Tip Top Tibet Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code : ICFRE
  • Trip length : 15
  • Trip starts in : Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Trip ends in : Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Maximum group size : 16
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals :No meals included
  • Accommodation : Guesthouse (13 nts), Permanent tented camp (1 nt)
  • Transport : Bus, Plane, Private Bus

daily-itinerary1

 
Day
1-2

Kathmandu

Namaste! Welcome to Nepal.You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 6 pm. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where the meeting will take place. Please ask at reception for this information. It is very important that you arrive in time for this meeting, as there are formalities to be completed for our Tibet entry permit. Please note that your leader will collect your China Group Visa fee in cash at the group meeting today - see the visa section for more information.After a brief orientation walk of the area surrounding the hotel, the next day is free to explore fascinating Kathmandu.

Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.

Some great ways to spend your time here include:

Check out Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces chock full of Newari architecture.

See the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) - Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.

Join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism.

Head to Pashupatinath - a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu. It's dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).

ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (2 nts)

Day
3-7

Lhasa

On day 3 we fly to Tibet's capital, Lhasa (approx. 2 hours).

Colourful and historic, the holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley. For many years it was a mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world with even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reaching the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. While now welcoming tourists and much modernized, Lhasa remains an intriguing city with deeply fascinating culture, sights and stories.

Altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation may be felt while travelling in Tibet, particularly when arriving in Lhasa. We've allowed a number of days here to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. For more information about altitude and altitude sickness prevention please see the 'Health' section of these notes.

In Lhasa we stay at a basic hotel, centrally located, with twin-share accommodation decorated in the traditional Tibetan style.

Tour the incredible Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama. Although we're not free to explore the Potala Palace on our own and must stick to a strict schedule of viewing the exhibits and buildings with our guide, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. Please note this is the most popular attraction in Lhasa, especially among Chinese tour groups, so it can be very crowded and tickets are for a limited time period only.

As this is a Basix Trip, entrance fees to the Potala Palace are not included and will need to be paid to your tour leader on the ground.As all groups must be accompanied, your local Tibetan guide can organise your Potala Palace visit for you.

Other optional activities you may like to take part in are:Shuffle along with the throngs of pilgrims around the Barkhor pilgrim circuit, stopping to shop for souvenirs at some of the many market stalls.Explore Lhasa's quaint backstreet craft workshops, bakeries, tea shops and tiny alley ways as you wander the Old Town.

Explore Jokhang Temple, which is often regarded as the spiritual heart of Tibet and one of the region's most active religious sites.

Visit the Sera Monastery where the monks hold dramatic daily debating sessions.

As the majority of the cultural and historical sites in Tibet are temples and monasteries we advise choosing carefully which activities you do in your free time and pacing yourself in order to enjoy the sites we visit as a group as much as possible. Tibetan Buddhism is certainly a fascinating part of the region's culture, however some travellers find that they get 'templed out' quickly as there's just so much information to take in. Take your time, ask our local guide about what interests you most and if you would rather have time on your own instead of joining the group to explore a monastery or temple please let your leader know.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (5 nts)

Day
8

Gyantse

On day 8 we continue on to Gyantse (approx. 8 hours, elevation 3980m), a small town southwest of Lhasa that retains a feel of 'old' Tibet. The drive is long but rewarding, with spectacular views and plenty of photo opportunities. If we do stop at Karo La (4960m) there will be a tourism charge per person of CNY 40.

Gyantse is a small agricultural town set at 3950m above sea level, famed for its wool carpets. It has a very traditional feel to it and everyday Tibetan rural life continues here much as it has done for centuries. There are a number of interesting buildings in the town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414, with five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment.

As well as many religious sites, Gyantse is a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life in the backstreets where pilgrims, pop music, cows, "cowboys" on motorbikes, kids and monks all mingle in a lively mix of cultures.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

Day
9

Shigatse

After exploring Gyantse, we drive to Shigatse (approx. 2 hours, elevation 3840m), Tibet's second-largest city.

Visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the few in Tibet to have come out virtually unscathed from the Cultural Revolution. With its expansive territory inside thick stone walls it's almost like a town in itself. We visit with our local guide, but if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the myriad monastic buildings each with their own intricate decorations, legends and religious imagery, ask for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world's largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks prepare for ceremonies.In the evening we can join the pilgrims on their kora (prayer circuit), spinning prayer wheels as we walk around the perimeter of the monastery and taking in the great views and atmosphere. The walk takes around 1 hour to complete.

Back in the city, if our stay coincides with Market Day a great activity is to head to the Shigatse bazaar and browse the stalls that sell everything from slabs of yak butter and yak wool to prayer wheels and rosaries. Be tempted by antiques, jewellery and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade, or simply watch as Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Alternatively, you may be able to visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs. Don't forget to bargain hard if you decide to make a purchase.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

Day
10

Sakya

On the morning of day 10 we depart for Sakya (approx. 4 hours, elevation 4280m), the base of the once-powerful Sakya sect of Buddhism.

Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. The monastery is built in medieval 'Mongolian' style and rather than whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and while stripes. With its high imposing walls, the monastery is sometimes nicknamed the "Great Wall of Tibet".

At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries we've visited, but spend some time here and soak in the atmosphere and you'll soon realise that Sakya has a subtle ancient beauty that is unlike any other.

After the monastery you can choose to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction as this is a kora route. You can also hike a little further to visit the friendly nuns at the Nunnery high on the hill overlooking the town.Tonight for dinner, why not try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants. Stay the night in a basic guesthouse. Please note that there's usually not hot running water available here.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

Day
11

Everest National Park

An exhilarating drive (approx. 8-9 hours) along what is little more than a yak track brings us to Rongphu - 5,000 m above sea level and a mere eight km from Everest Base Camp (5150m). The view from here is utterly spectacular!

Rongphu Monastery is the highest in the world. On a clear day you may even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan.

A relatively modern monastery by Tibetan standards, Rongphu was built in the early 1900s and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today around 50 monks and nuns remain. Unusually, they share the same prayer hall although they have separate residences. We are received very warmly by the monks and nuns here and it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers.

Stretch our legs and our lungs on the gentle two hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp. Follow the prayer flags up the slope, hope for a clear sunny sky for amazing photos and even text a friend back home when you reach the camp. Yes, there's mobile reception even here!

The monastery guesthouse offers very basic, multi-share accommodation with no showers and outside toilets.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

Day
12

Nyalam

Today, we drive to the Tibetan settlement of Nyalam. The drive from Rombuk to Nyalam (3700m) takes around 8 hours. The journey is long but truly memorable as we traverse high mountain passes, featuring spectacular views of the Himalayas. We stay in basic guest house with twin-share accommodation. Toilet and showers are on a shared basis

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

Day
13

Bhote Kosi River

Between Nyalam and Zhangmu, the Tibetan Plateau abruptly ends. The colours change, there are a lot more trees and the humidity relatively skyrockets as the harsh mountain landscape transforms into green jungle valleys. Have your camera handy because this drive is full of photo opportunities!

Also known as Khasa, the border town of Zhangmu (elevation 2250m) clings precariously to the cliff face, 10 km inland from the Friendship Bridge that soars across the Bhote Kosi River (Sun Kosi River). This small town has become a major trading post between Tibet and Nepal and the subtropical oceanic climate endows it with warm, humid weather as well as beautiful scenery throughout the year.

Crossing the border at Zhangmu, we wind our way further down the valley into Nepal and our accommodation above the raging white waters of the Bhote Kosi River.

Accommodation: Permanent tented camp (1 nt)

Day
14-15

Kathmandu

Winding through the high mountain passes, our journey comes to an end where it all began, arriving back in Kathmandu (approx. 5 hr drive) in the early evening of day 14. We'll check back into our hotel and head out for an optional final group dinner. Beckoning with a delicious array of international and local cuisine, Kathmandu is the perfect setting in which to chill out and reminisce about our adventure across the roof of the world.

There are no activities planned for day 15 and you may depart the hotel at any time. Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

Accommodation: Guesthouse (1 nt)

included1

  • Everest NP - Base Camp visit

optional-extras

  • Kathmandu - Durbar Square - NPR750
  • Kathmandu - Guided tour of Swayambhunath Temple - NPR200
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa - NPR200
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple - NPR1000
  • Lhasa - Jokhang Temple - CNY85
  • Lhasa - Potala Palace - CNY200
  • Lhasa - Sera Monastery - CNY50
  • Gyantse - Pelkor Chode Monastery - CNY60
  • Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery - CNY80
  • Sakya - Sakya Monastery - CNY50
  • Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery - CNY25

not-included1International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.

tripgrade1Active

Explore the world on two feet - or two wheels! Our active trips range from classic treks & trips where walking forms an integral part of the itinerary to cycling tours offering a totally new perspective on a destination.

Some of our active adventure tours include the classic treks such as the Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp as well as shorter one day or overnight hikes. Our cycling tours allow you to access hidden corners of a destination, discover remote villages and meet the locals – either en route or even by cycling alongside them. All our active trips are fully supported – with either porters and mules or by a support vehicle.

Basic

Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.

Style Facts

  • Plenty of free time to explore independently
  • Optional activities to suit your budget
  • Freedom to choose your own meals
  • Simple famliy run hotels
  • Mostly public transportation
  • Fully trained and experienced leader.

This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.

visa1

A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information.

medical-preparation1We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended.

Money1Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
 
You will need to take cash to cover all additional expenses not included in your tour cost. These include food, drinks, optional sightseeing, tips, laundry, souvenirs and possible delays. If in doubt, bring more than you think you will need. It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the time; providing your claim falls within the scope of your policy, your insurance company will make reimbursement later.

travel-insuranceYou must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information.

responsible-travel1

Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.

As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.

We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.

For further information about responsible travel please click here.

other-important-information

GROUP TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS:
All clients will be entering Tibet on a Group Permit arranged by our local partners and as such it's not possible for anyone to leave the group and remain in Tibet individually. Everybody must enter and leave Tibet with the group. Make sure you read the 'Visas' section for important details on the information you must provide for your group's Tibet permit.

LOCAL TRAVEL:
While the infrastructure in Tibet has improved greatly in recent years and in general the roads are excellent, the geography and terrain of the region means that at times there can be significant delays due to snow, ice, landslides or poor weather. You'll need to be prepared for things not to run smoothly and then celebrate if and when they do! The level of bureaucracy in Tibet is extreme and there have been times when travellers have be prohibited from entering Everest National Park, or even crossing the border into Nepal for unknown reasons and at the last minute. Your leader will keep you up to date with any itinerary changes and we recommend having $400 cash as an emergency fund just in case we are required to depart from Lhasa by air or are delayed unexpectedly.

FACILITIES:
Hotels in Tibet are often poorly maintained and even the best options may not be up to the standard you are used to. Hot water can be sporadic or non existent and heating may at times be inadequate. Please be prepared to "rough" it a little, be flexible and patient and bring plenty of warm clothes.

TRAVEL DURING HOLIDAYS:
Major holidays in China are Spring Festival (Lunar New Year), first week of May and National Week (first week of October). These are not ideal times to travel in China as literally the entire country is on the move and we schedule less or no tours during these times. There is a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. If your tour does travel during this time, plenty of patience and flexibility will be required.In 2015 Chinese New Year will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep) and in 2016 it will be on 8th February (Year of the Monkey).

PHOTOGRAPHY:
Photography in Buddhist monasteries requires permission. You will need to pay a fee, which is normally negotiated in advance and not included in your trip costs.

NEPAL STRIKES:
Kathmandu Valley-wide transport bandhs (strikes) can be called at very short notice. When these bandhs are in place the Nepal Tourism Board and the Nepal Tourist Police in conjunction with the Himalayan Rescue Association run Shuttle Bus Services between various hotels in Kathmandu and the domestic and international airports; this service costs 300 rupees person.

PASSPORT COPIES:
In order for us to apply for your Tibet entry permit and purchase your flight to Lhasa you must provide a scanned, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport to your booking agent no later than 30 days prior to the start date of your trip. If we do not receive this copy by this time there is a risk you will be unable to travel into Tibet.

SELF ASSESSMENT FORM
Due to the demands of travelling at high altitudes a Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.

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