Tibet: Lhasa and Mt. Everest Base Camp (13 days)
Four days exploring Lhasa’s Tibetan Quarter, with visits to the Barkhor, Jokhang Monastery, and the Potala Palace; then a three-day drive to the roof of the world for a visit to Mt. Everest’s base camp. 2 nights on the train from Beijing; fly back to Beijing from Lhasa.
Please make sure to carefully read all this information! Trips to Tibet are complicated and there is a lot for you to be aware of.
Day 1—Evening train from Beijing
Day 2—Train continues across Qinghai Plateau
Day 3—Train across Tibetan Plateau, arriving in Lhasa in the afternoon. Evening walkabout and acclimatization.
Day 4—Breakfast in Tibetan Quarter; Barkhor Market and circuit; Jokhang Temple tour.
Day 5—Potala Palace visit; afternoon for rest, shopping or optional cultural activities.
Day 6—Morning visit to Drak Yerpa caves; afternoon for rest, shopping or optional cultural activities.
Day 7—6-7 hour drive to Gyantse, with breaks by lakes and glaciers, crossing a 5,100m pass.
Day 8—Tour Gyantse Fort, 4-5 hour drive to Sakya.
Day 9—Drive to Rongbuk, arriving midafternoon. Drive up to Everest Base Camp.
Day 10—Opportunity for second visit to Everest Base Camp, drive to Shigatse.
Day 11—Tashilunpo Monastery, all-day drive to Lhasa.
Day 12—Spare day*
Day 13—Morning flight back to Beijing.
Most people will only go to Tibet once in their life, so we must make sure everything goes well. We’ve added a spare day to the itinerary so that we’ll have a little wriggle room in case of difficulties – for example, if a mountain pass on our road to the base camp is temporarily blocked, we’ll have time to work out a new plan that will still get us to the base camp.
Payment: Deposit and Permit Application
You’ll pay a deposit of 10,000 RMB before the May 30 deadline, the date on which we’ll send in the applications for the permit required for foreigners to visit Tibet.
The cost of application for the permit is 300 RMB, which is non-refundable after we send in your application.
If for some reason your permit application is not approved, we’ll return your deposit, less the 300 RMB.
Diplomatic passports: Our Tibetan connection has checked for us and this year people with diplomatic passports are not able to get the permits for entry into Tibet.
Force Majeure and refunds for sudden closure
For reasons outside our control Tibet may suddenly be closed to foreigners.
If this happens our trip will be cancelled.
We’ll refund as much money as we can, but we may not be able to get back money we’ve already spent on your behalf for train tickets, flight tickets, and accommodation.
Reasons to not join this trip
The effect of high altitude is unpredictable and can affect anyone.
In particular, if you have asthma or any other respiratory difficulties (such as shortness of breath), you should not join this trip.
Much of Tibet is undeveloped and the standard of accommodation, restrooms, and other common facilities is often not high, particularly outside Lhasa. If you don’t enjoy roughing it or aren’t ready to experience the rather basic facilities available, you should not join this trip.
This is more of a sightseeing trip than it is a hiking trip. If you’re interested in trekking in Tibet, this trip is probably not the one you are looking for.
Health and altitude sickness
If you experience symptoms of altitude sickness you must not continue to go higher. While you’re adjusting to altitude, you should not drink alcohol or take sleeping pills. You should drink extra water. Altitude medicine and oxygen may be purchased in Lhasa.
Lhasa (alt. 3,650m)
Lhasa has long been the administrative center of Tibet, and is an important religious site.
With around 250,000 urban residents, Lhasa is the biggest city in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and, at 3,650m above sea level it is one of the world’s highest cities.
There has been a town at Lhasa since 637 AD, when the leader of the Tibetan Empire moved his capital there.
We’ve planned a lot of free time in Lhasa to make sure everyone is able to acclimatise. If you have shopping to do, make sure it’s completed during the first few days of the trip as we won’t have time on the way back!
In and around Lhasa
Built on a hill in the middle of Lhasa, the Potala Palace was the home of the Dalai Lamas and the former administrative center of Tibet. The first structure here was a fort, built in the seventh century. Its current form dates to the sixteenth century.
With thirteen stories of buildings and more than 1,000 rooms, the palace is huge – a very impressive sight. The central courtyard and the section known as the Red Palace are used for religious study and prayer. The living quarters are known as the White Palace, and also contain offices and the printing house.
There’s a limit placed on the number of daily visitors, and the time of our visit will be determined by the Tourism Bureau – usually in the morning.
The Barkhor and Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple is considered the holiest and most important temple in Tibet. It was built in the seventh century by Songsten Gampo, one of Tibet’s most famous kings, to house important Buddhist statues and images that were brought from China and Nepal to Tibet as part of the dowries of his Chinese and Nepalese brides.
If the Potala Palace is the administrative center of Tibet then the Jokhang Temple is its spiritual center. Jokhang Temple is one of the main destinations for Buddhist pilgrims, who come here to make a kora, a clockwise circumambulation through the surrounding streets.
Surrounding the Jokhang Temple is the Barkhor, narrow streets and alleys where we’ll find a market and pilgrims making the circuit of the temple.
In the market a lot of traditional Tibetan goods are sold, and in the streets we’ll see many pilgrims, some burning incenses, and some proceeding in a series of prostrations.
We’ll make the circuit ourselves, taking our time to have a good look at the stalls and markets, as well as the people who have come from all over Tibet on their pilgrimage.
Drak Yerpa Caves (alt. 4,100m)
One hour out of Lhasa, and 4,100m above sea level, are the caves at Drak Yerpa, a picturesque set of shrines located at a cliff covered by prayer flags.
We’ll see the caves, where hermits used to dwell, and we may also meet Tibetan locals and pilgrims. This area is not often visited by westerners, and they may be as curious about us as we are them.
We’ll also use our visit as a chance to further acclimatise, with an option to hike up a little higher to take a look at a sky burial site before returning to Lhasa.
After we visit the caves at Drak Yerpa, we’ll have the afternoon free – your last chance for shopping in Lhasa!
Optional extra in Lhasa: visit with a local family to make dumplings. There is an extra cost of 75 RMB for this activity, part of which goes to support a local school.
Gyantse (alt. 3,977m)
Gyantse is a small town on an ancient trade route between Tibet and Nepal, and is best known for its fortress. In its prime as a trading hub, during the 15th and 16th centuries, Gyantse was one of the largest cities in Tibet.
The drive to Gyantse will be full of amazing views, with glaciers, lakes, and (of course!) mountains. We’ll cross several high mountain passes (one 4,800m; another 5,100m) and on the way we’ll stop to stretch our legs several times, including stops by a huge lake and near the icefall of 7,000m Mt. Nojin Kansa’s glacier.
In and around Gyantse
The Gyantse fort, whose present walls were built in the mid 13th century, is one of the best preserved fortresses in Tibet. Starting in the 14th century, it also served as the local royal residence and later was the regional judicial center. Spread over several stories, it contains many rooms, some including Buddhist chapels and dungeons. The views from the roof of the fort encompass the entire valley with its surrounding hills, fields, and nearby monasteries.
We’ll tour the fortress before we head on to Sakya.
Sakya (alt. 4,300m)
Sakya is one of our stops on the way to the Mt. Everest Basecamp, and we’ll stay here overnight.
There is a monastery here, and we’ll take an easy stroll in the hills above the monastery to get some photos.
Rongbuk (alt. 4,980m)
Rongbuk is where we’ll base ourselves for the trip to the Mt. Everest base camp.
Nearby is Rongbuk Monastery, founded in the early 1900s and commonly visited by climbers on the way to Mt. Everest in the ’20s and ’30s. In the ‘70s the temple fell into ruins, but has since been restored.
Mt. Everest Base Camp (alt. 5,150m)
From Rongbuk we’ll drive up the dusty road to the base camp, switching over to the official shuttle bus midway and showing our passports to the soldiers at the checkpoint.
Getting to where the tents are involves another checkpoint, and an extra permit that we won’t have, but we’ll be able to climb up on to the little hill adjacent to the base camp to see if we can spot any tents and climbers.
As well as the Base Camp, there’s also Mt. Everest! If the weather is clear we’ll have views of the North Face as well as the glacier that inches down the long valley.
You’ll need to bring your warm clothes with you, as the temperatures drop quickly when there’s no sun and a cold wind often comes straight down from the mountain.
Because of that cold, we plan to stay in the area for around an hour. If the weather or views are not good, or if you’d like another look, we’ll be able to go up again on the morning of the next day.
Shigatse (alt. 3,840m)
We’ll take a different route on the way back to Lhasa, passing through Shigatse, the second biggest city in Tibet.
We’ll spend the night here and if there’s time in the evening we’ll walk around the monastery and nearby hills to get some photos.
Tibetan quarter and Tashilunpo Monastery
We’ll get good views of the Tibetan quarter of the city of Shigatse and the huge Tashilunpo monastery, which we’ll make a quick tour of before heading on to Lhasa.
Tashilunpo Monsastery is one of the largest in Tibet, and is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas. The Panchen Lama is second in line to the Dalai Lama in status.
Cultural and political considerations
Travellers to Tibet need to be aware that there are some things that you must not do. You’ll get a full briefing on the train.
- When visiting a monastery, do not show the legs above the knees or wear sleeveless or low necked clothing. Men must wear shirts as well. Everyone must dress conservatively.
- Do not touch statues or works of art in a monastery.
- When walking a pilgrimage route, walk clockwise. Keep the object or place on your right,
- It’s best to not talk about the 10th and 11th Panchen Lamas or the 6th Dalai Lama.
- Don't point your feet at people or sacred objects, or touch locals on the head.
- Possession and/or distribution of Tibetan flags and photos of the Dalai Lama is illegal.
- Don't take photos of soldiers, the police, or military installations.
- Stay out of political discussions involving points of view that contradict the Chinese government's official view of Tibet - you risk jail and/or deportation and neither the guide nor the local guide will be able to help you.
- Our local tour guide will be considered responsible for our group, and any refusal to follow tourist guidelines, rules, regulations, and laws in Tibet could have repercussions including questioning by police or arrest, and loss of job and guide's license.
During the day, we expect temperatures around 20° C (68° F). At night, temperatures will drop to around freezing. Winds will make it feel colder, and it’s always windy at the Everest Basecamp!
There’s a chance of brief rain showers.
After Gyantse, the accommodation gets more and more basic, and problems with electricity and hot water could happen at any time on this trip.
Lhasa: 4-star quality hotel near the Jokhang Temple.
Gyantse: 4-star quality hotel. Heaters in each room.
Sakya: Basic accommodation. Hot water usually available.
Rongbuk: Basic accommodation. Hot water for showers not available.
Shigatse: 4-star quality hotel.
You’ll be sharing a room at the hotels and guesthouses with another hiker.
Further details about room shares can be found in the documents we send you as part of the registration.
Flights and transport
We’re taking the train to Lhasa, a 2 night trip that takes us through some stunning scenery.
In Lhasa, we’ll be close enough to the main sites to walk between them, getting right into the Lhasa lifestyle.
For the portion of the trip outside Lhasa, we’ll have a comfortable private vehicle.
We have some long drives on the way to and from the Everest Base Camp. We’ll stop every now and again to stretch our legs. If anyone needs a bathroom break we can make a stop on the side of the road. If we do find public toilets, they will be in very poor condition – Millicent recommends avoidance.
Frequent flyers: Please let us know if you would like to use your frequent flyer miles or if you are a frequent flyer member.
On the train: You’ll purchase your own meals on the train, and Millicent will help you order from the menu.
For the rest of the trip, main meals are included in the price.
In Lhasa we’ll dine at various restaurants in the city, of which there are a huge variety. While on the road, we’ll stop at restaurants on the way, where we’ll find a mixture of Chinese, Tibetan, and western food.
Please let us know if you have any special dietary requirements or food allergies.
Things to bring
Evening and night time temperatures can be close to freezing at high altitude in Tibet even in the summer.
- Warm layers of thermal clothing – a base layer, a pullover and fleece jacket, thermal trousers, and a windbreaker jacket and trousers.
- Warm gloves, a scarf, and a hat.
- Warm socks.
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Washbag, toothbrush.
- Small towel.
- Personal medicine.
- Motion sickness medicine.
- A day pack to take on outings. Suitcases or bigger bags can be left at the hotel or on the bus.
- Camera and charger, batteries.
- Mobile phone, charger.
- Tissues and baby wipes.
Included with this trip
- Train tickets for the Beijing to Lhasa journey
- Flight tickets from Lhasa to Beijing
- Transport by private vehicle
- Entrance tickets
- Main meals as described
- Local tour guides
- Any optional add-ons to the trip, for example, the dumpling-making session in Lhasa.,br>
- Meals, food, and drink on the train from Beijing to Lhasa.
- Anything not specifically mentioned as included.
Tibet is a relatively undeveloped place, and delays may be encountered at any time.
The times listed below should be taken as a rough guide. We’ll try our best to stick to this itinerary, but may need to rearrange things along the way.
18:00 – meet up at Beijing West Railway Station.
19:30 – board the train to Lhasa.
On the train all day, passing by Xi’an, Lanzhou, and Xining.
16:30 – Arrive at Lhasa Railway Station.
17:30 – Check in to hotel, time to shower and rest.
18:30 – Group walk to buy altitude medicine and oxygen, tour the neighbourhood, have dinner.
08:30 – Breakfast in Tibetan Old Quarter.
09:30 – Explore the Barkhor.
12:00 – Restaurant lunch.
13:00 – Two hour tour of Jokhang Temple.
18:00 – Dinner and Tibetan cultural show.
19:30 – Free time.
08:30 – Breakfast
09:30 – 1.5 hour visit at the Potala Palace (exact time to be determined by tourism bureau, may be changed to the afternoon).
12:30 – Restaurant lunch.
13:30 – Free time with optional activities.
19:00 – Dinner.
08:30 – Breakfast.
09:30 – Drive to Drak Yerpa Caves.
10:30 – Arrive at caves, explore the caves and shrines.
13:00 – Back to Lhasa for lunch; afternoon free for shopping.
19:00 – Dinner.
08:30 – Breakfast and check out before driving to Gyantse.
12:30 – Lunch break.
14:30 – Cross 5,100m pass in mountains.
17:30 – Arrive in Gyantse, check in.
18:00 – Explore Tibetan Quarter.
19:30 – Dinner.
08:30 – Breakfast and check out.
09:30 – Visit Gyantse Fort.
11:00 – Early lunch, then drive to Sakya.
18:00 – Arrive in Sakya, check in at hotel.
19:00 – Dinner.
07:00 – Early breakfast and check out before driving to Rongbuk.
13:00 – Stop on the way for restaurant lunch.
15:00 – Check in to guesthouse.
15:30 – Shuttle bus up to the Base Camp.
19:00 – Dinner.
08:30 – Breakfast and option for second visit to Base Camp.
10:45 – Long drive to Shigatse.
13:00 – Stop on the way for restaurant lunch.
17:00 – Arrive in Shigatse, check in.
18:00 – Option for a walkabout, then dinner.
08:00 – Early breakfast.
09:00 – Visit Tashilunpo Monastery (depends on opening time.)
11:00 – Early lunch then long drive back to Lhasa.
19:00 – Arrive in Lhasa, check in.
20:00 – Dinner.
Day 12 is a spare day that gives us a little wriggle room in case of difficulties or delays. All going well, we’ll be in Lhasa, with time to rest, shop, and explore some optional activities.
Breakfast, check out, drive to airport for morning flight back to Beijing.
All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement.