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Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake, Shigatse, Rongbuk Monastery, Mt. Everest National Park
Private vehicle with driving distance 1300KM (Return)
Starts and ends in Chengdu or Beijing
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 change so dramatically. After a short rest 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.
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.
Following breakfast, this morning's cultural highlight is 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 one of Lhasa's Tibetan rug factories for an introduction to their trade and an opportunity to pick up a unique souvenir.
Today begins the overland trip by private vehicle to Mt. Everest National Park. The Friendship Highway will take you by the turquoise waters of mystical Yamdrok lake, akin to Canada's Lake Louise in Banff, but grander in scale. From there, you'll view Karola Glacier and then onto Gyantse - home of the largest stupa in Tibet - before reaching your destination for the day. Shigatse is home to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, seat of the Panchen Lama, the highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist Lama in the People's Republic of China. Distance: 340km.
Today will be another breathtaking day on the Friendship Highway, winding through high-altitude valleys toward New Tingri (Shegar). This is a small and basic town that has grown up around a Tibetan village, with an interesting and ancient Tibetan fortress Dzong that sits atop a nearby ridge. This will be the most basic accommodation of the trip. The following day you will rise well before sunrise and journey to Rongbuk Monastery to the catch the sun's morning greeting of the highest point on earth (weather permitting). Distance: 290km.
Welcome to a new day on the Roof of the World! Dawn draws near as you head to Rongbuk Monastery, where you will enjoy the best views of Everest’s North Face. Other 8,000+ meter sentinels will be standing guard along the way, including Lhotse, Cho Oyu, and Makalu. Your camera will be busy as Everest awakens to the changing shades of sunlight. Heading inside, you will enjoy a simple breakfast and the warmth of Tibetan hospitality (and tea) in the highest monastery on the planet. After a relaxed morning enjoying the presence of Everest and your gracious hosts, you’ll journey back to New Tingri for lunch. Return Distance: 220km.
Having realized your dream of seeing Everest with your own eyes the previous day, the return journey is one of immense satisfaction. The Friendship Highway provides one last sweeping view of the Tibetan Plateau before arriving back in Shigatse for a relaxing lunch. The afternoon includes a visit to Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the second most important spiritual leader in Tibet, the Panchen Lama. For those happy to continue to stretch their legs, joining the Tibetan pilgrims on their Kora circuit around the monastery is an option, as well as the opportunity to walk in the old quarter of town to enjoy scenes of an ancient way of life. Dinner and a comfortable night at the Gesar Hotel will precede heading to the airport early tomorrow morning for your departure flight. Distance: 290km.
The morning drive to Lhasa Gonggar Airport follows the great Yarlung Tsampo River and offers beautiful views of idyllic Tibetan farming villages along the way. A late afternoon flight awaits to take you from Lhasa back to the lowlands of the Sichuan basin.