Arriving early can be a great way to begin unwinding, we will arrange airport transfer (included) and hotel, no problem. 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.
Your leader will meet you at the hotel and show you around Thamel, if you are not already familiar with it. Thamel is a mass of energy and chaos with a myriad banners, signs, pumping music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels. Normally we meet at Sam's bar over a drink before dinner.
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. Many trekkers are already familiar with Kathmandu so we match the sightseeing itinerary to what people haven't seen before.
Day 3 - fly Kathmandu 1350m to Lhasa 3660m
We check in early for the for the hour long flight to Tibet. This spectacular flight, on a China Airlines Boeing 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 45 minutes more to Lhasa via the new 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 vehicle.
Days 4, 5 and 6 - in Lhasa 3660m
Today will be spent visiting four of Lhasa's main sites, two each day, 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.
It 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.
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.
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.
During the 1921 expedition a madman attacked their camp stoves here.
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.
Day 10 - drive Everest Base Camp 5150m ~76km
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.
The Pang La and Everest center-right- Jamie
Days 11, 12 and 13 - Everest Base Camp 5150m
We rest here several days to acclimatize; it is important to be well acclimatized prior to trekking to Interim Camp. How often do you get a chance to sit and read and dine with the sheer north face of the highest mountain in the world towering above us. There are several possible day trips.
Day 14 - trek to Interim Camp 5760m
We begin in a dusty ablation valley with views of Pumori, Lingtren and even Nuptse then branch off up the East Rongbuk valley. The trail climbs moraine rubble. Nearby, the first ice seracs [ice pinnacles] rise like white sails from the dark debris-laden surface of the glacier.
Day 15 - Interim Camp 5760m
We spend a day here in the intermediate camp, resting to further acclimatize. This is another good chance to finish that book.
The trail is virtually always stony, but gets close to the ice (Anna and Philippe Gatta) - Jamie
Day 16 - trek to ABC 6340m
The Rongbuk Glacier is an impressive frozen ocean of ice waves; the views of the glacier and the Himalayan peaks are some of the most dramatic in Tibet. Along the middle moraine of the glacier is the trail that expeditions use to begin their climbs of Everest and this is the trail we are taking. About two hours above the Interim camp the central ridgeline leads in to a confused of ice at the confluence with the Changtse glacier, and this is Changtse Base Camp [5970m] which is sometimes called Camp 2; it was the 1920's and 1930's camp 2. The appropriately named Serac Highway continues to extend its unusual gravel arm trough the centre of the of the ice formations.
Rounding the corner, first Lhakpa Ri Base Camp comes into view, then eventually Everest ABC (The old "Camp 3"), and this last section is always tough.
Some water has spilled over the trail, we find a way around it - Jamie
Day 17 - ABC 6340m
A spare day, and if you do stay at ABC enjoy the expedition atmosphere!
Camp 3, the Advance Base Camp (ABC) for the North Col route up Everest, is situated within a group of flattened gravel mounds beside the glacier. The pinnacles, the frightening group of rock palisades that kept the Northeast Ridge unclimbed for so long, are just another 1500 metres up from camp 3. Most amazing of all is the ridge extending above the Pinnacles to the southwest: the striated rock summit of Everest. The top of this mountain appears phenomenally close; it is little more than 2400 metres higher than camp 3. This is the closest non-climbers can get to the top of Everest. With a pair of binoculars, you are almost there...
Day 18 - trek down to Base Camp
This is a LONG day's trekking down to Base Camp but to much lower, more comfortable altitudes.
Day 19 - drive Zhangmu 2400m
We normally take the rough, adventurous shortcut road to Tingri where we have lunch. Beyond Tingri are more views of Everest, Cho Oyu and other giants. Then we cross two high passes, the Lalung La (5124m) and the Shung La (5200m), rewarded with magnificent views, this time Menlungtse and Gauri Shankar, and to the right of the road is Shishapangma. Over the last pass we begin the long descent leaving the arid Tibetan Plateau into the magnificent gorge to Zhangmu.
Day 20 - drive Kathmandu
We switch vehicles and sides of the road as we cross from Tibet to Nepal. Once through immigration formalities we drive to Kathmandu which should take around 5 hours depending on road conditions. Then it's time to get cleaned up at the hotel, which has abundant hot water.
Day 21 - depart
Farewell. We take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had a fantastic trip, the journey of a lifetime.