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Tibet Trekking Advice: useful guide and tips for trekking in Tibet

Trekking in Tibet is the most unique experience in the world. At an average altitude of around 4,800 meters above sea level, this is unlike any trekking you have ever done elsewhere, and the amazing landscape of high mountains, sacred lakes, hidden valleys, and vast expansive plains and prairies is unforgettable.

Tibet has an unusual and unique climate as well, with the perfect time for trekking being in spring and autumn, when the weather is mild and warm, with almost no rain and lovely clear skies. Summer can be hot and wet, especially with the thinner atmosphere allowing more UV rays through, and the winter can be cold and fresh, yet dry with clear skies. Winter can also be too cold in some places for traveling in Tibet, especially in the more remote areas of the west, north, and northwest of the region.

When is the best time for trekking in Tibet?

Weather Conditions of Tibet in Different Seasons

Spring is the time when the ice starts to melt and the land begins its long climb to the summer temperatures. Most of the plateau sees very little change in temperature until May, when daily temperatures can finally rise to as high as 12-13 degrees, though the nights are often still well below freezing. There is almost no rain in April and most of May, with a little increase towards the end of the month as the monsoon rain prepares to arrive.

Spring is one of the best times to trek in TibetSpring is one of the best times to trek in Tibet

Summer is the monsoon season, and runs from June to the end of August, and sometimes even into September. The weather is fine and hotter than you might expect, though still cooler than most areas at this latitude. Temperatures in the day can range from 12 degrees to as high as 22 degrees across the plateau, and the nightly temperatures only drop to around freezing or 1-2 degrees at the coldest. Rains are frequent in some areas of the eastern plateau, and less frequent in the far west and northwest. However, most rain that does fall tends to do so in the late afternoon and evening, and the days are often bright and sunny for traveling.

Autumn is a little colder than summer, but warmer than spring, as the weather starts to cool down and the winds pick up a little. Rains usually stop before mid-September, and the weather turns dry and clear, with excellent views of the high mountain peaks. Autumn is also the time of the leaves falling, and many parts of the plateau see carpets of rustic-colored leaves covering the ground.

Winter in Tibet can be either very cold or very mild, depending on where you are. Overall, the weather is usually dry and fresh, with clear skies and bright sunshine. However, it can get down to temperatures ranging from 4-5 degrees to as low as -12 degrees in the daytime, with nighttime temperatures hitting well below freezing all across the region. Snow is prevalent in the western areas and on the highest peaks, and in late January to early February, even Lhasa sees some snowfall.

Spring and autumn are best trekking seasons in Tibet

Spring and autumn are the two best times for trekking in Tibet. With milder weather than in the summer and winter months, you will find that the skies are almost always clear and bright, with plenty of sunshine and almost no rainfall. Temperatures are mild to a little chilly, but neither as hot nor as cold as the summer and winter, making it comfortable for trekking across the region.

Best Tibet Trekking Season for Different Places

Lhasa
Lhasa is the first stop when traveling to Tibet for most of tourists, which is a place of historic figures and cultural heritage. Four seasons are all suitable for trekking. If you just want to experience a different lifestyle in Tibet, it’s recommended that from October to the next March is a great time for traveling or trekking. It’s not Tibet trekking peak, therefore there is no worry about the shortage of train ticket to Tibet or admission ticket for the Potala Palace. It’s much easier to experience the purity and truth of Tibet with little tourists in Tibet than in tour peaks.

Ganden Monastery Trekking Two tourists are trekking around Ganden Monastery in April.

Nyingchi Prefecture
Weather is fine thru the whole year in Nyingchi Prefecture. Season and climate have little influence in traveling to here. The stunning landscape in Nyingchi Prefecture ranks No.1 in Tibet. The best time to appreciate is from March to October. However, July and August are rainy seasons in Tibet, and there is a possibility for a natural disaster like a landslide, Mudslide, landslide, etc. It is a great time for trekking to Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon via Paizhen all year around. May to October is the good time for Motuo Trekking, and heavy snow seals the mountain passes in the rest time.

Chamdo Prefecture
The main natural resource in this place is mountain, lake, glacier, plants and animals. Speaking of cultural landscape, Kang-pa culture and the Ancient Tea Horse Road are typical Tibetan characteristics. Located in alpine and gorge region, special landform and climate decide the best time for trekking or traveling is April to May and September to October. In this period, you can have a Tea Horse Road trekking.

Shigatse Prefecture
July and August are rainy season in this prefecture. Though it usually rains in the night, sunny in the daytime, it’s not a suitable time for Trekking Mount Everest. The best time to travel to Everest Base Camp is April to June and October.

Mount Everest TrekkingTourists are trekking in Mount Everest in May.

Nagqu Prefecture
The most distinctive landscape is grassland and lake dotted with this holy land. Due to the high average altitude in Nagqu Prefecture, it’s warm in May to September, which is the best time to travel to Nagqu Prefecture to enjoy the golden time for grassland.

Fitness Demand for Trekking in Tibet

You have to be at a level of fitness that will enable you to complete a day of walking up and down hills and passes for most treks in Tibet. A normal trekker can endure 5-8km in one day above 3,000 meters. You will need to do some physical exercise at home for at least one month before you enter Tibet, and the best sports to prepare for trekking are cycling, swimming, and jogging. Good physical conditioning will help complete a 4 to 5-day trek in the high mountain areas and maximize your enjoyment of the trek.

Altitude sickness when trekking
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the most important medical problem while trekking in Tibet. Also known as altitude sickness, the effect of altitude on those who ascend too rapidly to elevations above 3,000 meters can range from mild to severe, depending on the person. The initial symptoms of AMS are:
● Loss of appetite
● Nausea, Vomiting
● Insomnia/Sleeplessness
● Dizziness, Light headiness, Confusion, Disorientation
● Persistent Headache
● Weakness, Fatigue, Lassitude, Heavy legs
● Breathlessness and breathing irregularity
● Slight swelling of hand and face
● Reduced urine output

enough rest during trekkingTaking enough rest during trekking is necessary to prevent from altitude sickness.

You should consider stopping your ascent if any of the above symptoms appear, otherwise more serious problems may occur that can even cause death, sometimes within just a few hours. The only remedy for the Altitude Sickness is to descend to a lower altitude. As recommended by the most experienced high-altitude trekkers, ascending no more than 300-500m per day above 3,000 meters and having plenty of rest during trekking are the best methods for prevention of AMS.

What to pack for Tibet trekking?

Trekking Permits

Foreign travelers must apply for the Tibet Travel Permit before travelling to Tibet. This is done by us once you have booked your tour, and we will use scanned copies of your passport and visa to make the application on your behalf. You will also need other permits to trek in most places in Tibet, such as the Alien’s travel permit for travel to areas outside Lhasa, the Frontier Pass for travel to areas close to the borders with Nepal, India, and Bhutan, such as Mount Everest, and the Military Permit for travel to certain sensitive areas, such as Mount Kailash. These are all obtained using your passport and Tibet Travel Permit, and are all done by us on your behalf.

Trekking Gear

● Duffel bag to carry gear while trekking.
● Day pack: this is a small rucksack to carry the personal requirement for the day e.g., toilet items, camera film, towel, soap, etc.
● Water bottle.
● Sunglasses and snow glasses.
● 2-4 large plastic bags to separate clean clothes from dirty ones. 6-10 smaller plastic bags to dispose of garbage.
● Wallet and/or money belt with the compartment for coins.
● Toiletries with large and smaller towels. Toilet paper can be bought in Lhasa and some villages in the mountains.
● Small headlamp or torch with spare batteries and bulbs, a box of matches or lighter to light the fire while cooking or burn the garbage.
● Snow gaiters are essential in April, May and October, December at the beginning and the end of the winter for the snow on the mountain somewhere is deep to your knee.
● A sewing box with needle and thread can help you sew something.
● Camera, enough batteries (the batteries run fast in low temperature.), a notebook, a pen, a pocket knife, an inflatable sleeping mat, a trekking map, GPS, etc. are optional if you want to take them.

Trekking Clothing

● Lightweight walking boots or hiking shoes, if you plan to buy a new pair, please wear them for some days at home to avoid blisters. Also, bring spare laces and cotton shoe-pads. Women’s sanitary pad is a very good material to put into your shoes to take the sweat away.
● A pair of normal walking shoes. You can wear them to the camp at night.
● Warm jacket. Fiberfill or down should be adequate. If you trek is in April, May, late September or October, a down jacket is a must. Sometimes the temperature at night is Zero or even below Zero. November to next March is winter. It is too cold and not suitable for trekking.
● A rainproof jacket with hood or a poncho. Get one that is guaranteed waterproof. Don’t forget to prepare a rainproof bag for your backpack as well.
● Woolen shirts and thick sweaters.
● A pair of lightweight trousers, the loose cotton pants are the best. Jeans are unsuitable to wear on treks. Windproof/waterproof trousers are necessary on all treks going above 10000 ft.
● Wear warm trousers in the morning and at night.
● Thermal underwear: these are excellent to sleep in at night. In the winter time, thermal underwear is quite in demand.
● 2-3 cotton T-shirts, and it is better to have one long-sleeved shirt for avoiding sunburn.
● 1-2 towels for removing the sweat on your back and head.
● Wear a woolen hat in the morning and at night. During winter it is an essential item. A sun hat and ensure it has a wide brim to cover the face and neck.
● A pair of gloves.
● Several pairs of thin and thick woolen socks.
● Cotton underwear.

How to plan a trekking trip in Tibet?

Porter service when trekking in Tibet

To hire a porter with few yaks and horses is very important because the trek always lasts for 4-5 days, besides your traveling paraphernalia like clothing, camera, drug, and sleeping bag, you have to carry 10-15kg supplies for 4-5 days consumption. Most of the trekkers cannot complete the trek without the help of horse and yaks, the trekkers should be aware that the trek is in the high mountain area and we could not take the heavy backpack for so long.

yaks and horses is very importantTo hire a porter with few yaks during trekking could help tourists a lot.

Food and water when trekking in Tibet

On the route of some famous trekking route, like Ganden to Samye trek, the water can be found in the camp place or on halfway. The water comes from the ice mountain so it is clean, but it is better to boil the water before you drink. The fresh food must be cooked as well.

Do eat or drink some unusual food like fresh yak milk before cooking them. If you follow these simple rules, you should not experience any severe stomach problems or diarrhea. By the way, the drug made in China is safe and qualified, but it is better to buy them in big drug shop in Lhasa.

We will prepare enough food for trekking, because it is too difficult to boil water at high elevation, the instant and easily cooked food will be the standard during your trekking. The tour guide will help you to cook instead of cooking for you. The meals in the wild are usually quite simple, such as bread, milk, dry beef, fruit, vegetable, canned beef or pork, as well as a special cake made by corn.

Food in Tibet TrekkingTrekkers cooked food by themselves when trekking in Tibet.

You can make a simple meal with the outdoor cooker. A well-prepared lunch or dinner can be obtained if you pay money to take a professional cook with you. A trekking cook is available who can make perfect western food. If it is over 5 people in your group, you'd better hire a cook for delicious meals after your long distance trekking.

Accommodation during trekking in Tibet

When trekking on the plateau, you do have a variety of types of accommodation, depending on where you are trekking, However, it is also likely that at any given place, you will only find one type of place to stay, and will not have much of a choice.

camping in tentsTrekkers could bring or rent tents for camping during trekking.

Accommodation when trekking usually consists of camping in tents, staying in local tent guesthouses or stone guesthouses (where available), or staying in the monastery guesthouses, which are often found close to many of the trekking trails, as monasteries are a common sight in Tibet.

None of these options have even as high as two-star accommodation quality, and you are most likely to find that the facilities are very basic, with no hot water, as well as no running water at all and often all water coming from the lake or stream nearby. Wi-Fi is often impossible to get in remote locations, though some monasteries now have internet options available. You will also find that there is no heating aside from the stove in the main room, and you will need to have a good sleeping bag to stay warm.

Cost and travel agency when trekking in Tibet

The cost of an all-inclusive trek ranges from about USD 120-200 per person per day depending on the region of the trekking, the quality of service, number of days and number of persons in the package. The all-inclusive trekking provided by travel agency cost more dollars than backpacking but it guarantees comfort and security, especially for trekking at high altitude mountain area, the possibility of facing danger is much higher than trekking in low altitude place, to use the full inclusive service are quite necessary.

Actually the individual backpacking is quite limited in Tibet. To travel with a well trained and experienced guide is helpful in the remote wilderness and is enjoyable to talk to on the trail. It is strongly advised not to employ freelance guides or use travel agency which has not enough experience of organizing trekking tour. Here at Tibet Vista, we have a full package available that can provide you with guides for trekking, porters to carry your things, cooks, support staff, and we even have arrangements with many hotels to get you the best accommodation at the best price.

Conclusion

If you are planning a trek in Tibet, then you really need to plan well, and make sure that you plan in advance. Preparation is everything when trekking at high altitudes, and if you are not well prepared, you could find that your trip may be ruined. Make sure that you have prepared well, in packing, general preparation of the trek and itinerary, and in your level of physical fitness, and that you have trained for these arduous events.

Trekking in Tibet Tourists enjoyed the stunning natural landscape as they trekked in Tibet.

Yak Trekking TibetYaks can be porters to carry travelling paraphernalia in Trekking to Tibet.

Trekking at Mount KailashThere are a lot of trekkers to trek in Tibetan holy mountain-Mt. Kailash.

Tibet Yak Porter To hire a porter with few yaks during trekking could help tourists a lot.

Trekking TentTrekkers could bring or rent tents for camping during trekking.

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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