6-10 Days: Lhasa Monasteries-Gyantse-Everest Base Camp-Namtso Sky Lake
Lhasa-Yamdrok Lake-Karola Glacier-Gyantse-Pelchor Monastery-Kubum Stupa-Shigatse-Tashilhunpo Monastery-Sakya-Rongbu Monastery-Everest Base Camp-Namtso Lake.
Shorter itinerary possible if you return to Lhasa without going to Namtso Sky Lake.
This trip offers an in-depth experience of Lhasa and its monasteries, then takes you out into the countryside for a pleasant drive to the stunning Yudrok Yutso Turquoise Lake via La Gampa, a high mountain pass.
The sacred lake of Yamdrok Yutso sits at 4,408 m/14,461 ft and is believed to be the life-force of the Tibetan nation. Stretching over an area of 754 km, its teal blue waters create the largest lake in southern Tibet. Surrounded by snow capped mountain ranges, the lake is fed by icy streams and inlets that flow down from the higher elevations during the warm summer months. Its curved pincer shape boasts nine islands, numerous bays and is home to several monasteries. At Gampa La Pass, on the winding road that leads to Yamdrok Yutso Lake, you'll enjoy an unforgettable vista of shimmering turquoise water beneath a backdrop of glaciers.
In Gyantse, a town famous for having retained its rural Tibetan character, you will visit the unique 15th century octagonal Kubum Stupa (Stupa of 100,000 Deities) and the beautiful Pelkor Monastery next to it. These are both exquisite examples of Tibetan Buddhist sacred architecture, murals and images that have survived through the centuries. If you wish, you may stay overnight in Gyantse to experience more of the daily life of the people or drive on to Shigatse.
The city of Shigatse (population of just over 100,000) is slightly higher than Lhasa and was Tibet's second largest city before the rise of cities in far eastern Tibet. Traditionally, n important trading center, it was once the seat of government in Tsang, western Tibet and the home of the Panchen Lamas.
Tashilunpo Monastery was founded under the auspices of the First Dalai Lama in 1447 and is the seat of the Panchen Lamas. It is still counted among the six largest Gekukpa monasteries in Tibet, formerly housing 4,700 monks. Tashilunpo is not just a single temple, but more like a complex or small monastic city.
Leaving Shigatse, you will drive to the Mount Everest Base Camp for tourists. Here it is possible to hike a round trip of 8 km and to camp or stay in the Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse. To end the journey, you will return to Lhasa via Namtso Sky Lake.
Please enjoy these slideshows of Lhasa's monasteries and also recent photos of Gyantse, Everest Base Camp, and Namtso Sky Lake. Below, there is also a brief description of the Lhasa monasteries you will visit on this itinerary. But remember, everything can be customized—we love creating the trip of your dreams!
Slideshow: Lhasa & Its Monasteries:
Slideshow: Yamdrok Lake to Mt. Everest Base Camp:
Slideshow: Namtso Sky Lake:
Lhasa and Its Monasteries:
The holy city of Lhasa was founded as the capital of the Tibetan Empire in the 7th century by the Emperor Songtsen Gampo and since the beginning of the ascendancy of the Dalai Lamas in the 17th century, it has had no rivals on the Tibetan Plateau.
"The Place of the Gods", (10 950 ft.) which straddles the Kyichi Valley, is the planet's majestic rooftop city where the traditional Tibetan lifestyle continues, amid temples, wafting incense and devoted Buddhists. Filled with sights, sounds and an abundance of shops, restaurants and historical monasteries, the Tibetan quarter of Lhasa will keep you busy!
The glorious Potala Palace, truly an architectural gem, was the residence of the Dalai Lamas known to the Tibetans as Yishin Norbu, Wish-fulfilling Gem. The Emperor Songtsen Gampo is believed to have built the first palace in 637 and later it was rebuilt and expanded by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Today the Potala is a state museum but the vibration of sanctity can still be felt.
The Jokhang was built in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo and his two wives—the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti and the Chinese Princess Wencheng. It houses the famous Jowo Rinpoche (Buddha Shakyamuni) statue, the holiest object in Tibet. Over the centuries, the complex has expanded and been rebuilt several times but remarkably, the core of the original temple still remains and can be visited. The Jokhang is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its importance to the Tibetan people cannot be exaggerated.
The best way to experience the Jokhang is to arrive in the morning and mingle with pilgrims from all over Tibet as they perform their devotions. Then visit the temple in the afternoon with your guide. The interior of the Jokhang is a dark labyrinth of chapels dedicated to various gods and bodhisattvas, illuminated by votive candles and thick with the smoke of incense.
Five km north of Lhasa, Sera once housed more than 5,000 monks in the Gelugpa tradition. Sera, Enclosure of Roses, was established in the 15th century by a disciple of Tsongkhapa. Since 1959 and the Cultural Revolution, it has gradually been rebuilt but today it is still only a shadow of its former self. Displaying an impressive architecture, it also houses an impressive collection of sacred art and upholds the debating tradition of education which are held every afternoon except on Sundays. YouTube debate video
The Norbulingka is a park that was developed in the mid 18th century as the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas. It was also the seat of government during the summer. The complex includes a debating courtyard and three palaces. To the east there is an open air stage and gardens where operatic performances are held during Shoton Festival.
Drepung or Rice Heap Monastery located at the foot of Mount Gephel is one of the great three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The other are Ganden and Sera. Drepung is about 8 km west of Lhasa and is built below a valley wall. It once housed more than 7,000 monks. Much has been destroyed but the four main buildings have been preserved..YouTube video.
South-west of Drepung, Ganden was built by the Second Dalai Lama in the 16th century. Today it houses two important images, the talking Tara statue and the Great Compassionate One.
Lhasa-Yamdrok Lake-Karola Glacier-Gyantse-Pelchor Monastery-Kubum Stupa-Shigatse-Tashilhunpo Monastery-Sakya-Rongbu Monastery-Everest Base Camp-Namtso Sky Lake
A shorter itinerary is possible without Namtso Sky Lake at the end.