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Lhasa & Everest Base Camp
15 day Tibet overland tour by 4 wheel drive
Kathmandu - Lhasa - Gyantse - Shigatse - Everest Base Camp - Kathmandu
With an average altitude in excess of 3500m, Tibet can truly be described as the roof of the world. Lying to the north of the great Himalayan range which separates it from its neighbours India, Nepal and Bhutan, much of the country is high-altitude desert. With its spectacular mountain scenery and rich Buddhist culture, Tibet is a remarkable place to visit.
On this trip we drive the Friendship Highway through some of the most amazing landscape on Earth. We pass small Tibetan settlements, nomadic herdsmen wandering across the wide arid plains and awe-inspiring mountain peaks. Equally as fascinating is the wealth of cultural interest and we will have plenty of opportunity to explore this side of Tibet, both in Lhasa and the other towns we pass through on our journey to Kathmandu.
We begin in Kathmandu with sightseeing then fly to Lhasa, spending 4 nights there staying right in the centre of the old city. This will allow both plenty of time for acclimatization and for visiting the city's main attractions - the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple. Leaving Lhasa in our Toyota Landcruiser 4 wheel drives, we'll travel through this amazing country, staying in the best traditional hotels Tibet has to offer. In the towns of Gyantse and Shigatse we explore further monasteries and fully immerse ourselves in the Buddhist culture.
Without doubt, a highlight of this trip is the visit to Everest Base Camp, where the sheer grandeur of Everest's north face has to be seen to be believed. Inspiring landscapes and mountain views combined with its rich Buddhist history and culture, make visiting Tibet a truly unforgettable experience.
Day -1 Arrive Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu. You’ll be met at the airport by a representative from Explore Himalaya so look out for a sign with your name on it. If, for some strange reason, the Explore Himalaya staff aren't there, either contact us or take a taxi to the hotel.
Jamie will meet you at the hotel and introduce you to Thamel.
Day 2 - Kathmandu
We explore the sights of Kathmandu and the valley (opens in a new window) with a good local guide. In the late afternoon we can sort out any equipment that you need.
Day 3 - Fly Kathmandu (1400m) - Lhasa (3660m)
Morning transfer to the airport for the hour long flight to Tibet. This spectacular flight takes us right across the main Himalayan range and provides us with magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a further 2 hour drive by Landcruiser to Lhasa where we will check in to the hotel. It's advisable to rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa's altitude.
Day 4 - in Lhasa
Today will be spent visiting several of Lhasa's many monasteries in the company of a guide-interpreter. One of these is the Sera Monastery, one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within it's white-washed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study.
After lunch we'll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as well as the Jokhang Temple. This temple is 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.
Day 5 - in Lhasa
This morning we visit the Potala Palace which 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.
A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe-inspiring day. 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 6 - in Lhasa
A final day in Lhasa for acclimatization. This is a day at leisure in which we are free to explore further, revisit a favourite monastery or simply sit in a café overlooking the Barkor and watch the pilgrims as they circumambulate the Jokhang, stopping regularly to peruse the merchandise at the stalls lining the route.
There is also the option of an additional tour to places such as the Tibetan Medical Centre, Ganden Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery, for extra costs.
Day 7 - drive Lhasa - Gyantse (3950m) 261 km
Today we start our overland journey towards Kathmandu. Travelling by Landcruiser along the Friendship Highway we cross the Khamba La (4794m) from which there are stunning views across the waters of Yamdrok-tso (lake) to the snowy summit of Nazin Kang Sa 7252m. We continue westwards over another high pass, the Karo La 5045m, where we are treated to the spectacular sight of a huge glacier tumbling down to within a few hundred metres of the road. After passing through beautiful valleys and colourful Tibetan villages we arrive in the town of Gyantse. Our overnight accommodation is at the Gyantse Hotel.
Day 8 - drive Gyantse - Shigatse (3900m) 90km
Before leaving Gyantse we have time this morning to visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating from the 14th century from which there are amazing views of both Gyantse itself and the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley. The Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals.
We then continue on to Shigatse, a short drive of only 90kms, arriving in time for lunch. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and after exploring the local market we will make a detailed visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery. This monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls. Our overnight accommodation will be at either Shigatse Hotel or Shandong Mansion.
Day 9 - drive Shigatse - Shegar (New Tingri: 4050m) 244km
Today we continue along the Friendship Highway, marvelling once more at the barren yet spectacular landscape of Tibet. Beyond the small town of Lhatse we cross the highest pass on our journey, the Gyamtso La, 5220m. From here we descend to the plains, passing lonely monasteries and the camps of nomadic herders, en route to Shegar and our overnight accommodation at Hotel Quomolongma (the Everest Hotel).
Day 10 - drive Shegar - Rongbuk (5000m) 68km
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. Below the pass, Everest initially is hidden from view, but as we turn the corner into the Rongbuk Valley it reappears, more impressive than ever. We stay overnight at the Gompa Guest House.
Day 11 - drive Rongbuk - Tingri (4350m) 65km
This morning we have the opportunity to explore 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.
No vehicles tour vehicles, apart from expeditions, are allowed beyond Rongbuk so you can walk the 9kms or take a horse cart that will cost $3-5 per person.
After lunch, we return to the Friendship Highway and drive to Tingri where we will stay overnight at the Snow Leopard Lodge.
Day 12 - drive Tingri - Zhangmu (2300m) 181km
Leaving Tingri, we cross another 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.
Now we begin our descent from the arid Tibetan Plateau to Zhangmu on the Nepalese border. After Tibet, it appears an incredibly lush and green town and we stay overnight at the Zhangmu Friendship Hotel.
Day 13 - 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 14 - Kathmandu
A free day in Kathmandu to do some more exploring with a bit of shopping thrown in, of course.
Day 15 - Depart
It has been an amazing trip in Tibet and Nepal. We take you to the airport for you flight home. Tashi Delek!
Although this sounds like a standard tour, it is an adventurous holiday. Normally all our trips run smoothly, but there may be some difficulties along the way.
The Friendship Highway between Lhasa and Kathmandu is approx 920km, with most of it being a dirt road between Shigatse and the border. At times become quite rough so for this reason we use Landcruiser 4WDs. These vehicles are reliable and will make the journey as comfortable as possible.
Throughout your time in Tibet you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable Tibetan guide who will not only act as an interpreter but will also provide a valuable insight into the Tibetan way of life. Meals will either be in the hotel or at a restaurant of your choice [where available]. Whilst on the road, lunch will be at one of the many Chinese teashops along the way, which generally serve a variety of Chinese noodle and vegetable dishes and meat where available.