Tibet has held a fascination for me for as long as I can remember. Books like Tibet – My Story and 7 Years in Tibet illustrated for me a hidden culture and mesmerising people in a world far away. When 7 Years in Tibet was made into a movie everything I had imagined was brought to life. If you haven’t yet enjoyed Brad Pitt in this movie be sure to pick up a copy grab a cup of tea and enjoy. We didn’t have seven years, but 7 days in Tibet was enough to enjoy fabulous scenery, years of culture and mesmerising people.
Journey to Tibet
Our journey to Tibet began in Kathmandu. Our guide and driver collected us from our hotel and loaded our luggage on to the roof of a 4×4. The journey to Rasuwagadi, the border crossing into Tibet, took several hours and there were many times we were glad to be in an off road vehicle!
We arrived at our hotel after dark, lucky really as it was more of a truck stop than a hotel! At dinner we met a team from the Himalayan Rescue Association. Sadly a few days before a lady had slipped when taking a selfie at the rivers edge. We shared a delicious meal of dhal bhat, washed down with a few beers. Afterwards they kindly agreed to take my forbidden books on Tibet back to Kathmandu!
Making friends with Smiles
Entry to Tibet is tightly controlled by the Chinese. While we waited for our entry visas we wandered over to the heli pad opposite the hotel. Here we met a group of pilgrims heading for Mount Kailash who were also held at the border.
Kerung was an interesting town, a mixture of new meets old and over powers it. Sadly it is fast becoming a garrison for the Chinese army. We met this young man on his way to school and he was brave enough for a photo with us. With the language of smiles I was able to bring in his mother for my own photo.
Our next stop was Rongbuk and the highlight of our trip so far were the views of Everest. Sadly altitude sickness got the better of us and conversation was limited to “wow Everest” and “what time does the bus leave”.
Kathmandu to Lhasa, considered one of the best overland journeys on the planet!
Next day was a long drive to Shigatse and the stunning, and relatively unscathed, Tashilhunpo Monastery. The journey is literally breathtaking. This section of the the Friendship Highway offers stunning views of mountains and valleys largely untouched by time. The nomadic Dokpa yak herders still follow ancient migration patterns and pitch their tents in the Himalayan valleys.
Lhasa is the very heart of Tibet and, unfortunately, has lost much of its charm during the last two decades. But visit the old Tibetan centre and Potala Palace and you will still find a magical place.
Drepung Monastery was the heart of monk-led protests against Chinese rule. Closed for five years after the uprising it is now home to around 300 monks.
Lhasa Jokhang Temple
Lhasa Jokhang Temple is the Buddhist spiritual heart of Tibet.
How to Get Here
Our 7 days in Tibet was an amazing adventure and not just for the sights and the culture. We were honoured to meet so many amazing people, the most awesome of whom was our Tibetan guide Ping Ping. Ping Ping and our driver knew all the tips for getting the most out of our 7 days in Tibet. They knew the best places to stop for photos, the best places to eat and, most importantly, how to help us get really close to the Tibetan people.
There are three options for travel to Lhasa; flight from China or Nepal, train from China or overland from Kathmandu Nepal. We choose to travel with our friends from Real Himalaya. As independent Tour Operators they can tailor your trip to your exact requirements. An example of a possible itinerary can be found here.