Kathmandu, Lhasa and around Kailash -21 days
Mount Kailash and the Lake Manasarovar hold an important place among the followers of Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. The myths and legends surrounding the region prove the essential unity of all the religions. Mount Kailash also represents as Kang Rinpoche, believed to be the resting place of Buddha Demchok. In Buddhist cosmology Mt. Kailash is the centre of the world and hence making the Kailash Kora one of holiest acts of merit for the followers of Buddhism. The region is also considered to be the site of the battle between the master of Tantric Buddhism Milarepa and the champion of Bon religion Naro Bonchung. Later Milarepa stayed on the mountain and meditated for a long time there. Milarepa decided that Kailash neither belongs to the Gods nor to the Demons, but only to the humans. Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal are associated with the sun and the moon, potent symbols in Tantric Buddhism. In some Buddhist works, Mansarovar is described as Anotatta or Anavatapta meaning the lake without heat and trouble.
According to Hindu mythology, Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailash. Mount Kailash regarded in many sects of Hinduism as Paradise, the ultimate destination of souls and the spiritual center of the world. Mt Kailash is a striking peak in the Himalayan Mountains of western Tibet. The source of some of the longest rivers in Asia, Kailash is a sacred mountain for four faiths: Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and followers of the indigenous Tibetan religion of Bön. Next to the mountain are two sacred lakes, the most important of which is Lake Manasarovar.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchok or Chakrasamvara), who represents supreme bliss. They also say it was on this sacred mountain that Buddhism displaced Bön as the primary religion of Tibet.
In Jainism, Kailash is known as Mount Ashtapada and is the site where the founder of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained liberation from rebirth.
In Bön, the religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, the mountain is believed to be the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.
Our encounters in Tibet begin with a visit to the 2nd century BC palace of Yumbulakhang, built by the first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo. An ancient palace in the Yarlung valley and the tomps of ancient Tibet kings. Then we proceed toward Lhasa, spending a few days in and around Lhasa. We visit such important sites of Tibetan Buddhism like Jokhang, the spiritual centre of Tibet, Norbulingka summer palace of dalai lamas, Potala winter palace of Dalai lamas, Drepung, and Ganden. Also visit the ancient meditation caves at Drakyerpa as well the seat of Karmapa, the Tsurpa Gompa. Then we move on toward Mt. Kailash and Manasarovar visiting many important Tibetan towns and Buddhist sites on our way including Shigatse and Gyangtse. We head toward Darchen in our preparation for Mt. Kailash Kora. Making a Kora around the Mount Kailash is an important part of our Tibet trip. After making the complete Kora of Mt. Kailash in three days, we proceed to make the Kora of Mansarovar Lake. From Saga, crossing the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra River to Nyalam we finally, cross the Nepal China Border on the way to Kathmandu.
Day2: Kathmandu sightseeing (Kathmandu three star hotel)
Day3: Flight Lhasa- Tsedang (stay in Tsedang)
Day4: Tsedang- Lhasa (visit Yumbulakhang, Traduk Temple)
Day5: Lhasa sightseeing visit Jokhang Temple, Sere Monastery
Day6: Lhasa sightseeing visit Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery
Day7: Gaden Monstery and Drakyepa
Day8: Tsurphu Monastery
Day9: Lhasa-Gyangtse-Shigatse (3,840m, 360km, 8-9 hours, overnight in hotel at Shigatse)
Day10: Shigatse-Lhatse (3950m, 280km, 6 hours, overnight in guest house at Lhase)
Day11: Lhatse-Saga (4,600m/15,131ft, 8-10 hours, Stay at Saga)
Day12: Saga- Darchen/ Chiu Gompa (4,560meters, 510km, 10-12 hours, Stay at Darchen/ Chiu Gompa)
Day13: First Day of Kora (trek)
Day14: Second Day of Kora (trek)
Day15: Third Day of Kora (trek)
Day16: Forth Day of Kora (trek)
Day17: Explore Manasarovar Full Day
Day18: Manasarovar/ Darchen- Saga (4,600m, 535km, 10-12 hours, stay in hotel at Saga)
Day19: Saga- Nyalam (3750m, 232km, 7-8 hours, stay in hotel at Nyalam)
Day20: Nyalam- Zhangmu -Kathmandu (1355m, 156km, 7-8 hours stay in hotel in Kathmandu).
Day21: Final Departure for your next trip or to home back
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu (1,355m/4,457ft)
Upon your arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport of Kathmandu Nepal, one of our Nepali representatives will welcome and assist you with your transfer to your hotel in Kathmandu. You can take some time to get refreshed, and in the evening you will meet your travel manager for your welcome dinner in one of the typical Nepalese restaurant in the heart of Kathmandu. Over dinner you will receive a briefing about your trip. Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 02: Kathmandu,
Sightseeing and take rest, familiarize, and make a sightseeing tour to Kathmandu's world heritage sites. The tour includes Katmandu Durbar Square, Pashupatinath, Syambhunath stupa & Bouddhanath stupa in ancient Katmandu. The day will also be for finalizing official procedure and other necessary arrangements. You can also make your last minute buying of personal items as you will be flying to Lhasa tomorrow. Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 03: Flight to Lhasa, drive to Tsedang (3,515m/11,561ft).
The Trans-Himalayan Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa will take 1 hour 10 minutes and considered as one of the most beautiful flights in the world as it takes you over Everest (8848m) and Kanchenjunga (8536m). Those who wish to join in Lhasa can arrive to Lhasa on the date mentioned. We will be meeting at Gonggar Airport by our Tibetan guide. Transfer to Tsedang (2 hours). Check into hotel and take everything easy to acclimatize the high altitude.
Tsedang is at a distance of 50 km from Samye, is one of the largest cities in Tibet and is located in the Yarlung Valley. Tsedang has been the capital of Yarlung since ancient times and was the seat of the ancient kings of Tibet and, as such, a place of great importance. It is situated near the flank of Mount Gongbori (3,400m) and is home to many ancient ruins. It is known as the cradle of Tibetan's civilization. In Tsedang you can see and explore, Yumbulakhang, Traduk temple to seethe tombs of ancient Tibetan kings.
Day 04: Drive to Lhasa (3,515m/11,561ft) visit Yumbulakhang - Traduk -Samye (10-12 hours).
Now you will begin your encounter with Tibet as you will visit to the 2nd century BC palace of Yumbulakhang, built by first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo. Proceed toward Lhasa visiting on the way the Traduk Temple and the oldest monastery in Tibet. (Samye Monastery). Traduk Temple: is one of earliest Buddhist monastery in Tibet which dates back to 7 century same as Jokhang and Ramoche in Lhasa. This is one of demon’s subduing temples in Tibet founded by the 33rd King Songtsan Gampo. The meaning of Traduk is Tra (Hauk), Duk (Dragon). Traduk was later enlarged under the auspices by the fifth and seventh Dalai Lama. Chonge Tsanpo Tomb: The Valley of the Kings or Chongye Valley. Those are believed to contain eight to ten buried Tibetan kings. According to Tibetan tradition all the kings from Dri-gum onwards are buried at ‘Phyong-rgyas, but as the site now presents itself, there are just ten tumuli identifiable as the tombs of all the kings from Songtsan Gampo to Khri-lde-srong-brtsan, including two princes. Other sources, however, have indicated that there are actually nine mounds rather than eight or ten. The kings believed to be buried at the site include Songtsän Gampo (the founder of the Tibetan Empire), Nansong Mangsten, Tridu Songtsen, Gyangtsa Laban, Tride Tsugtsen, Trisong Detsen, Muni Tsangpo and Tritsu Detsen. Samye Monastery was founded in the 8th century during the reign of King Trisong Detsen with the help of the Indian Buddhist masters Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, whom the king had invited to Tibet to help spread Buddhism. Padmasambhava is credited with subduing the local spirits and winning them over to Buddhism. A unique monastery and village rolled into one, Samye is a highlight of a visit to Tibet. Situated amidst breathtaking scenery, the journey to Samye is splendid no matter how you arrive.
Day 05: Lhasa Sightseeing visit Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery
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. 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, and then visit the interior in the afternoon. The temple is relatively quiet then, saves for the presence of Tibetan Local guide.
Pilgrimage: 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. Inside the temple, pilgrims make their way gradually to the central shrine, often crawling on their hands and knees or prostrate on their bellies. They hum prayers while also spinning prayer wheels, and bring offerings (typically white scarves and yak butter for the votive candles) to the many chapels that ring the shrine. Finally, they pray before the sacred image of the Jowo Shakyamuni.
Day 06: 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. 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. Drepung 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.
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 07: Sightseeing of Ganden and Drakyerpa cave
Ganden Monastery is one of the 'great three' Gelugpa university monasteries of Tibet, located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, Tagtse County, 36 kilometers from the Potala Palace in Lhasa at an altitude of 4,300m. (The other two 'great monasteries' are Sera monastery and Drepung monastery.) Its full name is Ganden Namgyal Ling. Ganden means "joyful" and is the Tibetan name for Toshibas, the heaven where the bodhisattva Matreya's said to reside. Namgyal Ling means "victorious temple". A brief history of Ganden monastery, the founding of Ganden Monasery by Jey Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was prophesied by Buddha Shakyamuni. In The Manjushri Root Tantric Buddha said, "After I have passed away from this world, when the earth becomes desolate, you will take the form of a child and enact the deeds of a Buddha. At that time there will be a great monastery called in the Land of Snows." "Ga" is the first syllable of "Ganden" On the occasion of Tsongkhapa, as a small boy in a previous life, offering the Buddha a crystal rosary, the Buddha prophesied in The Sutra Taught to King Dam-ngag-bogpa "O Ananda. This small boy who has given me a crystal rosary will restore my teachings. At a degenerate time in the future, he will found a monasery called 'Ge' (dGe) at the border between Dri ('Bri) and Den (lDan). His name will be Lozang." "Ge" is a variant of the first syllable of "Ganden." The boy was given in return a conch shell that had been presented to the Buddha by a Naga king. Buddha entrusted this shell to his disciple, Maudgalyayana, who buried it in Tibet as a treasure auspicious for the future spread of the teachings. Drak Yerpa Monastery Drak Yerpa is about 18 miles to the northeast of Lhasa, it is probably not of great interest for the average traveler, but for those with a particular interest in Tibetan Buddhism, Yerpa is one of the holiest cave retreats ever. At one time the hill at the base of the Cave— dotted cliffs was home to Yerpa Monastery. The history of Dark Yerpa includes many of the great names responsible for the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet Emperor Songtsen Gampo meditated in seclusion here: Guru Rinpoche and several of his disciples also meditated here. Here Jowo Atisha chose to preach extensively. Although the ancient Kadampa Gompa has been destroyed, the geomantic qualities that made Drak Yerpa a major power place still remaking and still attract hermits to its caves. Drak Yerpa Cave: Around 30 kilometers to the North - East of Lhasa, Yerpa is one of the holiest cave retreats ever. At one time the hill at the base of the Cave – dotted cliffs was home to Yerpa Monastery. The Monastery, however, was effectively laid to waste in the Cultural Revolution and there is very little to see nowadays. From the ruins of the monastery, it is possible to see some of the cave retreats a couple of hundred meters away at the foot of the cliffs. The history of Drak Yerpa includes many of the great names responsible for the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. The Emperor Songtsen Gampo meditated in seclusion here: Guru Rinpoche and several of his disciples also meditated here. Although the ancient Kadampa Gompa has been destroyed, the geomantic qualities that made Drak Yerpa a major power place still remain and still attract hermits to its caves.
Day 08: Drive from Lhasa - Tsurphu Monastery
Tsurphu Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery which served as the traditional seat of the Karmapa. It is located at Tolung Dechen County called Gurum village, 70 km from Lhasa. The monastery is about 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above sea level. It was built in the middle of the valley facing south with high mountains surrounding the monastery complex. Tsurphu is a 300-square-meter (3,200 sq ft) complex with walls up to 4 meters (13 ft) thick. The monastery or "Gompa", the traditional seat of the Karmapa lamas, is about 28 km up the Dowo Lung Valley, on the north side of the river. The original walls of the main building were up to 4 meters thick and 300 meters square (area 90,000 square meters or 970,000 square feet). The monks' residences were on the eastern side. Tsurphu Monastery was founded in 1189 by the First Karmapa, Dusum-kyenpa 1110-1193). It was rebuilt in 1263 by the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283). It is the main monastery of the Karma Kamtsang Kagyu Tradition which is one of the four major Dagpo Kagyu lineages deriving from direct disciples of Gampopa (1079-1153). Tsurphu has been the traditional seat of the line Karmapa. It lies to the northwest of Lhasa at Tolung). The Second through Fourth Karmapa each visited China and Mongolia, and taught the Mongol Emperors of China. They founded numerous monasteries in North China and what the Manchu many centuries later called "Inner Mongolia." The main Karma Kagyu monastery of Mongolia, Khochiti Khambo Lama Khid, located in the Shilling gol District of Inner Mongolia, was a branch of Tsurphu.
Day 09: Drive from Lhasa-Gyangtse -Shigatse (3,840m, 360km, 8-9 hours)
Gyangtse 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. On the way you can Yamdrok Lake which 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 lays the Tibetan town of Gyangtse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northeast. According to local mythology, Yamdrok Yumtso Lake is the transformation of a goddess. The even more excitingly you would visit a famous Gyangtse 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 Gyangtse prince. It has nine Lhakhangs or levels, is 35 meters (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-doors) chorten at Gyangtse 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 Vajra holder the cosmic Buddha, at the top. "The Lhakhangs of the nine levels of the Kumbum, decreasing in number at each level, are structured according to the compendium of Sakya tantric called Drubtab Kantu. Thus each Lhakhangs 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. Shigatse (is a county -city level and the second largest city in with a population of 92000, about 250 km (160 mi) southwest of Lhasa and 90 km (56 mi) northwest of Gyangtse. It is the administrative centre of the modern Shigatse of a region. The city is located at an altitude of 3,840 meters (12,600 ft) at the confluence of the Yarlung Tsangpo (aka Brahmaputra) river and the Nyang River (Nyang Chu or Nyangchu) in west Tibet and was the ancient capital of U-province. It is also the name of the surrounding county
Tashilhunpo Monastery was founded in 1447 and is the largest Yellow Hat sect monastery in Tibet. Shigatse is Tibet's 2nd most important city and Tashilhunpo was the seat of the Panchen Lamas. Tashilhunpo contains chorten, temples and the Panchen Lama's palace. At its peak, Tashilhunpo had more than 4,000 monks in its 4 monasteries. Upon the death of a Panchen Lama, it was the 4 abbots of these monasteries that would lead the search for his infant reincarnation. The monastery is a striking red, white and black Tibetan structure with a golden roof. Within the monastery there is a 5 story temple, which contains a 26 meters (86ft) sitting statue of the Maitreya Buddha. The statue was cast from 6,700 ounces of gold and over 115,000 kg of copper, making it the biggest copper Buddhist statue in the world. The massive Thangka wall at Tashilhunpo can be clearly seen from most points in Shigatse. The wall is used for displaying enormous Thangka - religious painted banners - for only a few festival days each year.
Day 10: Shigatse sightseeing and transfer to Lhatse
Lhatse is a small modern town with only a few thousand people. It is in the valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo River (aka Brahmaputra) 151 km southwest of Shigatse and some 30km west of the Sakya turn-off, where the main Tibetan road turns westwards towards Mt. Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. Therefore, the Lhatse town is a popular lunch stop for tour groups heading to Ngari. During the short summer season, the whole valley is covered with green barely fields and bright yellow mustard meadows.
Day 11: Lhatse- Saga (4,600m/15,131ft, 8-10 hours).
Today we drive to Saga along Brahmaputra River. Pass several high plateau lakes, towns, herders tents and along the route with Plateau Mountain ranges. The scenically rewarding drive provides plenty of opportunities for photography. Saga County is located at an altitude of 4,640 meters in southern Tibet. Its seat is Saga Town, an army town with a Chinese garrison which patrols the whole length of the Sino-Nepal border. Saga means "happy land" in Tibetan language. Saga straddles the Dargye Tsangpo River above its junction with the Brahmaputra River. Saga is an important traffic hub for it is strategically located at the junction of three roads - the Lhatse road coming from the east, the Dzongka road from the south and the Purang and Zhongba roads from the west. Saga is also a significant stop-off point for pilgrims and tourists on the way to visiting Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar.
Day 12: Saga-Darchen (4,560m/15,000ft, 510km, 10-12 hours)?
Today will be a long journey from Saga to Darchen passing the small towns of Zhongba and Paryang. It is 255 km from Saga to Paryang and another 250 km drive takes us from Paryang to Darchen. We continue driving crossing the Mayum La pass (5200 m) and arrive at Hor Quo. Finally we will have the first sight of Holy Kailash and Mansarovar. Darchen is a small town in Purang County. It is situated right in front of the sacred Mount. Kailash, and 330km to the southeast of Sutlej River. Its altitude is 4,575 meters (15,010 ft) and it is the starting point of Kailash Kora. It is also the only town and base for visiting both Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. Darchen was previously known as Lara and still signposted as such. It was previously an important sheep station for nomads and their flocks and had only two permanent buildings; only one of which survived the Cultural Revolution and is now used to house Tibetan pilgrims.
Day 13: First day of kora
Today is first day of kora. Lush green meadows and mooring mountain springs follow with us along our walking through Lhachu valley. At the end of this day north face of Kailash arises in front of us and we reach Drirapuk monastery. Mount Kailash is sacred to four religions and a deeply numinous place. Pilgrims throng to the mountain: not just Tibetans, but Hindus and Buddhists from India to Japan, joined by Western, Chinese and Tibetan travelers. Everyone comes to Kailash to walk the kora, the sacred circuit around the mountain, which is probably the world's best walk. Many Tibetans do the kora in a single day; most foreigners take two to three days. Sharing the path with these pilgrims, often the simplest illiterate nomads who have saved for years to make the trip, is inspiring, whether or not you are a believer. You will meet a huge range of people here, including prostrations who will take three weeks to complete the circuit. The kora starts at the charm-free village of Darchen, winding past Mani walls and skirting the base of the Kailash massif. To the left, the huge, treeless Barkha plain is dotted with white nomadic tents and herds of sheep and goats. At the first prostration point, the mountain's beautiful south face appears. The trail passes the famous Tarboche Flagpole and enters the extraordinary glacial Lha Chu valley, a flat, gravelly bottom receding between vast, sculpted red towers, broken crags and huge scree slopes. Most trekkers will reach the Dira-Puk campsite at around 5,000m by mid-afternoon. Soaring, resplendent, above it is the famous north face, some 1,700m of banded rock and ice.
The second day trudges painfully through rough high valleys, past the Shiwa-tsal charnel ground, where pilgrims undergo a symbolic death, leaving an item of clothing (or hair, teeth or blood) to represent their renounced life, to the Drolma-la pass, festooned in prayer flags, at some 5,630m.
The kora then drops steeply past a turquoise sacred lake to a long, beautiful valley. Most hikers have a pleasant trudge in thickening air down to a campsite at the heavily grazed meadow of Dzutul-Puk, below a recently rebuilt monastery. They walk out into the open plain and back to Darchen the following morning. Mt. Kailash is a striking peak in the Himalayan Mountains of western Tibet. The source of some of the longest rivers in Asia, Kailash is a sacred mountain for four faiths: Hindus, Buddhists, Janis and followers of the indigenous Tibetan religion of Bön. Next to the mountain are two sacred lakes, the most important of which is Lake Manasarovar.
What to see: Mount Kailash rises to 22,028 feet (6,714 m) in one of the highest and most rugged parts of the Himalayas. Made of black rock, the symmetrical peak has a distinctive diamond-like shape with four steep facades. The south face has a vertical gash across its horizontal layers, creating the appearance of a swastika - an ancient symbol of good luck in this part of the world. The landscape around the mountain is rugged and dry but crossed by crystalline blue streams and other bodies of water. Near the sacred mountain is the source of the Indus, Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers and on its south side are two freshwater lakes, the easternmost of which is the highly sacred LAKE MANASAROVAR (Mapam). With an altitude of 14,950 feet, Mansarovar is the highest body of fresh water in the world. The other lake, Rakshastal, also has legendary significance.
Myth and Mystery: According to Hindu mythology, Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kailash. Mount Kailash is regarded in many sects of Hinduism as Paradise, the ultimate destination of souls and the spiritual center of the world. According to a description in the Puranas, Mount Kailash's four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli; it is the pillar of the world; raises 84,000 leagues high; is the center of the world Mandala; and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus. From it flow four rivers, which stretch to the four quarters of the world and divide the world into four regions. This legendary mountain has long been identified with the striking peak in the Himalayas that now bears its name. Shiva is therefore believed to dwell at its summit. Some traditions say the mountain is Shiva's Linga, while Lake Manasarovar is the yoni of his consort. The importance of this holy mountain in Hinduism is reflected, among other places, at the famous Ellora caves in India, where the largest and most important rock-carved temple is dedicated to Mount Kailash. Tibetan Buddhists believe that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok (also known as Demchok or Chakrasamvara), who represents supreme bliss. They also say it was on this sacred mountain that Buddhism displaced Bön as the primary religion of Tibet. According to legend, Milarepa, champion of Tantric Buddhism, arrived in Tibet to challenge Naro-Bonchung, representative of Bön. The two magicians engaged in a great sorceries battle, but neither was able to gain a decisive advantage. Finally, it was agreed that whoever could reach the summit of Kailash first would be the victor. While Naro-Bonchung soared up the slope on a magic drum, Milarepa followers were dumb founded to see him sitting still and meditating. Yet when Naro-Bonchung was nearly at the top, Milarepa suddenly moved into action and overtook him by riding on the rays of the sun, thus winning the contest and bringing Buddhism to Tibet.
In Jainism, Kailash is known as Mount Ashtapada and is the site where the founder of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained liberation from rebirth.
In Bön, the religion which predates Buddhism in Tibet, the mountain is believed to be the abode of the sky goddess Sipaimen.
Pilgrimage: Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating (walking around) Mount Kailash will remove sins and bring good fortune. The pilgrimage around the sacred mountain is called the Kailash Kora. It is said that one trip around the sacred mountain will wipe away all the sins (bad karma) of one's current lifetime; 108 revolutions will remove the sins of all one's lifetimes and bring salvation from reincarnation (moksa). Alternatively, pilgrims who complete one circumbulation of Kailash and bathe in the frigid waters of Lake Manasarovar will also bring salvation. No pilgrims climb Mt. Kailash; all four religions believe it would be a serious act of sacrilege to set foot on its slopes. Legend has it that the only person to have reached the summit is the Buddhist champion Milarepa (who flew to the top in the 12th century) and that all others who have ventured to defy the taboo have died in the process. The rugged path around Mount Kailash is 32 miles (52 km) long, following a blue mountain stream much of the way. Altitudes range from 15,000 feet at the start to 19,000 feet at the Drolma Pass. The circumambulation is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists but counterclockwise by followers of the Jain and Bön religions. A typical journey lasts about three days, but some try to earn extra merit by completing the entire walk in a single day. Braving the uneven terrain, high altitudes and variable weather, these hardy souls can complete the trek in about 15 hours. Other pilgrims seek special merit by taking much longer to circle the holy mountain: instead of walking, they perform body-length prostrations for the entire 32 miles. The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four days of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation this way. The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. Only those in the best health are able to undertake the journey even to the starting point of the circumambulation, let alone walk 52 km in a single day. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions. Most pilgrims and trekkers take three days to complete the journey around Mount Kailash from the city of Darchen, aiming for Drirapuk Monastery on the first night, crossing Drolma La Pass and arriving at Dzutul-puk Monastery the second night, and finally returning to Darchen on the third day.
Day 14: Second day of kora
Today will be the second day of Kailash Kora and it is essential to acclimatize properly during the climb. We will also hike to the north face wall of Kailash. Although the hike is not part of the actual Kora, it will certainly put us face to face with the greatness of Kailash.
Day 15: Third day of kora:
Today we are going to climb at Drolma-la pass (Pass of Tara), filed with five-colored praying flags. This is the most difficult part of our way. Then we start the descending to Dzutul-puk. Very attractive Lake Thugje Zinbu (Lake of Compassion) opens to our eyes. Some ancient meditative caves are visible here.
Day 16: Fourth day of kora:
We gradually wind out of the valley getting finally in to the Barka plain. After completing the holy Kora of Mount Kailash at Darchen, we drive to Lake Mansarovar. The drive from Darchen to Manasarovar takes about 2 hours. Overnight at Mansarowar.
Day 17: Manasarovar full day, Kora around lake by jeep.
Today we will spend full day at Lake Mansarovar. Lake Manasarovar has a circumference of 90 kilometers. It's one the highest fresh water lakes in the world. The belief is that the Kora of Mount Kailash completes only with a holy dip in the Lake Manasarovar and a drink of its holy water delivers one from the sins of a hundred lives. We also make the Kora around Mansarovar Lake by Jeep. Time Permitting visit Chui Gompa. Lake Manasarovar is the highest freshwater lake in the world, located at the foot of Mount Kailash in Tibet. It is the holiest lake in Asia and an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and Buddhists alike.
Myth and Mystery: According to Hindu tradition, Manasarovar was created by Brahma, god of creation, to provide an appropriate place for religious rituals. It is said that he had 12 sons, who were holy men and performed rituals and austerities on the dry land at the site. To give them a more suitable place to earn merit, Brahma created the beautiful Lake Mansarovar. The lake's Indian name derives from this legend: Brahma had a mind (manas) to create a lake (sarowar). For Hindus, a circumambulation of Mount Kailash and a dip in the cold waters of Lake Mansarovar removes the sins of all lifetimes, bringing salvation from reincarnation. Buddhists associate Manasarovar with Anotatta Lake, where the Buddha was mystically conceived. According to Buddhist legend, the Buddha's mother was transported here by the gods, where she bathed in the sacred waters of Manasarovar until her body was purified. She then saw a white elephant running to her from Mount Kailash, as the Buddha entered her womb.
What to see: Located at the southern base of Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar is famed for its exceptional beauty. Its color changes from a clear blue around the shores to a deep emerald green in the center; it looks positively magical in the moonlight. The lake is 55 miles (88 km) in circumference, 330 feet (90m) deep, and 120 sq mi (320 sq km) in total area. The journey around the lake is 64 miles long and usually takes four days. Many travelers opt to pitch a tent by the lake for a couple days instead, recuperating from the strenuous journey around Mount Kailash. Holy Mansarovar is the lake of compassion, tranquility and bliss. After completing the memorable morning bath and Puja we will be heading for Holy Mansarovar Parikrama and continue drive towards Darchen (Darchen). Darchen is considered as a base camp for Holy Kailash Parikrama.
Day 18: Mansarovar-Saga (4,600m/15,131ft, 535km, 10-12 hours).
Today, we have a long drive from Mansarovar to Saga. It is the same route we came by, via Paryang and Zhongba. However, from Saga instead of going toward Lhasa, we drive along a different route toward Kathmandu.
Day 19: Transfer Saga, Nyalam (3.750m/12335ft, 232km, 7-8 hours)
Cross the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra River and then drive to Nyalam. Pass by a huge lake Paigu-Tso with Mt. Shishabangma (8027m) in the background. We won’t miss the sight of Everest as the road climbs the Lalung La at 5124m. After crossing another pass, the Tong La at 5120m, we finally reach Nyalam.
Day 20: Transfer Nyalam, Kathmandu (1,355m/4,457ft355m, 156km, 7-8 hours).
Drive to Zhangmu, the border town on the Tibet side. Go through the custom formalities. After reaching Friendship Bridge, we'll be leaving our Tibet side vehicles, and will walk for approximately 15 minutes towards Nepal. From Kodari it takes another 8-9 hours drive to Kathmandu. Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu.
Day 21: Final Departure
Your Tibet travel comes to an end today! If you have more time you can do some shopping or sightseeing. Your breakthrough experience of Tibet tour end and we would love send you our best wishes for your continuous happy journey.