Overland Across the Roof of the World via Kailash, Everest, and Lhasa with Roger Williams

Overview

From the ancient Silk Road oasis of Kashgar to the towns and monuments of the Tibetan Plateau, unveil a world of adventure on this exclusive overland expedition with veteran Trip Leader Roger Williams, renowned for his epic journeys on the Asian continent. Our journey brings us into the Taklamakan Desert in China’s Xinjiang Province and across the Kun Lun Mountains, then traverses the Tibetan Plateau to the holy city of Lhasa. Along the way we revel in a spectacular view of Mount Kailash, among the most sacred pilgrimage destinations in the world, whose remoteness and stellar beauty are reasons enough to come here. But for devotees of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bon, this holy mountain is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for all practitioners of these faiths. We also stop at the ancient Tibetan Kingdom of Guge and stay overnight by sacred Manasarovar Lake. We head to Mount Everest for spectacular views of its mighty North Face, and visit the southern Tibetan cites of Gyanste and Shigatse before continuing on to the mysterious city of Lhasa. Our journey ends with a spectacular flight over the massive Himalayan range to the ancient kingdom of Nepal. In Kathmandu, we have three full days to explore this city of gold-roofed temples and bustling bazaars. Although our accommodations will be basic and the roads will be rough, the rewards will more than make up for the inconveniences we might experience along one of the most remote drives in the world.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-6, Sep 1- 6, 2018
Kashgar, China / Along the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway

In Kashgar, a desert oasis with an end-of-the-world feeling, we visit the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar to experience the ancient Silk Road spirit, and enjoy dinner at a local Uygur family’s courtyard home. Setting off on our overland journey, we drive along the southern edge of the vast Taklamakan Desert, then out along the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, crossing several high passes and enjoying the stunning views of the Kunlun and Karakorum mountain ranges as we go. Reaching the territory of Tibet Autonomous Region, we’ll have the chance to see and photograph the mighty pyramid of K2 (28,253’), the second highest mountain in the world (weather permitting), before arriving in Shiquanhe Town, the capital of Ngari and the axis of transportation, cultural exchange, and border trade in western Tibet.

Days 7-11, Sep 7-11, 2018
Zanda County / Mount Kailash / Lake Manasarovar / Saga County

We savor views of snow-covered mountains as we head to Zanda County, the heartland of one of Tibet’s ancient cultures, the Zhang Zhung civilization from around 1000 BC. Here we explore Torling Monastery (“Flying Monastery”), once Ngari’s most important monastic complex, then drive through the extensive Zanda Earth Forest, a National Geological Park with landscapes reminiscent of the American Southwest. From Darchen, the starting point of pilgrimage around Mt. Kailash, we’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the holy mountain and can take an optional easy hike below its flanks. Our journey continues to Lake Manasarovar (15,060’), with its clear blue and emerald-green waters. We pass nomads in their black yak-hair tents surrounded by their herds of shaggy yaks on our way to Saga town, a hub for pilgrims.

Days 12-17, Sep 12-17, 2018
Rongbuk Monastery / Everest Base Camp / Tibetan Plateau

A long drive brings us to spectacularly situated Rongbuk Monastery (16,500’), acclaimed as the highest monastery in the world. A motorable road brings us up to Everest Base Camp (16,900’) for stunning views of the sheer North Face of the world’s highest peak. The Rongbuk Glacier is an impressive frozen river of ice, and panoramas of the glacier with Everest as a backdrop are some of the most dramatic in all the Himalaya. We continue across the Tibetan Plateau, with stops in Shegar (14,100’), where the imposing ruins of the fortress of Shegar Dzong rise precipitously up a triangular-shaped hill above the town, Shigatse, with its gold-topped Tashilhunpo Monastery, the historic outpost of Gyantse, and Yamdrok Tso (“Jade Lake”), a holy lake and a site of pilgrimage.

Days 18-20, Sep 18-20, 2018
Lhasa and the Lhasa Valley

We have three full days to explore Lhasa, joining pilgrims who gather at the candle-lit altars at the Jokhang (Tibet’s most sacred temple), walking in the Barkhor, a pilgrimage circuit that encircles the Jokhang, experiencing the breathtaking wonder of the Potala Palace, begun by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645, and visiting some of the massive monasteries of the Lhasa Valley. We also drive out of Lhasa to the splendid Tsurphu Monastery in Doilungdeqen County, where we meet with monks who are learning sutras.

Days 21-26, Sep 21-26, 2018
Kathmandu

A scenic flight whisks us over the Himalaya to Kathmandu, where the ancient past lingers in a maze of narrow streets crowded with turmeric sellers, small golden temples, wandering cows, and traditional workshops. We explore 2,000-year-old Swayambhunath, whose all-seeing eyes of the Buddha gaze out at the world and keep watch over the Kathmandu Valley, and Patan, a venerable city of artists dating from around 300 AD that has more Buddhist and Hindu temples than Kathmandu itself. Pashupatinath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple and a pilgrimage destination for millions of Hindus from all over the world, and Bodhnath is a 1,400-year-old stupa that attracts pilgrims from across Buddhist Asia. After visiting the sights of Bhaktapur, we head to Dhulikhel Mountain Resort. Set at an altitude of 5,500 feet on the Kodari Highway leading to Tibet, the small town of Dhulikhel provides a uniquely panoramic perspective of the Himalayas—from Everest in the east to the Annapurna range in the west. Depart on Day 26 via Kathmandu.

Highlights

Highlights

Overland journey across the remote world of the Tibetan Plateau, with its soaring peaks and cobalt skies
Explore the ancient Silk Road marketplace of Kashgar
Visit Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, and the holy lake of Yam Drok Ü Tso, a pilgrimage site
View the icy ramparts of the stupendous North Face of Everest from Rongbuk Monastery
The temples and monasteries of the holy city of Lhasa
Explore Kathmandu’s bustling bazaars and gold-roofed temples

Details

Length: 26 days
Cost From: $12,995  
Arrive: Kashgar, China
Depart: Kathmandu, Nepal
Lodging: 20 nights hotels, 5 night basic guesthouses
Meals: All meals included except 3 lunches and 3 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Cultural exploration and walking tours, rugged road travel at high elevation