Central Tibet Overland Tour -8 days
Tibet has fascinated travelers for centuries and a drive over the vast dry plateau provides a chance to meet its people allow understanding the Tibetan lifestyle. The drive from Kathmandu to Lhasa is to be an experience of a lifetime as you get to look at the stunning landscape, architecture and the spiritual people of Tibet. When flights to Lhasa aren't operating the only way to travel there is by road from Kathmandu. However when flights are operating some prefers to overland one way and flies the other.
The drive from Kathmandu to Lhasa takes you through the spectacular Passes and revealing views of the majestic Himalayas over the "Friendship Highway" which will take takes merely five-days. The overland journey is well worth as you encounter some enchanting Buddhist monasteries and remote villages untouched by modern civilization. While approaching the city you will be able to notice the Potala Palace, a vast white and ochre fortress that dominates the Lhasa skyline. The historical seat of Tibetan power and the location of the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas, the Potala Palace has been reduced to serve as a symbolic feature for Tibetan aspirations. The Jokhang temple, 2 km to the east of the Palace, has become the spiritual hub of the country. Bustling with worshippers and redolent with mystery, the Jokhang is an unrivalled Tibetan experience. The medieval Barkhor Bazaar with crowds, street performers, hawker's stalls selling everything from prayer flags to jewel-encrusted yak skulls and the devout touching their foreheads to the ground at every step to Jokhang is an exotic brew that few newcomers can resist. A visit to Drepung monastery can be a very enlightening experience. The Norbulingka Palace (summer palace of the Dalai Lamas) along with a round of the Sera monastery is the other highlight of the tour.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 01: Kathmandu to Nyalam - [3,750m/12,300ft]-162Kms.
Early morning drive (Approx. 5 hours) from Kathmandu to Kodari (1,873m/6,140ft). After completing immigration and custom formalities drive up hill to Zhangmu (2,300m/75,44ft). This is Tibetan border town. The Tibetan Guide will meet the Group on arrival at the check post and we drive further, road climbs and climbs to Nyalam for overnight. On the way you will see fantastic view of deep valley with some overflowing waterfalls.
Day 02: Nyalam to Lhatse - [4,350m/14,270ft]-220Kms.?Drive (Approx. 6 hours)
to Shelkar crossing two spectacular passes. Nyalam pass (3,800m/12,464ft) and Lalung La pass (5,082m/16,670ft). This drive offers fantastic view of the high mountains including, Mount Everest (8,848m/29,021ft) Jugal Himal, Mt. Makalu (8464m) etc. Overnight in Lhatse
Day 03: Lhatse to Shigatse - [3,900m/12,790ft]-244Kms.?Drive (Approx. 6 hrs)
to reach Shigatse, the place of famous Tashilunpo Monastery and seat of Panchen Lama until his death in 1989 with its huge Thangka wall which is clearly visible from the north side of the road . Overnight in Shigatse.
Tashilhunpo Monastery founded in 1447 by Gedun Drup the First Dalai lama is a historic and culturally important monastery next to Shigatse the second-largest city in Tibet.
The monastery is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lmas, the second highest rankingTulku lineage in the Gelungp tradition. Panchen Lama had temporal power over three small districts, though not over the town of Shigatse itself, which was administered by a dzongpön (prefect) appointed from Lhasa.
Located on a hill in the center of the city, the full name in Tibetan of the monastery means: "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory"
If the magnificence of the place was to be increased by any external cause, none could more superbly have adorned its numerous gilded canopies and turrets than the sun rising in full splendour directly opposite. It presented a view wonderfully beautiful and brilliant; the effect was little short of magic, and it made an impression which no time will ever efface from my mind.
Pilgrims circumambulate the monastery on the Lingkor (sacred path) outside the walls.
Day 04: Shigatse to Gyantse - [3,950m/12,955]-90kms.
In the morning visit the Tashilunpo Monastery and the free bazaar of Shigaste. After lunch embark on a pleasant 2 hours drive to Gyantse. Here you visit the Khumbum Stupa and Phalkot Monastery. Overnight in Gyantse.
Gyantse is a small agricultural town is at 13, 050 ft above sea level and 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 has nice tiers and, according to the Buddhist tradition, 108 chapels. The lower tiers contain excellent murals.
A Kumbum ("One hundred thousand holy images", is a multi-storied aggregate of Buddhist chapels in Tibet . It forms part of Palcho monastery.
The first Kumbum was founded in the fire-sheep year 1427 by a Gyantse prince. It has nine lhakangs or levels, is 35 metres (115 ft) high surmounted by a golden dome, and contains 77 chapels which line its walls. Many of the statues were damaged during the Cultural revolution but have since been replaced with clay images, though they lack the artistic merit of the originals. The 14th century murals showing Newari and Chinese influences, survived much better.
The Kumbum or great gomang (many-doored) choerten at Gyantse is a three dimensional mandala , meant to portray the Buddhist cosmos. The Kumbum, like other mandalas, which are portrayed by a circle within a square, enables the devotee to take part in the Buddhist perception of the universe and can depict one's potential as they move through it. Mandalas are meant to aid an individual on the path to enlightenment. The Kumbum holds a vast number of images of deities throughout its structure with Vajraholder the cosmic Buddha, at the top.
"The lhakangs of the nine levels of the Kumbum, decreasing in number at each level, are structured according to the compendium of Sakya tantras called Drubtab Kantu. Thus each lhakang and each level creates a mandala, and the entire Kumbum represents a three-dimensional path to the Buddha's
enlightenment in terms of increasingly subtle tantric mandalas.
Day 05: Gyantse to Lhasa - [3,650m/11,970]-259kms.
The drive to Lhasa takes 7 hours, crossing 2 passes The Karo La (5010m) and Kamba La (4794m) pass and Lake Yamdrok Tso (Turquoise Lake).
Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet . It is over 72 km (45 mi) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end.
Around 90 km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northeast. According to local mythology , Yamdok Yumtso lake is the transformation of a goddess.
You will cross the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahamaputra) river and see the distant views of the Potala Palace. Overnight in Lhasa
Day 6: Lhasa Sightseeing -Sera monastery-Norbulingka-Jokhang Temple-Bharkor Barzar
Sera was established by Jamchen Choje Sakya Yeshe in 1419 on the request of his teacherJe Tsongkhapa. Sakya Yeshe was the close disciple of Tsongkhapa who was invited to become mentor of the Chinese emperor on behalf of Tsongkhapa and who taught extensively in China, particularly in the Imperial court, converting many royal members and in Wutaisan. He was one ofLama Tsongkhapa's 8 close disciples who were known as the eight flagpoles upholding the teachings. When he returned to Lhasa from China, he bought along gifts from the emperor, including a set of Tangyur (canons of teachings spoken by Buddha) commissioned by the emperor, a set of 16 arhats, a sandalwood statue of the Buddha. These became the treasures of Sera, along with a Hayagriva statue said to have once spoken and a Chenrezig statue which belonged to the famous nun, Gelongma Padma, lineage founder of the set of 11 faced Chenrezig practices including the Nyunglay practice, transmitted directly by Chenrezig to the nun in a vision.
Norbulingka Palace, situated in the west side of Lhasa is just around a km southwest of Potala Palace. Norbulingka meaning 'Treasure Park' covers an area of around 360000 sq. m. and is considered to be the biggest man made garden in Tibet. You will be amazed to know that there are more than 370 rooms inside its premises. It is called summer palace because after the 7th Lama, Dalai Lamas used to visit here during summers to hold religious and government related activities. As a part of "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace", UNESCO added Norbulingka in its list of world heritage sites.
The area on which the palace stands today used to be a wasteland full of weeds and wild animals. The 7th Dalai Lama often visited the place and spend his time here. Seeing this the Qing magistrate ordered for a palace to be built in the garden. The construction of the palace started in the 1740s and named the garden Norbulingka. In 1751, the 7th Dalai Lama himself started the construction of his own palace called Kelsang Potrang inside Norbulingka itself. In its life span of more than 200 years, Norbulingka has seen a lot of construction on it. The 8th Dalai Lama built a lake and a group of buildings called C. Each Dalai Lama had a building built for himself and named them.
History of Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple ("House of the Lord Buddha") in Lhasa is the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism, attracting crowds of prostrating Tibetan pilgrims and curious foreign tourists every year. It hosts the annual Great Prayer Festival, as well as all ceremonies of initiation for the Dalai Lama and Panchen Llamas.
Jokhang Temple was founded in 647 by King Songtsen Gampo (r.617-49), the first ruler of a unified Tibet, and his two foreign wives who are credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet. The king's first wife, Princess Bhrikuti (married in the 630s), was the sister of the Nepalese king, while his second wife, Princess Wencheng (married 641), was the niece or daughter of the Chinese emperor.
What to See
Tourists can only tour Jokhang Temple in the afternoon; the morning is reserved for pilgrims. The best way to experience the temple is to arrive at 8am to watch the pilgrims perform their devotions, then visit the interior in the afternoon. The temple is relatively quiet then, save for the presence of Chinese student tour guides.
Jokhang Temple is a very important pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists. Pilgrims come from all corners of Tibet, usually on foot and often performing austerities for penance along the way. The most devout pilgrims cover the last several miles prostrate on the ground. More prostrations are undertaken in the plaza in front of the temple. Before entering, most pilgrims circumambulate the temple on the Barkhor, a sacred path that is also lined with market stalls selling yak butter and jewelry.
About Barkhor street
Barkhor Bazaar is the oldest street in Lhasa, as well as the most representative. It is a place full of religious atmosphere and a world of exotic articles. Traditional Tibetan houses and narrow lanes in and around the street whisper the stories of old Lhasa.
The Barkhor Bazaar Highlights
Located in the old area of Lhasa City, Tibet, Barkhor Street is a very ancient round street surrounding the Jokhang Temple. Combining ancient and modern, religious and everyday life in perfect harmony, Barkhor Street is indeed a must-see for all visitors.For tourists, Barkhor Street is a magical place showing the original outlook of Lhasa. The street was paved by hand-polished stone boards.A place full of religious atmosphere Today many pilgrims hold the prayer wheels to walk clockwise there from dawn to dark. Also you can see some pilgrims walking or progressing body-lengths by body-lengths along the street.Even some of them are teenagers or have experienced thousands of miles' walk to reach this sacred place. The way they express their piety could make you understand the holiness of religion.
Marketplace Barkhor Street is also a marketplace in which visitors can buy many beautiful souvenirs. Varied shops stand on both sides of the street and thousands of floating stands are on every corner. Most of them offer the prayer wheels, long-sleeve 'chuba' (the Tibetan people's traditional clothes), Tibetan knives and some religious articles for sale. Furthermore, some shops sell 'Thangka' (the Tibetan scroll painting), which is a unique art of Tibet with the themes of religion, history, literature, science and customs. Surprisingly, there are some articles from India and Nepal in this street as well.
Day 07: Lhasa Sightseeing -Potala palace-Drepung monastery
The Potala Palace in Lhasa was the primary residence of the Dalai Lama until 1959. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum, a popular tourist attraction, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site It was also recently named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" by the television show Good Morning America and the newspaper USA Today.
History of Potala palace
This hilltop site above the city of Lhasa originally hosted the meditation retreat of King Songtsen Gampo, who built the first palace there in 637 in order to greet his bride Princess Wencheng of China.Construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama, Lobsang Gyatso, an important figure in Tibetan history. Known as the "Great Fifth," he unified Tibet and made the Yellow Hat sect the state religion. The White Palace was completed in 1648, after which it was used as winter quarters by the Dalai Lama.Construction on the Red Palace was still underway when the Great Fifth died in 1682. Fearing the project would be abandoned, the monks kept his death a secret for 10 years until the Red Palace was completed. In the meantime, the Dalai Lama was impersonated by a monk who looked most like him.
What to See
Built on a rocky hill overlooking the city of Lhasa, the Potala Palace has a sturdy fortress-like appearance. It contains more than a thousand rooms spreading over an area of 1,300 feet by 1,000 feet. The stone walls are 16 feet thick at the base, but more finely constructed (without the use of nails) in the upper stories
Drepung monastery monastery was founded in 1416, Drepung Monastery (Tibetan: Drepung Gompa; Chinese:Zhébàng Sì) on the outskirts of Lhasa was once Tibet's largest and most influential monastery, with over 10,000 monks. Today, Drepung houses about 700 monks and attracts pilgrims and visitors from around the world.Drepung is especially known as the site of the annual Shoton Festival, with its dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka painting on the hillside.
History of Drepung monastery
Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 by Tsongkapa's disciple Jamyang Choeje. It was the home of the Dalai Lamas before the Potala palace was built in the 17th century. Resembling a heap of white rice from a distance, it was dubbed "Monastery of the Collecting-Rice" (Drepung Gompa) in Tibetan
Festivals and Events
Before the 17th century, Buddhist discipline required monks to stay in their temples for weeks in the summer. This prevented them stepping on small creatures outside for a time, and taught them to live in harmony with one another. When finally allowed to leave their confinement, monks went down to the mountains, where laymen would prepare yogurt for them as alms. The monks enjoyed the yogurt and happily celebrated their newfound freedom.This is the origin of the "SHOTON" or Shoton Festival at Drepung, which takes place every August. Today, the Shoton Festival is a time for monks to go the mountains for contemplation, after which time their families will meet them on the mountainside. Many lay Buddhists make a pilgrimage to Drepung during this time and participate in the festivities, which include performances by the Tibetan Opera.The Shoton Festival begins with the dramatic unfurling of a giant thangka banner of the Buddha, amidst incense smoke, the sound of bugles, and scripture recitations. Devotees rush to make offerings before it is rolled up again in less than two hours
Day 08: Final departure from Lhasa or extend your tour
From today you are free; so make your own itinerary or contact us to extend your trip. You are responsible for making all the necessary arrangements and return journey to Nepal or towards to mainland China. However, if you would like to fly out from Lhasa to Kathmandu or any other city of mainland China, we can manage the air or Train ticket in advance.Today we end our beautiful experience of Tibet tour and we would love to send you all our best wishes for your continue happy journey and Tibet warmheartedly welcome you back home forever.