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How to Prepare for Trekking in Tibet

Besides basking in the Tibetan Buddhist charm while embracing the authentic natural beauty, trekking is also in demand in Tibet tourism. The tourists are no doubt attracted to the several trans-Himalayan mountain ranges and the steep mountain peaks in Tibet for trekking and hiking. Moreover the religious sentiments attached with several peaks and places in Tibet and the famous kora ceremony, demand the trekking of some beautiful high altitude regions in Tibet.

Trekking in Tibet

Famous Trekking Sites in Tibet

Known as the ‘roof of the world’, Tibet is situated with an average altitude of above 4000m. The Qinghai-Tibet plateau, on which Tibet is situated, is the highest plateau in the world. It occupies an area, which is almost four times the area of France. It is observed that the great treks of Tibet approach the Himalayan ranges that surround it, from the north. Thus the trekking in Tibet provides a completely different view from those provided by Nepal and India. This is mainly because, in the latter two countries the trekking of the Himalayan ranges take place from the direction of south. The six greatest trekking sites in Tibet are -

1. The Advanced Everest Base Camp Trek

The Everest Advance Base camp trek is a world class trek. The trek includes approximately eighteen days of trekking. The whole trek involves a very high elevation and a harsh weather. The Everest advanced base camp is situated at a high altitude of 6500m. The high altitude therefore makes it a very challenging trekking tour. For the high altitude, it is also known as the highest trek in the world.

The possible itinerary for the trekking of Mount Everest base camp is-
• First visit Lhasa, the largest city in Tibet. Stay in Lhasa for minimum three to four days in order to acclimatize the body for high altitude trek. Visit in Lhasa the various spots of tourists interest like Potala Palace, Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery , Barkor Square and the Jokhang Temple.
• From Lhasa drive to the Everest base camp and the Rongbuk Valley. Stay there for three days to enjoy the place and acclimatize the body. The distance between Lhasa and Everest base camp is almost 627m by road. You can visit the Yamdrok Lake and then can cross the passes like Karo La Pass (5000m). You can also visit Gyantse village known for its massive hilltop fortress.
•From Gyantse village, visit Shigatse. There is located the famous Tashilhunpo Monastery. Ask your guide to purchase the tickets of Everest Nature Reserve. Located at a distance of 122km from Shigatse is the Rongphu Monastery. You can spend the night is Everest tent houses also.
• From Shigatse visit to Lotingri. From Lotingri drive to Lungchang and then trek to Lungchang Pang. The time taken will be three hours.
• From Lungchang Pang to Panga La Thang trekking is needed via the Nam La pass. Time taken will be five to six hours.
• From Panga La Thang trek to Rongbuk and the Everest Base camp. Time taken will be four to five hours. It is approximately 22km from Everest base camp to the advanced camp.
• From Everest Base Camp the journey gets hindered by camping in the intermediate camps.
• After that, journey to Chagatse base camp. Time taken will be three to four hours, distance being 7km.
• From Chagatse base camp, trek to the Everest Advance base camp. Time taken will be four hours.
• Enjoy the trek and the stay with authentic Tibetan butter tea and the hot noodles and roasted Barley.

2. Mount Kailash Trek

The Mount Kailash trek is also famously known as the kora journey. It is a circular clockwise movement around the place they hold sacred. As they attach religious sentiments with Mount Kailash, therefore the trekking around it is mainly the kora route. The trekking in Kailash draws as many trekkers and hikers as pilgrims, sometimes the latter being more in number. Though it is a mesmerizing trekking tour, it is equally difficult and challenging. The trek includes around 4 day journey around Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. The average altitude of this trekking is almost 5000m with the Manasarovar lying at an altitude of almost 4590m.

On the trekking route the pilgrims and the trekkers will witness about five temples around Mount Kailash. The best time to do the trekking is May to October, when the temperature remains usually high and the climate is warmer. The itinerary for the route is simple as directly from Lhasa or Kathmandu, Mount Kailash can be visited by four day driving. Then the trekking starts and the kora are also famously known as the ‘Char Dham Yatra’. The trekkers have to be very careful about their health and he documents. It is in total a 52km circuit that might take four days to complete the journey. However with the pilgrims, their journey might get delayed to fifteen days.

3. Gyama Valley Trek

The Gyama Valley trek is considered to be the favourite of an adventurous trekker. Due to certain political and geographical issues, this trekking route was closed. However, owing to popular interest, it has again been opened. Located on the eastern slope of Mount Everest, Gyama Valley along with Gyirong Valley, Zhangmu valley and Ya dong valley is known as the ‘four great valleys’. It is extremely appealing because of the orchard valley, situated within it. While trekking this valley, the trekkers will also get a chance to view Mount Everest. The best time to trek this valley is from April to June and September to October. The highest point in the trek is Shauwala Pass at 4900m.

The trek takes almost eight days to get completed. The possible itinerary is -

• The Gyama valley trek starts at Tingri. It is observed in Tibet that foreign travelers are not allowed to take regular buses. Therefore the best option is to take a car. Drive to Tingri, either from Shigatse which will take almost six to seven hours or from Lhasa, which will take eleven to twelve hours. The trekking route comprises of Chutang village to Youpa village to Shangchun and then to an unnamed glacier. From there, travel to Gabatso lake. From Gabatso lake to Tsola is trekked, followed by a trekking to the wooden house. From Wooden House (4500m) trekking is done up to Tsokuotso Lake, followed by another trekking to the age of Garma Tsangbo river. The camping place is Nesangba then further trekking is done to Showomi. From here, Kuolapo is reached. Then again from Kuolapo to Chentang Village, 15km trekking is done. From the Chentang village, again trek to Mountain pass followed by a trek to Kundinma to Tashi Raga to Riwo (4500m).

4. Tsurphu to Yangpachen Trek

This famous trek begins at Tsurphu Monastery and ends in the Yangpachen Monastery, located in the windswept valley of Yangpachen. The route crosses several high valleys before reaching to its destination point. Further on the way, the trekkers can witness an amalgamation of cultural and wild activities. Further the high altitude trek provides the appropriate essence of Tibetan altitude. The route includes a view of the serene alpine tundra, mountains and peaks, several monasteries and an ancient nunnery. April to October is considered to be the best time to do trekking in this route. The trek begins at an altitude of 4300m in Tsurphu monastery and ends at an altitude of almost 4500m at the Yangpachen valley.

The trek takes a total of nine days, making the travelers journey through the Buddhist and scenic charm of Tibet. The itinerary of the route can be -
• Lhasa to Nenang monastery to Tsurphu monastery. Camping can be done here.
• Tsurphu monastery to Leten via trekking. Distance covered is 11km and time taken will be four hours.
• Leten to Bartso. Distance covered is 15km and time taken will be five to six hours.
• Bartso to Dorje-Ling nunnery. Distance covered will be 15km and time taken is three to four hours.
• Dorje-Ling nunnery to Yangpachen monastery.
• The travelers will also come across the famous Yangpachen hot spring on the way.

5. Ganden to Samye Trek

The Ganden to Samye trekking route in Tibet is considered to be the most popular. It is a beautiful route beginning from Ganden Monastery, one of the famous Gelugpa Monasteries and ends in Samye Monastery. The trekking route includes beautiful alpine scenic views and the trekkers come across various lakes, nomads, birds and even green meadows. The journey usually continues for four to five days. It begins at an altitude of 4180m in Ganden Monastery and passes over altitudes like 5250m in Shogu-La pass. Ultimately it reaches at the altitude of 3540m at Samye Monastery. This ascent and descent in the trekking route makes it the extremely challenging hiking for the pilgrims and the tourists.The best time to do the trekking is from mid-May to mid-October.

The itinerary can be followed accordingly -
• Travel from Lhasa to Ganden. Then from Ganden visit the Tsunshi village. Arrange for yaks and set off to Yam-Do by trekking. The time required is two to three hours and the journey comprises of 7km.
• From the above location, trek to Tsotup Chu Valley. The distance is about 10km and the time taken is five to six hours.
• From there, journey to Herder’s camp. The distance is 14km and the time taken is five to six hours.
• From there travel to Yamalung. You can also see Yamalung hermitage and Changtang village. Distance covered is 36km. time required is almost seven hours.
• From there visit the Samye monastery.

6. Shalu to Nartang Trek

Shalu to Nartang trek route is the best short trekking route in Tibet. The journey gets easily completed in three to four days. The journey starts from the historically famous Shalu monastery and ends in Nartang monastery. On the way various villages and monasteries like Ngor monastery can be witnessed. It also covers Upper Lungsang. The journey starts at an altitude of 3980m at Shalu monastery and reaches finally at an altitude of maximum 5000m in Nartang monastery. On the way, trekkers will also come across dry uninhibited canyons. The best time to trek this route is the beginning of April to end of October.

The trek usually consists of the following paths given with approximate time and distance -
• First travel from Gyantse to Shalu. Camping is done over here.
• Then from Shalu trek to Upper Lungsang. Trekking involves 13km distance and the approximate time required is five hours.
• Then the journey of trekking is continued towards Ngor monastery from Upper Lungsang. Distance required to be travelled is 8km and time taken is three to four hours. Usually camping is done at this point.
• Then from Ngor monastery to Nartang monastery. Distance travelled is 18km and time taken is six hours almost. This is the easiest route for Shalu to Nartang trek. The return journey takes place as is planned by the tourist guide.

Other Trekking Points

The altitude of Mount Shishapangma is immense, reaching up to 8000m. However the base camp trek ensures trekking up to an altitude of 4980m. The trek is one of great pleasure and adventurous. A glimpse of the world’s greatest mountains can be acquired in this trek. Other than this trek, there are several other trekking points like the Mount Everest Base Camp trek, Nyenchen Tanglha to Holy Lake-Namtso trek, the Pai to Motuo trek, including the view of the famous Hidden Lotus Temple in Eastern Tibet. It is necessary that a well knowledgeable and well versed guide is taken for each and every trek. The guide or the Sherpa will help accessing the various trek points and also knowing the easiest and shortest routes.

Important Documents to Be Taken

The Chinese visa is the most important document that should always be kept at hand along with the passport. Another most important requirement for Tibet tour is the Tibet Travel permit or the Tibet Visa. It was a popular belief that this permit holds no significance in Tibet tour. However this notion is completely wrong. The cost of this permit is different for different countries and unlike visa; it does not have a date of expiry, but your Tibet tour itinerary is well written on it.

Tibet Travel Permit

All people are allowed to have a Tibet Travel Permit except journalists, government officials and diplomats. No permit is required to leave Tibet, however entry to certain other cities requires special permit card. For example, camping at the base of Mount Everest requires Alien’s Travel Permit. If you want to do Mt. Kailash kora, apart from the Tibet Travel Permit, Military Area Entry Permit is also needed.

How to Get a Tibet Travel Permit

For the Tibet Travel permit, following documents are required to have the entry -

• The Chinese Visa and a passport that is valid for six months

• A properly scanned copy of the passport with the photo, date of issue and passport number.

• A properly scanned copy of the Chinese visa.

• The itinerary of the travel sites and trekking points. A tentative itinerary will also do.

Besides the Tibet Travel Permit there are two other travel permits named The Alien Travel Permit, required to visit the restricted trekking routes and the Military Permit, required if the tourists are trekking to sites occupied by the militaries. The Alien Travel Permit can be acquired only after entering Tibet as along with the passport and Chinese Tourism Visa, the T.T.P is required.

Packing List for Trekking in Tibet

Trekking is very interesting and adventurous. But it is likely to be equally dangerous if proper measures are not taken or certain rules and principles are not followed. The accessories for trekking should be carefully chosen and packed. The packing list for trekking include -

For clothes -
• Enough warm clothes and woolen clothes.
• Casuals should also be taken in adequate measures and preferably of cotton.
• Trekking trousers and trekking shoes.
• Polar fleece sweater, wind fleece gloves also ensures absolute protection.
• Rain proof coats and trousers.
• Scarf and woolen hats.
• Cotton socks as well as woolen socks.
• Gloves
• Windproof jackets and trousers.
• Thermal inners as well as casual inners.
• Gaiters
• Synthetic or down insulated jacket to sustain -7 degree centigrade.

Other trekking accessories -
• Sunscreens of SPF 35 (minimum) and sunglasses.
• Moisturizers and lip balms.
• Torch or head lamp
• Trekking sticks if possible
• Umbrellas
• Money pouch which is safer than wallets for keeping passports and important documents.
• First aid box which must include bandage and antiseptic cream, including other necessary items.
• Tissue paper(enough)
• Water purification tablets.
• Plastic bags (enough)
• Camera and spare batteries both for camera and the torches.

Personal items -
• A set of two towels
• Wet tissues.
• Sachets of shampoo and soap.
• Toilette kit containing toothbrush, tooth paste and comb.
• Sewing kit (if possible)
• Medicines of all types.
• Nail clippers
• Cotton plugs

Food items -
• Cooked food if possible should be taken.
• Lots of water
• Dry foods like nuts,chocolate bars, candies and dried fruits.
• Take those foods that will help to keep you energetic without making you feel giddy.