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Worldwide Small Group and Tailor Made Adventure Travel

What’s included

  • A Mountain Kingdoms appointed Western leader
  • Flights between Chengdu and Lhasa and airport transfers for those flights.
  • Good standard hotel accommodation (4 star) in Chengdu, bed and breakfast basis
  • Hotel/lodge accommodation in Tibet
  • All camping facilities and all meals on trek
  • Camp staff to carry out all campwork
  • Costs of all porterage and their insurance
  • All road transport by private vehicles
  • Fees for Tibet permit
  • Sightseeing where specified
  • Economy class return air fares from the UK & UK Departure Tax (flight inclusive only)
  • Single, timed group airport transfers for international flights
  • The opportunity to attend a pre-trip meet in the Cotswolds
  • A free high-quality Mountain Kingdoms kit bag

Mount Kailash & the Saga Dawa Festival Festivals

Walking & Trekking

Tibet | Walking & Trekking

Mount Kailash & the Saga Dawa Festival

Suitable for fit individuals who have regular experience of mountain walking.

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Grade: Strenuous ? Strenuous

Book now or call 01453 844400

Journey across the roof of the world, trek with pilgrims on the Kailash Kora, join the Saga Dawa celebrations and visit the northern base camp of Mount Everest.


  • Trek around Mount Kailash - the holiest mountain in the Himalaya
  • Attend the highly atmospheric Saga Dawa festival at the foot of Mount Kailash
  • Take the best route to Kailash across the Tibetan plateau stopping to explore many cultural sights en route
  • Return to Lhasa via the north Base Camp of Mount Everest on the Rongbuk glacier


I have given the trip an "excellent" tick since it is hard to criticise an organisation that succeeded in delivering what was, for me, a hugely valuable experience - where the location genuinely transcended my expectation.
Mr L, London

The trekking and camping experience brought us very close to local people which I very much enjoyed. Going to such a remote area - magnificent!
Ms S, London

Remote location, small group size, excellent trek crew and leader.
Ms T, London

It was a very enjoyable adventure trip, well planned and full of interest. The way the places we stayed in gradually built up in altitude was very helpful. It was a tough trip in physical terms but a great experience
Miss K, Hants

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Mount Kailash, 6,714m/22,028ft, is both the most sacred and most perfectly formed mountain in all the Himalaya. With its remarkable pyramid summit, four great faces and towering position atop the Tibetan plateau it attracts numerous pilgrims keen to set eyes upon the holy mountain and perform a sacred kora to cleanse their sins. On this incredible journey you can follow in their footsteps, trekking for five days to circumnavigate Kailash, moved both by the simple spirituality of the pilgrims and by the magnificence of the awe-inspiring scenery that you encounter from start to finish.

Your time in Tibet though begins in Lhasa where you visit the most important cultural sights including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and the Norbulingkha. You will then strike out across the vast Tibetan plateau passing scenic Yam Drok Tso Lake and stopping at the traditional Tibetan towns of Shigatse and Gyantse before reaching sacred Lake Manasarovar. After a day’s trek along the tranquil shores of the lake you head to Kailash, well-acclimatised and ready to perform your own kora of the mountain. The Kailash Kora starts at the village of Darchen and is approximately 32 miles (53 km) of trekking, starting at 15,000ft/4,600m, crossing a pass at 5,630m/18,372ft and taking 5 days. From Darchen, the route heads into the Lha-chu valley and continues up, passing several monasteries before you reach the highest point of the kora, the Dolma-la Pass, at an elevation of 5,630m/18,525ft. You then complete the circuit by descending all the way back to Darchen on the eastern side of the mountain. At the end of your circuit you can celebrate your accomplishment in style, joining the vibrant celebrations at the Saga Dawa festival at the foot of the mountain.

Leaving Kailash, your exciting and rewarding adventure continues with visits to Old Tingri and the northern side of Everest Base Camp on your return drive to Lhasa, before you fly back to Chengdu. This is the very definition of ‘a holiday of a lifetime’.

At a glance

Grade: Strenuous

Max. Altitude: 5,630m/18,525ft, the Dolma La Pass, Day 13

Guaranteed to run for a minimum of 5 clients

Maximum group size: 12

Land only joining city: Chengdu

Accommodation types: Hotels, Camping, Lodges


This departure attends the Saga Dawa Festival close to Mount Kailash.

Meal arrangements: All meals from breakfast on day 3 to breakfast on departure day.

Itinerary overview
Day Activity
Fly to Chengdu in China.
Fly to Gonggar, Tibet. Drive to Lhasa. Sightseeing in Lhasa including the Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and the Norbulingkha.
Drive to Gyantse via Yam Drok Tso Lake. Continue to Shigatse and to Saga.
Drive to Lake Manasarovar. Walk along the northern shore of the lake.
Drive to trailhead at Darchen. Trek to Chhuku Gompa and past Damding Donkhang.
Walk to visit the North face of Kailash and/or Dira Phuk Monastery.
Cross the Dolma La Pass, 5,630m/18,525ft, trek to Zutul Puk Monastery.
End trek at Darchen. Drive to Tarboche festival site.
Attend the Saga Dawa Festival. Drive to river camp.
Drive to Saga, Old Tingri and on to Everest Base Camp – north side.
Drive to Shigatse via Shegar. Drive to Lhasa via the northern route. Day at leisure in Lhasa.
Fly to Chengdu. Visit Panda Centre. Fly to London.
Leader: David Bathgate
David Bathgate

David Bathgate studied anthropology and journalism at university, taught at such institutions in the U.S. and Australia for a few years - and then hit the road.  That was a good two decades back.  Since, he’s become an award-winning photojournalist covering conflict, politics and environment for publications such as Time, Newsweek, German Geo, The New York Times, The Guardian and the London Sunday Times.  David has worked throughout the world, but among the places he treasures most are those at altitude - the Hindu Kush, Karakoram Range, Nepalese and Indian Himalaya and the Tien Shan of Central Asia - places to which he's returned many times.

Mount Kailash & the Saga Dawa Festival Itinerary

  1. Day 1 - Fly London To Chengdu

    Fly overnight from London to Chengdu in China.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Overnight Flight To Chengdu
  2. Day 2 - Arrive Chengdu. Group transfer to hotel.

    On arrival in Chengdu you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Minshan Lhasa Grand Hotel or Similar, Chengdu
  3. Day 3 - Fly to Lhasa, 3,600m/11,811ft. Drive to hotel.
    mount kailash and saga dawa festival kathmandu sightseeing boudhanath js.

    You will transfer to the airport for the flight to Gonggar in Tibet. In Gonggar (the airport for Lhasa) you will be met and will drive to Lhasa. Nowadays the road passes through a road tunnel through the mountains so the drive takes just one and a half hours. Lhasa is today a very modern looking city but your first sight of the Potala Palace as you drive into town will still take your breath away. On arrival in Lhasa you will check in to your hotel which is situated in the centre of town. On arrival remember that you are now at altitude - 3,600m/11,811ft - so it is best to take it fairly easy for the afternoon. If you do have the energy there should be time for some exploration in the afternoon. Both the Barkhor market and Jokhang Temple are within a few minutes' walk of your hotel and you may venture out to mingle with the crowds of pilgrims, shoppers and tourists.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Kyichu Hotel or Shambala Hotel or Similar, Lhasa
  4. Day 4 - Morning sightseeing at the Potala Palace. Afternoon visit to Sera Monastery.

    Please note that the schedule for the next two day's visits may be adjusted depending on events and ticket availability for the Potala, as bookings can only be made with your passports once you arrive in Lhasa, and sometimes it can be pretty busy.

    However the plan is that in the morning you will visit the Potala Palace. Luckily the Potala remained largely undamaged throughout the years of the Cultural Revolution. Songtsen Gampo was the first Tibetan ruler to establish a palace on this outcrop, the 'Red Hill', but construction of the grand palace that you .see today began in 1645 during the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The palace is named after Mount Potala, a sacred mountain in South India, and has served as the home of successive Dalai Lamas and their monastic staff. You will start your tour by climbing up the steps at the South side of the building, take your time doing so. There is even an oxygen station half way up for those who are struggling with the altitude! You then work your way up through successive storeys and through a maze of rooms - through the living quarters of the Dalai Lama and through numerous highly decorated chapels and colourful assembly halls. Walls are decorated with intricate murals and hung with painted thangkas. One of the most awesome rooms in the Potala is the Chapel of the Dalai Lamas' Tombs, which contains the massive golden stupa of the Fifth Dalai Lama and smaller stupas containing the relics of other Dalai Lamas. When you have completed your tour you will come out at the roof level where the views are stunning, and will walk down on the Northern side, where you will join the Kora path, and as there will be many Tibetan pilgrims making their Kora (circuit) right around the building, you may like to do the same. Please note that although photography is not permitted inside the Potala, you may take photos on the approach up the steps, and once you emerge at the rear.

    In the afternoon you will drive 40 minutes to Sera Monastery, one of the three great Gelukpa monasteries near Lhasa. This monastery dates back to the 15th century and was formerly a monastic township housing over 5,000 monks. Although many of the outlying buildings have been destroyed the principal buildings were left relatively intact and nowadays the monastic population is again over 300 monks. Sera is particularly famous for its great monastic debates and monks can still be seen debating in the debating courtyard. More prosaic but equally fascinating are the large monastic kitchens where monks prepare industrial quantities of food in huge copper cauldrons. It is quite a sight to see Tibetan tea being blended with a mixer the size of a road drill!

    Please note that cameras are not allowed to be used in the debating courtyard itself, but bizarrely taking photos with cell phones is perfectly acceptable! So we highly recommend you bring a phone with you for to photograph this interesting experience. Please also note that imitating a monk is also strictly forbidden, so please watch them but don't copy!

    Overnight iconOvernight: Kyichu Hotel or Shambala Hotel or Similar, Lhasa
  5. Day 5 - Morning sightseeing at the Jokhang Temple and Norbulinka. Afternoon at leisure

    This morning you will visit the Jokhang Temple. This is the most sacred temple in Tibet and the centre of the Tibetan city. Pilgrims from all over Tibet flock to visit it. You will see them circling the Barkhor turning their prayer wheels or making full-length prostrations around the temple. To visit the Jokhang you will join these pilgrims as they shuffle round inside, making their offerings and feeding the thousands of flickering butter lamps. The temple was initially established in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo. It takes its name from the sacred image of the Buddha, the Jowo Shakyamuni, and the most highly revered image in Tibet, a statue which was brought to Tibet by Songtsen Gampo's Chinese wife and which is now housed in one of the chapels of the Jokhang. The Jokhang itself was, however, originally designed by Nepalese craftsmen brought to Tibet by Songtsen Gampo's second wife who was from Nepal. Since that time the temple was further enlarged during the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama. It is very important to visit the roof of the Jokhang for wonderful views of the city, the Potala and the surrounding hills.

    The Barkhor market is the area surrounding the Jokhang and is full of vendors selling all manner of wares; stirrups for dashing nomad horsemen, tacky souvenirs for Chinese tourists and all sorts of other ephemera. Shops in the nearby streets display huge slabs of butter which pilgrims purchase to feed the butter lamps in the Jokhang temple. The characteristic rather cheesy smell of such temples is from these butter lamps.

    Later you will visit the Norbulingkha; nowadays it is known as 'People's Park' but the original name means 'Jewel Park'. The Norbulingkha was formerly the summer palace and recreation gardens of the Dalai Lama and it was from here that the present Dalai Lama escaped in 1959. The nearby Tibet Museum is worth a short visit if it's open. Pass rapidly through the galleries justifying the Chinese occupation and you will find that the galleries on Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan arts and crafts, along with objects of everyday life, are the most interesting exhibits with many outstanding pieces on display.

    You will have time in the afternoon at leisure.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Kyichu Hotel or Shambala Hotel or Similar, Lhasa
  6. Day 6 - Drive to Shigatse, 3,800m/12,505ft, via Yam Drok Tso Lake, and Gyantse - 355km, 7 hours.
    mount kailash and saga dawa festival kumbum chorten gyantse r shorrock.

    Today after breakfast at the hotel you will begin the drive west out of Lhasa on the first section of your route across Tibet, today heading to Gyantse. You will initially head along the old route back to Nepal; the 'Friendship Highway'. This first section is up to the Kamba Pass, 4,794m/15,728ft. From the pass you look down onto the Yamdrok Tso Lake, a huge area of water surrounded by mountains. After a long drive around the edge of the lake the road climbs to cross the Karo La, 5,045m/16,552ft, next to Mount Nazin Kang Sa, 7,252m/23,792ft.

    The road then descends before arriving in Gyantse, one of the most attractive towns in Tibet with the largest Tibetan Buddhist Chorten in the world, the Kumbum. Although Gyantse has been affected by development it is still quite small and is one of the most traditionally Tibetan of towns, probably the most Tibetan of all the towns you visit on this trip. It has somewhat of a 'wild west' air. Gyantse is situated at the junction of trade routes from Lhasa and the east, Shigatse to the west and India to the south and came to importance as the centre for Tibet's wool trade. A great castle on the hilltop overlooks the entire area. In 1904 this castle, which guarded the route to Lhasa, was the scene of a military siege during the British Younghusband Expedition.

    You may have a little time in Gyantse before the drive to Shigatse (90km, 3 further hours) following the broad Tsangpo River. Shigatse is Tibet's second largest city, the capital of Tsang province and has long been an important trading centre and is a busy modern city. Formerly Shigatse was dominated by a massive castle built on a hill above the old town, the seat of the kings of Tsang in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but has been rebuilt though on a slightly smaller scale to the original.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Shigatse Manasarovar Hotel, Shigatse
  7. Day 7 - Drive to Saga, 4,640m/15,223ft, across the Tibetan Plateau.

    In the morning you will have time for a little exploration of Shigatse. Nowadays this more closely resembles a Chinese city but there are still things worth visiting. The most important remaining Tibetan institution is the Tashilumpo Monastery, which you will explore on your return here in two weeks' time. If your departure time is delayed for any reason this morning you will be able to visit the Tibetan street market - but as the market does not open till 10am you will probably need to also delay the viewing till your return to Shigatse at the end of your adventure.

    This is a long and tiring driving day, but the scenery has to be seen to be believed. The sheer scale of the
    Tibetan plateau is staggering, with geological formations, and strata across all of the earth colours. There will be views of the Greater Himalaya and Shishapangma, 8,046m/26,397ft, the world's thirteenth highest peak. Shishapangma is the only 8,000m peak to lie wholly within Tibet. You eventually turn right to take the 'shortcut' to Saga past the beautiful Pelkhu Tso Lake, where you can clearly see fish swimming in the cold clear waters. Your journey ends at the small town of Saga where you spend the night. This is your last town of any size and has a number of shops where you can stock up on any last minute items you would like. Western Inn has a fairly reliable hot water system, although looking at the plumbing and pipe work you may wonder how it works! So tonight is your last chance for a few days for a good hot shower.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Western Inn or Similar
  8. Day 8 - Drive to Lake Manasarovar, 4,590m/15,059ft.

    Another long, but sensational day's drive today to reach the holy lake of Manasarovar and obtain your first views of Mount Kailash. The road follows the Tang Po River for much of the way and you pass through a number of villages and the small town of Zhonba. You are likely to see herds of domestic yak, as well as wild ones together with wild ass and marmots in the sandier areas. One area of sand dunes would not be out of place in a desert region with large crescent dunes encroaching on the road. Finally you cross the huge pass, the Mayum La, 5,280m/17,323ft, from where you can see Kailash. No doubt some of you will be emotionally moved to make your prostrations to the mountain! Continue down from the pass and skirting Bo Po Mountain you will eventually come to the shores of the holiest lake in Asia.

    Sacred Lake Manasarovar, 4,558m /14,954ft, is located in West Tibet between Mt. Kailash, 6,714m/22,028ft, and the Gurla Mandhata Range (Memo Nani, 7,694m/25,242ft). For Hindus, Manasarovar floats beneath the shadow of holy Kailash as the lake formed in the mind of God. It was created to show the omnipotence of Brahma's mind, manas. Tibetans know it as Mapham Tso, 'the Unconquerable Lake'. In any language, this is the holiest, most famous lake in Asia.

    You will spend the night camping in a picturesque spot on the lakeshore close to Chiu Gompa. With large flocks of sea birds, gulls, plovers, sandpipers as well as ducks, barnacle geese and partridges. Wild hares and partridges are also to be seen near the site.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  9. Day 9 - Walk along the northern shore of Lake Manasarovar.
    mount kailash and saga dawa festival trekking near lake manasarovar skb.

    Today offers you the chance to stretch your legs after the long days of travelling and to test your acclimatisation with a walk from Chiu Gompa. It would be hard to imagine anything more peaceful, beautiful and interesting. From camp you walk along the shore northwards, past Chiu Gompa, towards the line of low hills and cliffs bordering the northern shore. The lake has a multitude of different ducks, geese and seagulls. You may pass Tibetan shepherds with flocks of hardy sheep and goats. After an hour, or so you reach the narrow strip of shore between lake and cliff and before long come across old hermit caves, some high up on the cliff. Two hours brings you to a break in the cliffs and the ruined monastery of Cherkip. Here there are a few chortens and mani walls and a few tame hares. From Cherkip, you continue to follow the shoreline, past a couple of small headlands, to reach, eventually, a rising path leading inland. After a few false rises you arrive at Langpona Gompa. This is a truly beautiful place, high above the plain below, from where you may well see dust devils passing across. Below the monastery, there is a scattering of mud brick houses and the river winding its way towards Manasarovar Lake. The vehicles should meet you here to drive you back to your lakeside camp, which would otherwise be 1½-2hrs walk north from Langpona Gompa. The monastery, incidentally, is well worth a look inside.

    The eight monasteries of Manasarovar were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but recently most have been rebuilt. With snowy mountains and turquoise lakes as a backdrop, the setting of these shrines is otherworldly. The monastery of Gossul was visited by Hedin in 1907-8 and he wrote. "Did fate compel me to pass my life in a monastery in Tibet I would without hesitation choose Gossul Gompa". The monasteries once again provide spiritual and physical refuges for pilgrims who perform the 90-km circumambulation of the lake. Most Tibetans, however, simply opt for an offering by the lake's north-western shore and forego the full circuit.

    If time and inclination allow in the afternoon you could consider a walk up to Chiu Gompa behind your camp and a visit to the hot springs located above the Gompa. Be warned however that although they are very hot they are not as clean as one might like!

    Tonight you will camp again on the shore of the lake below Chiu Gompa.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  10. Day 10 - Drive to Darchen, 4,575m/15,010ft. Begin Kailash trek. Trek to Chhuku Gompa - 2½ hours.

    Today you will drive north along the road you came in on, and then continue NW to Darchen, which at 4,575m/15,010ft, is a tatty and rather rundown township, where your permits will be scrutinised and your trek leader, Tibetan guide and Sherpa Sirdar will meet with the man employed by the local state prefecture to round up teams of yaks for paying pilgrims.

    Once everything is in order, packed and ready to go, you will trek west from the edge of town, firstly heading to a cairn and prayer flags at 4,730m/15,518ft. This is the first of four chaktsal-gang 'prostration stations' on the Kora and offers an excellent view of Kailash. Turning north up the valley of the Lha Chu, you descend to Tarboche, a tall pole adorned with prayer flags. Nearby is chorten-kangri. It is considered an auspicious act to pass through the small archway formed by the two legs of this chorten. This is where you will return to after your Kora to join the Saga Dawa festival.

    The trail continues across the plain to Shershong, an hour after which you will cross a bridge leading to Chhuku
    Gompa high on the hillside above. All the monasteries on the Kailash circuit were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Chhuku Gompa was the first to be rebuilt and contains a few treasures that were rescued from the original gompas. You will camp along the river below the Gompa tonight.

    Mount Kailash
    Mount Kailash, 6,714m/22,028ft, Asia's most sacred mountain, is said to be at the heart of the ancient Shangshung Kingdom, the supposed land of origin of the pre-Buddhist Bonpos. Mount Kailash is their soul-mountain (lari), which they also call Yungdrung Gu Tse, the Nine-story Swastika Mountain. This is the very place where the sect's legendary founder, Tonpa Shenrab, descended from heaven to earth. In the 11th century, with the revival and ascendancy of Buddhism in Tibet, Milarepa, the poet-saint and patriarch of the Kagyupa sect, was the dominant influence in the area. This came to pass when he defeated his Bonpo arch rival, Naro Bonchung, in a series of magical contests. Relic traces of this epic battle can be seen from time to time along the ritual circuit (Kora) around Mount Kailash.

    The circumambulation of Mount Kailash is an important pilgrimage for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Hindus perform a prikama, Buddhists call it a Kora. Buddhists believe that a single Kora washes away the sins of one life and 108 circuits secures Nirvana in this life. Devout Tibetans often make the 52km circuit in a single day. Indian pilgrims make the circuit in three days, but this also is rushed, particularly since the circuit, though mostly level, involves the crossing of a 5,630m/18,525ft pass. A five-day trek is far more enjoyable and rewarding.

    Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims make a clockwise circuit of the peak. Bon-po tradition is to circumambulate in the opposite direction. As you circle Kailash via the traditional route, you will meet followers of Bon-po making a Kora in the opposite direction.

    The most pious of the pilgrims are those who prostrate themselves around Kailash, lying flat on the ground, then rising, walking to the point that their hands touched and repeating the process. It is an awesome spectacle to meet a group of pilgrims performing this feat. There is also an 'inner Kora' that passes two lakes to the south of Kailash. Tradition dictates that only those who have made 13 circumambulations of Kailash (or one circuit in a Wind Horse year) may follow this inner route.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  11. Day 11 - Trek past Damding Donkhang, 4,890m/16,043ft - 2.½ hours.

    This morning your yaks will come to join you to carry your gear for the remainder of the circuit, although they probably won't arrive till 9 or 10 am, as they will walk out from Darchan this morning. The route is easy to follow as you will just follow the pilgrims on the Kora. Shortly you will pass below Chuku gompa, which you may have visited yesterday) this is one of four small monasteries that have been rebuilt after the Chinese Cultural Revolution. There are some very interesting and little known connections between these monasteries and Bhutan. Again, if time allows and you are feeling strong, the gompa is well worth a visit. The path continues now through a most fantastic gorge, with stupendous flying buttresses on the Western side and views up to Kailash on the east. The cliffs are incredibly impressive, unique and awesome, and walking is likely to be slow as you take in the cliffs, hanging valleys, side peaks and enormously long thin waterfalls coming off these.

    There are a variety of campsites towards the end of the valley, near a holy rock that has Milarepa's footprint, near the Second Prostration Point, but better is to turn east and follow the river to a beautiful grassy spot about 45 mins further. You will go past some stone huts and obtain a fine view of the west face of Mount Kailash before you see the bridge leading to Diraphuk Monastery. Here, about 500m before the bridge camp will be set in a small area on the northern bank of the river away from the busier trail on the southern side. If the river is flowing, you may be able to safely cross over on one of the snow bridges, or to be safe, walk up to the metal (Bailey) bridge - cross on that, and then back track to camp. Please ensure all your gear in your kit bag is fully waterproofed as the Yaks will ford the river, perhaps 50 or 60 cm deep, and although usually all bags will remain dry, an animal can stumble and you don't want to risk wet gear at this altitude! It is a beautiful peaceful place to camp, and again you may walk up to Diraphuk Monastery to visit it in the afternoon.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  12. Day 12 - Walk to visit North Face of Kailash or Dira Phuk Monastery.
    mount kailash and saga dawa festival kailash north face prayer_flags skb.

    Crossing the bridge to towards Dira Phuk Monastery, you will eventually be rewarded with the most fantastic views of the north face of Kailash, framed between the two 'disciple-mountains, Chana Dorje and Chenresi. There is an easy path to follow, up towards the north face. You will undoubtedly feel the altitude as you climb, at times steeply, up the valley that leads eventually to the small glacier that comes down from Kailash. There are fine views from here but if you are fit and keen to go closer, time permitting it is possible to walk easily up the glacier for some way. Alternatively, for those who prefer a visit to Dira Phuk Monastery this is possible. You will return to river camp for overnight.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  13. Day 13 - Cross the Dolma La Pass, 5,630m/18,525ft and trek down Lham Chu Valley – the eastern valley of Kailash - 6-7 hours.

    Only a short walk from the camp you will pass the side route and the bridge leading towards Dira Phuk Monastery, that you may have explored yesterday. Soon you will eventually be rewarded again with the most fantastic views of the north face of Kailash, framed between its two 'disciple-mountains. You will undoubtedly feel the altitude as you climb. From here you will cross a bridge across the Lha Chu noting that if you were to trek up the valley of the Lha Chu you would eventually reach the true source of the Indus. The Kora route now makes a serious climb onto a moraine, eventually meeting the trail from the east bank.

    As you climb further, you will pass piles of clothing at Shiva-tsal, 5,331m/17,490ft. Tibetans leave an article of clothing, or a drop of blood here as part of leaving their past life behind them. Continuing past thousands of small rock cairns the trail leads across a boulder field, and possibly snow slopes leading up to the Dolma La at 5,630m/18,525ft. Here a large boulder on the pass representing the goddess, Dolma, better known by her Sanskrit name, Tara, is festooned with prayer flags and streamers. It is traditional to leave something as part of the collection of coins, prayer flags, teeth and other offerings attached to the rock. This is the physical and spiritual high point of the Kora. Money is pasted to the rock with butter and pilgrims make the requisite three circumambulations of the rock. This must be the world's largest collection of prayer flags.

    If you meet Tibetan pilgrims here you will probably be invited to join them for a picnic in celebration of completing the hardest part of the Kora; remember to take a little food to share with them. Descending, the trail is rocky at first then begins a series of switchbacks as it passes the lake, Gouri-kund, which at 5,450m/17,880ft is the highest lake in the world, although almost permanently frozen. Devout Hindu pilgrims are supposed to break the ice and bathe in its waters. More switchbacks lead down to the valley and a stone guest house alongside the Lham-chhukhir at 5,148m/16,890ft where there is a footprint of Buddha, called a shapje nearby. You will camp here beside the river, celebrating your successful crossing of the pass. Yaks will be likely to be grazing around the area, and marmots may be out if it's a sunny evening.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  14. Day 14 - Trek towards Zutal-Puk Monastery to river camp, 4,790m/15,715ft - 2 hours.

    The trek today is very gentle and easy after the tough day yesterday over the pass. The route makes a long, gentle, descent of the Lham Chu valley. When crossing the stream of the Khado Sanglam you reach the Third Prostration Station; look upstream for the holy view of the east face of Kailash. When you arrive at the Zutul-puk Gompa, a guest house and camp. You will move towards the Zhong Chu River to camp alongside fields full of grazing yaks and marmots. Zuthul means cave and this gompa is named after a cave in which the saint, Milarepa, stayed, meditating and eating only nettles. Among the miracles he performed were adjusting the height of this cave to make it more comfortable. His footprint still remains on the roof.

    You may wish to walk further up the valley to visit the Gompa in the afternoon, new buildings were under construction in 2017, so there may be even more to explore in future years now, and there is also a small eating room there where you could purchase hot drinks or some simple food should you wish before returning to camp.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  15. Day 15 - Trek to Darchen - 4-5 hours. Short drive to Tarboche.

    Today is a beautiful day's hike continuing south, you cross a bridge over a side stream from Kailash, and then contour up as the river descends towards the plain. Ensure you stop regularly to check the view behind you, it is superb, and after an hour and a half the valley closes in and you will be walking high above the river in a kind of a steepening gorge. On the walk today you are likely to be accompanied by many pilgrims and locals in their best dress also coming to the festival site. And indeed this section is one of the loveliest on the trek, and looking to west side of the valley you can clearly see a defined crash zone of where the Indian tectonic plate crashed into the Asian plate all those million years ago. It's possible to clearly see the buckling of the front end of the Indian plate and a dramatic change in the geology. Two professional geologists in the group in 2017 helped to identify the oceanic rocks here at 4600m above sea level and point this all out to us!

    You make a dramatic exit from the river valley on to the plain at the Last Prostration Station, elevation 4,609m/15,120ft. Here your truck will meet you and the yaks will unload once they arrive. Rakas Tal glistens in the distance as you pass mani walls decorated with carved yak skulls. Trek a further 1½ hours west to Darchen along the edge of the plain to complete the full Kora. As you arrive in Darchen you can see the route heading up to the inner Kora, but you must complete 12 more Koras before you would be allowed on this route! After a regroup in the town you will drive back along the first day's hike to the river below Chuku Gompa where you will camp in anticipation of the Festival tomorrow. We recommend a hike up to the site in the afternoon to view the preparations and astounding numbers of prayer flags being prepared and laid out ready for the morning.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  16. Day 16 - Attend the Saga Dawa Festival. Drive to river camp - 3 hours.
    mount kailash and saga dawa festival  j turner.

    You will be able to spend all morning at the Saga Dawa festival. The festival climax is the raising of a very tall flag pole which takes hours to slowly jack up, with teams of officials, and a brave man on top of the sloping pole. All the time pilgrims carry out Koras around the flag pole, revolving clockwise and chanting as they go. The valley fills up with pilgrims' tents and lorries and people come in their hundreds and thousands to be there on the final day. The local reincarnate lama from one of the monasteries on the inner circuit attends with his monks, and they carry out various ceremonies and make the Kora themselves blowing long Tibetan horns and crashing cymbals. Horsemen occasionally race around the Tarboche pole dressed in traditional costume. Mounds of incense are burnt, handfuls of printed prayers are thrown to the wind and people prostrate before the flagpole. The smell of burning juniper fills the air. There are stalls selling Tibetan handicrafts and 'sit in' meditation/prayer tents, magicians, and all manner of exotic Tibetan people with quite weird hats and colourful costumes. Finally the pole is pulled upright and the crowd roars its approval. Literally thousands of Tibetans will then rush out heading north on the Kora immediately afterwards

    You then drive east via Seralung Gompa and will camp at a suitable spot beside the river after about 3 hrs drive for your final night with the trekking crew.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Camp
  17. Day 17 - Drive to Saga - 8 hours.

    You will leave early today as it is a long drive. It is an hour's drive first to the Mayum La, 16,896ft/5150m, from where you can savour your last views of Kailash. Then you drive down for half an hour to a police check post and head east on one vast plain which lies between the Greater Himalaya and the Trans Himalaya. Drive now to Paryang, 15,092ft/4600m, where you will probably have lunch. Driving on you cross a pass, the Soge La, 15,420ft/4700m, on past a lake and on and on beside the Tsang Po river. The road now continues passing through the small township of Drongba. It is from here that a road now extends into the Kingdom of Mustang. You pass through then back into the much larger town of Saga, very Chinese in character, where your hotel, and hot showers await you!

    Overnight iconOvernight: Western Inn or Similar
  18. Day 18 - Drive via Pekutso Lake to Old Tingri - 6 hours.

    Today you will make the drive to Old Tingri. There is around six hours or so of driving today with many Tibetan peaks to view en route, with range after range rising above the Tibetan plain. You climb over a pass and carry on to a large lake, the Pekutso. There are fantastic views of a Tibetan snow peak called Gorbachen. You eventually climb up to meet the main road to Lhasa, passing through a police check point on the way. Turn left and head towards Shegar and before that come to Old Tingri. The town is basic, but with a big new temple on the hill above. You drive out of town across the river and stop at a lodge from which, if it is clear, you can observe Everest herself.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Snow Leopard Guest House
  19. Day 19 - Drive to Everest Base Camp on the Rongbuk (north) side - 7 hours.

    You will need an early start for today's drive, as the fairly recent "new road" to Rongbuk is no longer passable, with destroyed bridges, so you will drive east out of Tingri on the road towards Shegar, through stupendous open valleys with ruins of old destroyed buildings on many of the ridges. This leads to the new official entry to the Everest Region where we will check in with the police and then commence a stupendous zig zag route up to cross the Pang La Pass at 16,400ft/4,999m where you will stop to admire the view, but it's often very cloudy here. You will then drive down the continuous zigzags and through a spectacular short tunnel before coming out to some small villages down the southern side of this major pass leading to Rongbuk itself. You then travel on through stark, but stunning scenery. Along the way you may see Himalayan marmots, blue sheep, golden eagles and lammergeyer. The scenery will appear even more moonlike and rocky the further into the heart of the mountains you progress.

    You will drive up to the Rongbuk monastery, where you will be staying the night, in this truly atmospheric and historical location. Depending on the weather the best chance for clear views will be later in the afternoon so you will travel to Base Camp probably about 4pm. So first you can do a steep but short Kora around the Monastery and then visit inside. In 2017 there was a series of rebuilding going on, so hopefully it will now be completed. Don't forget to say hello to the holy sheep that live in the monastery!

    To visit Base Camp it is no longer permitted to go in your own vehicles so you will have to transfer into the Chinese minibuses for the final few km up the moraines of the Rongbuk Glacier. You arrive and may climb a small hillock to overlook the entire basin of Base Camp and hopefully (weather permitting) be rewarded with stunning views of the North Face towering above us. Unfortunately the Chinese don't any longer allow visitors to visit the memorial cairns on the hillock in front of the view point, but this is a fabulous (but obviously very windy and cold) place to remember all the books you have read about the climbers on the mountain and to remember those who came, but have remained here for all time.

    You will all return to the Guest House for hot drinks and a welcome supper - if it's a moonlit night you may even see Everest during the evening. The Guest House provides warm beds, but basic facilities in twin rooms, so although rudimentary you will be comfortable in the guest house.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Rongbuk Monastery Guest House
  20. Day 20 - Drive to Shigatse via Shegar - 7 hours. Visit Tashilumpo Monastery.

    We recommend an early start, to get up before dawn to stand near the chorten of the Monastery and view first light coming up on Everest. Clouds are likely to follow very soon after the alpenglow, so don't be late! But you can also sit in the small restaurant and watch the view unfolding through the big windows there instead.

    After breakfast you will say your farewells and set off on the drive back to Shegar and on to Shigatse. You can stop at various points along the way for more photographs and for final views of Mount Everest from the Pang La Pass at 4,999m/16,400ft. After reaching the main east-west highway you pass through a military check post before arriving at Shegar (or New Tingri). Hopefully you should have time for a look around the old town and the monastery/fortress above, overlooking the surrounding country. The journey then continues, to reach Tibet's second city, involving a 6-7 hour drive through spectacular and barren countryside, where villages eke out a meagre living from their small fields, sheep, goats and yaks.

    Arriving in Shigatse you will go direct to the most important remaining Tibetan institution in Shigatse: the Tashilumpo Monastery, which you will explore, but while you are walking around the monastery watch out for packs of dogs which are fed by the monks because dogs are said to be the souls of reincarnated monks.

    You should also notice the recently restored Shigatse Dzong, which resembles a mini Potala. However this is only open for viewing during the local yoghurt festival held in the first week of October. So you can only view it from outside. Instead you will visit the Tibetan street market - look out here especially for the rather gruesome whole dried sheep, but all sorts of yak cheese, butter and souvenirs are also available here.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Shigatse Manasarovar Hotel, Shigatse
  21. Day 21 - Drive to Lhasa via the northern route - 7 hours.

    Almost the end of your amazing journey across Tibet!! A wonderful day's drive following the river, sometimes in wide open plain, sometimes meandering across the vast wide valley and on occasions through narrowing gorges beneath the road. You will also see the route of the new rail line cutting in and out of tunnels through the mountains. You should arrive back in Lhasa, by driving past the Potala, by mid-afternoon allowing time to celebrate the end of an amazing journey across and back southern Tibet.

    An evening walk around the Barkhour, with its warming atmospheric yellow / golden light or perhaps down to the Potala to see it stark and stunning in floodlights. Probably time to squeeze in a visit to the Summit Coffee shop also!

    Overnight iconOvernight: Kyichu Hotel or Shambala Hotel or Similar, Lhasa
  22. Day 22 - Fly to Chengdu. Excursion to Panda Centre. Group transfer to airport and depart for London.

    You will have a fairly early start to drive to Gonggar Airport, a drive of about 2 hours. You then fly to Chengdu. On arrival in Chengdu you will be met and have an excursion to the Chengdu Giant Panda Centre where scientists are running a very successful Giant Panda breeding programme. As well as the adult Giant Pandas you will probably also see some charming baby pandas and in the trees around the site you may also see some delightful red pandas. Later you will be transferred back to the airport to check in for your flight home.

    Overnight iconOvernight: In Flight
  23. Day 23 - Fly From Chengdu To London


Map Key

  • AirportAirport
  • General point of interestPoint of interest
  • Mountain RangeMountain Peak
  • TrekDay walk in this area
  • FlightsFlights
  • Internal TransfersInternal Transfers
  • Trek routeTrek

No Dates Available

There are no available booking dates for this holiday yet since we are still finalising details. If you are interested in this holiday and would like further details, please contact us.

Hold your place

Not quite ready to book? Why not call us on 0044 (0)1453 844400 to hold a no obligation place while you make up your mind?

No Surcharge Guarantee

No surcharges will be applied to your holiday after you book. Prices on this website are updated regularly. The Flight Inclusive holiday price, or Land Only holiday price, will be confirmed to you at the time you make your booking. There will be no surcharges after your booking has been confirmed.

Flight inclusive holidays

The 'flight inclusive' holiday prices shown on this website are based upon our preferred airlines and the best priced economy class fares we are able to secure at the time of publication.

We will be able to advise on fares with alternative airlines, upgrades to Business Class, and the options for flights from regional UK airports, please contact us for more details.

What’s included

  • A Mountain Kingdoms appointed Western leader
  • Flights between Chengdu and Lhasa and airport transfers for those flights.
  • Good standard hotel accommodation (4 star) in Chengdu, bed and breakfast basis
  • Hotel/lodge accommodation in Tibet
  • All camping facilities and all meals on trek
  • Camp staff to carry out all campwork
  • Costs of all porterage and their insurance
  • All road transport by private vehicles
  • Fees for Tibet permit
  • Sightseeing where specified
  • Economy class return air fares from the UK & UK Departure Tax (flight inclusive only)
  • Single, timed group airport transfers for international flights
  • The opportunity to attend a pre-trip meet in the Cotswolds
  • A free high-quality Mountain Kingdoms kit bag

What’s not included

  • Travel insurance
  • China visa fees
  • Lunch and evening meals in Chengdu
  • Tips
  • Airport departure taxes, except UK

Review your holiday


Read holiday reviews by Mountain Kingdoms travellers.

Overall score:           (Based on 4 reviews)

Excellent trek crew          

Remote location, small group size, excellent trek crew and leader.

Enjoyable adventure trip          

It was a very enjoyable adventure trip, well planned and full of interest. The way the places we stayed in gradually built up in altitude was very helpful. It was a tough trip in physical terms but a great experience.


The trekking and camping experience brought us very close to local people which I very much enjoyed. Going to such a remote area - magnificent!

Hugely valuable experience          

I have given the trip an "excellent" tick since it is hard to criticise an organisation that succeeded in delivering what was, for me, a hugely valuable experience - where the location genuinely transcended my expectation.

Extend your holiday

There are many ways you can extend your holiday with Mountain Kingdoms: book extra hotel nights, relax at a beautiful beach resort, take a warm-up trek, arrange a personal sightseeing tour or enjoy specialist activities such as rafting, birdwatching or a safari.

We're happy to suggest ideas, provide quotes and make all the arrangements. We can also assist with flight and hotel upgrades. Just call us on +44 (0)1453 844400 or email and we will be pleased to help.

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