Top 10 Classic Trekking Routes in Tibet

April,14 2020 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

For world-wide travel enthusiasts, Tibet is an attractive holy land for exploring. Its stunning natural wonders and vibrant Buddhist culture echo irresistible magnetism. Among dozens of ways of experiencing true Tibet trekking, the following routes are universally taken as the best choices for ardent travelers. Ready to hit the road? Here are top 10 classic trekking routes in Tibet.

1. Gama Valley Trekking, Shigatse( 10-15 Days)
2. Mt.Kailash Kora, Ngari (2 Days)
3. Namtso Lake trekking, Damxung (7-10 Days)
4. Lhasa--Tsurphu Monastery--Yangpachen (2-3 Days)
5. Lhasa--Ganden Monastery( Gyama Valley)--Chimpuk--Samye Monatery (4-5 Days)
6. Xiazayü ( Chawalong Town)--Gongshan, Yunnan (Bingzhongluo Town) (20-25 Days)
7. Motuo Trekking (5-7 Days)
8. Sai Town (Lhozhag County, Shannan prefecture)--Baimalin tso (1-2 Days)
9. Dezhong Hot Spring(Maizhokunggar county)--Drigung Thil Monastery (1 Day)
10. Zhari Kora--Cuoga Lake(3-5 Days)

Details about those ten classic Tibet trekking route are listed in the following parts.

1. Gama Valley Trekking, Shigatse( 10-15 Days)

Gama Valley Trekking Tourists enjoyed the stunning sunset as they camped around Gama Valley.

Situated in Tingri County, Shigatse, Gama Valley is a lush valley formed by erosion of freezing snowmelt rivers and countless towering mountains nearby. As early as 20th century, Gama Valley was credited as “the most beautiful valley on the planet and one of the classic trekking routes in the world.”

Gama Valley TrekkingTourists crossed the pristine forest in Gama Valley.

The entire trekking route is within Mt. Everest Nature Reserve. The Gama Valley is loaded with rare plants, wildlife and breathtaking wetlands, waterfalls, lakes, etc. On top of that, the born mountaineers Sherpas also live there and you may find it interesting to chat with them against the backdrop of Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Makalu.

Gama Valley Trekking The born Sherpas are great helpers for trekkers.

You can enjoy the grand Himalaya mountain range, experience rare plants and wildlife in Gama Valley and get to know legendary Sherpas.

Tough Challenge
The dramatic altitude change and changeable climate along Gama Valley are not a pushover for most trekkers. It is recommended only for well-trained and experienced trekkers.
Nowadays, there are four routes that pass Gama Valley as follows:

Gama Valley Trekking Route

Gama Valley Trekking RouteCheck the detailed itinerary of the third trekking route.

2. Mt. Kailash Kora Trek, Ngari (2 Days)

Speaking of trekking or Kora (circling around religious mountains or sites) in Tibet, Mt. Kailash Kora definitely pops uppermost in one’s mind. Believed to be the “center of the world”, Mt. Kailash is also worshipped in Hinduism, Jainism and Bonismo. Tibetan Buddhists are deeply convinced that circling Mt. Kailash can remove one’s evil and circling Mt. Kailash for 108 times even makes you a Buddha.

Mount Kailash Trekking A traveler was trekking around sacred Mt. Kailash.

For Hindus who travel all the way from India for Mt. Kailash Kora, they believe that a Hindu shall at least come here once in his lifetime. Then circle sacred Mt. Kailash and have a bath in Lake Manasarovar. In this way, they can wash their sins off. A handful of them even die as they circle Mt. Kailash, which is taken not with sadness but is thought to be an ideal ending.

When trekking, you can enjoy breathing scenery of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, experience deeply religious atmosphere and prove how strong your body is.

Mount Kailash Trekking Unbelievably scenery of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar at twilight.

Tough Challenge
Mt. Kailash Kora poses a daunting challenge to one’s physique and stamina. The trekking route has an average altitude of 4700m, in Drolma La pass even as high as 5630m. In places like here, the climate is constantly changing and so unpredictable. Therefore, it is quite risky for those who just come to Tibet to trek in Ngari region.

July and August are the Kora seasons for most pilgrims. Trekkers can follow their steps with the help of tour guide so as not to get lost.
It normally takes around two days to circle Mt. Kailash. However for the weak, it could take a couple of more days.

3. Namtso Lake trekking, Damxung (7-10 Days)

Circling holy mountains and lakes in Tibet is considered as a way to express pilgrims’ loyalty and worship to Tibetan gods as well as a distinct means of practicing Buddhism.
Namtso Lake, celebrated as the most sacred lake in Tibet, draws a sizable number of tourists and pilgrims each year.

Namtso Lake Trekking Tourists ascended Tashi island around Namtso Lake.

Enjoying Namtso Lake trek, you can get amazed at the heavenly scenery of Namtso Lake and enjoy the deep and pervasive Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Namtso Lake Trekking The stunning beauty of Lake Namtso never lets tourists down.

Tough Challenge
It is one thing to reach Namtso Lake, but it’s quite another to trek around it. Owing to extreme altitude and long distance, it may take at least a week for one to circle Namtso Lake.

Due to the high altitude, you’d better prepare some altitude sickness capsule just in case.

4. Lhasa--Tsurphu Monastery--Yangpachen (2-3 Days)

This trekking route is a well-developed one and run for years. It enjoys a great reputation amid 20 classic trekking routes in China.

Yangpachen TrekkingTourists trekked on the way to Yangpachen.

Tsurphu Monastery is a major religious site of Kagyu sect, a residence of karma pa for generations. After the end of The Tubo Dynasty, Kagyu sect dominated Tibet for hundred years.

Yangpachen TrekkingThe facade of Tsurphu Monastery.

Yangbachen Hot Spring is known for its abundant geothermal resource and hot spring resorts. It is a great place to refresh yourself after the long trek.

Yangpachen Hot SpringTaking a glimpse of Yangbachen Hot Spring.

Getting to know the history of Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, experiencing the nomadic scenery of Damxung and enjoying refreshing hot spring on the plateau.

5. Lhasa--Ganden Monastery( Gyama Valley)--Chimpuk--Samye Monatery (4-5 Days)

This trekking route is truly a route of religion. After finishing the trekking, you can have a basic understanding of the development of Tibetan Buddhism. Ganden Monastery, one of the great monasteries of Gelug sect, was founded by Je Tsongkhapa. It is believed to be the source of Gelug sect.

Ganden Monastery TrekkingA distant view of Ganden Monastery.

Samye Monastery, the very first monastery built in Tibet, is the first comprehensive monastery that houses traditional Buddhist sculptures, ancient Buddhist scriptures, and monks’ residence.

Samye Monastery TrekkingSamye Monastery stands alone majestically.

Chim-puk Hermitage is surrounded by high mountains and to the south of its valley lies the vast Yarlung Zangbo River and the Hermitage is a collection of cave shrines northeast of Samye and you can explore the meditation retreat of Guru Rinpoche.

Chim-puk HermitageCountless retreat caves and hermitages can be found on the hill.

You can get to know the history of Tibetan Buddhism, explore meditation retreat of Guru Rinpoche and enjoy enchanting pastoral scene in Gyama Valley.

Along this trekking route, you may trek in Gyama Valley, where Songtsän Gampo was born. You will be amazed at how beautiful the pastoral scenery is if you travel here in summer.

6. Xiazayü (Chawalong Town)--Gongshan, Yunnan (Bingzhongluo Town) (20-25 Days)

This trekking route covers part of the famous ancient tea horse road (ancient business trail).

Tea Horse Road TrekkingAncient tea horse road.

You can enjoy the natural scenery and find out the delicate interconnection between economic development and cultural prosperity.

Tea Horse Road TrekkingTrekkers move along the ancient tea horse road.

For years, only the horse caravan trek through this long and challenging route. It takes around at least a month to finish the entire journey.
Besides, you’d better be physically strong and have enough time and financial support to sustain the long distance trek.

7. Motuo Trekking (5-7 Days)

Motuo, which used to be the only county that can’t be accessed through highway, has now been available for trekkers since 2013. It takes around a week to trek in Motuo. Sadly, currently it is not open to foreign tourists.

In Motuo, you can enjoy the unspoiled natural scenery and possibly find rare Snow Lotus.

Motuo TrekkingTrekkers find a way to move forward in Motuo trekking.

Tough Challenge
The primitive topography and arduous environment are extremely challenging and risky for entrance-level trekkers.
You have to climb snow mountains and trek through swamp. Never venture into Motuo without full preparation and experienced guide.

8. Sai Town (Lhozhag County, Shannan prefecture)--Baimalin tso (1-2 Days)

Sai town, Lhozhag County, is famous for its Saika Gutuo monastery from which Kagyu sect originates. You can find the nine-story watchtower which is said to be built by Buddha Milarepa.

Saika Gutuo TrekkingTourists join monks' welcome dance at twilight.

Baimalin tso, situated at the foot of holy Mt. Gulha Kangri (7538m), is known to all in Shannan prefecture. The legend goes that if you are destined to come here, you can see your past and present life when you look into the lake.

Baimalin Tso TrekkingGaze at the peaceful Baimalin tso.

Since the altitude of this trekking route is comparatively lower (around 3700m), it would be much easier to trek there for most travellers. You may enjoy the great scenery and rent horses from locals if you feel tried.

9. Dezhong Hot Spring(Maizhokunggar county)--Drigung Thil Monastery (1 Day)

This trekking route is rather relaxing and easily-manageable. You can enjoy refreshing Dezhong hot spring, one of the most famous hot springs in Tibet. Meanwhile, Drigung Thil Monastery is another great place to explore, for the practice of sky burial is held here.

Dezhong Hot Spring is said to have healing effect for skin disease and minor injury.

Dezhong Hot Spring TrekkingDezhong Hot Spring enjoys great popularity amid locals.

Drigung Thil Monastery is the major monastery of Kagyu sect and its impressive and grand architecture is definitely unforgettable. What people heard most from this monastery is the mysterious sky burial, in which dead people were chopped into pieces and fed to vultures. People believed this is the best way to offer your flesh to other living creatures.

Drigung Thil Monastery TrekkingSpectacular architecture and superb view of Drigung Thil Monastery.

The sky burial is not open to visitors because it is a taboo in Tibet.

10. Zhari Kora--Cuoga Lake(3-5 Days)

With sacred mountain and holy lake, the trek offers the best scenery you couldn’t possibly imagine. Besides, the trekking distance is not that long and it only takes around 4-5 days.

Cuoga Lake TrekkingWonderful vista of Cuoga Lake.

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

Energetic, responsible and reliable, Sonam is a guide with more than seven years experience informing visitors about heritage sites and attractions places in Tibet.

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