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How to Plan a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA

Traveling to Mount Kailash from the United States is a long and arduous journey that requires a long-haul flight to Nepal or China, then either flight, train or overland to get into Tibet. From there, it is an overland journey of several days to get to Mount Kailash itself.

Once you are there, you have the chance to make the three-day trek around the mountain, stopping at monastery guesthouses along the way, and climbing to the highest pass in the area. The road to Kailash is long and arduous, and the trek itself is hard and rugged, over rough terrain. Covering 52 kilometers in three days, this trek is not for the uninitiated high-altitude trekker. If you plan to tour Mt. Kailash from the US, just follow the insider tips made by our Tibetan travel gurus.

Travel Documents Needed for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA

Getting to Mount Kailash does, however, require you to sort out several aspects of Chinese red tape, from the visa to get into China to the permits allowing you to get to the mountain and trek around it. Most of these permits will be applied for by us, once you have booked your Mount Kailash tour, although there are some things that you will need to do yourself.

Tibet Travel Permits

The first thing to do is get the Chinese Entry Visa for your trip to China. Most people traveling to Tibet tend to travel through China, and the visa can be obtained from your local Embassy of the People’s Republic of China. The main embassy in Washington D.C. serves several states, and other consular offices around the country serve other states in groups. The other offices are in: New York, NY; Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Houston, TX. Applications can be done by personal visit, or by mail if you prefer, using the U.S. Postal Service registered mail. A pre-paid return envelope must be provided.

There are also a number of permits that are required for travel to Tibet and Mount Kailash, the first of which is the Tibet Travel Permit. Applied for by us once you have booked your tour, this permit requires a scanned copy of your passport and visa and takes around 20 days to process. After we get your Tibet Travel Permit, we will have it delivered to your hotel in mainland China before you board the flight or Tibet train to Lhasa.

Once you are in Tibet, your Tibetan guide will use your passport and original copy of your Tibet Travel Permit to arrange the Alien’s Travel Permit, Military Permit, and the Frontier Pass, which is required to visit the attractions like Mount Everest and Mount Kailash, and other regions. Your guide will make sure everything is ready before we begin the road trip to the next destination. - Check more details about Mount Kailash Travel Permit

How to Choose the Best Way to Travel to Mt. Kailash from the USA?

Getting from the United States to Tibet requires several journeys, including flights and possibly train travel, as well as the overland journey to Mount Kailash itself. Flights are available from several major American airports, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. There are direct flights from most of these major international airports to airports in China, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Wuhan, as well as indirect flights to many other locations across China. Direct flight prices range from US$ 493 to US$ 845 depending on your departure airport and arrival location in China.

Once in China, there are three choices of how to get to Tibet. The fastest option is by flight from one of several airports that have direct flights to Lhasa. Although the airport in Lhasa is an international airport, it does not accept international flights except from Nepal. Direct flights depart from airports across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi’an, with Chengdu being the most popular airport for Lhasa flights. Flight times range from 90 minutes to 8 hours.

Trains are also available for travel to Tibet and depart from seven gateway cities across China for Lhasa. Starting from Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining, Tibet trains take between 22 and 55 hours to make the trip. If time is of the essence, but you still want to experience the train journey, then a flight to Xining, the closest of the seven gateway cities to Lhasa, and the train from there is the best option.

The third way to travel, for those with the time and money to do it, is the overland route from either Chengdu in Sichuan Province or Xining in Qinghai Province. The two routes cover a distance of around 2,000 kilometers each, and take around 10-12 days to be driven across the plateau to Lhasa.

The route from Lhasa to Mount Kailash is an overland route, being driven along the major roads of the region. Covering a distance of around 1,211 kilometers. The route from Lhasa takes the G318 Friendship Highway through Shigatse before turning more northerly on the G219 National Highway, which takes you to the base of the mountain at Darchen. The trip takes between 5-8 days, depending on what else you wish to see in Tibet, and normally includes a side-trip to Mount Everest Base Camp.

When Is the Best Time for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

When traveling to Tibet, there is no “best time” for the trip, as Tibet is a land that can be traveled to at any time of year. However, if you are planning on traveling to Mount Kailash to walk the three-day kora trek, then you need to visit at certain times of the year when the weather is best suited for high-altitude trekking.

The best weather for trekking is normally found from April to June and September to mid Oct. This tends to avoid the rainy season from June to early September, when there could be more hazards in making the trek, although Kailash does not get much rain even in the monsoon. The winter is not a feasible time to trek either, as the snows can make traversing the high pass impossible. Spring and fall are also the time when the weather is not too hot and the skies are free from covering clouds, making the views even more spectacular than ever. - View the Best Time to Visit Mount Kailash in details

How to Budget the Cost for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

The cost of your trip to Mount Kailash largely depends on the type of travel you intend to use and the time of year that you are traveling. If you are planning on using the shoulder seasons of spring and fall for the trip, then there are very few chances of getting a discount, as these are still busy periods for Tibetan tourism.

Once in China, you do have the chance of budgeting on your hotel and travel costs, by simply choosing the slightly less costly options. Trains are much cheaper than flights for getting to Tibet, with price differences being in the range of hundreds of dollars. Even the train from Guangzhou, the farthest gateway city from Lhasa, is much less costly than taking flight from almost any of the cities with direct flights to Tibet. The most expensive train ticket to Lhasa by train is the first-class soft sleeper from Guangzhou, which, at just US$ 230, is much cheaper than the lowest cost flight at around US$ 280 per person.

Another option is that you can choose cheaper Chinese airliner and combine indirect flight with Tibet train journey from Xining to cut the overall cost for transportation.

Once you are in Tibet, your hotels and breakfast is normally part of your tour package, and we can discuss your options to find you the best hotels in your price range to accommodate almost any budget. Your meals after breakfast, however, are your own expense, except where listed as part of the tour. However, eating in Tibet is not an expensive experience, and you can get away with around 8-10 dollars per day for all your food needs.

Accommodation in Lhasa and Shigatse can be very good, and there are 3 - 5-star hotels available in these major cities. However, once you are out in the remote areas around Mount Kailash, the hostels and guesthouses are a little basic. Hot water is only obtained by boiling it on your request in certain guesthouses, and in some places even cold running water is not available. You should be prepared for the most basic of accommodation and bring a sleeping bag for the cold nights. - Check Tibet Accommodation and Hotels in Lhasa, Shigatse and Kailash

Acclimatization to the Tibetan Plateau from the USA

One of the main things that you need to be aware of when traveling to Tibet is the altitude. With an average elevation of more than 4,000 meters, Tibet is a place where altitude sickness is considered to be normal for many tourists. However, with proper acclimatization, you can avoid the worst of the symptoms of altitude sickness and enjoy your trip more.

It requires a day or two to acclimatize properly to the high altitudes of Lhasa and get ready for the trip to even higher elevations around Mount Everest and Mount Kailash. In order to reduce the risk of severe altitude sickness, you should refrain from strenuous exercise for the first 2-3 days once in Tibet, and rest as much as possible. It is okay to tour some of the sights of Lhasa during this period, as they require little strenuous activity, though you should leave the Potala Palace, with its massive steps, until you are used to the altitude. Once you are acclimatized, you will find it easier to acclimatize to even higher altitudes outside Lhasa, as long as you take it slowly and ascend a little at a time.

Traveling Tibet can also be long and arduous, even in the car or bus with the tour. While 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) may not seen that far to travel in the United States, with the road conditions, landscapes, and altitude of the Tibetan plateau, traveling such huge distances take a lot longer. You may also find that the intense temperature differential between day and night can come as a bit of a shock. It is normal on the plateau for the daytime temperature to be nice and arm, while the temperature at night can drop to below freezing very quickly once it gets dark. So, do bring your down jacket and sweater, and other warmer clothes even in summer in Tibet, esp. when traveling in mountainous regions with extreme altitude.

Suggested Travel Essentials for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA

If you are planning a trip to Mount Kailash to walk the kora route, then you need to ensure that you have the right equipment for trekking at high altitudes. Strong and sturdy hiking boots are essential, and you should break them in before you go if you are buying new ones. Blisters from new boots can be very painful over this rugged terrain. Thick, warm socks are also required, and for warmth, it is best to have many thinner layers of clothes that you can remove or add as your body temperature requires.

A good, arctic sleeping bag will be required for the trek around the mountain, as the places you will be staying at have very little in the way of warm blankets and have no central heating. All the heat comes from the central stove. You may also need to camp if the guesthouses at the monasteries are full, and the campsites nearby are suitable for pitching any kind of tent.

Hats are actually more necessary than you might think. Not only can the hat reduce the heat loss through the top of the head, but it can protect your head from the strong UV A rays of the sun. At this high altitude, the atmosphere’s natural UV filter is greatly reduced, and there is a much higher level of UVA radiation, which can cause severe illnesses. You should also have a good pair of UV B filtering sunglasses or snow glasses for protection of your eyes from ultra-violet sunlight and snow blindness.

The trek around the mountain is rough and arduous, and travels over some very rugged terrain and has some steep climbs. For any experienced trekker, a walking stick or two is an essential part of their equipment, and acts well as an extra support for the rough terrain that you will need to traverse.