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4WD Drive to the Deep of Tibet:
Mt. Kailashi Trekking and Guge Kingdom Ruin

Mount Kailash is perhaps the most sacred of Holy Mountains in Tibet. Together with the two lakes of Mansorovar and Rakas Tal, the region is one of the few truly natural wonders of the World. Three of the Orient's greatest rivers; The Yaluzhangbu, The Mekom, and The Indus, all take their source within a hundred kilometres of this 'snow capped jewel' which has attracted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bonpos from the four corners of Asia for centuries. This tour also include the fascinating sites of Tsada in the ancient kingdom of Guge. These 11th Century city-states offer one an extraordinary journey back in time. It is noted for its fine frescoes which the kings of Guge commissioned the finest artists in Kashmir to paint, while both sites promise absolutely breathtaking scenery as we cross the Lhadak Range into the Sandstone canyon of the Sutlej River.

Highlights:

• This tour will take you to the wild western portions of Tibet, where life goes on much like it has for hundreds of years. This area of Tibet is largely unknown to most tourists, but you will have the pleasure of discovering it for yourself
• You will get to explore Mt. Kailash, one of the holiest sites in Tibet and one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. It is the tallest mountain in the world to never be climbed, due to its religious significance
• Tour the ruins of the Guge Kingdom, the ancient ruling house of the Tibet region
• Throughout the tour you will have knowledgeable local English-speaking guides with you, so you will get the best tips and advice on your excursions

ITINERARY

Day 1 Arrive in Lhasa (by air) (D)

You will fly to Gongga airport and arrive in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (the altitude is 3680m). Upon arrival, you’ll be met by your English-speaking guide, and you’ll be driven into the city, which takes about 1.5 hours. After lunch, we recommend that you rest and take it easy the rest of the day in order to get our body acclimated to the sharp change in altitude and environment. You will spend the night in the Lhasa Hotel, and you will have a special welcoming dinner in order to get you ready for the journey ahead.

Day 2 Lhasa (B, L)

Today will be a full day of touring the best sights in Lhasa. After breakfast, we will go to the Potala Palace, which is the most renowned highlight of Lhasa. The world famous Potala Palace is located on Moburi (Red) Mountain, to the west of old Lhasa. It is a huge treasure house of materials and articles from Tibetan history, religion, culture and art. The palace is widely known for the precious sculptures, murals, scriptures, Buddha statues, murals, antiques, and religious jewelry housed within. They are of great cultural and artistic value. In 1994, the Potala Palace was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was originally built in the 640s, during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo of Tibet. The Potala has been a sacred place for hundreds of years. Thousands of pilgrims from Tibet, other parts of China and abroad come every year to pay homage. Their devotion is shown by the difficult journeys they have to make to reach “the City of the Gods".

Our next stop will be at the Jokhnag Temple. Located in the center of old Lhasa city, Jokhang Monastery is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) Branch of Tibetan Buddhism. It was originally built in 647 AD. It is said the site was chosen personally by the wife of King Songtsan Gampo, the Tang Princess Wen Cheng. The princess perceived Wutang, a lake in Lhasa, to be a “devil’s heart”, a source of evil, and had it filled in and the temple built on the site to counteract evil forces. It was built by craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal and thus features different architectural styles. Jokhang means "House of Buddha". Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.

A short walk from the Jokhang Temple is the Barkhor Bazaar. The Barkhor (pilgrims’ circuit) is found in the heart of Lhasa encircling the Jokhang Temple. It is the earliest remaining street in Lhasa. It bustles with activity and is always jam-packed with traders and hawkers. It is a "must" for souvenir-hunting tourists. Many people call the Barkhor "the window of Tibet" as it exhibits a typical Tibetan life. The old circumambulation circuit is always crowded with pilgrims from everywhere. Some are monks, and some are businessmen from Kham, a region encompassing East Tibet and part of Sichuan Province. Here you will find people from all over Tibet. You can experience different styles of dress and languages. Even the similar-looking clothes of the monks vary depending on the different branches of Buddhism they practice.

The rest of your evening can be spent further exploring the old city center of Lhasa, and your night will be spent at the same hotel as before.

Day 3 Lhasa (B, L)

Today will be our second day further exploring Lhasa, a city that has captured the hearts and imaginations of adventurers and dreamers all over the world. Our first stop will be at the Sera Monastery, the last of the three principal Gelupka, or Yellow Hat, Buddhist monasteries to be built in Lhasa. Sera has been listed as one of the China's National Cultural Relics since 1982. Sera comprises a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections. It once housed nearly 10,000 monks, and is proud of its glorious history during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Sera means hailstone in Tibetan, and legend tells that it hailed during the foundation of this famous monastery.

Next will head on over the Drepung Monastery. Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the first of the three principle monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism. Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, Buddhism is the branch followed by most Tibetans, and the most influential figure in this faith is the Dalai Lama. Drepung Monastery used to be the living quarters of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama between 1645 and 1694. Drepung was listed as a national cultural relic in 1982.

In the afternoon we will get to visit Norbulingka, Tibet’s Summer Palace. Norbulingka was built in 1755 and became the place where the successors of the seventh Dalai Lama dealt with affairs, held celebrations, spent the hot season, rested and conducted religious activities. In mid-March every year, the Dalai Lama would move here from the Potala Palace, and stay until the end of October, when he would return to the Potala Palace. So, Norbulingka is called the Summer Palace and the Potala Palace the Winter Palace. The garden covers an area of 46 acres (19 hectares) and the palace has 370 rooms of different sizes. In the garden visitors can worship Buddha, relax and study the Tibetan-style palaces.

In the evening we will have a brief meeting where we will discuss our upcoming adventure through Tibet.

Day 4 Lhasa-Gyantse-Shigatse (380km/236miles of driving) (B, L, D)

Today will mostly be a driving day, as we will make the trip to Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. The drive will be anything but dull though, as we’ll stop for a quick visit at Yamdrok Lake, one of three sacred lakes in Tibet and is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams.

Then we’ll stop at the Karola Glacier before going to Gyantse to see the Baiju Monastery. As a notable Tibetan monastery, it is different from others in structural style. It is the one that blends three sects of Tibetan Buddhism: the Sakyapa Sect, the Kadampa Sect and the Gelugpa Sect. It is reputed as the best of the stupas in Tibet on the grounds that it is in the complete preservation since its establishment.

By the late afternoon we will arrive in Shigatse, and we’ll get some food and supplies there for our upcoming trip. You will spend the evening in the 3 star Shigatse Hotel, or in accommodation of similar repute.

Day 5 Shigatse-Lhaze (B, L, D)

After breakfast in the hotel we will drive on to Lhaze in order to visit the Sakya Monastery. Sakya Monastery is located on the southern slope of the Nyima Mountain to the west of the Shigatse city. It represents the Tibetan super architecture art in the Last Tibetan spirit. The monastery attracts thousands of Buddhists and tourists from domestic and abroad to travel and worship every year. Driving on the road far away from Shigatse, from the west city you can see the gold roof of Tashilunpo Monastery shinning under the sunshine. Experiencing five centuries, it still maintains the magnificent vigor. Tashilhunpo Monastery (meaning auspicious) is one of the Six Big Monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in China and the biggest Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhism monastery in back Tibet area. Also called the Heap of Glory, the monastery is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara's Mountain), Shigatse.

We will then take a break from staying a hotel and instead opt for a tent, and camp out on the outskirts of town for the evening.

Day 6 Lhaze to Saga (B, L, D)

Starting with our drive from Lhaze, the roads become a lot more rugged and primitive. Also the air will gradually become much more thinner, the land even more breathtakingly beautiful, and the skies even more blue, as we move away from the more populous area of Tibet.

Our destination, Saga, meaning “happiness”, straddles the Dargye Tsangpo river above its junction with the Brahmaputra River. It is strategically located at the junction of three roads - the Lhartse road coming from the east, the Dzongka road from the south and the Purang and Drongpa roads from the west. Saga is also an important stop-off point for pilgrims and tourists on the way to visiting Mount Kailash being the last town on the southern route with supplies for travelers, having both a store and a restaurant and several guest houses and hotels.

We will stay in one of the guesthouses for the evening.

Day 7 Saga-Zhongba-Payang (by Jeep, 225km/140 miles) (B, L, D)

From Saga to Zhongba the distance is 145km, and the roads are in relatively good condition, so it should only take us about 4-5 hours to get there. The road has great panoramic views of the mountains on both sides. On the western edge of Zhongba there is a small western monastery that is still inhabited by monks, and we will pay them a visit.

We will then drive on to Paryang, a village that is sparsely populated without much accommodation, so we will pitch a tent and camp for the night.

Day 8 Paryang-Lake Manasoravar (by Jeep, 260km/162miles) (B, L, D)

The drive from Paryang to Lake Manasoravar is rather long, clocking in at about 10 hours. In addition, there will be several river crossings and we will drive through the Mayum pass, and the scenery here is strikingly beautiful, giving you a sweeping view of the Himalayas.

Lake Mansarova lies about 20 km (12.43 mi.) southeast of Mt. Kailash. It means 'Invincible Jade Lake' in Tibetan. The name originates from a story that Buddhism wins a victory against Bon in a religious match beside the lake. The lake is the same 'Jade Pool of Western Kingdom' described by the high monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in his Westward Diary. The altitude of the lake is about 4,588 meters (15,052.49 ft.), making it one of the highest fresh water lakes in the world. The water is very limpid and bright. The Hindu legend has that it is the amrita designed by the great god Brahma that can wash away all one's sins as well as any anxiety or improper thoughts. Many pilgrims bathe in the lake and take some water back as a gift to their relatives and friends. The surrounding area is the point of origin for India's two most famous rivers, the Indus and the Ganges.

Walking around the lake also has ceremonial value for the Tibetan and always follows clockwise. There are many temples along the way, the two most notable being the Jiwu and the Chiu Gompa. Chiu Gompa is at a fabulous location on top of a hill overlooking Lake Manasorovar. Another highlight of today is the Ghost Lake, which is only 8km away from the Lake Manasorovar. The Ghost Lake is clouded and salty, which is in stark contrast to the clear freshwater of Lake Manasorovar.

The clear evening skies will give you a clear view of Namunali Peak (7694m), and we will setup our tent to stay in for the evening.

Day 9 Lake Manasarovar-Darchen (by Jeep, 60km/37miles) (B, L, D)

About 60 km north of Lake Manasarovar is Darchen, a small village and the main gateway to further exploring Mt. Kailash. At Darchen we will organize and collect our yaks and ponies for the trek through Mt. Kailash. If we are lucky, you might see some pilgrims in the village getting ready to go to the mountain as one of their ritual acts of devotion. Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km (32 mi) long.

For the night we will either stay in our tent or go to the Gangdisi (also known as the Kailash) Hotel.

Day 10 Darchen-Kailash (circuit trek, Dirapuk 6 hours) (B, L, D)

Today will be the start of our journey through Mt. Kailash. Mt. Kailash lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered as a sacred place in five religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Ayyavazhi and the Bön faith. In Hinduism, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and as a place of eternal bliss.

There have been no recorded attempts to climb Mount Kailash; it is considered off limits to climbers in deference to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. It is the most significant peak in the world that has not seen any known climbing attempts.

The route that we will follow covers about 53km/33miles, and it will take us about 3 days to finish it. This route will take us west in a clockwise direction. Within a few kilometers of our trek, the trail increases to 4730m and the southern face of Mt. Kailash will come into view. During our riding today we will visit Tarboche, where there is an annual ceremony of the raising of the Buddhist flag during the holiday of Saga Dawa, in celebration of the Buddha’s birthday.

We will spend the night in our pitched tent.

Day 11 Dirapuk-Zutrulphuk(6 hrs) (B, L, D)

The second day of our trek is the hardest while the Dolma-la pass lies 6.4km ahead but 762m above Drirapuk. The peak of Dolma-la pass is about 5630m above sea level, so it is better to set off early in the morning as the sun’s rays break over the ridges above.

After taking a rest on the peak of Dolma-la pass, we will proceed downwards. It is a steep descent that will lead you to Gauri Kund at 5608 m. Some call it the ‘Lake of compassion’. In the religious book Shiva Purana, this is the setting for the legend of Hindu goddess Parvati and how Ganesh (Parvati’s son) acquired his elephant head while bathing in the. Parvati fashioned an image of Ganesh from the soap suds on her body, breathed life into it and placed it at the entrance of her home to prevent anyone entering. Lord Shiva happened to return at this point of time and was stopped by Ganesha. Indignant at this affront, an angry Shiva cut off the boy's head. Parvati was inconsolable and insisted that the boy be brought back to life. Helpless, Shiva took the head of a wandering elephant and placed it on the body. Life was restored and Parvati had her son back.

After checking out the lake we will pitch our tent and camp out for the evening.

Day 12 Zultrulphuk-Darchen (2-3 hrs of hiking) (B, L, D)

The final leg of our journey is an easy 2-3 hour walk down to where the river emerges on the Barga Plain, which is at the base of Mt. Kailash.

We will return to the base camp village of Darchen and spend our evening there at our campsite.

Day 13 Darchen-Zhanda (B, L , D)

We will spend a day driving to Zhanda, and the roads along the way are in terrible condition, so it will take us a while to get there. We will go over some very high passes, and the drive itself offers a breathtaking view of sand-rock formations shaping the deep valley. The town of Zhanda itself is situated deep in this valley, and it is our jumping-off point in visiting the ruins of the Guge Kingdom, which we will visit the next day.

Day 14 Guge Kingdom Ruins (B, L, D)

We will spend today exploring the ruins of the Guge Kingdom. While these ruins were once an imperial estate which fell into disrepair after the civil revolt and the invasion of the allied armies of eight foreign countries, the Guge kingdom also encountered civil strife and foreign attacks which fragmented the once prosperous state. However, the legendary kingdom hasn't been totally lost as much can be learned about it from its remains.

Established in about the 10th century, the Guge Kingdom was founded by one branch of descendants of a nearby crumbled Kingdom. It was ruled by about 16 kings with armies of tens of thousands of soldiers during the over 700 years in which it flourished. Then in the 1660s, conflicts resulting from power disputes within the imperial family emerged which engendered restlessness in society and induced civil uprisings. To win power in the disordered state, the brother of the king asked the ruler of the neighboring country Ladakh (the present Kashmir) to send his army to help. This army overthrew and conquered the kingdom. Only years later was power returned to Tibet. During its lifetime the Guge Kingdom played an important part in the economic and cultural development of Tibet. The kingdom advocated Buddhism, and many versions of this religion were created here and their teachings were spread from here into the heart of Tibet. The kingdom also served as a major center for Tibet's foreign trade.

The Ruins of Guge Kingdom now extend around the sides of a mountain more than 300 m. (984 ft.) high. Explorers have found over 400 rooms and 800 caves here, as well as some fortresses, secret paths, pagodas, arm storerooms, granaries and all kinds of burial places. Except for some temples, all the roofs of the rooms have collapsed, leaving only the walls. The ruins are surrounded by a city wall, and a fortress marks each of the corners. Palaces, temples and local residences are distributed from the top to the bottom and only secret roads lead to the top, a layout designed to indicate the supremacy of the king and to ensure the safety of the palaces. Due to its great research value, the Ruins of Guge Kingdom have been listed under the first group of Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State.

Day 15 Tsada-Luhuo-Darchen (B, L, D)

We will drive back to the base camp at Darchen, but along the way we will stop at the town of Luhuo. Luhuo was called "Huoer zhanggu" In the past. In Tibetan, "Huoer" means Mongolians and Zhanggu on the mountain rock. The little village is home to the Tu ethnic minority. "Huoer" was long ago a Tibetan name for the nomadic herdsmen who lived in northern Tibet and vast areas north of Tibet. In modern times the term refers specifically to the Tu people. In ancient times, the Tu people were mainly engaged in sheep ranching and other animal husbandry.

We will poke around the village for a little bit, and then we’ll resume our drive to Darchen, where we’ll spend the night.

Day 16 Darchen-Payang (310km/193milesof driving) (B, L, D)

Today will be a long and tough day of driving in order to reach Payang, with most of the road being in a broken and dilapidated state. We will also experience some of the Gobi Desert on our drive as well.

Payang is a prairie town steeped in the traditions of western Chinese rural culture where you can see Tibetan residents dressed in their unique clothing, cows and sheep grazing in the green grassland with the white snowy mountains in the background. What a pastoral scene, like a poem or a picture. The driving takes about 9 hours and we will pitch our tent and camp our for the evening.

Day 17 Payang-Saga (260km/162miles of driving) (B, L, D)

Today we’ll drive back to the town of Saga. Along the way, you can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery that includes Mt. Shisha Pangma, Mt. Everest, Mt. Labujikang, Mt. Nanlytri and Mt.Yangtr. All these mountains can be seen from your jeep window.

At about 20km from Saga, we will camp out, giving us an opportunity to enjoy the sunset over the majestic mountains.

Day 18 Saga-Sangsang (300km/186miles of driving) (B, L, D)

From Saga we will drive east to reach Sangsang. On our way we will drive along the Yalongzangp River.

Sangsang is a tiny village, with a population of only 200 people, therefore, we will camp out again in our tent for the evening.

Day 19 Sangsang-Latse-Shigatse (270km/168miles of driving) (B, L , D)

Today we will drive to Shigatse, the second biggest city of Tibet. ocated in the alluvial plain at the confluence of the Brahmaputra and the Nianchu River, Shigatse is 273 kilometers west of Lhasa. At an elevation of 3,800 meters, with an area of 3,875 square kilometers and population of 820,000, it is the second biggest city in Tibet. It is an ancient city with a history of 600 years. It is named Shigatse in Tibetan and Rigaze in Chinese, originally meaning ‘a manor of the most fertile soil’.

In the middle of the 13th Century AD, the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) set up 130,000 households in Tibet and the region which now constitutes Shigatse came under the jurisdiction of the Lord of Xialu. In the early 14th Century, Great Situ (minister of education in ancient china), built the Pazhu Dynasty to replace the Sajia Dynasty, moving the political center in the lower reaches of the Nianchu River from Xialu to Shigatse. In the middle of the 15th century, Gendun Drup, the first Dalai Lama, directed the building of Tashilhunpo Monastery at the foothills of Nima Mountain, laying a solid foundation for the future development of the city. Tashilhunpo Monastery is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas, and we will visit it the next day.

After 2 weeks away from civilization you will get to enjoy the little things that you may have missed out on, such as a hot shower, a real bed, a large welcoming feast! We will stay in the 3 star Shigatse Hotel.

Day 20 Shigatse-Lhasa (280km/174miles of driving) (B, L, D)

After breakfast in the hotel we will make the short drive outside the city in order to visit the Tashilhunpo monastery, which is located on the southern slope of the Nyima Mountain to the west of the Shigatse city. It represents the Tibetan super architecture art in the Last Tibetan spirit. The monastery attracts thousands of Buddhists and tourists from domestic and abroad to travel and worship every year. Driving on the road far away from Shigatse, from the west city you can see the gold roof of Tashilunpo Monastery shinning under the sunshine. Experiencing five centuries, it still maintains the magnificent vigor. Tashilhunpo Monastery (meaning auspicious) is one of the Six Big Monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in China and the biggest Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhism monastery in back Tibet area. Also called the Heap of Glory, the monastery is located at the foot of Drolmari (Tara's Mountain), Shigatse.

We’ll then make the drive back to our original starting point, Lhasa, The road to Lhasa is in quite good shape, so the drive will be rather easy. When we arrive in Lhasa you will stay at the Lhasa Hotel, which is where you stayed before during your previous time here.

Day 21 depart Lhasa (B)

Following breakfast in the hotel you will be taken to Gongga airport, where you will fly on to your next destination.

Suitable time: Suitable time: April, May, June, September, October and November

 

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