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This is immersion! On our 21 day adventure we trek from Simikot in Western Nepal to Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar for the Saga Dawa festival. Then explore Western and Central Tibet as we travel overland to Lhasa.

Departure: Kathmandu
Duration: 21 Days
Best season: Late May
Grade: Moderate - Demanding

Mt. Kailash is said to be the centre of a geographic mandala, with points in the surrounding landscape, stretching for hundreds of kilometres, corresponding to spiritual concepts.

Simikot, in Far Western Nepal’s Humla District, is one of the world’s most remote regions and is the starting point of our trek into the ‘Kailash Mandala’. We travel along ancient pilgrimage routes and trading links, trekking across the border into Tibet to Mt Kailash, the sacred Lake Manasarovar, representing purity and Lake Rakshas Tal, representing power.

We then have the chance to witness the Saga Dawa Festival, held once a year during the full moon (of the fourth lunar month) and the most important festival in western Tibet. Tibetans from all over the country flock to Mt Kailash for the ritual raising of a prayer-flag pole, which foretells the fortunes of the country for the next year. Saga Dawa is a carnival of Tibetan music, chants and Tibetan products brought to sell, an event not to be missed.

We complete this incredible experience by joining the pilgrims and circumambulating the holy Mt. Kailash, washing away the sins of a lifetime and enjoying one of the most stunning walks on the planet.

After a truly incredible Kailash immersion, we'll travel on overland through Tibet’s amazing landscape exploring Lhatse, Gyantse, Shigatse and, finally, the Forbidden City of Lhasa.

BRIEF ITINERARY

Day 01: Fly from Kathmandu (1300m) to Nepalgunj (150m)
Day 02: Fly to Simikot and trek to Dharapari (2400m)
Day 03: Trek to Kermi and hot springs! (2690m)
Day 04: Trek to Yalbang and visit Yalbang Monastery (2900m)
Day 05: Trek to Tumkot (2950m)
Day 06: Trek to Thado Dhunga (4100m)
Day 07: Rest day in Thado Dhunga for acclimatisation
Day 08: Trek over Nara Pass (4500m) and drive to Purang (4000m)
Day 09: Drive to Chiu Monastery and Manasarovar Lake (4550m)
Day 10: Drive to Tarboche at Mt.Kailash (4750m)
Day 11: Tarboche for Saga Dawa (4750m)
Day 12: Trek to Dirphuk Gompa (4890m)
Day 13: Trek over Dolma La to Zutul Puk (4790m)
Day 14: Trek to Darchen and drive to Paryang (4750m)
Day 15: Drive to Saga (4450m)
Day 16: Drive to Lhatse (3990m)
Day 17: Drive to Shigatse (3900m) sightseeing
Day 18: Drive to Gyantse (3950m) sightseeing
Day 19: Drive to Lhasa (3650m)
Day 20: Lhasa: Sera Monastery, Norbulingka, Jorkang, the Barkor
Day 20: Lhasa: the Potala Palace and Drepong  Monastery
Day 21: Drive to Lhasa airport and fly to Kathmandu (1300m)

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 01: Fly from Kathmandu (1300m) to Nepalgunj (150m)
This morning we take a flight to Nepalganj, on the southern border of Nepal. Nepalganj is hot, flat and completely different from the usual perception of Nepal as a mountainous country! It is home to a diverse population who have migrated here for farming, business or study. We will spend the night here before flying up to Simikot to commence our trek tomorrow morning.

Day 02-08: Nepalganj to Purang (4000m)!
These two towns could not be more different! Nepalganj on the Nepali southern plains is lush and hot, while Purang in far western Tibetan is 4000m above sea level and surrounded by snow capped mountains!

To commence our trek we fly into the remote hill town of Simikot (2910m) in Nepal’s Far Western Humla district. Getting all our gear together we trek for about 4 hours to Dharapari (2400m) where we make camp for the night. During the next 6 days we trek past hot springs at Kermi, visit Yalbang Monastery, alternating between following the Karnali River valley and crossing several passes on our way to the Tibetan border at Zher.

This is a stunning trek, with traditional cultures and architecture like you’ve never experienced in Nepal or Tibet. The landscape is simply magnificent as we make our way into Tibet. From the border we take jeeps to Purang, also known as Taklakot (4000m).

Day 09: Drive to Chiu Monastery and Manasarovar Lake (4550m)
Today we drive for about 3 hours to the Toyo villages and, with views to the stunning Mt Kailash, we pass between the fearsome Rakshas Tal and sacred Lake Manasarovar. The two lakes are linked by a channel called Ganga-chu. On rare occasions, water flows through this channel from Lake Manasarovar to Rakshas Tal; this is said to angur well for the Tibetan people. The two bodies of water are associated with the conjoined sun and moon, a powerful symbol of Tantric Buddhism.

Lake Manasarvoar is the highest freshwater lake in the world, it covers an area of 412 square kilometres and has a maximum depth of 70 metres. This stunning sacred lake sits in a basin between Mt Kailash and Gurla Mandata, it is a truly awesome location for our camp tonight.

We base ourselves at the picturesque Chiu Monastery, on the northwestern shore of the lake, enjoying this fabulous location atop a craggy hill overlooking the turquoise Lake Manasarovar. There are hot-springs behind the monastery, it is respected as a holy and pure bathing place.

Day 10: More Hot Springs, drive to Tarboche at Mt.Kailash (4750m)
This morning we set off towards Mt Kailash for Tarboche, the base for the Saga Dawa festival tomorrow and the starting point of our kora around Mt Kailash.
Tarboche is marked by a tall flagpole adorned with thousands of multi-colored prayer flags and kata scarves strung out in radiating lines from the pole.

Day 11: Tarboche for Saga Dawa
Today we have the chance to witness the Saga Dawa Festival, held once a year during the full moon (of the fourth lunar month) and the most important festival in western Tibet. In 2009 the Saga Dawa festival falls in June 6th.

Tibetans from all over the country flock to Mt Kailash for the ritual raising of a prayer-flag pole, which foretells the fortunes of the country for the next year. Saga Dawa is a carnival of Tibetan music, chants and Tibetan products brought to sell, an event not to be missed.

Day 12: Trek to Dirphuk Gompa (4890m)
This morning we meet our team of yaks and Tibetan yak drivers who will escort us around the kora. From Tarboche, we walk up the Lha Chu Valley through beautiful green meadows and streams with Mt Kailash towering above us. We follow the beautiful turquoise river which enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Continuing up the valley, the north face of Kailash comes into view before we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-puk

Day 13: Trek over Dolma La to Zutul Puk (4790m)
We now leave the Lha Chu Valley and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards a high pass, the Drolma La (5630m) which is the highest point in our trek. It's a tough climb to the summit which is festooned with prayer flags but from there it is all downhill or flat to Zutul-puk, with views of one of the highest lakes in the world, the breathtaking Thukpe Dzingbu Lake, known as the Lake of Compassion.

Our trail descends to the flat fields of Zutul-Puk which houses a monastery and several fascinating caves. These caves are popular for meditation, with Milarepa’s cave being one of them with Milarepa’s footprints and elbow prints believed to be imprinted in its walls. We camp tonight at Zutul-Puk.

Day 14: Trek to Darchen and drive to Paryang (4750m)
This morning we have an easy walk along some impressive gorges and around many mani stones and mani walls, with magnificent views of Mt Kailash along the way. We then enter the Bharka plain and it's about an hour's walk through this desert-like landscape to Darchen.

Our kora is finished – we have erased our sins, endured cold nights and mornings, crossed one of the highest passes in the world and met countless fellow pilgrims along the way. So we bid the sacred lakes and holy mountain farewell as we head back east to Paryang. The scenery along this section is some of the most beautiful of the entire journey, with Tibetans, horses, yaks and sheep against the background of the Himalayas.

Day 15-19: Drive to Lhasa (3650m)
Our overland journey through central Tibet is a fascinating change to cover some serious ground and experience the vastness of the Tibetan landscape. We spent our first night at Saga (4450m), continuing on to Lhatse (3990m) the next day. The following day we reach Shigatse (3900m), Tibet’s second largest city, where we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, formerly home of the Panchen Lama and still one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet. Next stop is Gyantse (3950m) and a time to explore the Pelkor Chode Monastery and, of course, the famous Kumbum. The Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals.

Our final day overland sees us cross the Karo La at 4690m, from which we have the awesome sight of a huge glacier tumbling down towards the road. Descending the pass we wind around the banks of the stunning turquoise lake the stunning Yamdrok Tso for about 20km, before we cross the Khamba La (4700m) and continue on into Lhasa (3650m). We have arrived in the Forbidden City!

Day 20: Lhasa: Sera monastery, Nobulingka, Jokhang, Barkor
Today we can immerse ourselves in this amazing city – the heart and soul of Tibet! Our sightseeing will be accompanied by a guide and interpreter and we will visit the Sera Monastery, one of the best-preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within its whitewashed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study.

After lunch we'll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, followed by the Jokhang Temple. This temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet and there is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor - a maze of narrow cobbled streets, which is the central market of Lhasa. This is truly fascinating stuff and you will be mesmerised by the energy and feel of this area of Lhasa.

Day 20: Lhasa: Potala Palace and Drepung Monastery
No visit to Tibet could be complete without visiting the Potala Palace. A spectacular building, it literally dominates the skyline of Lhasa. It contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as numerous grand staterooms 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.

After lunch we will visit the Drepung Monastery which was founded in the 14th century. This monastery was once the largest in the world, with a population of around 10,000 monks! These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.

Day 21: Drive to Lhasa airport and fly to Kathmandu (1300m)
We bid farewell to Lhasa this morning and take an early 2 hour drive to the Gonggar Airport for our flight back to Kathmandu.

This is a truly awesome flight, as any crossing of the Himalayan Range should be! It takes two hours and is without doubt one of the most spectacular commercial flights in the world. Our flight path takes us just east of Mt Everest before circling to the south where the entire Himalayan Range from Makalu to the Annapurnas can be appreciated.

This flight is a fitting end to our Tibetan journey and we have a final evening to celebrate our adventure in Kathmandu.

 

 

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