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Yamdrok Lake, Tibet 2 by Esther Lee
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Evocatively known as 'The Roof of the World', Tibet is one of the most mysterious, exotic and charming places on the planet. Surrounded by the world's highest mountains and for so long off-limits to visitors, the resulting isolation kept Tibet largely hidden from the world and shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
Venture out of the capital Lhasa, en-route to Mount Everest Base Camp, and you will follow winding mountain roads to the shimmering turquoise waters of the sacred Yamdrok Lake, stopping to appreciate its beauty from above and on its shores. Dramatic mountain passes are adorned with colourful prayer flags fluttering in the wind and backed by glorious snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Herds of yaks, sheep, goats, cows and horses graze the open pastures as locals tend to their crops and gather for late-afternoon picnics by the side of the flourishing Yarlung Tsangpo River.
Shigatse is Tibet's second largest city. It sits on a high plain at the confluence of two rivers, at around 3,800 metres above sea level, creating some of the most fertile land in the region and attracting a rich mixture of ethnic groups. The star attraction here is the huge 600 year old Tashilhunpo Monastery, seat of the controversial Panchen Lama.
At the small city of Gyantse you can admire the magnificent dzong fortress architecture and climb the unique circular stupa, sticking your head into the many small chapels of its outer shell and enjoying find views across to the fort and the old town.
Turn off the Friendship Highway that runs to Nepal and you will enter the Mount Everest National Park. The roads winds its way over and across one of the world's highest mountain passes and back down again, arriving at the Rongbuk Monastery Guest House or Everest Base Camp tents, where you will stay the night. Rise early the next day and you'll hopefully enjoy stunning views of the north face of the world's biggest and most fabled mountain.
Singing Nam Tso Pilgrims by Preston Rhea
Read about the implications (and joys) of travelling in Tibet.
Do I need a visa or permit to travel in Tibet?
Yes you will require a permit to travel in Tibet, in addition to the one needed for China.
An entry permit is required to get into the city of Lhasa and for those travelling outside the city a further 'aliens permit' will be required, detailing each stop on the itinerary. We will handle the arrangement of the necessary documents, in conjunction with our local contacts.
Can I travel alone in Tibet?
No, all foreign travellers are required to be accompanied by a local guide, either on a private hire basis or as part of organised group tours.
Should I be concerned about altitude in Tibet?
The capital Lhasa sits at an altitude of roughly 3,600 metres above sea level, similar to La Paz in Bolivia and a little more than Cusco in Peru. The second city Shigatse is 3,800 which is roughly the same as Lake Titicaca. Mount Everest Base Camp is at 5,200 metres above sea level, slightly higher than the more remote parts of the Bolivian Altiplano.
Our tour to the Everest Base Camp is designed in such a way as to allow you time to acclimatise to high altitudes in Lhasa and Shigatse, before rising further. However, throughout your stay in Tibet it is necessary to exercise caution, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and taking things at a slower pace.
Read more about how to deal with high altitude
How can I get to Tibet?
You can fly into Lhasa airport, with direct connections between cities such as Chengdu, Lijiang, Kunming and Beijing. Flights to Shanghai require a stop, usually in Chengdu. Another interesting alternative is to take the sleeper train into or out of Lhasa. The journey to Beijing takes over 40 hours, but travellers can undertake the second and most scenic part, between Xining and Lhasa. This takes around 20 hours and is achieved by flying into Xining, usually from Beijing. Along the way you will have the opportunity to survey the northern Tibetan landscape, including the sacred Namtso Lake.
What are the most popular places to visit in Tibet?
All visitors to Tibet should first explore the holy city of Lhasa, particularly the Polata Palace, Jokhang Temple and the Sera Monastery. Beyond the Tibetan capital, the cities of Gyantse and Shigatse offer interesting monuments and monasteries, whilst it is a three night round trip from Lhasa to reach the Mount Everest Base Camp. The sacred lake of Namtso and its remote communities can be reached on an overnight stay, affording time to watch the spectacular sunrise. Road conditions though do not always allow for this journey in the winter.
How easy is it to visit Everest Base Camp
The Tibetan camp can be reached on an overnight trip from Shigatse, as part of a three night round trip from Lhasa. The final part of the journey sees you turn off the Friendship Highway to Nepal and travel down a winding road, crossing the world's highest mountain pass, until you reach Rongbuk Monastery. You can either stay in basic accommodation at the monastery guest house, allowing for fine views at sunrise and the possibility of a private room, or in one of the communal tents in the nearby campsite. These are kept warm by yak dung fires and are attractively decorated and fairly spacious. The following morning you will rise early to enjoy the best views of Everest and then take a shuttle bus the last 2.2 miles to the base camp. In the winter, you can stay in Shegar (New Tingri), which offers better accommodation and a lower altitude, but is around 60 miles away. It therefore does not allow for early morning sightings, but as visibility is much better at this time of the year this is not a problem.
The base camp is open from April until October, with the rainy season in July and August.
14 Nights from
Venture into Tibet by train to admire historic monasteries and visit Mount Everest Base Camp. Along the way discover how this holy land is adapting to life…
Day 1 - Fly to Beijing
Day 2 - Welcome to Beijing
Day 3 - Special tour - Beijing's past & present
Day 4 - At leisure or optional tours
Day 5 - Hike the Great Wall of China
Day 6 - Summer Palace, Art District & Fly to Xining
Day 7 - Overnight scenic train to Lhasa
Day 8 - Transfer to Tibet & Summer Palace tour
Day 9 - Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple & Sera Monastery
Day 10 - Sacred lake, glacier & Dzong architecture
Day 11 - Tashilhunpo Monastery & Everest Base Camp
Day 12 - Everest Base Camp & Sakya Monastery
Day 13 - Fly to Chengdu & time at leisure
Day 14 - Baby & Giant Pandas up close
Day 15 - Come face-to-face with the 71m Giant Buddha
Day 16 - Return flight to the UK
One of Tibet's most historically significant monasteries and home to magnificent stupa-tombs and Buddhist statues.
Hidden in the Tibetan mountains, the sacred Yamdrok Lake is a stunning sight and a deeply sacred place for Tibetans.
En-route to Everest we find this magnificent white glacier, framed by colourful prayer flags and high mountains.
Follow the path to enlightenment of the rare Gyantse Kumbum and enjoy fine views over the Dzong hilltop fortress.
Fortress-like Sakya is known as the "Great Wall of Tibet" and boasts an important collection of cultural relics.
Venture south off of the Friendship Highway to the base camp of the world's tallest and most fabled mountain.
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