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Tibet and Nepal Photography Expedition

  • Trip Style: Expeditions
  • Trip Type: Land
  • 15 Days | Beijing/Lhasa to Kathmandu
  • Group Size: Max 16

Expedition Details

 

Journey through the Himalaya, from the stark Tibetan Plateau to the verdant foothills of Nepal. In Lhasa, frame the Potala Palace in the golden hues of morning, and listen to the lilting chant of monks during a private butter-lamp-lighting ceremony. Snap portraits of traditional Tibetan dancers at a specially-arranged performance. Venture to the Everest North Face Base Camp to photograph the world’s highest peaks, and delve into the colorful bustle of Kathmandu with your camera.

Trip Highlights

    • Go on morning and evening photo shoots at Lhasa’s legendary Potala Palace, bathed in early light and floodlit against the night sky.
    • Capture images of monks lighting butter lamps in a private ceremony, and photograph traditional Tibetan dancers during a special performance.
    • Catch sunrise on Mount Everest and fill your viewfinder with the world’s highest peaks from Everest North Face Base Camp.
    • Witness the rituals of pilgrims and worshippers during a sunrise visit to the sacred Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu.

Itinerary - 15 Days

Day 1 — Beijing, China

Arrive in Beijing this morning and check in to our hotel.
The Four Seasons Hotel Beijing

Day 2 — Beijing/Lhasa, Tibet

This morning, take a spectacularly scenic flight to Lhasa (11,970 feet), crossing the Hengduan Range and three of Asia’s greatest rivers—the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze. Drive to the Holy City, stopping to photograph the Potala Palace as it appears in the distance, perched beneath soaring peaks. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner this evening.
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Lhasa

Our first photo shoot brings us to three of Tibet’s most important monasteries: Drepung, Pabonka, and Sera. Drepung once housed 10,000 monks, and Sera almost as many. If we are lucky, we’ll hear the monk’s lilting, booming chanting of sutras as we explore Drepung. At Pabonka Monastery, enjoy a picnic lunch and photograph the hermitage buildings and the beautiful views just outside Lhasa. Then visit Sera Monastery to experience the monk’s theatrical debate through your viewfinder. On our return, stop at the Chupsang Nunnery for a chance to capture images of the nuns and their daily rituals.
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Lhasa

Rise early to photograph the iconic Potala Palace in the golden hues of daybreak. Explore the grandest of its myriad rooms, and see the jeweled burial chortens of past Dalai Lamas as well as statuary, frescoes, and paintings. Continue with a visit to the Jokhang, the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. From the rooftop, marvel at the spectacular views of the surrounding Barkhor, Lhasa’s medieval bazaar, and capture images of prostrating worshipers and pilgrims lining up to enter the temple.

In the afternoon, venture into the Barkhor to document the timeless atmosphere of old Tibet. Bargain for thangkas, Tibetan hats and boots, and turquoise jewelry; and interact with the proud, red-tasseled Khampas from eastern Tibet, and the monks, mendicants, and pilgrims who circumambulate the Jokhang.
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Lhasa

Set out on a photo excursion to the historic Ganden Monastery, destroyed by China’s Red Guards in 1966 and now a working monastery once again. Set off on the magnificent, hour-long kora, or circumambulation of the monastery, that offers breathtaking views of the valley below. Then travel north to the peaceful Drak Yerpa hermitage for a special opportunity to photograph the fascinating complex of temples and ancient meditation caves. Return this evening to the Potala Palace courtyard for a photo shoot of the floodlit palace.
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Gyangzê

Heading westward, trace the brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Yamdrok and cross two spectacular high passes, stopping to take photos of a magnificent hanging glacier. Following a picnic lunch and a chance to photograph the striking mountain landscapes surrounding Samding Monastery, arrive this afternoon in Gyangzê (12,956 feet). Historically Tibet's third-largest city, Gyangzê retains an old-fashioned Tibetan ambiance.
Gyangzê Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Gyangzê/Shigatse

Head out in the morning to explore the Pelkor Chode, a complex of monasteries and temples in which all four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism are worshipped. Photograph its impressive centerpiece, the Kum Bum chorten. Meander through the local village capturing images of the traditional Tibetan way of life. In the afternoon, drive to Shigatse (12,800 feet), home to the immense Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the seat of Tibet’s second highest incarnation, the Panchen Lama. With your camera in hand, venture into its maze of chapels and shrines linked by mysterious alleyways and steep staircases. Take a photo walk back to the hotel through the town of Shigatse, stopping to browse through the old market.
Tashi Choe Ta Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Shigatse

Set off on an optional photo hike from remote Ja Village to Ngor Monastery, crossing the Chak La pass (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 take the five-hour hike can spend the day further exploring and documenting everyday life in 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.
Tashi Choe Ta Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Xêgar

The scenic drive to Xêgar crosses the Lakpa La pass (17,121 feet) and provides us with our first photo opportunity 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.
Qomolangma Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Xêgar/Everest North Face Base Camp

Early this morning, set off on a pre-dawn drive to cross the 17,000-foot Pang La pass, and capture the sunrise as it lights up Everest’s majestic face (weather permitting). From here, frame an astonishing panorama of soaring peaks as the Himalayan range spreads out before us, including three of its highest summits: Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu. We descend to Rongbuk Monastery and take photos of its small nunnery, temple, and prayer flags flying in the shadow of Everest. Continue to the North Face Base Camp of Everest, where we may zoom in on climbers preparing to begin their ascent.
Qomolangma Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Xêgar/Shigatse

Returning east from the Everest region, drive approximately six hours back to Shigatse, making stops in small villages and taking in the rugged landscapes of the high plateau along the way.
Tashi Choe Ta Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Shigatse/Lhasa

Resume the drive back to Lhasa via the picturesque northern route, passing through the small town of Yangbajing and traveling over the Shugu La pass (17,254 feet). The scenes along these roads, some of them still unpaved, may look markedly different from life along the paved route taken on the journey west. This evening, photograph traditional Tibetan dancers and enjoy a special dinner overlooking the floodlit Potala Palace (weather permitting).
Four Points by Sheraton Lhasa (B,L,D)

Day 13 — Lhasa/Kathmandu

Return to Lhasa’s Gongkar Airport this morning for a short flight to Nepal. Upon arrival, begin with a photo walk in the heart of the city, Durbar Square, and the Hanuman Dhoka temple complex. Though tragically damaged in the recent earthquakes, many of the temples and palace buildings here still stand, with efforts underway to save and restore them. From Durbar Square, continue to Swayambhunath. Located on a small hill to the west of Kathmandu, the 2,500-year-old shrine at Swayambhunath is a pacific and fascinating mixture of Hindu and Buddhist piety. Looking east, capture images of the entire Kathmandu Valley spread out below. This evening, gather for a festive farewell dinner.
Hotel Yak & Yeti (B,L,D)

Day 14 — Kathmandu

While some travelers return to the airport and begin their return flights home today, the remainder of the group stays in Nepal for a final day of touring. Drive about forty-five minutes east to Kathmandu’s medieval city, Bhaktapur, to photograph ancient temples and palaces adorned with intricately carved wooden windows and latticework. These structures showcase some of the best traditional craftsmanship of the country’s ethnic Newari people. This afternoon, visit two of Kathmandu’s holiest sites, Bodhnath and Pashupatinath. Surrounded by a large Tibetan community, the great Buddhist stupa of Bodhnath is the largest such structure in Nepal. One of the most important Hindu temples in South Asia, Pashupatinath is believed to be an auspicious site to visit before embarking on a journey.
Hotel Yak & Yeti (B,L,D)

Day 15 — Kathmandu

Depart Kathmandu for your flights home.
(B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Ami Vitale

Ami VitaleAmi Vitale’s journey as a photographer and filmmaker has taken her to more than 85 countries. She is a Nikon Ambassador and a contract photographer for National Geographic magazine. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. For most of her career, Ami has covered topics related to nature and wildlife and their intersection with human poverty, health, and security. She has covered human elephant conflict in India, the poaching of snow leopards in India and Bhutan, and man-eating lions in East Africa for National Geographic Adventure. Ami is currently working on a story about wildlife in Africa and the indigenous communities on the front lines of the poaching wars. Ami will accompany the entire expedition.

Ami will join the following departure:

Oct 30 - Nov 13, 2016

Dates

2016
  • Oct 30 - Nov 13, 2016 (waitlist only)
2017
  • Nov 04 - 18, 2017

To learn how you can support on-going earthquake relief efforts, visit nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/helpnepal.

Expedition Cost

2016

$9,125

2017

$9,325

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,985.

International airfare to Beijing and return from Kathmandu and airfare within Asia are not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within Asia are $475 in 2016 and $965 in 2017 (subject to change).

In order to optimize photographic opportunities and allow for better access to our National Geographic photographer, this trip is limited to 16 travelers.

Featured Expedition Moment

What To Expect

We spend eleven nights at high elevations—up to 14,268 feet—and travel as high as 17,254 feet by motor vehicle, often on rough, dusty roads. Participants should be physically fit. This trip is not suitable for those with a respiratory, cardiac, or circulatory disorder or a disability that limits mobility. We stay at first-class hotels in Beijing, Lhasa, and Kathmandu; and at best available hotels elsewhere.

Please note: Access to Everest Base Camp is regulated by the Chinese government. We expect to operate this trip as planned, but may need to alter the itinerary if access to Everest Base Camp becomes restricted.