Saga Dawa Kailash, Guge + Limi Humla Trek - Tibet

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saga Dawa Festival Mount Kailash, Tibet!

Our once-in-a-lifetime journey to Kailash begins in Lhasa, the exotic capital of Tibet, where we explore this history-laden city and its ancient gompas and palaces. We visit the resplendent gompa of Tashilhunpo in Shigatse and the ancient temples at Ganden before embarking on an epic cross-Tibet jeep expedition via the scenic southern route, thus seeing much of far-western Tibet and the Himalayan range en route.

The Kailash Kora, in the high plateaus of the Ngari region in western Tibet, is one of the most spectacular short treks in the Himalaya, crossing the Dolma La (5,600m) to erase the sins of a lifetime. We arrive at Kailash in time for the Saga Dawa festival during the full moon (of the fourth lunar month), the most important festival in western Tibet. Tibetans from all over the country flock to sacred Mount Kailash for the ritual raising of the prayer-flag pole, which foretell the yearly fortunes of the country. Saga Dawa is a carnival of Tibetan music, chants and Tibetan products brought to sell, an event not to be missed. Camping beneath the north face of Kailash, we complete the trek with a myriad of Tibetan pilgrims, coming from as far away as eastern Tibet to acquire merit for humanity. After the kora, we continue west past the sacred Manasarovar Lake to the third most important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists, Tirthapuri Gompa.

Next stop, a visit to the 10th century Guge Kingdom's Toling Gompa and Tsaparang, the remains of one of the oldest and most powerful civilizations in Tibet, which house some of the most significant murals and statues in Tibet, treasures of Buddhist art. And afterwards, a bit of exploration of the ancient Zhangzhung Kingdom or 'Garuda Valley' along the Sutlej River, where the crumbling troglodyte capital of Kyunglung is all that remains of a Bon-po Kingdom that ruled over most of Tibet, Ladakh and the neighboring regions for over a millennium in the pre-Christian era.

Finally we head to fabled Humla, the far west of Nepal, with an eleven-day trek to the Tibetan border through the remote Limi Valley, where the inhabitants of the upper reaches are Bhotias, of Tibetan descent. This wild, remote trek takes us deep into a region of unspoiled Nepal where the diverse culture reflects the Silk Route trade of olden times; old men with weathered, Central Asian faces, sitting smoking a hookah, dark, desert women of Rajasthani descent adorn themselves in mirrors and silver coins, Bhotias, in their turquoise, coral and amber necklaces and Tibetan 'chubas' worship in their Tibetan Buddhist Gompas and animism still is visible in many forms. In this swath of the Trans-Himalayan plateau, the mountain scenery is spectacular; the Saipal and Nalakankad ranges dominates the horizons, wild-life abounds and the ancient trade routes from the Terai, over the Himalayas into Tibet, are still an important part of the hearty inhabitants' lives. Tibetan culture exists in its pure form, untainted by the Chinese occupation which has affected much of Tibet.

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

Trip

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 -  Kathmandu
Day 3 -  Fly Lhasa. Drive Samye
Day 4 -  Drive Lhasa
Day 5 - Lhasa
Day 6 - Lhasa
Day 7 - Drive Gyantse
Day 8 -  Drive Shigatse
Day 9 -  Drive Saga
Day 10 - Drive Parayang
Day 11 - Drive Darchen
Day 12 - Trek Dira Puk
Day 13 - Trek Zutuk Puk | Cross Drolma La
Day 14 - Trek Tarboche
Day 15 - Saga Dawa Festival. Drive Tirthapuri
Day 16 - Kyunglung | Day Trip
Day 17 - Drive Tsaparang (Guge Kingdom)
Day 18 - Visit Tsaparang + Toling Gompa (Guge Kingdom)
Day 19 - Drive Purang
Day 20 - Drive Sher - Cross Border to Hilsa, Nepal - Trek Mane Peme
Day 21 - Trek Tiljung
Day 22 - Trek Halji
Day 23 - Trek Dzang
Day 24 - Trek Takchhe
Day 25 - Trek Talun (Limi) Camp
Day 26 - Trek Trongsa Khola
Day 27 - Trek Yakba Camp
Day 28 - Trek Dharapori
Day 29 - Trek Simikot
Day 30 - Fly Nepalgunj + Kathmandu
Day 31 - 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
+ Make sure you have reliable travel insurance as we are finishing the trek in Simikot during monsoon season. If we need to leave via helicopter because of dangerous monsoon conditions at the airport, everyone will be responsible for their portion of the helicopter evacuation.
+ We recommend scheduling an extra day in Kathmandu post-trek in case of delays out of Simikot.
+ Purchase travel insurance with helicopter evacuation!
+ Purchase trip cancellation + travel insurance!

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client Highlights
I reckon this was the most amazing trip I've been on with you. Clearly with all the major changes & glitches it had to be organised on the run at times so it was a tribute to you all that when problems arose you were able to work around them - the road accident in the valley, the Last Resort, your being ill, the long night drive, Tholing, Darchen, the weather etc, etc. As Pip & I have discussed if people want a trip when everything happens as planned it will be a straight up the Kali Gandaki to Lo and straight back down, a boring and uninteresting type of trip. You might as well just read a book and watch a DVD. I haven't done 4 trips with you because I want this type of trip!
  - Graham N (Australia), Kailash, Guge & Limi Humla Trek 2011

Trek Highlights

  • Limi Humla trek in far-west Nepal
  • Remote villages & nomadic settlements
  • Mount Kailash Kora
  • Saga Dawa festival at Kailash
  • Ngari and the nomads of western Tibet
  • Sacred Tirthapuri Gompa & Lake Manasarovar
  • Kyunglung (ancient Zhangzhung Kingdom)
  • The Guge Kingdom - Toling Gompa & Tsaparang
  • Jeep safari across Tibet with Himalayan vistas
  • Three full days in Lhasa
  • Shigatse & Gyantse
  • Exotic Kathmandu

Read More Testimonials
Trekker's Comments

Kim Bannister Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kamzang Journeys | Country + Regional Photos
Kamzang Journeys Photos

Kamzang Journeys Group Photos
Group Photos

Himalayan Photos
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Himalayan Bird Photos

Himalayan Flower Photos

Market + Street Food Photos
Asian Markets + Street Food

Travel Reading | Enhance Your Trip!
Travel Books

Date+Price

Dates
TBA
31 days

Trek Price
$tba

+ Single Upgrade Kathmandu Guest House - $75
+ Single Upgrade Tibet - $350
+ Max 12 bookings

Includes

  • Kathmandu Guest House 
  • Lhasa, Samye & Shigatse hotels (breakfast included)
  • Kathmandu-Nepalgunj & Nepalgunj-Simikot flights
  • Airport transfers & departure taxes
  • Group transportation by Landcruiser in Tibet
  • Tibet Permit
  • Humla Remote Area Permit
  • Entrance fees
  • Kamzang-Style Trekking:
    Marmot or Big Agnes tents (2x, or 3x for couples), delicious & copious 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri & herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with dhurri rugs, Crazy Creek camp chairs, blankets & the occasional music at night, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, horses, yaks or porters, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star staff & the signature yellow 'Kamzang Dining Tent', NO single supplement for single tents. And flexibility ...

Safety & Health Precautions | Included in Trek

  • Thuraya Satellite Phone
  • InReach Satellite Messaging System (Free Texts on Trek)
  • Updated Route Published on InReach Site
  • Helicopter Evacuation Services (excluding cost of evacuation)
  • Oxygen Saturation Monitoring System
  • PAC Bag (Portable Oxygen Chamber)
  • Full Medical Kit + Stretcher
  • Kayadyn Filtered Drinking Water
  • Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food + drinks

Excludes

  • International Flights
  • Travel Medical + Travel Insurance (both required)
  • Nepal Visa
  • Helicopter Evacuation
  • Meals (while not on trek)
  • 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 $300 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Tibet Contact
Tibet Kawajian Travel
Lobsang Dhardul

travellingtibet@yahoo.com
Mobile: +(86) 18076999966, +86 15289188887
Office: + (86) 891 6336565

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

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
hiking.guide@gmail.com
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

InReach Explorer
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
I will post InReach updates to our Kamzang Journeys Facebook page if friends & family want to follow our progress.

Satellite Phone
We carry a satellite phone with us for emergencies. Send us a free message at the online Thuraya link below. We can call you back or email you back. If you want a return call or email include your contact info. You can send this in two SMSs if needed.
Kim Satellite#1: +88216 (21277980) – Nepal
Kim Satellite #2: +88216 (21274092) – Tibet + India (2 choice Nepal + ONLY if permitted in Tibet + India)
Lhakpa Satellite: +88216 (87710076)
Thuraya

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Nepalgunj Hotel
Siddhartha Hotel (pool)
Single Upgrade - $40

Jomsom Hotel
Trekkers Lodge
Single Upgrade - $15

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 3 Nights
Garden Single - $75
Deluxe Single or Double - $240

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

Kathmandu Guest House | Room Prices
Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Kamzang Journeys | Room Prices
Standard Single - $55
Standard Double - $65
Garden Single - $75
Garden Double - $85
Deluxe Single - $135
Deluxe Double - $145

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!

Kathmandu
Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

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.
Nepal Visa

Health Information
Nepal Health Information
CDC

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Wicis-Sports Wearable Tech | Sports Package
Live personal heath stats via a wearable chest strap heart rate monitor.
Track your vitals (heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation), the weather, GPS locations, altitude, speed, bearing and stream LIVE via a Thuraya satellite hot spot. Partners: OCENS (weather), Global Rescue, Aspect Solar.

"Thuraya Telecom + WiCis Sports offer connectivity to Himalayan treks + expeditions"

"Founded in 2011 by Harvard and Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. Leo Montejo and located in the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s goal is to promote the use of mHealth and tracking devices to make adventure sports safer and engage their followers with real time data that is either private or also available to social medial platforms."

Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Medical
We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox, antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

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 ...

Arrival Kathmandu

Arrival
You will be met at the airport by the Kathmandu Guest House van or our Kamzang Journeys driver. Look for a sign with your name on it AND the Kathmandu Guest House sign. You will be driven to the Kathmandu Guest House (or the hotel of your choice) where your rooms have been booked for you. Kim will meet you at the Kathmandu Guest House to go over details and get you settled into Kathmandu.

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

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.
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
CIWEC

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

Gear

Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions! One 15 kg (33 lbs) maximum weight limit for the duffel bag for flights. 20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks.

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F | -30C recommended)
  • Air Mattress | Thermarest
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Crocs (evenings & washing) 

  • Trekking Pants
  • T-Shirts
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Wind & Rainproof Jacket & Pants (lightweight)
  • Thermal Top & Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks
  • Gloves (2 pairs, lightweight & heavier for passes)
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Down Booties
  • Camp Towel
  • Sunglasses (+ extra pair)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp (+ extra)
  • Yak Trax or Micro Spikes (small crampons, inquire per trek)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen (for daytime filtering)
  • Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
  • Laundry Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer (keep in daypack)
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for music, phones, tablets)
  • Books or Kindle
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes OR Chux (for washing)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops, online or in Kathmandu.

Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands available in Kathmandu are Sherpa Gear, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. I wear lots of Patagonia gear although it's not available in Kathmandu.

Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.

Tents
Everyone gets their own Marmot Thor 2 tent without a single supplement. Singles have a 2-person tent and couples share a larger, 3-person version.

Day Pack
We recommend a 35-45 liter day pack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your day pack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our day packs.

Water
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face-style duffels with Kamzang logos for sale, L & XL. They’re very good quality and come in Yellow (L) for $35, Orange (XL) for $40 or Orange (XS) for $30.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easiest for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu but it’s best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Kathmandu at the Kathmandu Guest House storage room free of charge. Valuables can be stored at the Kathmandu Guest House in private safety-deposit boxes for 2 NRP per day.

Shopping
Almost all gear is now available in Kathmandu, from real (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Sherpa, Marmot shops in Thamel) to inexpensive knock-offs. The real gear shops take credit cards.

Kailash, Guge+Humla

Kailash, Guge & Western Tibet
In the far west of Tibet, on the roof of the world, in the province of Ngari and the land of the ‘drokpas’ or nomads of the high plateaus, sits the legendary Mount Kailash (Kang Rimpoche) known to the Tibetans as ‘precious snow-peak’. Mount Kailash is the abode of Demchok, the wrathful manifestation of Buddha, to Tibetans and as the home of Shiva the destroyer to Hindus. Kailash is the most sacred mountain in Asia, venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and followers of the ancient Bon religion. Tibetan and Hindu pilgrims have been making the 53 kilometer kora of Kailash for centuries. This circumambulation, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus, and anti-clockwise followers of the ancient Bon religion, is said to erase the sins of a lifetime. To complete the Kailash pilgrimage one should bath in the sacred Lake Manasarovar, stunningly set on the Tibetan plateau and bordered by the majestic Gurla Mandata. Mount Kailash itself is 6714 meters high, and with its four sheer walls, distinctive snow-capped peak, and valleys peppered with brightly-clad Tibetan pilgrims, is an awe-inspiring sight. From it flow four great rivers of Asia: the Karnali (Ganges), the Indus, the Sutlej and the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), all of which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau.

Tirthapuri is the third most important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists, after sacred Lake Manasarovar, a magical site perched on a plateau above the Sutlej. Kyunglung is the ancient troglodyte capital of the powerful Kingdom of Zhangshung, set spectacularly on a hill surrounded by sculptural, fluted canyons along the Indus. This region is rarely visited by tourists and has no check-posts or entrance-guards, so a unique chance to explore the tunnels, caves and old habitations of this ghost city. The Guge Kingdom, further west, was founded by a son of the anti-Buddhist King Langdarma a millennium ago. Its ancient capitals, Tsaparang, and its important monastery, Toling Gompa, inspired by architecture from the Yarlung Dynasty, house some of the most important gompas and murals in the Tibetan Buddhist world, a look into an ancient civilization, now turned to dust ...

Humla & Western Nepal
Trekking into remote Limi Valley of Humla, we cross high passes and visit timeless villages and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, with fantastic views of the Saipal range and the sacred Takh and Changla Himalayas. Humla was once part of the Karnali region of Nepal under the powerful, pro-Buddhist Malla Dynasty which ruled much of Nepal from the 11th century, but is now one of the poorest, least privileged and most remote regions of Nepal with limited access, only a few months per year. The region is part of the 'Trans Himalayan plateau', a region of snow-peaks alternating with thick vegetation, high alpine meadows, glacially-fed lakes, large rivers and undulating hills, with a wealth of flora and fauna. Snow leopards still exist in some numbers in these isolated mountains.

The population is equally diverse, being a mix of Tibetan Buddhist, Khasa and Rajasthani descent. The Khasa are an Indo-Aryan tribe believed to have come from Persia. There is a distinctly Central Asia feel to Humla, giving it an exoticism not found in many mountain regions of Nepal. The higher inhabitants of Humla are Tibetans (Bhotias) sub-divided into five sub-sects (Limi, Nyinba, Tsangba, Yultshoden and Trugchulung), all practicing a medieval form of polyandry. The Bhotias were originally pastoralists and traders, but have become agriculturalists over the past few centuries as political disputes close and re-draw age-old boundaries. The Khasas of southern Humla practice polygamy, and come from the tropical areas of the south. Living along side the native Khasa are Bauns and Thakuris, descendents of desert tribes of Rajasthan, who fled to Humla during the Mogul invasions of the 14th century. They still maintaining many of their traditional customs, dress and language, and worship gods not even remembered today in Rajasthan. Today, the Thakuris are the dominant group in Humla having been the stronger group politically and militarily. They ruled Humla under the Kayla Confederacy until the Gorkhas conquered Humla and other regions in Western Tibet in the 18th century. There has been much interaction between the Bhotias of the north and the Khasas, Bauns and Thakuris of the south through the ancient trade routes, a practice that continues to this day.

Both of these regions, Humla and Ngari, have been dubbed the 'real' Shangri-La ...

Lhasa

UNESCO LIST OF SITES IN LHASA
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.

Integrity
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.

Authenticity                                         
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.

Lhasa
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.

Norbulingka
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.

Trip

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m/16,350'
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from Khumbu Adventures, Kamzang Journeys or the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked. Relax in their beautiful, newly expanded garden and recover from your jetlag.

Kim will meet you at the guest house and introduce you to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we 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 beer at New Orleans or another of Kathmandu's many cafes and restaurants.

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Morning meeting at 9:30 AM in the back garden of the Kathmandu Guest House. The day is free 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.

Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing | Optional Tours
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 3650m. Drive Samye
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 views. 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 afternoon puja and the wonderful evening light.

Day 4 - Drive Lhasa
We'll have the morning in Samye, returning the 250 km to Lhasa after lunch and another morning's visit to Samye Gompa. We check in to our Tibetan-run hotel, the New Yak. 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.

Let's explore and meet the Tibetans in December, without the hoards of tourists and under crisp, blue winter skies ... !

Days 5 + 6 - Lhasa
Drive to Lhasa after visiting Samye Gompa. 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.

The Jokhang is 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 Barkor, 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 and 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.

OPTION: Those wh0 want to can hire a jeep/bus for the day and visit Ganden or Samye Gompas. Ask Kim for options.

Day 7 - Drive Gyantse
Leaving Lhasa, the 'city of gods', we switchback up a pass 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 and goat by enterprising Tibetans ...

After switchbacking down the pass, we continue to drive through the fertile plain of the Nyang River valley, a traditional vingette around every corner. the fertile plain of the Nyang river valley. Once in Gyantse, we'll check into our hotel and head out to visit the sites.

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).

Day 8 - Drive Shigatse | via Gyantse 3900m
Leaving Lhasa, we switchback up a pass to overlook the turquoise Yamdrok Tso far below. Yamdrok Tso is one of the four holy lakes of Tibet, home to wrathful deities. We’ll stop at the 15th century Palkor Chode Monastery and the Kumbum Temple in Gyantse before continuing on to Shigatse. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet, with perhaps the best preserved but controversial monastery, the Tashilhunpo gompa. This Gelugpa gompa, home to 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 in the late afternoon or early morning before heading to Saga. We stay at a nice hotel in Shigatse, and head out for a good dinner and Lhasa beers in the evening.

Day 9 - Drive Saga 4600m
It will be a long, wonderful day of jeeping through the high plains of Tibet, soft, beautiful and photogenic. Just after arriving in the dusty truck stop of Lhatse, we’ll cross the Brahmaputra River, which originates from Kailash. The new roads are much better than they were, all paved, and our drive to Saga past lovely Tibetan villages where the spring planting will be in full force, is a scenic one. Saga is a somewhat industrial town so we’ll set up camp on the outskirts in a green meadow.

Day 10 - Drive Parayang 4750m
From Saga, we drive another 255 km west, shouting 'Ki ki so so, Lha gyalo' (roughly translated 'May the gods be victorious!') as we crest the passes marked with prayer flags and cairns; the first pass is the Laplung La (4565m) after which we pass through open grasslands of grazing yaks to reach Drongpa Tradung where we'll probably stop for lunch. At Tradung we'll have time to visit the old Sakya monastery built by Songsten Gampo up on a small hill, from where we'll be treated to vast, green vistas across the plateau. The panoramas are some of the most beautiful on our journey, with the high mountains bordering Nepal on our right, and pebbly streams, small lakes, small Tibetan villages and soft hills surrounding us. We traverse this amazing Tibetan landscape, crossing the Soge La, and the landscape gently transforms to a plateau of high, rolling sand dunes. There’s time to climb up to the wind-sculpted ridges and gaze over a bordering lake below a panorama of Himalayan peaks. Soon after the sand dunes, in a marshy region, we may spot the rare, migratory Black-necked cranes as they summer in Tibet.

The kids will be out at the camp sight to welcome us to our sand dunes campsite at Parayang, as will the village dogs! This is a wonderful spot to watch sunset and roll down the soft, dun-colored dunes with the village kids. Parayang is a small village of traditional mud-brick houses, small Tibetan tea-houses and several chortens and mani-walls; have a wander through the village!

Day 11 - Drive Darchen 4650m or Tarboche
Leaving lovely Parayang, we have an easy drive over the Mayum La and past Gunggyu Tso (lake) where we'll be likely to spot more Tibetan wildlife. Over a small cairn-topped pass and we spot sacred Lake Manasarovar, from which the snowy Gurla Mandata (7694m), the highest peak in Western Tibet, rises to the south. Tibetans call this peak Mapham Yumtsho, 'the unconquerable turquoise lake'. It is the source (nearly) of four of South Asia's greatest rivers which flow in four directions towards the sea. These are: the Senge Khabab ('river from the lion's mouth') to the north, the Tamchok Khabab ('river from the horse's mouth') to the east, the Mapcha Khabab ('the river from the peacock's mouth') to the south and the Langchen Khabab ('the river from the elephant's mouth) to the west. Translated into western names, it's the Indus, the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Karnali and the Sutlej respectively. Just to the west is and it's nemesis, Raksas Tal, the 'Demon Lake' . Lake Manasarovar is the second most sacred pilgrimage spot for Hindus, and those on pilgrimage will submerge themselves in this sacred lake and bring some in a plastic bottle back home with them. The clear lake is full of migratory birds, although quite swampy near the fly-infested shores. But sublime all the less! There is a sacred 'kora' around the lake, which takes Westerners about six days, Tibetans more like three. There are several gompas en route, including Chiu (Little Bird) Gompa.

We are headed for Darchen, the dusty village near Tarboche and the first stop before our ‘kora’ or circumambulation of Kailash. We'll have to spend the night in a hotel in Darchen, Chinese government regulations. Gary McCue aptly describes it in the second addition of his 'Trekking in Tibet': 'Darchen has been ... transformed into a pit of garage and broken glass, barking dogs, loud Chinese disco music and revving truck engines'. Still, as a pilgrimage destination there's plenty of people watching, and these days quite a bit of shopping as well ...

North of Darchen a paved, fairly new jeep road leads to Gyangdrag Gompa and afterwards to Selung (Serlung) Gompa, Kailash's first monastery.

Day 12 - Trek Dira-Puk 5160m
We meet our team of yaks and the local ‘drokpa’ yak drivers who will escort us around the kora, yak bells ringing. From Tarboche and Chuku Gompa, we follow the Lha Chu river through a serene, meadow-lined valley, hopping over small streams, the west face of Mount Kailash towering above us. The river enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Chuku Gompa is perched above the valley at 4780m. Pilgrims will be doing koras and rubbing parts of their body against worn areas of rock, shiny with butter, to start the kora off in an auspicious manner. Inside is a revered marble statue called Chuku Opame and a silver-inlaid conch shell with silver wings which was said to have flown here from afar, and a ‘trulku’, or reincarnated lama, resides in a cozy (but dung-smoke filled) room in the gompa. A blessing by the local lama is an extremely good start for the kora.

To the west of the Tarboche is the Chorten Kangnyi, and auspicious archway previously decorated with yak and sheep heads. Perched above Tarboche is the Sky Burial Site of 84 Mahasiddhas, a spot revered for once having been the burial site for lamas, and containing numerous sacred springs, cairns, and power places. Pilgrims lie down on a flat rock strewn with old clothes, bones, tsampa bowls and personal belongings and visualize their death.

Midway along the trek at the second prostration point the secret entranceway to the Inner Kora is visible to the right. One must complete 13 koras to enter inside. Continuing up the valley, the north face of Kailash comes into view just as we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-puk. There are two routes to the camp from the convergence of the valleys, and we have the choice of crossing a small moss bridge and following a small path to the gompa, which has awesome views of the north face of Kailash, or continuing on along the main trail. We camp opposite the river from the gompa, immediately below the massive north face of Kailash. Sunset on the north face of Kailash is magnificent ...

Day 13 - Trek Zutuk Puk Camp | Cross Drolma La
We now leave the Lha Chu Valley just as the sunrise turns the snow peaks gold and pink, and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards the 5,630 meter Drolma La. Although the altitude makes the trekking difficult, the masses of pilgrims performing their acts of devotion along the way are continuously intriguing. Those extremely devout pilgrims prostrate themselves the entire way around Kailash, kneeling down and extending their bodies and hands in front of them in prayer (and marking the beginning of the next prostration). The trail is lined with sacred sites: butter, coin & flag-covered rocks, rocks with footprints of saints, rocks to climb over, under or through, hillsides of discarded clothes as offerings and other significant sites. It's a tough climb to the prayer-flag festooned summit, but it’s all worth if from the top as juniper incense burns and thousands of colorful prayer flags send prayers out into the surrounding valleys. Below us lies the Lake of Compassion, Thukpe Dzingbu, one of the highest lakes in the world. We descend steeply, sometimes over snow but mostly on switchbacking trails, eventually reaching a group of teahouses on the Lham Chu (river) where we will stop for lunch on the grassy river banks.

We have another three hours of trekking along the grassy riverside with the Tibetan pilgrims, some prostrating, to reach our green campsite right on the river, a lovely spot. Have a wash in the icy stream and enjoy the afternoon!

Day 14 - Trek Tarboche
An hour of bright early morning trekking along a boulder-filled river brings us to Zutul-puk Gompa (4790m), with Milarepa’s meditation cave and imprints of his hand, food and head prints. A monk with a Polaroid sometimes takes photos of the Tibetan pilgrims in all their finery for 5 RMB. Afterwards, it’s an easy walk along some impressive gorges and around many mani stones and mani walls back to the Barka plains and dusty Darchen where our jeeps await us. The kora is finished - we’ve erased our sins, endured extremely cold nights and mornings, crossed one of the highest passes in the world, met countless fellow pilgrims, sent prayers of peace out to the world. Congratulations!

We'll spend the night at Tarboche by the prayer flag in preparation for the next day's festivities, but it will be full of action and color today, too! And tourists ...

Day 15 - Tarboche. Saga Dawa. Drive Tirthapuri 4550m
NOTE: We plan for Saga Dawa AFTER the kora to save on the pre-Saga Dawa insanity so will stay the morning of Saga Dawa at Tarboche and then drive to Tirthapuri afterwards.

This morning we gather with the hundreds of Tibetan pilgrims from the far reaches of Tibet, all having endured the long journey to Kailash by over-loaded truck, some by yak caravan, and the extremely devout few by full-body prostrations across the continent, some from as far away as Kham or Amdo. It is said to be a two year round trip by prostration from the eastern parts of Tibet to Kailash and back ...

The sacred prayer-pole will be ritually raised as it is every year, and the direction the pole tilts, if it tilts at all, will foretell the future of Tibet for the coming year. It is a very significant ceremony, and monks, lamas and Rimpoches will preside over the rituals. During the festival, there is plenty of shopping as a good Tibetan never misses an opportunity to make a sale, and products from all over Tibet are available. And after the ceremony, devout Tibetans will gather for a piece of wooden prayer-pole, a 'sacred relic'. This is a day for photos, so make sure you have plenty of memory cards and your battery fully charged. Bring small change for 'festival street-food' and prayer flags as well!

Good karma acquired all around, we pack up camp and drive along the beautiful bluffs, past Lake Manasarovar and the sacred peak of the Bonpos just to the west of Kailash, to the third most important site on our pilgrimage. Tirthapuri Gompa is spectacularly situated along the Sutej River. This gompa is revered as one of the sacred sites of Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and his consort Yeshe Tsogyel, who magically transported themselves through much of the Tibetan Buddhist world in the 8th century. The gompa acquired its name in the 11th century from the great Indian Buddhist scholar, Atisha. It is affiliated with Hemis Gompa in Ladakh, and was destroyed during Cultural Revolution, and subsequently rebuilt about 30 years ago. The footprints of Guru Rimpoche and Yeshe Tsogyel are displayed on a slab of granite within the dimly-lit gompa. Tiny, opaque calcium balls, believed to have powerful medicinal value, can be found along the plateau, and jet-black ravens and rainbows adorn this magical spot. There is a hot-springs 'complex' where you can wash off the grime of Tibet for a small fee just minutes from our campsite under the gompa complex.

Take an hour at sunset to walk the kora of Tirthapuri if you have energy left from the day ...

Day 16 - Drive Kyunglung | Day Trip
Leaving Tirthapuri, we head west to the spectacularly-set Bon-po Gurugyam Gompa, under fluted canyon walls next to the Sutlej river. Built into the cliffs, an ancient cave complex with tunnels, balconies, prayer flags and ancient artifacts mark the spot that Guru Rimpoche and the Bon-po masters meditated over a millennium ago, now used by the resident Rimpoche Lama. This is one of the most important Bongo monasteries in far west Tibet, the present gompa re-built after the Cultural Revolution, and a beautiful spot.

Continuing east, the magnificent Sutlej River is our guide as we follow the canyons to Kyunglung village and then the ruins of old Kyunglung, the ancient capital of the Zhangzhung Kingdom, which ruled over most of Tibet and neighboring Ladakh from the pre-Christian era onwards, a fabled troglodyte community. Set amidst spectacular red-sandstone canyons, these are relatively untouched ruins of one of Tibet's earliest cities, little visited by tourist of any nationality. The name means 'Garuda Valley', and the dzong on top is called Ngulkhar, which translates as 'Silver Castle of the Kings'; there is much mythology associated with the region, and the population was said to be between two and three thousand. Old paths lead up to crumbling cave-home with wooden doors, tunnels, old stone walls and mani walls. It's a wonderful day of exploring!

To get there, we cross the Sutlej near a large complex of hot springs and limestone deposits, and hike for about 20 minutes up to the ancient city.

Day 17 - Drive Tsaparang
It's a 300 km drive through wild country from Parayang towards Lake Manasarovar, the second most important pilgrimage sight for Tibetan Buddhists, formed in the mind of Brahma and which Tibetans refer to as Maphan Tso, 'the unconquerable lake'. We cross wide plains, shallow rivers and pass by a few local truck stops with makeshift teahouses and then climb the Mayum La, with magnificent mountain panoramas. Soon afterwards we’ll pass the stunning Mayum Tso (lake). The scenery along this section is some of the most beautiful of the entire journey, and a distant storm drifting in back of Tibetans, horses and sheep is a surreal sight.

Continuing further west, towards the magnificent Nanda Devi in Uttaranchal, India, we head to the Guge Kingdom. The landscapes of western Tibet are breathtaking, sublime, and we'll have plenty of opportunities to stop for photos. Continuing through historic Dongpo, Dawa and Mangang, we eventually reach the village of Tsaparang in the heart of the ancient the Guge Kingdom, where we stay at a charming local home stay for the night.

Day 18 - Visit Toling + Tsaparang
We have the day to visit 11th century Toling Gompa, the most important monastery in western Tibet in ancient times, and Tsaparang with its royal chapels, the ancient capital of the Guge Kingdom, both now resting silently in far Western Tibet, a fairytale scene of caves and passageways honeycombed into a ridge of ancient deposits. Guge was founded almost a thousand years ago by one of three sons of Lang Darma, the anti-Buddhist king. With its cave dwellings, crumbling Tibetan Buddhist gompas and stupas, exquisite murals, sculptures and stone inscriptions, the Guge Kingdom is a museum of the history of Western Tibet. White Palace, Red Palace, Yamantaka Chapel, Tara Chapel and Mandala Chapel are the major attractions, all historically linked with the Shakyamuni Buddha, King Songtsen Gampo and other historic figures.

Day 19 - Drive Purang (Taklakot) 3930m
Back over the same spectacular roads and passes that we crossed to get to Guge. The road is often straight as we cross the vast Tibetan plateau, watching for kyang and Tibetan gazelle. We'll drive past small Tibetan shops and teahouses, where the drivers will often stop for a drink, past Montser where Kim & Lhakpa stayed for four days years ago doing research for a film company, and again past Kailash. After another photo stop we continue below Darchen and make a sharp right turn, heading for Purang. The road passed through the isthmus between the holy Rakshas Tal and Manasarovar and crosses the Barka plain. After a somewhat long day of driving we'll reach Purang (the Tibetan name for Taklakot). Purang has a dual-personality; part military garrison and part large trading center for mountain Nepalis, Indians and Tibetans. Traditionally the Humli people of Humla came to barter or sell their rice and wood for cash and salt. Today, the trade is in more modern commodities!

We'll stay at a modern hotel in town, and have the rest of the afternoon to visit the bazaars, peopled Uigur Muslims and Chinese from all over China, as well as Tibetans and some Nepalis. On the west bank of the Map Chu (Karnali River) is a wonderfully scenic cave gompa called Gungpar, which translates as 'Fly to Heaven' according to Gary McCue. To get there you'll have to cross a small bridge to the old section of Purang and climb a bit to visit this 13th century gompa, a cave complex with mud-brick balconies connected by ladders, worth the effort if we have time.

There are also hot showers for a few dollars in town, wonderful and steamy ...

Day 20 - Drive Sher. Cross Border to Hilsa 3655m. Trek Mane Peme 3940m
We're back in the jeeps for one more short drive of an hour or so on a paved road, with a few checkpoints en route, much of it along the Humla Karnali. We cross a 4000 meter pass, through small Tibetan villages and past Moto Gompa, an important 13th century Sakya gompa at Khojarnath. We're passing through some of Tibet's most spectacular scenery as we drive directly towards Nepal and the Himalaya heading for the border. Keep your camera film hidden if you have any incriminating photos on the card.

At the border, we say goodbye to our Tibetan staff and pass through customs and an informal immigration, afterwards descending a steep hill and crossing the long suspension bridge to Hilsa, the Nepali side of the border. Here we'll meet our Tibetan contacts who have arranged our horses, horsemen and supplies for the trek down through the Limi Valley to Simikot. Hilsa is a small hamlet of shacks and a heli-pad peopled by Tibetans living over the border. Once across the bridge and into the land of 'namastes', we'll have lunch at our contact's local teashop before starting our trek into Humla. It won’t be a long day of trekking (4 hours or so) as we need to re-adjust supplies and pack the horses for the trek.

We've entered Nepal and the Limi valley; Limi means 'people of the confluence' and was settled over 800 years ago by Tibetans from Ngari in western Tibet. After lunch we'll start our steep climb out of Hilsa. It's a relentless and hot climb of 450 meters on a loose, scree trail which soon intersects another high trail coming from Sher. It will take us about 1 1/2 hours to reach the Ganda La (4100 meters), from where we'll stay high and contour, continuing to climb to yet another ridge with a small, stone doksa at a similar height to the last. Trekking along this dramatic cliff-side trail far above the Humla Karnali, we contour around several narrow valleys without a view of our campsite. We switchback down and suddenly arrive at our impossibly-set campsite, with a spring just in back and the main Humla trail across the river, high on the hillside. Welcome to our little paradise at Mane Peme!

Day 21 - Trek Tiljung 3580m
7-8 hours. We've got a slightly long and challenging day of trekking in front of us as we stay on the north side of the valley, high above the Humla Karnali. We'll hug the rock faces and climb on stone staircases, with continuous ascents and descents and good views throughout. We crest two small passes the first a ridge at 4150 meters, a green doksa called Namka, and the second at 4100 meters. Yak caravans going to and from Tibet from the village of Til camp here, and we'll probably pass a few en route. There is a steep and dramatic drop down to the gorge far below us and several dizzying rock outcroppings to the right of the trail. We'll have lunch somewhere near here, with views of the intersection of the Humla Karnali and the Limi Khola; the Humla Karnali veers south at this point. Fortified, we trek through prickly brush and drop down to another plateau with a large lama's chair; this is the intersection to Til village and our campsite along the river. It's been a long day so most of us will probably head to camp and have a wash in the cold stream.

Day 22 - Trek Halji 3720m
2-3 hours. We cross the river just leaving camp and have an easy, lovely river day reminiscent of parts of the Indian Himalaya until Hilsa. The trail passes through lazy groves of willows, rounded river rocks and grassy banks where redstarts flit from rock to rock. Note the amazing inclusions in the rock face across the river. We cross a small bridge to reach the marshy fields below Halji village, a lively village of 80 houses and a thousand year old Rinchin Zangpo monastery. Halji was devastated in a flood soon after we passed through in 2011; a glacial lake further up the valley burst and took away many of the houses, sadly. It's an interesting and lively village and we'll spend the afternoon exploring and talking with the local Limi Tibetans. We found interesting artifacts in the houses last year, and met a very informative girl doing research there. There is a phone is the village just in back of our campsite, which may or may not still be there!

Day 23 - Trek Dzang (Jang) 4120m
4 hours. We'll have an easy start along the Limi Khola, a river with a large volume of water passing through. Soon we climb on well built stone steps for approximately 75 meters to avoid the river, which hugs the rock-face at this point. It's a relatively flat walk past old fields. After about an hour we climb past rock cairns and continue contouring until we reach the rock 'doorway' leading to the fields of Dzang, also called Jang on maps. The school is just above the village trail once we pass through the kane chorten where we purify ourselves to enter the village. There is an old gompa with resident monks and lamas in the main village and a large prayer wheel in the village. We'll eat lunch in the house of one of the villagers and then continue on for another hour, along a newly built (Chinese) road, to our lovely camp at the hot springs of Dzang. Take advantage of these piping hot spouts just on the other side of camp ...

Day 24 - Trek Takchhe 4235m
5 hours. We start our hike walking along the grassy river bank to avoid the new road, and after half an hour reach an open plateau with Tibetan doksas and an old mani wall. After a bit of socializing with the Tibetan doksa inhabitants we continue along the riverside, rounding the corner through a swampy section of trail. A large rock face is to our left and just past here is another interesting doksa with Tibetan tents and grungy kids. Staying on the dirt road for a bit, we climb over a small hill and see the shop of Tholing next to a grassy area. We'll probably stop here for lunch, and can pick up Chinese beers for sundowner if we want. The next section of trail is flat, but soon climbing on the new road for twenty minutes. We're now following Takchhe Khola (river) and heading slightly north. We descend from these headlands , cross a small bridge and see camp just across the river from another set of doksas. The campsite is grassy, a great spot for relaxing in the afternoon or going to visit the nomadic settlements ...

Day 25 - Trek Talun or Phering Phu 4420m
5 hours. We have a stunning day of trekking in front of us today, starting with a river crossing about an hour after camp; have sandals or thick socks with you. Heading in back of camp to another grassy campsite used by locals, we pass through the ruins of an old village and its now abandoned fields. Our guide, Karma, told us that all the inhabitants died of the plague (from eating marmots) over 700 years ago. It certainly has some atmosphere and was a large village at one point. Once past yet another small campsite we climb on a sandy trail to a small crest and viewpoint over a dry lake bed with a large, water filled lake in the distance, fed by a network of small, snaking streams. We cross the river, which comes from a glacier to our left, and then hike through a grassy section of lakeside where yaks graze and Ruddy Shellducks float nearby in the lake. We'll continue to trek along the left bank of the lake, with several small ascents and descents, and then drop back to the river on the far end of the lake. Passing more yaks, the valley widens and the landscape is now completely different then the first few days of trekking in the Limi Valley. This is true Tibetan border region. We follow the small stream and intersect the road from where we start to climb through a lovely, green landscape studded with lichen covered rocks, and after jumping the small stream a few times and passing through large, boulder filled regions finally reach camp in a grassy valley either at Talun or Phering Phu. Camp is on a grassy plateau which drops off seemingly into nothing; tomorrow's pass is just ahead of us.

Day 26 - Trek Tronsa Khola | Cross Nyalu La
8 hours. We're right below the pass so head right up nearly 700 meters, a brisk climb with rewarding views down-valley from the crest of the prayer-flag strewn Nyalu La. After a good rest at the top, perhaps hanging some 'lung ta' of our own, we descend through a beautiful, green valley colored with flowers and filled with small lakes. After a first, steep descent the going is easier and we're able to enjoy our idyllic surroundings. Contouring around one lake, we'll stop for lunch somewhere on a grassy area. More descending brings us to a Tibetan settlement and a bridge over an intersecting river. The Limi Tibetans are camped out here building the new road, or were in 2011. From here it's more lovely walking, still descending, through groves of budding Himalayan Birches and grassy fields to our somewhat oddly situated camp at Trongsa Khola, just past a semi-permanent Tibetan doksa. Have a wash in the briskly refreshing stream and put your feet up; it's been a long day of trekking ...

Day 27 - Trek Yakba Camp 2790m
Two high passes await us today as we head for remote, Botia Yakpa camp near Yakba village where some of our yak men come from. This is an exploratory day for us, crossing another pass into a new valley which is said to be amazingly beautiful. It will be a long-ish day but a great one and we'll find a good campsite in the valley near Yakba village. We camped on the other side of Yakba in 2011, approaching it from the main Humla valley on a remote side trip ...

Day 28 - Trek to Dharapori
Details to come!

Day 29 - Trek Simikot
Finally we're headed to Simikot, the district headquarters of the Humla region and site of the airport on a now-paved airstrip. Make sure you've got good travel insurance in case early monsoon rains keep us here for a few days. Simikot is an old Chettri village; the name means 'Court above the Beans'. Four hundred years ago a Thakuri prince ruled the Kalyal confederacy and this was his capital. The women wear 'chobundi' shirts, necklaces of old, silver coins, large, rounded bronze earrings and nose rings. The fields are full of buckwheat and wheat, two of their staples.

This day will also be partially exploratory as we leave Yakba and contour high towards Simikot. We'll spot the district headquarters from high above, and drop down to this lively village. We'll set up camp on the lawn of a nice guest house, where people are free to get rooms if they like. We might eat indoors, and certainly well-deserved beers will be available! We'll have our tips night tonight, thanking the hard-working staff for all of their help throughout this amazing journey.

Day 30 - Fly Nepalgunj + Kathmandu
It's a fantastic flight through narrow valleys and past terraced fields from Simikot to Nepalgunj, in the steamy terai at the border of India. That is, if the weather cooperates! We'll continue onto a connecting flight to Kathmandu, even more spectacular as we fly past the western Nepal Himalaya. We'll arrive in Kathmandu late afternoon, in time for a shower and dinner out at Yak & Yeti!

Day 31 - Trip Ends
Farewell! We take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had a wonderful trip into the heart of Tibet on the roof of the world, the journey of a lifetime!

Notes 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.

Everest Heli Tours

Everest Helicopter Tour Kwondge | Dinner Sunset over Everest - Yeti Mountain Home
An epic option for an extra day in the Khumbu region. Sunset sdnner + sunrise breakfast overlooking some of the best Himalayan views on the planet! Board your private helicopter from Namche for the quick flight to Kwongde YMH, and enjoy lunch overlooking this vast panorama of peaks. Views include some of the highest peaks on the planet, including Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Gyajung Khang (the higest peak under 8000m) and the majestic Ama Dambam. From the YMH lodge you can look down on Kwonde Lake, generally hidden, and up the awe inspiring Khumbu valley. The Kwongde YMH is a 'boutique' lodge, one of the world's highest hotels.
+ Price Per Helicopter - Namche to Namche ($1800)
+ Max 4 Passengers
+ Price Per Person Yeti Mountain Home - Breakfast + Dinner ($175)
+ Single Supplement ($75)

Everest Mountain Helicopter Sightseeing Tour | Namche to Namche | Lukla, Everest Base Camp, Cho La Pass (Gokyo Valley), Renjo La Pass (Thame Valley) + Namche
A once in a lifetime helicopter tour of the Everest region's spectacular peaks, glaciers and Himalayan passes! The helicopter pick you up in Namche Bazaar, from where you will fly over the Khumbu Glacier and to Everest Base Camp and the sublime Everest ice fall. You will have a chance to stop on Kala Pattar for photos of this spectacular setting! Back in the helicopters, your flight path takes you over Dzongla Lake, the glaciated Cho La pass and into the stunningly beautiful Gokyo valley, flying low over the turquoise Gokyo Lake, with another touh down to splash some sacred lake on yourself before crossing the Renjo La pass to the traditional Thame valley, the old trade route to Tibet. Your epic helicopter tour will finish back in Namche Bazaar.
+ Price Per Helicopter ($2750)
+ Max 4 Passengers

Everest Mountain Epic Sightseeing Tour | Kathmandu to Kathmandu | Lukla, Everest Base Camp, Cho La Pass (Gokyo Valley) + Namche
The full deal, all the way from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp + much more! A once in a lifetime helicopter tour of the Everest region's spectacular peaks, glaciers and Himalayan passes! Your private helicopter pick you up at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, from where you will fly up to the fabled Tenzin Norgay airport in Lukla. After a cup of tea in Lukla, you will reboard you helicopter and fly over the Khumbu Glacier and to Everest Base Camp and the sublime Everest ice fall. You will have the unique chance to stop at Everest Base camp for photos of this spectacular setting!

Back in the helicopters, your flight path takes you over beautiful Dzongla Lake, the glaciated Cho La pass and into the stunningly beautiful Gokyo valley, flying low over the turquoise Gokyo Lake and down the Gokyo Valley. Your epic helicopter continues by flying back over Namche Bazaar, and back through Nepal's lush middle hills to Kathmandu.
+ Price Per Helicopter ($5000)
+ Max 4 Passengers

Kathmandu Tours

Kathmandu | Bhaktapur  Sightseeing Tour
One more day in Kathmandu, with a sightseeing excursion by private vehicle to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur which translates as 'Place of Devotees’ and is also known as Bhadgaon, is an ancient Newar city approximately 15 kilometers east of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is one of three ancient capitals of the Kathmandu valley, the capital of the Newar Kingdom and a city of artisans and craftspeople famous for its art and architecture: intricate carvings, sculptures, paintings, thankas, pottery, statues and temples, or pagodas. Bhaktapur has a well-preserved ‘durbar square’, or palace square, and has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of its incredible temples, pagodas, wood carvings, stone carvings and metalwork. Bhaktapur is also famous for its yogurt, called curd in Asia, a taste which hasn’t been duplicated anywhere.

Spend a full day exploring Bhaktapur and its rich cultural heritage, where a majority of enthnic Newaris live in traditional ways, and life seems to stand still. There are many great restaurants and cafes to rejuvenate, and it's possibly the best spot in Kathmandu for purchasing a thanka after watching the technique, as well as shopping for endless other locally produced crafts. Bhaktapur is home to countless local festivals, so if you are lucky and arrive on a festival day, enjoy the timeless and colorful events unfold.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Bhaktapur (+$100)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Patan Sightseeing Tour
Visit the third of Kathmandu's ancient capitals, known as 'The City of Fine Arts', best if you have an extra day in hand as Patan is also rich in cultural heritage, has many lovely roof-top cafes for lunch and world-class museums. Some of the highlights of Patan are its Durbar Square, the Krishna Temple within the palace complex of Patan (entirely made of stone, with 21 distinctive spires), and Hiranya Varna Mahavir, or the Golden Buddha Temple.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Patan (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | World Heritage Sightseeing Tour
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.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
+ Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Everest Sightseeing Flight
An hour long extravaganza of the world's 8000 meter peaks, including airport transfers. (+$270)

Everest Sightseeing Helicopter Tour
Inquire for prices + options. Cost per helicopter.

Shivapuri Heights Cottages
A wonderful get away 20 km north of Kathmandu, Shivapuri Heights Cottages are stylishly designed and personal cottages built around a 'common house', where you can breakfast overlooking the stunningly beautiful Kathmandu valley. Massages available on request. (+$Inquire for Options)

Cycling Trip Kathmandu Valley
Many options for day trips, or extended trips, in the Kathmandu Valley. We can customize a cycling trip for you in partnership with one of our knowledgeable partners in Kathmandu. (+$Inquire for Option)

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!

Birds

 

Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

Signup for our Newsletter kimkim Add me to Skype  Facebook  Blog        Kamzang Youtube  Tripadvisor Kamzang Contact Informations