Tibet: Landscapes & Cultures, 5 - 18 Sept, 2019
A 14-Day Photographic Journey to the "Roof of the World" with Jeremy Woodhouse
(14 days/13 nights)
Tibet offers fabulous monasteries, breathtaking high-altitude walks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable cultures you will ever encounter.
A Higher Plain
For many visitors, the highlights of Tibet will be of a spiritual nature: magnificent monasteries, prayer halls of chanting monks, and remote cliffside meditation retreats. Tibet’s pilgrims – from local grandmothers murmuring mantras in temples heavy with the aromas of juniper incense and yak butter to hard-core professionals walking or prostrating themselves around Mt Kailash – are an essential part of this experience. Tibetans have a level of devotion and faith that seems to belong to an earlier, almost medieval age. It is fascinating, inspiring and endlessly photogenic.
The Roof of the World
Tibet's other big draw is the elemental beauty of the highest plateau on earth. Geography here is on a humbling scale and every view is illuminated with spectacular mountain light. Your trip will take you past glittering turquoise lakes, across huge plains dotted with yaks and nomads’ tents, and over high passes draped with colourful prayer flags. Hike past the ruins of remote hermitages, stare open-mouthed at the north face of Everest or make an epic overland trip along some of the world’s wildest roads. The scope for adventure is limited only by your ability to get permits.
Politics & Permits
There’s no getting away from politics here. Whether you see Tibet as an oppressed, occupied nation or an underdeveloped province of China, the normal rules of Chinese travel simply don’t apply. Restrictions require foreign travellers to pre-arrange a tour with a guide and transport for their time in Tibet, making independent travel impossible. On the plus side, new airports, boutique hotels and paved roads offer a level of comfort unheard of just a few years ago, so if the rigours of Tibetan travel have deterred you in the past, now might be the time to reconsider.
The Tibetan People
Whatever your interests, your lasting memories of Tibet are likely to be of the bottle of Lhasa Beer you shared in a teahouse, the yak-butter tea offered by a monk in a remote monastery or the picnic enjoyed with a herding family on the shores of a remote lake. Always ready with a disarming smile, and with great tolerance and openness of heart despite decades of political turmoil and hardship, the people truly make travelling in Tibet a profound joy. Make sure you budget time away from your pre-planned tour itinerary to take advantage of these chance encounters.
For part of this trip we will travel along the Yarlung Tsangpo River from Lhasa to west end of TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region). The weather is unpredictable and you could experience two to three seasons in a 24 hour period. September is also the end of raining season—hail and snow over the high mountain passes is quite common, and the highest elevation we will reach at Everest Base Camp is 5,200m (17,160ft)—the highest overnight lodge is at 4,600m (15,180ft) above sea level.
During our tour we will stay at the best available lodges/hotels, most of them are of a 2-3 star standard. Hot showers are not available at all of the hotels. Power is available in all hotels but it may be limited at night. The food may be a challenge for some westerners as there are mainly two to three choices like Sichuan spicy style and Tibetan style cuisine. We will try to find more dumplings on the way!
Besides the world highest mountains [10 out of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000m (26,400ft)] and beautiful calm lakes, we will have the opportunity to photograph nomads in their tented camps, Tibetan mastiffs, yak and sheep in the grasslands, as well as wildlife like Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan ass, etc. Other highlights will include piles inscribed prayer stones, Tibetan Monasteries, white pagodas, Tibetan pilgrims kowtowing, local festivals, Tibetan Buddhism activities, etc.
Please aware that the Tibetan area is still under strict government, and we may not be able to enter some places we had planned to so we will need to be flexible.
Itinerary outline (Beijing Time)
Day 1, Sep 5–Arrive in Chengdu (500 meter high), Orientation Meeting
Day 2, Sep 6–Fly to Lhasa (3,650 meter high)
Day 3-4, Sep 7, 8–Monasteries and landscape in Lhasa
Day 5, Sep 9–Drive to Gyantse (4,000 meter high, 410 km)
Day 6, Sep 10–Gyantse to Tingri (4,300 meter high, 410 km)
Day 7, Sep 11–Tingri to Base Camp of Mt. Everest (5,200m) to Saga (4,500m), (400 km)
Day 8, Sep 12–Saga to Purang (3,900 meter high, 550 km)
Day 9, Sep 13–Purang to Mt. Kailash (4,600 meter high, 150 km)
Day 10, Sep 14–Mt. Kailash
Day 11, Sep 15–Mt. Kailash to Tsanda (3,700 meter high, 300 km)
Day 12, Sep 16–Tsanda to Shiquanhe (4,300 meter high, 250 km)
Day 13 Sep 17–Fly back to Lhasa (3,650 meter high)
Day 14 Sep 18–Fly home from Llasa
Day 1: Chengdu
Arrive at Chengdu Airport, transfer to our hotel. Meet at hotel lobby at 5 pm for orientation meeting and welcome group dinner. If you arrive in Chengdu one or two days earlier, you could easily either take hotel shuttle bus or taxi to visit the Chengdu Panda Zoo and Chengdu city by yourself.
Sichuan is endowed with fertile land and it is nicknamed “the breadbasket of China”. There are more than 10 ethnic minorities living in the province. Chengdu, the capital, is over 2,500 years old is situated in the center of the Sichuan basin. Teahouses and the local cuisine vie for the top spots as the defining characteristic of Chengdu. Mahjong, a domino-type game, is played everywhere. The original pace of life is not too fast, the lifestyle is very leisurely in Chengdu. Chinese people regard Chengdu as the most leisurely city and ideal city for living in China.
Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Hotel ***** (Welcome D)
Day 2: Fly to Lhasa
After breakfast and check out hotel, we fly to Lhasa by MU5825 (1035/1310) or 3U8695 (1120/1405). As we have ascent to 3,650 meters, the rest of the afternoon is free to rest and acclimatize. OR walk around Barkhor Street and out of Jokhang Monastery in late afternoon.
Lhasa, the holy capital of Tibet, still maintains its spirituality and mystique despite the growing population of Han Chinese and rapid development of the city in recent years. You are certain to notice the contrast among its inhabitants; however, Pilgrims kowtowing at Jokhang Temple and hip youngsters in discos boogieing to Celine Dion exemplify the duality of Lhasa. The early morning is the best time to appreciate the spiritual face of Lhasa.
At an altitude of 3,650m (12,045ft), Lhasa is the heart of this Buddhist land hidden away amongst the mightiest mountain range in the world – the Himalayas. Lhasa literally means “Holy Land”, the city is the spiritual anchor of Tibet. With many holy sites, Lhasa is an important pilgrimage place for people from all over Tibetan area (west Sichuan, Qinghai, south Gansu, northwest Yunnan, Tibet) and the world. Over 1,300 years old, Lhasa dates back to 7th century AD when King Songtsen Gampo built his palace in Lhasa. In 1645, the 5th Dalai Lama also made Lhasa his capital and rebuilt Potala Palace.
Lhasa Thangka Hotel **** (B, L, D)
Day 3: Lhasa
In the morning, we visit or photograph the most well known landmark of Tibet, the Potala Palace. Its red and white buildings sit nobly on a rocky hill, commanding the attention of the entire Kyichu (Lhasa River) Valley. As the political center of Tibet, and the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans come from miles around to pray to its majestic walls. The approach to the Potala is not easy, and requires climbing many steep steps, so we take it slowly and allow ourselves to leisurely enjoy the Palace and its surroundings. Once inside, we visit one room after another, admiring the many beautiful murals and sculptures.
Each day, a stream of chanting pilgrims files through this religious maze to offer khata (ceremonial scarves) or yak butter at the innumerable chapels and shrines. The 50 years construction of this 13-story architecture began in 1645 during the reign of the 5th Dalai.
After lunch, we drive to Drepung Monastery, once the world largest Buddhist Monastery. Drepung Monastery is located in 7 km west of Lhasa, founded in 1416 by Tsongkapa’s disciple Jamyang Choeje. It was most influential and largest monastery in the world with 10,000 monks in the history. A massive Buddha tapestry is unfurled on hillside during the famous Xuedun Festival every August. We will visit the Monastery’s enormous hall with thousands of silk-bound scriptures covering 1,800-sqm (5,906-sqft) of wall space.
Lhasa Thangka Hotel **** (B, L, D)
Day 4: Lhasa
This morning we join the many pilgrims flocking to Jokhang Monastery, to visit the spiritual center of Tibet. Said to be built over the heart of an evil goddess, the Jokhang is the hub of concentric circles of monasteries emanating out of Lhasa. It was built to commemorate the marriage of the Tang princess Wencheng to King Songtsen Gampo, and houses a pure gold statue of Buddha Sakyamuni brought to Tibet by the princess. As we make the inner circuit around the courtyard, spinning numerous prayer wheels as we go, we are swept up in the energy of the devout.
Barkhor Street: is essentially a pilgrim circuit (kora) that proceeds clockwise around the periphery of the Jokhang Temple. It is also a hive of market activity, an astounding pilgrim jamboree.
After lunch, we take a short drive to the outskirts of Lhasa, where Sera Monastery sits at the foot of the mountains. One of the three main Gelupka Order monasteries in Lhasa, Sera is an important spiritual center for Buddhist monks. Inside the monastery, we stroll among the vast temples and college complexes, and mingle freely with monks going about their daily duties. We then proceed to the debating courtyard, where we watch nearly a hundred monks hone their debating skills in an elaborate clapping ceremony.
If we have time, we could check out Chak Pori Hill Rock Carving. This is a small but hidden corner of Lhasa, features over thousands of rock carvings, where participants could experience Tibetans daily Buddhist ritual practice and huge piles of Mani (Buddhist scripture) stones.
Lhasa Thangka Hotel **** (B, L, D)
Day 5: Lhasa to Gyantse
This morning we drive to Gyantse, and first visit Samye Monastery. About 170 km southeast of Lhasa, the Yarlung valley is considered to be the birthplace of Tibetan culture. By the bank of Yarlung Tsangpo River, Samye Monastery was situated and founded in AD 775 by King Trisong Detsen as the first monastery in Tibet.
By stopping at the holy lake of Yamdrok Tso (4408 m high). We enjoy the unforgettable vista of its prince-shaped expanse of turquoise water, with the mysterious Mt. Donang Sangwari (5,340m) on the peninsula beyond, and the snow peaks of Nojin Gangzang (7,191m) in the distance.
We continue our drive to Gyantse, a laid-back, attractive town offering a splendid sight of the Kumbum sputa situated at its Northern edge. Housed within the compound of the rather barren looking Pelkor Chode Monastery, Kumbun consists of 8 levels and contains a total of 75 chapels with wonderful murals revered by art scholars around the world.
Dzong, this old ruin fort towers above Gyantse and has amazing views of the neighboring sights and surrounding valley. In 1904, British troops climbed over Himalayas to get to Gyantse, local Tibetan citizen fought with British soldiers for 3 months. The legend battle at Dzong lasted 3 days. You can learn more from a Chinese movie “Red River Valley”.
Local best available Gyantse Hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 6: Gyantse to Shelkar
Today, we take our journey from Gyantse to Shelkar. Shelkar, also known as New Tingri, is the last stop before Everest Base Camp. Refresh yourself here and don’t forget to wash your dusty face.
On the way, we stop at the second largest town in Tibet and the traditional capital of Tsang - Shigatse for lunch. Shigatse has long been an important trading town and administrative center. The Tsang King exercise their power here. Since the Mongol sponsorship of the Gelukpa order, Shigatse has been the seat of the Panchen Lama, who is traditionally based in Tashilhumpo Monastery.
We also would take a detour to visit Sakya Monastery is located in 160 km southwest of Shigatse at an altitude of 4280m. The immense, grey, thick-walled principle monastery of Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism is one of Tibet’s most impressive constructed sights, established in 1073 by the founder of Sakya order, as the first monastery of Sakya order. Sakya is well known for its ancient artifacts and handwritten canon. In Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan praise Sakya Order is the national highest respected religion genre. Sakya order reached its prime time in 13 century.
Local best available Shelkar Everest Hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 7: Shelkar to Rongbu to Saga
Although it’s just 100 km from Shegar to Base Camp (5,200 m), it takes about 3-4 hours since the cracked winding roads demand much caution. Early this morning, we have breakfast and drive to a peak to photograph the Himalayan mountain range including peaks over 8,000 meters, Makalu (8,463 m), Mt. Lhotse (8,515 m), Mt. Qomolangma (8,844.43 m), Mt. Cho Oyu (8,201 m), Mt. Xixiabangma (8,012 m) at sunrise.
When we finally walk 1 km to get to Base Camp, the first sight of the mighty Everest simply leaves you speechless. All the hardship you bear along the way makes sense at this while. We also visit the Rongbu Monastery (5,020 m) – the world highest monastery!
Today, we drive 300 km along the Himalayan mountain range to Saga via Pelku Lake and Shishapangma Mountain Peak (8,012 m) – the 14th highest mountain in the world and the only mountain over 8,000 meters purely located inside T.A.R.
Local best available Saga Hotel or Western Post Hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 8: Saga to Purang
Today, today we drive 550 km to visit Purang that the border town with Nepal and India. We photograph Lake Manasarovar and Mt.Kailash (6,656 m) en route.
Local best available Purang Hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 9: Purang to Mt. Kailash
This morning, we visit the international border market if our travel permit goes through, where local people bargaining with international traders from Nepal and India.
Afterwards, we visit a local monastery, then we drive 150 km to photograph Mt. Kailash, the heart of the world! Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and original ancient Tibetan religion - Bonism all believe Mt. Kailash is the heart of the world. Every spring, there are thousands of believers from India, Neal and Tibetan area to visit here for pilgrimage. Mt. Kailash is the main mountain peak of Gangdise Mountain range, it is also the source of four major rivers of Ngari, includes Peacock River (one of the major tributary of the Indian Ganges River), and the Shiquan River that flows into Kashmir.
Local best available Himalaya Gangrinpoche hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 10: Mt. Kailash
This morning, we would join the pilgrims to walk 3 km to visit and photograph Qugu Monastery. Local Tibetan people visit and do the pilgrim around this holy monastery. Today is a good opportunity for portrait photography. Especially for local women, called Purang Ladies, their dress is different from other part of T.A.R, called peacock dress. A hat with unique shape, full with coral and pearl, skirt made of colorful local woolen fabric with goatskin. If lucky, we also would meet and photograph the yak carriers that big and strong yaks carry pilgrim‘s food and tent for a month.
Local best available Himalaya Gangrinpoche hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 11: Kailash to Tsanda
After morning photograph around Mt. Kailash, we drive 250 km to Tsanda. We take a quick visit and photograph Ruin of Guge Kingdom. Guge Kingdom was originated from Zhang Zhung Kingdom that started from 9th century, and ends in 17th century. In 847 AD, as the collapse of Tubo Dynasty, lamas and other religious leaders moved westward to Zhang Zhung. Became the paradise of Buddhism during the warring time. 350 years ago, how Zhang Zhung people was disappeared overnight, although we could find some bodies was buried in nearby mountain caves, and why there is no any descendant of Zhang Zhung or documentary record, still is a myth.
If we have time, we check in hotel, we drive back to photograph Tsanda Earthen Forest under the sunset. This area was a huge lake over 500 square kilometers in a million years ago. Among the crustal movement, the lakebed is out of water. After million years of weathering by wind and rain, Tsanda yellow soil was shaped looks like all kinds of different subjects.
Local best available Tulin Castel hotel *** (B, L, D)
Day 12: Tsanda to Shiquanhe
Early this morning, we photograph Tsanda Earthen Forest again at sunrise. We then drive 250 km to Sengye Khabup (Shiquanhe) district of Ngari. Finally we could have a relax afternoon after dusty and rough days.
Local best available Ali Grand Hotel **** (B, L, D)
Day 13: Fly back to Lhasa
We fly back to Lhasa by TV6007 (1040/1235). Rest of the day, we either relax in our resort hotel or walk around and photograph Barkhor old town & Jokhang temple again in late afternoon. Tonight, we have our farewell dinner.
Lhasa Thangka Hotel **** (B, L, Farewell D)
Day 14: Lhasa
Fly home, trip ends. (B)
Please note: Itinerary may be subject to change. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by our local guide.
Arrival, Departure & Visa
Arrival & Meeting Place
Sep 5, 2019–Arrive in Chengdu. First built in 1938, Chengdu Airport is the largest in southwest China. Currently, it has 143 scheduled domestic flight routes to cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xi'an, Kunming, Xining, Lhasa and Nyingchi. It also offers 56 international (regional) flight routes by the end of 2012. International flights include service to cities abroad such as Tokyo, Shanghai (Beijing)-Fukuoka, Osaka, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Katmandu, Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Sydney, Melbourne (Australia), Frankfurt, Delhi and (Beijing)-Paris, as well as regional flights to Hong Kong and Macau.
Sep 18, 2019–Fly home from Llasa. At present, the airport operates 40 more air routes every week to both domestic and international cities.
Domestic Cities: Beijing, Chamdo, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dazhou, Diqing, Fuzhou, Golmud, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Kangding, Kunming, Lanzhou, Lijiang, Mianyang, Nanchong, Nanjing, Nanning, Ngari, Nyingchi, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Xiahe, Xiamen, Xi'an, Xining, Yushu, Zhengzhou
International City: Kathmandu
Chinese embassies will not issue a visa if your passport has less than six months' validity remaining.
Visas & Permits
September is one of the best months for travel to regions far from Lhasa because rainfall decreases, but the weather is still relatively warm and comfortable. Dry air comes in, and the autumn colors appear in the vegetation.
Lhasa is one of the lowest elevation valleys most tourists go to. In Lhasa, the average nightly low temperature is 8 °C (46 °F). The average daily high temperature is 20 °C (68 °F). It feels warmer because the altitude is 3,600 meters (12,000 feet). During the day, it is generally warm and sunny, and the UV radiation is maximumly intense.
Dress in layers for the temperature drop between day and night and the weather extremes as you travel. You might be able to wear shorts and t-shirts in some places during the day, but you'll need a coat at night. You'll need a sun hat, sunglasses, and rain gear. Take a coat and winter gear up to the higher mountain regions.
Oxygen is 2/3 that of sea level or less in most of Tibet. Have a medical check because some conditions are exacerbated. Most people get altitude sickness. Acclimate before heading to higher elevations. Tibet health advice>>
Standard Tibetan is the most widely spoken form of the Tibetic languages. It is based on the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang (Central Tibetan) dialect. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Lhasa Tibetan. Tibetan is an official language of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.
What money does Tibet use? In Tibet, Chinese currency (i.e. CNY or RMB ¥) is universally accepted. If foreign citizens who work or study in China and already have your own Chinese bank cards, it would be extremely easy to get your money from a string of Chinese banks or ATMs in Lhasa city. Chinese banks you can find in Lhasa are Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China.
If this is your first time to Tibet and have no Chinese bank cards, you may be able to exchange your currency from your tour guide. Currency exchange service is also available in some of 4 or 5 star hotels. However, do keep enough cash or change if you travel to remote areas in Shigatse, Shannan, Ngari, Nyingchi, and Nagqu.
Coins Are Not Accepted by Tibetans–If you are planning a Tibet tour, you need to prepare some small change, but not coins because coins are not accepted by Tibetans. The reason why Tibetan people do not coins is not very clear. Different people have different opinions about it, mainly
Before you pay your deposit, please register for this tour
Tour dates: 5 - 18 Sept, 2019
Cost: 6 People $6,950
Cost: 4-5 People $8,800
Single Supplement: $1,100
Internal Flights: $850
Max Group Size: 4 - 6
Photographer: Jeremy Woodhouse
Once you have made your flight arrangements, please fill in the form at the link below
Tour Fee Includes
Tour Fee Does not Include
Paying by check
If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:
605 Rouen Drive,
McKinney TX 75070
Paying by Wire Transfer
If you would like to pay by Wire Transfer please send the funds to the following bank account (please make sure that you cover the fee for the draft).
Please inform us by email once you have sent the draft.
Bank: Wells Fargo Bank, NA
Account #: 4428-000051
Routing #: 121000248
Swift #: WFBIUS6S
Wells Fargo Bank, NA
2851 South Ridge Road
McKinney, TX 75070
Phone: (972) 439-3416
Virtual Private Network
If you want to access an uncensored internet while on the road, you may want to consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN). I use Express VPN. If you decide to use this option,
please use the referral link below.
Also good to have