The Holy Lhasa tour includes the city of Lhasa, the Yarlung Valley, Gyantse and Shigatse. This spiritual journey traces the footsteps of Buddhist pilgrims, who spend months and years traveling to the many holy sites of central Tibet. Travelers will visit magnificent monasteries, ancient chortens, sacred mountains, caves and temples, lively bazaars and historic trading towns. They will participate in meditation, observe rituals, mingle with pilgrims, deeply connect with local people and traditions, and expand their inner horizons.
The tour begins in Lhasa, which is the center of Tibetan commercial and spiritual life, and the most popular destination in Tibet for pilgrims and tourists. The city, established in the 7th century, is located in a valley of the Kyi River, a tributary of the Yarlang Zangbo (known in India as the Brahmaputra). At an altitude of about 3,600 meters, Lhasa is sunny year-round and has a semi-arid climate.
Potala Palace is the symbolic center of Tibetan life. Most visitors will recognize this iconic building from depictions in photos and paintings. It was built by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century, and is named for Mt. Potalaka, the heavenly home of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. The palace has over 1,000 rooms in 13 stories and is the traditional home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of Tibetan government.
In Lhasa’s old town travelers will discover the ancient Jokhang Temple surrounded by a famous circumambulation route that passes through the bustling Barkhor market. Not far from the city are the Sera and Drepung monasteries, which are two of the three most important religious and scholastic institutions of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
From Lhasa travelers will travel southeast to Samye Monastery and the Yarlung Valley, which are called the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Samye is the oldest monastery in Tibet, and the Yarlung Valley contains many ancient spiritual sites, temples, and the burial mounds of Tibet’s first kings. Travelers will visit holy sites in the towns of Gyantse and Shigatse, and then ascend to high-altitude Namtso Lake, a holy and pristinely beautiful pilgrimage destination.
Days 1-5: Lhasa After a short flight over the Himalayan Mountains, we’ll arrive in Lhasa, enjoy a welcome reception, and rest. While acclimatizing in Lhasa, we’ll explore the city by walking around the Barkhor Square and mingling with Tibetan pilgrims. We will visit Potala Palace, Jokang Temple, and Sera Monastery to learn about Tibetan architecture, history, and culture. Participants will meet Tibetan artisans and scholars to learn more about Tibetan folk arts such as painting, wood curving, and handcrafts.
Days 6-8: Yarlung Valley/Samye/Yumbu Lhakang After a few hours of drive from Lhasa, we will visit a village and mingle with local Tibetans. In the afternoon, you will be taken directly to a hotel in Tsedang, a southern Tibetan town located in the heart of the Yarlung valley, the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Here we will explore the 8th century Samye Monastery. It is Tibet’s first Buddhist monastery built in the shape of a mandala. We’ll also visit Yumbu Lhakang, Tibet’s first palace, and Traduk Monastery built in 541 A.D.
Days 9-10: Gyantse/Shigatse/Tashilhunpho We head further to the historic outpost of Gyantse, crossing two high passes and visiting Yamdrok Lake (“Jade Lake”), one of the three largest lakes in Tibet and a holy site for pilgrims. Gyantse, a small agricultural town at 13,050 ft above sea level, is famous for its wool carpets and palkhor choide chorten. The Palkhor Monastery, built in 1427, is notable for its superb Kumbum (10,000 images) Stupa, which, according to Buddhist tradition, has 108 chapels to explore. We will then continue onward to Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city, where we will visit gold-crowned Tashilhunpho Monastery, one of Tibet’s most vibrant and breathtaking sites.
Days 11-12: Namtso/Tashi Dhor Our trip would not be complete without a stop at Namtso Lake. Namtso is approximately 240km northwest of Lhasa and is 14,720 meters high. Of course, this height can make people nervous and can cause altitude sickness unless proper acclimatization techniques are employed. The lake is stunningly beautiful, and is considered very sacred to Tibetans. It should not be missed by anyone visiting Tibet. Participants can visit Tashi Dhor Monastery, take short hikes, and mediate in sacred coves. Namtso is naturally suited for grazing herds. You’ll see many Tibetan nomadic tents. You can visit them, mingle with the nomads, and learn their traditional way of life.
Days 13-14: Lhasa Free time to rest, shop, prepare for your return, or visit other sites. The trip concludes with a farewell dinner in Lhasa. You are free to plan your own post-Sacred Journey adventure (e.g. Everest Base Camp, Mt. Kailash, or a visit to Kham) and we can assist all continuing travelers with these plans.
Trip Style: Lodging will be simple; we will stay in comfortable hotels and guesthouses. No camping.
Arrival: You have option of coming into Lhasa from Nepal or Mainland China. Once you are accepted to the program, you’ll receive our Trip Logistics Guide. It will include all the essential information you’ll need to obtain a Chinese visa and make other necessary preparations for the trip. The guide includes suggested travel gear, a recommended reading list, a day-to-day itinerary, health and safety information, and other key information to make your trip successful and safe. You will receive your Tibet Permit from us in any cities in Mainland China.
For more information about trip specifics and cost, send us an email with your travel interests, number of people in your party, length of your trip, time of year you plan to travel, and main interests (homestay, trekking, horse trekking, etc.). We will then develop a more specific itinerary with an estimated budget.
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Frequently asked questions about Tibet Travel Coop and our trips.