Prayer flags flutter on wind-swept passes, jagged snow-capped Himalayan peaks touch cobalt skies, plains of green barley and yellow canola shoulder treeless brown slopes and mountain monasteries echo the chants of monks. The sights and sounds of Tibet are fantastic and, for many, magnetic.
Kathmandu is our rendezvous point, where we spend a day touring before taking a spectacular Himalayan flight to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. To help us acclimatize, we leisurely explore Tsedang and the burial site of the ancient kings. On our way to Lhasa, we visit Tibet’s first monastery, Samye, on the shore of the braided channels of the Yarlung Tsampo, the world’s highest river. In Lhasa, we see the towering 1,000-room Potala, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama. As revered as the Potala is massive, we visit the religious sanctuaries of Sera, Drepung and the Jokhang, Tibet’s most religious structure. In the streets of Lhasa, we can walk with friendly Tibetan pilgrims around one of the holiest paths in Tibet, the Barkhor.
The journey continues to Gyantse and Shigatse, via the 14,600 foot Karo La Pass, overlooking Yamdrok Lake far below. In Gyantse, the Kumbun Pagoda is open for the curious who want to view its 1,000 Buddhas. In Shigatse, we wander through the buildings and narrow walks of Tashilhumpo Monastery and observe the beautiful paintings and funerary pagodas of former Panchen Lamas.
On clear days, Mount Everest, or as the Tibetans call it, Chomolongma — Mother of the Earth — is visible on the horizon, surrounded by some of the world’s mightiest peaks. Leaving the plateau, we descend through the Himalayas. The land becomes greener as we head into the Kathmandu Valley, concluding one of the world’s great overland journeys.