Tibet and Nepal Photography Expedition

  • 16-day Himalaya journey with an acclaimed National Geographic photographer
  • Capture images of monasteries, mountain villages, and soaring peaks

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 in Gyangzê. 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 in Gyangzê.
    • 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 - 16 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Beijing, China

Depart for Beijing, cross the international dateline, and arrive the next evening.
The Peninsula Beijing

Day 3 — 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 4 — 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 5 — 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 6 — 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 7 — Gyangzê

Our drive to Gyangzê (12,956 feet) traces the brilliant turquoise waters of the holy Lake Yamdrok and crosses two spectacular high passes. Along the way, stop to take photos of the magnificent hanging glacier, and if you wish, take a short walk for a closer view. We then continue to Samding Monastery, located above the sacred lake, for a picnic lunch and a chance to photograph the striking mountain landscapes that surround us. In Gyangzê this evening, enjoy a rare opportunity to photograph a traditional Tibetan dance close up during a specially arranged performance.
Yeti Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8 — 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 9 — 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 10 — 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 11 — Everest North Face Base Camp/Tingri

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. Settle into our hotel and enjoy stunning views of Everest and Cho Oyu from the hotel courtyard.
Snow Leopard Guest House (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Zhangmu

Today, set out on one of the world’s most visually dramatic drives, departing from the barren Tibetan Plateau and passing through massive, glacier-covered mountains as we travel toward the lush foothills of Nepal. Make several photo stops as we descend more than 9,000 feet into South Asia’s subtropical climate. In the border town of Zhangmu, check into our hotel overlooking the Bhotekosi River.
Cai Yuan Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 13 — Bhaktapur, Nepal/Kathmandu

Cross the Friendship Bridge from Tibet into Nepal, and enjoy lunch with splendid views of the Annapurna Range, weather permitting. 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, which make for fascinating photos in the afternoon sunlight. Arrive in Kathmandu this evening.
Hotel Yak & Yeti (B,L,D)

Day 14 — Kathmandu

Rise early to photograph the 2,500-year-old shrine at Swayambhunath at sunrise, witnessing pilgrims and worshippers circumambulating the ancient stupa. With your camera at the ready, 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, gather for a final photo slideshow presentation and celebrate our remarkable journey with a festive farewell dinner at our hotel.
Hotel Yak & Yeti (B,L,D)

Days 15 & 16 — Kathmandu/U.S.

Depart Kathmandu and connect in Bangkok or Hong Kong for flights home.
(B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Chris Rainier

Chris RainierChris Rainier specializes in the documentation of indigenous cultures, and is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. A National Geographic Explorer, Chris was a co-founder of the Society’s All Roads Photography Program and is a co-director of the Enduring Voices Project, documenting endangered languages and cultures. He serves as a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine. His life's mission is to document endangered cultures and help empower them to use modern technology to save their ancient traditions through a project he directs called the Last Technology Program. He has conducted expeditions to all seven continents and the North Pole. Chris has won numerous awards for his photography, including the Lowell Thomas Award given by the Explorers Club for his work with endangered cultures. Chris was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in London.

Chris will join the following departure:

Oct 30 - Nov 14, 2015

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Dates

2014
  • Oct 31 - Nov 15, 2014 (waitlist only)
2015
  • Oct 30 - Nov 14, 2015

Expedition Cost

2014

$7,895

2015

$8,215

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,650 in 2014 and $1,925 in 2015.

International airfare to Beijing and return from Kathmandu and airfare from Beijing to Lhasa are not included in the expedition cost. The group flight from Beijing to Lhasa is $475 (subject to change).

What To Expect

We spend nine nights at elevations up to 14,268 feet and travel as high as 17,200 feet by four-by-four 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.