Tibet: Trekking and Cultural Tours
Tibet is the highest land on Earth, earning its name as the “roof of the world,” and for centuries it remained remote and mysterious. Known for its pure air, sparkling colors and rich religious culture, Tibet still calls to the adventure traveler, promising beauty, mystery, and wonder. Visit the monasteries and shrines in the capital city of Lhasa or venture out to the high passes and secluded valleys that boast an ancient beauty still largely untouched by the modern world.
Visit the former seat of the Dalai Lama, now a museum with 1,000 rooms and 10,000 shrines
See the 7th Century Jokhang Temple, considered Tibet’s most sacred
Exploring Tibet’s mystical countryside on foot or by car
Drive or hike over mountain passes more than 15,000 feet high
A typical itinerary in Tibet would start in Lhasa, for centuries the capital and now the home of two World Heritage Sites. The first we’ll visit is the Potala Palace, once the seat of the Dalai Lama and now a museum with 13 floors, 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and some 200,000 statues. The other Heritage site is Norbulinka Summer Palace, a residence of the Dalai Lama, whose meditation room we’ll see.
We can also visit the Jokhang Temple, founded in the 7th Century and considered Tibet’s most sacred and important temple.
From Lhasa, it’s out into the magical Tibetan countryside for a week (or longer) driving tour. We’ll cross several passes above 15,000 feet, possibly enjoying a staggering view of 25,500-foot Mt. Namchen Barwa. We’ll see shimmering, sacred lakes; visit a 2,000-year-old juniper tree; and tour palaces, temples, caves, and monasteries. We will travel to the very heart of Tibet, and we’ll let the wonder of Tibet settle in our hearts.
If it’s a Tibetan trek you dream of, we could take you to 22,000-foot Mt. Kailash, both the most sacred mountain in the world and one of the least visited. Without planes, trains, or buses coming close to the mountain, the mere approach is a rare opportunity for Westerners to blend in with pilgrims from every corner of the world.
Contact us today to build your custom itinerary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I travel with Embark?
We are a team that lives and breathes travel; we know what our clients want, and as such we see them as travelers, not tourists. We have organized hundreds of adventures around the world, focusing on destinations we know and understand. Ask us for some of our references.
Many companies provide region-standard trips; Embark goes above and beyond. We organize unique itineraries along the roads less traveled, designing adventures that allow our travelers to be pioneers and explore the depth of any given destination.
We focus on finding and training the best guides in the industry, with specialists who are prominent in several fields – mountain guides, historians, archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and much more.
What is being on trek like?
Upon arrival in country, you will be met by an Embark representative at the airport exit and driven by private vehicle to your lodge or hotel.
On trek, each day you will be awakened by the porters, who will bring warm wash water and a hot drink to your tent. Breakfast is typically around 7 a.m., and you will hit the trail by 8 a.m. You will be given a pack lunch for the trail, and during the day the porters will pass you on the trail, then have camp waiting for you at the end of the day.
How hard is it?
While we believe that anyone in good physical condition can complete our treks, this trip is strenuous. While travel always entails some level of adventure and challenge, when we say “strenuous” we mean there will be long, difficult hikes; occasional significant physical barriers such as climbing; sleeping outside; and the chance of falling or some other injury. To complete this trip, especially with any enjoyment, one must be in good physical shape – in particular, able to handle strenuous hikes on several consecutive days.
What do we eat?
Tea house meals are basic, filling, and don’t vary much from place to place. Breakfast will typically be pancakes, porridge, eggs and bread. Lunch and dinner are also pretty consistent, although the spices and flavoring will vary. The main meal is daal baht: rice, vegetables (often spinach and potato), and lentil soup. This is usually all-you-can-eat.
There will be other options available at dinner, such as fried rice, soups, noodles, potatoes, and occasionally such extravagances as pizza, spring rolls or dumplings.
In Kathmandu, hotel meals will be much more standard tourist fare, particularly at breakfast. For dinner we will typically eat out as a group or on our own.
Not included are snacks such as bars, trail mix, and electrolyte drink mixes. If you like to those or other snacks, bring them!
Do I need a visa?
All US citizens entering Tibet do need a visa. You can get this ahead of time from a consulate or embassy, and this is something Embark will be glad to help with.
What is included in the trip cost?
Your cost includes transportation, lodging, guide and porter fees, and most meals. While on the trek, all your meals are included, although you might want to bring some snacks that you like to have during the day. Before and after the trek you will have some time (and meals) on your own in town. Also not included in the cost is your airfare, souvenirs, and tips for the guides and porters.
How far ahead should I book this trip?
You want to commit to this trip at least six months ahead of time. It takes a lot of preparation, both logistical and physical. Beginning at this point, you should be booking your airplane tickets and planning your training regimen.
What is the best time of year for weather?
The main tourist season in the Himalayas is the fall, September and October. This is when the weather is clearest and most moderate, and the summer monsoons have washed away the dirt and dust and left snow on the mountains. There are also two major festivals during this time. Of course, this means that fall is also the most crowded and expensive time.
The next most popular time is spring, which here is from February to mid-April. This time is warmer than fall, with longer days, and the rhododendrons are blooming in the high country. It will be ever warmer during these months, and often a haze will obstruct the view of mountains from the low country. Most trekking routes are above this, however.
Summer, roughly June through September, is monsoon season, when the rain falls, fields come alive, flowers bloom … and bugs are out in force, roads get blocked by landslide, and often flights are cancelled due to weather.
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the lower elevations, but the higher regions are extremely cold (though clear), and much of the tourist infrastructure will be closed.
What is the sleeping arrangement?
While on trek, we will be staying in tea houses. These are family-run, very traditional places, featuring rooms with two twin beds, and sometimes a double. (You may have a private room if you wish). The room may have a shelf, coat hooks, a chair, or a small table. Each tea house also has a common area where meals are served.
One of my defining moments on my Tibetan journey, which remains indelible in my heart, is when I cried at 17,000 feet because the scenery was so utterly magnificent that nothing else in the world mattered. I will never forget Embark’s mantra in life: “Be curious.” We were walking around a Tibetan village and Donovan stopped and helped the locals dig a ditch just because he was curious about what they were doing. Humanity and curiosity can transcend cultural differences and language barriers. Donovan inspired me with his humanity, kindness, selflessness, and friendship. I cannot wait to book my next adventure through him.