21 days Tibet Kham culture and nature overland travel from Chengdu to Lhasa
This tour will lead you to have an in-depth exploration of the rich Tibetan Khampa culture, custom and traditions in Western part of Sichuan province (Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), where you will visit the famous Tibetan Printing Press in Dege and the Yarchen Gar in Pelyul, one of the two main Tibetan Buddhist Institutions in Kham area (the other one is Serta Larung, and it is currently closed to foreign tourists).
Afterwards heading to visit Yading Nature Reserve, one of the most beautiful places on Tibetan Plateau called 'Last Shangri-la' accodring to the book of 'Lost Horizon', here you will see the three snow-capped peaks sitting in a triangle formation with forested valleys, clear rivers, glacier-fed lakes and abundant wildlife between them. Then continue the overland travel by crossing Jinsha River to Mount Meili, one of the holy mountains in Tibetan Buddhism.
Finally driving a bit north along the National Road G214 up to Markham, the junction city of G214 and G318, where you will have your adventure overland travel to Tibet Lhasa along the famous National Road G318 (Sichuan-Tibet South Highway) with breathtaking views.
Chengdu airport picking up, Check-in and have a good rest. Overnight at Chengdu.
Today drive from Chengdu to Kanding, the prefectural capital of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Western Sichuan, it is known as the gateway city to Khampa area. The population there is about 100,000 people split with approximately half Tibetans and half Hans and with a small population of other ethnic minorities.
Afternoon explores the local market with your guide to discover the locals' life. In the evening enjoy the dance and music night at the public square in Kangding town, which you surely will be entertained.
Morning drive to cross over Zheduo Mountain (4,200m high) to Xinduqiao, the paradise of photographers, if weather permits, you will see the peaks of Gongga Mountain on the way, the highest peak in Sichuan province.
After Xinduqiao, driver another 40km to Tagong, a small nomadic town with beautiful surrounding grasslands. In Tagong, you will be arranged to visit Tagong monastery, a nomad family and enjoy the breathtaking view with Yala Holy Mountain in the distance.
Afterward continue the way to Luhuo, with a stop to visit Huiyuan temple at Bamei, it was founded in the 18th century by 7th Dalai Lama and 11th Dalai Lama was born here. From the monastery have a great view of the grassland meadow scenery of Bamei. Enjoy the wonderful landscapes on the way and pay a visit to the traditional Daofu Residences in Daofu, which are well decorated with skillful wood-carvings and paintings. After Daofu, drive another 72Km further along Xianshui River to reach Luhuo for overnight.
Morning drive to Garze with a visit Kasar Lake on the way. Garze is a dusty but lively market town in a picturesque valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The villages, temples, and monasteries here are perfect for photographers! We will pay a visit to the 500-year-old Garze monastery in the afternoon and a local antique market if time is allowed. Overnight at Garze.
Today drive from Garze to Derge, which is regarded as the cultural center of the Kham region in northwestern of Sichuan, the last town before the TAR. On the way to Derge, stop to visit Yilhun La-tso ( Xinluhai) near Manigange, it is a stunning, holy alpine lake lined with hand-carved prayer stones that are more than 600 years old. After Xinluhai, you will cross the Chola pass tunnel to get Dege. The rest of the day is freely exploring Dege. Overnight at Dege.
Derge is famous for its 18th-century monastery housing a printing press that still uses traditional wood blocks printing methods. The printing press produces a majority of the Buddhist scripture books used across Tibet. At the printing press, you will watch artisans carving scripture tablets by hand from woodblocks. The whole monastery holds an astonishing 70% of Tibet's literary heritage.
Afternoon drive to Menshod valley where the famous Dzongsar monastery is located also it is a place that the old tradition and culture are well preserved, from Derge, it is roughly about 3 hours driving due to the poor road. Upon arrival at Dzongsar, if you don't feel so tired, then visit a handicrafts center or the local Tibetan hospital. Overnight at Dzongsar.
Dzongsar Monastery was founded in year of 746. This monastery is famous for having maintained its Tibetan philosophy teaching system from ancient times. The current lama for this monastery is a world-known teacher, His Holiness the Dzongsar Jamyang Kyentse. Morning do a short hike up to visit Dzongsar monastery, which is perched on a hill, where you can have a great view of Menshod valley. And the rest of the day is to explore the Dzongsar village and its surroundings for an authentic Tibetan life. Afternoon head to Pelyul (about 2 hours drive), a small beautiful city by the river Ding Chu. Upon arrival visit Pelyul Monastery (Baiyu Si), it is a famous Nyingma Sect monastery that had played a great role in history and held many subsidiary temples. Overnight at Pelyul.
Today we will drive about 2-3 hours to visit Yarchen Gar monastery (Yaqing Si), which was built in 1985 as a religious center of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Along with Larung Gar, these are the two largest Buddhist learning institutes in Tibetan plateau. It housed more than 10,000 Sangha, and most of them are nuns.
Yarchen Monastery lies on a grassy island surrounded by river and mountains. The nearby hills are scattered with box-like max 2 square meters size red meditation-huts built by nuns, in which nuns will spend around 3-5 months long in winter for meditation. On the hilltop, there is a statue of Padmasambhava (Lotus-Born), where tourists can have an overview of the island. Sitting here and enjoying the view appeals to your mind no less than other monasteries in Kham. Later afternoon drive to Xinlong with nice landscapes on the way. Overnight at Xinlong.
In the morning drive down along the Yalong river to Litang with stunning landscapes. Litang is situated on the Maoya grasslands, it means ' place as flat as a bronze mirror' in Tibetan. Litang is an important transit town along the ancient trade business route between Tibetans from Tibet and the local Hans at Kangding and Ya’an city. At Litang, visit Litang monastery, this monastery has a close and tight relation with the 7th, 10th, 11th Dalai Lhama.
Afternoon continues the driving to Daocheng, it is a county that you will enjoy because of its rich soil & Tibetan culture, and a good place for recharging yourself before Yading. You may relax by bathing at the hot spring & the Tibetan local dancing show. Overnight at Daocheng.
Morning drive to Yading Nature Reserve, the countryside scenery en route is very charming and the road is perfect, it drives approximately 2 hours to Shangrila town, here you will buy the entrance tickets and take the local sightseeing bus to the terminal station - Zhaguanbeng (about 1 hour), then hike to Chonggu Temple, see the scenery of Chonggu Temple and holy peak Xiannairi. From Chonggu Temple trekking up to Drolma-la tso (Pearl Lake) about 30-40 minutes. Pearl Lake is the best place to view the holy peak Xiannairi. Afterward, walk about 1 hour back to Zhaguanbeng where you will take the sightseeing bus back to your hotel. Overnight at Yading village.
Morning takes the sightseeing bus to the terminal - Zhaguanbeng, from which you will arrive at the core of Yading. You will take the local battery car to Luorong Pasture (4150m), which is a natural pasture for the local cattle and horses. Then start your hiking tour up (Hiking: 5km/about 4 hours) to Milk Lake (4600m) and Five-Color Lake (4700m), or you can choose to enjoy a horseback riding for the first 3KM to Sheshengya (optional, 305 CNY per person for single trip), then hike the rest of 2KM to Milk Lake and Five-Color Lake. Enjoy breathtaking views of the three sacred peaks: Mt. Yangmaiyong (5958m), Mt. Xianuaduoji (5958m) and Mt. Xiannairi (6032m). The up-and-down hiking tour will take you about 6 to 7 hours. Afterward, drive about 2 hours to Daocheng. Overnight at Daocheng.
Departs at Daocheng early morning, pass Sangdui village to Xiangcheng along with different plateau forest scenery and local Tibetan villages. From Xiangcheng continue the way to Derong and then Benzilan where you will see the First Bend of Jinsha River. Overnight at Beizilan.
Walk to visit the famous Jinsha River bend, then start driving to Deqin Feilai Temple by passing Snow mountains. Feilai Si is the best place to see holy Mount Meili, which is one of the most sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism. 'Kang Karpo Peak' means the God of Snow Mountain in Tibetan, and is a holy land for worshiping. Pilgrims from Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu travel to the mountain at the beginning of each winter to worship. Thousands of devout pilgrims worship together and encircle the holy mountain, adding even more mystery and loftiness to the mountain.
In the afternoon drive to visit the Mingyong Glacier at the foot of Mount Meili. Overnight at a local hotel at Feilaisi.
Go on northwards along the Lancang river valley, the upper reaches of Mekong River. Pass the border between Tibet and Yunnan at Yanjing, arrive at Markham after another 111km and meet with the Sichuan-Tibet Southern route. When at Yanjing, visit the salt pans along the Lancang Jiang River. Overnight at Markham.
Cross Lancang river, pass over the highest pass- Dongda which is 5,008m. Markham offers spectacular scenery, with two riotous rivers 'Lancang River and Jinsha River'. The road running up and down through mountains and gorges makes the 265 km driving full of surprise and excitement. After getting to Pomda, the landscape changes to stretching grassland. Anther 94 km's driving, you get to Pasho. Overnight in Pasho.
The scenery east of Pomi is particularly beautiful. The road heads up the Yarlung Tsangpo valley, passing a gorge and several stunning side valleys before you get your first magical views of the blue waters and sandy beaches of Rawoktso (Ranwu Lake). After days of driving on the dusty roads, you'll feel so refreshed once get to Pomi, a town embraced by snow mountains and deep forest with pleasant views. Overnight in Pomi.
This part of road continually surprises you with incredible scenery. One saying describes it best: four seasons a day, the diverse climate in ten miles. Stop at Lulang to view the grand peak of Mt.Namche Barwa (7,756m). Overnight in Bayi.
Morning visit Bayi Cypresses Park, afterward continue the way to Lhasa along the beautiful Niyang River, make a detour to Draksumtso (Basumtso). The lake and its surrounding views are beautiful and the site is also connected to the semi-mythical ruler of the Kham region and Guru Rinpoche. The joint board floating bridge is the only way to the Tsodzong island and visit the Tsodzong Monastery amid of the trees, most probably the highest attraction of this site. Then keep driving along the Niyang River, cross over Min-la pass (5100m) to Lhasa. Overnight at Lhasa.
Today you will be arranged to visit Jokhang temple and Potala Palace. Jokhang temple is the most sacred shrine in Tibet which was built in the 7th century and located at the heart of old town in Lhasa, the circuit around it called Barkhor street, which is a good place to purchase souvenirs. Potala Palace is the worldwide known cardinal landmark of Tibet. The massive structure itself contains a small world within it. Mostly it is renowned as residence of the Dalai Lama lineages (Avalokiteshvara). Both of them are the focal points of pilgrims from the entire Tibetan world, multitudinous pilgrims are circumambulating and prostrating in their strong faith. Overnight at Lhasa.
Today you will be arranged to visit Drepung, Sera monasteries and Summer Palace - Norbulingka palace. Both Drepung and Sera monasteries are Gelugpa (yellow hat) sect monastic colleges. Drepung monastery was the seat of the Government prior to Potala, it was once the world largest monastery in the history with 7,700 monks hailed from different monasteries all over Tibet. Sera monastery is famous for its Buddhism philosophical debate practice, the clapping sound and aggressive expression of the monks are well worth to see. Norbulingka is the summer palace of Dalai Lama, you can visit the residences of different lineages of the Dalai Lama. The park is crowded with picnickers and traditional activities during the Shoton (Yogurt festival) in August. Overnight at Lhasa.
Lhasa airport or train station drop off, end the trip.