Tibet Overland - Overland Trip
1 ½ weeks: to (IMT-GCTO)
IntroThis classic route linking two of Asia’s most exotic cities ranks among the ultimate of all travel adventures. Travelling from the austere and beautiful, high Tibetan Plateau to the lush hill country and farming terraces of Nepal provides for some truly dramatic contrasts. This magnificent journey takes us within sight of towering peaks such as Mount Everest and crosses five passes over 5,000 metres above sea level. The road from Lhasa is rugged and demanding, but it’s an adventure in itself as we pass through farming villages, nomad camps, ancient towns and visit monasteries with a rich religious heritage - all set in the sweeping and vast landscapes of the Roof of the World.
IncludedAll tours are led by an experienced regional leader and there are services of local guides in certain sites. All transport, transfer to airport on Day 3, accommodation and meals as indicated in the detailed Trip Notes. The following sightseeing trips are also included: Kathmandu - one visit each to Bodhnath and Pashupatinath with trip leader including transport and entrance fees; Lhasa - one visit to Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery; Shigatse - one visit to Tashilhunpo Monastery. All other sightseeing are optional and not included.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Kathmandu
Today is an arrival day and no activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. If you are arriving early in Kathmandu you may wish to wander down to Durbar Square, which is the spiritual heart of the city located only 10 minutes walk from our hotel. Please ask at the hotel reception for suggestions of things to see and do in Kathmandu. A pre-departure meeting for the first (Nepal) part of your tour takes place this evening at the hotel. Please also check the noticeboard for details of this meeting and for any other messages from your tour leader. Please also bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the meeting, where your tour leader will also collect your local payment. Afterwards we have the opportunity to go out for an optional group dinner.Day 2 - Kathmandu
Today is a free day while our local staff arrange the group visa and permit for Tibet. We may decide to visit Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, where we observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. Perhaps also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here we see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating, pilgrims bathing and occasionally funeral pyres burning on the ghats. The rest of our time in Kathmandu is free for further sightseeing and exploration. You may wish to wander back into the centre of town, scour the shops in Thamel or just relax in the hotel gardens. Alternatively you may wish to arrange for a taxi to take you out to Bhaktapur, probably the most fascinating of the medieval towns in the Kathmandu Valley. Please note that no sightseeing is included in Kathmandu so you are free to use your time here as you wish, and will need to pay all entrance fees locally.Day 3-5 - Lhasa
We are transferred from the hotel to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport for the flight to Lhasa. This is one of the most spectacular flights in the world as we follow the high mountain peaks before crossing over the Himalayan chain to the high Tibetan Plateau. After arriving at Gongkar Airport, there is a long drive to the fabled city of Lhasa. The distance used to be 90 kilometres, but has been slightly shortened due to a tunnel that was recently opened. We spend the rest of our first day in Lhasa relaxing to aid our acclimatization, as it is likely we will be feeling some effects after coming from Kathmandu. On Days 4 and 5 we explore this once isolated city which is now a mixture of old and new. We visit the fabled Potala Palace, with optional sightseeing (entrances paid locally) to Jokhang Temple plus Sera and Drepung Monasteries. There is free time to wander around and explore this fascinating city on our own. You can wander around the markets around the Barkhor or arrange a taxi to go out to the Norbulingka (Summer Palace) or the interesting Tibet Museum.Day 6 - Gyantse
We follow the Friendship Highway - a spectacular road which traverses high mountain passes and crosses wide plateaus, connecting Lhasa with Kathmandu. Please note that the road conditions are very poor in many places in Tibet, so we should be prepared for bumpy and sometimes slow journeys. We first travel through Tibet’s richest farming areas, before crossing the Brahmaputra River as it winds its way down towards the Bay of Bengal many hundreds of kilometres away. In Tibet it flows at an altitude of 3939 metres above sea level, making it is the highest major river in the world. We cross the river on a solid suspension bridge and wind our way to Kamba La, where we enjoy a view over the huge Yamdrok Tso (Scorpion Lake). After the lake we climb again, this time to the Karo La (5010 metres) before descending to the historic town of Gyantse, which served as the capital of a small kingdom in the 15th century. The beautiful Kumbum Chorten, built around 1400, and the huge ruined fort bear witness to the powers that once ruled here. It later became the main centre for trade with British India and was the focal point for Younghusband’s British Expedition to Tibet in 1904, when his soldiers defeated some 5000 Tibetans and destroyed the fort by cannon fire. Gyantse is a great place to try the local specialty of 'momo', which are small meat dumplings.Day 7-8 - Shigatse
In the morning we explore Gyantse before taking a three-hour drive across the Tibetan Plateau in the afternoon. Our destination is Shigatse(3900m), the second largest city in Tibet with a population of some 40,000 people. Tashilhunpo Monastery is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, the most important incarnation for Tibetan Buddhists after the Dalai Lama. This impressive religious centre contains a giant statue of Buddha in the Temple of Maitreya as well as an ornate tomb, which is the final resting-place of the fourth Panchen Lama. Its huge size ensures it is almost a town in itself. One of Tibet's most active monasteries, it is currently being restored to its former beauty. We have a free time in Shigatse on Day 8, when we can just wander by ourselves through the old town or visit the market place and try one of the many unusual delicacies on offer.Day 9 - Shegar
Our adventure continues with a drive over rough, dusty roads to Shegar. In the morning we cross Jai Tsuo Pass with stunning views of the Himalayan peaks to the south. Although the scenery is desolate, the country is dotted with busy villages and ruined monasteries. Amongst these villages is the major town of Lhaze which makes for a convenient halfway point to stop; here we have the opportunity to try a local-style lunch. Our night stop, Shegar, is a small village of 1500 inhabitants with an interesting fort.Day 10 - Zhangmu
We pass through the Shegar checkpoint and then cross the Tingri Plains before ascending to Lalung Leh (5050m). At this pass we have spectacular views to the east (weather permitting) of Everest (8850m), Lhotse (8516m), Makalu (8463m), Cho Oyu (8201m) and Gauri Shanker (7146m). To the west it may be possible to see Xixapangma (8013m), Langtang (7245m) and Dorje Lakpa (6980m). That’s five peaks, each over 8000 metres in height - a truly spectacular sight. From the pass, we descend steeply over 3000 metres to the small town of Nyalam. As you near the border, the road is cut into the cliffs high above the valley floor. If you don’t like heights, you should sit on the left-hand side of the vehicle!Day 11 - Kathmandu
After breakfast we make the short trip to the border and complete customs and immigration formalities. We cross the Friendship Bridge that spans the Bhote (Tibet) Kosi River and enter Nepal, before driving back to Kathmandu. Our journey here is in complete contrast to the wild and often barren plains of Tibet. We travel through heavily populated areas, with lush terraced hillsides rising steeply from the valley. After nearly five hours of travelling we arrive back at our hotel in Kathmandu, where we spend our final night.Day 12 - Kathmandu
Our journey comes to an end this morning. You can extend your stay in Kathmandu or why not join another Gecko’s trip from Kathmandu to India?