This itinerary is a sample of the activities that we have planned for this exciting tour. Itineraries may vary from one trip to another.
Our caravan of insight and adventure begins as we depart for Chengdu, China.
Arrive in Chengdu and transfer to hotel. We have an early dinner and rest from our international flight. Overnight Chengdu
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and is the economic, political and cultural center for South-West China. After breakfast we will explore Wenshu Monastery which dates back to the Tang dynasty. This is Chengdu’s largest and best preserved temple. It is a very active temple with many worshippers coming each day to pray and make offerings. After lunch we will take a short drive outside of Chengdu to explore Baoguang Monastery – The Temple of Devine Light. This is another active monastery that was founded in the 9th century and it houses a beautiful white jade Buddha statue. On our return to Chengdu we visit Zhaojue Temple, a Tang dynasty building dating back to the 7th century. Overnight Chengdu.
Depart Chengdu on a flight to Lhasa, the heart and soul of Tibet and once the centuries old home of the Dalai Lamas. Transfer to hotel. We will spend our first three nights in Tibet in Lhasa exploring the temples, monasteries and palaces. On our first day, we will browse Lhasa’s ancient market and bazaar – the Barkhor, where we will see pilgrims from all over Tibet circumambulating Tibet’s holiest temple, the Jokhang. Overnight Lhasa
We begin our day of exploring Lhasa at the Potala – the Pure Land of Avalokitesvara – the embodiment of compassion and the former winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. Constructed in the 17th century by the great Fifth Dalai Lama, this fantastic masterpiece of Tibetan architecture has more than 1000 rooms that include a collection of sacred Buddhist art second to none. Centuries of sacred art – statues, stupas and paintings are contained in the many shrines, temples and prayer halls. The history of Tibet is portrayed here in the Potala, on its walls and altars in this magnificent former palace. In the afternoon, we visit Sera Monastery, north of Lhasa. This Gelugpa monastery was once the home to 5,000 monks. Founded in 1419, Sera has a superb collection of sacred art. The highlight of our visit to Sera is experiencing the monks perform their afternoon debates. Overnight Lhasa
In the morning we visit the Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest of temples. The Jokhang houses a beautiful gold Buddha statue, a gift from the Chinese Princess Wen Cheng in 641 AD. For centuries, pilgrims have traveled from all over Tibet to prostrate themselves at the doorsteps of Tibet’s most sacred temple. In the evening we return to the Jokhang and chant with the monks. In the afternoon, we visit Drepung Monastery to the west of Lhasa, which was built in 1416. Drepung was once the world’s largest monastery with a population of 10,000 monks. At Drepung we have the rare opportunity to receive a lecture from the abbot of the monastery on Buddhist philosophy. Overnight Lhasa
Early morning departure for Shigatse. On the outskirts of Shigatse, we will visit Shalu Monastery, located a few miles east of Shigatse. This beautiful small monastery, with its Chinese style green tiled roofs, dates back to the 11th century. Shalu is noted for its 14th century murals that fuse Chinese, Mongol and Nepalese styles. Shalu is a treasure house of Buddhist art and is one of my most favorite sites in Tibet. Overnight Shigatse.
We depart Shigatse on a beautiful drive through the Tibetan countryside to Tingri. During our drive we see many nomads herding their yaks as we cross the high mountain passes on our way to Everest. Overnight Tingri.
Early morning departure for Mount Everest. We are treated to one of the most spectacular mountain drives in Tibet. Driving through small remote villages we come to one of the highest mountain passes that offers us our first magnificent view of the massive Himalayan range including Mount Everest. With our first glimpse we come to understand why the Tibetans refer to it as Chomolungma, the Mother Goddess of the World! We have a full day to explore the base camp and also Rongphu Monastery – the world’s highest monastery. Overnight Everest.
We depart Everest and drive back through the Tibetan countryside to the small monastic town of Sakya. Historically, Sakya is one of the most important towns in Tibet. It was here in Sakya that the alliance between the Sakya lamas and the Mongol Khans developed to rule Tibet. In the 13th century the great Sakya lama, Sakya Pandita, became the spiritual mentor to the Mongol Prince Godan – the son of Genghis Khan. Overnight Sakya.
In the morning we explore Sakya monastery that has one of the most beautiful prayer halls and largest collections of Tibetan sacred texts. Our visit to Sakya offers us a fabulous window into Tibetan rural life. After lunch, we depart for Shigatse. Overnight Shigatse.
After breakfast we visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, once the seat of the Panchen Lama, who was declared an incarnation of the Buddha Amitabha by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Tashilhunpo houses a brilliant collection of sacred Buddhist art especially with its 86 foot-high statue of the future Buddha Maitreya. After lunch we leave Shigatse for the town of Gyantse. In Gyantse we will explore the Kumbum, a tiered stupa that was constructed in the 14th century with over 75 interlocking chapels and more than 100,000 sacred images. The entire Indo-Tibetan Buddhist pantheon is contained in this extraordinary structure. We will also visit Pelkor Chode Monastery. Overnight in Gyantse
An early morning departure for Tsedang. As we travel through the spectacular Tibetan countryside, we arrive in the afternoon at Yumbulagang, perhaps the oldest building in Tibet. Yumbulagang sits atop a craggy ridge overlooking the Yarlung Valley. It is a great example of Tibetan architecture that dates back more than 2000 years. Overnight in Tsedang.
After breakfast, we depart for Samye, Tibet’s oldest Buddhist monastery established in 767 by the great Indian master Padmasambhava. To reach Samye, we must cross over the Brahmaputra, Tibet’s lifeline river. We cross the river by ferry on one of the most beautiful experiences of our trip in Tibet. The fantastic views of the surrounding mountains are absolutely breathtaking! When we arrive at Samye we are treated to a fantastic collection of Tibet sacred art. The building itself is a remarkable example of Buddhist architecture as it is built as a mandala or sacred model of the universe. Overnight Tsedang.
Our wonderful adventure of Tibet comes to its conclusion as we have our last look at the Tibetan countryside as we travel to Gongar Airport for our return flight to Chengdu. Arrive in Chengdu and transfer to hotel. Overnight Chengdu.
Full free day in Chengdu to rest, shop and prepare for our next day return flight back to the States. Overnight Chengdu.
Homeward Bound. We depart Chengdu for the States.