Day 1. Arrival to Lhasa (3658 m). Rest and acclimatisation day.
Day 2. Lhasa
Visit to Norbulink ('precious park') – the summer palace of Dalai Lamas built in the 18th c. It includes: Golden Palace, New Palace, Palace of Sutras and others.
Visit to Ramoche temple which has the statue of 8 year old Buddha brought from Nepal in the 7th c AD.
Day 3. Lhasa
Excursion to Potala palace – the winter residence of Dalai Lamas. It is a 13 storey building of 118 meters height. There are thousand rooms with about two hundred thousand of paintings and Buddhist statues. There are also special stupas with burials of the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas. You will see lots of pilgrims making kora, the ritual walk, around Potala, chanting mantra and prostrating.
Afternoon visit to Jokhang temple, Jovo Buddha statue and Barkhor sqaure .
Day 4. Lhasa – Yamdrok lake (4442 m) – Samding monastery – Karola glacier – Gyantse (3900 m)
Driving from Lhasa over Kambala pass (4794 m) to Yamdrok Yumtso, one of the holiest lakes in Tibet.
Visitting Samding monastery ruled by a female, a nun, called Samding Dorje Pagmo who is considered as the main female manifistation in Tibet.
Driving over Karola and Simila passes to Gyantse city. At the entrance to the city you will see Gyantse Dzong, a fortress which was a residence of the local kings in the past . In the North-East of the city there are 15th century Pelkor Chode monastery and the ancient Kumbum stupa.
Pelkor Chode used to be the biggest Buddhist educational center in Tibet not attached to a specific sect (school) of Buddhism. Now there are only two monasteries and the biggest in Tibet mandala in the form of stupa called Kumbum. We will climb to the top of it from where we will enjoy the view on Gyantse.
Day 5. Gyantse – Shalu monastery – Shigatse (3836 m)
Morning visit to the carpet factory and then drive during 2 hours to Shigatse, the secong largest city in Central Tibet. On the way we will visit a small Shalu monastery which is 78 km from Gyantse and which was founded in 1003 by Sherab – a Buddhist teacher and scholar of 11th c. Shalu belongs to Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and was the first big monastery and Buddhist school during the renaissance of Buddhism in Tibet .
Upon arrival to Shigatse – visitting Tashilunpo monastery , the residence of Panchen Lamas. Here is a big statue of Buddha Maytreya (The Future Buddha).
Day 6. Shigatze – Langtso lake – Saga (4640 m)
Full day of driving across mountains and high passes over 4000 m, with the fantastic view on Himalayan range. On the way we will see camps of nomads with herds of yaks and sheep, lots of small lakes and agricultural fields . After 180 km of driving we will stop at Langtso lake on 4300 m. In the late evening we arrive to Saga village which is on the bank of Brahmaputra river, or Yarloong Tsanpo in Tibetan. Overnight in Saga.
Day 7. Saga - Paryang (4700 m) – Darchen (4575 m)
Another day of driving across the mountains. The greenery will change into dry dunes and rocky hills and peaks coverd by snow. Lunch at Paryang town with choice of Chinese and Tibetan restaurants and shops. You will be amazed that a normal civil life is maintained in this town on such altitude . In the afternoon while approaching Manasarovar lake we will see the first glimpse of Mount Kailash! Overnight in Darchen.
Day 8. Darchen – Zada – Guge Kingdom – Tsaparang (3630 m) - Zada
In the morning we drive across beautiful mountains and 1000 years old source of white clay (the last source of such material on Earth!) When we reach Guge we will have the rest of the day for exploring the ruins of this ancient place: palace, four temples, murals and statues belonging to the early tantric art, the royal square. The special interest is Tsaparang, the ancient city with the complex of meditation caves, palace and temples carved in the rocks which were connected by the tunnels under the mountain. According to one of the theories, Tsaparang was the center of the ancient spiritual kingdom Shambala.
Overnight in Zada.
Day 9. Zada – Tholing monastery – Tirthapuri – Darchen
Drive to Tholing monastery. In the past Tholing was the capital of Guge kingdom . The monastery was built in 10-11 c. AD by the project of the great Tibetan scholar and translator Rinchen Zangpo. He built 108 monasteries across Ladakh and West Tibet, and Tholing and Tsaparang are some of them. On the back of Tholing monastery is an old small monastery and the statue of Padmasambhava .
On the way back to Darchen we will visit a small Tirthapuri monastery placed on the slopes of a rock with hot spings inside and the cave Vajravahari where Padmasambhava and his spouse Yeshe Tsogyal were meditating in the 8th century.
Overnight in Darchen
Day 10. First day of Kailash Kora to Dirapuk monastery, 19 km, 6-7 hours walk.
The whole kora is 53 km long. The first day is quite easy. We walk past 'a cemetry of 84 mahasiddhas'. Then there will be Chugu monsatry on our left, where the shell with the remnants of the great teacher Naropa is stored. In the afternoon we reach Dirapuk monastery where we stop for the night. Here is a meditation cave of Milarepa, one of the founders of Tibetan Buddhism, a great saint. From Dirapuk we see the North face of Kailash. In Hinduism, Kailash is considered as home of Lord Shiva and at the same time the edge of the spiritual body of Earth with the rest part of Earth being the physical part of it, and Hindu pilgrims are supposed to do the prayers from the North side of Kailash. In Buddhism, Kailash is the home of Buddha Shakyamuni in the form of the angry tantric god Chakrasamvara .
Day 11. Second day of Kailash Kora: Dolma La pass (5650 m) – Zatulpuk monastery, 12 km, 7 hours.
The hardest day of the kora which includes the high pass Dolma La on 5637 m. Buddhists believe that those who manage to cross Dolma La get cleaned from the past sins and start a better new life. Overnight in the guest house of Zatulpuk monastery, also visitted by Milarepa.
Day 12. Third day of Kailash Kora. Drive to Manasarovar .
The path goes along the cleanest river you have ever seen. There will also be more plants on the way than on the previous days. At the end of the valley we get the view on the peak Nemo Nani (7728 m). End of Kailash Kora. Back to Manasarovar lake – one of the largest fresh water lake on high altitude. This turquise colour lake is full of fish and swans. Tibetans call the lake Mapham Tso which means 'unconquered lake'. The lake is surrounded by the mountains Kailash and Gurula-Mandala and the lake Rashekshi. On the nearby hill is Chiu monastery, an ancient monastery of Drukpa Kagyu school of Tibetan buddhism. After converting Tibet into Biddhism, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) spent 55 years in Tibet. Before leaving back to India, he was meditating for a week near Manasarovar, and this monastery was built on the place of his meditation. There are hot springs near the monastery where everyone can take a bath. Few kilometers from Manasarovar there is also Rakshas-Tal lake which has the shape of half moon. Clouds and wind are always above this lake, and it has neither fish nor weed. This lake is considered as the lake of black magic and the negative side of life.
Day 13. Manasarovar – Paryang – Saga
Full day of driving back from West Tibet towards Lhasa. On our way we again enjoy the landscape and see the meadows with yaks and sheep. Overnight in Saga.
Day 14. Saga – Sansang – Brahmaputra river – Lhatse – Shigatse
Another day of driving. Because of speed limits on the highway our driving is slowed down, and we will stop for photographing. And we cross the river Yurlung Tsanpo again.
The other option: Saga – Kirung – exit to Nepal
Day 15. Shigatse – Yundrung monastery – Lhasa
On the way we will visit Yundrungling monastery – the biggest monastery of Bon tradition. Bon is a tradition which existed in Tibet before Buddhism. The main temples of the monastery are the hall of gathering and the hall of Dharmapalas, women cannot enter Dharmapalas temple. In the evening we reach Lhasa. Dinner in one of the restaurants and time for shopping.
Day 16. Departure from Lhasa.