Potala Palace, Lhasa
Dates: Yours to choose
Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace, Norbulingka, Sera Monastery debates, Yamdrok Lake
Starts and ends in Chengdu (Incl. Airfare to Lhasa)
Your tour commences with pick up in the morning at your hotel for a shuttle to Chengdu Shuangliu airport. Today you are flying to the roof of the world (3700m). It is hard to find such a short flight anywhere else on the planet where the geography, climate, elevation, and culture changes so dramatically. After some refreshments at your hotel, it is off to the heart of this ancient city for a walk through the lively Barkhor Bazaar that surrounds the venerated Jokhang Temple. It is an exotic experience to mix with nomads and religious pilgrims who have converged from all over Tibet.
To help with acclimatization, this morning will take you on a leisurely stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Norbulingka, meaning "Treasure Park." The central feature of this 89 acre park and gardens is Norbulingka Palace - the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas. After lunch, it is a short drive to the foothills north of town where Sera Monastery sits. This includes the fascinating experience of seeing monks engage in their daily practice of religious debate. A full day already, an afternoon rest will precede a later dinner. During dinner, the enjoyment of traditional Tibetan music and dance will leave you with the sense you've passed through a time portal to an ancient past.
An ambitious day ahead, you begin with a tour of the 17th century Potala Palace, the former chief residence of the Dalai Lama. With walls as thick as 5 meters and containing over 1000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and 200,000 statues, any length of time in this historic engineering wonder is considered an abbreviated tour. A well deserved rest after lunch will be appreciated before a visit to Drepung Monastery. Historically, the most significant monastery in Tibetan Buddhism, Drepung used to be the seat of political and religious power in Tibet. It also used to be home to over 15,000 monks and one of the most prestigious Buddhist institutions in the land. Before dinner, you have the option of a visit to one of Lhasa's Tibetan rug factories for an introduction to their trade and an opportunity to pick up a unique souvenir.
An optional early morning walk with the pilgrims around Jokhang Temple precedes a trip to Khamba-la pass to view the turquoise waters of mystical Yamdrok lake, akin to Canada's Lake Louise in Banff, but grander in scale. The view from the top of the pass offers an epic vista of natural beauty, and is the most fitting way to bid farewell to this magical land. Head back down the pass to the airport for your reluctant departure from the roof of the world.