This pilgrimage route is well used by Tibetans, who find it convenient to combine a visit to Ganden (the principal monastery of the Gelugpa) with a reasonably direct but hard walk to Samye (Tibet's first monastery). With a slow amble, this trek is fulfilling and pleasant. Its two passes are moderate, while unfolding many staggering views you won't ever forget!
Day 1: Group arrival day in Kathmandu (4,423 feet). Your local guide meets you at the Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu after you pass through Nepal customs. You'll transfer to a delightful guest house in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. After you settle in, take a walk to enjoy the late afternoon light at the Buddhist stupa of Swayambhunath. It is also known as the Monkey Temple because of the large band of monkeys that call 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.
Day 2: Guided sightseeing of the lush Kathmandu Valley — Hindu temples and the burning ghats of Pashupatinath on the holy Bagmati River and the nearby Buddhist stupa at Bodhnath. Burning ghats are where Hindus cremate departed in readiness for dispatch on the river. Enjoy free time in the afternoon, then optional dinner at an Indian or Nepali restaurant and an evening walk.
Day 3: 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. On arrival in Tibet, our local guide meets us outside the customs hall at Gongar Airport and takes us to Lhasa where we check into our hotel. On the way, enjoy the view along the Yarlong Tsangpo River (the longest river in Tibet). We're in store for an easy afternoon of relaxation and high– altitude acclimatization at our hotel, located near Jokang temple and Barkor Market.
Day 4: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street. The first day of sightseeing starts with Lhasa's most well known landmark — the Potala Palace. It is a prominent icon and a structure of massive portions. Later this afternoon, we visit the Jokhang Temple — the spiritual center of Tibet. Each day, many pilgrims from every corner of Tibet trek great distances to this shrine. Next, we visit Barkhor, the oldest street and still a traditional scene of old Tibet.
Day 5: Visit Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery. About five miles west of central Lhasa is Drepung, once the world's largest monastery with about 10,000 attending monks. From the hillside enjoy expansive views of the entire Lhasa City against the backdrop of the rugged mountain peaks. Drepung is the largest of Lhasa's two great Gelugpa Monasteries. Three miles north of central Lhasa, Sera Monastery is smaller and more serene.
Day 6: Free day in Lhasa to explore the neighborhoods and sample the local cuisine by yourself or with new friends!
Day 7: In the morning we drive about 90 minutes from Lhasa to visit Ganden Monastery. After sightseeing, we'll continue an hour to the village of Dupshi. One hour of moderate hiking transports us to Ani Pangong — the site of a former nunnery. Total hike: Three miles, two hours.
Day 8: Ye–dropka. A few hours of steady climbing carries us through pristine meadows to our lunch break at Yama Do. One more hour along the trail takes us to our peaceful campsite and a restful afternoon. Total hike: Three miles, two hours.
Day 9: Two hours of steep hiking leads us along to Shug-La Pass where we make the final steep ascent to the rare air of 17,220 feet! The route continues across Shug-La Pass following a cairn–lined trail. We descend gradually, reaching the valley in ninety minutes from the pass and cross the Tsotup Chu, a long stream winding along the valley floor. Nomad herders with their yaks, goat and sheep dot the landscape. Tonights camp is near a stream crossing. Total hike: Six miles in four to five hours.
Day 10: Tsotup Chu Herder's Camp. From the Tsotup Chu Valley, we follow along a small tributary entering from the southwest. The terrain ahead is not particularly difficult as we reach Chitu-La Pass (16,728 feet), marked by several large cairns. A short steep descent leads us into a basin holding three small lakes. Our trail is not always clearly marked and passes seasonal campsites before finally reaching the valley floor and our well–deserved camp. Total hike: Nine miles, about five hours.
Day 11: Yamalung Herder's Camp. Our trail is now wide and easy to follow — meandering through forest of shrubs and rhododendrons for three hours. We amble through a series of meadows before reaching Gen Do, a stone structure in ruins. The forest thins rapidly and we reach the first permanent village of Chantan (13,776 feet). In 30-40 minutes we arrive at the trail fork for Yamalung Valley. The Yamalung Hermitage is another one hour steep climb from the valley floor. Total hike: Nine miles, about five – six hours.
Day 12: Yamalung to Samye Monastery. From Yamalung Valley, we drive along rustic roads to reach Samye — passing the small villages of Nyango, Wango and Pisha. From Pisha, the entire lower valley of Samye and the golden spires of Samye Monastery are revealed to our view. We visit Samye Monastery during the afternoon and explore the surrounding village area. It's a nice time to relax a bit from our strenuous days on the trail with a comfortable night.
Day 13: Drive to Tsedang. Depending on current road conditions, we may opt to drive and hop aboard a ferry to reach Tsedang. We also have the option to drive the entire way. Either way, it's a scenic and enjoyable morning, often with unexpected encounters! Upon our arrival in Tsedang we'll visit Tibet's oldest building — the Yongbulakhang. Sacred texts are said to have miraculously fallen on the palace roof — heralding the first appearance of Buddhism in Tibet. Overnight is at our hotel in Tsedang.
Day 14: Tsedang to Airport. Its time to say goodbye and depart Tibet. After breakfast, we will drive to Gongar Airport to catch the return flight back to Kathmandu. From Kathmandu it may be possible to get an evening departure connection home, but many travelers will want to reserve an optional evening tonight in Kathmandu — to depart the following day.
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Asia Tibet Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking