Delve into the fascinating world of mountain lore and Tibetan and Nepalese cultures while visiting the fabled cities of Lhasa, Shigatse, and Kathmandu. Take in some of the most magnificent mountain vistas on Earth as we journey overland across the Tibetan Plateau to the North Face Base Camp of Mount Everest and into Nepal.
Depart for Beijing, cross the international date line, and arrive the next evening.
This morning, embark on one of the world's most astonishing flights, crossing the Hengduan Range and three of Asia's greatest rivers—the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze—en route to Lhasa (11,970 feet). Drive to the Holy City, scanning the vast countryside for the first sight of the Potala Palace. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner this evening.
Explore Tibet's two greatest monasteries: Drepung and Sera. Drepung once housed 10,000 monks, and Sera almost as many. If we're lucky, we'll see and hear the monk's lilting, booming chanting of the sutras, or their theatrical debate. Set out on a hike in the afternoon.
Venture up to the Potala Palace and explore the grandest of its myriad rooms. See the jeweled burial chortens of past Dalai Lamas as well as statuary, frescoes, and paintings. Then visit the lovely Jewel Park, where the Dalai Lamas spent their summers, enjoying an informality impossible in the Potala.
Take an excursion to the historic Ganden Monastery, destroyed by China's Red Army in 1966 and now a working monastery once again. Later, visit the Jokhang, Tibet's holiest temple; and wander through the Barkhor, Lhasa's old market.
Our drive to Gyangzê (12,956 feet) traces the turquoise waters of the holy Lake Yamdrok and crosses two spectacular high passes. Stop to view a magnificent hanging glacier, and if you wish, take a short walk for a closer view.
Explore the Pelkor Chode, a complex of monasteries and temples in which all four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism worshipped. Then drive to Shigatse (12,792 feet), home to the immense Tashilunpo Monastery, the seat of Tibet's second highest incarnation, the Panchen Lama. Venture into its warren of chapels and shrines linked by mysterious alleyways and steep staircases. Walk back to the hotel through the town of Shigatse, stopping to browse through the old market.
Take an optional hike from remote Ja Village to Ngor Monastery, crossing the Chak La (14,700 feet). From the pass, the tiny, remote monastery is visible below, and we continue walking another 1,000 feet down to reach it. Those who do not wish to make the five-hour hike can spend the day further exploring Shigatse. As one of Tibet’s larger towns, Shigatse is at a crossroads between its history as an ancient Tibetan settlement and the encroaching modernity of contemporary China.
The scenic drive to Xêgar crosses the Lakpa La (17,121 feet) and provides us with our first glimpse of Mount Everest (weather permitting). Settle into our hotel in the small town of Xêgar (14,268 feet), where the first expeditions to Mount Everest stopped in the 1920s.
From Xêgar, cross the 17,000-foot Pang La. Here, take in a superb vista of ice-capped peaks dwarfed by majestic Mount Everest— described by George Leigh Mallory, who pioneered today's route, as the "prodigious white fang...[rising] from the jaw of the world." Visit Rongbuk Monastery before continuing to the North Face Base Camp of Everest.
Today, journey from the barren Tibetan Plateau toward the lush foothills of Nepal, descending more than 9,000 feet flanked by towering summits. In the border town of Zhangmu, settle into our hotel overlooking the Bhote Kosi river.
Cross the Friendship Bridge from Tibet into Nepal, and continue to the medieval city of Bhaktapur where much of the movie Little Buddha was filmed. Discover ancient temples and palaces adorned with intricately carved wooden windows and latticework. Continue to Kathmandu and settle into our hotel.
Spend today exploring the colorful capital city of Kathmandu. Visit the 2,500-year-old shrine at Swayambhunath. Delve into the bustle of Durbar Square and the Hanuman Dhoka palace complex. View the great Buddhist stupa of Bodhnath, the largest such structure in Nepal. Tonight, celebrate a remarkable journey with a festive farewell dinner.
Depart Kathmandu and connect in Bangkok or Hong Kong for flights home.
When Peter Hillary first climbed Mount Everest in 1990, he and his father, Sir Edmund Hillary—who made the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953—became the first father and son to reach the summit. He reached the summit again in 2002 on a National Geographic-sponsored ascent later featured in the film Surviving Everest. Peter has completed more than 40 mountaineering expeditions and is deeply involved in assistance programs for the people of the Mount Everest region in Nepal.
Peter will join the following departures:
Sep 21 - Oct 06, 2013
Oct 12 - 27, 2013
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $1,550.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare between San Francisco and Beijing and return from Kathmandu is from $1,750. Economy group airfare between Beijing and Lhasa is $450. All airfares are subject to change.
Throughout this expedition, we will be traveling at high elevations. We will spend nine nights at elevations ranging from 12,000 to 14,268 feet and will travel as high as 17,200 feet. A considerable amount of time is spent traveling in four-wheel-drive vehicles over rough, dusty roads. Several optional hikes ascend and descend over uneven terrain. Participants should be physically fit. This expedition is not suitable for anyone who suffers from a respiratory, cardiac, or circulatory disorder or a disability that limits mobility. We will stay at first-class hotels in Beijing, Lhasa, and Kathmandu; and at comfortable yet basic (best available) hotels in Gyangzê, Shigatse, Xêgar, and Zhangmu.