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Tibet & Beyond - Along the Tea Road

Travel on the ancient “Tea Road” from Yunnan to Tibet, it is a challenging journey for connoisseurs. The Tea Road was as important for Tibetan region and Southeast China as the Silk Road to Central Asia and the Middle East. On this tour you will marvel the three Pagodas of Dali, where you take a boat ride; explore Lijiang, the picture-book town with its many canals, bridges and tea rooms, passing by the famous Tiger Leaping gorge on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River; continue on to Zhongdian, also known as the “Shangrila”, where you visit Ganden Sumtsanling monastery and a wealthy Tibetan family. Fly to Lhasa, the spiritual heart of Tibet, visit the impressive Potala Palace and the fascinating Sera Monastery, the tea house of the friendly nuns, and the traditional sacred dances and more. Drive to Shigatse, home of the young Panchen Lama; enjoy the famous equestrian festival in Gyantse for the July departure, for the June departure you will have chance to celebrate the Thangka Unfolding festival with hundreds of Tibetan in Gyantse.

 

 

Day 1 & 2: Depart for Guangzhou.

Day 3: Guangzhou - Kunming (D)
Arrive Guangzhou. Connect flight to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. Yunnan is one of the most diverse, beautiful regions of China. Kunming is called the “city of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate year round. Depending on your arrival flight time, visit Yuantong temple and take a short walk around the Cui Hu Lake.

Day 4: Kunming - Dali (B, L, D)
Fly to the historic old town Dali, the important stopover of the ancient Tea Road. Nestled in a valley at about 6,200 ft, Dali lies between the Cangshan Mountains and Erhai Lake, home of the Bai people. In the afternoon, you will drive along the shores of Lake Erhai to the village of Xizhou, known for its magnificently preserved homes of the tea merchants. A bit farther is the village of Shaxi. This small quiet town actually dates back 2400 years. As early as 400 BC, Shaxi was a copper mining region with expertise in smelting bronze. In the Tang and Song Dynasties, it became an important stopover in the ancient tea trading route.

Day 5: Dali - Lijiang (B, L, D)
Leaving Dali, you drive to the Lijang. For hundreds of years, Lijang was at one end of Tibet’s trading route between India and China. At times, a quarter of Lijang’s population was made up of transient Tibetan traders. The old town, where you will wander over stone bridges and along Ming Dynasty cobblestone streets, is known as the “Venice of Asia”. The town has existed for at least 800 years and has its own Tibeto-Burman language with a unique pictographic script and its own unique music.

Day 6: Lijiang (B, L, D)
Visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Mt) with White Water River, taking cable car ride to discover Dragon Spruce Meadow, enjoy one of the views of the much famed 13 peaks on the Yulong Mt. Range. In the afternoon, visit Baisha Naxi village, Yufeng Lama Temple.

Day 7: Lijiang - Zhongdian (B, L, D)
After breakfast, you have about a 5-hour drive up to Zhongdian (Gyalthang in Tibetan), often called “Shangrila”. Along the way, you will stop at Shigu (Stone Drum Village), where you can see the first bend in the Yangzi River. The Yangzi flows south from Tibet into Yunnan, and then turns north again for approximately 60 miles at Shigu.

Day 8: Zhongdian (B, L, D)
Set off a trip to Ganden Sumtsanling Monastery. Here, about 700 Buddhist monks are engaged in full-time Buddhist studies. Built in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama, Sumtsanling Monastery, with its numerous chapels, woodcarvings and murals, is a living museum of Tibetan culture. In the afternoon, you will drive out into the countryside to visit one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots for all the people of Gyalthang - Ringha Temple, perched high on a hill.

Day 9: Zhongdian - Lhasa (B, L, D)
This morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your morning flight to Tibet. When you are more accustomed to the thin air, you can take the rest of the afternoon to explore the fabulous market or Barkhor that surrounds the Jokhang.

Day 10: Lhasa (B, L, D)
In the morning you head to the Barkhor and the Jokhang, spiritual center of Tibet and destination of millions of Tibetan Pilgrims. The Jokhang, built in 767AD by Tibet’s first Buddhist King, Songtsen Gampo, is the heart of this Buddhist world. You can walk the kora or pilgrim route, around the Barkhor with the early morning pilgrims. On the roof of the Jokhang, you can take beautiful pictures of the market and pilgrims below, and the Potala on the hill across the square. From the Jokhang, you will head to the Potala, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama, built on the escarpments of Red Hill and rising more than 1000 feet above the valley floor.

Day 11: Lhasa (B, L, D)
This morning, you will begin with a visit to the Norbulingkha, now People’s Park. The Norbulingkha was the former summer palace of successive Dalai Lamas from 1755. After visiting Norbulingkha you can have lunch and then head over to Sera, in time for the 3pm debates. Sera, is a 15th century Gelugpa monastery, founded by one of Tsong Khapa’s disciples, and is famous for its Tantric teachings.

Day 12: Lhasa - Gyantse (B, L, D)
Your destination today is Gyantse, and on the way, you will cross the 15,742 foot Kamba La Pass with its spectacular views of Yandruk Tso. Yandruk Tso is one of the holiest Lakes to inhabitants of the Lhasa area. Your road will also take you along a river that not too long ago was the site of the old road. In the afternoon you will arrive in Gyantse.

Day 13: Gyantse (B, L, D)
Gyantse, once Tibet’s third most important city, lies at the head of the Nyangchu Valley astride the main trade routes from India, Bhutan, and Nepal to Lhasa. Made wealthy by selling sheep and yak wool, the rich lords of the city pooled their resources in the early 1400’s to build the Kumbum, a Nepalese-style stupa containing some of the best preserved and most unique art in Tibet, and Peljor Choede, the spectacular assembly hall. Visit the Paljor Choede monastery. The monastery was built in 1418 by Rabten Kunzang. Excellently preserved, the monastery contains many statues and paintings that date back to its founding. In June you will marvel at the unfolding giant Thangka here or in July you will witness the famous equestrian festival.

Day 14: Gyantse - Shigatse (B, L, D)
Continue west to Shigatse to visit the lavish Tashilhunpo monastery in the afternoon. The residence of the Panchen Lamas, Shigatse is the second largest city of Central Tibet. Built in 1447, Tashilhunpo is one of the most imposing constructions of Tibet, which housed at one time more than 2000 monks.

Day 15: Shigatse - Lhasa (B, L, D)
This morning you can take a few minutes to explore the small Tibetan bazaar. In the afternoon drive along the Tsangpo River return to Lhasa.

Day 16: Lhasa - Chengdu (B, L, D)
Fly to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, and its administrative, cultural and educational center. If time permits you can visit one of the many teahouses featuring the centuries old Chengdu teahouse culture that local residents enjoy on a daily basis.

Day 17: Chengdu - Guangzhou - USA (B, L)
In the morning drive to Panda Breeding Center before heading to Airport to catch the flight to Guangzhou, then connect your return flight.

Trip dates:
June 9 - 25, 2016

Tour Price
including flights $ 4,930 per person
excluding flights $ 3,730 per person

INCLUDED
Flights, tour coordinator/guide,
accommodation on full meal basis
Monument admission fee
Ground transportation, internal flights

EXCLUDED
Insurance, visa, additional programs, gratuities

FLIGHTS
Los Angeles/Guangzhou/Los Angeles

HOTELS
First class hotels or best available