- Mountaineer Peter Hillary, son of the late Sir Edmund Hllary, joins select departures, sharing insight gained from his climbing expeditions in the Himalaya.
- Venture to the seldom-visited Tibetan side of Mount Everest and gaze up at its soaring crags from the storied North Face Base Camp.
- Participate in a private butter lamp ceremony at Rongbuk Monastery, thought to be the highest monastery in the world.
- In Lhasa, enjoy a private Tibetan dance performance and a traditional meal with views of the legendary Potala Palace.
Delve into the fascinating world of mountain lore and Tibetan and Nepalese cultures while visiting the fabled cities of Lhasa, Shigatse, and Kathmandu. Take in some of the most magnificent mountain vistas on Earth as we journey across the Tibetan Plateau to the North Face Base Camp of Mount Everest and into Nepal.
Arrive in Beijing this morning and check in to our hotel.
This morning, embark on one of the world's most astonishing flights, crossing the Hengduan Range and three of Asia's greatest rivers—the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze—en route to Lhasa (11,970 feet). Drive to the Holy City, scanning the vast countryside for the first sight of the Potala Palace. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner this evening.
Explore Drepung monastery, once home to some 10,000 monks and still one of the most impressive monasteries in Tibet. Meandering through its dark, ancient halls, listen for the lilting, booming chants of monks at prayer.
Venture up to the Potala Palace and explore the grandest of its myriad rooms. See the jeweled burial chortens of past Dalai Lamas as well as statuary, frescoes, and paintings. Later, visit the Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest temple; and wander through the Barkhor, Lhasa’s old market.
Take an excursion to the historic Ganden Monastery, destroyed by China's Red Army in 1966 and now a working monastery once again.
Our drive to Gyangzê (12,956 feet) traces the turquoise waters of the holy Lake Yamdrok and crosses two spectacular high passes. Stop to view a spectacular hanging glacier, and if you wish, take a short walk for a closer look.
Explore the Pelkor Chode, a complex of monasteries and temples in which all four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism are worshipped. Then drive to Shigatse (12,792 feet), home to the immense Tashilunpo Monastery, the seat of Tibet's second highest incarnation, the Panchen Lama. Venture into its warren of chapels and shrines linked by mysterious alleyways and steep staircases. Walk back to the hotel through the town of Shigatse, stopping to browse through the old market.
Take an optional hike from remote Ja Village to Ngor Monastery, crossing the Chak La pass (14,700 feet). From the pass, the tiny, remote monastery is visible below, and we continue walking another 1,000 feet down to reach it. Those who don’t wish to make the five-hour hike can spend the day further exploring Shigatse. As one of Tibet’s larger towns, Shigatse is at a crossroads between its history as an ancient Tibetan settlement and the encroaching modernity of contemporary China.
The scenic drive to Xêgar crosses the Lakpa La pass (17,121 feet) and provides us with our first glimpse of Mount Everest (weather permitting). Settle into our hotel in the small town of Xêgar (14,268 feet), where the first expeditions to Mount Everest stopped in the 1920s.
From Xêgar, cross the 17,000-foot Pang La pass. Here, take in a superb vista of ice-capped peaks dwarfed by majestic Mount Everest—described by George Leigh Mallory, who pioneered today's route, as the "prodigious white fang...[rising] from the jaw of the world." Visit Rongbuk Monastery before continuing to the North Face Base Camp of Everest.
Returning east from the Everest region, drive approximately six hours back to Shigatse, making stops in small villages and taking in the rugged landscapes of the high plateau along the way.
Resume the drive back to Lhasa via the picturesque northern route, passing through the small town of Yangbajing and traveling over the Shugu La pass (17,254 feet). The scenes along these roads, some of them still unpaved, may look markedly different from life along the paved route taken on the journey west. Enjoy a final evening in Tibet with a dinner overlooking the floodlit Potala Palace (weather permitting).
Return to Lhasa’s Gongkar Airport this morning for a short flight to Nepal. Upon arrival, take a walk in the heart of the city, Durbar Square, and the Hanuman Dhoka temple complex. Though tragically damaged in the recent earthquakes, many of the temples and palace buildings here still stand, with efforts underway to save and restore them. From Durbar Square, continue to Swayambhunath. Located on a small hill to the west of Kathmandu, the 2,500-year-old shrine at Swayambhunath is a pacific and fascinating mixture of Hindu and Buddhist piety. Looking east, take in views of the entire Kathmandu Valley spread out below.
While some travelers return to the airport and begin their return flights home today, the remainder of the group stays in Nepal for a final day of touring. Drive about forty-five minutes east to Kathmandu’s medieval city, Bhaktapur, to explore ancient temples and palaces adorned with intricately carved wooden windows and latticework. These structures showcase some of the best traditional craftsmanship of the country’s ethnic Newari people. This afternoon, visit two of Kathmandu’s holiest sites, Bodhnath and Pashupatinath. Surrounded by a large Tibetan community, the great Buddhist stupa of Bodhnath is the largest such structure in Nepal. One of the most important Hindu temples in South Asia, Pashupatinath is believed to be an auspicious site to visit before embarking on a journey.
Depart Kathmandu for your flights home.