Western Tibet: Kailash and Guge Kingdom
Day 1 – Arrival in Lhasa
You arrive at the Lhasa Gonggar Airport or the train station. The airport is 62 km/ 39 miles away from the city, and it takes approximately one hour to get to the hotel from there. On the way to Lhasa, you will enjoy beautiful views of mountains. The train station is located in Lhasa, and you will only need a short transfer to the hotel.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you might have some free time to spend in Lhasa. Our guides will be happy to advise you on what you can do with your time in Lhasa. After you check in the hotel, you are welcome to explore the city, visit nearby temples, do some shopping, try delicious Tibetan food in one of the local restaurants, or just take a rest.
Walking around Barkhor Street can be an excellent choice for your first day in Lhasa. You will join crowds of pilgrims, local Tibetans, and monks circumambulating the Jokhang Temple.
Most importantly, on your first day in Tibet, be sure to relax, enjoy your day and allow some time for acclimatizing. As the tour takes you to some of the highest areas in Tibet (trekking around Kailash reaches 5,640 meters), you need extra time to prepare for the journey.
Day 2 – Lhasa city tour: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple
This tour visits the two most important religious sites in Tibet.
The Potala Palace was the seat of the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century. First, the guide will take you to the Chak Pori Hill to take photos of the majestic Palace. We will then go inside and spend approximately 1.5 – 2 hours there. While there, you will see many of its most famous artifacts.
There will be free time for lunch after visiting the Potala Palace. .
Time permitting, you can walk around the Potala Palace and join many of the local Tibetans.
Next, we will walk towards the Jokhang Temple. It was built in the 7th century to display the Jowo Shakyamuni Statue – the statue of the 12-year-old Buddha before his enlightenment. The statue was created at the time when the historical Buddha lived. It is elaborately decorated with gold, jewels, and precious stones.
After visiting the temple, we recommend taking a walk around Bakhor Street.
Day 3 – Lhasa city tour: Drepung and Sera Monasteries
We are visiting the two most important monasteries in the capital.
We will first visit Drepung Monastery, which once was the largest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.
There will be free time for lunch after the Drepung Monastery.
In the afternoon we are visiting Sera Monastery. It was founded by Tsongkhapa’s disciple in the 15th century. Nowadays it is famous for monks debate that you can witness. Debates are a very important part of learning and understanding Buddhism. Monks gather in the courtyard in the shade of the trees to refine their knowledge.
Day 4 – Driving to Shigatse: Yamdrok lake and glaciers.
Today we will travel on some of the most beautiful roads in Tibet on our drive to Shigatse.
Be prepared to take photos of the breathtaking views as we go up to the highest point of the day – Kamba La Pass (almost 4,800 meters / 15,750 ft).
Our next stop will be at the Yamdrok Lake. It is one of the holy lakes in Tibet, and it is famous for its turquoise colored water.
After that, we will head towards Gyantse. On the way there, we will make a stop to see the spectacular glaciers.
In Gyantse, we will visit the Pelkor Chode monastery and Kumbum – the biggest stupa in Tibet.
Finally, we will reach Shigatse late in the evening and stay there overnight.
Day 5 – Driving to the Everest Base Camp: night by the Everest.
In the morning we will visit Tashilumpo Monastery, the seat of Panchen Lamas.
After that we will be driving through high mountain ranges, go through several high passes and Everest view points. We will reach tent camp near the Everest Base Camp in the evening.
Depending on the traffic and weather conditions, we might have time to visit the Rongbuk Monastery – the highest monastery in the world. There is a meditation cave there, dating back to the 7th century, where Padma Sambhava meditated. We will stay there for a few quiet moments to relax after a long day.
We will stay in the tent for the night. You can order dinner and breakfast there as there is an English menu available.
Day 6 – Driving from EBC to Saga
On the way to Saga, we will see the Phelku Tso lake surrounded by snow peaked mountains. You can also see Shishapangma mountain, one of the mountains above 8,000 meters (8027 m).
After that, we are driving up to the high pass to get the view of the grasslands.
We arrive at Saga in the evening to have dinner and check into the hotel.
Day 7 – Saga to Darchen, via Lake Manasarover
On the way to the Manasarovar lake, we visit the 7th-century local temple. We will also stop at the desert area filled with sand dunes (an unexpected change of landscape!).
We will see the Rakshas-Tal lake. It has a very beautiful bright color, but it is so salty that it is called the “dead lake”.
After a short stop with a view on Manasarovar lake, we are driving to Darchen.
From Darchen you can see the Southern side of Mount Kailash. In Darchen we will pack for the 3-day trek, and we are leaving everything else in the hotel.
There is a company in Darchen that can arrange porters if needed for some fee.
Staying in the hotel (a hot shower is available for a fee).
Day 8 – Trek, 1st day: Darchen-Dira Puk (20km/ 12.4 miles)
We will start our trek very early in the morning. We will be walking around the Kailash in a clockwise direction. From Darchen we will head west towards the area with the main prayer poll and the sky burial place. It is the area where Tibetans celebrate the Saga Dawa Festival, commemorating the day of Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment, and death.
Later we will reach the first tea shop on the trek where we will stop for lunch.
In the afternoon we will continue to the Dira Puk Monastery and stop there for the night (at a guesthouse). From the guesthouse you will get a spectacular view of the north face of the Kailash Mountain.
Day 9 – Trek 2nd day: Dira Puk – Zultiul Puk (22 km/ 13.6 miles)
On the second day we will start the trek very early to go through the highest pass. First we will walk to the tea house to have breakfast and prepare for crossing the pass. After we are done eating, we will start ascending the pass. The Dolma La Pass is 5,630 meters/ 18,600 ft. high.
Once you reach it, you can see the stunning views of the mountains and the lakes below. There are many colorful prayer flags that people hang there to spread their prayers with every gust of wind.
On the way down, we will cross the river and continue to the next tea shop for lunch and a short break.
After that, we will walk to the Zutiul Puk Monastery where we will be staying overnight (in a guesthouse).
Day 10 – Trek 3rd day: Zultiul Puk-Darchen (14 km/ 8.7 miles)
Today will be our shortest and easiest day. We will be walking through a gorgeous valley following the mountain river. Throughout the day we will see the east side of Mt. Kailash.
We will be staying overnight in the hotel in Darchen. (A hot shower available for an additional fee).
Day 11: Darchen – Tsada: Guge Kingdom and Torling Monastery
It is about an eight-hour driving from Darchen to zanda, though the distance is only about 253km. After several hours of zigzagging down and up fantastically eroded gorges and gullies, we enter wider Sutlej Valley and finally reach Zanda after crossing a bridge. Tsamda county is the current name for the region and was known as Guge kingdom. The capital of the county is located at Toling. Toling monastery, founded by Richen zangpo in the 10th century, was once Ngari’s most important monastic complex. It was due to the influence of Richen Zangpo that Toling became the main religious centre of Guge kingdom after inviting the great Indian master ATISHA. The kings of Guge replaced the city as a political centre of power by establishing capital slightly closer to the Indo-Tibetan trade routes. But the monastery is still an important cultural heritage of Ngari.
Stay overnight in Tsada
Day 12: Sightseeing at Guge Kingdom
In the morning, we drive to Tsaparang (Guge Kingdom, 23km), and drive back to Tholing by the evening. Guge Kingdom is one of the first important cultural relic sites under protection, the grand palace ruins stand on a 300-meter tall yellow earth hill on the banks of the Xiangquang River in the Tsabrang District.
Stay overnight at Zhada( Guest House, dorm bed)
Day 13: Drive to Manasarovor (290 Km):Tirthapuri hot-spring
Drive from Zhada to Manasarovor. The rest of the day is at leisure. You can relax around the lake shore and experience the natural beauty of the lake. In summer, flocks of swans will gather on the lake, bringing grace and life to the area. You can also see so many Tibetans and Hindus praying and circling around the lake shore for the whole day, snow capped mountains on the background and hundreds of swans gathering on the lake, attracting hundreds and thousands of tourists from all over the world.
Stay overnight at Chiu Monastery (Guest house, dorm bed)
Day 14: Lake Manasarovar-Paryang-Saga (506km, 7-8hrs driving)
In the morning, we will leave Manasarovar lake and start driving back to Saga.
First, we will drive approximately 4 hours to Parayang. From there you can enjoy the view on the mountains in the distance, yaks herds. Sometimes, we can spot wild donkeys or antelopes grazing in the grasslands.
After lunch we continue to Saga. We are driving through vast grasslands, where many nomads set up their tents.
We are staying overnight in Saga hotel.
Day 15: Saga to Shigatse (470km)
We can take western Tibet road from Shigatse to Saga. Through it is quite a long driving, and the newly paved road can help us drive faster and safer.
Stay overnight in hotels in Shigatse
Day 16: Shigatse-Lhasa (280km)
We will follow Yarlong Valley back to Lhasa. On the way, you can stand on the viewing platform to view the vast Yalong River bed and visit water mill making Tibetan incense material (in Summer, if time permits). Drop off at hotel in Lhasa
Stay overnight in hotels in Lhasa
Day 17: Airport/ train station drop off
Please prepare in advance for your departure. It takes approximately one hour to drive to the airport and around thirty minutes to reach the train station. We will arrive at the airport three hours before your departure flight if you are traveling to Nepal and two hours before any domestic flight.
What is Included
Included in Your Tour Cost
- All necessary Travel Permits to travel in Tibet
- All accommodations based on double occupancy. Contact us for a quote on a single room supplement
- Breakfast in hotel
- Assistance with your Chinese visa application
- Airport pick up and drop off
- Ground transportation in a clean and comfortable vehicle or taxi
- English speaking Tibetan guide
- All entrance fees, tickets to the attraction sites and monasteries outlined in the itinerary
Not Included in Tour Cost
- Passport and Chinese visa fees
- International airfare to and from China or Nepal
- Photography fees inside monasteries
- Flight or train tickets to Tibet
- Lunch and dinner
- Travel insurance
- Medical expenses
- Tips for guides and drivers
- Personal expenses: laundry, shopping, phone calls, etc.
Tours you might like
A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok lake and Karola glaciers.
Both group and private tours are available
This private tour takes you from Lhasa to Yarlung Valley and Samye Monastery. Yarlung valley is the birthplace of Tibetan civilization. You can see Yumbulakhang, an ancient fort and the first surviving building in Tibet. After that you will visit Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
This tour starts in Lhasa. We will stay there for 2 days to explore the capital and acclimatize. After that we will head to the center of attraction in Himalayas – Mount Everest. We will spend a night by the highest mountain on a planet and continue driving through majestic mountain ranges, alongside rivers and waterfalls to the border between Tibet and Nepal.
Preparing for the Trip
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Lhasa altitude?
Lhasa is located at 3,650 meters/ 11,450 ft. Although the altitude is not very high compared to other Tibetan territories, you might experience some mild effects of altitude sickness.
Can I walk freely in Lhasa by myself or the guide has to accompany me all the time?
You can walk in the city by yourself. However, you need a guide to visit most of the historical and religious places, such as Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace.
What types of accommodations are available in Lhasa?
There is a wide range of hotels in Lhasa. You will find everything from 3 to 5-star hotels.
Does anybody speak English?
Aside from your guide and maybe a few hotel workers, almost no one speaks English. Most of Tibetans know some Chinese. There are a few signs in English in the central part of the city, and many popular restaurants offer English menu.