How many days do you need in Tibet?
Tibet, known as the Tibet Autonomous Region with Lhasa as its capital, which is located in the southwest border of the People's Republic of China. It lies in the southwest of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an average altitude of over 4,000 meters, and is known as the "roof of the world". Tibet is famous for its magnificent and magical natural scenery. Moreover, it has a vast territory, spectacular landforms, and some rare animals that can survive here only. Since ancient times, people on this land have created a rich and splendid national culture.
Tibet perhaps is not the closest place to heaven, but it must be the closest place to the sky. If you want to know and respect nature, you should travel to Tibet. If you want to understand a nation where all people value and pray for the peace of mind, then you need to come to Tibet.
Tibet is really large and vast, with an area of 1,228,400 square kilometers including 6 prefecture-level cities and 1 area. Many travelers are curious about how many days do they need to travel Tibet:
Can I have enough time to visit Mount Kailash if I only have one week?
Can I visit Mt Everest Base Camp within 4 days?
Is it possible to make an overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu for 6 days?
This article will help the travelers to better plan their tour in Tibet according to time, interest and preference, location.
Itinerary recommendation by time period
1-2 days: Not recommended. The oxygen content, pressure, and humidity for air at high altitudes is significantly reduced. The average altitude in Tibet is over 3,600 meters above sea level, which is rather common for everyone to have some symptoms of high altitude, like headache, chest tightness, fatigue, and mild fever. We strongly advise all travelers to have at least 1-2 days to acclimatize to the high-altitude, therefore, your journey basically has not been started.
3-4 days: Lhasa is the core of the entire Tibetan culture, and it is also the destination that pilgrims will strive to reach throughout their lives. The monasteries/temples are the entity that inherits the spirit, and it is also the densest landscape in Lhasa. This is also the first stop for most tourists who come to Tibet. For travelers who have limited time, you can focus on the highlights in Lhasa city: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, etc.
5-6 days: In addition to adjusting to the altitude in Lhasa and visiting this religious city for 3-4 days, travelers could choose to spend either a day excursion to the holy Yamdrok Tso Lake, or 2 days trip to Namtso Lake combining with the Yangpachen hot-spring on the way. Other options include a day hike to Drak Yerpa caves which are hidden in the cliff, or a day journey to Ganden Monastery, Tsurphu Monastery, or Shugsheb Nunnery, etc. if you are interested in monasteries and Buddhism.
- 5 days Lhasa - Yamdrok Lake tour (local family visit)
- 5 days Splendid Lhasa tour with Ganden Monastery
- 6 days Lhasa spiritual tour (hot-spring, hiking and monasteries)
7-8 days: Most travelers choose to spend 7-8 days as their first Tibet tour to visit the most famous Everest Base Camp as well as the sites along the popular friendship highway between Tibet and Nepal. There are two ways to choose: one is the overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Everest, the other is returning back to Lhasa after seeing Mt Everest. For travelers who plan to make a less adventure journey, you may focus on the Tibetan cradle Tsedang city, where the first palace and monastery were built; or head to eastern Tibet for the natural scenery with a lower altitude, and pay a visit to the beautiful Nyingchi.
10 days: For travelers who plan to stay 10 days in Tibet, congratulations, you can basically go to 80% of the top attractions that are called must-see places. The perfect itinerary can include the visit to the center of Tibet, and then go to Mount Everest Base Camp in the west and Namtso Lake in the north. Another popular route is to start from Lhasa and travel around the eastern Tibet, and you will be amazed by the magnificent natural scenery if your vacation happens to be in June or September.
- 10 days Mt. Everest Base Camp with holy Namtso Lake tour
- 10 days Eastern Tibet south route to Rawok - Tso tour
15 days: If you plan to have a two-weeks journey in Tibet, then going to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar would be at the top of our recommended list! Because Mt Kailash is the most mysterious and sacred mountain in the world and recognized as the center of the universe by four religions. However, for elder travelers or someone seeking comfortable accommodation, then a deep trip to eastern Tibet would be an ideal choice. Eastern Tibet has a relatively lower altitude, and there are many monasteries, snow mountains, glaciers, vegetation, and flowers, etc., to better feel the pure folk customs when you travel here.
16+ days: If the travelers have more than 15 days to travel in Tibet, then there are many choices to choose, we would highly recommend exploring the far western Tibet - Nagri area, which includes the mysterious Guge Kingdom Ruins and the northern Changtang area. For a 20-days trip, travelers can basically visit all the essential spots and top highlights and have a deeper understanding of Tibet's religious culture, history, and Tibetan folk customs.
Itinerary recommendation by interest and preference
1. Trekking and Hiking
Making trekking or hiking in Tibet (the 3rd pole of the world) can be a unique reward for ambitious hikers/trekkers, as it offers the chance to see the remote and untouched areas where the locals still follow their traditional lifestyle. The trekking or hiking tours would require about 5-15+ days (including the driving days) to accomplish.
The short day hikes include Pabongka and Dark Yerpa near Lhasa or Chimpuk Hermitage near Samye Monastery. A longer trek for 3-5 days could choose Tsurphu to Yangpachen, Ganden to Samye, Old Tingri to Rongbuk to see the north face of Everest, or the famous Mt Kailash Kora. The longest trek for 7-10 days would definitely be the Gyama (Kharta) valley trek to see the east face of Everest. Can't wait to make a Tibet trekking tour? Please check our How to plan a Trekking in Tibet page to get more guidelines.
2. Natural scenery
Besides the rich cultural resources, Tibet also has adequate natural scenery like the world's highest mountain Everest, as well as the highest lake Namtso, not even to say the so-called "Tibetan Switzerland" - Nyingchi area in eastern Tibet. To focus on the natural landscape in Tibet, travelers would need 5-10 days.
The short-stay-like 5-6 days would only allow travelers to see either Lake Yamdrok Tso and Namtso (two of the three holy lakes), or eastern Tibet Nyingchi. The visiting to Mt Everest and the vast meadows, wastelands, glaciers, and wildlife along the way can be added if travelers plan to have a longer holiday around 9-10 days.
3. Palaces, Forts, and Temples
For travelers who are interested in Tibetan Buddhism and culture, the best way would visit the monasteries and palaces for about 5-9 days, which are mainly located in central Tibet. For a short stay like 5-6 days, travelers can visit the capital city Lhasa for the sacred Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace, and the great three monasteries of the Gelug Sect, together with the most important town Gyantse and Shigatse. For a week or above stay, travelers can also cover Tsedang, the birthplace of the first palace and first monastery in Tibetan history in addition to the above sites.
4. Overland Trips
If travelers want to experience different natural scenery and cultural customs, then the best way is to take an overland trip via one of the highways to Tibet. For this type of travel, you are required to prepare a 10 to 15+ days vacation. Among the 5 highways to Tibet, we would recommend the G318 highway from Chengdu, to see the countless gorges, rivers, grasslands, glaciers, forests, wildflowers, lakes, residential buildings, and other very different views.
5. Train Tour
For travelers who wish to enjoy the beautiful landscape along with the Qinghai-Tibet railway, it would take about 7-12 days. The best starting train station is in Xining, which covers all the highlights along the train journey, but with the shortest train ride for about 21 hours. Travelers could also combine a Tibet train tour with a visit to other popular cities like Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, etc.
Travelers wish to join the festivals during their Tibet tour, then it would take about 5-15 days.
- For a 5-6 days journey, you could consider the Shoton Festival, the biggest and most traditional festival in Lhasa; or focus on the festivals in the famous monasteries like Tsurphu Monastery, Ganden Monastery, Samye Monastery, Tashilunpo Monastery, etc.
- If you are more interested in horse racing festivals, then you would need at least a week or more to join during the summertime. Gyantse Horse Racing Festival is held usually every June or July, while Nagqu Horse Racing Festival starts every early August.
- Another important and famous festival Saga Dawa will be held at Mount Kailash area, with an interesting activity by raising a new Tarboche prayer pole every year in May or June (April 15th in Tibetan calendar), and it requires at least 2 weeks to make this journey.
Preparation and tips before travelling to Tibet
- There are some strict rules and regulations for foreign travelers visiting Tibet, unlike the other parts of China. To travel to Tibet, the overseas travelers are required to hold a valid Chinese visa, as well as the special Tibet permit including the Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit (TTB), Alien Travel Permit (ATP/PSB) and Military Permit to visit a different area of Tibet. WindhorseTour will help you to obtain all required Tibet permits by using your passport page and China visa page copies about 20-30 days in advance.
- With an average altitude of over 4,000 meters, we encourage all travelers to check with the doctors, to confirm their physical condition is okay for the high altitude areas prior to departure for Tibet. It's common for everyone to have some symptoms of high altitude. For more details, please read the high altitude sickness page.
- Tibet is comfortable and cool in summer, but with a big temperature difference between morning and evening. The temperature during the daytime under sunshine is around 25℃, and it drops to 10℃ at night. Tibet is relatively cold in spring, autumn, and winter. Fleece jackets, thick thermal underwear, and thick down jackets are necessary, as well as hats, scarves, and gloves. In some areas with extremely high altitudes, such as Namtso, Mount Everest Base Camp, and the Ngari area, outdoor jackets or down jackets are required even in summer.
- Ultraviolet rays on the plateau are very strong, travelers are highly recommended to use SPF50+ sunscreens to prevent sunburn. In addition, sunglasses, sun hats, headbands, etc. are all necessary sunscreen products. For travelers who plan to do the trekking or hiking, you need to bring professional outdoor equipment to ensure safety.
- Currently, most of Tibet has opened 4G networks. Except for the two regions of Ngari and Nagqu, most areas in Tibet have been able to use mobile phones to smoothly use the Internet.
- At present, all major Chinese banks have established business outlets and ATM machines in Tibet. However, in general, the number of shops in Tibet that can be used for credit cards is rather limited, hence, it's better to get enough cash in advance for consumption in Tibet.