Kailash Tour via Simikot begins with visits to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. We then fly to Nepalgunj, a city in the western Terai plains of Nepal followed by a visit to one of the most remote towns of Nepal, Simikot. We travel along ancient pilgrimage routes and trade links, trekking across the border into Tibet. On our 20-day journey we also circumambulate the Kailash and tour Mansarovar Lake, both of which hold great natural, cultural and religious significance. Another important aspect of the trip is the opportunity to visit the Garuda valley, a place believed to be the cradle of the Tibetan civilization during the ancient times when bon religion was practiced throughout Tibet, long before Buddhism was introduced.
We will be stayingat Hotel Norbulinka in Kathmandu, Hotel Siddhartha in Nepalgunj and teahouses during trek. While trekking in Nepal (Simikot to Hilsa), it should be understood that the area is developing so the accommodation facilities there will be fairly basic. Therefore, we can decide to either stay in the local tea houses or in tents (which will be arranged by Himalayan Glacier). Accommodations in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj and Tibet (except trekking) will be on twin-shared basis but while trekking (both in Nepal and Tibet), you will be accommodated in a common dormitory.
After arriving at the Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, we will be greeted by a representative from Himalayan Glacier who will drop us off at our hotel. After checking in, we take a rest or visit Himalayan Glacier’s office. In the evening, there will be a welcome dinner hosted by Himalayan Glacier. During our dinner, we enjoy excellent traditional Nepalese cuisine along with a brief cultural program.
Today we visit four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. Basantapur Durbar Square has ancient palaces with rich art and architecture. Pashupatinath Temple is one of the holiest places for Hindus. The ancient Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest stupas in the world and the Swayambhunath Stupa meaning "the self-existent" is popularly known among foreigners as the Monkey Temple owing to the large monkey population residing in the area. Overnight in Kathmandu.
After our short excursion in Kathmandu, we take an hour-long flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, located in Western Nepal. Nepalgunj, a town near the Nepal-India border, is also the gateway to Simikot, Humla. The town itself is an interesting Terai town that showcases the diverse culture of Nepal. In Nepalgunj, we visit the local market, mini zoo and nearby villages. Overnight in Nepalgunj.
We take a 40-minute flight from Nepalgunj to Simikot and admire the beauty of the soaring mountain cliffs from our airplane. Simikot, the head quarter of the Humla District, is cut off from the rest of the country due to its remoteness. While here, we learn about the local people and their rich culture, which is closely tied to the Tibetans because of the close proximity of the two places. We have lunch at Simikot and also register for the permit at the police office. From Simikot, we ascend for a while, then descend towards the village of Tuling. We continue walking through jungles and villages along the Karnali River towards Dharapori. Overnight in Dharapori.
Our walk is on relatively flat trails beginning with the trail alongside the Karnali River. We walk along the fields cultivated mainly with barley, buckwheat, rice and potatoes. There are two hot springs near Kermi where we may soothe our aching bodies. We can also visit ancient Buddhist monasteries close to Kermi --Laikyo Gompa and Lhundrup Choeling Gompa. Overnight in Kermi.
Today’ trek is a flat and steep ascent until reaching a small pass and crossing a suspension bridge over the Salli River. From here one can enjoy views of the beautiful pine trees and the mighty Karnali River. We will also visit the remote Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery. Overnight in Yalbang.
We walk on a trail above the Karnali River. As we ascend further, the greenery begins to vanish and so do the smaller bushes. They give way to pine trees and rocky hills. After reaching Tumkot, we visit Dhungkar Choezom Monastery, one of the most important Sakya monasteries in the Tibetan region. Overnight in Tumkot.
Today's trek is on a relatively easy trail above the Karnali River. After walking a few miles we begin to notice the change in climate, vegetation and landscape which becomes more rocky and secluded. The trees that you see are not pine trees anymore. They are now short and low junipers. Overnight in Yari.
We cross the first pass of the trek today, the Nara La pass (4,620m). The vegetation is bleak by now and the landscape is familiar to that of Tibet. After crossing the pass we will be greeted by excellent views of the beautiful Tibetan plateau and Yari Village. From here on, it is a shaky descent down until Hilsa, a border town which is also a dropping point for the pilgrims on their way to Mt. Kailash by helicopter. Overnight in Hilsa.
We walk across the Friendship bridge at Hilsa where the Chinese officials will check our permits and passports. We also meet our Tibetan guide here. We ascend from Hilsa to Purang and pass Rinzin Zangpo Gompa and Kangje Village along the way. In Purang, we visit the ancient Purang Gompa and explore the unique Buddhist frescoes of IIX century. Overnight in Purang.
On our way to Montser we pass through Rakshas and Mansarover lakes. After reaching Montser we settle down for a while then visit Tirtapuri (4510m). Located northwest of Mount Kailash, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs are closely associated with Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Pilgrims bathe in pools fed by the springs, visit the monastery containing the guru's footprint and dig for healing stones along a one-hour pilgrimage route. After touring Tirtapuri we return back to Montser to spend the night.
It takes us around 2 hours to reach the Garuda Valley that lies to the southwest of Mt Kailash. It contains mysterious caves, some of which have never been explored. Many believe that this was the cradle of the Tibetan civilization during the time of the Shang Shung kings, long before Buddhism reached the roof of the world. For those interested in the archeological and historical sites, Garuda Valley will be a dream come true. After touring the amazing valley we move to Darchen a small town, situated right in front of the sacred Mount Kailash. Overnight in Darchen.
Today, we begin our Kora of Mt. Kailash. The first day out of Darchen involves a six-hour hike in a deep valley through walls of red rock. We continue across the plain to Shershong. We further cross a bridge leading to Chhuku Gompa high on the hill visible from the valley. The trail leads to Dirapuk from where we will have a stunning view of the north face of Mt. Kailash. Overnight in Dirapuk.
Today will be the most difficult section of our journey. We climb Drolma-la Pass at 5,750m/19,910ft. The pass whose name literally means the pass of Tara is beautiful and is filled with five-colored praying flags. From Drolma-la Pass, we descend to Dzutul-puk. At Dzutul-puk, we come across the incredible Thugje Zinbu (Lake of Compassion) and a few ancient meditative caves. Overnight in Dzutul-puk.
We gradually wind out of the valley towards Barka plain. After completing the holy Kora of Mount Kailash at Darchen, we drive for 2 hours to Mansarovar Lake. The lake holds religious significance for both Hindus and Buddhists. As per Hindu theology, Lake Mansarovar is a personification of purity, and one who drinks water from the lake is believed to go to the abode of Lord Shiva after death. Buddhists also associate the lake with the legendary lake known as Anavatapta in Sanskrit where Queen Maya is believed to have conceived Buddha. Overnight in Mansarovar.
Today, we circumambulate the beautiful Mansarovar Lake which has a circumference of 90 km making it one of the highest fresh water lakes in the world. The belief is that the Kora of Mount Kailash is completed only with a holy dip in the lake and a drink of its holy water relieves one from the sins of a hundred lives. We circle round Mansarovar by Jeep, and if time permits, we visit Chui Gompa, another attraction of Manasrovar. Overnight in Mansarovar.
Today, we have to accomplish a long drive from Mansarovar to Saga traversing through the sacred historic Chiu Monastery. We continue driving past Hor Quo and across the Mayum La pass (5,200m). While passing through, we will have glimpses of small towns like Zhongba and Paryang. This journey covers 270 km from Mansarovar to Paryang and adjoins Saga, 255 km away from Paryang. From Saga instead of going towards Lhasa, we drive along a different route to Kathmandu. Overnight in Saga.
At our return, we cross the Yarlung Tsangpo or Brahmaputra River and then drive to Nyalam. At the first pass we stumble upon Paigu-Tso, a huge lake with Mt. Shishapangma (8,027m) at its background. We also get a glimpse of Mt. Everest as the road climbs the Lalung La Pass (5,124m). After crossing yet another pass, Tong La (5,120m), we finally reach the border town Zangmu. Overnight in Zangmu.
We drive to the border check point to go through the custom formalities. After reaching Friendship Bridge, we will be leaving our Tibet-side vehicles, and will walk for around 15 minutes towards Nepal. From Kodari, it takes another 4-5 hours drive to reach Kathmandu. Overnight in Kathmandu.
The Kailash adventure in the Himalayas comes to an end today. There is nothing to do but trade emails with travel companions and organize the photos. A representative from Himalayan Glacier will take us to the airport approximately 3 hours before the scheduled flight.
This trek entails a couple of days in high elevations, walking for long hours and 6-12 hours of driving per day in some days. Therefore being physically fit is highly recommended. It is also advised that we consult our doctor prior to the excursion and obtain necessary advice, as well as medications for traveling in extreme altitude.
During trekking in Nepal, we will be under a Nepali guide and while in Tibet a Tibetan guide will be our leader. This kind of arrangement will ensure that our guide has thorough knowledge of his respective region. Also, during trekking in both Nepal and Tibet, potters and ponies/yaks will be responsible for carrying our luggage.