Tibet is very much a place that should be visited sooner rather than later. It is a staggeringly beautiful region with dramatic landscapes, centuries-old sacred sites and wonderful people. Below is a sample 6-day itinerary taking in the highlights of Lhasa and the surrounding areas.
Day 1: Arrival in Lhasa
Upon arrival in Lhasa you will be met at the airport by your Tibetan guide and transferred to the St Regis Lhasa.
You will have the rest of the day at leisure to relax and try and acclimatise to the higher climate. Lhasa sits at an altitude of over 3,400 metres, and you will certainly notice a shortness of breath in the first few days!
Energy levels permitting, make the short walk to Lhasa’s Old Town and explore the narrow streets and shops.
Stay: St Regis Lhasa
Day 2: Potala Palace and Sera Monastery
This morning, wake up to beautiful views of the Potala Palace from your hotel, before heading out to visit the site in person.
Start in the square across the street, one of the best places to photograph the palace in its entirety. Afterwards, join the hundreds of pilgrims as they circle the palace as part of the kora, or clockwise circling of a sacred site or object. The experience is humbling to say the least, as your guide identifies pilgrims based on their traditional dress, and explains just how far they have come in order to pay their respects. Finally, scale the stairs to enter the palace itself, learning about the different statues, paintings and objects as you explore the labyrinth of rooms.
In the afternoon, head for the Sera Monastery. Founded by one of Tsongkhapa’s disciples in 1419, as late as 1959 there were over 5,500 monks living within the monastery walls. Due to recent troubles in Lhasa however, there are now less than 500 and a lot of the rooms stand empty. The highlight of the visit is witnessing the famous religious debates between the monks that take place every day (aside from Sunday) between 15:30 and 17:00. The young monks inject their speeches with theatrical gesturing while the elders watch and judge their ability to climb the hierarchy.
Stay: St Regis Lhasa
Day 3: Journey to Gyantse via Yamdrok Lake
This morning rise early for a long day of travel. You will more or less follow the famous Friendship Highway which links Tibet to Nepal, as you drive towards Yamdrok Lake. First view the lake from the summit of the Kamba-la pass (4,800-5,000m). The colour of the lake is a spectacular shade of blue and it is framed by a mountain chain, dominated by the imposing Nojin Kangtsang (7,200m).
Afterwards, drive further to Gyantse, previously an independent kingdom and a commercial crossroads on the trans-Himalayan route which links central Tibet to Sikkim.
After lunch, visit the Palcho Monastery, built in 1418 and surrounded by an impressive red rampart. The centerpiece of the site is the famous “Kumbum”, an architectural masterpiece of six tiered floors which used to include 108 chapels (nowadays just fewer than 80) and which is thought to be the largest chorten in Tibet.
Stay: Gyantse Hotel
Day 4: Gyantse to Shigatse
After breakfast depart for Shigatse. Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse was once the capital of the Tsang kingdom, a rival to Lhasa’s dominance.
The highlight of Shigatse is Tashilhunpo, a Gelugpa monastery founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama, who is buried there. The monastery is like a small village with its maze of paved alleyways, which you will explore before visiting the principal structures with their remarkable golden roofs. Here you can admire the incredible Stupa of the 10th Panchen Lama, covered in several hundred kilos of gold and decorated with a multitude of precious stones. The Maitreya Chapel houses a 26 meter-high Buddha statue that took nearly ten years to make and required the work of several craftsmen.
Stroll through the Tibetan market, from where you can take in the Shigatse Dzong and which provides the best opportunity to shop for traditional jewelry, prayer wheels, and other typical Tibetan objects.
Stay: Gesar Hotel
Day 5: Shigatse to Lhasa and Jokhang Temple
This morning head back to Lhasa, a drive of 5-6 hours, but with plenty of stops along the way to photograph the stunning landscape and break for lunch.
Once back in Lhasa, visit the Jokhang Temple, famous for being the most venerated religious site in Tibet. Believers participate in the kora, all the while spinning their prayer wheels, before tirelessly prostrating themselves in front of the doors of the temple. The temple is dimly lit by hundreds of candles, the air filled with the smell of yak butter and you will hear the monks’ sporadic prayers. There are 3,000 icons of Buddha, God or historical figures throughout the temple, but it’s the golden statue located at the heart of the temple and brought here by the Chinese Princess Wencheng, the second wife of King Songtsen Gampo, that, at least in part, explains the temple’s popularity.
Afterwards, walk through the Old Town and Barkhor Square to pick up your final souvenirs.
Stay: St Regis Lhasa
Day 6: Departure Home
This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your onward flight home.
|Day 1:||Arrival in Lhasa||St Regis Lhasa|
|Day 2:||Potala Palace and Sera Monastery||St Regis Lhasa|
|Day 3:||Journey to Gyantse via Yamdrok Lake||Gyantse Hotel|
|Day 4:||Gyantse to Shigatse||Gesar Hotel|
|Day 5:||Shigatse to Lhasa and Jokhang Temple||St Regis Lhasa|
|Day 6:||Departure Home|
- Accommodation in hotels as mentioned including breakfast
- Transfers and entrance fees to all sites
- Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air conditioned vehicle
- Entrance fees for mentioned visits
- Tibet permit
- International Flights
- Standard visa for China entry
- Travel Insurance (recommended)
- Tips and Gratuities
- Drinks/water at included lunches and dinners
- Accommodation early check in / Late check out
- Personal expenses
From USD2,950 per person based on two guests sharing twin/double rooms
Notes on our prices
- This price guide provides you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your holiday.
- Prices are generally based on two people travelling together (unless stated otherwise) on a shared room basis.
- Prices can fluctuate depending on season, standard of accommodation, excursions selected (private versus shared) etc.
- This basic structure works very nicely, but don’t forget that Lightfoot Travel can provide a range of experiences and we tailor-make each itinerary based on your travel requirements. Get in touch to start planning your perfect trip with your own travel consultant
- Explore the magical Potala Palace – a place that is no less spectacular than photos when seen up close
- Witness monks engaging in lively (and noisy!) debates at Sera Monastery in Lhasa
- Enjoy the beautiful drive to Yamdrok Lake, one of Tibet’s three holy lakes, and guaranteed to be a highlight for landscape lovers
- Visit the less touristy temples and monasteries in Gyantse and Shigatse, humbled by the intense spirituality of local pilgrims around you
From USD2,950 per person