Lhasa + Kathmandu Christmas Journey | Nepal + Tibet Jeep Safari

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Looking for the perfect something to do for Christmas + the New Year?
Join our Tibetan Christmas pilgrimage and jeep safari from Lhasa to Kathmandu, and celebrate Christmas in Tibetan style with Kamzang Journeys. Afterwards, enjoy a spa and relaxation day at the Last Resort for the New Year!

Our once-in-a-lifetime journey to Tibet begins in Samye, one of the oldest monasteries in Tibet, set in a fertile valley a few hours from Lhasa. We have a day to visit the historic Yarlung & Chongye valleys, home to some of the oldest buildings in Tibet. Next we drive to Lhasa, the once-forbidden capital of Tibet, where we have several days to explore this history-laden city and its ancient gompas and palaces. Some of the highlights are walking koras around Barkor Square with Tibetan pilgrims from all reaches of Tibet, exploring Drepung and Sera Monasteries, and marveling at the powerful and sacred Jokhang Temple. The Potala Palace provides a spectacular backdrop for photos of Lhasa, and we'll have the chance to tour its niches, prayer rooms and hallways, dripping with history. There are still traditional Tibetan and Muslim sections of Lhasa to wander through, street food to sample and lots of shopping as we make our way through narrow  alleyways scented with juniper incense.

We spend a day driving to the spectacular Ganden monastery, much of it reconstructed after the Cultural Revolution. Doing a kora of the hilltop with the Tibetan pilgrims, perhaps viewing a sky burial, looking out to the green valleys and snaking rivers far below are some of the highlights of central Tibet. Heading south, we drive over the Yamdrok La (pass) to view the turquoise Yamdrok Tso (lake) far below us, and stop for the night at the historic Gyantse where we visit Gyantse Fort and the incredibly intricate murals of Kumbum Chorten and the monastery compa complex, some of the best artwork in the Tibetan Buddhist world.

En route to to visit the resplendent Tashilhunpo Gompa in Shigatse, home to the Panchen Lama, we visit one of Tibet's best kept secrets, the wonderful Shalu Gompa where we will certainly be the only westerners to have visited in the past few weeks.

Afterwards, we continue our spectacular jeep expedition, driving through the traditional, whitewashed villages of central Tibet along the Himalayan range, stopping to visit the ruins of Shegar Fort en route. We'll cross the border back into Nepal and spend a night at the semi-tropical Last Resort just across the border for New Year's Eve, finishing our journey back in Kathmandu ...

Don’t miss this Tibetan journey deep into the 'Land of the Snows'!


NOTE: Please plan to arrive early in Kathmandu. We need your passports by 8:30 on Day 1 of the trip!

Day 0 - Early Arrival in Kathmandu
Day 1 - Wednesday, 19 December 2018 - Meet in Kathmandu - Passport Collection 8:30am
Day 2 - Kathmandu | World Heritage Sightseeing
Day 3 - Fly Lhasa. Drive Samye
Day 4 - Samye | Yarlung + Chongye Valleys
Day 5 - Drive Lhasa
Day 6 - Lhasa | Drepung + Jokhang Monasteries
Day 7 - Lhasa | Potala Palace & Sera Monastery
Day 8 - Lhasa | Ganden Monastery Day Trip - Christmas Day!
Day 9 - Lhasa | Barkor Kora
Day 10 - Drive Gyantse | Gyantse Kumbum + Gyantse Fortress
Day 11 - Drive Shigatse | Shalu Gompa & Tashilumpo Monastery
Day 12 - Drive Shegar | Shegar Fort
Day 13 - Drive Zangmu
Day 14 - Drive The Last Resort | Nepal - New Year's Eve!
Day 15 - Drive Kathmandu
Day 16 - Wednesday, 3 January 2019 - Trip Ends

Add Ons | Per Person
+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
+ Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
+ Bhaktapur Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$100)
+ Patan Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$50)
+ Extra Day Chitwan (+$125)
+ Everest Sightseeing Flight (+$250)
+ Everest Sightseeing Helicopter Tour (+ $Inquire)
+ Shivapuri Heights Cottage (+ $Inquire)
+ Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley (+Trip Price)

Chitwan National Park | Maruni Sanctuary Lodge
Chitwan + Tharu Villages Wildlife Safari
+ Upgrade to Tharu Lodge Chitwan (+$300 Per Room)

Nepal Modules
Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip!

Travel Advice
+ Purchase travel insurance with helicopter evacuation!
+ Purchase trip cancellation + travel insurance!


Trip Advisor Reviews

Trip Highlight

  • Tibetan Christmas in Lhasa
  • New Year's Eve at the Last Resort
  • Lhasa Sightseeing by Private Vehicle | Potala, Drepung, Sera, Jokhang, Muslim Section + Barkor Square
  • Samye Gompa
  • Yarlung & Chongye Valleys
  • Shigatse, Ganden & Gyantse Gompas
  • Tashilumpo Gompa
  • Shalu Gompa
  • Yamdrok Tso Lake
  • Jeep safari from Tibet to Nepal with spectacular Himalayan panoramas
  • Relaxing at the Last Resort

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Articles on Tibet

China Fences in its Nomads & an Ancient Life Withers | New York Times

The Last Dalai Lama? | New York Times

The Extraordinary Life of Alexandra David-Neel

Alexandra David-Neel | Adventure Journal

A Tibetan's Journey for Justice | New York Times

As the Dalai Lama Turns 80, Tibet Still Suffers | Wall Street Journal

Tibetan Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China | New York Times

A Showcase of Tibetan Culture Serves Chinese Political Goals | New York Times

Tibet Never Before Seen Footage | TIME


2016 Dates
18 Dec - 2 Jan (16 days)
NOTE: 18 Dec - Passport Collection at 8:30 AM

Price - $3480
Inquire for Group Discounts
Inquire for Private Departures

Includes Kathmandu-Lhasa Flight
Single Supplement Tibet + Last Resort - $425
Tibet Visa - $85 (most nationalities) + $175 (Americans)
Subject to Change


  • Tibetan Guide
  • Often Kim Bannister as Western Guide
  • Kathmandu-Lhasa Flight
  • Tibet Permit
  • Tibet Entrance Fees
  • Kathmandu Guest House
  • Hotels in Tibet
  • Group Transportation by Private Vehicle
  • Staff Truck
  • Airport Pick-ups + Drops
  • Christmas Dinner in Lhasa
  • Massage at Last Resort for New Year's Eve!


  • International Flights (to + from Nepal)
  • Bicycle Rental
  • Travel Medical + Travel Insurance (both required)
  • Chinese Visa (we get for you)
  • Nepal Visa
  • Helicopter Evacuation
  • Meals in Kathmandu
  • Lunch + Dinner in Tibet (when in hotels)
  • Monastery Donations
  • Equipment Rental
  • Alcohol, Sodas & Packaged Drinks
  • Laundry
  • Tips

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $100-$150 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.


Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Tibetan Guide
Kim Bannister for Christmas 2016 Trip

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

Tibet Contact
Tibet Kawajian Travel
Lobsang Dhardul
Mobile: +(86) 18076999966, +86 15289188887
Office: + (86) 891 6336565

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook

Arrival Hotels
Kathmandu Guest House
Kantipur Temple House
Shangri La
Yak & Yeti


Kathmandu Guest House Single Upgrades | 4 Nights
Standard Single - $75
Garden Single - $150
Deluxe Single - $425

Kathmandu Guest House Extra Nights
Includes breakfast + 25% taxes
Book with Kamzang Journeys + save 10%

Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Nepal + Chinese Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home. Make sure you have a multiple-entry visa for re-entering Nepal from Tibet. We will submit your passport for the Chinese visa, and we will get the group permit for Tibet.
Nepal Visa Form

What we need in Kathmandu for your CHINESE VISA
1 - Valid passport (6 months++)
2 - Clear passport copy
3 - 2 color MRP sized visa photos  (also see this link: Chinese Visa Photos)
4 - Visa filled out by client. No eraser. (We supply this to you in Kathmandu)

Health Information
Nepal Health Information

Tibet (China) Health Information

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Arrival Kathmandu

Early Arrival
You'll be met at the airport by Lhakpa or Doma Sherpa (of Khumbu Adventures) or a car from the hotel of your choice. Transfer to your hotel where your rooms have been booked for you. Relax!

Arrival Hotels
Kathmandu Guest House
Kantipur Temple House
Shangri La
Yak & Yeti


You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Temperatures + Clothing
Kathmandu during trekking season, in the spring and autumn, is usually warm (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirts) during the day, and gets chilly (light fleece or windproof top) in the afternoon. Nights can be cold enough for a sweater or light jacket, or warm enough for t-shirts. Summer is hotter and wetter; you’ll need a rain jacket and umbrella. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings and evenings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but often warms up enough to wear a t-shirt by mid-day. Nights get cold enough for a down jacket if you’re sitting outside in the spring and autumn, and much colder in the winter when you won’t leave the hotel without your down jacket. It never snows in Kathmandu, leave your snow boots behind. Keens or lightweight sandals great for wandering around Kathmandu, and for trekking in lower altitudes.

Trekking is a mixed bag of temperatures. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to freezing crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. We often have some rain below 3000 meters in the spring and early autumn, and it can rain hard in the summer. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Keep a lightweight down jacket or synthetic jacket with you at all times, available inexpensively in Kathmandu. A lightweight rain poncho and umbrella for trekking recommended spring and summer. Be prepared! See our GEAR LIST for full details on gear, shoes, clothing, electronics and meds for the trek.

There are lots of real gear shops (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Gear) and of course many fake ones in Kathmandu, so if you don't think you have the right gear starting the trip it will be easy to pick-up stuff once in Kathmandu. We have sleeping bags, duffel bags down jackets to rent.

Dress conservatively in Kathmandu and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price 4000 NRP (about $40)

Cultural Issues
Nepalis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Nepal more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Nepali's often place their left hand on the right forearm when passing things to others, a sign of respect. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Nepalis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Pampering Yourself in Kathmandu
We’re happy to book your rooms before or after the trek (or upgrade during the trek) at other boutique or luxury hotels in Kathmandu. We recommend Dwarika’s, Shangri-La, Yak & Yeti or Hyatt. We can also direct you to wonderful spa & massage centers in Kathmandu.

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring Nepali Rupees (NRP) with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of Kukure Rum!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 100 NRP to carry bags to/from your room is fine. The women who clean your room will be happy with 100-200 NRP when you leave, and 100 NRP is good for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a daytrip in a car, perhaps 500 NRP. 10% is included in most restaurant and hotel bills in Nepal, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 NRP) but try not to give it out to the street kids who use it for glue to sniff.

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money in NRP as well). There are ATMs in KTM but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash (usually 10-20,000 NRP) so you’ll be best with currency or TCs to change.

International Medical Center Kathmandu

Kathmandu + Kathmandu Valley Information
Our personalized 'Insider' list of things to do, places to go, what to visit, the most happening restaurants + the best hotels in Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.
Happenings in Kathmandu

Note on Tibet

Note on Traveling in Tibet
'Tibetians employ a lunar calendar, which would in theory assign to each month 29½ days. Since the solar year is 365¼ days, each lunar year - twelve lunar months - is 11 days too short. To make up for this, every three years an additional month is added. However, like wild cards in a poker game, the extra month can be added anywhere in the Tibetan calendar year, the position being determined by an astrological forecast indicating what would be the lucky place to add the new month. Actually, even this is a slight oversimplification. In practice Tibetans round off the lunar month to exactly thirty days, but then they go ahead and add the extra month every three years anyway. To make up the difference, certain days of the month - again decided by the official astrologers - are simply eliminated, or, if some days are thought to be particularly fortunate, they may be doubled. At the end of each year the official astrologer presents the calendar for the following year. Until then, there is no future calendar. The new year begins in February, except in those years that begin following an added month, when the year begins in March. Hence when modern historical writers on Tibet indicate that some even occurred, say in April of 619 A.D., it gives one pause for thought.

The days of the Tibetan week - seven in number - are named after the sun, the moon, and the five visible planets; Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. Sa is the Tibetan word for "planet" and the seven days are then names: Sa Nyi-ma [Sunday - Sun], Sa Da-wa [Monday - Moon], Sa Mik-mar [Tuesday - Mars], Sa Lak-pa [Wednesday - Mercury], Sa Pur-bu [Thursday - Jupiter], Sa Pa-sang [Friday - Venus] and Sa Pen-pa [Saturday - Saturn]. Until the eleventh century, a twelve-year calendar cycle was used; each year being named after one of the following animals: mouse, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, ape, bird, dog, and hog. In the year 1027 A.D. - one hopes the historian have made the correct conversion - the Tibetans began a sixty-year cycle as advocated in the Kalacakra-Tantra, a Sanskrit religious text that was translated into Tibetan that year. To make up the sixty-year cycle, the twelve animals are combined with five elements: wood, fire, earth, iron, and water. Thus the years have colorful names like Fire-Mouse or Iron-Ape. Tibetan historical documents contain phrases like "On the thirteenth day of the eighth month of the Water-Tiger year . . .'
- 'In the Himalayas' - Jeremy Bernstein (1989), pp 228-229.


Copied directly from the UNESCO website

Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa
The Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 3,700m. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex. Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.

Brief synthesis
Enclosed within massive walls, gates and turrets built of rammed earth and stone the White and Red Palaces and ancillary buildings of the Potala Palace rise from Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700 metres. As the winter palace of the Dalai Lama from the 7th century CE the complex symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The White Palace contains the main ceremonial hall with the throne of the Dalai Lama, and his private rooms and audience hall are on the uppermost level. The palace contains 698 murals, almost 10,000 painted scrolls, numerous sculptures, carpets, canopies, curtains, porcelain, jade, and fine objects of gold and silver, as well as a large collection of sutras and important historical documents. To the west and higher up the mountain the Red Palace contains the gilded burial stupas of past Dalai Lamas. Further west is the private monastery of the Dalai Lama, the Namgyel Dratshang.

The Jokhang Temple Monastery was founded by the regime also in the 7th century, in order to promote the Buddhist religion. Covering 2.5ha in the centre of the old town of Lhasa, it comprises an entrance porch, courtyard and Buddhist hall surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are constructed of wood and stone and are outstanding examples of the Tibetan Buddhist style, with influences from China, India, and Nepal. They house over 3,000 images of Buddha and other deities and historical figures along with many other treasures and manuscripts. Mural paintings depicting religious and historical scenes cover the walls.

Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace constructed in the 18th century, is located on the bank of the Lhasa River about 2km west of the Potala Palace in a lush green environment.  It comprises a large garden with four palace complexes and a monastery as well as other halls, and pavilions all integrated into the garden layout to create an exceptional work of art covering 36ha. The property is closely linked with religious and political issues, having been a place for contemplation and for signing political agreements.

The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka embody the administrative, religious and symbolic functions of the Tibetan theocratic government through their location, layout and architecture. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, contribute to their Outstanding Universal Value.

Criterion (i): The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace is an outstanding work of human imagination and creativity, for its design, its decoration and its harmonious setting within a dramatic landscape. The three-in-one historic ensemble of the Potala Palace, with Potala the palace-fort complex, Norbulingka the garden residence and the Jokhang Temple Monastery the temple architecture, each with its distinctive characteristics, forms an outstanding example of traditional Tibetan architecture.

Criterion (iv): The scale and artistic wealth of the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, which represents the apogee of Tibetan architecture, make it an outstanding example of theocratic architecture, of which it was the last surviving example in the modern world.

Criterion (vi): The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace forms a potent and exceptional symbol of the integration of secular and religious authority.

The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace owns tens of thousands of collections of diverse cultural relics. The wall paintings are rich in themes, form the best of Tibetan painting art and precious material evidence for learning Tibetan history and the multi-ethnic cultural fusion. The historic scale, architectural typology and the historic environment remain intact within the property area and within the buffer zone, carrying the complete historic information of the property.

In terms of design, material, technology and layout, the historic ensemble of the Potala Palace has well retained its original form and characteristics since it was first built and from successive significant additions and expansions, convincingly testifying to its Outstanding Universal Value.

Protection and management requirements
The three components of the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, the Potala Palace, Norbulingka and the Jokhang Temple are all State Priority Protected Sites, and protected by the Law on the Protection of Cultural Relies of the People's Republic of China.The Potala Palace was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994, the Jokhang Temple in 2000 as an extension to the property, and Norbulingka in 2001 as a further extension to the property. The buffer zone of the property has been confirmed as originally demarcated. Any intervention must be approved by the responsible cultural heritage administration, with restoration strictly in accordance with the principle of retaining the historic condition. The Potala Palace Management Regulations have been put into force; measures are formulated and taken for better visitor management. A World Heritage Steering Committee has been established in Lhasa. The conservation and management plans for the three component parts of the World Heritage property have been formulated and will be submitted and put into force as soon as possible.

Long Description
The Potala Palace symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex. Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama's former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.

Construction of the Potala Palace began at the time of Songtsen of the Thubet (Tubo) dynasty in the 7th century AD. It was rebuilt in the mid-17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama in a campaign that lasted 30 years, reaching its present size in the years that followed, as a result of repeated renovation and expansion.

The Potala is located on Red Mountain, 3,700 m above sea level, in the centre of the Lhasa valley. It covers an area of over 130,000 m2 and stands more than 110 m high. The White palace is approached by a winding road leading to an open square in front of the palace. Its central section is the East Main Hall, where all the main ceremonies take place. The throne of the Dalai Lama is on the north side of the hall, the walls of which are covered with paintings depicting religious and historical themes. At the top of the White Palace is the personal suite of the Dalai Lama.

The Red Palace lies to the west of the White Palace. Its purpose is to house the stupas holding the remains of the Dalai Lamas. It also contains many Buddha and sutra halls. To the west of the Red Palace is the Namgyel Dratshang, the private monastery of the Dalai Lama. Other important components of the Potala complex are the squares to the north and south and the massive palace walls, built from rammed earth and stone and pierced by gates on the east, south and west sides.

Building of the Jokhang Temple Monastery began in the 7th century CE, during the Tang dynasty in China. The Tibetan imperial court eagerly espoused Buddhism when it was introduced,

The site of the Temple Monastery was selected, according to legend, when the cart in which Wen Cheng was bringing the statue of Sakyamuni sank into the mud by Wotang Lake. Divination identified this as the site of the Dragon Palace, the malign influence of which could only be counteracted by the building of a monastery. The foundation stone was laid in 647 and the first major reconstruction took place in the early 11th century. During the century following the reunification of the Tibetan kingdom by the Sakya dynasty in the mid-13th century, a number of new developments took place. These included extension of the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni and construction of a new entrance and the Hall of Buddha Dharmapala.

The Temple Monastery is in the centre of the old town of Lhasa. It comprises essentially an entrance porch, a courtyard and a Buddhist hall, surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are constructed of wood and stone. The 7th Dalai Lama is reported to have had health problems and he used to come here for a cure.

The construction of Norbulingka started in 1751 with the Uya Palace. Successive Dalai Lamas continued building pavilions, palaces and halls, making it their summer residence, and soon the site became another religious, political, and cultural centre of Tibet, after the Potala Palace. Norbulingka (treasure garden) is located at the bank of the Lhasa River about 2 km west of the Potala Palace. The site consists of a large garden with several palaces, halls, and pavilions, amounting to some 36 ha. The area is composed of five sections.

According to historical records, construction of the Potala Palace began in the time of Songtsen Gampo of the Thubet or Tubo dynasty in the 7th century AD. It was rebuilt in the mid 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama. It reached its present size and form in the years that foilowed, as a result of repeated renovation and expansion.

Songtsen Gampo (reigned c. 609-649) played a very important role in the political, economie, and cultural development of Tibet; he also encouraged close links with central China. He united Tibet and, for political and military reasons, moved the capital from Lalong to Lhasa, where he built a palace on the Red Mountain in the centre of the city. He married Princess Tritsun (Bhrikuti) of the Nepalese Royal House and Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. 1t is recorded that his palace was an enormous complex of buildings with three defensive walls and 999 rooms, plus one on the peak of the Red Mountain.

Following the collapse of the Tubo Dynasty in the 9th century, Tibetan society was plunged into a long period of turmoil, during which the Red Mountain Palace fell into disrepair. However, it began to assume the role of a religious site. During the 12th century Khyungpo Drakse of the Kadampa sect preached there, and it was later used for the same purpose by Tshurpu Karmapa and Tsongkapa, founder of the Gelukpa sect, and his disciples.

The Gelukpa sect developed rapidly in Tibet during the 15th century, assuming the dominant place. With the help of Gushri Khan, leader of the Mongol Khoshotd tribe, the 5th Dalai Lama defeated the Karmapa Dynasty in the mid 17th century and founded the Ganden Phodrang Dynasty. The dynasty's first seat of government was the Drepung Monastery; however, since the Red Mountain Palace bad been the residence of Songtsen Gampo and was close to the three major temples of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden, it was decided to rebuild it in arder to facilitate joint political and religious leadership. Reconstruction began in 1645, and three years later a complex of buildings with the White Palace (Phodrang Karpo) as its nucleus was completed. The 5th Dalai Lama moved there from Drepung Monastery, and ever since that time the Potala Palace bas been the residence and seat of government of succeeding Dalai Lamas.

Building of the Red Palace was begun by Sangye Gyatsho, the chief executive official of the time, eight years after the death of the 5th Dalai Lama, as a memorial to him and to accommodate his funerary stupa. It was completed four years later, in 1694, and is second in size only to the White Palace. With its construction the Potala Palace became a vast complex of palace halls, Buddha halls, and stupas. Funerary stupas (chortens) were added in memory of the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 13th Dalai Lamas, each within its own hall. The most recent is that of the 13th Dalai Lama, the building of which lasted from 1934 to 1936.

Special mention should be made of the fact that the Meditation Cave of the Dharma King, situated at the top of the mountain where Songtsen Gampo is said to have studied, and the Lokeshvara Chapel, both of which preceded the building of the present Palace, have been incorporated into the complex.

Building of the Jokhang Temple Monastery began in the reign of Srong-brtsan-sgam-po XXXII in the 7th century CE, during the Tang Dynasty in China. This ruler united Tibet and moved his capital to Demon (present-day Lhasa). The Tibetan imperial court eagerly espoused Buddhism when it was introduced, and this process was intensified when Princess Bhikruti of Nepal and Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang Dynasty came to Tibet as royal consorts.

The site of the Temple Monastery was selected, according to legend, when the cart in which Wen Cheng was bringing the statue of Sakyamuni sank into the mud by Wotang Lake. The Princess used divination to identify this as the site of the Dragon Palace, the malign influence of which could only be counteracted by the building of a monastery. The foundation stone was laid in 647 and the foundations were completed within a year.

In 823 the Tibetan regime and the Tang Dynasty entered into an alliance. To commemorate this event a stone was erected outside the monastery, known as the Stone Tablet of Long- Term Unity.

The first major reconstruction of the Jokhang Temple Monastery took place in the early 11th century. The Jokhang Buddhist Hall was extensively renovated and the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni was added to its eastern side. The circumambulatory corridor around the hall was added around 1167, when the mural paintings were restored. Upward curving tiled eaves were added in the early 13th century.

During the century following the reunification of the Tibetan kingdom by the Sakya Dynasty in the mid-13th century, a number of new developments took place. These included extension of the Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni, construction of a new entrance and the Hall of Buddha Dharmapala, and the introduction of sculptures of Srong-brtsan-sgam-po, Wen Cheng, and Bhikruti Devi. Buddhist halls and golden tiled roofs were added on the third storey on the east, west, and north sides.

Tsongka Pa founded the reforming Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism in the early 15th century, initiating the Great Prayer Festival. At his instigation part of the inner courtyard of the main Jokhang Hall was roofed.

Tibet was formally included in the Chinese domain during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). In 1642 the 5th Dalai Lama, who had received an Imperial title from the Qing rulers of China, began a project of restoration that was to last thirty years. It was continued during the regency of Sangyetgyatso (1679-1703). The main entrance of the Temple Monastery, the Ten Thousand Buddha Corridor (Qianfolang), the Vendana Path, and the third and fourth storeys of the main Buddhist Hall all date from this period.

The site of Norbulingka was a place with gentle streams, dense and lush forest, birds, and animals known as Lava tsel. The 7th Dalai Lama is reported to have had health problems and he used to come here for a cure. The construction of Norbulingka started in 1751 with the Uya Palace, benefiting from financial assistance from the central government. Successive Dalai Lamas continued building pavilions, palaces, and halls, making it their summer residence, and soon the site became another religious, political, and cultural centre of Tibet, after the Potala Palace. The Gesang Palace was built in 1755 and included a court for debates. The Tsoje Palace and the Jensen Palace were built by the 13th Dalai Lama in the 1920s, influenced by his time in Beijing; the Gesang Deje Palace was constructed in 1926. The Tagtan Migyur Palace was built in 1954-56 with support from the Central People's Government. Since the departure of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959, Norbulingka has been managed first by the Culture Management Group under the Preparatory Committee of the Autonomous Region and later directly by the Cultural Management Committee and Bureau.


Early Arrival | Passport Collection | 8:30 AM on Day 1 | Arrive Early
We'll meet in the garden of the Kathmandu Guest House at 8:30 AM on Day 1 to collect passports for your Chinese Visas.

We are happy to arrange trips to Pokhara, Chitwan National Park, Dwarikas Dhulikhel Resort & Spa or bicycling, hiking or touring in the Kathmandu Valley on your free days.

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
Meet at 8:30 in the Kathmandu Guest House garden with photo and passport.

You'll be met at the airport by a representative of Kamzang Journeys, Khumbu Adventures or the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for one of their signs when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked.

Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. We will check your insurance details (please have a copy of your travel medical insurance policy with you), go over gear and get to know each other over a dinner and beers in Thamel.

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Free day is to explore Kathmandu, take excursions into the Kathmandu valley, shop, visit the spa, have a massage or just read a book in the lovely Kathmandu Guest House gardens. We'll have time for a bit of gear shopping in Thamel for anyone who needs to, and in the evening will head out for dinner of wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.

ALTITUDE: We strongly advise taking 250 mg of Diamox before the flight up to Lhasa at 3700 meters. Take a full tablet tonight and one tomorrow morning, and then continue for a day or so until we discuss further in Lhasa.

Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is filled with World Heritage sites and sacred destinations, crowded with traditional neighborhoods and colorful festivals. Spend a few days exploring Nepal's exotic capital and the history-laden Kathmandu valley. We can arrange sightseeing guide, vehicles and guides as required. See Kathmandu Heritage + Happenings for more details.

We recommend beginning with Pashupatinath in the early morning, and moving on to Boudhanath mid-morning. Hindu Pashupatinath on the sacred Bagmati river and its sacred temple complex is one of Nepal's most important sites, a powerful cremation site and Nepal's most important Hindu temple. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating, when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees. Local guides can explain the significance of the complicated ceremonies. Please be respectful when taking photos.

Boudhanath, in the midst of traditional monasteries (gompas) and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the iconic stupa. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. There are wonderful spots for lunch at Boudhanath (Roadhouse Cafe has wood-oven pizzas and a breathtaking view of the stupa and colorful Nepals circling it), and it's a good place to learn the technique of thanka painting and purchase a thanka (Buddhist mural). See also Bhaktapur for more options for shopping for thankas.

Wander through the many temples, pagodas, courtyards and the museum at Kathmandu Durbar Square, a timeless gathering spot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kathmandu Durbar Square, including the old royal palace, is Kathmandu's 'Palace Square', a showcase for the world renown artisans and craftsmen of Kathmandu and a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist palaces, temples, stupas and statues. The Malla and Shah kings ruled over the Kathmandu Valley during the centuries of the building of the layers of this Durbar Square. Along with their opulent palaces, the square surrounds numerous courtyards and temples, all works of art with intricate and often erotic carvings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace. The social, religious and urban focal point of the city, Durbar Square is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies such as Teej. Some important structures are Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju Temple, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the 17th century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages.

In the evening (take the interesting back streets from Durbar Square) climb the many steps to the gilded Swayambhunath stupa (known as the monkey temple) which rises from the Kathmandu valley floor at 1420 meters and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. . Swayambunath, the 'self created’  stupa, was founded over 2000 years ago at a time when the Kathmandu valley was filled by a large lake, with a single lotus in the center. Mythology says that Manjusri, a bodhisvatti, drained the lake with one cut of his sword and the lotus flower was transformed into the stupa. From its commanding views of Kathmandu, circumambulate Swayambunath's white-washed stupa, painted with distinctive Buddha eyes, the complex a unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. Another interesting time to visit Swayambunath is in the mornings, when Nepalis visit the temple dedicated to the God of Smallpox to with colorful offerings for the goddess.

Stop to photograph reflections in Kathmandu's many pokhari's, or ponds, including the beautiful Rani Pokhari (queen's bath) near New Road, and the Naga Pokhari (pond of the snake gods of the underworld) just beyond the palace gates. The many bathing ghats, square enclosures with steps leading down to water spouts, often decorated with naga heads, are also interesting and colorful gathering spots.

Day 3 - Fly Lhasa 3660m (Gonggar Airport). Drive Samye 3700m
Our spectacular hour-long China Air flight takes us right across the main Himalayan range, over such Himalayan giants as Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga, for magnificent mountain panoramas. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, we'll drive the approximately 3 1/2 hours to Samye to visit the oldest monastery in Tibet, and spend the night in a hotel. En route we'll cross the sacred Bramaputra River which flows from Kailash, and the landscapes are sublime as we near the green Samye valley. We've had a big altitude gain so be sure to take it easy, drink lots of water and stay away from alcohol for the night ...

Samye Gompa is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet, constructed in the late 8th century under the patronage of the great King Trisong Detsen, who sought to revitalize Buddhism after its decline from the time of King Songsten Gampo in the 7th century. The renown Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhist was influential in the gompa's construction but it was later taken over by the Sakya and Gelugpa schools. These days Tibetans of all traditions come to worship here.

Samye Gompa is famous for its sacred mandala design. The central temple symbolizes the legendary Mount Meru, the center of the universe, the physical location of which is believed to be Mount Kailash in Western Tibet. Samye is said to be modeled on Odantapuri monastery in Bihar, India, and has a strong connection to Lo Gekar in Mustang.

The story of Lo Gekar: Samye Gompa, the oldest gompa in Tibet, was repeatedly destroyed by demons when it was being built. The head lama dreamed that Guru Rimpoche could help with the construction and invited him to the site. The great Guru Rimpoche found demons to be the problem, and suggested that they first build Lo Gekar. Guru Rimpoche killed the demons at the spot that Lo Gekar was soon to be constructed. The long mani wall just south of Dhakmar is said to have arisen from the intestines of the demon, and the red cliffs above Dhakmar the blood of the demon. After Lo Gekar was completed, Samye in eastern Tibet was also successfully built.

Once settled into our guest house in Samye, we'll head to the gompa, hoping to catch the wonderful evening light.

Day 4 - Yarlung + Chongye Valleys 3700m
We spend the day exploring the Yarlung Valley, the cradle of Tibetan civilization from where Tibet was unified in the 7th century, and Chongye, the ancient burial grounds of Tibet's ancient kings and its first capital. Yumbulagang, Tibet's oldest building (perhaps 2000 years old) is known for its massive tower, but also houses an ancient chapel and is set in a lovely valley across from Tibet's first cultivated fields. Tranduk Gompa, another one of Tibet's most ancient, is on the way out to both of these sites.

Day 5 - Drive Lhasa 3660m
We'll have the morning (and possibly afternoon) in Samye, returning the 250 km to Lhasa after we've had enough time visiting the many temples of Samye Gompa. In Lhasa, we'll be happy to check in to our Tibetan-run hotel, the New Yak Hotel. We're staying near the Jokhang temple and the Barkor square, where the character of the city is still very Tibetan.

Over the following three days we visit most of the most important sites in and around Lhasa with our Tibetan guide. Late afternoons will be free for you to discover the endlessly fascinating bazaars, walk koras around the Jokhang with the myriad other pilgrims, or sit in the Barkor square, immersing yourself in the exoticism of Lhasa. There is also the option of additional tours to places such as the Tibetan Medical Centre, Ganden Monastery or Tsurphu Monastery at a slight extra cost, although after our last few weeks, a bit of rest in Lhasa is usually the top choice.

We'll explore Tibet and meet the Tibetans in December, without the hoards of Chinese and other tourists, under crisp, blue winter skies!

Days 6 + 7 - Lhasa
Finally, once-forbidden Lhasa! We have many days to wander the streets of the Tibetan section of Lhasa, and continue with our cycle touring of the monasteries and the famous Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lamas. Lhasa is a very cycle-friendly city and cycling to the nearby monasteries is a perfect way to get our cycling legs ready.

Jokhang Temple & Barkor Square - The holiest temple in Tibet, and shelters the sacred Jowo Sakyamuni statue. Shuffle among the pilgrims, butter lamps permeating the air, and find gruesome Gods in hidden annexes. There is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. After walking the holy inner circle, complete a circuit of the Barkhor, the market surrounding the Jokhang, for good luck. It is the best market to shop for all things Tibetan, and just about anything else you ever wanted as well. Kim has lots of practice, and is happy to assist with any buying ... no commission attached.

Drepung & Sera Monasteries – Sera is one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet, renown for its lively debating sessions in the courtyard each afternoon. Within its whitewashed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. Drepung was founded in the 14th century and was once the largest gompa in the world with a population of around 10,000 monks. These days the figure has been reduced to several hundred, but there is still much of interest to see here, as the structure escaped relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.

Potala Palace - The magnificent white, black, red and gold Potala Palace dominates the skyline of Lhasa. It was the winter quarters of the Dalai Lama, housing jewel-encrusted gold and silver stupas of previous Dalai Lamas, numerous grand state rooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century.

Norbulingka – Norbulingka is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, set in a quiet and relaxing garden which used to house the Dalai Lama’s pets. One particularly interesting mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas.

Some of our favorite restaurants are Dunya (right next door to the hotel), Makye Ame (along the Barkor Kora), Ganglamedo (across the street from the hotel) & Western Cafe for coffee (just around the corner towards Barkor) although there are many and it's fun to explore the Tibetan section of Lhasa. Great street eats to be found near the mosque on the opposite side of the Jokhang Temple along the Barkor Kora.

Day 8 - Lhasa - Day Trip Ganden Gompa 4265m - Christmas Day!
We'll set off early for a scenic 36-kilometer drive to the Gelugpa Ganden Monastery, on of the 'three great' Gelugpa monasteries in Tibet. Ganden is situated atop Wangbur Mountain in Tagtse County. Its full name is Ganden (meaning joyful, the Tibetan name for Tusita, the heaven where the bodhisattva Maitreya is said to reside) and Namgyal Ling (victorious temple).

Ganden was founded by Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa tradition, in 1409. It's history is interesting so I will quote from Wikipedia: 'The Ganden Tripa or 'throne-holder of Ganden' is the head of the Gelukpa school. Tsongkhapa's preserved body was entombed there in a silver and gold encrusted tomb by his disciples in 1419. Being the farthest from Lhasa of the three university monasteries, Ganden traditionally had a smaller population with some 6,000 monks in the early 20th century (although Waddell reports an estimate of about 3,300 in the 1890s and there were, apparently only 2,000 in 1959. At this time there are about 170 monks.

Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. The three main sights in the Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang the chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught. The monastery houses artifacts which belonged to Tsongkhapa. It contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks. Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama (born 1935), took his final degree examination in Ganden in 1958 and he claims to feel a particularly close connection with Tsongkhapa.

Ganden was completely destroyed during the rebellion of 1959. In 1966 it was severely shelled by Red Guard artillery and monks then had to dismantle the remains. Most of Tsongkhapa's mummified body was burned but his skull and some ashes were saved from the fire by Bomi Rinpoche, the monk who had been forced to carry the body to the fire. Re-building has been continuing since the 1980s and the "red-painted lhakang in the centre is the reconstruction of Ganden's sanctum sanctorum containing Tsongkapa's reliquary chorten called the Tongwa Donden, 'Meaningful to Behold.' - Wikipedia

The kora of Ganden, around the small Wangbur Mountain, takes about 45 minutes and is a great way to come into contact with Tibetan pilgrims, atired in their pilgrimage best. Every once in a while you might see a sky burial on a nearby hillside, a tradition that is rarely found in Tibet anymore.

Back in Lhasa, we'll treat everyone to a Tibetan Christmas dinner, probably at Makye Ame, with plenty of cheer to keep us warm. Tashi Delek & Merry Christmas!! What's more romantic than Christmas in Lhasa?

Day 9 - Lhasa
An extra day to have some 'down' time in Lhasa, do some shopping, spend time with the Tibetans while strolling around the Jokhang doing the Barkhor Kora with hundreds of Tibetans from around Tibet. My favorite  time to walk the kora is before breakfast, with the chill still in the air and incense from the burners wafting up into the winter air ...

Day 10 - Drive Gyantse 4025m
Leaving Lhasa, the 'city of gods' (or 'sunlight city' due to its 3000 hours of sunshine yearly), we drive on a scenic road along the Kyi-chu River past small Tibetan villages, with freshly-planted barley fields, all on paved roads.  At mile marker 4668 we pass the new bridge and tunnel leading to Gonkar Airport, and just past Chushul village at 4695-7 we cross the Kyi-chu on a bridge and cycle south towards Chuwo Ri (peak) just to the left of the road. The road winds steadily uphill to the Khamba La (4795m) to overlook the turquoise Yamdrok Tso far below. Yamdrok Tso is one of the four holy lakes of Tibet, home to wrathful deities, and a spectacular site. Be ready to have your photo taken at the top of the pass with yaks, Tibetan mastiffs and goat by enterprising Tibetans. As we drive we'll pass Tibetans on leather-studded motorcycles, steering horse carts, on foot, performing prostrations to sacred pilgrimage spots and in the latest Landcruisers.

After switchbacking down the pass, we continue to drive through the fertile plain of the Nyang River valley, a traditional vignette around every corner. Continuing on good, paved roads, we crest the Karo La (5060m) which cuts a path between Himalayan glaciers; bring a warm jacket! A descent leads to a beautiful, green valley peppered with small Tibetan villages, with peaks in the near distance. The next ascent leads to the Simi (Simu) La, at 4280 meters, which is followed by a long, cruising downhill to reach the historic city of Gyantse. Once in Gyantse, we'll check into the Yeti Hotel, a great hotel with a wonderful restaurant and friendly staff, and head out for a walk around town to stretch our legs.

Gyantse, strategically located in the Nyang Chu valley, was once part of an ancient trade route from the Chumbi Valley, Yatung and Sikkim. From Gyantse, trade routes led south to Shigatse and also over the Karo La into Central Tibet. The Gyantse Dzong (fort), built in 1390, guarded the southern approaches to the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley and Lhasa, and the town was surrounded by a long, protective wall 3 kilometers in length. Part of this wall still survives and is a dramatic backdrop for photos. Gyantse was once the third largest city in Tibet but was overtaken by Younghusband and the British in 1904. During the fierce battle, Tibetan forces fought the British for most of two months with dire consequences for both sides. (See 'Younghusband' by Patrick French).

We will visit the 15th century Palkor Chode Monastery and the magnificent Kumbum, translated as '100,000 images', the largest chorten in Tibet. Kumbum was commissioned by a Gyantse prince in 1427 and was an important center of the Sakya school. It still contains 77 chapels within its six floors and is illustrated with over 10,000 murals, many still intact and exhibiting a strong Nepali influence, the last of their kind to be found in Tibet.

'The town of Gyantse was nearly destroyed by flooding in 1954, and after rioting in 1959, local industries were dismantled and artisans fled while others were placed in workcamps. Some 400 monks and laypeople were imprisoned in the monastery. During the Cultural Revolution the fort, the monastery and Kumbum were ransacked. Precious objects were destroyed or sent out of Tibet. Fortunately, the chorten was spared. The main building of the Pelkor Chode or Palcho Monastery and the Kumbum have been largely restored but the dzong or fort is still largely in ruins but there is an Anti-British Imperialism Museum there which gives the Chinese version of the 1904 British invasion.' - Wikipedia.

Day 11 – Drive Shigatse 3850m
We will spend the morning visiting the gompa complex at Gyantse and hiking up to Gyantse Fort, and then head to Shigatse mid-day. It's a short but beautiful drive through flat countryside, surrounded by snow peaks, to Shigatse, previously known as Samdruptse. En route to Shigatse we will stop for a visit at the exquisite Shalu Gompa, a thousand years old and packing more culture and atmosphere than most of Tibet's more visited monasteries.

Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and is home to perhaps the best preserved but most controversial monastery in Tibet, Tashilhunpo. This Gelugpa gompa, administred by the Panchen Lama, is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its surrounding walls. We will take a few hours for a visit to Tashilunpo Gompa in the late afternoon or early morning. We stay at the Manasarovar Hotel in Shigatse, and head out for a good dinner and Lhasa beers in the evening.

'In the 19th century, the 'Tashi' or Panchen Lama had temporal power over Tashilhunpo Monastery and three small districts, though not over the town of Shigatse itself, which was administered by two Dzongpön (prefects) appointed from Lhasa. Before military conflict between the PRC's People's Liberation Army and the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan territory was divided into 53 prefecture districts called Dzongs. There were two Dzongpöns for every Dzong—a lama (Tse-dung) and a layman. They were entrusted with both civil and military powers and are equal in all respects, though subordinate to the generals and the Chinese Amban in military matters. However, there were only one or two Ambans representing the Chinese emperor residing in Lhasa, directing a little garrison, and their power installed since 1728, progressively declined to end-up as observer at the eve of their expulsion in 1912 by the 13th Dalai Lama. In 1952, shortly after the PRC sent forces to the region, Shigatse had a population of perhaps 12,000 people, making it the second largest city in Tibet.' - Wikipedia

Day 12 - Drive Shegar 4355m
We'll have to start early because of more 'speed controls' en route. We continue on a good, flat and relatively straight road past scenic Tibetan villages and through dusty Lhatse, the crossroads to sacred Mount Kailash in far western Tibet. We'll stop for a basic lunch in Lhatse, after which 1 1/2 - 2 hours of driving along the high plateau brings us to New Shegar, one of the gateways to Everest Base Camp (the other being Tingri).

In New Shegar, we stop for the night at the Tibetan-styled Snowland Hotel. If time permits we'll spend the afternoon exploring the fantastic ruins of Shegar fort, just 7 km down a small road and above traditional Shegar village. The views over the valley from the high walls of the ruins are sublime, a truly Tibetan scene.

Day 13 - Drive Zangmu 2250m
Our last day of driving in Tibet, we spend all of the day on a good road driving through stunning Tibetan landscapes with Himalayan vistas throughout the drive. After breakfast we're back on the Friendship Highway heading south towards the border of Nepal, driving on a good road through a wide, green valley. We reach (old) Tingri after 1-1 1/2 hours and will stop and hike up to an impressive viewpoint at the remains of an old garrison called Ganggar Ri with views of Everest, Cho Oyu and the Nangpa La route to the Khumbu region of Nepal.

Tingri is an atmospheric village composed of new and old Tingri, and including a Chinese Army post. Old Tingri, once called Ganggar, includes about 100 mud-brick houses crowded together below the hillside, very old Tibet in style, and worth a walk around for a glimpse of Tibetan village life. There are some real Tibetan characters roaming the streets doing business; or perhaps passing us on the street in their horse-carts or prayer-flag festooned tractors. The wild west of central Tibet!

Just past Tingri we pass the ruins of several large fortresses which guarded the trade route to Nepal and were destroyed in 18th century wars, and more ruins of monasteries and deserted villages. Further along the road to Shishapangma north base camp and to Kailash is sign-posted, and above are inspiring views along that road that passes Peiko Tso.

The first pass we crest is the Lalung La, 5124m and after a short scenic drop between we reach the Tong La 5200m (although often called other names). Here we stop to admire a Himalayan panorama that includes Shishapangma and Khambachen on the west (right) and a hard to recognize Gauri Shankar (Chomo Tseringma for Tibetans and Sherpas). We are standing on the geographic divide, although the main Himalayan mountain divide is further south.

The descent to Nyalam at 3650 meters takes a couple of hours, with Zangmu, at 2250 meters, another 1 1/2 hours further south. Along the way we'll pass both newly built and old white-washed Tibetan villages, and sometimes herders herding their flocks of sheep and goats or their yaks. This is one of the most impressive gorge roads in the world, a winding road through a green rainforest with waterfalls streaming over the road at points. It's a relief to reach the winding streets of Zangmu, a typical border town but perched precariously on a steep hill, making the most of its meager land allotment. We will stay at Zhangmu at the Zhangmu Hotel, the best in town ...

Day 14 - Drive Last Resort (Nepal) 1100m - Spa + New Year's Eve!
From Zangmu, it's a short drive to the Friendship Bridge which spans the Bhote Kosi River and marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control in Kodari where we will be met by our Nepalese staff and driven to the Last Resort, just half an hour south of the border past Tatopani (local hotsprings).

The Last Resort is a wonderful place to spend a night after the rigors of Tibet, truly tropical after the harsh Tibetan climate. It's a lovely Nepali-style tented resort with a sauna, plunge pool, massage room, big, leafy plans shading the canvas tents and an outdoor, bamboo dining area perfect for lively happy hours! Beers in the bamboo bar is the perfect way to wind down from the rigors of Tibet ...

We've included an in-house massage for the New Year in their spa, beautifully-set in The Last Resort's tropical environment. Enjoy, and then head into the stylish thatched restaurant and bar for a great New Year's Eve party!

Day 15 - Drive Kathmandu
Back into our private vehicle for the 4-5 hour drive to Kathmandu, a good way to get in some sightseeing in Nepal's semi-tropical valleys and middle hills! We'll be ready for our clean rooms, a change of clothes and a good, long, hot shower back at the Kathmandu Guest House.

Day 16 - Depart
We send you off to the Tribhuvan (Kathmandu) Airport for your flight home. We hope you had a wonderful journey in heart of Tibet, the roof of the world. Tashi Delek!

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

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