A. Itinerary in Detail (18 Days)
Day 01: KATHMANDU [1400M] – LHASA [3660M]
Morning transfer to the airport for the hour-long flight to Tibet. This spectacular flight takes us right across the main Himalayan range and provides us with magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a further 2-hour drive by Landcruiser jeep to Lhasa where we will check in to the Hotel .It’s advisable to rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa’s altitude.
Day 02: IN LHASA
Today will be spent visiting several of Lhasa’s many monasteries in the company of a guide and interpreter. One of these is the Sera Monastery, one of the best-preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within its whitewashed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. After lunch we’ll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as well as the Jokhang Temple. This temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet and there is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor – a maze of narrow cobbled streets that is the central market of Lhasa.
Day 03: IN LHASA
This morning we will visit the Potala Palace, which dominates the city of Lhasa. A spectacular building, it contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as numerous grand staterooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century. A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe- inspiring day. Founded in the 14th century, this monastery was once the largest in the world. With a population of around 10,000 monks. These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
Day 04: DRIVE LHASA – GYANTSE [3950M] 261 KM: Today we start our overland journey towards Kathmandu. Travelling by jeep along the Friendship Highway we cross the Khamba La [4794m] from which there is stunning views across the waters of Yamdrok-tso Lake to the snowy summit of Nazin Kang Sa [7252m]. We continue westwards over another high pass the Karo La [5045m] where we are treated to the spectacular sight of a huge glacier tumbling down to within a few hundred metres of the road. After passing through beautiful valleys and colourful Tibetan villages we arrive in the town of Gyantse. Our overnight at hotel.
Day 05: DRIVE GYANTSE [3950M] – SHIGATSE [3900M] 90KM: Before leaving Gyantse we have time this morning to visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating from the 14th century from which there are amazing views of both Gyantse itself and the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley. The Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals. We then continue on to Shigatse, a short drive of only 90kms, arriving in time for lunch. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and after exploring the local market we will make a detailed visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery. This monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls. Overnight at hotel.
Day 06: SHIGATSE [3900M] – SHEGAR/NEW TINGRI [4050M]: Today we continue along the Friendship Highway, marvelling once more at the barren yet spectacular landscape of Tibet. Beyond the small town of Lhatse we cross the highest pass on our journey, the Gyamtso La [5220m]. From here we descend to the plains, passing lonely monasteries and the camps of nomadic herders, en route to Shegar . Shortly after leaving Shegar, we turn off the Friendship Highway and head south over the Pang La [5150m] towards the main Himalayan range. The view from the top is incredible with uninterrupted views stretching from Makalu to Shishapangma.
Day 07: TREK FROM LO TINGRI TO TASHI DZONG (4205m), 5-6 hrs
Day 08: TREK FROM TASHI DZONG TO LALUNG LA PASS (5036m), 6-7 hrs
Day 09: TREK FROM LALUNG LA PASS TO RONGBUK 5000m, 7-8 hrs
Day 10: RONGBUK EVEREST BC: We spend a night here in Base camp to acclimatize, this is a good place to read a book: just how often do you get a chance to sit and read at 5000m and with the stunning view of Everest’s north face. Overnight at tented camp
Day 11: TREK FROM EVEREST BASE CAMP TO CAMP 1 [5460M]: The Rongbuk Glacier is an impressive frozen ocean of ice waves; the views of the glacier and the Himalayan peaks are some of the most dramatic in Tibet. Along the east side of the gslacier is the trail that expeditions use to begin their climbs of Everest and this is the trail we are taking. Camp 1 [5460m] is set in a barren world of moraine hills under beautifully sculpted yellow-orange granite cliffs. The next camp is too far to reach in a single day, so to help us acclimatise we spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the gravely snout of the east Rongbuk Glacier. Overnight at tented camp
Day 12: TREK TO INTERMEDIATE CAMP [5760M]: The trail to the Interim Camp climbs and descents over the gravel hills, always staying above the west edge of the ice. Intermediate camp [5760m] is a good place to spend a night acclimatizing before advancing to Camp 2. Nearby, the first ice seracs [ice pinnacles] rise like white sails from the dark debris-laden surface of the glacier we will go and take a good look at these. Overnight at tented camp
Day 13: REST IN INTERMEDIATE CAMP: We spend a day here for further acclimatisation. We will of course explore the surroundings on small excursions. Overnight at tented camp.
Day 14: TREK TO CAMP 2 [5970M]: About two hours above the Interim camp the central ridgeline leads in to a confusion of ice at the confluence with the Changtse glacier. Camp 2 [5970m] is only ten minutes from here, it is set in a beautiful location; glaciers large and small spill into the valley from every direction and the appropriately named Sera Highway continues to extend its unusual gravel arm trough the centre of the of the ice formations. Overnight at tented camp
Day 15: TREK TO ABC [6340M] AND RETURN TO CAMP 2: Depending on how the group feels, a decision must be made between moving tents up to camp 3 or visiting it as a hike and spending a second night at camp 2. Unless the group is particular interested in sleeping in Camp 3, we return to camp 2 today, this gives us a better chance to enjoy the walk back to base camp tomorrow. Camp 3, the advanced base camp for the North Col route up Mount Everest, is situated within a group of flattened gravel mounds beside the glacier. The pinnacles, the frightening group of rock palisades that kept the Northeast Ridge unclimbed for so long, are just another 11/2 km. Further up from camp 3. Most amazing of all is the ridge extending above the Pinnacles to the southwest: the striated rock summit of Everest. The top of this mountain appears phenomenally close; it is little more than 2400 meter higher than camp 3. This is the closest non-climbers can get the top of Everest. With a pair of binoculars, you are almost there. Overnight at tented camp
Day 16: RETURN TO BASE CAMP: The return to Base Camp is a long down hill journey, but we complete it in one day, if we start out from Camp 2 it is much more enjoyable than from camp 3, we will have a chance to get our eyes off the end of our boots. Overnight at tented camp
Day 17: DRIVE RONGBUK [5000M] – NYALAM 215KM: Today we rejoin the Friendship Highway and drive to Tingri. Upon leaving Tingri, we cross another two high passes, the Lalung La [5124m] and the Shung La [5200m]. Once more we are rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks of Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, Menlungtse and Gauri Shankar. Now we begin our descent from the Tibetan Plateau to Nyalam just 30 km before the Nepalese border. With dramatic suddenness, everything appears incredibly lush and green. Overnight at hotel
Day 18: DRIVE NYALAM – KATHMANDU [1400M] 153KM: From Nyalam we drive the last 30 kilometres to the Friendship Bridge, which spans the Bhote Koshi River and marks the Chinese – Nepalese border. Overnight at hotel