7 Days Photo Tour: The Cradle of Tibetan Civilization
This tour will take you to the birthplace of Tibetan culture. From these places Tibetan civilization as we know it emerged. We start our tour in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. In Lhasa, we will visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera and Drepung monasteries. After that, we will drive to Ganden monastery. It was established by Tsongkhapa. He wrote the famous religious work Lam Rim that became a foundation of the Gelug, the most wide-spread and influential order of Tibetan Buddhism with the Dalai Lama being its head.
After that, we will continue our journey to Yarlung Valley, the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Here, we will visit Yumbulakhang-the first building and fort, Samye -the first Buddhist monastery and Tradruk- one of the first temples.
Main Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung and Sera Monasteries, Ganden monastery, Tradruk Monastery, Yumbulakhang, Samye monastery
Duration: 7 days
Maximum Elevation: Ganden Monastery 4,300 meters/ 14,100 ft
Best Time to Travel: Year round
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 the 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. Remember, that Lhasa is located at 3,650 meters/ 12,000 ft above sea level and you will need some time to acclimatize.
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 Bakhor 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.
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.
More information about the Potala Palace andJokhang Temple
Day 3 – Lhasa city tour: Drepung and Sera Monasteries
We are visiting two most important monasteries in the capital.
First, we will visit Drepung monastery which once was the biggest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.
We have lunch after the visit.
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 trees to refine their knowledge.
Day 4 – Visiting Ganden Monastery and local Tibetan Village
Today we are visiting one of the most important monasteries in Tibet. We will drive approximately 40km/ 25 miles to Dagze County. The Ganden monastery is on the top of the Wangbur mountain at 4,300 meters/ 14,100 ft, from which you can get a splendid view on surrounding valley. It is the birthplace of the Gelug (commonly known as Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Lama Tsongkhapa founded Ganden in 1409. Since that time Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism became the most famous and influential. The head of Gelug school – Dalai Lama was a political and religious leader of the country.
After visiting Ganden monastery we will visit traditional nomad settlement. In the village you can see Tibetan nomad tents made of yak wool. Tibetan mastiff dogs guard these tents.
Day 5 – Driving from Lhasa to Tsedang. Visiting Trandruk Monastery and Yambulakhang
It takes approximately 4 hours to drive to Tsedang from Lhasa. We will make a stop on the way by the bank of Brahmaputra River.
After applying for the permit in Tsedang, we will visit Trandruk Monastery. The monastery is one of the oldest in Tibet, dating back to the 7th century. It was constructed at the same time as Jokhang temple, and the architectural design follows a similar pattern. The monastery houses an important ancient Tara embroidery made of 29,000 pearls.
In the afternoon we will visit Yumbulakhang, the oldest building in Tibet present nowadays and the first fort. It later became a monastery. However, its design is unique for Tibet.
Day 6 – Tsedang and Samye. Visiting the first Buddhist monastery built in Tibet
In the morning we will head towards the Samye monastery. It is the first monastery in Tibet. The monastery complex is designed in the shape of the mandala to resemble the structure of the universe.
After visiting the monastery, we will go up the Hepo Ri Hill, where centuries ago Padma Sambhava subdued the demons and helped to establish Buddhism in Tibet. From the hill, there is a splendid view on Samye, Brahmaputra river, and surrounding valley.
Day 7 – Departure from Samye
Today we are driving to the airport or train station. Samye is approximately 2,5 hours away from the airport and 4 hours away from the train station.