll have two days of day hikes to explore this fascinating region by trail. Everest Base Camp is literally one of the high points of our journey — now within reach by foot, or a 30-minute drive by vehicle. Everest Base Camp (16,900 feet) is a fascinating, primitive tent city, yet is also equipped with the latest high-tech gear and electronic equipment. International in flavor, you will see flags representing countries and visitors from every continent. We return to our camp for an inviting wilderness dinner and another peaceful alpine evening. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 16: To Zhangmu. Starting from our camp at Rongbuk (16,350 feet), we descend 8,800 feet through the Himalaya to reach Zangmu (7,545 feet) at the Nepalese border. We'll pass Mount Shishapangma (26,286 feet) on the way and cross two major passes — the Lalung La (16,811 feet) and the Nyalam Ton La, also known as the "pass to hell at 17,060 feet and our last stop along the Tibetan Plateau. Pilgrims pause here to raise prayer flags, burn incense, cast "wind-horse" paper inscriptions and build cairns. This is a dramatic gorge with dozens of cascading waterfalls and our road is a thoroughfare for commerce — the only overland route between the two nations of China and India. Below Nyalam, the road descends steeply into the river valley of the Bhote Kosi. The flourishing border town of Zhangmu (or Dram) clings to the mountainside with the highway crisscrossing between homes and storefronts. We stay near Zhangmu for a last night of camping. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 17: Borderlands. Below Zhangmu, we pass through Chinese Emigration and Customs formalities. From here, it's another 1,000-foot descent to reach the Friendship Bridge where we bid farewell to our Tibetan staff and walk across the arched span to leave Tibet and reenter Nepal. This is Tibet's main border crossing to the outside world. Warm moist air from the subcontinent prevails as we descend in altitude. In just another four hours, we'll be back where our journey began — in Kathmandu. Once back in the city, you'll enjoy free time in the afternoon for some well–deserved rest or some relaxing pool–time after we return to our comfortable hotel. (Breakfast, Lunch,)
Day 18: Depart Kathmandu. Following breakfast and some time for packing, we will transfer to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport to depart Nepal or continue in Nepal with some optional visits around Kathmandu Valley or for Elephant rides and the natural history of Chitwan Park. There are many other nearby adventures both in Nepal and India that you can explore to make the most of your journey. (Breakfast)
Important Notes: This is meant only as a guide to what our days will be like. Changes may be made as we go along. These depend upon local conditions, our acclimatization and health, etc. Good health, reasonable fitness, and a positive attitude are a "must" to make the trip enjoyable. Sturdy vehicles will be provided , however this travel is not for those who are prone to car sickness or are afraid of heights. All of the areas to be visited are remote and there are no reliable sources of medical care outside of Lhasa or Kathmandu.
Travel Details: In case you arrange your own air travel, note that you must arrive in Kathmandu no later than June 11, 2012 and you may not depart earlier than the afternoon of June 28, 2012. You can arrive early or stay late for more sightseeing or adventure options in Nepal. We can help to arrange your accommodations and tour needs along with guides and transportation. Ask us for specifics. Please refer to the booking information section of our application form for more information.
Roof Of The World To Tibet & Nepal • 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.
Mild: Accommodations are most often in comfortable guest houses and four–star hotels. Activities are usually mild and can include day hikes of less than four hours in length. Vehicle time can include fatigue with long travel along rough roads.
April 11, 2012 ($100USD late fee thereafter)
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