The lure of Lhasa, capital on the roof of the world, cannot be under-estimated and it is truly a fascinating city, fully justifying its reputation. Dominated by the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Potala Palace and bustling with pilgrims circling the sacred Jokhang Temple it is a feast for the senses. Cross the spectacular Khamba-La (pass) with the turquoise waters of the sacred lake, Yamdrok-tso, spread below. Prayer flags, glaciers, snow covered mountain ranges – the scenery is incredible!
Gyantse stands at the junction of trade routes from India and retains the feel of a Tibetan town. The forts and well-protected monasteries of Gyantse and Shigatse reveal a not always peaceful history - the riches within, testament to past glory. From the tiny monastery at Rhongphu the view of Qomolangma (Mt Everest) is absolutely magnificent as it stands alone at the head of the valley - a walk or drive to Base Camp brings you even closer.
Days 1-2: Flying into Kathmandu is an unforgettable experience with the Himalaya spread out before you. You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. On day 2 a full day tour introduces to some of the wonders of Kathmandu. Or you can spend you frist two days in Chengdu, the bustling capital of Sichuan Province is home to some of the best (and spiciest!) food in the world. It is also a city of temples, gardens and tea houses. An early morning visit to the Breeding and Research Center sees the magnificent Giant Pandas and Red Pandas at their most active. In the evening discover a little of Sichuan’s rich cultural heritage at a tea-house performance of opera, acrobatics, puppetry and ‘changing faces’.
Day 3: The flight to Lhasa is spectacular. From Gongkar airport it is about 1½ hours’ drive to Lhasa, first along the Yarlung Tsangpo then into the Kyi Chu Valley.
Days 4-6: With a relaxed pace to allow for the effects of altitude, explore this fantastic city on the roof of the world. The spiritual heart of Tibet is the Jokhang Temple and every morning is full of life as pilgrims bring offerings of butter and barley flour. The Potala Palace rises above the city and, more than any other sight, symbolizes the history and culture of Tibet. Nearby are the huge monastic universities of Drepung and Sera – still active institutions.
Days 7-9: A long, yet scenic day’s drive across the Khamba La and Kora La (passes), along the shores of Lake Yamdrok Tso to Gyantse. Once an important trading town, Gyantse retains a feel of ‘old’ Tibet.
Days 10-11: Visit Gyantse’s monastery – Pelkor Choede – and the justifiably famous Kumbum, within the same complex. There may also be time to visit the dzong (fort) that towers above the town. Ride along the valley to Shigatse, where Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchen Lama, second only in importance to the Dalai Lama.
Days 12-14: Two days take you across the Yulung La (4950m) and the highest pass of the trip, the 5220-meter Gyatso-La to Xegar.
Days 15-16: Turn off the Friendship Highway for a stunning ride through Qomolangma Nature Preserve to the top of the 5200m Pang-La (pass) for a superb panoramic view from Manaklu to Shishapangma. Then its a downhill stretch to Tashidzom. As we climb barley fields give way to barren valleys of glacial debris. Finally reach the tiny Rhongphu Gompa at 5000m. The view from here is utterly spectacular! It is then 7 kilometers to Base Camp at 5200m.
Days 17-18: Heading back to the Friendship Highway and on to Lao Tingri for a last glimpse of the great mountain.
Days 19-21: Another two high passes give a last, spectacular view of the Himalay before we leave the Tibetan Plateau, descending to Zhangmu – on the China-Nepal border.
Day 22: Completing border formalities the drive back to Kathmandu continues down the Bote Khosi valley.
Days 23-24: Back in Kathmandu you have a full free day to continue sightseeing or shop for marvelous souvenirs – jewelry, carpets, clothing. On Day 24 you will be transferred to the airport for your flight.
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