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Embark on an extraordinary 6-day expedition through Tibet’s most captivating cities: Lhasa, Gyantse, and Shigatse. This journey encompasses the famed Tibetan Golden Tourist Route, offering a scenic drive from Lhasa to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet. It serves as a pivotal stopover on the way to the Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Tour.
The tour seamlessly combines the quintessential Lhasa experience with an exhilarating road trip to Shigatse. It covers the key historical sites of Lhasa, including the iconic Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung, and Sera Monastery. Each visit offers an immersive encounter with Tibetan architecture, culture, religion, and history.
The journey to Shigatse leads through the renowned G318 National Highway, known as the Friendship Highway, linking Lhasa to the Nepal Border. This route unveils some of the world’s most astonishing scenery. Marvel at the mesmerizing turquoise waters of Yamdrok Lake, considered one of Tibet’s three sacred lakes. The view from Kamba La Pass (4,790m/15,715ft) is particularly enchanting, with the surreal Tibetan landscape stretching to the mighty Mt. Nyenchen Khangsar (7,191m/23,590ft) in the distance.
Further along, the route passes through the awe-inspiring Karola Glaciers and Simila Pass (4,200m/13,780ft). Crossing the Simila Pass, you’ll be treated to captivating vistas of rolling terrain and feel the invigorating mountain breeze. Gyantse holds its own treasures, with Pelkor Chode (Palcho) Monastery and Kumbum Stupa taking center stage. These sites offer a chance to admire distinctive architecture, ancient murals, and gain insight into Tibetan Buddhism. The distant view of the Gyantse fortress adds to the allure.
In Shigatse, the renowned Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, home to the Panchen Lama, stands as a testament to Tibetan spiritual heritage. Built in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama, it houses an awe-inspiring statue of the Maitreya Buddha, also known as the Future Buddha, adorned with precious jewels. Pilgrims often run their prayer beads along its flank. The vibrant market near the monastery provides an excellent opportunity to soak in the local atmosphere.
As you bid farewell to Shigatse, the return journey to Lhasa is accompanied by the soothing mountain breeze and picturesque Tibetan landscapes. Reflect on the cherished memories made during the Lhasa and Shigatse Tour, culminating in your final flight to your next destination.
Note: This tour offers a unique blend of Tibetan culture, history, and unparalleled natural beauty, providing an unforgettable journey through the heart of Tibet.
Trip Highlights: An Enriching Week in Tibet
City Exploration: Immerse yourself in Tibet’s three major cities: Lhasa, Gyantse, and Shigatse, each offering unique cultural experiences.
Overland Adventure: Embark on an exhilarating journey along Tibet’s golden tourist route, from the bustling Lhasa to the serene Shigatse, unveiling the diverse landscapes along the way.
Lhasa’s Cultural Epicenter: Delve into Lhasa’s rich heritage as the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism for centuries.
Potala Palace Marvel: Marvel at the awe-inspiring Potala Palace, a testament to ancient Tibetan architecture, intricate constructions, and splendid artworks.
Jokhang Temple Pilgrimage: Explore the sacred Jokhang Temple, home to revered Buddha Shakyamuni statues. Follow the kora for a spiritual immersion.
Barkhor Street Insights: Wander through Barkhor Street, a vibrant enclave offering a glimpse into Tibetan daily life.
Drepung Monastery: Visit the once-largest monastery in the world, an ancient seat of Tibetan governance prior to Potala Palace’s establishment.
Sera Monastery Debates: Witness the renowned debates on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy among monks in the courtyard of Sera Monastery.
Natural Wonders: Catch breathtaking views of the turquoise Yamdrok Lake and the sacred Nyenchen Khangsar Peak.
Karola Glacier Spectacle: Be captivated by the striking sight of the Karola Glacier, visible along the highway connecting Lhasa and Shigatse.
Gyantse Heritage: Explore the historically-rich city of Gyantse, steeped in Tibetan tradition and heritage.
Mountain Pass Marvels: Traverse through the scenic Kamba La and Simila Passes, two of Tibet’s most picturesque mountain passes.
Pelkor Chode Monastery: Embark on an excursion to this important center of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Kumbum Stupa Visit: Visit the impressive Kumbum Stupa, a significant landmark in Gyantse city.
Gyantse Fortress Views: Admire the distant view of Gyantse Fortress, a unique example of Tibetan architectural prowess.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery Wonders: Explore the architectural and artistic wonders of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama.
Monastic Observations: Walk through Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and observe the monks’ traditional daily practices.
Gilded Maitreya Statue: Behold the monumental gilded statue of Maitreya (the Buddha of the future) and the tomb of all the Panchen Lama in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.
Cultural Immersion: Experience Tibetan culture, religious practices, and the profound principles of Buddhism.
This week-long journey promises an immersive and enriching experience in the heart of Tibet, blending cultural exploration with awe-inspiring natural wonders.
Tibet Exploration: Summary
Tashi Delek! Greetings and welcome to the sacred land of Tibet, Lhasa!
Upon your arrival at Lhasa airport, your Tibetan guide will be there to warmly receive you and accompany you to your city hotel. After a direct transfer to Lhasa, you’ll be assisted with the check-in process, giving you the opportunity to settle in.
Considering it’s your initial day, it’s advisable to take it easy and allow your body to acclimate to the high altitude of Tibet.
Rest well for the night in Lhasa.
Following a hearty breakfast, embark on an exhilarating sightseeing expedition of Lhasa city. Your first destination will be the magnificent Potala Palace, perched atop the 130-meter high Marpo Ri (Red Hill) in Lhasa. This colossal palace boasts an impressive 13 stories, encompassing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and an astounding 200,000 statues. Its intricate layout features a variety of halls, chapels, and libraries, with the Great-West Hall standing out as the largest. Here, you’ll be captivated by the stunning ancient murals.
Subsequently, make your way to the heart of the old Lhasa city to visit the revered Jokhang Temple. Among the holiest temples in all of Tibet, it is perpetually abuzz with devoted local Tibetan pilgrims. The temple holds immense significance in the evolution of Buddhism in Tibet and houses a well-preserved, life-sized image of a 12-year-old Jowa Sakyamuni. Noteworthy, too, is the temple’s roof adorned with gilded bronze tiles. As you explore, you’ll encounter a diverse array of Buddha statues in various sizes and ancient murals.
Next, take a leisurely stroll along Barkhor Street, an essential pilgrimage circuit in Tibet. While it now serves as a bustling commercial street, you’ll still find numerous pilgrims turning prayer wheels and circumambulating clockwise along Barkhor Street. This presents a unique opportunity to explore the renowned old market and perhaps acquire souvenirs like Tibetan handicrafts, intricate Tibetan jewelry, and Thangka (traditional Tibetan scroll paintings).
Rest well for the night in Lhasa.
Start your day with a traditional Tibetan breakfast, and get ready for an exciting day of exploration at Drepung and Sera Monastery.
Your journey begins with a roughly 5-kilometer drive to the western side of Lhasa city, where you’ll arrive at Drepung Monastery. Once the largest monastery in the world, housing up to 10,000 monks, it boasts notable features like the expansive monastery kitchen. From the monastery’s vantage point, you’ll be treated to a spectacular panoramic view of Lhasa city and the majestic Potala Palace.
Next on your itinerary is a visit to Sera Monastery, established by Tsongkapa’s disciple, Jamchen Choeje, in 1419. The monastery is renowned for the engaging Monk’s Debate, which takes place in the courtyard every afternoon (excluding Saturdays and Sundays). Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the Tibetan religious scripture printing house. Inside the monastery, you’ll find three intricate sand mandalas and vibrant rock paintings depicting Buddha, offering further fascinating sights.
Rise early, indulge in a hearty Tibetan breakfast, and prepare for an enchanting journey to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet. Following your explorations in Lhasa, this scenic drive through the Friendship Highway promises abundant encounters with the wild beauty of the Tibetan landscape.
Embark on this picturesque adventure, ascending the Kamba La Pass at an impressive 4,794 meters. From this vantage point, a captivating view of Yamdrok Lake, set against the majestic backdrop of Mt. Nyenchen Khangsar, unfolds before you. Renowned as one of Tibet’s three sacred lakes, alongside Namsto and Manasarovar, Yamdrok’s pristine waters and awe-inspiring vistas have made it a popular destination for travelers.
Continue westward, arriving at Gyantse, home to the revered Palcho Monastery. This ancient sanctuary showcases a remarkable fusion of Tibetan, Nepalese, Han, and Indian architectural styles. Within its walls lies the renowned Gyantse Kumbum, a unique stupa adorned with a staggering 100,000 Buddhist statues, along with an array of intricate wall paintings and murals. Take in the distant views of Gyantse Dzong, one of Tibet’s most well-preserved fortresses.
Throughout the journey, be sure to capture the remarkable sights of Karola Glacier and Manak Dam Lake, both visible from the highway. Traverse the stunning Simila Pass (4,200m), adorned with a multitude of vibrant Tibetan prayer flags. Finally, after a long but incredibly scenic drive, you’ll arrive in Shigatse. Check into your hotel, freshen up, and take the opportunity to explore the traditional Barley Mill, with its mesmerizing golden fields, particularly spectacular during the summer. A notable highlight of Shigatse is the ancient Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which serves as the seat of the Panchen Lama.
Enjoy your overnight stay in Shigatse.
Following breakfast, embark on an enriching excursion to the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. This sacred site is renowned for its exquisite religious murals, which hold great significance in the monastery’s spiritual narrative. The halls’ interiors are adorned with intricate decorations, reflecting the tantric ideology. Among the monastery’s standout features are its distinctive Tibetan architectural elements, including the hanging thangka on its walls, the colossal Maitreya Buddha statue, Kelsang Temple, and the stupa-tomb of the tenth Panchen Lama.
After a rewarding time in Shigatse, commence your return journey to Lhasa via the Friendship Highway. Upon reaching your hotel, take some time to rest or explore the nearby Barkhor Square. This historic street offers an enjoyable shopping experience, with numerous stalls offering Tibetan handicrafts, silver jewelry, thangka, and more.
Enjoy a comfortable overnight stay in Lhasa.
The Lhasa and Shigatse Tour concludes today. Your Tibetan guide will assist you in transferring from the hotel to the airport. With countless cherished memories of this journey, you’ll set off towards your next destination. Alternatively, you also have the option to extend your trip and explore other captivating cities in Lhasa, as well as neighboring Himalayan countries like Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Safe travels!