Tibet

Grand Himalaya's trip to Tibet, Mount Everest, and Kathmandu wasthe trip

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Best Time

Lhasa can practically be traveled year around due to the milder weather. Summer and autumn are arguably the best times to Lhasa.

Yarlung Tsangpo Valley is prone to high winds and sand storms, but doesn’t suffer the extreme temperature fluctuation.  Summer and autumn are good times to travel there.  The summer monsoon could make the roads a bit difficult though.

Shigatse area has moderate weather overall, it can be traveled year around.  Summer and autumn are especially good times. However, Everest Region is harsh and always under freezing temperature.  From April to late June, and from late September to early November are favorable times to Base Camp.

Kham has a dramatically different climate from the rest of Tibet.  The summer monsoon brings a lot of rain from early June to September.  Snowfall generally starts in October.  The best times to travel are from late March to early May, and from September to early November.

May, June, and from mid-September to early October are probably the best times to head out to Ngari.  The roads become very susceptible to rain in summer, and blocked by snow in winter and early spring.

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Attractions


Lhasa

Lhasa , literally meaning “Holy-Land”, is the heart and soul of Tibet, has history of more than 1,300 years. It rose to prominence as an important center of administrative power in the 7th century AD when Songtsen Gampo, a local ruler in the Yarlung Valley, continued the task of unifying Tibet. Songtsen Gampo moved his capital to Lhasa and built a palace on the site that is now occupied by the Potala.

The fifth Dalai Lama also made Lhasa his capital. He built his palace, the Potala, on the site of ruins of Songtsen Gampo’s 7th century palace. Lhasa has remained Tibet’s capital since 1642, and most of the city’s historical sights date from this second stage of the city’s development.

Let yourself be swept around the Barkhor, Lhasa’s fascinating medieval pilgrim circuit. Join the shuffling, murmuring pilgrims around the shrines of the Jokhang, the spiritual heart of Tibet. Wind your way up through the Potala, the deserted but impressive abode of the Dalai Lamas. Explore Sera and Drepung, two of the largest and most intact of Tibet’s great monasteries…this is a place you can never miss.

Barkhor Street

Barkhor refers to Lhasa’s pilgrimage circuit, a quadrangle of streets that surrounds the Jokhang and some of the old buildings adjoining it. It is an area unrivalled in Tibet for its fascinating combination of deep religiosity and push-and-shove market economics.Barkhor is both the spiritual heart of the holy city and the main commercial district for Tibetans.

Drepung Monastery

Drepung lies 8 km west of Lhasa on a main road, then 3km north on a steep, unpaved road. Its name means Rice Heap after its jumble of white monastic buildings piled up on the hillside. It used to be world’s largest monastery with more than 10,000 monks, and now still Tibet’s largest monastery.

Every year in early August, Tibetans celebrate their major festival – Shoton, the Yogurt Festival. The most important event of this festival – Giant Buddha Show is held in Drepung Monastery.

Ganden Monastery

The ruins of this great monastery lie about 45km east of Lhasa. Situated at 4500m in a bowl like an amphitheater, Ganden was the first Gelugpa monastery and has remained the main seat of this major Buddhist order ever since. It was founded by Tsongkhapa, the revered reformer of the Gelugpa order. Ganden would probably be the best choice for one monastery excursion outside of Lhasa, with its stupendous views of the surrounding Kyi Chu Valley.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang is the spiritual center of Tibet, the Holy of Holies, the destination of millions of Tibetan pilgrims. Unlike the lofty Potala, the Jokhang has intimate, human proportions, bustling with worshippers and redolent with mystery.

The outer courtyard and porch of the temple are usually filled with pilgrims making full-length prostration towards the holy sanctum. Its innermost shrine contains the oldest, most precious object in Tibet – the original gold stature of Sakyamuni – the historical Buddha, which Princess Wen Cheng brought from Chang’an 1,300 years ago.

Namtso Lake

Namtso(4718m), the Sky Lake, is like a crystal gem inlaid on the vast Qiangtang Plain. Namtso is the highest salt water lake of the world. The Nyaiqen Tanglha mountain range, with peaks over 7000m, towers over the lake to the south.

Thawed snow from this range makes the body of the lake, so the water is a miraculous shade of turquoise blue, and there are magnificent views of the nearby mountains. The wide open spaces, dotted with the tents of local nomads, are intoxicating.

Norbulingka

Norbulingka, meaning Jewel Park, was Dalai Lama’s summer palace since the Seventh. Its light-hearted air makes it less demanding than most sights in Lhasa. The Norbulinka is well worth a visit at festival times and public holidays. On Shoton Festival, the park is crowded with picnickers, and traditional Tibetan opera performances are also held there.

Potala Palace

This architectural wonder is Lhasa’ cardinal landmark. It can be seen from all directions for miles around. Potala was set up in the seventh century AD during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. It’s located on the Red Hill, covers an area of 41 hectares. Potala palace consists of the White Palaces and Red Palaces,with more than 1000 rooms. The White Place was for secular use. It contained living quarters, offices, the seminary and the printing house. The Red Palace’s function was religious. It contained gold stupas, which were the tombs of eight Dalai Lamas, the monks’ assembly hall, numerous chapels, shrines and libraries.

Sera Monastery

Sera, around 5km north of central Lhasa, is along with Drepung one of Lhasa's two great Gelugpa monasteries. Sera is famous for its "Buddhism Scriptures Debating": monks can be seen preparing for monastic exam by staging mock debates in the ritual way. Some sit cross-legged under the trees, while others run from group to group giving vigorous hand-claps to end a statement or make a point. Master and dignitaries sit on the raised tiers when a real exam takes place.

Tsang

The traditional Tibetan province of Tsang has long shared political dominance and rivalries with Lhasa. The two major urban centers of Tsang are Shigatse and Gyantse. Both contain important historical sights and are popular destinations for travelers.

Gyantse is famed for the Kumbum – the largest stupa in Tibet. While many travelers also like this small town for its original Tibetan style.

Shigatse is Tibet’s second-largest town and the traditional capital of Tsang province. Since the Mongol sponsorship of the Gelugpa order, Shigatse has been the seat of the Panchen Lama, traditionally based in Tashilhunpo Monastery. It’s a good place to hang out, explore the nearby monasteries, or simply gaze across at the ruins of the Shigatse Dzong.

Kumbum and Palkhor Chode Monastery

Kumbum was a spectacular stupa temple, whose name means “Place of 100 Thousand Images”, was the centerpiece of Palkhor Chode Monastery, and the pride of Gyantse.The great pagoda is consisted of 9 tiers, over 32m, has more than 77 chapels, shrines and chortens, is the most stunning architectural wonder in Tibet.

The Palkhor Chode Monastery occupies an important place in Tibetan Buddhism history because different Buddism sects, like Gelugpa, Sakyapa, were compatible in this monastery.

Mt Everest

The Tibetan name for Mt. Everest is “Mt. Quomolangma” which literally means “The Third Goddess”. Towering 8848.13 meters in the middle section of the Himalayas in Tingri County, Shigatse, Mt. Quomolangma teems with snow-capped peaks and glaciers. It has four peaks above 8,000 meters and 38 peaks above 7,000 meters, thus is reputed as the Third Pole on the Earth. Glaciers of modern era are located at the foot of the mountains, deep caves and snaking ice rivers present a magnificent view around the Quomolangma.

Sakya Monastery

The monastic town of Sakya occupies an important place in Tibetan history. One characteristic feature of the Sakya region is the coloring of its buildings: ash grey with white and red vertical stripes. Sakya literally means ‘pale earth’. Of Sakya’s two monasteries, on either side of the Trum-chu, the immense, thick-walled southern monastery is the main attraction. It crouches grim and forbidding among the cluster of houses that make up Sakya township.

Tashilunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo is a highlight of Tibet and is Shigatse’s foremost attraction. Above the white monastic quarters is a crowd of ochre buildings topped with gold – the tombs of the past Panchen Lamas. While Tashilhunpo’s magnificent outside leaves you gasp in admiration, the inside of this monastery introduces you more religious tranquility and sincerity.

The most impressive Tashilhunpo’s sight is the Chapel of Jampa. An entire building houses the world’s largest gilded statue – a 26m image of Jampa (Maitreya), the Future Buddha. It was made in 1914 under the auspices of the ninth Panchen Lama and took some 900 artisans and laborers four years to complete.

Yamdroktso

Yamdrok-tso is a coiling, many-armed body of water shaped like a scorpion. It doubles back on itself on the western side, effectively creating a large island within its reaches. Climbing over the snow pass of Kambala(5030m), the dazzling Yamdroktso just lies several hundred meters below the road, and in clear weather is a fabulous shade of deep turquoise. Far in the distance is the huge massif of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang(7191m).

Yarlung Tsangpo Valley

The waters of the wide Yarlung Tsangpo meander through a swath of land rich in Tibetan history and littered with historical sights before becoming the Brahmaputra River to the east. The river valley offers plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track without launching a major expedition.

Yarlung is considered the cradle of Tibetan civilization and it was from Yarlung that the early Tibetan kings unified Tibet in the 7th century. The massive burial mounds of these kings can be seen in Chongye. Yumbulagang, another major attraction of the area, is perched on a crag like a medieval European castle and is reputed to be Tibet’s oldest building.

Chim-puk Hermitage

Chim-puk Hermitage is a warren of caves that was once a retreat for Guru Rinpoche, located northeast of Samye. Out of the monastery, there’s a path leading east through some fields. The path crosses through desert-like territory for a couple of hours before ascending into the surprisingly lush area where the caves are found. It is a popular day hike for travelers spending a few days at Samye.

Samye Monastery

The monastery is designed to represent the Buddhist universe and many of the buildings in the courtyard are cosmological symbols. The central building of Samye, its foremost feature, comprises a synthesis of architectural styles: the ground and first floors were originally Tibetan in style, the second floor was Chinese and the third floor Indian.

Samye was Tibet’s very first monastery and has a history that spans over

1,200 years. It represents the Tibetan state’s first efforts to allow the Buddhist faith to set down roots in the country.

Trandruk Monastery

Trandruk Monastery is one of the earliest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, a significant stop for Tibetan pilgrims. Dating back to the 7th century reign of Songtsen Gampo, it is one of the “Demoness Subduing” temples of Tibet. Trandruk Monastery is also famous for its “Pearl Tangka” which is the image of Compassion Buddha made up of almost 30,000 pearls, and many other jewelries.

Yongbulakhang

The castle of Yongbulakhang sprouting from a craggy ridge overlooking the patchwork fields of the Yarlung valley is reputed to be the oldest building in Tibet. The prominent tower is its most impressive feature. The best part of a visit is the walk up along the ridge above the building. There are fabulous views of Yongbulakhang and the Yarlung Valley from a promontory topped with prayer flags.

Kham

Kham, also called Eastern Tibet, is a land apart from the rest of Tibet. Its climate, geography, flora and fauna all lend it a unique, almost magical atmosphere. Geographically the region varies from subtropical low-lying jungle, to the glaciated peaks of Namche Barwa (7,756m) and the high grasslands of northeastern Tibet. At its eastern end, the headwaters of some of Asia’s greatest rivers tumble off the Tibetan plateau, carving a dramatic concertina landscape of deep gorges and remote valleys.

Kham gains much of its charm from its people. Khampa men, long regarded as both the most religious and most warlike of all Tibetans, can be seen swaggering along the streets of many settlements wearing red (from Chamdo) or black (from Derge) braids in their long hair and a chuba (long-sleeved sheepskin cloak) hanging off the right shoulder. Many wear broad-brimmed cowboy hats, big boots and a knife by their side. The women traditionally wear elaborate coral and amber jewelery and arrange their hair into 108 braids.

Basum-tso

Basum-tso (3,700m) means Water of Aquamarine, and it exactly is! Embraced by the snow-capped mountains and the primitive forest, decorated by a fine little island, Basum-tso is a fairyland of dream. This lake, together with the delicate temple on the island, is regarded sacred by the Red Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, attracts many pilgrims every year.

Lamalin Monastery

Lamalin belongs to the Nyingma order, is the biggest and most important monastery in Nyingchi area. The whole monastery is made of wood and stone. It is square with walls painted white, blue, red and green respectively. The flying eaves and painted timber columns are Tibetan and Chinese styles in perfect harmony. The exquisite murals in the monastery are praised as a consummation in Kham.  Legend has it that Nyingma master Padmasambhava left his footprint in Lamalin.   Go find it.

Qimbaling Monastery

Qimbaling Monastery is similar to other major Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries, with the well-reserved statues, frescos and Tangkas. The monastery is famous for its religious dance named Guqing which is performed in every Tibetan New Year. Dancers perform in splendid costumes with gruesome masks, all movements in harmony. Such religious dance has high reputation on the whole Tibetan plateau.

Ranwu Lake

Ranwu Lake (3,850m) is just by the Sichuan-Tibet road, surrounded by glaciers and snow mountains. Thawed snow makes the body, the water appears different colors in different seasons, from aquamarine to turquoise. By the lake are the verdant grassland and plants.

Ngari

Ngari, the western region of Tibet, is one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the country. It is huge, scarcely populated and at an average altitude of over 4500m. The landscape is dominated by the Himalaya range to the south, the huge salt lakes of the Changtang plateau to the north and the trans-Himalayan ranges, such as the Gangdise, which separate them.

Highlights of the long trip from Lhasa are sacred Mt Kailash (Kang Rinpoche) and Lake Manasarovar (Mapham yum-tso), two of the most remote and legendary travel destinations in the world. You have to be a certain kind of person to make this journey - many of the pilgrims on the road have been planning it all their lives. For those not overly fussed by the spiritual significance of Mt Kailash, going to one of the most isolated and beautiful corners of the globe is likely to be an attraction in itself.

The otherworldly ruins of the ancient Guge Kingdom at Tsaparang are one of Asia's unknown wonders. And for the truly intrepid there are countless remote monasteries, hidden valleys and sights of historical and archaeological significance to explore.

Lake Manasarovar

About 30km to the south of Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar ( 4560m ), or Maphamyumtso (Victorious Lake) in Tibetan, is the most venerated of Tibet's many lakes, and one of the most beautiful. It was said that the waters of Manasarovar are 'like pearls' and that to drink them erases the 'sins of a hundred lifetimes'.

Mt. Kailash

Mt. Kailash lies at the center of an area that is the key to the drainage system of the Tibetan plateau, and from which issues four of the great rivers of the Indian subcontinent: the Karnali, which feeds into the Ganges( south ), the Indus( north ), the Sutlej ( west ) and the Brahmaputra ( Yarlung Tsangpo, east ).

Mt Kailash, at 6714m, is not the mightiest of the mountains in the region, but with its hulking shape - like the handle of a millstone, according to Tibetans - and its year-long snow-capped peak, it stands apart from the pack. The mountain is known in Tibetan as Kang Rinpoche, or 'Precious Jewel of Snow'.

Kailash has long long been an object of worship for four major religions. For the Hindus,it is the domain of Shiva,the Destroyer and Transformer. To the Buddhist faithful, Kailash is the abode of Demchok,a wrathful manifestation of Sakyamuni, thought to be an equivalent of Hinduism's Shiva.

The Jains of India also revere the mountain as the site at which the first of their saints was emancipated. And in the ancient Bon religion of Tibet, Kailash was the sacred nine storey Swastika Mountain, upon which the Bonpo founder Shenrab alighted from heaven.

Ruins of the Guge Kingdom

Guge Kingdom was established in 842, used to be very prosperous. But it was suddenly destroyed in 1650, left almost no traces. Its mystical disappearance has long been a puzzle until today. The ruins are highly valued for Tibetan history, culture, arts and religion study.

Zanda and Tholing Monastery

Zanda, the base for visits to the ancient Guge Kingdom, has an incredible location. It's perched against crumbling cliffs high above the Sutlej River - a patch of vivid green among unrelentingly barren canyons. There are even real trees, the first in hundreds of kilometers.

Tholing and neighboring Tsaparang are the ruined former capitals of the ancient Guge Kingdom of Western Tibet. Apart from the monasteries, chortens and palaces at Tholing and Tsaparang, the whole area is remarkable for its amazing eroded scenery, cut through by the Sutlej River on its way to the subcontinent. The monastic complex at Tholing was founded inearly 11 century, was once Western Tibet's most important monastic complex.


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Transport

by Air

In the past few years, more airlines have launched fights connecting Tibet and inland cities like Beijing, Chengdu, Xi'an, and coast cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou. Other than the popular entrance of Lhasa, Nyingchi, located in eastern Tibet, is another option. In winter, flights are more likely to be cancelled or delayed due to the weather.

Below is a list of detailed flight information. Please note the airfare listed excludes tax. Schedules and airfare are subject to change.

Itinerary
Flight Number
Schedule
ETD - ETA
Airfare (in CNY)
Lhasa - Beijing CA4111 1234567 16:05 - 21:30 2,430
Lhasa - Chengdu CA4402/4 1234567 10:45/10:50 - 12:35/12:40 1,500
CA4111 1234567 16:05 - 17:55
3U8656/8 1234567 10:50/11:15 - 12:40/13:10
Lhasa - Chongqing CA4419 246/5 13:10 - 15:05 1,630
CZ3464 135/7 13:50 - 15:50
Lhasa - Xi'an MU2336 15 15:30 - 17:30 1,650
HU7858 246 12:20 - 14:55
Lhasa - Xining CA4217 146 12:55 - 15:05 1,610
Lhasa - Shangrila MU5838 13 12:40 - 17:30 1,380
Lhasa - Guangzhou CZ3418 15 13:10 - 17:20 2,500
Lhasa - Kathmandu CA407 26 10:40 - 09:45 1,830
Lhasa - Shanghai MU2335 1234567 08:05 - 14:45 2,760
Chengdu - Nyingchi CA4431 1234567 07:30/07:40 - 09:10/09:20 1,380
Beijing - Lhasa CA4112 1234567 09:10 - 15:05 2,430
Chengdu - Lhasa CA4401/3 1234567 07:50/08:00 - 09:50/10:00 1,500
3U8655/7 1234567 08:00/08:10 - 10:00/10:10
CA4112 1234567 13:00 - 15:05
Chongqing - Lhasa CA4420 246/5 10:05 - 12:20 1,630
CZ3463 135/7 10:40 - 13:00
Xi'an - Lhasa MU2335 1357 12:15 - 14:45 1,650
HU7857 246 08:50-11:30
Xining - Lhasa CA4218 146 09:40-12:10 1,610
Shangrila - Lhasa MU5837 13 10:00 - 11:50 1,380
Guangzhou - Lhasa CZ3417 15 07:10 - 12:25 2,500
Kathmandu - Lhasa CA408 26 10:45 - 14:05 1,830
Shanghai - Lhasa MU2336 1234567 15:30 - 21:50 2,760
Nyingchi - Lhasa CA4432 1234567 10:05/10:15 - 11:35/11:45 1,380

by Train

In 2007, the 1,142km train line between Golmud (Qinghai province) and Lhasa has been officially launched into operation, boasting world’s highest railroad reaching 5,070m. Below is a detailed list of trains connecting Lhasa and the major Chinese cities. The schedules listed here are subject to change.
Itinerary
Train Number
Schedule
Duration
ETD - ETA Fare in CNY (Hardseat/Hard Sleeper/ Soft Sleeper)
Shanghai - Lhasa T164/5 Daily 48hrs 56 mins 19:52 - 20:48 406/845/1314
Lhasa - Shanghai T166/3 55 hrs 3 mins 09:50 - 11:53
Beijing - Lhasa T27 Daily 45 hrs 8 mins 21:30 - 18:38 389/813/1262
Lhasa - Beijing T28 46 hrs 14 mins 09:20 - 07:34
Chengdu-Lhasa T22/3 Daily 44 hrs 3 mins 20:59 - 17:02 331/712/1104
Lhasa - Chengdu T24/1 42 hrs 47 mins 13:10 – 07:57
Chongqing - Lhasa T222/3 Daily
45 hrs 7 mins 19:55 - 17:02 355/754/1168
Lhasa - Chongqing T224/1 43 hrs 26 mins 13:10 - 08:36
Lanzhou - Lhasa K917 Daily
27 hrs 25 mins 12:15 - 15:40 242/552/854
Lhasa - Lanzhou K918 26 hrs 34 mins 07:45 - 10:19
Xining - Lhasa K9801 Daily
24 hrs 04 mins 14:56 - 15:40 226/523/810
Lhasa - Xining K9802 23 hrs 55 mins 07:45 - 07:40
Guangzhou - Lhasa T264/5 Daily 54 hrs 39 mins 12:19 - 18:58 451/923/1434
Lhasa - Guangzhou T266/3 54 hrs 33 mins 12:25 - 18:58

by Land

There are several land routes into Tibet. In practice, most travellers only use one of two officially sanctioned routes: Kathmandu to Lhasa via the Friendship Hwy or Golmud to Lhasa via the Qinghai-Tibet Hwy. Other possible routes are the Sichuan-Tibet Hwy, the Yunnan-Tibet Hwy and the Xinjiang-Tibet Hwy.

Friendship Highway (Nepal to Tibet)

The 865km stretch of road between Kathmandu and Lhasa is known as the Friendship Hwy. From Kathmandu (1,300m) the road travels gently up to Kodari (1,873m), before leaving Nepal to make a steep switchback ascent to Zhangmu (2,300m), the Tibetan border town, and then Nyalam (3,750m), where most people spend their first night. The road then climbs to the top of the Tongla (5,120m), continuing to Tingri (4,390m) for the second night.

The journey is without a doubt one of the most spectacular in the world, but you need watch out for the effects of altitude sickness during the early stages of this road. It’s advised to rest a day at Tingri or Nyalam if you are heading up to Everest Base Camp (5,200m).

Note that road between Nyalam and Zhangmu can be difficult in the rain season of summer.

Qinghai-Tibet Highway

The 1,115km Qinghai-Tibet hwy starting from Golmud (Qinghai province) is cold, beak, with few interesting sights. Even in summer it can get bitterly cold, especially up on the high passes, the highest of which is Tangula (5,180m).

The common concept of entering Lhasa by this hwy acclimatizing better than by flight is not credible, especially for the first comers to the high plateau. Accommodation and food supplies along the way are basic. Medical assistance is very limited. Let along the scenery on the road is less than pleasant.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway

The road between Chengdu (Sichuan province) and Lhasa is around 2, 400km (northern route), or 2,100km (southern route). The southern road ranges from snowbound passes to subtropical gorges. The northern road is a higher roller coaster ride with remote villages and ramshackle towns.

Among the five main roads to Tibet, Sichun-Tibet hwy is the most geographically diverse one, offering magnificent views and unrivaled experience. But it’s also the most dangerous one, especially in winter, thawy early spring and rainy summer.

Travel on this road is restricted to Land Cruiser tours as public transport is very little.

Yunnan-Tibet Highway

Starting from Dali (Yunnan province), this road to Tibet is the shortest one, about 720km. It heads up to the Tibetan towns of Zhongdian and Deqin, then up north across the Tibetan border to Yanjing. From here to Markham, the road joins the Sichuan southern route. Again, the public transport on this road is scarce.

This hwy used to be the historical “Tea-Horse Road” connecting Tibetan and Chinese regions. Even toady, it remains the economical and cultural conjunctions of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet.

Xinjiang-Tibet Highway

Xinjing-Tibet hwy is the transport lifeline in western Tibet, approximately 1,350km from Kashgar (Xinjing Autonomous Region) to Ali. With at least two passes over 5,400m, it is the highest road in the world.

Coming from Kashgar (900m), the altitude gain on the way is dramatic, climbing mountain pass over 6,000m then stop at Ali at 4,500m. This physical challenge can be a threat to life. We do not recommend this hwy.

Vehicles

We understand safety and comfort are the most concerns when your daytime in Tibet mostly spent on the road. We use quality and well-maintained vehicles only, ranging from various sized bus to Land Cruiser (Toyota 4500), all equipped with seasoned local drivers.

In recent years, the roads connecting the major cities have been re-built and under pretty good maintenance, making bus the more popular tourist vehicle. Land Cruiser is used more on those off the beaten tracks, say, Everest Base Camp.

Here is a glance at some of the vehicles we use.

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Responsible Tourism

The Himalayas are of global ecological significance, not only as the earth's highest ecosystem and one of its last remaining great wildernesses but also as the source of Asia's greatest rivers. The Tibetan plateau affects global jet streams and even influences the Indian monsoon.

Tourism, in particular trekking, is having a great environmental and social impact in the whole Himalaya region. The local communities in or around popular tourist routes have been hugely affected by tourism, for both better and worse.

It is an irony that we as travelers often advertently damage the very things we came to see: we crave to get off the beaten track, and end up creating another beaten track;we want to experience traditional culture but don't want to lose our foreign comforts;and we are often disappointed when traditional villages adopt modern housing, transport and dress - things we would not question in our own culture. These are among the many contradictions - inherent in travel - you will face when traveling in the Himalaya region.

Responsible tourism doesn't simply mean behaving in an appropriate manner when you in another country. Being a responsible tourist also means taking the time to understand as much about the destination as possible before traveling there, and being aware of the implications of your presence in that destination.

Responsible tourism also extends to the people you interact with during your travels. For example, if you agree to post someone a copy of photograph, it's considerate to follow through on this. Another example, tourists are not advised to hand out sweets, pens or money to children since it is positive reinforcement to beg. A donation to a charitable organization, health center or school is a more constructive way to help in the long term.

In short, the challenge for you as visitor is to respect the rights and beliefs of the local people, and to minimize your impact - culturally and environmentally. As the cliche goes, 'the Himalaya is there to change you, not for you to change the Himalaya.'

As a responsible tour operator, the Grand Himalaya team works with destination partners who hold equally strong responsibilities for protecting and preserving the wildness resource in trekking, rafting and other outdoor adventures.

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Food and Drink

Staple Food

In Tibet, the staple food includes roasted barely flour, wheat flour, meat (mainly yak and lamb) and milk.

The basic Tibetan meal is tsampa, a kind of dough made with roasted-barley flour and yak butter (if available) mixed with water, tea or beer - something wet. Tibetans skillfully knead and mix the paste by hand into dough-like balls.

Outside of Lhasa, Tibetan food is limited to greasy momos and thugpa. Momos are small dumplings filled with meat or vegetables or both. They are normally steamed but can be fried as well.  More common is thugpa, a noodle soup with meat or vegetables or both.

Popular among nomads is dried yak or lamb meat. It is normally cut into strips and left to dry on tent lines and is pretty chewy stuff.

Chinese food is available in Tibet too, though almost exclusively Sichuan cuisine, hot and spicy. Muslim restaurants can be found in almost all urban centers. Catering to the increasing tourist volume, some restaurants in Lhasa offer more options including Nepalese, Indian and western meals.


Daily Drinks

Yak-butter tea is made from yak butter mixed with salt,milk, tea leaves & hot water all churned up in a wooden tube. The fluid is thick, more like soup than tea.

Sweet tea, a kind of red tea plus sugar & milk, is the more palatable alternative to yak-butter tea.

The Tibetan brew, mostly home made, is a fermented barley wine. Its alcoholicity is similar to that of beer, has a rich and fruity taste.


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Gear

More travelers make tours of 10 days or less, to places under 4,000m with major cities spread on the way. These tours don't require special equipment. Below is a checklist of daily commodity for your reference.

Down Jacket

Temperature can plummet anytime even in summer on Tibetan plateau. Mountain passes are windy and icy cold.

Sweater

High-neck is preferred for extra warmth.

Shirts & Pants

Long-sleeved shirts and loose fitting pants made of cotton, flannel or wool are good. Shorts are not appropriate at any time in Tibet for men or women.

Shoes

Sporting shoes or comfortable walking shoes are highly recommenced for all weather, together with cotton socks.

Mittens & Scarf

For extra warmth.

Sun Protections

Hats, sun glasses, sun- block cream and lip balm with SPF 30+.

Snacks

Nuts, chocolate bars, dried fruits, hard candies, beef jerky are much-appreciated trail treats.

For special tours like trekking or pilgrimage, we will do the big work for you like tent, cooking equipment and pack animals etc, and will give more specific instructions.

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Health

Acute Mountain Sickness

Acute mountain sickness (AMS), or altitude sickness, is common at high elevations.  It occurs because less oxygen reaches the muscles and the brain at high altitude (over 2,500m),  requiring the heart & lungs to compensate by working harder.  It affects most people to some extent, relevant factors are the rate of ascent and individual susceptibility.  Rapid ascent to high altitude can be fatal.

Any traveler who flies or buses into Lhasa, where the elevation is over 3,600m, is likely to experience some symptoms during the first 24 hours, including headache, breathlessness, dizziness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea & difficult sleeping.  However, these will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours to several days.

Treat mild symptoms by resting at the same altitude until recovery, usually a day or two.  Take aspirin for headaches.  If symptoms persist or become worse, however, immediate descent is necessary.

People with heart or lung disease, hypertension or serious anemia are advised NOT to enter Tibet.  It's also advised to check with your doctor if you're not sure of your physical status.

Here are some tips to prevent AMS & help recover:

1. Ascend slowly.

2. Drink extra fluids.

3. Avoid alcohol & don't smoke.

4. Avoid sedatives.Don't push yourself when climbing up to passes; rather, take plenty of breaks.

Medical Checklist

The following checklist is for your reference.  It's advised to consult your pharmacist for brands available in your country.

1. Aspirin or paracetamol for pain or fever

2. Cold & flu tablets, throat lozenges & nasal decongestant

3. Bandages, Band-Aids (plasters) & other wound dressings

4. Calamine lotion, sting-relief spray or aloe vera to ease irritation from sunburn & insect bites or stings

5. Multivitamins for long trips when dietary vitamin intake may be inadequate

Insurance

Travel Accident Insurance is included in all of our tour packages.  Compensation is up to CNY 300, 000 per person.  Travel Accident Insurance covers injuries or damages resulting from road accidents only when traveling in Tibet, but not from Acute Mountain Sickness.

Toilet

Unless in some high-end hotels, it's hard to find decent toilets in many places, let alone on those mountain roads or in remote valleys.  You're very likely to see locals as well as tourists look for shelters in wild open space to answer nature's call.  In some villages, the so-called toilet is just a pit in the ground with shabby shelter.

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Permit

  • The Alien's Travel Permit

    Non-Chinese nationals are required valid passport, Chinese visa and the Aliens’ Travel Permit to travel in Tibet(some one will call it "Tibet Visa").  To obtain this Alien’s Travel Permit issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau, tourists must have licensed Tibetan agencies to organize their tours, and must be accompanied by guide throughout.  Non-Chinese nationals and Taiwan Chinese are prohibited to travel independently in Tibet.  Foreign diplomats and journalists are prohibited to enter Tibet as tourists.

  • Which documents are required to apply for the Permit?

    For tourists holding L visas, the following documents are required.

    1) copy of passport main page

    2) copy of valid Chinese visa

    3) occupation information


    For tourists holding any other type visas, the following documents are required.

    1) copy of passport main page

    2) copy of valid Chinese visa

    3) original copy of Justification of Employment


    It's advised to submit the above documents, together with confirmed tour dates and itinerary, at least two weeks in advance.

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