Day 1 Beijing
As group members will arrive at different times there are no arranged activities on Day 1 until our group meeting at 18:00hrs followed by an optional dinner. Please see the notice board in the hotel foyer for details of this meeting.
Day 2 Beijing
Travel to the north of the city to visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu. An incredible piece of engineering stretching 6000km westwards along the mountain ridges north of Beijing, it was originally constructed to protect the Chinese empires from the Mongolian 'barbarians' of the north.
Days 3-4 Trans-Tibetan Rail Journey
Spend the morning of Day 3 exploring the vast Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City while still leaving free time to shop in the various markets scattered throughout the city, take a tour of the ancient alleyways (hutongs) in Beijing's Old city or visit the Tibetan Monastery. Transfer to the station for our train to Lhasa in the evening (the train departs Beijing around 8pm and the journey is approx. 46 hours). The train trip is a long, yet rewarding, journey through the heart of northern China then south across the Tibetan Plateau. Comfortable sleeper compartments contain 6 berths, all bedding provided, and the dining car serves a variety of meals and drinks. Boiling water for tea and coffee is available. Due to popular demand we try to get the best sleeping berths in the cabin but during the summer season we can not guarantee which beds will be available. But the spectacular scenery make this a once-in-a-lifetime train journey.
Days 5-8 Lhasa (3B)
Arrive in Lhasa in the evening of Day 5 and transfer to the hotel. 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 are still active institutions. Begin with a tour of the Jokhang and make a kora (circumambulation) of the Barkhor, the holiest devotional circuit, which 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. Visit the Potala Palace and either the Sera or Drepung Monastery leaving plenty of time for your own explorations of this wonderful city.
Day 9 Gyantse (B)
Estimated Travel Time: 8 Hours Approximate Distance: 267KMS 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 and is a great place for sunset views over the town. Visit 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.
Day 10 Shigatse
Estimated Travel Time: 2 Hours Approximate Distance: 94KMS Take 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. Tour the monastery in the morning of Day 11. 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
Day 11 Sakya
Estimated Travel Time: 4.5 Hours Approximate Distance: 172KMS Today we drive to Sakya, the base of the once politically powerful Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Its huge fortified walls are testament to the turbulent past of the region. There is time in the late afternoon to explore the monastery (optional) and the ruins of north Sakya across the river
Day 12 Rombuk/Everest Base Camp
Estimated Travel Time: 9 Hours Approximate Distance: 296KMS Take an exhilarating drive to Rombuk - 5200m 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 the views that surround us are breathtaking. 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 next morning we take a short hike into Base Camp/Everest National Park (there is an optional bus ride for those not adjusted to the altitude) Enjoy the stunning views, make a phone call home and maybe see some mountaineers getting ready to summit!
Day 13 Zhangmu
Estimated Travel Time: 9 Hours Approximate Distance: 290KMS The road down to the highway (approx 4 hours) is a rough one – but spectacular views adequately compensate – both Qomolangma (Mt Everest) and Cho Oyo are visible for much of the way. Another 5 hours to Zhangmu crosses one of the most spectacular of passes – topped with prayer flags and wind-driven prayer wheels you truly feel on top of the world.
Day 14 Kathmandu
Estimated Travel Time: 5 Hours Approximate Distance: 208KMS A very short drive this morning brings us to the border. 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. Arrive, hopefully, in Kathmandu in the early afternoon with time for shopping and sightseeing before a final dinner together.
Day 15 Kathmandu
You may depart at any time today.