Tibet: Legends of Shiva

Explore the fabled city of Lhasa and mythic Mt. Kailash, holy to three great world religions.

Country Information

China Including Tibet

Tibet: Legends of Shiva Inspired Expeditions

(Countries Visited)

China Including Tibet


(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel

,

Recommended


(Tour Length)

21 Days


Tour Highlights

Starting at: $19,000

“Most people who travel to Tibet do so in conjunction with mainland China or Nepal, and spend most of their time in Lhasa with possibly short excursions out of the city, unless they are climbing Mt. Everest.  This extensive 21-day tour takes on new dimensions.  It removes any political aspects and introduces Tibet as a stand-alone destination.  Here, you travel to places where the residents are, for the most part, are not even aware of the outside world.  They simply live their lives keeping to their own traditions and a way of life not seen elsewhere.  This is the original Tibet.  Also, Tibet is generally seen through the vantage point of landscapes or Buddhism, however, this journey brings Tibet and her religious attributes full circle back to India.  The best examples of this lie in ancient mythology.  Buddhism has its origins in India while breathtaking sights such as Mt. Kailash have strong links to Hindu Gods such as Shiva.  It is said that Mt. Kailash was the abode of Lord Shiva, and the birthplace of Jainism.  That is what makes this mountain so unusual – it is regarded as one of the most sacred to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions and serves as a pilgrimage site for all.  This mountain holds sacred value to me personally as my son was named after Lord Shiva.  This journey explores Tibet off the beaten track, traveling into Western Tibet stopping in Sangsang, Saga, Payang and Baga en route.  The accommodations are sometimes very basic guesthouses, but travelers will be completely enchanted as it is quite likely they will quite literally the only ‘tourists’ in sight.  The surrounding natural Himalayan scenery is exquisite throughout the long drives.  This is not a program for everyone.  This once-in-a-lifetime adventure, however, will be utterly captivating to those who take on this remarkable country.”  Ashish Sanghrajka, President

 

  • Explore the fabled city of Lhasa, Tibet’s ancient capital, including Potala Palace and seventh-century Jokhang Monastery seventh century Jokhang Temple, the most holy site in Tibetan Buddhism
  • Travel deep into Western Tibet, its villages and stunning scenery, and experience the everyday world of Tibetans
  • Discover mountain monasteries such as the 15th-century Drepung Monastery, once home to thousands of monks, and the Kumbum, constructed between 1418 and 1427 in classic stupa, or pagoda style
  • Take in the mythic Mt. Kailash, a site holy to three world religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism; and join pilgrims in their kora, Tibetan for holy pilgrimage, the sacred clockwise path around the mountain that countless pilgrims – and very few tourists – have done for centuries
  • Hike up to Everest Basecamp for some of the most unforgettable views of Mt. Everest

Day 1:  Arrive Lhasa, Tibet
Welcome to Tibet!  Upon arrival you will be met by your Tibetan guide and driver and privately transferred to your hotel.  En route to town you drive along the Yarlung Tsangpo River and Lhasa River, past Tibetan villages and the Nyetang Buddha.  The remainder of the day is at leisure to help you to acclimatize to the altitude.  Jardin Secret Hotel – Superior Room (D)

Day 2:  Lhasa
Today you begin with an unforgettable visit to the stunning Potala Palace, which was once home to the local Tibet government.  It was divided into two sections: the white palace, which were the living quarters and the red palace solely reserved for religious study and prayer.  The palace is comprised of over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues.  It is also the highest castle-style palace in the world.  You will also visit the seventh-century Jokhang Temple, which is located at the heart of Lhasa’s old town.  Here you will enjoy a fascinating combination of deep religious faith and push-and-shove market economics.  In Tibetan Buddhism, Jokhang is also regarded as the “Center of the Universe,” and is the must-see place in Tibet.  The temple is home to the holiest golden Buddha in all of Tibetan Buddhism, and Tibetans walk for months from the countryside to Lhasa to make a pilgrimage to Jokhang Temple.  After your visit you will stroll throughout the markets and alleyways of Old Lhasa before visiting a small nunnery only for women known as Ani Tsang Kuang.  Here you will witness firsthand inside the nunnery how the women practice their religion in Tibetan Buddhism.  Jardin Secret Hotel – Superior Room (B,L,D)

Day 3:  Lhasa
After breakfast, visit the biggest monastery in Tibet, Drepung Monastery, founded in 1416.  The Ganden-Phodrang-Palace at Drepung Monastery was constructed by the 2nd Dalai Lama in 1518 and declared his chief residence/governmental palace until the inauguration of Potala Palace by the 5th Dalai Lama.  One report from the 1930s noted that the monastery was home to 7,700 monks.  Afterwards you will tour the Norbulingka, which was the former summer palace for Dalai Lama in Lhasa.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a unique representation of Tibetan palace architecture.  At the end of the day, you will be invited to visit a traditional family to learn more about everyday life in Tibet.  Jardin Secret Hotel – Superior Room (B,L,D)

Day 4:  Lhasa / Gyantse
Set out for Gyantse.  En route, you stop at Yamdrok Lake, regarded as the turquoise of Tibet.  You encounter Karola Pass, which is about 5,029 meters/16,500 feet above sea level.  You pass by a glacier runs along the side of the road here.  Upon arrival in Gyantse, explore the Kumbum, which was constructed between 1418 and 1427.  It is designed in classic stupa, or pagoda, style, octagonal in shape, and is 35 meters/115 feet high.  It has a nine-story terraced exterior with 108 chapels and superb murals and is capped with a gold dome.  Discover the old town and its market.  Gyantse Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 5:  Gyantse / Shigatse
You spot the gold roof shinning in the sunlight long before you arrive at Tashilhunpo Monastery.  Thousands of Buddhists and visitors from home and abroad drawn here.  Founded in 1447, the monastery has stood witness for five centuries, and still maintains glimpses of its original magnificent vigor.  It is one of the six monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in China.  It has been the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, who are the second highest ranking Tulku lineage in the Gelugpa tradition.  All the Panchen lamas have managed to expand the monastery gradually over the centuries.  Tashilhunpo at its height had more than 4,000 monks and supported four Tantric colleges.  Shigatse Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Shigatse / Latze
Today set out for Latze with a stop at the Sakya Monastery en route.  Sitting on a hillside in Sakya County, its Mongolian architecture is unlike the temples in Lhasa.  The only surviving ancient building is the Lhakang Chempo or Sibgon Trulpa.  This ancient monastery was started in 1073.  This is the first monastery of Sakya Sect, and it houses the largest collation of manuscripts of any temple in the country, with more than 28,000 volumes of sermons.  In Latze, you check into the first in a series of guesthouses for the evening.  Guesthouse (B,L,D)

Days 7-9:  Latze / Sangsang / Saga / Paryang / Baga
Relatively few people ever visit Tibet, and fewer still travel into Western Tibet.  For the next couple of days, drive deeper into Tibet, past small villages such as Sangsang, with just over 200 residents. Saga is an army town with a Chinese garrison that patrols the Tibetan-Nepalese border.  It is also an important stop for pilgrims on the way to visit the sacred Mt. Kailash.  Paryang is another small traditional village.  Baga is known for producing cheese.  Accommodations in this part of the world are very basic guesthouses.  But that allows you to have the most authentic experience possible as you encounter everyday people and see how they live and work.  You will likely be the only “tourists” in site.  The surrounding Himalayan scenery is magnificent throughout the long drives.  Guesthouses (B,L,D)

Day 10:  Baga / Darchen / Mt. Kailash Trek  
Once you reach the mythic Mt. Kailash you join others – pilgrims who are on their kora, holy pilgrimage circumambulation around the mountain.  You are in for an amazing and unique cultural experience.  This is one of, if not the, holiest sites in three major world religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism as well as Bönpo (the religion in Tibet prior to the arrival of Buddhism).  Hindus consider Mt. Kailash to be the center of the universe as it is the home of the god Shiva.  Buddhists revere the holy mountain as the home of the Buddha Demchock.  Jains believe that Kailash is known as Ashtapada – the location where one of the original 24 teachers, or Tirthankaras, gained enlightenment.  For adherents of the Bön religion, Mt. Kailash is the home of their founder.  Over the next few days, you will walk an ancient and sacred clockwise path around the mountain that countless pilgrims – and very few tourists – have done for centuries.  You will hike some 23 kilometers/14 miles to Dri-ra-puk and your camp.  Vehicles are not permitted to drive around, so it is necessary to hire yaks and their owners to transport you to your comfortable tents at the end of the day.  The scenery is incredible, and the spiritual atmosphere is innocent, authentic and inescapable.  Tents (B,L,D)

Days 11:  Mt. Kailash Trek - Dri-ra-puk / Zutrul Puk
Trek another 23 kilometers/14 miles from Dri-ra-puk to Zutrul Puk.  This is the most difficult part of the hike leading up to the high pass of Dromala that sits at 5,630 meters/18,471 feet.  Then travel on to Zutrul Puk, the renowned meditating cave for Milarepa.  Tents (B,L,D)

Days 12:  Mt. Kailash Trek - Zutrul Puk / Lake Manasarovar
Hike from Zutrul Puk to Lake Manasarovar, about 11 kilometers/6.8 miles, completing the circumambulation of Mt. Kailash.  Lake Manasarovar is one three holy lakes in Tibet, and is at the highest altitude of all fresh water lakes in Tibet.  Tents (B,L,D)

Day 13:  Mt. Kailash / Darchen / Drada – Guge Kingdom Ruins
Descend the mountain and drive to Drada via Darchen.  Outside Drada, you explore the ruins of the lost Kingdom of Guge, founded in 10th century.  These ruins were once an imperial estate that fell into disrepair after civil revolt and the invasion of the allied armies of eight foreign countries.  The Guge Kingdom also encountered these problems, which fragmented the once prosperous state.  However, the legendary kingdom hasn't been totally lost and much can be learned about it from its remains.  The ruins now extend around the sides of a mountain more than 300 meters/984 feet high.  Explorers have found more than 400 rooms and 800 caves, as well as fortresses, secret pathways, pagodas, arms storerooms, granaries and many burial sites.  Except for a few temples, all the roofs of the rooms have collapsed, leaving only the walls.  They 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 once-secret roads lead to the top.  This layout was designed to indicate the supremacy of the king and to ensure the safety of the palaces.  Due to its great research value, these ruins have been listed under the first group of Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State.  Continue to Drada where you will overnight.  Guesthouse (B,L,D)

Days 14-16:  Drada / Baga / Payang / Saga
You return via the same route back through Western Tibet staying in guesthouses along the way.  Guesthouse (B,L,D)

Day 17:  Saga / Baicutso Lake / Tingri
Drive to Tingri via Baicutso Lake.  It is often used as a base by mountain climbers preparing to ascend Mt. Everest or Mt. Cho Oyu.  At an altitude of about 4,300 meters/14,107 feet, it is known for its spectacular views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Cho Oyu, which are four of the six highest mountains in the world.  Everest Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 18:  Tingri – Everest Basecamp
Early this morning, you proceed to Everest Basecamp, stopping to visit Rongbuk Monastery at the foot of Mt. Everest.  At an altitude of about 5,000 meters/16,404 feet, it is the highest temple in the world, and a spectacular place to take in the scenery of Mt. Everest.  After exploring the monastery, hike up to Everest Basecamp for amazing views of Mt. Everest (subject to weather conditions).  Everest Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 19:  Tingri / Shigatse
Drive back to Shigatse, and check into your hotel.  Shigatse Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 20:  Shigatse / Lhasa
Spend a relaxing morning exploring Shigatse’s old town.  Then you will return to Lhasa for your last night in Tibet.  Jardin Secret Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 21:  Lhasa / Depart
You are escorted to the airport for your departing flight.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  Starting from $19,000

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