Depart the United States for Beijing, China. A morning flight wings you to Chongqing, the gateway city for visits to Dazu, Chengdu and onward to Tibet. The first visit on your luxury custom tour is Chongqing, a city etched out of steep granite hills. A hilltop site offers a striking view of the confluence of the Yangtze and Zialing Rivers. Drive across beautiful countryside to Dazu. During the 9th century, when Buddhists were fleeing persecution, they arrived and carved score of unique sculptures and relief’s that can be found across the rock walls, which were carved out of the hillsides. Dazu provides a look at “Old China,” fast becoming a rare sight in this modernizing country.
Begin your morning tour of Chengdu with a drive to the Panda Research facility, where with good luck you may see some of the newly born pandas. Next morning, wing your way to Lhasa, rooftop world of the Tibetan people. Drive along the banks of the Brahmaputra River to the Samye Monastery, built in AD 775. The monastery is filled with colorful statuary and is visited by many devout pilgrims who travel on foot for weeks to reach this site and pay homage.
Three sites in Lhasa play a tremendous role in Tibetan culture. The Potala Palace, formerly the residence of the Dali Lama, the Jokhang Temple, which comprises Tibet’s holiest shrines and the Sera Monastery, which was once home to 10,000 lamas. As one observes the Tibetans at their temples and shrines, one begins to gather a deep respect for the Tibetan religious fervor. A morning drive takes you to Lake Yamdrok-Tso, situated at 14,000 feet and the backdrop for you visit to Gyantse. Your visit to this region results in a magical blend of spectacular topography and mystifying culture, all in a region of the world where the local inhabitants display a strong curiosity.
Drive across the mountain passes to reach the town of Xigatse. En route, pass colorful villages, see prayer flags unfurled to catch the slightest of breezes, together with innumerable monasteries and temples filled with what appears to one as a seemingly endless procession of devout pilgrims. Left alone by the Red Guard Movement, Xigatse has retained most of its original art and relics of Tibetan culture. Although in a remote district of Tibet, the wealth provided by its tourist purse has modernized the city.
Return to Lhasa on a different route, exposing more of the stunning topographical beauty of this remote land. Upon returning to Lhasa, complete your exploration of the city with a visit to the former summer palace at Norbuylingka and one of the more interesting monasteries cared for solely by local nuns. All too soon the holiday has drawn to a close and it will be time to board your flight homeward.
Embark on a unique journey to the previously inaccessible country once known as "Shangri-La": Tibet. With altitudes ranging from 11,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level, this really is a country at the "Roof of the World," nestled among the towering Himalayan Mountains.
Most of the country is too arid to support life, so eighty percent of Tibetans live on a narrow strip of fertile steppe land. Even there, the high altitudes and brutal winters make life precarious.
Soaring 11,850 feet above sea level, the city of Lhasa is the religious, cultural, and economic hub of Tibet. The prize attractions of Lhasa are the Potala Palace, a thirteen-story, thousand-room structure that once served as the seat of Tibetan government and the winter palace of the Dalai Lama; and the Jokhang temple, a massive three-story shrine that dates back to the 7th century A.D. Jokhang is filled with Buddhist murals and statues and is the holiest shrine in Tibet. A circular street, Barkhor, rings the temple where, among a bustling marketplace, you can find pilgrims walking clockwise around Jokhang and prostrating themselves.
Excursions into the countryside bring magnificent panoramas of the Himalayas, the tallest mountains on Earth. The road from Lhasa to Gyantse leads through Ganbala Pass, bringing views of the spectacular turquoise lake, Yamdrok-Tso.
Xigatse was once the capital city of Tibet. It was largely untouched by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and many of its cultural treasures remain intact. It houses several picturesque monasteries as well as an open-air market where visitors can buy native handicrafts, Chinese porcelain, and rare foodstuffs such as yak butter.
The experienced guides at First Cabin Travel will help you navigate the high-altitude wonders of Tibet, preparing you with insider travel tips (such as bring a flashlight to illuminate un-improved shrines) to make your stay enjoyable and memorable.