If you’ve ever wanted to visit Tibet, Bhutan or Nepal, here’s your chance. We are organizing a trip of a lifetime and we’re inviting you to join us as we explore this fascinating area. The tour is 16 days from April 5, 2016 to April 20, 2016 and is timed to coincide with the Rhododendron Festival in Thimphu, Bhutan from April 18 to 20.
You can join us for the entire tour, just Tibet, or just Bhutan. You can also extend your trip on either end with a tour of Beijing, extra days in Shanghai, or a tour of other areas of Nepal. Our plan is to arrive in Shanghai a couple of days prior to the train departure to see the city. Flights are available from Shanghai or Beijing to Lhasa, but we recommend the train to see some of the spectacular scenery along the way and for additional time to gradually acclimate to the altitude. The train is also about half the cost of a flight.
We are using a very reputable Nepal-based tour company that I have used before. I’ve been negotiating with them and have managed to get the cost down substantially from my first estimate. The current estimated cost of this entire tour is about US$159/day/person or US$2,550 per person for the entire land portion only based on double occupancy. Your final cost will depend on how many people we will have, how much of the itinerary you include, and any extensions you might make. You’ll also need to arrange the follow transportation:
- Shanghai to Lhasa train trip, about US$250/person
- Roundtrip air to Paro, Bhutan, about US$450/person
- Open-jawed airfare from your U.S. city to Shanghai or Beijing and from Kathmandu back to the U.S., about US$1,500/person.
Our tour company may be able to help with the train and flight to Paro. If you can use award travel for the airfare, now would be a good time to use it. The entire trip paid without using award mileage, will be about US$4930/person, including your Chinese and Nepali visa, not including incidentals and tips. If you’re interested in joining us, check out our itinerary and get in touch with us soon, as we need to finalize our arrangements.
|Day 1||5-April-2016||Evening departure from Shanghai Railway Station. We board our train for the nearly 48 hour journey to Lhasa, Tibet. We pass through several Chinese cities including Nanjing and Hefei. Overnight on the train in soft sleepers.|
|Day 2||6-April||Continue our train journey. The train passes through Xi’an, Lanzhou, Xining and onto the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the highest railroad in the world. We will cross Tanggula Pass (highest rail pass at 5,072m or 16,640 ft.) and through the 1,338m long Fenghuoshan tunnel (highest rail tunnel at 4,905m), as well as 675 bridges and 550km of rail laid on permafrost. Supplemental oxygen is available. Overnight on the train.|
|Day 3||7-April||Continue our train journey, evening arrival in Lhasa. Upon our arrival in Lhasa, our Tibetan representative will pick us up from the train station for about an hour’s drive to our designated hotel in Lhasa. We are advised to take plenty of rest for the remainder of the day in order to acclimatize and minimize altitude sickness. Overnight in Lhasa.|
|Day 4||8-April||Lhasa sightseeing: Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace and Tibet Museum: 5-6 hours. We begin sightseeing in Lhasa after breakfast. Today is the day we visit the beautiful Potala and Norbulingka Palaces. Built in the 17th century, Potala Palace provides amazing views of the entire city and houses the private quarters of the Dalai Lama, numerous grand state rooms and chapels. Norbulingka Palace is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama and houses what is considered to be the largest man-made garden in Tibet. Next, we visit the Tibet Museum, the official museum of Tibet, which has a permanent collection of around 1000 artifacts related to the cultural history of Tibet. Overnight in Lhasa.|
|Day 5||9-April||Lhasa Sightseeing: Sera & Drepung Monasteries, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Bazaar: 5-6 hours. After breakfast we visit Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Bazaar. Drepung Monastery, which was built in the 14th century, is believed to have sheltered around 10,000 monks in the past but as of now there has been quite a declination resulting in only a few hundred. The history, culture, and religious beliefs of the Tibetan people are strongly concentrated and centered in this marvelous monastery. Sera Monastery is a preserved monastery of white-washed walls and golden roofs. Jokhang Temple is another important sacred site which unravels more deep-seated mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism. We further stroll through Barkhor Bazaar (market). With its open air stalls, shops and crowd of pilgrims, it is the nerve centre of Lhasa. Overnight in Lhasa.|
Lhasa to Gyantse (3,950m/12,956ft) via Karo La Pass and Yamdrok Tso Lake: 325km, 5-6 hours. Today, we take a scenic drive to Gyantse. On the way we cross the Khamba La Pass (4,794m) with a brief halt to savor the beauty of the Yamdrok Tso (Turquoise Lake), one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet and the beautiful Nazin Kang Sang glacier (7,252m). Soon, we come across another pass, The Karo La Pass (5,045m). From our vehicle, we can enjoy views of huge glaciers tumbling down into the road before reaching Gyantse. In Gyantse, we visit the Khumbum Stupa, Phalkot Monastery and Gyantse Dzong (Fortress), which is one of the best preserved dzongs in Tibet. Overnight in Gyantse.
Gyantse to Shigatse (3,900m/12,795ft) via Shalu Monastery: 95km, 2 hours. After breakfast, we drive towards Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. On the way, we visit Shalu Monastery. Founded in 1040, Shalu Monastery is known for its beautiful and ancient mural paintings. Next, we continue to Shigatse. While there we visit the popular Tashilhunpo Monastery which holds both historical and cultural importance for being founded by Gendun Drup, the First Dalai Lama in 1447. After sightseeing in Lhasa we will have the rest of the day free for resting, which will help us with acclimatization and the next day’s long drive. Overnight in Shigatse.
Shigatse to Rongbuk (5,000m/16,400ft) via Sakya Monastery: 355km, 8-9 hours. After breakfast, we leave Shigatse for Rongbuk. On the way, we visit the Sakya Monastery which is the ancestral temple of Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. After the visit to Sakya Monastery, we continue driving towards Rongbuk. Here, we visit the Rongbuk Monastery, which is located at the foot of the mighty Everest and is the highest monastery in the world. While here, we also enjoy the stunning mountainous scenery all around us. Overnight in Rongbuk.
|Day 9||13-April||Rongbuk to Zhangmu (2,300m/7,544ft) via Everest Base Camp: 257km, 5-6 hours, if the border is closed, Rongbuk to Lhasa via Everest Base Camp: 9 – 10 hours) We leave Rongbuk in the morning to visit the Everest Base Camp (5,250m/17,220ft). On our way, we enjoy spectacular views of high mountains like Cho Oyu (8,201m/26,906ft), Shishapangma (8,013m/26,289ft) and, of course, the mighty Everest (8,848m/29,028ft) also known as Mt. Chomolongma in the Tibetan side. We make approximately a 16km round trip around the Everest Base Camp. The base camp itself is dry and barren, but the view of Everest is more than compensating. if the Tibet-Nepal border is open, we will make Zhangmu our next destination. On the way, we cross the Lalung La Pass (5,124m/16,068ft), Shung La Pass (5,200m/17,056ft) and Nyalam Pass (3,800m/12,464ft), which offers enchanting views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks. We further drive downwards towards the verdant and fertile vegetation of Zhangmu in the Nepalese border. Overnight in Zhangmu. If the border is closed, we will drive back to Lhasa and overnight there.|
Zhangmu to Kathmandu (1,350m/4,428ft): 153km,4-5 hours. A few kilometers drive from Zhangmu to Friendship Bridge over the Bhote Koshi River brings us to Immigration Control in Kodari where we are expected to complete some customs formalities. We then say goodbye our Tibetan guide, walk across the river where our Nepalese representative will be waiting for us. After around 4 hours of driving through deep valleys, we reach Kathmandu. Overnight in Kathmandu. If the border is closed, we will fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu.
|Day 11||15-April||Sightseeing in Kathmandu District. After breakfast, we commence our visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites beginning within the Kathmandu District. These sites include Kathmandu Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath and Bauddhanath. Kathmandu Durbar Square showcases Nepalese art and architecture at its best. The architecture is typical of the Malla dynasty who ruled over Nepal from the 12th to 18th century. The Swayambhunath Temple has a compelling mix of both Hindu and Buddhist shrines and stupas. It is popularly known amongst foreigners as the Monkey Temple owing to the large monkey population residing in the area. Pashupatinath Temple is situated on the banks of river Bagmati and is one of the main temples of Lord Shiva. The temple area is full of other smaller temples of numerous Hindu deities which gives the whole place an ambience of a sacred paradise. The Bauddhanath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in South Asia which was built on the ancient trade route to Tibet.|
|Day 12||16-April||Sightseeing in Bhaktapur and Patan. After breakfast, we go to three other UNESCO world heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley, Pashupati Nath, Bhaktapur, and Patan. The two-storied pagoda of Pashupatinath houses a sacred lingum, or the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. The AryaGhat alongside Pashupati and on the banks of the Bagmati River is a famous funeral site for the Hindus. The medieval town of Bhaktapur, or the Town of the Devotees, preserves medieval arts, architecture, culture, and lifestyle to this date. One is sure to feel like travelling back into the past while walking along the Bhaktapur thoroughfares, squares and streets. The city of Patan is also known as The City of Fine Arts. Patan Durbar Square is full of ancient places, temples and shrines, noted for their exquisite carvings, mostly the Hindu and Buddhist monuments.|
|Day 13||17-April||Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan by flight and sightseeing in Paro (2,250m / 7,382ft). We will visit Rinpung Dzong which was built in 1646 and now houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. We will also visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country and Drugyal Dzong, built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. Overnight in Paro.|
|Day 14||18-April||Paro to Thimphu (2,320m/7,610ft): 54 km, hike to Taktsang Monastery. After breakfast, we spend 4-5 hours hiking to and from Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3,180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. After having explored the monastery, we hike down to the valley floor. This afternoon, we will drive to Thimphu (2,320m/7,610ft), and spend the night.|
|Day 15||19-April||Sightseeing in Thimphu during the Rhododendron Festival. In the morning, we visit Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), nunnery temple, mini zoo to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Today, we also visit other landmarks of Thimphu including the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Bhutanese traditional painting school, folk heritage museum, the majestic Tashichho Dzong and the traditional paper factory. Overnight in Thimphu.|
|Day 16||20-April-2016||Flight back to Kathmandu. After early breakfast, we leave Thimpu for Paro airport which will take us around 1 hour. Druk Air generally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions. Therefore, after taking breakfast, we will be taken to the airport in the morning for our flight to Kathmandu and onward international flights. Thus ends our tour.|
- All airport pick-ups and drops.
- All ground transportation by private vehicles in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet. Overland transportation is usually by 4WD Landcruiser or HiAce Minibus depending on the group size. Some sections of the route may be on a tractor or open-bed truck.
- All meals in Bhutan and Nepal and breakfast in Tibet.
- Twin-shared hotel accommodation in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet. Even though the hotels are some of the best available, in the more rural areas they are not to the same standards as Western hotels. Hot water is not always available throughout the day. Heat may also be intermittent.
- Sightseeing in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet by an experienced English speaking local tour guide.
- Government taxes, permits, sightseeing entrance fees for museums and monuments as per the itinerary.
- Bhutanese visa fee and Tibet travel permit.
What’s Not Included
- Soft sleeper class train fare from Shanghai to Lhasa. We can help make the arrangements.
- All international flights, Lhasa to Kathmandu (if the Tibet-Nepal border is closed), roundtrip Kathmandu to Paro, and your roundtrip flight from the U.S.
- Nepalese visa fee (easily available after arriving at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu)
- Chinese multiple-entry visa obtained 6 – 8 weeks prior to arrival in China. $140/person. (details to follow)
- All personal expenses (personal gear, telephone calls, beverages, internet, laundry etc.)
- Lunches and dinners in Tibet
- Travel insurance
- Tips for guides and drivers
Things to Consider
The tour goes to some altitude extremes. There is always a chance of altitude sickness, although our schedule allows for time to acclimate. You may wish to bring Diamox (Acetazolamide) to help speed acclimatization. Consult your travel clinic with the itinerary for recommendations.
- April is a shoulder season with gusting wind, strong sunshine, and moderate temperatures that fluctuate greatly from day to night. With our travel to higher altitudes comes lower temperatures. Bring appropriate cold-weather wool or synthetic clothing that can be layered. Wind-resistant outerwear, sunscreen, and long underwear are highly recommended.
- We will be doing a lot of walking, at times carrying our own luggage on unpaved roads not suitable for roller bags. Be sure you are in good physical condition, can manage your own luggage, and have good socks and broken-in hiking boots for this trip.
- We need to be sensitive to cultural norms and dress conservatively. It`s better for women to wear pants (or Capri length pants) and/or a skirt (mid-calf or longer). Tights, yoga pants, hiking shorts and sports tops are not advisable. For men, long pants are best. Men may wear knee-length or longer hiking shorts. Never go shirtless.
- Druk Air to Bhutan has a strict weight limit of 20kg (44 lb.) for checked bags and 5kg (11 lb.) for carry-on. You will need to pack carefully to stay within those limits. If you think you won’t be able to meet those limits, I recommend leaving your main luggage behind in Kathmandu and packing a smaller bag or putting extra items in a travel vest, since what you have on your body doesn’t count.
- Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months. When applying for the Chinese Visa through the Consulate in the U.S., do NOT include Tibet in your list of destinations, otherwise, your visa may be denied.
- You will probably receive an electronic copy of your TTP (Tibet travel permit) via email. You will need this in order to board the train to Lhasa.
- You must have travel insurance with medical evacuation, since medical facilities are almost non-existent in these areas.
Any other questions? Please contact me.