- Go on morning and evening photo shoots at Lhasa’s legendary Potala Palace, bathed in early light and floodlit against the night sky.
- Capture images of monks lighting butter lamps in a private ceremony, and photograph traditional Tibetan dancers during a special performance.
- Catch sunrise on Mount Everest and fill your viewfinder with the world’s highest peaks from Everest North Face Base Camp.
- Witness the rituals of pilgrims and worshippers during a sunrise visit to the sacred Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu.
Journey through the Himalaya, from the stark Tibetan Plateau to the verdant foothills of Nepal. In Lhasa, frame the Potala Palace in the golden hues of morning, and listen to the lilting chant of monks during a private butter-lamp-lighting ceremony. Snap portraits of traditional Tibetan dancers at a specially-arranged performance. Venture to the Everest North Face Base Camp to photograph the world’s highest peaks, and delve into the colorful bustle of Kathmandu with your camera.
Arrive in Beijing this morning and check in to our hotel.
This morning, take a spectacularly scenic flight to Lhasa (11,970 feet), crossing the Hengduan Range and three of Asia’s greatest rivers—the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze. Drive to the Holy City, stopping to photograph the Potala Palace as it appears in the distance, perched beneath soaring peaks. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner this evening.
Our first photo shoot brings us to three of Tibet’s most important monasteries: Drepung, Sera, and Nechung. Drepung once housed 10,000 monks, and Sera almost as many. If we are lucky, we’ll hear the monk’s lilting, booming chanting of sutras as we explore Drepung. Visit Sera monastery to experience the monk’s theatrical debate through your viewfinder, and step into Nechung, the former seat of Tibet’s State Oracle.
Rise early to photograph the iconic Potala Palace in the golden hues of daybreak. Explore the grandest of its myriad rooms, and see the jeweled burial chortens of past Dalai Lamas as well as statuary, frescoes, and paintings. Continue with a visit to the Jokhang, the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. From the rooftop, marvel at the spectacular views of the surrounding Barkhor, Lhasa’s medieval bazaar, and capture images of prostrating worshipers and pilgrims lining up to enter the temple.
In the afternoon, venture into the Barkhor to document the timeless atmosphere of old Tibet. Bargain for thangkas, Tibetan hats and boots, and turquoise jewelry; and interact with the proud, red-tasseled Khampas from eastern Tibet, and the monks, mendicants, and pilgrims who circumambulate the Jokhang.
Set out on a photo excursion to the historic Ganden Monastery, destroyed by China’s Red Guards in 1966 and now a working monastery once again. Continue to Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, and frame its beautiful gardens. Return this evening to the Potala Palace courtyard for a photo shoot of the floodlit palace.
Heading westward, trace the brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Yamdrok and cross two spectacular high passes, stopping to take photos of a magnificent hanging glacier. Following a picnic lunch and a chance to photograph the striking mountain landscapes surrounding Samding Monastery, arrive this afternoon in Gyangzê (12,956 feet). Historically Tibet's third-largest city, Gyangzê retains an old-fashioned Tibetan ambiance.
Head out in the morning to explore the Pelkor Chode, a complex of monasteries and temples in which all four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism are worshipped. Photograph its impressive centerpiece, the Kum Bum chorten. Meander through the local village capturing images of the traditional Tibetan way of life. In the afternoon, drive to Shigatse (12,800 feet), home to the immense Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the seat of Tibet’s second highest incarnation, the Panchen Lama. With your camera in hand, venture into its maze of chapels and shrines linked by mysterious alleyways and steep staircases. Take a photo walk back to the hotel through the town of Shigatse, stopping to browse through the old market.
Set off on an optional photo 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 do not wish to take the five-hour hike can spend the day further exploring and documenting everyday life in 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 photo opportunity 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.
Early this morning, set off on a pre-dawn drive to cross the 17,000-foot Pang La pass, and capture the sunrise as it lights up Everest’s majestic face (weather permitting). From here, frame an astonishing panorama of soaring peaks as the Himalayan range spreads out before us, including three of its highest summits: Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu. We descend to Rongbuk Monastery and take photos of its small nunnery, temple, and prayer flags flying in the shadow of Everest. Continue to the North Face Base Camp of Everest, where we may zoom in on climbers preparing to begin their ascent.
Today, journey from the barren Tibetan Plateau toward the lush foothills of Nepal, descending more than 9,000 feet flanked by towering summits. Capture images of daily life on the plateau during visits to small farming villages. Settle into our guesthouse in the border town of Gyirong.
Cross the Nepal border en route to Kathmandu. The next day, take a photo 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, capture images of the entire Kathmandu Valley spread out below. This evening, gather for a festive farewell dinner.
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 photograph 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).