Destination Himalaya
Sanjay Saxena Conde Nast Top Travel Specialist for India, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka
India, Nepal, Tibet & Sri Lanka

Essential Tibet

If you are going to make just one trip to Tibet, then there are some places that you simply must visit.  This trip has been tailored to allow travelers to take in the sites that comprise the “Essential Tibet". The heart of Tibet, the central provinces of Ü and Tsang, are home to four of Tibet’s major monasteries, its three largest cities, two of its most sacred lakes, and one unforgettable palace - not to mention a host of other incredible attractions.

We begin our journey in the lovely Yarlung Valley, through which flow the rushing waters of the great Tsangpo River.  While experiencing the scenic wonders of the Yarlung Valley, we will pay an enlightening visit to the Nyingmapa monastery at Samye.  We will then be blessed with five wonderful days in the magical environs of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, its skyline dominated by the majestic ramparts of the Potala Palace.  While in Lhasa, we will visit Tibet’s holiest temple, the sacred Jokhang.  We will wander the adjoining Barkhor, the maze of shops and stalls that encircles the Jokhang, and join with Tibetan pilgrims as they ritually circumambulate the Barkhor and Jokhang koras.  In the cities of Shigatse and Gyantse, discover the monastery at Tashilhunpo (home of the Panchen Lamas) and the amazing stupa of the Kumbum.

Essential Tibet, however, is not just palaces, temples and monasteries.  During our travels we will take in the natural splendor of the sacred lakes of Nam-tso and Yamdrok-tso, cross mountain passes in excess of 17,000 feet, and, most importantly, experience the genuine hospitality of the amazing Tibetan people.

Outline Itinerary – 2015


Day 2: ARRIVE CHENGDU – Connecting in Beijing you arrive Chengdu late in the evening.  You will be met on arrival by your trip leader and transferred to our hotel. The Shangri-La Hotel

Day 3: FLY TO TIBET/IN TSEDANG – In the morning, we fly to Gongkar Airport in Tibet. Upon arrival we will meet our local Tibetan guide and then drive to our hotel at Tsedang. Tonight we will get together for a very special Welcome Dinner.   

Day 4: EXPLORING TSEDANG – We begin our day by crossing the Yarlung Tsangpo as we head towards the important monastery of Samye, Tibet’s first monastic institution founded in the 8th Century CE by King Trisong Detsen.

Day 5: TO LHASA – Today we head to Tibet’s capital, the “forbidden city” of Lhasa, where we will settle in for a five-day visit in this historic city. In the afternoon we will take a guided walk through the labyrinthine streets of the Barkhor, the lively marketplace in old Lhasa.

Day 6: EXPLORING LHASA – Our day begins with a visit to two of Tibet’s most pre-eminent monasteries, Drepung and Nechung.  In the afternoon, we will return to the Barkhor area and visit the Jokhang, the religious heart and soul of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Day 7: EXPLORING LHASA – Today we penetrate the defenses of the mystical Potala Palace, once the home of the Dalai Lamas and now a museum.  Following our visit to the Potala, we will explore another important monastery, Sera, where monks argue the finer points of Buddhist philosophy in their daily debating sessions.

Day 8: EXPLORING LHASA – Following an excursion to Ganden monastery, the most important institution for the Gelukpa monastic order, we will have the remainder of the day in Lhasa free to explore, wander or relax.

Day 9: TO GYANTSE – After an unforgettable five days in Lhasa, we set out towards Gyantse and Shigatse.  On the road to Gyantse, we will stop at Yamdrok-tso, one of Tibet’s four great sacred lakes.  In Gyantse we will visit the monastery of Pelkor Chöde, home to one of Tibet’s most indelible sites, the Kumbum (the Temple of the Hundred Thousand Buddhas).

Day 10:  TO SHIGATSE – Today’s drive from Gyantse to Shigatse is quite lovely, where fields of green stand in contrast to the rugged, earthen hills of Central Tibet.  After arriving in Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city, we will visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, home to the Panchen Lamas.

Day 11:  IN SHIGATSE – Today’s main activity will be a hike in the environs of Ngor Monastery, in the hills outside of Shigatse.  The rest of the day will be free to explore the markets and bazaars in Shigatse.

Day 12:  TO LHASA – After breakfast, we will take the road back to Lhasa, where we will convene with our new friends and travel companions for a delicious Farewell Dinner.

Day 13:  TO CHENGDU – In the morning, we transfer to Gongkar for our flight to Chengdu and connecting onto Beijing.

Day 14:  RETURN TO USA – Depart Beijing, arriving in the USA the same day.

Suggested Extensions:
  • QuickEscapes – Kerala
    After twelve days at high altitude, take in some R&R in the calm and leisurely paced life on the backwaters of the Arabian Sea, enjoy the pristine beaches of Kerala and an Ayurvedic spa. We fly you to Cochin via Kathmandu.

Other itineraries featuring Central Tibet:

Call us toll free at 1-800 MY INDIA (1-800-694-6342) or email us to request a detailed day-to-day itinerary.

Detail of mural showing the Sakyamuni Buddha
Monks at prayer
Potala Palace, Lhasa
Monks debating, Sera Monastery
Nam-tso & Yamdrok Lakes Samye Monastery
It's Included:
Medical & evacuation insurance
All hotels, meals, ground transportation, local guides and entrance fees
Fully escorted trip

Departure Dates:
On demand: April - Nov

Land Cost:
From: $4085 per person

Statue of Maitreya lighted by butter lamps, Drepung Monastery
Maitreya statue, Drepung

Monk at Buddhist Festival
Monk at festival

Samye Monastery
Photo: Gillian Marshall

Khampa woman in Lhasa

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