The entrance of the ancient and historic Jokhang Gompa - Jamie

Will you see Everest?

This is the question that I get asked the most, and the answer is yes.

Many people are aware that the monsoon buffets up against the Himalaya from approximately the middle of June to the middle or end of September. In fact for the month before the monsoon hits, and for the month after it has officially receded, the weather patterns are similar, so the following applies to virtually the whole time that we run trips; the monsoon washes over Tibet sometimes bringing brief showers of rain and lots of cloud but mostly the main Himalayan chain stops the real monsoon from reaching Tibet.

Tibet is mostly fine for the whole year and it is very rare for it to be covered in thick cloud, rather big, fluffy clouds often form in the afternoon. Sometimes these obscure views but often they don't, merely add to the whole panorama. On the trip there are four opportunities to see Everest. First when driving off the main road you cross the Pang La where there is a magnificent Himalayan panorama including a stunning view of Everest. Normally you cross this in the afternoon so there is only a reasonable chance of catching the view. Then you stay the night at Rongbuk and the next morning walk or take a horse cart up to Everest Base Camp, which is about 8 kilometres away. Mostly it is fine in the morning so you have a very good chance of seeing Everest from here. Then after Base Camp you drive over the Pang La again to Tingri, and have another chance of seeing while crossing the pass. Then at Tingri as you leave the next morning you can see Everest and Cho Oyu from the road, although they are not as impressive from this far away. So there are many opportunities and you will have to be very unlucky not to see it, no matter what month you visit.

Conditions

This is an adventurous holiday. You are heading to high altitude, and this fact should not be taken lightly, and hence our two days in Kathmandu prior. In the cities we stay in well located three-star hotels, but in the towns and villages the hotels are rough and basic. In some places there are good restaurants, and others the choices are fairly basic but usually your guide will help you order.

There is no trekking on this tour, but there is plenty of walking. You should be moderately fit, at least.

We have tried our best to make this a comprehensive, comfortable and well organized tour. There are no corners cut in doing this but it is definitely not a five star tour.

Acclimatization

Please consult your doctor or travel doctor. Heavy smokers should not join. The higher you go, the less air there is, at Lhasa (3600m) there is roughly two thirds of the oxygen compared to sea level. Your body can adapt to this but takes several days to do so. We suggest that you take Diamox (Acetazolamide), a drug that helps you acclimatize - ask your doctor though. It is best to begin 24 hours prior to arriving at altitude and continue taking it for at least 24 hours after arriving, and many people will be better taking it until they reach Everest base camp.

Hotels

For Lhasa we use good hotels that are well located. Similarly the hotels in Gyantse and Shigatse are reasonable, and from there standards get progressively worse! At Rongbuk it is basic, laughably so. Tourism in Tibet is now booming so we have to use a wider range of hotels than previously, and a wider variety of standards.

Winter tours

Traveling in Tibet in winter is pleasant because there are few other tourists. Most definitely it is much colder but you are in heated vehicles and hotels. During the day you need a good jacket, preferably a down jacket to keep warm but with the sun shining it is normally pleasant enough. The evenings are extremely cold, requiring hat and gloves and some sort of insulated pants. Please ask about our winter departures.

Political warning

Note that Tibet is normally closed during March but opens in April.

Tibet is a sensitive province of China and as such can be closed to foreigners without notice, and you should have insurance that covers this. We want you to have a holiday all the same and in the case of Tibet not opening we can arrange for a trek-climb in Nepal. The trips will be priced according to standard rates for treks with a local leader (not just a sirdar), plus any Lhasa flight cancellation charges we suffer. I 99% sure it won't come to this, but this is the backup plan...

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a tablet or laptop browser.

Detailed itinerary

We begin the in Kathmandu to have the visa and permits issued then fly to Lhasa, stay three full days for better acclimatization then drive to Rongbuk and Everest Base Camp. After some acclimatization we trek up to Everest ABC, sometimes called Camp 3 at 6340m, and after a couple more days acclimatizing then we climb up to the North Col at just over 7000m on a day trip, then trek out and drive onto Kathmandu.

Early arrival

Arriving early can be a great way to begin unwinding, we will arrange airport transfer (included) and hotel (extra). In particular, we recommend arriving a day early and therefore having an extra night in Kathmandu as part of acclimatization preparation before flying to Lhasa.

Day 1 - arrive Kathmandu

You must arrive this day or earlier. You’ll be met at the airport, look for a Project Himalaya signboard with your name on it.

Our office staff will show you around Thamel.

We collect your passports ready for processing the Chinese visa tomorrow, and discuss how to acclimatize for Lhasa.

Day 2 - Kathmandu

Today we’ll explore the sights of Kathmandu and the valley with a good local guide.

Day 3 - fly Kathmandu 1350m to Lhasa 3660m

We check in early for the for the hour long flight to Tibet. This spectacular flight taking us right across the main Himalayan range with magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is 45 minutes more to Lhasa via the tunnel. It's advisable to rest or take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa's altitude.

Note that in the past the rough roads in Tibet necessitated travelling in Landcruisers, now with good roads we will travel in a good vehicle suitable for the group size. This could be Landcruisers, could be the surprisingly comfortable Ford Transit Van (which is faster than a Landcruiser) or another suitable, high quality vehicle.

Days 4, 5 and 6 - in Lhasa 3660m

These days will be spent visiting four of Lhasa's main sites in the company of a guide-interpreter. The order is decided by the guide.

We visit Sera Monastery or Drepung Monastery, both are the best preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within their white-washed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study.

Norbulingka is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, a quiet place of gardens and a pleasant house with impressive murals of Tibetan history and beliefs.

The Jokhang (temple) is the most sacred shrine in Tibet and on public days there is a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. This is the real Tibet as it was and is usually a highlight of the trip. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor - a maze of narrow cobbled streets which is the central market of Lhasa and since our hotel is close to this you can wander around any time.

The Potala is the icon of Tibet, with its eighth wonder architecture, and dominates the city of Lhasa. A spectacular building, it contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as 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.

The Potala is also extremely busy. Once past the ticket office and thru the main courtyard, from that point you might only be allowed one hour for the interior, you guide will explain the latest rules. You do have plenty of time prior to the point, however.

You have more time available so can arrange with the guide and drive for an extra charge to visit Ganden or similar.

Day 7 - drive Shigatse 3900m ~250 km

We drive to Shigatse, arriving in time for a late lunch. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and Tashilhunpo Monastary is the seat of the Panchen Lama, often considered the second most important Rinpoche after the Dalai Lama. Tashilhunpo Monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls.

Tashi Lunpo monastery

Day 8 - drive Shegar 4350m ~244km

We continue along the Friendship Highway. Beyond the small town of Lhatse we cross the highest pass on our journey, the Gyamtso La, 5220m. From here we descend to some of the most spectacular panoramas of the drive.

Travelling in comfort

Day 9 - Shegar 4350m

This is a rest and acclimatization day. The best day trip is to walk or drive to the new town of Shegar and climb to the monastery and past that to the top of the fort.

Climbing above Shegar on a day trip

Day 10 - drive Rongbuk 5000m or base camp tea houses ~75km

Shortly after leaving Shegar, we turn off the Friendship Highway and head south over the Pang La 5150m towards the main Himalayan range. The view from the top is incredible with uninterrupted views stretching from Makalu to Shishapangma, and including Everest. Below the pass, Everest initially is hidden from view, but as we turn the corner into the upper Rongbuk Valley it reappears, more impressive than ever.

Everest cruising

The Pang La with Everest distant center-right

Day 11 - Base camp then drive Zhangmu (2300m) 246km

This morning we see Everest Base Camp, 5150m. The base camp itself is dry and barren, but the views of Everest more than compensate for this. It is a truly awe-inspiring place with the sheer north face of the highest mountain in the world towering above us.

Everest from Rongbuk

No vehicles, except for Everest expeditions, are allowed beyond the teahouse camp so you can walk the 8kms or take a horse cart that will cost $3-5 per person. After lunch, we return to the Friendship Highway and drive to Zhangmu, crossing two high passes, the Lalung La 5124m and the Shung La 5200m. Once more we are rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks of Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, Menlungtse and Gauri Shankar.

We descend from the arid Tibetan Plateau to Zhangmu on the Nepalese border. After Tibet, it appears an incredibly lush and green town. We overnight here.

Driving along the Friendship Highway with Everest as the backdrop - Jamie

Day 12 - drive Zhangmu - Kodari - Kathmandu (1400m) 123km

From Zhangmu we drive a few kilometres to the Friendship Bridge which spans the Bhote Kosi River and marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control in Kodari where we will be met by our Nepalese staff. After completing the re-entry formalities we continue the drive to Kathmandu which, depending on road and weather conditions, should take about 5 hours.

Occasionally the road between the Nepali and Chinese border posts becomes impassable; this is often the case in late July and August. In that case your luggage will be carried by porters for what is sometimes a 4km walk. Our border staff will arrange everything, but you will have to pay extra.

Day 13 - depart

We take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had a fantastic trip, the journey of a lifetime.

We hope you had a great trip!