13 nights / 14 Days Tibet, Sichuan 4×4 China Tour
– Drive a land cruiser to discover the beauty of nature in Tibet, Kham and Sichuan;
– Get in touch with the local Menba, Luoba and Den minorities;
– Explore the world’s largest canyon Yarlung Zangbo;
– Visit remote and unspoiled areas only accessible with a special permit;
– Stay overnight at a local family’s house and gain a deep insight into the culture, religion and folk customs of the various tribes and minorities along the Tibet – Sichuan Highway.
EASTERN TIBET, KHAM AND SICHUAN OFF-ROAD LAND CRUISER ADVENTURE
This tour will lead you from the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region TAR – Lhasa – to remote, unspoiled and breath-taking places like the world’s largest canyon of Yarlung Zangbo, the mighty Mt. Namche Barwa and Mt. Genie, Lhagu Glacier and Litang along the Tibet – Sichuan Highway and is specially designed for people, who want to explore Eastern Tibet, Kham and Sichuan on this self-drive adventure. Alternatively the trip can be done with a local driver.
– Travel date: April – October; recommended travel date: May, June, September; (rainy season in July and August)
– Destinations: Lhasa, Nyingchi, Namche Barwa, Pome, Ranwu, Zalyu, Baso, Markham, Litang, Kangding, Chengdu;
– Duration: 14 days;
– Starting in: Lhasa;
– Ending in: Chengdu;
– Group size: minimum 3 people, maximum 12 people.
On this trip you can choose to either drive a land cruiser or be driven by a local driver to stunning, unspoiled areas like Namche Barwa, Yarlung Zangpo Canyon and Zalyu district, which is usually difficult to access for foreign travelers because you need a special permit. You will get in close contact with the local people and gain an insight in their culture, religion and folk customs.
We offer two different types of vehicles: a Mitsubishi land cruiser and the slightly more spacious Toyota 4500 land cruiser. Both vehicles can take 4 passengers including the driver.
You can also start the trip in Chengdu and drive the same route to Lhasa or fly from Chengdu to Nyingchi where a new airport has been opened September 2006. Please contact us if you want to shorten the itinerary or combine this tour with a visit to Mount Everest, Mt. Kailash, a train trip to Xining or an overland tour to Kathmandu, Nepal.
The Sichuan – Tibet Highway
The 2,413-kilometer-long Sichuan-Tibet Highway starts from Chengdu, Sichuan province, and ends at Lhasa in Tibet. The construction of the highway began in April 1950, and on December 25, 1954, it was opened. The road stretches into Lhasa passing Ya’an, Garze and Chamdo traversing 14 high mountains which average 4,000-5000 meters (Mt. Erlang, Mt. Zheduo and Mt. Hengduan), spans dozens of famous rivers (Daduhe River, Jinshajiang River, Lantsang River, Nujiang River) and crosses primeval forests amid spectacular scenery.
DAY 1. ARRIVAL LHASA (L/D)
Upon arrival at Lhasa Gongkar Airport, you will be picked up by our guide and transferred to the “Gorkha Hotel”. As a welcome present, you will receive a Tibetan “Hada” – a white silk scarf symbolizing respect and blessing. The rest of the day is free to rest and for acclimatization.
Lhasa is the traditional capital of Tibet and the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is also the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama. Lhasa literally means “place of the gods”, although ancient Tibetan documents and inscriptions demonstrate that the place was first called Rasa, which means “courtyard place” or “goat place”. Its altitude is about 3,650 m, making it one of the highest cities in the world, and its population about 200,000.
DAY 2. LHASA (B/L/D)
Today we visit the world-famous Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery and Barkhor Bazaar. Your English-speaking Tibetan guide will answer all your questions about the splendid world of Buddhism.
The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. The site was used as a meditation retreat by King Songtsen Gampo, who in 637 built the first palace there, which was incorporated into later buildings. The construction of the present palace began in 1645 under the fifth Dalai Lama Lozang Gyatso. In 1648, the Potrang Karpo (White Palace) was completed, and the Potala was used as a winter palace by the Dalai Lama from that time. The Potrang Marpo (Red Palace) was added between 1690 and 1694.
Jokhang temple was constructed by King Songtsen Gampo starting in the year 639. This temple has remained a center of Buddhist pilgrimage for centuries. In the past several centuries the temple complex was expanded and now covers an area of about 25,000 sq. meters. Jokhang temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also statues of King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (daughter of Emperor Taizong of Tang China) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.
After lunch we will go shopping. The Barkhor Street around the Jokhang Temple has a variety of Tibetan goods. You should also make your way to Chongsaikang Market just around the corner, which is the busiest local market in the old town where you find a lot of fancy goods and handcrafts sold by very interesting people.
Overnight at “Gorkha Hotel”.
DAY 3. LHASA (B/L/D)
In the morning we visit Norbulingka Park, a masterpiece of Tibetan art situated in the western suburbs of Lhasa. It was built in the middle of the 18th century during the reign of the 7th Dalai Lama and served as the Summer Palace of successive Dalai Lamas where they handled political affairs, practiced religious activities and spent holidays. Traditionally the Dalai Lamas would leave the Potala Palace every spring and spend the summer in Norbulingka. The park covers an area of 360,000 square meters and has 374 rooms.
Lingka in Tibetan means a beautiful place with trees and lawns, and Norbu means treasure. In 2001 Norbulingka was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site as an extension of Potala Palace.
In the afternoon, we will drive to the Sera Monastery, which is one of the “great three” Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The other two are Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery. It was founded in 1414, by Jamchen Chojey (Sakya Yeshe), a disciple of Tsong Khapa. Visit the sutra printing room and watch the monks practice debating.
Overnight at “Gorkha Hotel”.
DAY 4. LHASA – NYINGCHI (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we leave Lhasa and drive to Nyingchi via Datse, Metrok Gongga passing by Milha Mountain (5’013 m). Situated in the lower reaches of the Yaluzhangbu River, the Nyingchi Prefecture has an average altitude of approximately 3’000 meters. The area is known for its mild wet weather and stunning landscape and is inhabited by the Menba and Luoba people who have preserved many of their ancient customs and rituals. They have their own totems and various life styles and some of them remain in patriarch clan communes. In the isolated Yarlung Zangbo Great Canyon they live by gathering, hunting and slash-and-burn cultivation. You will stay overnight at the “Jialong Hotel”.
DAY 5. NYINGCHI – NAMCHE BARWA (B/L/D)
In the morning we leave Nyingchi and drive southward along Nyang River. At Gangga we turn east and follow the Yarlung Zangbo. Originating from the Gyaimanezong glacier on the northern Himalayas, it is the highest river on earth with an average altitude of 4’000 meters. Tibetans refer to it as the “Cradle of Tibet” or the “Mother River”.
Our destination is Zhibai near Mt. Namjaqbarwa (Namche Barwa, 7’782 m) – a noble giant with 49 maritime glaciers, various icefalls and crevasses. Namche Barwa’s steep summit climbs from the gorges of the Yarlung Zangbo River, which curls round the base of the mountain on three sides as it is blocked directly by the Himalayas in Mainling and therefore forced to run northward. The turn is so sharp that a spectacular canyon has formed.
Yarlung Zangbo Great Canyon
The Yarlung Zangbo Great Canyon starts at Dadukha Village and ends at Bashikha, stretches 496 km in length and reaches 5’382 meters in depth. It is the world’s largest canyon (confirmed by the American Geography Committee and Guinness Book of World Records in 1994), covering 17’000 square kilometers with 17 snow-clad peaks above 6’000 meters. Because of its complex geographic and climate conditions, the canyon has a rich variety and abundance of wildlife with rare and unique plants and animals only existing in the vast expanse of the region’s virgin forests.
After arrival at Zhibai we will go for a hike through this fascinating canyon with the Namche Barwa Peak standing proud on the horizon and the river rushing down the valley below you with thunderous noise. This hike lasts approximately eight hours and is moderately physically demanding as we will be walking at an average altitude of 3’500 meters.
On the way from Nyingchi to Zhibai, we will also visit the Burqug Lamaling Monastery of the Red Sect, located on the left bank of the lower reaches of the Nyang River. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides and faces the delta at the mouth of the Nyang River. The monastery was built with wood, with curving eaves and brilliantly painted beams, combining the different artistic styles of the Han and Tibetan peoples. You will stay overnight at a local Menba (also called Monba) family’s house.
DAY 6. NAMCHE BARWA – POME (B/L/D)
From Zhibai we return to Nyingchi and drive on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway (road 318) over Serkhyim La Pass (4’565 m), pass through Tongmai, and then arrive at the attractive market town of Pome (also called Bomi or Powo). The highway leads through spectacular landscape and although large portions of the road are now paved, the dirt road parts are still challenging, especially during the rainy season. Stay overnight at the “Snowland Hotel”.
DAY 7. POME – RANWU TOWN (B/L/D)
After breakfast we continue our journey to Ranwu (also known as Rawu or Raog) Lake, the largest in Southeast Tibet at 3’850 meters above sea level. It contains an area of 22 square kilometers and many of the surrounding peaks are over 5’000 meters high and thus permanently covered by glaciers.
After arrival and a short rest at the “Ranwu Hotel” we either drive or hike approximately 10 km to Lhagu. This beautiful village is located on the lake’s northern shore east of the terminal moraine of Lhagu Glacier. From there we will hike a few hours to enjoy the view on the several glaciers and ice lakes. Afterwards we return to Ranwu either by car or on foot. Overnight at the “Ranwu Hotel”.
Important note: the road to Lhagu might be blocked by water, especially during the rainy season. In this case we will have to cancel the excursion to Lhagu Village and the hike to the glaciers.
DAY 8. RANWU TOWN – ZALYU (B/L/D)
We recommend you to get up early in the morning to capture the peaceful atmosphere. After breakfast we drive southward to Lower Zalyu via Lhamu, Guyu and Zalyu. Gain insight into the traditional way of life of the Den people, a Tibetan tribe that exclusively lives in Zalyu. On the way you will have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of nature at an altitude between 4’000 and 1’400 meters with the majestic Meili Snow Mountain and Indian border villages in the background. We will stay overnight at a guesthouse in Zalyu.
Zalyu County is one of the most remote but most important towns at the boundary between China and India. Zalyu literally means “human’s habitat” in Tibetan. The climate here is moderate, subtropical and sunny with long winters and a lot of rain. The local Den people’s language belongs to the China-Tibetan and Myanmar Austronesian language family. Having no script of their own they use the method of rope knotting or wood-carving. Men traditionally wear sleeveless gowns, while women wear belly tops and skirts.
DAY 9. ZALYU – BASO (B/L/D)
In the morning we leave Zalyu, drive northwards on the National Highway 318 and then eastward to Baso via Zhongsha (or Dzongsar in Tibetan) and Tashi. We will be driving through spectacular canyons and amidst impressive scenery and see the remnants of the big avalanche of Zhongsha.
Zhongsha is a large complex of temples and monks’ quarters perched on a steep cliff. It overlooks the entire valley with its rich farmland.
You will stay overnight at the “Yinbing Hotel”.
DAY 10. BASO – MARKHAM (B/L/D)
Today we drive eastward along the Nujiang River. It has its source on the southern slope of the Tanggula Mountain Range in Tibet with a total length of 2’816 kilometers. The name of the river is changed into the Salween River after flowing into Burma from China, and it finally empties into the Andaman Sea. The Nujiang road follows close beside the river linking the Lisu, Nu, and Tibetan communities along the Nu River for 300 miles of gorgeous scenery.
We cross the river at Nujiang Bridge, drive over the Nujiang and East Grand Mountains and across the Bamda Grassland, and arrive at Markham via Lancangjiang River – the sixth longest river in the world and the largest in Southeast Asia with a total length of 4’880 kilometers. It has its source at the Gangguori Peak at the north of Tanggula Mountain on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and flows through Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China. At the border areas of Laos and Burma, its name is changed to Mekong River and flows through Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to empty into the South Pacific.
After arrival at Markham we will stay overnight at the “Shenkang Hotel”.
DAY 11. MARKHAM – LITANG (B/L/D)
In the morning we leave Markham, drive eastward and cross Jinshajiang Bridge, the border bridge between Tibet and Sichuan, and arrive at Litang via Batang. Enjoy the scenery in the spectacular Yitang Canyon with its virgin forests and hot springs. We take a rest at Batang, famous for its traditional Tibetan songs and dances and Mount Genie standing proud on the horizon.
Mount Genie (or Genyen), standing at 6,204 meters above sea level, is the third highest peak in Sichuan Province. Ranking 13th among the 24 divine mountains in Tibetan Buddhism and one of the three places for ascetic practices, the mountain attracts numerous Tibetan pilgrims. Quietly lying on the Kangnan plateau, Mount Genie is rarely known to outsiders.
Litang is located in Sichuan Province in south-west China, has a population of approximately 50’000 and is also part of the ancient Tibetan province of Kham. The town is a major center of Tibetan culture in Kham and at an elevation of 4’100 meters one of the highest in the world. Several Dalai Lamas were born here and lived in the local monastery. Litang is a bustling little town with colorful street life thanks to the nomadic shepherds and Tibetan people coming to sell and buy their products. The older parts are situated on the hill slopes to the east, while busy construction works are extending the place into the surrounding grassy plains. Every year a 10 days horse racing festival takes place in Litang.
We stay overnight at the “Genie Hotel”.
DAY 12. LITANG – KANGDING (B/L/D)
After breakfast we visit the Litang Monastery (also known as Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery), the biggest monastery of the Yellow-Hat-Sect of Tibetan Buddhists in the Kham area. The monastery was founded in 1580 by the third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso on the site of an older Bön monastery. There are three main temples in the compound. You can view several chambers and a bedroom in which the 7th Dalai Lama is said to have resided. Many famous and influential personal figures were born here, including the 7th and 10th Dalai Lama.
Afterwards we drive across the Litang grassland, descend to the Yarlung Valley and cross Gao’ershi Mountain (4’678m). After having driven across the Xingduqiao Grassland and Zheduo Mountain, we arrive at Kangding, the capital city of Garze (also known as Gantze) Autonomous Prefecture. Kangding, once capital of Chakla, one of the 5 independent kingdoms of Kham (the other ones being Dege, Lhato, Lingtsang and Nangchen) – has long been an important trading center, particularly for tea and herbal medicines. The nomadic Tibetans nowadays come here to trade animals or animal products.
The route to Kangding is referred to as a photographer’s paradise where you will have the opportunity to capture the beauty of nature around Maoyaba Grassland at Litang and Xingduqiao Grassland as well as of the majestic Gongga Mountain (Minya Konka Mountain), the third highest mountain outside of the Himalaya proper, located on the southeastern margin of the Qinghai-Xizang (Tibet) Plateau with 74 glaciers. In May 1929 the famous Austrian-American explorer Joseph Rock became the first westerner to get a clear view of the mighty 7,596-metre Gongga Shan.
The local people believe that all natural life in the area around their “Holy Mountain” is sacred and must be preserved and that one night spent on the mountain is equivalent to ten years spent sitting in meditation and prayer.
Overnight at “Love Song Hotel”.
DAY 13. KANGDING – CHENGDU (B/L/D)
In the morning we visit Muge Tso Lake, about 35km away from Kangding. Muge Tso Lake covers an area of 500 square km. At an altitude of approximately 3’800m.it is the biggest alpine lake in northwest Sichuan. After lunch we leave Kangding and drive eastward along Dadu River – a tributary of the Yangtze, also known as the Tatu River. The river is noted for being crossed by the Luding Bridge, a historically important bridge.
Then we get over the natural barrier of Erlang Mountain and drive by the city of Ya’An, situated in the mountainous western border of the Sichuan Basin. It is a communications centre near the crossing of the two main routes – one running west to Kangding and to Tibet and another running north-south from Chengdu to the southwest. The city is first mentioned during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-255 BCE). It served as a county seat during the Qin and Han Dynasties, but was subsequently ruled by the Mongols. After being reintegrated into the Chinese Empire in the late 5th century, it was made the seat of the Ya Prefecture in 604. The modern Ya’An County was established in 1912.
The capital of Sichuan – Chengdu – is located in southwest China. It is the fifth most populous city in China and also one of the country’s most important transportation and communication hubs. More than four thousand years ago, the prehistorical Bronze Age culture of Jinsha established itself in this region.
The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is called “Tianfu Zhi Guo” in Chinese, which means “the Heavenly Country”. In the late afternoon we arrive at Chengdu and stay overnight at the “Sichuan Hotel (4*)”.
DAY 14. CHENGDU (B)
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. End of trip.
Contact us per mail for a tailor-made itinerary and cost details and options of 14 Days Tibet, Sichuan 4×4 China Tour.
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