Climbing Everest might be a dream for many and dreams can come true too. Not only it requires an expert trekker to have the guts of climbing so high but it requires one to be perfectly fit. However, with Lhasa & Everest Base Camp tour, you will surely have a fulfilling experience.
Lhasa, the Tibetan capital is a heady combination of adventure, religion and culture. Located at a height of 3,656m above the sea level, it is definitely the heart of Tibet. From ancient monasteries to crystal clear lakes, Tibet’s beauty remains unparalleled. Travel a little further towards Nepal and one witness multi-hued prayer flags fluttering against the backdrop of Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
Above all, this journey should be undertaken to appreciate the resilient Tibetan race who still manage to follow the calm and non-violent tenets of Buddhism in the face of prolonged oppression from the Chinese government. Tibet or Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is governed by the people’s Republic of China which means that there are innumerous restrictions regarding everything especially tourism. So, it is imperative that you keep certain things in mind before planning a trip to Tibet.
Being a highly-acclaimed travel agency, Himalayan Trekkers suggests some essential dos and don’ts for a successful Lhasa and EBC trip. Know about the places to visit, things to do and lot more!
1. Landing in Lhasa/Permits for Lhasa and EBC
One can reach Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, either through mainland China or via Nepal. In the first scenario, one needs to possess a Chinese visa. Upon reaching a major Chinese city like Beijing or Shanghai, connecting flights or trains to Lhasa can be availed. The train journey will, of course, be time-consuming but it also promises a stunning natural vista.
Anyone who chooses to arrive from Nepal needs to board a Lhasa-bound flight from Kathmandu or cross the Nepal-Tibet border via private vehicle.
Regardless of which route you pick, before setting foot in Tibet, a TTB or Tibet Travel Bureau permit is compulsory. No matter where or how you travel in Tibet, this TTB is a prerequisite.
However, the acquisition of TTB or any other kind of permit has a particular procedure. Himalayan Trekkers will be pleased to guide you through the entire process. Tourists can only apply for TTB through authentic travel agencies like Himalayan Trekkers only. Anyone who is not with a registered tour company will not be allowed to move around Tibet independently.
While TTB is valid only in and around Lhasa, if one is interested in visiting Everest Base Camp, an Alien Travel Permit is also required. As mentioned earlier, Himalayan Trekkers will take care of all formalities on its client’s behalf.
All said if you are Chinese as well as nationals of China, Singapore, Japan or Brunei, all these formalities and permits are not needed.
2. Timing your trip to Lhasa and EBC correctly
Any time is a good time if you are planning to explore Lhasa only. While every season has its own specialties in Lhasa, one cannot say the same about EBC. The Everest Base Camp is stationed at a much higher altitude than Lhasa, in fact, it is at the foothills of the world’s highest mountain. Consequently, EBC in winter will be challenging.
For adventure enthusiasts, Himalayan Trekkers would love to arrange treks to EBC for which the best time to visit is Spring (April, May), Summer (June) and Autumn (September, October). During this time, the weather is dry, warm and pleasant, making it much easier to explore the outdoors.
On the contrary, Lhasa is the capital of Tibet, is well-equipped for around the year. One can enjoy most of the facilities of city life like luxury hotels, multi-cuisine restaurants and bars and a generous dose of shopping and sight-seeing. What’s even better is that tours in Winter will give you considerable discounts.
Visitors who are hoping for a taste of Tibetan traditions should ideally reach Lhasa in Summer. This is to witness the main religious festival of the Tibetans- ‘Saga Dawa.’
Tibetan New Year takes place in February and March but is not open to foreigners as a safety protocol.
3. Medication is mandatory
Lhasa stands at 3,656m while EBC is at an even higher height of 5,380m. Such altitudes inevitably cause AMS or acute mountain sickness to anyone who is not accustomed to the same. Most people prefer flying into Lhasa from a much lower height due to time crunch. This leads to a sudden change in the oxygen percentage, temperature and air pressure.
A train or road journey allows comparatively much more time to acclimatize but again, a lot of time is consumed in the process.
Himalayan Trekkers would be obliged to advise you on the maximum chances of avoiding AMS as much as possible once you reach Lhasa. It is best to take some precautions like being properly hydrated throughout the journey and carrying essential medications like Diamox and Paracetamols.
Also, on reaching Lhasa, if health permits, one can walk around the city to allow the body better chances of adjusting with the outside environment.
4. The only legal currency-Chinese Yuan
Tibet has only one legal currency- Chinese Yuan. Himalayan Trekkers strongly suggest that you carry enough Chinese Yuan to last the entire trip. Whatever currency you are carrying needs to be exchanged for Chinese Yuan before crossing into Tibet.
Though Tibet has few banks like Construction Bank of China, the Bank of China, and the Agriculture Bank of China where they accept Visa and Mastercard, it is always better to go prepared beforehand.
There are also some ATMs but they may not function as smoothly as you may expect.
Himalayan Trekkers will provide any sort of help possible to procure the legal currency in return for your own.
5. Packing essentials.
What you are stuffing into your travel bag depends a lot on which season you are visiting Tibet and also which places are on your checklist here. EBC will be notably colder than Lhasa at any point in time especially Winters. Pack heavy down jackets, thermals and both light and heavy woolens along with beanies, gloves and scarves if you plan to travel in the colder months.
Summers are usually quite warm and sunny. Full sleeved clothes with some light woolens should be enough for your stay in Lhasa. As you move to more elevated land towards EBC, temperatures will start plummeting. Heavier woolens are a necessity then so be certain to pack at least some heavy woolen clothes at least.
What is absolutely required are good quality heavy duty shoes that are capable of protecting your feet from chilly weather as well as the steep mountain terrain.
Few quintessential accessories like sunscreens, lip balms and sunglasses will also go a long way in coping with the cold and dry weather.
6. Calls and connections
In case it is important for you to stay connected with the outside world, Himalayan Trekkers can arrange for a Chinese SIM card during your stay. Phone connectivity is not exactly awesome in Lhasa especially when you start nearing EBC.
As far as the internet is concerned, forget about daily Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or any social media posts as all these sites are mostly restricted here. The most convenient way to chat over the internet is to install the WeChat app as it is widely used in China/Tibet. However, no internet connection is stable in and around EBC so do not be too hopeful.
Himalayan Trekkers will be glad to book accommodation in Lhasa and EBC as per your choice and budget. Accommodation is not really an issue in Lhasa as there are various types of hotels to suit most tourists.
Anything from a budget hotel, a boutique hotel to a 5-star luxury property is available with 24 hours hot water and electricity among other facilities. Some of the recommended stays in Lhasa areTashitagke Hotel, Shambhala Palace Hotel, TashiChoeta Boutique Hotel and Holiday Inn, Lhasa.
The problem starts as you venture into the more remote areas in Western Tibet. On the way from Lhasa to EBC, areas like Shigatse still have decent guest houses but EBC does not have many choices owing to the altitude and environment.
Rooms can be rented at Rongbuk monastery, located around the Everest Base Camp. Staying here also gives you a chance to experience a hard lifestyle at the world’s highest monastery.
Other than Rongbuk monastery, comfortable tents are also available.
8. Foods and Drinks
Leave it to Himalayan Trekkers to get you to the most popular top-grade restaurants and bars. Lhasa is teeming with eateries and food joints. Irrespective of whether you are curious to try the local delicacies or a safe player when it comes to new cuisines, there is something for everyone here. Tibetan local cuisine will delight you with its rich taste.
Apart from the usual Indian, Western, Nepali culinary fare, there are the local Tibetan dishes of which Tsampa is the undisputed winner. Tsampa is somewhat relatable to porridge, comprising of barley and wheat flour mixed with water or tea. Other regular Tibetan delights generally include dried yak meat preparations, noodles, dumplings and thukpas.
Butter tea and Sweet milk tea are favourites in the beverages category though beer lovers can find some quality pubs and bars in Lhasa. Both the above-mentioned teas are said to relieve AMS symptoms and provide warmth so they are definitely worth a try.
Noteworthy restaurant, bars and pubs are MakyeAme, Ganglamedo café, Dunya and Low House Music Bar The last one was supposedly the accommodation of the 11th Dalai Lama.
Lastly, if you want to get a taste of local Tibet and trying to find restaurants in Tibet, head to the small noodle outlets and tea joints around Barkhor street. Some of the outlets worth sampling are Gamchung tea house and Summit Café.
EBC will definitely have less fancy options. Given the existing conditions there, be mentally ready to find only basic food and drinks.
9. Meeting and Greeting Tibetans
While you are enjoying the culture and vibes of the Tibetan capital, try to respect the Tibetan way of life. A friendly greeting of ‘TashiDelek’ undoubtedly guarantees some smiles from the locals. Avoid any kind of political conversation, specifically one that revolves around the Dalai Lama and Chinese oppression.
Full sleeved clothes will protect you from cold and at the same time, prevent you from being disrespectful towards Tibetan culture. Wearing shorts or any kind of conspicuous attire is forbidden in monasteries.
Ask permission or check with your guide before using your camera to capture snapshots of Tibetans or Tibetan tourist spots.
10. Souvenirs and Trinkets
In light of the oppressive and economically challenging conditions of the Tibetan people, Himalayan Trekkers encourage you to support Tibetan-owned businesses. Majority of the shops in Lhasa are dealers of Chinese products, manufactured in the bigger Chinese cities. If one would like to support the Tibetan economy then it is ideal to search for an authentic Tibetan shop.
Dropenling Lhasa Villages Handicrafts Shop is one such Tibetan venture. Be warned though that the prices will be on the expensive side but at least, a small sale can boost the earnings of a local Tibetan family.
11. Exploring Lhasa- Jokhang Temple
Jokhang temple is hailed as the holiest religious establishment in Tibet. Legend has it that a lake had metamorphosed into land on which the temple stands today. An architectural marvel of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan styles, it is also the sole temple in Tibet that exhibits the Sakyamuni Buddha statue.
12. Barkhor Street
The circular path that leads to the Jokhang Temple is known as the Barkhor street. This street is simultaneously a religious landmark as well as a tourism hub for shopping and enjoying street food.
From the religious perspective, devotees circle the Barkhor three times before finishing their trail at Jokhang temple. The special feature of this path is that everyone walks clockwise so make sure you remember to do so too! There are also a number of lesser-explored chapels and temples hidden away in the alleys leading away from Barkhor. Visit these too to absorb the local Tibetan culture if there is ample time.
For those who are not so intent on dropping by monasteries, there are varied shops that sell Tibetan goods and of course, there are different types of eateries.
13. Potala Palace and PotangShakor
A UNESCO world heritage site, Potala Palace is one of the star attractions of a Tibet as well as EBC tour. Dating back to the 7th century, it was initially a fortress within which has been built the world’s highest palace. Replete with prayer halls and meditation rooms, Potala Palace is synonymous with tranquillity. Do take the time out to grab a few minutes of silence, meditation and introspection.
The road that circles the Potala Palace is called the Potang Shakor. If time permits, traversing on this path not only unveils beautiful panoramic views but also refreshes the spirit.
14. Ramoche Temple and Tsepak Lhakhang
An equally important but lesser temple is the Ramoche Temple. Located within a kilometre of Jokhang temple, it is home to BudhhaSakyamuni in his childhood. Ramoche was also the erstwhile address of the renown Jowo Rinpoche.
Similar to other temples, Ramoche temple also has a prayer circuit called Tsepak Lhakhang. Completing this circuit is deemed to bring health and longer life.
15. Drepung, Ganden and Sera monasteries
There are several big and small monasteries in and around Lhasa. The most famous ones being Drepung, Ganden and Sera.
Drepung monastery was earlier the abode of the Dalai Lama and the biggest Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Not just in Tibet, it was also the largest in the world till not so long ago, housing about 10,000 monks. In the present day, it is a centre for Buddhist studies. The main attraction of this monastery is the annual Shoton festival in honour of the massive golden statue of Maitreya Buddha with a height of 26 meters. Even tourists can enjoy the festivities of Lhasa’s most vibrant festival.
Perched on the Wangbori mountains, at a distance of 40 km from Lhasa, Ganden monastery is definitely worth a visit. Though Himalayan Trekkers suggests that you keep at least half a day aside to explore this place at leisure.
If you are one to enjoy a healthy philosophical debate, then be at the Sera monastery without fail. However, be very particular about not to take part in the ongoing debate or be vocal about any controversial opinions.
Positioned to the southwest of Potala Palace, Nobulingka translates into ‘jewelled park’ in Chinese. This is for an appropriate reason as it is the largest landscaped garden in Tibet. Honored as a UNESCO heritage site, it is also the former summer home of the Dalai lamas from the 18th century till the 1950s exile. What is even more interesting is that it was constructed by the 7th Dalai lama.
A prominent celebration here is the ‘Yogurt festival’ that features cultural performances and beautiful flower shows.
DrakYerpa is a group of famed meditation caves that hold a special place in both Buddhist religion and politics. A number of famous people are said to have meditated here like Atisha, Guru Rinpoche and King SongstenGampo among others.
It consists of approximately 108 caves in some of which one will find the footprints of the 5th Dalai Lama and YesheTsogyel, embedded in the stone floor.
A trip to this place is equally calming and historically enriching.
18. Regency Temples
It was during the tenure of the 5th Dalai lama that four Regency temples were established in the North, South, East and West corners of the city respectively. Himalayan Trekkers will be happy to point you to these offbeat tourist spots.
Out of these four, only 3 of the temples are open to tourists. These are Tsomon Ling, Tengye Ling and Kunde Ling. The first two of the three come alive with celebrations during the PaldenLhamo festival in Winter.
19. Lake Yamdrok
Lake Yamdrok is one of the 3 holy lakes in Tibet, the other two being Lake Nam and Lake Mansarovar. One finds it on the way to Everest Base Camp. The beauty of this lake is other-worldly, owing to its crystal clear turquoise waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
It is a significant geographical landmark as well because of its huge size. Spanning 130 km length and 70 km width, it is the largest freshwater lake in the Northern Himalayas.
Mythology says that this lake is under the protection of Goddess DorjeGegki Tso and circling the lake in a week will alleviate one’s sins.
20. EBC- Everest Base camp
The high point and the most awaited destination of your Tibet tour are undoubtedly Everest Base Camp. Positioned at the foothills of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, it is at an elevation of 5208 meters.
Enjoy the mesmerizing beauty but do not hope for any luxury facilities. Himalayan Trekkers will arrange the best possible accommodation though it is advised to be prepared for extremely rudimentary arrangements.
The nearby Rongbuk monastery which is also the world’s highest monastery has rooms for rent but hot water is seldom available. Other than that there are yak tents which also provide decent accommodation.
Tourists who are interested in trekking activities must state so beforehand so that an appropriate arrangement can be made.
Himalayan Trekkers guarantee you a wonderful Lhasa and EBC trip. The trip can be customized as per the priorities of travelers, be it adventure enthusiasts, culture trips, or spiritual trips. So come discover Tibet and the Everest Base Camp your way with us!