Mt. Kailash Overland Tour 16 days
In the far west of Tibet there is Mt Kailash, the most sacred mountain in Asia, which is venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and the ancient Bon religion of Tibet. From it flow four great rivers - the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra - which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau. It is an important site for Tibetan and Indian pilgrims who make a 53km circuit, or Kora, of the mountain. This circumambulation, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus and anti-clockwise for Bon followers, is said to erase the sins of a lifetime. The mountain itself is 6714m high and with its four sheer walls and snow capped peak is an awe-inspiring sight.
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 monasarovar.
Only 30km from Mt Kailash is another important pilgrimage site, the beautiful and serene Lake Manasarovar. According to mythology it was formed in the mind of Brahma, and Indian and Tibetan pilgrims can also be seen circumambulating this lake, a distance of 90km. On this trip, we drive from Kathmandu to the Tibetan border at Zhangmu. We then drive across the wide open spaces of the Tibetan Plateau to Lake Manasarovar, before completing a Kora around Mt Kailash. From there we retrace our route to Kathmandu, enjoying once again the arid beauty of the vast plains. This is truly the trip of a lifetime with its stunning scenery and cultural highlights.
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 Asis and an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and Buddhists alike.
Day 1: Drive to Zhangmu (2300m)
We leave Kathmandu early in the morning, driving for 123km through the beautiful Nepalese countryside to Kodari on the Nepal - Tibet border. After completing the border formalities at both the Nepalese and Chinese immigration posts we drive up a series of incredibly steep switchbacks to Zhangmu on the Tibetan side of the border.
Day 2: Drive to Nyalam (3750m)
It's a short drive today of only 30km to Nyalam, but again it's on a steep winding road which passes through a mossy gully with cascading waterfalls.
Day 3: Rest day in Nyalam
We spend a rest day in Nyalam today in order to acclimatise before heading up higher. A short way out of town there is a small temple, Nyalam Pelgye Ling, which is associated with Milarepa. if you particular interesting in Buddhist meditation. you can visit Tibet's greatest meditator yogi Milarepa's cave.
Milarepa's Cave or Namkading Cave is a cave where the great Tibetan Buddhist philosopher, and Vajrayana Mahasiddha Milarepa(c. 1052—c. 1135 CE), spent many years of his life in the eleventh century, 11 km north of the town of Nyalam, below the roadside and above the Matsang river in Nyalam county, Tibet
There is also a cave associated with Milarepa in Nepal on the Annapurna Circuit at approximately 4000m just outside of Manang . It is credited to have been the residence of the famous Saint Milarepa during his stay in modern day northern Nepal. This site also includes a holy spring, Gompa, and bow from the local archer who met and tried to kill Milarepa. In the classical songs of Milarepa he sings of a deer, a dog and hunter. the chain of causation and compassion. In local tradition this is the site of this famous tale. the cave is located beyond the Gompa, the locals pray from the edge of a glacial moraine in directly line of sight of the cave as its approach directly is on steep scree slope.
Day 4: Drive to Peiku-Tso
Today we drive 150km to the huge lake called Peiku-tso. From Nyalam, we will cross two high passes, before leaving the Friendship Highway and following the road towards the lake.
Day 5: Drive to Zhongba
Today is going to be a longer day of drive, 255km, takes us first to Saga, where we join the main route from Lhasa. Just before Saga, we cross the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River) on a ferry. We continue on across the vast dry plains to the small town of Zhongba.
Day 6: Drive to below Mayum - La From Zhongba,
we set out across the plains once more to Paryang and this section of our journey has some incredibly panoramic scenery. Beyond Paryang, there are several river crossings to negotiate and we make our camp just below the Mayun-la.
Day 7: Drive to Manasarovar (4560m)
Today will be spent at Manasarovar, exploring this fascinating place. We will visit the picturesque Chiu Monastery on the North West shore of the lake, with the imposing sight of Mt Kailash in the background.
Day 8: At Manasarovar
Today will spend our day at Manasarovar, exploring this fascinating place. We will visit the picturesque Chiu Monastery on the North West shore of the lake, with the imposing sight of Mt Kailash in the background.
Myth & 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 Mansarowar 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.
History: There were once eight Buddhist monasteries around the lake, symbolizing the Wheel of Life. Pilgrims circumambulated the lake, visiting each of the monasteries along the way, representing a turn of the wheel. Most of the monasteries have now disappeared (the most notable survivor being Chiu Gompa), but Buddhists still make the pilgrimage around the sacred lake.
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.
Day 9: Drive to Tarboche(4750m)
Leaving the lake, we drive for about 35 km towards Mt Kailash and Tarboche which is marked by a tall pole adorned with prayer flags. This is the starting point for our kora, the 53km trek around the mountain.
Day 10: Trek to Dira-Puk From Tarboche,
we walk up the Lha Chu Valley through beautiful green meadows and streams with Mt Kailash towering above us. We follow the river which enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Continuing up the valley, the north face of Kailash comes into view before we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-puk.
Day 11: Trek to Zutul-Puk (4790m)
Now we leave to the Lha Chu Valley and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards a high pass, the Drolma La (5630m). It's a tough climb to the summit which is festooned with prayer flags but from there it is all downhill or flat to Zutul-puk, with views of one of the highest lakes in the world, Thukpe Dzingbu Lake, known as the Lake of Compassion. As well as the monastery at Zutul-puk, there are several meditation caves and another cave containing an image of Milarepa.
Day 12: Trek to Darchen (4560m)
On the final day of the kora we cross several streams, and follow an impressive gorge. Along the way we are once again treated to magnificent views of Kailash. We then enter the Bharka plain and it's about an hour's walk through this desert-like landscape to Darchen.
What to See around Mount. kailash
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 Bramaputra 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 & Mystery of Mount. Kailash
According to Hindu mythology, Shiva, the god of destruction and regeneration, resides at the summit of a legendary mountain named Kail???. Mount Kail??? 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; rises 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 Manasarowar 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 Demchog 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 sorcerous 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's followers were dumbfounded 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 around Mount.kailash
Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe thatcircumambulating (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 Dolma 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 Dolma La Pass and arriving at Zutrulpuk Monastery the second night, and finally returning to Darchen on the third day.
Day 13: Drive to Paryang (4750m)
Today is a long drive, about 300km, back to Paryang. We re-cross the Mayun-la and several rivers.
Day 14: Drive to Saga (4600m)
We continue driving today along a 255km stretch of road to Saga, passing through the small, dusty town of Zhongba en route.
Day 15: Drive to Nyalam(3750m)
Leaving Saga, we again cross the Yarlung Tsangpo by ferry, and pass by Peiku-tso before arriving back at Nyalam.
Day 16: Drive to Kathmadu (1400m)
From Nyalam, we head back to the border town of Zhangmu. From Zhangmu, it's a short drive to the Friendship Bridge which spans the Bhote Koshi River and marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control in Kodari where we will be met by our Nepalese representative. After completing the re-entry formalities we continue the drive to Kathmandu which, depending on road and weather conditions, should take about 5 hours.