Far Western Tibet / Ngari prefecture
Far western Tibet mostly refers to Ngari prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, with an average altitude of over 4,500m (14,764 ft.), Indisputably, it is the roof of Tibetan Plateau. Also, due to its vast territory, but sparsely populated, it is considered as one of the most inaccessible and remotest corners of Asia. It is a region nicely balancing cultural and wilderness activities. Here you can see large scales of beautiful lakes, snow-capped peaks, vast grasslands, and deep valleys, numerous wildlife running freely, a spectacular but lost civilization - the Guge Kingdom and rapidly disappearing nomadic life at the far northern Changtang.
To pay a visit to this region, not only the basic China visa but also Tibet permits (Tibet entry permit, alien’s travel permit, and military permit) are required. Highlights of this area are sacred Mountain Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, the mysterious Guge Kingdom sites and religious Tholing Monastery, and the wildest Changtang Nature Reserve.
Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar: Located about 1,300 KM westwards from Lhasa and 250 KM away from Zanda, they are two of the most remote and legendary travel destinations in the world. They are honored as the holiest sites among Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon, and Jainism, but also a place of adventure for many due to its stunning landscape beauty and spiritual significance. From every late April to mid-October, it draws hundreds of Buddhism and Hindus pilgrims as well as thousands of worldwide adventure seekers. Both local Tibetans and Hindus believe that a worship journey to both places and the completing Mt. Kailash Kora can help to wash away their sins and get their mind purified.
Guge Kingdom site and Tholing Monastery: 2 of the remaining glories of the magic Guge Kingdom, the Guge Kingdom site is its political center while Tholing Monastery is its religious center. Located at 18KM west of Zanda County, Ngari Prefecture, Guge Kingdom is a lost and mysterious civilization founded by the descendants of the Tubo dynasty in the 9th century and with a long history for over 700 years. It played an important role in the history of Tibet's economic and cultural development. Yet it thrived here as an important stop on the trade route between Tibet and India. Apart from its significant historical importance, it is also a great spot to enjoy the barren, eroded landscape and explore a unique construction and artworks quite different from the other parts of Tibet.
Changtang Nature Reserve: Located in the west of the Tibetan Plateau, it is one of the last great wild landscapes in the world. This largely uninhabited, but ruggedly beautiful area is covered in snow-capped peaks, beautiful valleys, vast grasslands/wetlands, and habits plenty of wildlife including chiru, snow leopards, Tibetan wild ass (kiang), along with Tibetan brown bears, blue sheep, Tibetan sand foxes, black-necked cranes, and wild yaks! Besides the wildlife, here also harbors a unique but rapidly disappearing nomadic culture, which is as important as Tibet ’s religious traditions.
Generally, the best times to travel to Ngari are May to June and mid-September to early October due to its relatively stable weather and high visibility of those periods. Whereas, it is good to head to this area in July and August too, as they are the warmest months of the year and the landscapes are at its best shape among all the seasons even with the largest precipitation of the year. It is worth mentioning that the Saga Dawa Festival (April 15 of the Tibetan calendar/May or June in Gregorian calendar) is a particularly popular time to travel to Mt. Kailash to have a unique experience.
Traveling in western Tibet is not easy or comfortable but the improved roads, new bridges, and telephone lines make it more accessible. The easiest way to travel in Nagri is to take an overland trip. Due to the opening of flight from Lhasa to Ngari Gunsa Airport, an airport which is 200KM away from Mt. Kailash and only needs 2.5 hours’ single-way drive, making it possible for the travelers with limited time to fly to and back to save their time.
A drive to Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar by the southern route, it always takes about 5-6 days from Lhasa by visiting some scenic spots en routes, such as Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse, Sakya Monastery, or even 1-2 days additional to visit Everest Base Camp. After a long time driving, have a rest at Lake Manasarovar, usually stay overnight at Chiu Monastery or the village nearby. Then start the Mt.Kailash Kora( Pilgrimage circuit) from Darchen. The Kora of the mountain will take 3 days. Afterward, you may go to have the sacred hot spring at Tirthapuri (All the pilgrims will take this hot spring after the pilgrimage.).
An ambitious but rewarding alternative is to travel up to Ali, take the longer northern route back to Lhasa. A trip that will take 21 to 24 days. After the Mt.Kailash Kora, take a day's drive to Zanda, allow 1 or 2 days to explore the amazing Guge Kingdom ruins at Tsaparang and Tholing Monastery in Zanda. Then take another day to drive to Ali, the capital of Nagri. From Ali, you can make an excursion to visit Lake Pangong-Tso and Rutok Monastery. Or head all the way along with G219 to Kashgar by a private Landcruiser. The 6-day drive from Ali back to Lhasa is superbly scenic but there is a lack of hotels and guesthouses en route so consider camping somewhere. On the way, you will have a chance to see a lot of wildlife, vast grassland, pure highlands lakes, snow-capped mountains, and deep valleys. etc..
If you are heading to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar of Nagri Prefecture from Kathmandu, it's well worth taking the shortcut south via stunning Lake Peiku-Tso and its views of Mt. Shishapangma.