From Kathmandu, enjoy a multi-week trekking adventure through the Himalaya, learning about Nepali culture and Tibetan Buddhism along the way. You'll do a circuit, or 'kora', of sacred Mt. Kailash in western Tibet, camp beneath the mountain's north face, and visit Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side of the border. You'll also stop at other Tibet cultural highlights, such as the Tashi Lhunpo Gompa in Shigatse, and end in Lhasa, the former home of the Dalai Lamas.

Highlights

  • Trek through Nepal to the Tibetan border
  • Hike around sacred Mt. Kailash and camp beneath its north face
  • Marvel at the views from Everest Base Camp
  • Explore the gompas and palaces of Lhasa

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 2 Sightseeing in Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 3 Fly to Nepalgunj Nepalgunj
Day 4 Fly to Simikot Simikot
Day 5 Trek Simikot to Dharapuri Dharapuri
Day 6 Trek Dharapori to Kermi Kermi
Day 7 Trek Kermi to Yalbang Yalbamg
Day 8 Trek Yalbang to Muchu or Tumkot Muchu
Day 9 Trek Tumkot to Yari or Thado Dunga Yari
Day 10 Trek Yari (Nepal) to Burang (Tibet) Burang
Day 11 Drive to Chiu/Lake Manasarovar Lake Manasarovar
Day 12 Manasarovar to Darchen Darchen
Day 13 Trek Dharboche to Dira Phuk Dira Phuk
Day 14 Trek Drolma La to Zutrul Puk Zutrul Puk
Day 15 Hike and Drive Zongdue/Darchen to Saga Saga
Day 16 Drive to Everest Base Camp Rongbuk
Day 17 Everest Base Camp and Shigatse Shigatse
Day 18 Drive to Lhasa Lhasa
Day 19 Sightseeing in Lhasa Lhasa
Day 20 Sightseeing in Lhasa Lhasa
Day 21 Depart Tibet  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa
Patan Durbar Square

Arrive in Kathmandu, where you'll be met and transferred to your hotel in the Boudhanath neighborhood.

Depending on your arrival time, you can explore this Tibetan enclave, with its enormous stupa and small Tibetan handicraft shops. In the evening, join the local devotees in doing a kora (clockwise circuit) of the stupa, in preparation for your much longer kora of Mt. Kailash later in the trip!

Day 2: Sightseeing in Kathmandu

Swayambhunath Stupa

Spend the day exploring the fascinating city of Kathmandu. There's a lot to see and do in this large city, but you'll focus on some of the most beautiful and interesting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including:

  • Patan Durbar Square: This bustling former royal palace square is one of three durbar squares in the Kathmandu Valley, and many people believe this to be the most interesting as it's still a center of local life. Visit the unparalleled Patan Museum to learn about Kathmandu's religious architecture and artifacts, and stop at the Golden Temple around the corner.
  • Swayambhunath Stupa: Climb the steps up to this hilltop temple (nicknamed the Monkey Temple, and you'll learn why!) There are great views of Kathmandu from the top.
  • Pashupatinath Temple: Take in the spiritual atmosphere of this temple complex on the banks of the Bagmati River, the most holy Hindu site in Nepal, and where open-air cremations take place.

Day 3: Fly to Nepalgunj

Flying to Nepalgunj

From Kathmandu, you'll fly 320 miles (516 km) west to Nepalgunj. Once you arrive in the largest city on the Terai — the plains bordering India — you'll have a chance to explore, and then get ready for an early morning to begin your trekking adventure the next day.

Day 4: Fly to Simikot, Humla District

Herding goats in Simikot, near the Nepal border with Tibet

Catch another flight early today, a 50-minute flight north to Simikot. The district headquarters of Humla is located on a ridge overlooking the Humla Karnali River. During the flight, you'll cruise over snow-covered peaks. Once in Simikot, you'll have time to explore the pretty town. Be sure to drink plenty of water as you are likely to feel the increase in altitude here (Simikot is situated at 9547 feet/2910 m., in contrast to Nepalgunj's 492 feet/150 m.)

Day 5: Trek Simikot to Dharapuri

The Karnali River flows through changing landscapes

Get ready for your first day of trekking, with a four-hour climb to a pass that is around 9,842 feet (3,000 m) high. You'll begin a long and steep descent to Dharapori, following a trail that will take you high above the Karnali River, through pine forests and villages. Along the way, you'll meet locals and have a chance to learn about Hindu and Buddhist culture. Your adventure will continue with overnight camping in the area.

Day 6: Trek Dharapori to Kermi

Village children in Western Nepal

The trek continues with a three-hour hike along Karnali River, where you'll follow a high slope as the water winds its way through a narrow gorge, and pass fields of barley, buckwheat, rice, and potatoes. In the afternoon, you'll have the chance to relax, and soothe your muscles in natural hot springs. Then, you'll visit Kermi, a small agricultural Buddhist village, and Laikyo Gompa, a monastery that's several hundred years old. Camp again tonight.

Day 7: Trek Kermi to Yalbang

Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery
Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery

You'll continue your trek for about five hours today, reaching an altitude of 9905 feet (3020 m.). After about two hours, you'll cross a small pass, and then descend steeply for about 20 minutes until you reach an iron suspension bridge across the Sali River. Pass through pine forests and along the emerald-green Karnali River. Along the way, you might see caravans of mules and dzopas (a crossbreed of yaks and cows) accompanying villagers from Simikot and Nyinba Valley, east of Simikot.

You'll spend the rest of the day in Yalbang. Visit the Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery, among the largest in the region. Around 130 monks live there who belong to the Nyingmapa sect, the oldest Buddhist lineage. Inside, you can observe a daily puja (prayer ceremony), and learn more about the sculptures inside the temple. Spend the night camping in the area.

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Day 8: Trek Yalbang to Muchu or Tumkot

Typical Buddhist Village
A typical village in Western Nepal

Trek today either to Muchu (4 hours) or Tumkot (5 hours). Along the trail, your path will climb high above the Karnail River, following a deep gorge. Along the way, you might meet flocks of sheep carrying salt for trade.

From Muchu, you can visit Dhungkar Choezom Monastery, one of the most important Sakya monasteries in the Himalaya. You may continue on for the one-hour walk to Tumkot, passing teahouses where you can stop for a rest. You'll travel either up to 10,233 feet (3120 m.) to Muchu, or 11,116 feet (3389 m.) to Tumkot. In either place, you'll camp overnight.

Day 9: Trek Tumkot to Yari or Thado Dunga

Yari Valley
Yari Valley

As you leave Tumkot, you'll notice that the landscape will start to change, becoming more rocky and desolate and dotted with a few Juniper pines. The trail begins to climb slowly but steadily. You'll pass through the village of Pani Palwang, and have the opportunity to stop at a teahouse. Depending on where the group decides to stop, you'll climb for about five hours, either to Yari at 12,136 feet (3700 m.), or Thado Dunga at 12,300 feet (3750 m.). In either place, camp overnight.

Day 10: Trek Yari (Nepal) to Burang (Tibet)

Prayers before the High Pass
Prayers before Nara La

Today you cross from Nepal into Tibet. You'll have a strenuous day ahead, as you cross the Nara La Pass at 15,157 feet (4,620 m.), but the views will make it worth it. As you trek, you might encounter caravans of mules, dzopa, or yaks.  You'll pass a few teahouses at Thado Dunga, where you'll notice that the trail will get steeper. There may even be snow on the ground as you get closer to Nara La, marked by prayer flags. 

At Hilsa you'll stop for tea and then walk across the Friendship Bridge to Sher. Here, Chinese officials will check your permits and passports. Your Tibetan guide and transport will also meet you here. Drive about one hour to Burang, passing Rinzin Zangpo Gompa and Kangje village on the way. As a reward for your hard work today you'll stay in a guesthouse with an attached bathroom. 

Day 11: Drive to Chiu/ Lake Manasarovar

Stunning view  Mt.Kailash
Views of Mt. Kailash

It's time to rest your legs with a two to three-hour drive to Toyo village. There, you'll enjoy views of Mt. Kailash, and pass between lakes Rakashas Tal and Manasarovar, which are linked by the Ganfa Chu channel. The two bodies of water are associated with the conjoined sun and moon, a power symbol of Tantric Buddhism. You'll rest at a guest house in the area overnight.

Day 12: Manasarovar to Darchen

The Magic Mountains
Mt. Kailash

Take a rest around Lake Manasarovar in the morning to help with acclimatization. This is the highest freshwater lake in the world. This stunning sacred lake sits in a basin between Mt. Kailash and Gurla Mandata. From your base at Chiu Monastery, on the northwestern shore of the lake, enjoy views of the turquoise lake. There are hot-springs behind the monastery, so enjoy a refreshing bathe before driving to Darchen after lunch. Darchen is the base camp for the Kailash Kora and is about 37 miles (60 km) away. 

Day 13: Trek Dharboche to Dira Phuk

starting point of hike around Mount Kailash
Starting point of the hike around Mt. Kailash

In the morning, you'll set off for a four to five-hour trek to Tarboche, the starting point of your kora around Mt. Kailash. You'll meet a team of yaks and Tibetan yak herders, who will escort you as you walk up the Lha Chu Valley, through green meadows and streams as Kailash towers above. You'll follow the turquoise river, entering a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls, and then visit the 13th-century monastery at Dira-puk.

Day 14: Trek Drolma La to Zutrul Puk

Drolma La

Get ready for the most difficult part of your journey through as you leave the Lha Chu Valley for the Drolma Chu Valley, heading towards the Drolma La at 18,471 feet (5630 m.), the highest point of your trek. It's a tough climb to the summit, which is festooned with prayer flags, but from there it is downhill to Zutul-puk. There, you'll have views of one of the highest lakes in the world, Thukpe Dzingbu, known as the "lake of compassion." On the flat fields of Zutul-puk there is a monastery and several caves, which are popular for meditation. You'll stay at a guest house at Zutul-puk.

Day 15: Trek and Drive from Zongdue/ Darchen to Saga

Yaks around Mount Kailash Kora
Yaks around Mount Kailash

From the Bharka plain you'll walk through the desert-like landscape leading back to Darchen, and thus completing the Kailash Kora. You'll bid the sacred lakes and holy mountains farewell as you head east to Paryang. The scenery here is considered some of the most beautiful of the entire journey, with horses, yaks, and sheep grazing in the shadow of the Himalaya.

You'll continue the journey with a drive through the vast Thang Kiang Naga, or ʻplain of wild donkeys and grassʼ on the way to Saga. You'll cover 205 miles (330 km) and pass through several small towns, including Zhongba, crossing Torkyo La at 16,010 feet (4,880 meters), before reaching Saga, where you'll settle into your hotel for the night.

Day 16: Drive to Everest Base Camp

Everest North Base Camp
Everest North Base Camp

It's an exciting day as you'll cross the Yarlung Zangbo River (the source of the Brahmaputra) for the 223 mile (360 km), eight-hour scenic drive to Everest Base Camp. On clear days, you'll catch the face of Shishapangma Peak and a view of Pekutso Lake en route.

Rongbuk Monastery, at about 16,732 feet (5,100 m.) above sea level and one of the highest monasteries in the world, is a great place to admire and take photos of the front face of Everest. You'll have the rest of the day free to explore Rongbuk Monastery and the surrounding landscape.
If you are visiting during the off season (November to April), you will stay at Rongbuk Guest House near Rongbuk Monastery. If it's peak season (May to October), you will stay at the Tibetan Tent Camp, both with dorms. 

Day 17: Everest Base Camp and Shigatse

Tashilhunpo Monastery
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery

Today, you'll wake up early to catch sunrise at Everest, sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Drive six to seven hours to Shigatse, a major city in Tibet. After your arrival, visit the official seat of the Panchen Lama at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which is also the largest and most influential Gelug monastery in the area. Marvel at a giant statue of Maitreya Buddha, or the Future Buddha. It's the largest of its kind on earth, at 85 feet high and 37 feet wide (26.2 m. by 11.5 m.), decorated with pearls, turquoise, coral, and amber.

Day 18: Drive to Lhasa

Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake

It's a long but scenic journey from Shigatse to Lhasa, Tibet's capital, at about eight hours. After two hours of driving, you'll reach the historical city of Gyantse, where you can visit the Palcho Monastery and learn about three important sects of Tibetan Buddhism: Sakyapa, Zhalupa, and Gelukpa. Its kumbum (chapel) is 114 feet (35 m.) high, and was modeled on the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, where you began your journey.

Further along the road you'll also see the Karola Glacier and impressive Yamdrok Lake, surrounded by fertile pastures with grazing yaks and sheep.

Once you arrive in Lhasa, you'll have the evening to rest in your hotel.

Day 19: Sightseeing in Lhasa

The landmark of Tibet-Potala Palace
Potala Palace

You'll spend the day exploring Lhasa, starting at the famous Potala Palace. Start by climbing the zig-zagging paths and stairways up to its stately chapels. Later in the day, visit the Jokhang Temple, the holiest temple in Lhasa, where you'll observe pilgrims worshiping at what is known as the “house of Buddha.” Your last stop of the day will be Barkhor Street, which encircles the Jokhang Temple. It's a great place to pick up Tibetan handicrafts to take home with you.

Day 20: Sightseeing in Lhasa

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

You'll learn more about Tibetan Buddhism today, as you explore more of Lhasa and its monasteries. At Drepung Monastery, about 6 miles (10 km) west of the central city, you'll learn about the history of the monastery, which was once home to more than 10,000 monks. At nearby Sera Monastery you'll see Buddhist debate in action, as the young monks debate philosophy in the courtyard. After lunch, your final destination will be Norbulingka, the old summer palace of the Dalai Lamas and now surrounded by public park.

You'll have the rest of the evening free to relax at your hotel, or explore the main town of Lhasa after dark.

Day 21: Farewell Tibet!

Flying over the Himalaya

After breakfast, it will be time to head to the airport for your flight to Kathmandu or elsewhere, to make your way home.

Map

Map of Trekking Nepal & Tibet: Mt. Kailash Kora - 21 Days
Map of Trekking Nepal & Tibet: Mt. Kailash Kora - 21 Days