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How to Plan a Mount Kailash Pilgrimage from Chennai

For anyone traveling to Tibet from Chennai in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, there are two options: you can travel as an ordinary tourist , or you can go to Tibet to visit Mount Kailash for the Yatra as a pilgrim . However, these two options, while providing several different routes for travelers, have very different ways of obtaining the required visas and permits to travel to the region at the roof of the world.

For ordinary Indian tourists, who are not intending to travel to the region of Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture, the requirements are the same as for any other tourist from any other country. However, for Indians traveling to Mount Kailash, even if they are not there as pilgrims, they are always counted as being pilgrims, and have a different procedure for obtaining the required documents, which cannot be done by a normal, tour operator.

Find the Right Travel Agency to Book Your Mt.Kailash Tour

The first thing to do is to find a good and reliable tour operator that can help you plan your trip to Mount Kailash. Currently, a tour to Mount Kailash for Indian citizens can only be operated by two organizations: The Foreign Affairs Office of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which is a government organization in Lhasa; and the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center, known also as simply the “Pilgrim center”, which is a non-government organization, also in Lhasa.

While only those two organizations can handle the actual tour - including the travel, accommodation, itineraries, transport, and guides, certain approved agencies are allowed to offer advisory services. We are able to offer a completely free consultancy service to Indian nationals that are traveling to Mount Kailash as pilgrims.

To find a good tour operator, the best option is to check their online profile, using such websites as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, which have actual real reviews from previous customers that are wholly un-biased. Our professional team of advisors can help you with all the details of your tour, where you want to go and when, and give advice on the best options for the tour you want to take. However, once you have decided on your tour and the best itinerary for you, you will need to book the actual tour with the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center and the Foreign Affairs office, through the Pilgrim Center.

Travel Documents Needed for Chennai Travelers Visiting Mt. Kailash from Nepal

Tourists traveling from Chennai to Mount Kailash are required to have their tour and visa/permit applications approved by all the relevant departments of the Tibetan local government, including: The Foreign Affairs office of the TAR; the Tibet Military Regional Office; the Armed Police Tibet Frontier Corps; and the Department of Public Security for the TAR.

The visa for getting to Tibet remains the same, i.e. Tibet Travel Permit. In addition, after you arrive in Lhasa, we will help you get Alien’s Travel Permit and Military Permit and Foreign Affairs Permit and Frontier Pass to be qualified to visit Mt.Kailash, which is irrelevant of which route you take to get to Mount Kailash.

The sample of Alien’s Travel Permit, we will help you get it after you arrive in Lhasa

Decide Your Best Means of Travel to Mt.Kailash

There are several ways to get from Chennai to Mount Kailash, including travel by air or by road, though the air travel route is actually a combination of both.

Travel from Chennai to Mt.Kailash by Air

You have several choices of travel by air. You can travel to China and then on to Lhasa to get to Mount Kailash by road, which is a long journey, or you can travel to the Ngari Gunsa Airport, in Ngari Prefecture at Shiquanhe, and then travel south by road to Mount Kailash. The route from Shiquanhe is shorter by a long stretch, and can cut more than two days of the travel time as opposed to traveling from Lhasa by road.

Alternatively, you can head to Nepal first, and travel by flight to Lhasa . Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from India to Lhasa, and the only international airport with direct flights to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport is the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal.

From Lhasa, you then have the choice of traveling by road to Mount Kailash , or flying to Gunsa Airport in Ngari Prefecture and traveling south to the sacred mountain by road from Shiquanhe. If you are traveling by road to Mount Kailash, you will start with a tour of Lhasa first, seeing the stunning sights of the Jokhang Temple , the Potala Palace , and much more, before heading out on the road to Shigatse. On the way, you pass the stunning Yamdrok Lake and through the city of Gyantse, home of the Pelkor Chode Monastery , with its stunning, 32-meter Kumbum Stupa, one of a kind in Tibet. After visiting the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, you will normally head to Mount Everest Base Camp and Rongbuk Monastery, before heading north to pass through Saga, and finally to Darchen, at the foot of Mount Kailash.

While it is possible to travel by flight to Ngari Gunsa Airport to get to Kailash from the north, it is not the best route to take, as you may be more susceptible to altitude sickness due to the sudden increase in elevation in Ngari Prefecture, which is almost 1,500 meters higher than Lhasa. With no acclimatization possible until you reach Ngari, you would need to spend a day or two acclimatizing before starting your trek around the sacred mountain. You will also miss out on some of the most stunning sights of the Tibetan plateau along the way, such as the Gyantse Kumbum, Mount Everest Base Camp and the amazing views of the world’s highest mountain, and the beautiful scenery along the road to Mount Kailash.

Travel from Chennai to Mt.Kailash by Road

One of the best ways to travel to Mount Kailash is by traveling overland, crossing the border between Nepal and China at the Rasuwa Gadhi/ Gyirong Port border crossing point. The route from Chennai in southern India is a long one that covers a distance of around 2,657 kilometers and will take around 48 hours of constant driving. This means that, if you are driving the whole route, you will need at least five days to get to Kathmandu.

The rest of the route, from Kathmandu to Mount Kailash is much easier, and a much more comfortable route, as you will be traveling in a private vehicle with a guide and driver. One across the border, you will be met by your guide and driver, and taken along the route to Mount Kailash, passing by Lake Paiku and through Saga to get to Darchen.

Travel from Chennai to Mt.Kailash by Rail

Traveling by train in India is the most popular form of transport, and it is easy to get a train from almost anywhere in the country. The best port of entry into Nepal is at the border crossing of Raxaul Junction, which is only around 136 kilometers from Kathmandu. The train route to Raxaul travels along the eastern coast through Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, Bhubaneswar in Odisha, and Anasol Junction in West Bengal, before crossing Jharkhand to Bihar and Raxaul. A total distance of around 2,246 kilometers , it takes around 41 hours to make the trip.

Nepal has no trains that run to Kathmandu, nor is there a train from Gyirong Port to Mount Kailash, so those sections of the journey will need to be done overland by bus and car . Buses run from Birgunj, on the Nepali side of the border from Raxaul regularly, and take around four to five hours to get to Kathmandu. From the Nepali capital, it is around 140 kilometers to Rasuwa Gadhi and the border with China, which can be done by bus in around six hours. On the other side of the border, your guide and driver will be waiting to take you to Saga and Mount Kailash.

The route from Gyirong Port to Mount Kailash is one of the most beautiful roads in Tibet, starting with the beauty of the Gyirong Valley as you pass up it to get to the main road to Saga. The countryside along the road from Gyirong to Saga is one of rare beauty, and passes by Lake Paiku Co, in Burang County. Known as the Emerald Lake, Paiku Co is surrounded by high mountains and lush green meadows, and is a wonderful place to stop and relax for an afternoon.

As you head further to the northwest, the road follows the course of the awesome Yarlung Zangbo River , which will later become the Brahmaputra, one of the longest rivers in Asia. Lying in its beautiful, if a little desolate, valley, the river is fringed by high mountains on both sides, with the Himalayas on the left and the Transhimalaya, the Gangdise Mountains, to your right. The last amazing sight on this route is the freshwater Lake Manasarovar , one of the Great Three Holy Lakes of Tibet and shaped like the sun, and its saline, crescent-shaped sister lake, Rakshastal, the sun and moon, representing good and evil, lying side by side.

How to Budget Your Kailash Tour Cost

If you are working on a budget, then one of the best options for saving money is to join a tour with other people, who will share the cost of the guide, driver, and private vehicle. It is also better to travel in the low and shoulder seasons, as the cost of most things are greatly reduced.

Accommodation, among other things, is often cheaper outside the high season for Tibetan tourism, from May to the end of October, as there are fewer people traveling to Tibet and the hotels and travel agencies offer discounts on rooms and flights. Dining in the best restaurants in Tibet is not going to do your budget any good, either. Choosing where you eat more carefully can help to extend your budget according to your needs. There are plenty of cheap places to eat in Tibet, and the meals are usually well made and nutritious. Try the local cuisine as well, as it is cheaper to buy than western and even Indian cuisine.

Traveling to Nepal and on to Tibet and Bhutan can also be less costly in the lower seasons, as there can be discounts on travel tickets outside the tourist season. Also, when booking a train to Raxaul from Chennai, it is best to book the whole trip on one ticket, which allows you to make your connections without buying another ticket for the next leg of the journey, this can be a lot cheaper than paying for each section of the train journey as you arrive at each connecting station.

Other Dos and Don’ts for Mt.Kailash from Chennai

When traveling from Chennai to Mount Kailash, there area few things to take into consideration for the trip in Tibet. Independent travel is prohibited in Tibet , and whether you are heading there as a tourist or a pilgrim, a tour guide, driver, private vehicle, and organized tour is a requirement. You will also need all of the permits, which can only be applied for through the tour organizer, prior to leaving for the sacred mountain.

The end of February and all of March is a closed period for travel in Tibet for international travelers, whether tourist or pilgrim. The Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, is celebrated in this period, and the Tibet Tourist Bureau and Foreign Affairs office to not issue Tibet Travel permits for this period. It is best to travel before the end of January or once April has started instead.

Tibet, and especially Mount Kailash, is on a high-altitude plateau, and it is important to acclimatize properly when traveling from low altitudes such as Chennai, which is just 7 meters above sea level on the coast of India, to the heady heights of Mount Kailash. Darchen, the start of the trek around the mountain and the holy kora, lies at an elevation of 4,575 meters, over 4,500 meters higher than Chennai. This means that, if you do not acclimatize properly along the route to the sacred mountain, you are increasing the risk of getting severe altitude sickness, which can be potentially fatal.

Depending on what you are traveling to Tibet for, depends on how you are required to travel. If you are going as a tourist, then a normal Tibet tour is possible, as long as your tour does not include Mount Kailash, even if you are not going there as a pilgrim with the intention of performing the ritual kora. However, if you are intending to travel to Kailash, then you will need to book your tour through the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center, and have the visa and permits applied for properly. If you hold an Indian passport, then you will not be permitted to enter Tibet on a normal tourist tour that takes you to Mount Kailash.