Trekking in Tibet—the Tibet Everest Base Camp Trek


Mount Everest Base Camp, Tibet. Image: Göran Höglund

If you are planning to go on a Tibet Everest Base Camp trek when traveling to Tibet, there are a couple of formalities you have to go through, such as getting a PSB travel permit and a park-entry permit for Qomolangma Nature Preserve that costs around Y400 per vehicle and Y180 per passenger. These are formalities which your travel agency can arrange easily. Kathmandu has many reputed tour agencies that are expert at Tibet trekking and, as said before, if Everest Base Camp Tibet is your goal, a tour and travel agency like Royal Mountain Travel Nepal (RMT Nepal), for instance, can arrange everything in a jiffy. RMT Nepal’s 17-day itinerary for this purpose will incorporate visits to many fantastic places along with a four-day trek through the Qomolangma Nature Reserve to Rhongphu Monastery and Tibet Everest Base Camp. It’s a good deal, is what can be said.

Before starting of, you also have to be aware of a few risks and be prepared for the same. Since you will be going up to pretty high places to reach the Mount Everest Base Camp, there is the possibility of suffering from acute mountain sickness. So, take time to acclimatize yourself before proceeding onwards on the journey. Additionally, weather conditions at such high altitudes can be unpredictable, so wear very warm clothes and carry a rain gear as well. Having said all that, let’s start our journey to the Tibet Everest Base Camp.

Potala Palace

Potala Palace, Lhasa. Image: Dennis Jarvis

You start off from either Kathmandu in Nepal or Chengdu in China. If the former is the case, you’ll be flying to Lhasa (3658 m), of course, after a stimulating tour of Kathmandu and its wonderful sights, which should take a day or two. The flight to the airport in Gongkar takes about an hour only, and from there, you drive for about one and a half hours along the Yarlung Tsang-po and the Kyi Chu valley to reach exotic Lhasa. Relax here for some days to allow your body to get used to the high altitude; after all, you are now at the roof of the world, aren’t you? Anyway, there’s just too much to see and discover in this ancient city dominated by the towering Potala Palace that rises majestically on a hill called Mar-po, 130 m above the valley below, and then for a further 170 heavenwards.

You’ll no doubt also be eager to see the 7th Century Jokhang Temple situated in the middle of the old Lhasa area. It houses the icon of Jowo Sakyamuni, the most revered image of the Buddha in the entire Tibet Autonomous Region. In the mornings, especially, you’ll find the temple premises full of devout pilgrims mumbling prayers in rhythm to the turning of their prayer wheels, and with thousands of butter lamps twinkling all around. Along with these terrific tourist attractions, any visitor cannot resist ambling around the famed Barkhor Circuit, a quadrangle of streets around the Jokhang Temple, and crowded with shops of all kinds selling a diverse plethora of goods.


View from Gyantse fort.

After a day or two of such exciting activities, and now that you are somewhat used to the high altitude, you start off for Gyantse (3950 m), an old town of some trading significance once upon a time. It’s a drive of some eight hours but you’ll enjoy the long drive as you’ll be passing through spectacular scenery along the banks of the Yamdro-tso lake and across the Khanba-la and Kora-la passes. There’s a monastery here, Pelker Choede, and a dzong (fort) overlooking the town. Spend a night at Gyantse and take in the historical sights.

The next day, around the afternoon, giving you enough time to do some exploration, involves a short 90 km (three-hour) drive to Shigatse (3840 m), which is Tibet’s second biggest town. Your eyes are sure to be drawn by the sight of the Shigatse Dzong that’s modeled after the Potala Palace, on a high hilltop, and the Tashilhunpo Monastery to the west of the town. This monastery is famous as the seat of the Panchen Lama, who is regarded as second in importance to the Dalai Lama. There’s a 21.6 m high wooden statue of Maitreya and an exotic looking chorten that’s encrusted with precious jewels inside the monastery. Again, after having had your fill of these splendid monuments, you drive off in the afternoon for Shegar (4150 m) and reach there in about six hours. Shegar has an ancient dzong and a small Gelugpa monastery where you might notice some sheep lounging around in the courtyard. These are called the ‘longevity sheep’, meaning those that have been saved from slaughter.

everest base camp tibet

Travellers of Qomolangma.

The following morning, you enter the Qomolangma Nature Preserve, a 34,000 km2 area established in 1989 that borders Nepal’s Sagarmatha, Langtang, and Makalu-Barun national parks. You continue up the route towards Geu-la pass (5170 m) that’s festooned with fluttering prayer flags and cairns. From here the view is astounding—Qomolangma, Cho Oyo, Makalu, and Shisha Pangma. Having had an eyeful, you move on past the old settlement of Dzongkog Pongdro in the Dzaka valley that is full of barley, mustard, and pea fields, in the midst of which is the smallish town of Taahi Dzom. Further on, the trail goes south into more arid regions of the Zombuk valley, but, soon enough, you round a corner and promptly forget about the dryness and the aridity as you sight the world’s highest monastery, Rhongphu Monastery (5000 m), with the world’s highest peak, Qomolangma (8500 m), as its majestic backdrop. It’s an awesome setting, that’s for sure, and this is what you’ve come for. This is one of the greatest highlights of Tibet trekking.

You’ll certainly be clicking away to glory by now, and each frame is sure to enthrall the folks back home. However, move on you must, and you do. The Tibet Everest Base Camp is located only 7 km from this fantastic monastery but it will take you about an hour and a half to reach there, going as you will be over barren tracks with plenty of rocks strewn about. Of course, it’s all well worth the effort since the Tibet Everest Base Camp (5200 m) is said to offer much better views of the world’s highest peak than those from the Nepal side. Gaze all you want at the magnificent north face of Qomolangma before going down to the small town of Tingri (4390 m). No doubt the fantastic sights would have by now been firmly entrenched in your mind’s eye. To further entrench them, you can still catch a final glimpse of the mighty peak from a high pass which you’ll be going through, and then it’s on to Zhangmu (2300 m) on the China-Nepal border, and onwards to Kathmandu (1300 m).  Thus ends your adventurous Tibet trekking and thus ends your goal to reach the Tibet Everest Base Camp, an experience of a lifetime.

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