- 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. At Sera monastery, witness the theatrical debate of the resident monks; and visit the Nechung monastery, the former seat of Tibet’s State Oracle.
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, one of the most important monastic sites in Tibet. Destroyed by China's Red Army in 1966, Ganden is once again a working monastery. Continue to Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, renowned for its beautiful gardens.
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.
Today, journey from the barren Tibetan Plateau toward the lush foothills of Nepal, descending more than 9,000 feet flanked by towering summits. Glimpse daily life on the plateau during visits to villages along our route. In the border town of Gyirong, settle into our guesthouse.
Cross the Nepal border en route to Kathmandu. The next day, take a walk through 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. Continue to Swayambhunath, a 2,500-year-old shrine that represents a fascinating mixture of Hindu and Buddhist piety.
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.
- Tibet and Nepal: Angkor Wat Extension5 days from $2,195
Pre- and Post-Trip, 5 Days
One of the world's great architectural achievements, Angkor has intrigued Western travelers ever since French naturalist Henri Mouhot stumbled upon its ruins in the jungles of Cambodia in 1860. Delve into this incredible site and discover the ancient world of the Khmer Empire at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Examine elaborate irrigation systems, behold the enigmatic faces of the Bayon Temple, and explore temples engulfed by thick jungle roots at Ta Prohm.
Fly from Kathmandu to Bangkok for an overnight stay before. The next morning, fly to Siem Reap and transfer to your hotel. After some time to relax, set out to explore the extraordinary temple complex of Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious structure. Built by King Suryavarman II during the golden age of the Khmer Empire, this 12th-century temple reflects the evolution of the Khmer's belief system from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism. Venture into galleries where stunning bas-reliefs depict scenes of battles and the epic Ramayana poem. See some of the 3,000 apsaras, or heavenly nymphs, that are carved into the temple walls. Cap off the day by watching the sun set over this ancient wonder.
Spend the morning exploring Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. In the center of this ancient city sits the majestic Bayon Temple, a 12th-century masterpiece known for its colossal carved faces. After lunch, visit Preach Khan, built by King Jayavarman VII in honor of his father. Explore the temple's myriad halls and pavilions, causeways and moats, and look for the delicate frieze of apsaras in the Hall of Dancers. Continue to the small island temple of Neak Pean, surrounded by a network of ponds that were believed to have curative powers. Later this evening, enjoy spectacular views as the sun sets over the storied towers of Angkor Thom.
This morning, venture north to explore one of Angkor's jewels, Banteay Srei. Constructed of rose-colored sandstone, the 10th-century temple features intricate carvings that illustrate ancient Hindu tales. Enjoy a picnic lunch, then continue to Kbal Spean, or "River of a Thousand Lingas." Take a lovely walk through the jungle to an area where the riverbed has been elaborately carved with Hindu images, said to bless the water before it flows into the reservoirs of Angkor. This afternoon, visit the temples of Thommanon, Chao Say Tevoda, and Ta Keo. Explore Ta Prohm, known for the giant banyan, kapok, and fig tree roots that have coiled their way into the temple structure.
After breakfast, visit the Angkor National Museum and browse an impressive collection of Khmer artifacts. Time permitting, stop by Les Artisans d'Angkor to watch local youth being trained in age-old Khmer arts. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok (pre-trip) or home (post-trip).