Travel to Tibet from India
For thousands of years, Tibet has been a very special destination for the Indian people, a place of retreat. As a collective, they ascribe to many of the same religious faiths as Tibetans, ranging from Hinduism to Buddhism to Jainism. So, many come to Tibet because it is the land that so many of their shared religious leaders once inhabited, or once spoke of, and where significant relics of their religion’s history are found. In essence, they come to Tibet to become better acquainted with their spirituality.
An especially meaningful spot that never fails to attract tourists is Mount Kailash. The mountain is so revered by the Indian people because, according to Hinduism, this is the home of the great Lord Shiva. As such, many believers trek to its peak in the hopes that they will find his holiness, where they believe he sits in a state of constant meditation with his wife.
Kora in Tibet
The traditional method that pilgrims circle around holy mountains and rivers in Tibet is called a “kora.” A kora is a physical, meditative practice wherein the believer winds his way, clockwise, around the sacred site. It is important for them to adhere to the practice because they are expressing their devotion to their faith in, not only reaching the summit of the mountain, but in the journey itself.
Planning your journey
Interested in absorbing all the rich religious history Tibet has to offer firsthand? Definitely do it. Just bare in mind that there is a lot to do before you hit the road. Don’t worry though, we’re here to guide you in this process, and we promise all this planning will be so worth it when you arrive in this utterly engrossing, mystical land.
Vital travel documents
Getting into Tibet is, admittedly, a little harder than getting into other parts of China, which only requires a Chinese visa. To be allowed to enter into this region, you’ll need a Tibet Travel Permit, which may be obtained from the Tibet Tourism Bureau with the help of travel consultants. This can take anywhere from one to three weeks, so factor this waiting period into your planning schedule. For the easiest way to get in touch with the bureau, we recommend you get in touch with travel agency Tibet Vista. They’ll ensure you have everything you need before you go, and can even help set you up with tour groups or private guides.
A note on pilgrimages
Planning your trip to Tibet in the form of a spiritual journey? Great, but there are some things to bare in mind, if this is the case. The main thing is that it may take longer to get your visa. This is because only two centres can authorize Indian pilgrimage tours in TIbet: the Foreign Affairs Office of TAR and the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Centre.
How to get there
It used to be recommended that all Indians enter Tibet via Nepal. However, when a major earthquake erupted in 2015, this all changed. Today, it is forbidden to enter through Nepal’s Zhangmu border if you are driving on land, and the result has been an increased price for those seeking to enter this land from alternative paths.
What are some of these other paths?
•Gyirong port (bus): found in Shigatse, close to the Himalayan Mountains, this port is the new entry point into Nepal, opening in November of 2015 in light of the earthquake. The bus departs from here approximately three times a week, based on demand, and takes a total of about six hours to reach its destination. For more details about the schedule, click here.
•Nepal (flying): While you can no longer enter via Nepal by car, you may still fly out of Kathmandu (Nepal’s capital) to reach Tibet. So, from India you will either fly out of Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata and land in Kathmandu; and after this, you will take a connecting flight into Tibet. To get home, just reverse this!
*Make sure you bring your Indian passport, for only those that can present these will be allowed to enter via Kathmandu. In addition, you need our travel consultants’ help to get Tibet Travel Permit and Group Tourist Visa to enter Tibet from Nepal
•China (flying): this may be a preferred option for you if you’d like to tour China first. Simply hop on a flight from any of the following major airports: Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, Shanghai,Guangzhou, Xian. Bare in mind a layover will likely occur in Kathmandu. Our top recommendation would be to fly out of Chengdu or Beijing—you’ll get more options for flights.
•China (driving): prefer to drive and take the scenic route? You can either take a bus, or drive in your own private vehicle, but if you choose the latter, bare in mind that you must have a tour guide with you or else you won’t be allowed to enter Tibet. Everyone entering has to do so with a tour group/private guide, and there’s simply no way of getting around this. Here are five different paths you may take for your drive to Lhasa:
Best time to go to Tibet
There is no clear-cut, uncontested time of the year to visit, because your experience here is highly individual. What will bring you joy is not necessarily what will bring your neighbour joy. So, read on for our list of suggested times of year to visit based on your interests!
Best time to go to Tibet
If you’re looking to be active outdoors, you’ll be best off visiting in October or November, when temperatures range from 17 to 27°C. If hiking or mountaineering bring you happiness, we suggest you check out the Mount Kailash Tours hosted by Tibet Vista. If you’re an Indian pilgrim, this tour—complete with everything from visits to the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, to a three day holy trek—is tailored just for you! Another great tour is that of the Friendship Highway, the classic trek between Lhasa to Kathmandu; if you want to be sure to see the most important sites Tibet has to offer, this is certainly it!
Particularly love being outside when it becomes snowy? Visit Tibet in December or January. There are clear blue skies, and the temperature doesn’t tend to dip too far below -1°C. However, it should be kept in mind that any mountain treks at this time of year should only be underdone by those who are with an experienced guide, and are well-equipped and prepared themselves.
Are you more artistic, into photography and nature? You’ll enjoy seeing the fields of illustrious peach blossom flowers in full bloom. So you’re best off coming in the Spring when temperatures are warming up and fun festivals are beginning to roll out, like the Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival.
Curated packing list
•Layers - temperatures vary greatly in Tibet, no matter what time of year. In the summer they can reach up to 30°C, but then fall to 10°C at night. Of course, pack based on season, but generally, you’ll want an overcoat for the evenings (water-repellant will serve you best), warm sweaters, T-shirts, jeans/pants, and any other gear you like for putting up with rainfall (rubber boots/hats)
•Backpack: a large one will be best for moving freely throughout Tibet. No one brings suitcases here and it just isn’t suitable for easy transportation when you’re there.
•Fanny-pack: easy access for things you want on hand and in your line of vision for safe-keeping, like money and passports.
•Cash: while credit cards are useful in bigger cities, you’ll want to have some cash, for when you leave them ATMs are far and few between
•Mountaineering equipment: sleeping bag, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, pocket knife, trekking poles, tent, tarp, compass, hiking snacks, and (if you feel it’s necessary) portable cooking tools
One final word
Before we’ll let you start planning your very own trip - altitude sickness. It’s nearly inevitable. Often it occurs for the first three days, manifesting in feelings of breathlessness, difficulty sleeping, or feeling limited in your physical exertion. To best prepare and minimize its effects, come at your healthiest; those who are younger and in better physical shape tend to handle it best. Also, this may be a case for driving to Tibet rather than flying—the changing altitude will be more gradual and thus not as much a shock to your system. In any case, take comfort in knowing that it will pass, and hey it’s all apart of the experience that’ll deepen your bond with your travel mates!
What are you most excited to do when you come to Tibet?