You may arrive at the joining-point hotel at any time on Day 1 as no group activities are planned for today except for a group meeting in the early evening followed by an optional dinner. It is important that you arrive in time for this meeting, which will be at 6pm, as there are formalities to be completed for our Tibet entry permit. Please check the entrance of the hotel for a notice from your CEO detailing the location of the meeting.
Use the free day 2 to explore fascinating Kathmandu. This city is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development with a rich artistic and cultural heritage, making it the legendary destination for travelers. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life. The narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows, just to name a few. Walk through the heart of the old city to Durbar Square, home of the palace of the 'living Goddess', Kumari Devi. Other possibilities include cycling around the city ring road to the ghats along the Bagmati River; an endless stroll around the city's ancient streets or a cold drink at a rooftop garden restaurant, complete with traditional musicians.
On day 3 fly to Tibet's capital, Lhasa. This historic city is situated in a small valley, 3700m above sea level. Lhasa rose to take an important role in the administration of the country over 1300 years ago. At this time, the grand temples of Ramoche and Jokhang were built to house the Buddha images and religious artifacts brought into Tibet as dowries from China and Nepal. Although little of the 7th-Century Lhasa survives, the 1600s saw a second stage of renovation and development, which included the building of the Potala Palace. Perched on Red Hill overlooking the town, this massive structure dominates the landscape with grace and dignity - a true architectural wonder. The Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet and also the most active. Prostrating pilgrims circle the temple endlessly, day and night, some of them traversing the extremes of the Tibetan landscape by foot to celebrate and express their faith. Nearby are the huge monastic universities of Drepung and Sera Ð still active institutions. Evening debating sessions with the monks are a must-do experience. The Barkhor, the holiest devotional circuit, surrounds the Jokhang and houses a market bazaar where people bargain for Buddha images, yak skulls with ruby eyes, woodcarvings, carpets, prayer wheels and the odd goat's head. Nearby are the Drepung and Sera monasteries, once home to over 15,000 monks. The Dalai Lama's Summer Palace, Norbulingka, is complete with a private zoo and the Tibetan Traditional Hospital and the blind school are worth checking out. With a relaxed pace to allow for the effects of altitude, explore this fantastic city on 'the roof of the world' over 3 days.
Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 267 km The drive to Gyantse is a spectacular one, crossing three passes over 5000 meters and skirting the shores of the beautiful turquoise lake, Yamdrok Tso. Once of major importance as a wool trading centre on the routes between India, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and China, Gyantse retain the feel of old Tibet. The imposing hill fortress, Gyantse Dzong, dominates views of the town. It is also the site of Pelkor Chode Monastery, founded in 1418 and the unique Gyantse Kumbum (meaning 100,000 images), which forms a 3-dimensional mandala containing a seemingly endless series of tiny chapels full of Buddhist images – Buddhas, demons, protectors and saints.
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours Approximate Distance: 94 km It is a short drive to Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest town, and the seat of the Panchen Lama who ranks second in importance to the Dalai Lama. The huge complex of Tashilhunpo is visited daily by hundreds of devotees, armed with yak butter to feed the lamps, who prostrate themselves around the stupas or walk up to the chapel that houses the 26m-high, gold-plated statue of the future Buddha Shigatse bazaar also buzzes with life. Stalls, selling everything from slabs of yak butter to yak wool, prayer wheels and rosaries, line the streets and Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Be tempted by the antiques, jewelry and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade designs or perhaps visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs. Then perhaps join the pilgrims on their evening kora (circumambulation) around the perimeter of the monastery.
Estimated Travel Time: 4.5 hours Approximate Distance: 172 km It is a 4-5 hour trip to Sakya, the base of the once politically powerful Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s huge fortified walls are testament to the turbulent past of the region. There is time in the late afternoon or early morning to explore the monastery and the ruins of north Sakya across the river.
Estimated Travel Time: 9 hours Approximate Distance: 296 km An exhilarating drive brings us to Rombuk - 5000m and a mere 7km below Everest Base Camp. The view from here is utterly spectacular! Rombuk is certainly the highest monastery in the world and its guesthouse offers very basic accommodation, but the views that surround us more than compensate - lie in bed and watch the moonlight illuminate the mountain. The monastery here was first built in 1902 by the Nyingma Lama and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today, only about 50 monks and nuns remain, sharing the same prayer hall but with separate residences. The nuns here are great fun and will be delighted to have you join their evening prayers. The energetic can make the 7km hike to Base Camp for a closer view this magnificent mountain, for the rest – the bus is a go.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 90 km The road down to Lao Tingri is a rough one – but spectacular views adequately compensate. Lao Tingri is a small, typical Tibetan town on the highway to Kathmandu – Qomolangma (Mt Everest) and Cho Oyo are still visible.
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours Approximate Distance: 208 km Called Dram in many guide books and maps, the border town of Zhangmu clings precariously to the cliff face, 10km above the bridge across the river which marks the physical China-Nepal border. The small town has become the major trading post between the two countries and is always packed with trucks transshipping their goods. The subtropical oceanic climate endows the small town with warm, humid weather and beautiful scenery throughout the year. The giant hills around Zhangmu are heavily wooded, with frozen 'icicles' during the winter and with beautiful waterfalls in summer.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 100km After completing Chinese immigration we drive down to the bridge where we say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and drivers. Completing Nepal immigration it is only 132kms to Kathmandu, but it can be a slow trip – the first section of the road is narrow and winding as it continues down the ravine and occasionally blocked by landslides. All being well we will be in Kathmandu early afternoon with time for shopping and sightseeing before a final dinner together.
You may depart at any time today.