Considered one of the most epic and most beautiful road trips on the planet is the overland route connecting Lhasa, Tibet with Kathmandu, Nepal.
Nearly all travel companies that offer the route from Lhasa to Mt Everest to Kathmandu do it in just 7 or 8 days; you’ll do it in 12. This professionally-guided journey is for those that want to get the MOST out of a journey to Tibet. Experience Tibet’s amazing culture and beauty, rather than having long hours in a vehicle each day, plus, going at a slower pace allows your body the much needed time to acclimatize to higher elevation. There will be walking and short day hikes on most days, but most of the journey will be done by vehicle. No long distance trekking or backpacking is required.
This 13 day small group journey will start in Xining, China. The following day, fly to the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa where you will spend 3 days exploring some of the holiest Buddhist sites in the Himalaya. In Lhasa, visit the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery and other sacred sites. After time in Lhasa, begin the road-trip to Kathmandu.
Day 1: Arrive in Xining, China where a driver will take you to a 5 star hotel, one of the best in the city. This evening, dinner will be a time of meet and greet at a restaurant near the hotel. Colorful street markets and traditional shops contrast with gleaming modern architecture, set against an inspiring mountain backdrop.
Day 2: In the late morning/early afternoon, fly to Lhasa and arrive in the early/mid afternoon. The Tibetan capital sits at 12,000 feet and is the cultural and spiritual heart of Tibet. After getting situated in a centrally located hotel, explore the center of the Old Tibetan Quarter in the heart of Lhasa. The Barkhor is the main shopping market for local Tibetans. One of the most interesting markets in all of Asia, providing an excellent place to photograph modern Tibetan culture.
The hotel was completely renovated in 2018. It has a rare GOLD Star rating. The locally-owned hotel has a beautiful Tibetan design, modern rooms with heating, and boasts an excellent top floor restaurant that looks out to the Potala Palace.
Day 3: After breakfast, spend the morning going through the Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest and most famous temple. Each day, thousands of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims work their way through this nearly 1400 year old temple. In the afternoon, observe the Buddhist philosophy debates at Sera, one of Tibet’s largest monasteries. The monk debates will be a major highlight during your time in Tibet. Later in the afternoon, you will have time to wander the Lhasa Old Town on your own.
Day 4: Start the day exploring Tibet’s most iconic building, the Potala Palace. Towering above Lhasa with more than 1000 rooms, the Potala Palace served as the winter residence of the Dalai Lama’s for hundreds of years. Next, explore Drepung, another of Lhasa’s great Buddhist monasteries. You will again have free time in the late afternoon and evening to explore the Lhasa Old Town on your own.
Day 5: In the morning, depart from Lhasa and drive to Gyantse via Yamdrok Lake. Yamdrok Lake, during clear weather, is a brilliant turquoise color and is one of the four main holy lakes in Tibetan Buddhism. The huge, glaciated Mt. Nojin Kangtsang forms the backdrop of the lake. Along the way to Gyantse, stop by the glaciers of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang at the Karo La Pass, which come down almost to the highway. Gyantse is a small, but modern Tibetan town, that lies at 13,000 feet. Visit the Pelkor Chode Monastery as well as the Gyantse Kumbum, the highest stupa (Buddhist pagoda) in Tibet. The drive from Lhasa to Gyantse is 162 miles where you will stay tonight.
Day 6: After breakfast, visit the 600 year old Pelkor Chode Monastery. This beautiful monastery lies within a walled complex in the Gyantse Old Town. The short hike to the top of the wall gives an excellent panorama view of the monastery, town and the high plateau in the distance. After lunch, depart Gyantse and drive to Shigatse. Along the way, explore the monastery and village of Shalu, one of Central Tibet’s many interesting sites.
Day 7: Shigatse is home to Tashilhunpo Monastery and its 600+ monks. This monastery, one of the largest in Tibet, is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second most important lama in Tibetan Buddhism. Walk around the pilgrim route that goes up and around the famous monastery as well as explore inside the huge monastery complex. In the afternoon, explore the walking street and markets in the Old Town.
Day 8: From Shigatse, visit one of Tibet’s best kept secrets—Phuntsoling Monastery. This monastery has both a newer section as well as some ancient ruins that are above it. The monastery looks out to a fantastic valley and is the perfect place to get in some hiking along with some teachings on how to improve your photography! Next, continue on to the Gyatso La Pass, one of the highest in Tibet at an altitude of 17,200 feet. From there, descend to the town of Shelkar. If time allows, wander thru the ruins of the ancient Shelkar Fortress.
Day 9: After breakfast, depart Shelkar and begin driving up to the Geu La Pass, elevation 17,050 feet. If the weather is clear, you can see five of the world’s 15 highest peaks including Everest, Lhotse (4th highest), Makalu (5th highest), Cho Oyu (6th highest) and Gyachung Kang (15th highest). From the pass, you will continue on to the Mt Everest Base Camp Region at Rongphu Monastery. From here, you will get one of the BEST mountain views the Himalayas have to offer. If the weather is good, see an epic sunset on Mt Everest! At Rongphu, stay at either the basic Monastery Hotel or the nearby tent hotels (a favorite of clients).
Day 10: Get an early start on the day with an amazing sunrise on the North Face of Mt Everest. After a hot breakfast at the foot of Mt Everest, continue on to the town of Old Tingri. On the way, stop at the Geu La Pass again to gaze out at a panoramic view of the Himalaya Mountains. In Old Tingri, stay at the Kangar Hotel, the best option in town. If the weather is good, the hotel looks out to both Mt Everest as well as Cho Oyu.
Day 11: This day we will drive 160 miles to Kyirong, the last area in Tibet along the Nepal border. See more stunning views of the Himalaya, including Cho Oyu (6th highest), Shisha Pangma (14th highest) and several other peaks that rise above 23,000 feet. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Lake Peiku Tso, a beautiful high altitude lake not far from Shisha Pangma. Spend the night in Kyirong, just a short drive from the Nepal border. The altitude in Kyirong is 9185 feet.
Day 12: The last full day of the journey is 95 miles from Kyirong to Kathmandu. From Kyirong, drive to the international border crossing with Nepal. There, say goodbye to our Tibetan staff and hello to our Nepal staff. The road from the Tibet—Nepal border to Kathmandu is a rough dirt road that will take a full day to drive. Stop for lunch along the way as well as at a couple of small villages, before arriving at the hotel.
Day 13: The journey will conclude in Kathmandu after breakfast. Prepare for the international flight home, returning with incredible memories and new friends. Cairn Travels is sure you will return home with new memories of a life time!