What you will See & Do
East of Lhasa you will discover a world far from the stereotyped image of Tibet as a barren, mountain landscape. The mountains are most certainly still here, but in a region of breath-taking beauty they are complimented by deep, forested valleys, crystal-clear lakes, vast rivers and incredible grasslands. Here the great rivers – Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangzi, Irrawaddy - descend from the Tibetan Plateau, carving deep gorges through the mountains.
Here too are some of the most sacred sites of Tibetan Buddhism and of Bon.
These are the regions of Kongpo and Kham; geographically, politically and historically separate from central Tibet. Isolated valleys and tribal villages are host to some very important gompas and other sacred sites and offer an unforgettable and unique glimpse of a rapidly changing world - a region that is neglected by guidebooks and so less visited by western travellers.
Available as a stand-alone trip or may be combined with other travels in central Tibet or to Everest for a longer journey.
Day 1: Arrive Lhasa - transfer to hotel
Arriving in Lhasa, visitors will be greeted by the stunning natural beauty of the Tibetan plateau. The city is situated at an altitude of over 3,686 meters above sea level and is home to many significant cultural and historical sites. Transferring to the hotel catch your first glimpse of the city and its unique architecture, which is heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.
Your arrival day is relaxed with no set activities in order to allow your body to adjust to the effects of altitude. A welcome dinner is included this evening.
Day 2: Lhasa sightseeing: Drepung, Nechung & Sera monasteries
The university monastery of Drepung is one of the three most important Gelugpa monasteries in Tibet and was founded in the 15th century. It houses a large collection of Buddhist scriptures, artifacts, and artwork, and is known for its beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
Nechung is a small temple located nearby and is the home of the Nechung Oracle, a medium who is believed to be possessed by a deity and who offers spiritual advice and guidance. He is the personal oracle of the Dalai Lamas.
You may visit the Norbulinka, Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas instead of Nechung if you prefer or include both for a very full day.
Sera is another important Gelug monastery located on the norther foothills of Lhasa and is known for its vibrant debating culture. Monks at Sera engage in lively philosophical debates on Buddhist doctrine, which can be fascinating to observe.
Day 3: Lhasa sightseeing: Potala, Jokhang, Barkhor Pilgrim Circuit
The Potala Palace is a grand and magnificent palace that was once the residence of the Dalai Lamas. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most important cultural and religious sites in Tibet. The palace is famous for its stunning architecture and artwork, as well as its historical and political significance.
The spiritual heart of Tibet is the Jokhang Temple and is full of life as pilgrims bring offerings of butter and barley flour. It is surrounded by the Barkhor pilgrimage circuit which is also a lively shopping precinct.
Second in importance only to the Jokhang, the Ramoche was built to house the Jowo Shakyamuni statue brought by Princess Wenchang as dowry in the C7th until it was later moved to the Jokhang. Each of these sites holds a unique place in Tibetan Buddhism.
Day 4: via Dorje Drak to Samye – visit Samye Gompa – overnight Tsetang
Leaving the city head to Samye via Dorje Drak, both on the north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River). Dorje Drak is the head monastery of one of the sub-divisions of the Nyingmapa, that of the Northern Treasures. Originally founded by an incarnation of Guru Rinpoche in the C14th, it relocated to its present site in 1632 and has since been sacked and restored by both the Dzungar Mongals and the Red Guards.
Continue to Samye, beautifully situated on the riverbank. Tibet’s first monastery was probably constructed 775-9 by Padmasambhava and it formally established Buddhist monasticism in Tibet and is thus considered a symbol of Tibet’s national identity.
Day 5: Tradruk, Yumbulakhang – to Gyatsa
Start the morning with a visit to Tradruk, also known as Dranang Monastery. This is one of the oldest in Tibet and the second of Tibet’s great geomantic temples; built after the Jokhang, it pins down the left shoulder of the ogress. It suffered badly during the reign of the anti-Buddhist king, Langdarma; was renovated and expanded by DLs V and VII. Many of the buildings were reconstructed and re-consecrated in 1988 following the Cultural Revolution.
Yumbulakhang is an historical site and ancient fortress located on a hilltop overlooking the Yarlung Valley. It is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in Tibet and is a significant cultural and historical site.
There are a number of other sites in this area including Mindroling Monastery, Sheldrak Cave and Chongye, where Tibet’s first kings are buried that you can include depending on your interests.
Continue east to overnight at Gyatsa.
Day 6: Follow the Yarlung Tsangpo via Menling to Nyingchi
Today is primarily a scenic driving day following the Yarlung Tsangpo east. You may start with a visit to Dakpo Tratsang, a Karma Kagyu monastery that forcibly converted to the Gelukpa tradition in the C17th.
Day 7: Nyingchi area
Nyingchi area - visits depending on your personal interests including temples, mountain viewpoints, villages ...
The area is scenically stunning – you will see Bayi Pelri, a holy mountain is associated with the epic battles of Guru Rinpoche against an array of evil forces. Here too is Bonri, the sacred mountain of the Bon. A cypress grove includes a tree believed to be 2500 years old – the oldest tree in China and revered by Bonpo especially.
Lamaling (Zangdok Pelri) was originally main seat of the head of the Nyingmapa until his death in 1987 it was later destroyed. The reconstruction is an exquisite temple & garden complex displaying the best metal casting of Chamdo artisans.
Nearby is Buchu Sergyi The oldest Buddhist shrine in Kongpo and one of the 4 border taming temples built by Songsten Gampo in the C7th.
Chu Jowo Temple contains a much-revered relief image of Jowo Rimpoche in the guise of 4-armed Avalokiteshvara. Jowo Rinpoche is said to have vanished into the stone before returning to Lhasa after appearing in the Brahmaputra to honour a pledge to a devout shoemaker.
Day 8: Departure flight from Nyingchi (LZY) airport OR To Basum Tso
Basum Tso is the lake where the spirit of King Gesar resides. There is a small monastery here and it is an important pilgrimage site. Local people consider the lake to be shaped like a dragon - decide for yourself.
One of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet. Visit the small temple on Tsodzong Island, birthplace of Sangye Linpa (discoverer of hidden texts) and with earlier associations with Padmasambhava. Follow the pilgrim circuit around the island and enjoy the scenery and perhaps take a boat ride on the lake.
Day 9: via Rutok & Medro Gongkar to Tidrum
Tidrum Gompa is home to a community of about 80 Buddhist nuns, headed by an emanation of Yeshe Tsogyel. In 772 King Trisong Detsun sheltered in caves here as he fled hostile Bon aristocrats. It is also famous for its medicinal hot springs. Soak in the hot springs and enjoy the natural surroundings, which include picturesque waterfalls and lush forests.
Day 10: via Drigung to Lhasa
Visit Drigung Til, located in the Drigung Valley - built like a fortress above the valley floor. Founded in the C12th by the first Drigung Rinpoche it grew to become a serious religious and political contender to the Sakya. Drigung’s political power ended in 1290 with a Mongol army led by a Sakyapa general, but it continued to be a centre for contemplative teaching and home of a Kargyupa sub sect.
Drive to Lhasa in the afternoon.
Day 11: Departure
Transfer to Lhasa airport or station for departue
OR Continue with a central Tibet loop visiting Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse & Shigatse - or with longer options to include Everest.