Before the trek, you'll also explore the countryside and unique villages along the Tibetan Plateau. After the trek circuit, we'll visit Lake Manasarovar and along the Tsong Po River before returning to Kathmandu.
Day 1: You will be met at Kathmandu's airport by your driver after you complete customs formalities and taken right to your hotel to refresh.
After time to settle in, we'll enjoy the late afternoon light at the Buddhist stupa of Swayambhunath. 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.
Day 2: We embark on a guided tour of the Kathmandu Valley - Hindu temples and the Ghats of Pashupatinath on the holy Bagmati river and the nearby Buddhist stupa at Bodhnath. Bathing Ghats, where people wash themselves and their clothes or Burning Ghats are where Hindus cremate dead bodies in readiness for dispatch on 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.
Day 3: After breakfast, 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, a 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.
Day 4: This morning, rise early for a walk with more spectacular views and 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 11: Continue driving through the interesting village of Zongba to camp near Paryang.
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).
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.
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!
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.
Day 16: Today we follow along the river valley until we finally reach the sight of the 'miraculous cave' where Milarepa meditated. We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 24: Depart from Kathmandu. You 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!
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Tibet Nepal Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Pilgrimage/Spirituality