Mount Kailash Trek
Mount Kailash trekking tour is one of the most demanding and challenging of treks for pilgrims in the world. This trek route in Tibet is widely known as the kora around the Mt. Kailash which is sacred to four religions and a deeply numinous place. Pilgrims throng to the mountain: not just Tibetans, but Hindus and Buddhists from India to Japan, joined by Western and Chinese travelers who travel to Tibet to visit this holy mountain and the nearby sacred Lake Manasarovar.
The Mt. Kailash kora starts at the charm-free village of Darchen, opens up unending stretches of barren land, lush green valleys, snow capped peaks and pristine blue lakes, winding past mani walls and skirting the base of the Kailash massif. The average altitude of this trekking in Tibet is nearly 5,000m, so it is very a great challenge and requires strong perseverance. It is a true test of the mind and spirit. But simple accommodation and food are available on the trail, so hikers can enjoy the trek to their heart’s content.
Tarchen, a small town at the foot of Mt. Kailash, is the start point of Kailash kora
Many Tibetans do the kora in a single day; but most foreigners take two to three days. No matter whether you are a believer or not, it is inspiring to share the path with these pilgrims, often the simplest illiterate nomads who have saved for years to make the trip. You will meet a huge range of people here, including prostrators who will take three weeks to complete the circuit by prostrating.
The local Tibetan people are doing the Kailash Kora.
As a peak in the Kailas Range (Gangdisê Mountains), Mount Kailash is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Mt. Kailash is believed to be a great mountain with four faces (Peacock, Elephant, Lion, and Horse), each composed of a different material (gold, crystal, ruby, and lapis lazuli), and from the mouth of each face flows a great river: Karnali, Indus, Sutlej, and Brahmapurta. Though this mount is a little far from the main road, it is still a pop destination on the list of Tibet tour.
Far view of Mt. Kailash
This mountain is 6714m high, and has never been climbed, because people who got permits to climb it were under international pressure not to do it because of the special nature of the mountain. But every year, thousands of believers make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. For ordinary trekkers, walking in the clockwise direction is OK.
The mount Kailash lies near the famous holy Lake Manasarovar lying at 4,590 meters above sea level. To the west of Lake Manasarovar is another lake Rakshastal; toward the north is just the Mount Kailash. The round-shaped lake is the origin of the Sutlej River, the easternmost large tributary of the Indus.
Mt. Kailash lies near the Lake Manasarovar
Traditional Tibetan Villages
On the trail from Ganden to Samye, you will passes through several traditional Tibetan villages where people lead a very simple life, even still practice ancient culture and customs. If you are interested in Tibetan culture, these villages offer you a great chance to get a close view of Tibetan people’s traditional daily life.
Five temples around Kailash
The Mount Kailash is surrounded by five monasteries, namely Nyari Monastery, Drirapuk Monastery, Songchu Monastery, Gyangzha Monastery and Thailong Monastery. Nyari is the first site on the Kailash Kora and the last two are located on the inner kora. Each monastery is endowed with different legendary stories and decorated by distinctive sculptures, statues, murals, thangkas and other Tibetan cultural objects. Unfortunately, all are destroyed to different degrees. But the monasteries can offer simple accommodation to pilgrims and trekkers.
Remote Drirapuk Monastery
The best time for the Kailash tour is from May to October when it is warmer. At other time of the year, the areas around the Mt. Kailash are covered by heavy snow and ice. It is very dangerous to trek through these places during winter.
The most exciting and interesting period at this mount is around the 15th day of April in the Tibetan calendar. The most important annual festival of Tibet, Saga Dawa falls on that day which is also the birthday of Buddha Sakyamuni. During this festival, Tibetans from all over Tibet pour into this area of Mt. Kailash, two or even three weeks before this date. During this time, the giant flagpole at Tarpoche is ritually taken down and the prayer flags along its length replaced. It is also a great time to do a Tibet tour.
Lhasa to Mt. Kailash
There two roads from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash, the northern route and southern route. The southern one is part of Xinjiang-Tibet Highway and the most frequently used route to Mount Kailash by travelers. One the way, tourists can get spectacular views of the Yarlung Zangpo Valley, Gangdisê Mountains, Himalaya Mountains, snow-capped peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and vast grassland dotted by yaks and sheep. But currently there is no regular bus from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash. The best way to get to Kailash is to hire a car. You can probably make arrangements out of Lhasa, but that will be a lot more expensive. If you go to Ali and hire a car there you'll probably get a better price. If you are lucky enough, you can hitch a ride to Darchen. But the chance is really very slim. Do not worry, Tibet Vista(Tibettravel.org) can offer you a 4WD with experienced driver and guide as well as arrange the trip for you.
The paved road to Mt. kailash
Kathmandu to Mt. Kailash
Many tourists go to visit Mount Kailash from Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Travelers can fly to Lhasa and then drive to Mt. Kailash along the southern route from Lhasa to Kailash. Besides, tourists can take a tourist bus to the Kodari Border, and then walk across the Friendship Bridge to Zhangmu where they can hire a car to Kailash. A land cruiser is advised for a comfortable road ride to Kailash. Drive along the Sina-Nepal Highway from Zhangmu to Tingri and then turn west to Kailash along the Xinjiang-Tibet Road. On the way, travelers can pay a visit to the holy Lake Manasarovar or make a detour to Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak.
Trekking is always from modernization and camping is a good choice during trekking. It is very interesting and will add more fun to your Tibet tour. But camping outside at an area over 4,000m above sea level can be very cold at night and the weather might change suddenly, so water-proof and wind-proof tents, warm sleeping bags and self-inflating mattresses are helpful. Use of candles inside the tents is very dangerous as tents and sleeping bags might catch fire due to any negligence. Therefore we suggest you to use torch light inside the tents.
High Altitude Sickness
The 56km kora around the holy mountain has an average elevation about 5,000m. The highest point is as high as 5,630m. Altitude sickness can be the biggest concern you should take into consideration. Actually, it is the first concern for travelling in Tibet. The initial symptoms of altitude sickness are as follows: losing appetite, nausea, vomiting, insomnia/sleeplessness, dizziness, confusion, persistent headache, weakness, fatigue, heavy legs, breathlessness and breathing irregularity, etc.
If you suffer from altitude sickness, please consider stopping ascending; otherwise more serious problems may occur and even cause death sometimes within just a few hours. The only remedy for the Altitude Sickness is to walk to a lower altitude.
Clothing and Equipment
Though you do not have to camp during this trek, at least take a warm sleeping bag and warm clothes with you. The weather conditions and terrain vary significantly from one region, or even from one trail to another. Seasonal changes can significantly alter any track. Moreover, the wind is very strong at some passes. Thus, wind-proof clothes are also recommended.
The temperature in mountain areas of Tibet may be very low even in day time. At night, the temperature will drop to below zero. Besides, the weather may change greatly in a day. Thus, warm clothes are necessary for trekking in Tibet in summer. Even it is hot, you are not advisable to wear shorts for you might be bitten by insects in the wild. A raincoat and a rain boot are also recommended.
If you wanna have a try of camping, a warm sleeping bag and a moisture-proof pad will help you enjoy good nights during the trekking trip according our rich experience in organizing Tibet trekking tour.
Trek porter or animal
It is not a pleasant thought to carry your luggage by yourself when walking at high-altitude areas. You can find porters and animals at Darchen. They charge around 200-300CNY per day, but the price is determined by the weight of your luggage and the season. A yak can carry two or three backpacks, depending on their weight. Small groups of two or three people are more likely to end up with a horse than a yak, as single yaks are notoriously difficult to manage.
Tourists can rent poters to carry your luggage
See more tips for trekking in Tibet.
Stage one: Darchen to Dira-puk Monastery (6 hours, 20km, 200m ascent)
The Kailash kora usually begins on the western edge of Darchen. Only 4km from Darchen the trail climbs up over the southwest end of a east–west ridge to each a cairn at 4730m. The cairn is bedecked with prayer flags and marks the first views of Mt Kailash’s southern or lapis lazuli face and a chaktsal gang, the first of the kora’s four prostration points. Very quickly the trail bends round to the north and enters the barren Lha-chu Valley. From here on, the narrow Lha-chu River provides a steady supply of water all the way to Dira-puk Monastery.
The narrow Lha-chu River
After passing a series of ruined chörtens and a number of long mani (prayer) walls, the trail reaches a small bridge across the Lha-chu at 4710m. The bridge is about three hours’ walk from Darchen and is directly below Chuku Monastery perched high above the valley floor on the hillside to the west. During the pilgrim season, a few nomad tents may be set up on the other side of the river from the monastery, with food (instant noodles and snacks) and water for sale. Chatting with nomads can be an interesting part of your trekking tour in Tibet. They will help you to know more about Tibet.
You need to go across Chuku bridge to reach Chuku Monastery
From the Chuku bridge there are alternative trails along the east and west banks of the river. Either way it’s about three hours to Dira-puk Monastery. The trail along the eastern bank is the regular pilgrim route, but on the western trail there are some fine grassy camp sites at Damding Donkhang (4890m). Just take your time between Chuku Monastery and Dira-puk Monastery as this stretch has some of the best scenery of the entire kora. It’s possible to overnight in the monastery’s rather basic guesthouse (50CNY for each bed), though be aware that Indian pilgrims often book all the beds here, too.