Destination Himalaya

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

Festivals of Tibet Photo Cultural Tour

To the Roof of the World

A Photo Cultural Journey from
Lhasa to Kathmandu.

On the Roof of the World, locked away for centuries, Tibet has always held a unique place in the human imagination, conjuring an unearthly realm beyond our reach. Our award winning tour ("Trip of a Lifetime," National Geographic Traveler, 2010) is designed to touch the deep spiritual, natural, and cultural beauty and history of this region.

We begin our photography journey with four days exploring Lhasa, the magical capital of Tibet.  Here, we visit the majestic Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, secluded monasteries, and other fascinating sites.  Leaving Lhasa, we photograph the turquoise waters of Yamdruk Lake on our way to Gyantse to explore the Kumbum chörten.  Continuing via Shigatse and the monastery at Tashilhunpo, home of the Panchen Lamas, we reach the North Face of Everest.  Our trip is timed to arrive at Everest on May 29, the day Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first reached the summit in 1953.  After spending a night near Everest base camp in a small lodge, visiting the local temple and photographing Everest, we drive down a dramatic gorge to Zhangmu. From here, we travel to the colorful city of Kathmandu, Nepal, where we end our tour.

For some people, travel and photography are inseparable.  Whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer, our Photo Cultural Tours are designed to accommodate the needs of those who delight in documenting travel with photographic imagery.  The sites we visit, the timing for our travel, the flexibility of our program, the size of our small travel groups, and the activities we include in our program are all intended to create unique and memorable moments for you and your camera.

Outline Itinerary

You will be met on arrival and transferred to our hotel.

In the morning, our group will take the sunrise flight from Chengdu to Gongkkar, home to Tibet’s international airport. If the weather is clear, this sunrise flight from Chengdu to Tibet will offer magical panoramic mountain views, including the 24,783’ Minya Konka and the mighty Namche Barwa, 25, 439’. Upon arrival at Gongkkar, we will be met and transferred to our hotel in Lhasa.

We have two additional days to explore and photograph in and around Lhasa. Looming over Lhasa and the Kyi-chu Valley is the monumental Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lamas. A visit to this amazing historical site is certainly a highlight of any trip to Tibet, and today we will explore the many chapels, halls and tombs of the Red Palace. In addition to the Potala, we will also visit Sera Monastery, located to the north of Lhasa, which is perhaps most famous for the renowned and always lively sessions which take place in the Debating Courtyard. We will make a pilgrimage to the Jokhang, Tibet’s most sacred religious temple. The roof of the Jokhang, with its wonderful golden gables and carvings, offers a magnificent view of the Potala. The Barkhor, the maze-like warren of shops and stalls that surrounds the Jokhang, will beckon us to join the Tibetans who travel here to pay homage to the Jokhang as they circumambulate the sacred shrine.

After an unforgettable three days in Lhasa, we set out towards Gyantse.  A landscape photography day, our first stop will be to photograph the turquoise waters of Yamdrok-tso, one of Tibet’s four great sacred lakes. Continue driving to the 16,000ft Karo la pass, where (weather permitting) we photograph the Karo Glacier in the late afternoon light, before reaching Gyantse.

This morning we photograph the beautiful Kumbum stupa (the Temple of the Hundred Thousand Buddhas), one of the greatest buildings in the Tibetan Buddhist world, renowned both for its religious significance and dramatic architectural splendor. Driving to Shigatse through farming communities we have the opportunity of visiting and photographing villages and villagers en route.

We have the day in Shigatse as we explore the "Tibetan Bazaar" and of course the striking, walled fortress-like Tashilhunpo monastery. This has been an important religious institution since the 13th Century, and is the home of the Panchen Lamas.

This is a travel day, as we leave the hustle and bustle of Shigatse and head out across the starkly beautiful Tibetan Plateau towards our destination, the town of Shegar.

A pre-dawn departure brings us to Pang La, a 17,000 ft high pass offering a panoramic view of the Himalaya, in time for sunrise photography. Descending down from the pass we reach the one-of-a-kind destination: base camp at the north face of the mighty Everest, at 29,017’ the world’s tallest mountain peak. As we adjust to the elevation of base camp (16,700’), we will have the opportunity to explore the photogenic Rongbuk Monastery and catch the last rays of the setting sun on Everest.

It was on this day 60 years ago that Ed Hilary & Tenzing Nrgay stood on its summit. After a leisurely morning watching the sunrise on Everest, we leave the majestic north face of behind as we head to Nepal. We begin the precipitous drop in elevation, 9,000’ in total, as we reach the frontier town of Zhangmu, elevation 7,500’.

We rise in the morning, with porters and baggage in tow, as we clear customs and cross the Friendship Bridge into Nepal. We then drive to legendary Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, where we will visit Durbar Square and Hanuman Dhoka. Tonight we will enjoy a splendid Farewell Dinner.

We will be transferred to Kathmandu’s airport for flights to our respective Asian transit cities for connecting return flights to the USA.


Other Photo Cultural Journeys:
  • Photographer's India - Land of Tiger
    India's jewels are not just the palaces, temples, and bazaars but also its rich wild life which define her exotic past. On this wildlife photo tour, you will visit two of India’s premiere wildlife parks – Kanha National Park and Bandavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. We end the trip with visits to World Heritage sites of Khajuraho temples and the Varanasi by the banks of the Holy River Ganga.
  • Photographer's India - Pushkar Camel Fair
    The Indian sub-continent is more than a repository of an ancient civilization; it is a lively and ever changing work in progress. Visit a bazaar and groups of women in saris of seemingly impossible combinations of magenta and turquoise vie for visual attention with their sisters in silk of purple and yellow.
  • Photographer's Myanmar & Angkor Wat
    Myanmar (Burma of late) is a 'must' on any photographer's bucket-list. From the shimmering pagodas in Yangon to the fields of pagodas in Bagan to the leg-rower fishermen of Inle Lake, Burma will conjure up images that your minds eye will forever remember, while your camera tries to capture the moment. But that's not all, form Burma we fly to Cambodia to photograph the World Heritage site at Angkor Wat.

  • Photographer's Nepal
    Himalaya – the name says it all.  Straddling the border between Tibet and its southerly neighbor, the Kingdom of Nepal, the world’s tallest mountains soar to the heavens, seemingly piercing the unimaginably blue Tibetan skies.  This land was made for hikers and photographers
  • Photographer's Bhutan
    Bhutan is an immensely beautiful and serene land, and is a place where the Buddhist faith of its people remains the nation’s most vital cultural force. Our tour incorporates one of Bhutan's most preeminent Buddhist festivals.
Suggested Extensions:
  • QuickEscapes – Kerala
    After this hard high altitude tour, 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 Western Tibet and Everest:

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

"Tsering is simply one of the best guides I've had on any trip and gave one a true feeling of not only the Tibetan land but the feelings of its people too."
- Patrick V, PA

Potala Palace, Lhasa by photographer Lewis Kemper
Roof-top of Potala Palace

Sunrise on the Potala Palace
Sera & Drepung in Lhasa
Yamdruk Lake
Kumbum in Gyantse
Sunrise & Sunset on Everest
Bazaars of Kathmandu

It's Included:
Medical & evacuation insurance
All hotels and meals
All ground transportation (4-wheel drive SUV with 3 clients per vehicle)
All entrance fees at all monuments
All permit fees
Fully escorted trip;
Photography expert
plus Tibetan cultural guide

Private Departure:
April - October 2015

Land Cost per person:
8 - 12 participants: $5400
6 - 7 participants: $5880
3 - 5 participants: $6200
2 participants: $6800

Tour Map

North face of Everest by photographer Lewis Kemper
Visitor from Kham at the Jokhang

Buddha satatue, Lhasa  by photographer Lewis Kemper
Yamdruk Lake

Shepard's at Karo La

Photo: Jeff Davis

prayer objects
Photo: Jeff Davis

North face of Mount Everest by photographer Lewis Kemper
North face of Everest
Photo: Lewis Kemper

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