15 days, 14 nights
Difficulty Level: 2
Price (US$): From $4,595.00
Months Available: October-November, March-April
Our journey begins in Beijing, the capital of China. After exploring major sites in Beijing, including a hike along a partially reconstructed section of the Great Wall, we board a plane for our flight to the Buddhist capitol of Lhasa.
There is hardly a world traveler who has not dreamed of experiencing Tibet – a barren mystical highland inhabited by hardy people While visiting Tibet can be challenging, its stark beauty — not to mention the altitude — never lets you forget you have traveled to a very different place. In Tibet, our adventure begins in the historical Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. We’ll spend one full day exploring the Samye Monastery — also known as the cradle of the Tibetan civilization —and its surrounds. We’ll continue to the once forbidden city of Lhasa, once the seat of the Dalai Lama. We’ll explore this fabled city and its unique sites and its surrounds for a few days while our bodies acclimatize to the high altitude of the Tibetan Plateau. From Lhasa we’ll travel overland by four-wheel drive Toyota Landcruiser, accompanied by our Tibetan guide who will help us understand modern Tibet through the prism of its complex past. We will visit Gyantse, a quaint Tibetan town. Here we’ll explore the Kumbum stupa – the largest stupa in the world. Next, we continue to Shigatse, home to Tashilhunpo, the largest functioning monastery in Tibet and the seat of the Karmapa Lamas. From Lhasa we’ll take a flight to Chengdu, China, with the Himalayas right outside our windows. Here, we will visit the endangered pandas at the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center for an opportunity to see and feel the rare pandas – the pride and symbol of China. The next day, we’ll begin the journey back to our own century.
Day 03 - Beijing Today we hike a six mile section of the Great Wall from Jinshanlang to Simatai. Most of this section is unrenovated, dating back to the Ming Dynasty, and incorporates a few late innovations, such as slits for cannon, as well as inner walls at right angles to the outer wall to thwart invaders who breached the first defense. We’ll pass through regularly spaced watchtowers along the way as the wall serpentines its way along the mountain ridges that dot the landscape 90 miles north of Beijing. The section of the wall that we hike today should fulfill the expectations of most visitors and is the only real way to understand what a colossal human feat it represents. Acrobatic Show (you won’t want to miss!) and dinner. (All meals)Day 04 - Beijing to Tsedang After breakfast, morning at leisure, until we transfer to the airport for an afternoon flight to Tibet, over the majestic, snow-capped Himalayas. Landing in the heart of Tibet, outside Lhasa, we're met by our Tibetan staff and transferred by private coach to the town of Tsetang in the Yarlung Valley. It is believed that the Yarlung is the cradle of Tibetan civilization, where the early Tibetan kings unified the country in the seventh century. (All meals)
Day 05 - Samye to Lhasa After breakfast we board our private coach and drive west about 20 miles, to the Samye monastery. Boasting a more than 1,200-year history, Samye was Tibet's first monastery. We then drive to Lhasa. (All Meals)
Day 06 - Lhasa We’ll have two full days to explore Tibet's ancient Buddhist capital of Lhasa. The morning of the first day, we visit the Jokhang Temple and the nearby Nunnery. Simply put, the Jokhang Temple is the most important religious structure in all of Tibet. Your trip to Tibet won't be complete until you fall in step with the murmuring pilgrims as they walk the kora around the Jokhang. In the afternoon, after lunch, we visit the Sera Monastery. (All meals)
Day 07 - Lhasa Today we'll visit the Drak Yerpa Hermitage, one the holiest cave retreats in central Tibet and the Potala Palace. The Potala is perhaps one of the world’s most extraordinary structures which covers the mountain it was built upon. (All meals)
Day 08, October 22 - Lhasa to Gyantse We get an early start after breakfast for our full-day, adventurous drive to Gyantse, across the harshly beautiful high desert of the Tibetan plateau. There is plenty to see along this 193-mile route as we cross 17,000-foot passes while skirting the beautiful, deep blue-green Yamdrop Tso (Turquoise Lake). For many people, Gyantse is the highlight of the trip. Its lanes are still winding, the two-story houses still look Tibetan, the main street is still a dusty boulevard, and robed horsemen still canter down the streets. It may well be what you expect all Tibetan towns to be. (All meals)Day 09 - Gyantse In the morning we will explore Gyantse's premier attraction, the Pelkor Chode monastery compound and the Kumbum Stupa, one of Tibet's most revered and unusual architectural masterpieces. (All meals) Day 10 - Gyantse to Shigatse Drive to Shigatse. Visit the Shalu Monastery. Visit the Tashilunpo Monastery, Tibet's largest monastery complex and the seat of the Karmapa Lama. (All meals) Day 11 - Shigatse to Lhasa The drive itself is quite spectacular, with views of the mountains and landscapes dotted with nomadic tents and the occasional village scratching out an existence on the Tibetan plateau. The remaining time in Lhasa this afternoon will be at leisure. (All meals) Day 12 - Ganden Monastery Kora We will spend the day visiting the Ganden monastery complex located about 25 miles from Lhasa. In 1959 Ganden housed more than 5,000 monks. Like many monasteries in Tibet, however, it was destroyed by Chinese troops during the Cultural Revolution. Today, largely through private funds, it has been restored to a semblance of its former grandeur, and is well worth a visit. We’ll hang prayer flags and enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the monastery complex. (All meals) Day 13, October 27 - Lhasa to Chengdu Flight over the Himalayas to Chengdu. After we check-in to our hotel, the remainder of the day you'll be free to shop, sightsee, or simply relax in Chengdu. Evening dinner and a fascinating Sichuan Cultural show highlights include a changing face performance. (All meals) Day 14 - Chengdu Today, we visit the endangered Giant Pandas. The Bifengxia Base, located in Ya'an City, is part of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center. There is an opportunity for you, at an extra cost, to hold one of the rare and endangered pandas and have the moment digitalized with your camera. Tonight we will have our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (All meals) Day 15 - Final departure Departure transfer to the airport. (Breakfast)
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