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A himalaya trek from Kathmandu throu a strange, distant, magical and mysteriously charming world to Lhasa, Rooftop of the World, and ancestral home of the Dalai Lama.
Itinerary: Flight New York-Kathmandu with a stopover in New Dehli. Transfer by bus to hotel in Kathmandu, trip by bus to Pokhara, 6-day hike in Annapurna mountain range, trip by bus to Tatopani, hike from Tatopani to Zhangmu (Chinese border). Trip by bus from Zhangmu via West Tingri, Shigatse, Gyantse to Lhasa. Flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Flight to New York via New Dehli.
Accommodations: Two nights on plane, three nights in double rooms at hotel in Kathmandu, one night in double rooms at hotel in Pokhara, during the hike five nights in simple lodges, one night at hotel in Pokhara, one night at hotel in Kathmandu, during the trip from Kathmandu to Tibet overnight accommodations in simple guest houses, one night in Tatopani, one night in Zhangmu, one night in West Tingri, two nights in Shigatse, four nights at hotel in Lhasa.
Meals: For your meals you should expect to spend approx. $6 per day
Tour Escort: Tour coordinator
Extra: Entrance fees, food, drinks, additional excursions by boat, jeep, etc.
Climate: Nepal: day 86 degrees, night 70 degrees Fahrenheit Tibet: day 60 degrees, night 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Currency: US $1 = 15.3 Nepalese Rupees
Visa: A tourist visa is required for Nepal. It can be obtained at the Nepalese Mission to the U.N. The visa for China will be obtained in Kathmandu. Please indicate your passport number on the booking form.
Vaccinations: We strongly advise you to get smallpox and cholera vaccinations
Attention: We also organize tours specially only in Nepal incl. trekking and rafting in the Himalaya.
Tour-Guide: For more information about Nepal suggest you 'Destination Asia'in German and English.
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Himalaya Trek from Nepal to Tibet
Nepal, Tibet: a strange, distant, magical and mysteriously charming world. Kathmandu, Lhasa: cities that evoke vague images, premonitions, and enchantments. Tibet as the barren but fascinating high mountain landscape, Rooftop of the World, and ancestral home of the Dalai Lama. Prayer wheels, silent monks, gompas (monasteries), and religious festivals. Nepal means the mighty ice- and snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, Mount Everest, trekking tours, mountain climbing expeditions, medieval city centers, pagodas, temples, prayer banners, and the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, who roams around in the valleys of the Himalayas.
These are fragments of thought, mosaics that come to mind when thinking of Nepal and Tibet. We, the Alternativ Bus Reisen team, came up with the idea of building on and rounding out these images with you. Therefore, we have included this trip in our program. We believe that we offer you a totally unique combination that comes along only once in a lifetime.
Nepal first opened its borders to foreign visitors in 1951. Following the opening, the country quickly developed its infrastructure, making several regions accessible to tourism. In spite of modern tourism, which leads mainly to the capital, Kathmandu, medieval life-styles, with all their advantages and disadvantages, persist in most parts of the country. And most of the country can be reached in day-long hikes.
Nepal, now as ever one of the poorest countries in the world, is undergoing fundamental changes. Both the foreign exchange tourism brings and Western aid are used in the literacy campaigns, in road construction, in teaching modern agricultural methods, or in expanding medical care.
It is nevertheless true that social conditions remain grim. Average life expectancy of the Nepalese is, at 45 years, extraordinarily low. This is due largely to the high rate of infant mortality. Nepal is, in the official parlance, the only Hindu monarchy. The king rules with a puppet parliament, and the political structures favor an oligarchy adept at protecting its privileges against efforts at democratization. Nepal's balance of trade is negative and the country is heavily dependent on income from tourism. And it does have a lot to offer tourists.
Nepal is an ideal country for travel. Temperatures in the mild, subtropical climate will vary during our traveling time between 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 degrees at night. It is, of course, cooler in the mountains. A trip to Nepal is a heady natural experience. The ice- and snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan Range are an unforgettable sight. The trek through mountain landscape can be a natural high. The mountain villages, with their unique medieval atmosphere, enthrall the observer from the very outset. Nepal also means an encounter with ancient, Far Eastern cultures. The historical Buddha was born in southern Nepal. The country fits like a belt between two powerful neighbors, India and China; Hinduism and Buddhism flow together.
Tibet is the land of nomads and monks. It has a unique history: because of its isolated location behind the world's highest mountain range, it has been an inaccessible country to foreigners. The isolation became even more fateful when the Chinese occupied the country in 1950. The inhabitants not only lost 5,000 temples but also their political freedom as a result of the infamous repression of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Monks were killed, famine broke out, countless Tibetans fled. All they could take with them was their religious consciousness and their Tibetan Buddhism, which took root wherever they went.
Since 1965, Tibet has been an autonomous region of China and the Tibetans can once again practice their religion more freely. The gates of Tibet were opened to foreigners in 1980. However, it has only been possible to travel to Tibet from Nepal since 1985.
Here's our travel route in short:
We fly from New York via New Dehli to Kathmandu. We will stay in the Nepalese capital for four days and visit the sight-seeing attractions in the old city and the Kathmandu Valley. From Kathmandu we go 120 miles further by bus to the city of Pokhara on the Lake Phewa. This small city is the departure point for our five-day trekking tour, which will take us into the mountain world of the Annapurna Massif. From Pokhara, we go back to Kathmandu and then by bus we make a six-day journey over the Chinese Road across the roof of the world to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. We will make stops along the way in Tatopani, Zanghmu, Tingri West, and Shigatse. After a three-day stay in Lhasa, we will fly back to Kathmandu. From Kathmandu, we fly back to New York via New Dehli.
New York - Kathmandu - Pokhara - Annapurna trek - Kathmandu (13 days)
We spend the first three days in Kathmandu and visit the old part of the city and the sight-seeing attractions in the Kathmandu Valley. It is almost impossible to give an overview of Kathmandu's attractions because the entire city is a museum. Almost every street is a treasure of pagodas and people -- a festival for the eyes. We'll visit Durbar Square (the medieval city center), with the adjacent palace and temple district, roam through the markets, and sit on the steps of a pagoda at sunset to watch the bustle of activity in the city's historical heart. There are so many highlights in the Kathmandu Valley that they would easily fill a week's program. We will limit ourselves to the most important attractions. We will visit the Valley's two other royal cities, Patan and Bhadgaon. Patan is the oldest city in the Kathmandu Valley, and its historical center is even more beautiful than Kathmandu's. Bhadgaon is home to Nepal's largest pagoda -- five full stories high.
In addition, we will see two of Nepal's most important Buddhist shrines: the Stupas of Swayambunath and Bodnath. The Swayambunath Stupa, also called the Temple of the Monkeys for the many monkeys that frolic around inside the building, is one of the world's oldest Buddhist monuments (2,000 years!). The Stupa stands on a hill outside Kathmandu. It's copper roof that glows in the sunlight is visible from far away and the eyes of Buddha gaze out over the Kathmandu Valley. 211 prayer wheels are affixed to the outer wall. They are set into motion by the faithful who circle around the temple.
The Bodnath Stupa is one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world. It is the most important place of worship for Nepalese Buddhists and is also older than 2,000 years. Bodnath is the official residence of the Chai Lama, one of the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the second most powerful figure in the religion. The last Chai Lama died at the beginning of 1989 and the religious elders are now waiting for a sign from heaven as to who the new one will be. The Bodnath Stupa is a prayer and meditation center for Buddhist Lamas. Surrounding the Stupa is a circular row of houses in the manner of a Tibetan village. This enclosure creates the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of an inner court.
A side trip to Pashupatinath, the "Golden Temple" on the banks of the holy Bagmali river, which flows into the Ganges, is also planned. The temple is one of the seven great holy places of Hinduism and is the most important place of pilgrimage for Nepalese Hindus.
Pokhara - Phewa Valley
From Kathmandu, we drive by bus through the foothills and along the Gandahi River Valley to Pokhara. The river is bordered by rice and grain terraces which, with their green and black hues, contrast starkly with the gray-green water of the river. Pokhara lies in the Phewa Valley, on a lake that blends into the subtropical landscape surrounded by chains of hills. The lake is a vacation spot, perfect for swimming or canoeing.
Pokhara has its unique setting to thank for its reputation: the towering rock and ice Annapurna Massif is only fifteen miles away. In front of that, the "Machhapuchhare," also called the Fishtail, rises up, its silhouette bearing a strong resemblance to that of the European Matterhorn. The first view of the mountain range is breathtaking. The mountains seem close enough to touch and the overall impression is unimaginable.
From Pokhara we take the five-day trekking tour in the Annapurna Massif. The first leg is by jeep along the river valley and past the Tibetan settlement Hyangja to Suikhet. Then we get serious. The trail begins with a climb that takes us to 4,800 feet. Once we reach that elevation, the first great panorama of the Annapurna Mountains and Phewa Lake opens before us.
We go cross over a pass 5,600 feet up in order to again climb down another 3,000 feet to Birethanti, a small settlement that lies in a beautiful valley on a rushing mountain stream. Upon entering the village, we cross the first hanging bridge. We will have completed the first day's tour, with a nine-mile march behind us. On the second day, we will cover another fifteen miles. The path leads us along and then across a river valley. Along the way, we will pass beautiful forests and majestic waterfalls. A steep, upward climb follows up a step path climbing 1,650 feet. At the end lies the medieval village of Ulleri, which creates a homey atmosphere through its narrow back streets.
We move farther through a tropical, misty forest. Now and again a caravan of mules with loudly clanging bells passes by. In Ghorapani we come close to the 10,000 feet level. In the evening, a warm campfire warms up the body and spirits. At sunrise the next morning, we will reach the summit of Poon-Hill (10,500 feet) that rises above Ghorapani. In good weather, a fantastically beautiful view of the Himalayan Range opens up from here, especially of Machhapuchhare. Poon-Hill is, moreover, a scenic jewel: red rhododendrons in bloom that will grow into tall, gnarled trees; yellow-blooming trees; and juniper-like shrubs.
After the descent from Poon-Hill, breakfast tastes all the better. And, as we're up and raring to go, we start on the loop-like trail back. We will cover twelve miles on this day. After a short climb up to 10,500 feet, the trail leads through a wonderful primitive forest with beautiful, intermittent views of Ulleri, and on to Ghandrung (6,435 feet), with more magnificent views. Our next destination, Dhampus, offers outstanding panoramas as well -- above all, of Machhapuchhare and Phewa Lake. The last leg is indescribable. After barely two hours, we reach Suikhet, where the circle of our tour closes. The following day we will recover from the exertions of the trek by stretching out on the banks of Phewa Lake. Then, we will drive to Kathmandu and spend the night before beginning our trip to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
Kathmandu - Shigatse - Lhasa - Kathmandu (11 days)
The longest, most impressive 600 miles in the world lie ahead of us. We will ride for only four to six hours with a Nepalese bus on one of Nepal's best highways to the border town of Tatopani. The highway was built by the Chinese and runs through a beautiful green, hilly landscape. The Kathmandu Valley exhibits its most colorful side once again, perhaps only to underscore the crass contrast between it and the neighboring country of Tibet. Because soon, the green valleys, the consumer goods, Western music and the almost tropical climate are gone.
On the following day, after a comfortable night in the Prem Lodge, we cover the last five miles to Zhanghmu on the Chinese border on foot. This is not due to the political situation, but rather to the vicissitudes of natural forces in this region.
During a terrible storm in 1985, the 200-foot-long "Friendship Bridge" collapsed into the flood waters of the raging river. This has now become a natural border, at least for vehicles. Through-travelers use one of the makeshift wooden bridges to cross over the wild river. The planned reconstruction of the "Friendship Bridge" is unfortunately still a long time in coming. This action thus sets the stage for our adventure in Tibet.
Due to the time difference between Nepal and Tibet it is suddenly two hours later than we expect as we arrive in Zhanghmu (the name of the place on the Chinese border). Zhanghmu's main attraction is its bank. Besides that, there is only a coffee shop and a hotel, in which we relax after the hike to the border. We will be all rested and comfortable when we continue our journey by bus (Chinese this time) to Lhasa the following day. Our day's destination is Tingiri-West. We cover 150 miles this day so that, at day's end, we are greeted by majestic views of the Himalayan peaks.
Many Tibetans will pass us with their heavily laden donkey caravans, transporting us hundreds of years back in time. We won't have any trouble making contact with the residents in the Tibetan village of Tingiri-West, if only with hand and foot gestures or their few scraps of English. 220 miles lie ahead of us the following day. Finally, the highest mountains in the world will reveal themselves to us. We will even be able to see Mt. Everest (under clear conditions). But, oh how small it is... That is, of course, due to the distance -- and maybe to the fact that we have ourselves climbed up to over 14,000 feet by now. The real Tibet experience begins, we are driving on the Rooftop of the World and are getting an idea of its extent, its solitude, and the harshness of life at elevations ranging between above 13,000 and 17,000 feet, cut off from the rest of the world.
Toward evening, we reach Shigatse. It is Tibet's second largest city. We should definitely stay here somewhat longer, because one of Tibet's most important structures stands in front of the city gates. Tashilumpo, the Blessed Mountain, is a gigantic cloister city encircled by a great wall. The first Dalai Lama was the founder of Tashilumpo and is also buried there. From Shigatse, it is still thirteen hours to Lhasa, i.e., 200 miles. We have to cross over two passes, one at an elevation of over 17,000 feet. But we get to see snow-capped peaks, rocky wastes, azure blue lakes, rivers and luscious grass where yak herds graze.
The world's highest pass, Karo La (over 17,000 feet), even gives us a view into the neighboring country, Bhutan. We let our bus roll down to an elevation of around 12,000 feet, and we have reached our destination: Lhasa, the mandala-shaped capital of Tibet, overlooked by one of the most illustrious structures in the world -- the Potala.
Unfortunately, there's not enough space here for a description of Lhasa.
But the surprise will be that much better. Especially on seeing the enigmatic
monastery of the golden roofs. After three days, we leave the otherwise
spare Rooftop of the World. The unforgettable flight to Kathmandu over
the great Himalayas is the crowning finale of our trip.
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