Lhasa, the heart and soul of Tibet and an object of devout pilgrimage, is still a city of wonders. The Potala, a vast white and ochre fortress, dominates the Lhasa skyline. Once the seat of Tibetan government and the location of the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas, the Potala serves as a symbolic focus for Tibetan aspirations of self-government. The Jokhang temple, 2km (1.2mi) to the east, is the spiritual heart of the city. The medieval push and shove of crowds, the street performers, the stalls hawking everything from prayer flags to jewel-encrusted yak skulls, and the devout tapping their foreheads to the ground at every step is an exotic brew that few newcomers can resist.
Day 01- ARRIVE LHASA, TIBET
Welcome to Tibet! Today when you arrive at Gonggar Airport in Tibet, you will be met at the airport by our local representative and driven to your hotel. The transfer time from the airport to the hotel is about 90 minutes. The remainder of the day is at leisure to rest and acclimatize.
Lhasa, the heart and soul of Tibet is a city of wonders.
You will be confirmed for 5 nights at the Kyichu Hotel. The hotel is conveniently situated between the sacred Jokhang Temple in Barkhor Square, and the World Heritage famed Potala Palace - and just a few minutes' walk from both - in the ancient, traditional quarter of Lhasa. The Kyichu Hotel, like its namesake river, will also bring you happiness and an unforgettable stay while in Tibet.
Day 02 - LHASA
Today features a sightseeing tour in Lhasa where you will visit the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple.
Potala, the Winter Palace of the Dalai Lamas, is one of the most famous architectural works of Tibet and the cream of Tibetan culture. Built in the colossal monastic style of central Tibet by Gyelwa Ngapa the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century, it stands 300 meters above the valley atop the hill called Marpo Ri. This thousand room Potala dates from 1645 when the fifth Dalai Lama erected a palace that would serve as a sacred and administrative center. It served many succeeding Dalai Lamas and is one of Tibet's most impressive and enduring monuments. The Chinese Army of Red Guards protected it during the Cultural Revolution and as a result many of its chapels and treasures are intact, virtually unchanged since the 17th century.
The Jokhang Temple is the oldest and most revered religious structure in Tibet, it dates back to 639, and was constructed by King Songtsen Gampo to house a Buddha image Akshobhya, brought to Tibet by his Nepalese wife. But now, the main statue in this temple is of the Sakyamuni, which was a gift from his Chinese wife in 641, the statue of Akshobhya being moved to Romoche. Pilgrims from all over Tibet come to worship here and prostrate themselves in full length in front of the main doors of the temple. It is truly a moving and unrivalled experience to witness such a sight and more so to actually join them in their pilgrimage around the temple.
Day 03 - LHASA
Today continue sightseeing in Lhasa, visiting the Drepung Monastery and the Sera Monastery.
The Drepung Monastery is about 8km west of central Lhasa and is the largest monastery in Tibet and one of the largest in the world. Jamyang Choje built it in 1416. Drepung literally means "heaps of rice" and the fertility of its fields supported a monastic community that before 1959 ranked as Tibet's largest monastery with 7,700 monks. For over 500 years Drepung served as the major pillar of the theocratic state, serving as the main political headquarters for the Gelupga sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It also served as the residence of the Dalai Lamas until the Potala Palace was constructed. Suffering only minor damage during the Cultural Revolution, Drepung has plenty of historical relics, Buddhist scriptures and arts.
The Sera Monastery, about 5kms north of Lhasa, is located in one of the most beautiful settings in Lhasa, hugging the ridge that forms the northern wall of the Kyi Chu Valley. Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe of the Gelupga sect and is one of the three great monasteries of Tibet, the other two being Drepung and Ganden. In its heyday, Sera hosted a huge monastic population and five colleges. Like Drepung, the colleges in Sera specialized in Sera Me in fundamental precepts of Buddhism, Sera Je in instruction of itinerant monks and Sera Ngagpa in Tantric studies.
Day 04 - LHASA
Today you have a choice of a day hike to Pha Bong Kha or a visit to Norbulingka Palace.
Pha Bong Kha is about a 15-minute drive from Lhasa and offers wonderful views of Lhasa City. Songsten Gampo meditated here for three years and later Padmasambhava Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa have all meditated here in the cave. The monastery is built on top of a rock that houses the cave. Left of Pha Bong Kha is a sky burial site that people from Lhasa use. The trek today is basically a pilgrim's trail and equally enjoyable with constant, majestic views of Lhasa. From Pha Bong Kha we go up the mountain to Tashi Choling Temple, Taktsang Simbu Nunnery & Cave and the Sera Utse Monastery. Kaa Tsang Shar- nub Monastery is below the trail and our pilgrim walk ends in Phurbu Cho Hermitage and from here it's a 20-minute drive to Lhasa. Total hiking time is about 5 hours and most of the hiking is done at an altitude of 12,800 feet.
Or, you may choose to visit Norbulingka Palace, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. The 8th Dalai Lama designated it as a summer retreat but the majority of the buildings were not erected until the reigns of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas. Every year as the chilly air warmed, the Dalai Lama would leave Potala in a grand procession for six months residence in the Norbulingka. It is worth a visit and the park is a great place to be during festivals and public holidays.
Day 05 - LHASA - GYANTSE
Today we drive to Gyantse and visit Kumbum and Phalkor.
Gyantse is the third most important city in Tibet and the least Chinese-influenced.
The Kumbum Stupa is one of the most revered and unusual architectural masterpieces. It was built in 1440 and is in the shape of a 108-sided mandala. Kumbum means 10,000 images. The stupa raises over four symmetrical floors and is surmounted by a gold dome, which rises like a crown over four sets of eyes that gaze serenely out in the cardinal directions of the compass.
The Phalkor Monastery was founded in 1418 and was designed by Newari architects from Nepal. The former has a special influence over Buddhism owing its unity of Gelupga, Sakyapa and Bhuton sects.
Then, check into your hotel. You will be confirmed for 1 night at the Jian Zhang Hotel.
Jian Zhang Hotel
Day 06- GYANTSE- SHIGATSE
Today we drive to Shigatse to visit the Tashilunpo Monastery.
Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and the capital of the traditional Tibetan province of Tsang.
The first Dalai Lama founded the Tashilunpo Monastery in 1447. This monastery is one of the few monasteries in Tibet that weathered the stormy seas of the Cultural Revolution. This monastery houses the Maitreya Buddha statue weighing 275kg and made of gold and is 26 meters in height.
Day 07- SHIGATSE- SHEGAR
Here is a good place to spend the night before heading off to Everest Base Camp. Shegar is also the last stop before the Nepal border.
Shanghai Chomulangma Hotel
Day 08- SHEGAR- EVEREST BASE CAMP- RONGBUK
It's just over a two-hour walk each way from Rongbuk Monastery to the Everest Base Camp. Vehicles do the trip in about 15 minutes. Above Rongbuk the valley expands into a large glacial outwash plain. There is a short cut from behind the big Chorten at the Monastery, which cuts through a meadow and then past a superbly photogenic complex of ruins called Rong Chung. Until the communist takeover this was a thriving meditation retreat. The road climbs up through a jumble of boulders and glacial debris favoring the left side of the valley. Passing the recently built Sherab Choling Hermitage (signposted as the Guru Rinpoche Monastery) you may see herds of deer and yak on the hillsides. From here it is only 30 minutes to Everest Base Camp.
Rongbuk Guest House
Day 09- RONGBUK- SHIGATSE
Today we drive back to Shigatse and overnight at the Manasarovar Hotel.
Day 10- SHIGATSE- LHASA
Today we drive back to Lhasa where you will spend the last day in wonderful Tibet.
Day 11- DEPATURE
After breakfast this morning, you'll be driven to the airport for your flight home.
Depart any day! Contact iExplore for details.
$2,479 per person double occupancy.
$1,979 per person double occupancy, based on four persons traveling together.
$5,009 Solo Traveler.
$529 Single Room Supplement.
Prices for your dates of travel may vary- please contact iExplore for an exact quote. Quoted prices are based on current rates of exchange, tariffs and taxes as of February, 2011. iExplore reserves the right to increase tour prices to cover increased costs, tariffs and taxes received after prices are published, and to reflect fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. iExplore is under no obligation to give breakdown costs involved in any package.
· Transfer from the airport to the hotel in Lhasa.
· 5 nights accommodations at the Hotel Kyichu Lhasa including daily breakfast.
· 1 nights accommodations at the Hotel Jian Zhang Gyantse including daily breakfast.
· 2 nights accommodations at the Hotel Manasarovar Shigatse including daily breakfast.
· 1 nights accommodations at the Hotel Shanghai Chomulangma including daily breakfast.
· 1 nights accommodations at the Rongbuk Guest House Shegar including daily breakfast.
· Private transfers by Land Cruiser/4WD in Tibet.
· Sightseeing and all surface transfers in Tibet will be provided as per the itinerary with local English-speaking Tibetan guides by private vehicle.
· Tibet Travel Permit.
· All entrance and monument fees as indicated in the program.
· International Airfare and tax
· Chinese Visa fee.
· Lunches and dinners in Tibet.
· Travel Insurance.
· Costs arising out of flight cancellations/road blockades/landslides and events beyond our control.
· Expenses of a personal nature and any other expenses not mentioned in the program.
· Photography charges in the monasteries and monuments.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.