15-19 Days: Lhasa-Everest Base Camp-Mt. Kailash-Lake Manasarovar-Lost Guge Kingdom-Namtso Lake-Lhasa
From Holy City to Holy Mountain & Holy Lake: Lhasa-Mount Kailash & Lake Manasarovar
After spending a few days in Lhasa to acclimatize, you are ready to leave for Mount Kailash. Prepare for the experience of a lifetime!
An imposing 6,174 m, the majestic Mount Kailash (Gang Rinpoche in Tibetan or Precious Snow Mountain), in the far-western Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), offers its visitors unforgettable outer and inner experiences. Not only is this one of the highest regions in the world, it is the watershed of the mighty rivers of Asia. Mount Kailash is also one of the most important spiritual places on the Earth and is revered by millions of people—Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Bonpos and others— for its cosmic, geomantic powers.
The sacred mountain's whiteness and convex south face is said to reflect the sun's rays outward like a mirror, beyond the confines of our planet. Like a giant crystal, Its three faceted sides rise and glitter as the nexus of the Buddhist and Hindu universes.
Revered as the sacred axis mundi of central Asian cosmology, pilgrims come to make offerings, circle the mountain, cleanse their minds, and pray for world peace. Along the way, there are many places of historical and spiritual significance.
Just twenty kilometers away from Mt. Kailash lies the sacred emerald green Manasarovar Lake (15,015 ft.), the highest freshwater lake in the world. Revered as the epitome of purity, its waters are believed to have healing properties, both physical and spiritual. Religious Hindus can often been seen doing their ablutions in the Lake.
Lost Kingdom of Guge
Founded in the 10th century by a descendant of a Tibetan king, it's emergence marked the second promulgation of Buddhism in Tibet. Lost in the 17th century under mysterious circumstances, it was rediscovered in the the 1930's by the Italian explorer, Guiseppe Tucci. The site includes houses, once-inhabited caves, monasteries and stupas as well as sculptures, carvings and murals. The ruins cover an area of 720,000 square meters and lie at 3,800 m/12,400 ft. YouTube documentary:
Leaving Lhasa and driving south towards the Gongkar Airport, on the first leg of this journey, you will climb your first high pass and arrive at Yamdrok Yutso Turquoise Lake and the Karola Glacier. Driving further to the town of Gyantse, you will visit Pelkhor Monastery and Kumbum Stupa. In Shigatse (3,900 m), a city of just over 100,000. After visiting the famous Tashilunpo Monastery, you'll head to the tourists' Mount Everest Base Camp (EBC).
At EBC, (5,150 m/16,900 ft) if you like, you can hike to the trekkers' base camp about 4 km. away where you can camp or stay in the Rongbuk Monastery Guesthouse.
The next day, you'll drive along paved roads to Saga (4,500 m), enjoying spectacular views of Mount Shishapangma and the turquoise Pigutso Lake and then check-in to a hotel or guesthouse for the night.
The following day, you'll travel to the small village of Darchen (4,575 m) at the foot of Mt. Kailash and stay the night at a simple guesthouse. Darchen is the starting and ending point of the trek around Mt. Kailash.
The circuit for hiking around the Mountain requires three days for 53 km. In Darchen, it's possible to arrange for a horse if you cannot walk. From a spiritual or religious perspective, a hike like this is called "kora". Kora is an important practice for Buddhists, Bon and Hindus— you will be able to join as well. The trail winds around the base of the mountain, through barren lands and lush green valleys, offering views of snow-capped peaks and pristine blue lakes. There are several monasteries to visit along the way. The average altitude is nearly 5,000 m. The highest point is Drolmala Pass at 5,630 m.
From Darchen, you can walk or drive 8 Km to Darboche ( 4,660 m). Then it's another 12 km to the grassy meadows of Drirapuk Monastery (4,920 m) and the Cave of the Female Yak Hor where you'll spend one night. Drirapuk offers a spectacular view of the great north face of the mountain, a vertical sheer cliff consisting of jet black rock.
The next day, it's Dolma La Pass, 6.4 km from Drirapuk. The ascent takes about four hours and is the most arduous part of the journey. The peak of Mount Kailash now rises to the right. The trail meanders and passes a charnel ground where pilgrims discard an item of their possessions, representing the renouncing of worldly attachments. At the Pass, there is a large boulder into which the Twenty-One Taras (female buddhas) are said to have dissolved when the great Buddhist yogi Gotsangpo, journeyed there.
After the Pass, you will descend into the fields of Dzutrulpuk Monastery where you will find another night's accommodations and explore Milarepa's cave the following morning.
Finally, the trail winds back to Darchen for the night and then on to Manasarovar Lake (Lake Conceived from the Mind of God) (4,572 km). The Tibetan names for this lake are Mapham Yutso and Tso Madropa. Shimmering blue. It is one of the highest bodies of pure water in the world. Its surface reflects Mt. Kailash for most of the year except winter when it freezes over. At the Lake, you will be accommodated for one night at a guesthouse unless you extend your itinerary to include visiting the sights of the Lake and/or trekking along its shores.
After Manasarovar Lake, you can extend your journey to include the legendary Guge Kingdom before returning to Lhasa or returning to Lhasa via Namtso Sky Lake. The best time of year for this trip is May to October.
Please enjoy this slide show of this itinerary: