This Kham Photography tour will take us to the upper part of Meikong River, where we can explore the famous Khampas and their lifestyle.
We will continue our journey to Serta Larung, passing some of the most influential monasteries in this area of Tibet. The scale of the landscape, and beauty of the scenery, will take your breath away.
Day 1: Arrive to Chengdu
Welcome to Chengdu! This day you will meet your driver and guide at the airport. They will escort you to your hotel hotel where you can complete any last minute preparations for the upcoming Kham photography tour.
Day 2: Fly Chengdu to Jyekundo (Yushu), Time: 2 hours, Elevation: 3700m / 12,140ft
Our Kham journey will begin with a flight from Chengdu to Jyekunduo, the capital city of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Provinc. It has a population of 100,000 people, most of whom are Tibetans. We will take things easy this day while acclimatizing to the elevation.
Day 3: Jyekundo, Elevation: 3700m / 12140ft
After breakfast, we will visit the Gyanak Mani Temple, located 3 kilometers outside of town. This temple contains over 2 billion hand-carved Buddhist prayer stones covering a 1 square kilometer area. Each day, thousands of local Tibetans come here to pray and meditate while walking around the temple. Next, we will visit the Jyeku Monastery. This monastery overlooks the town of Jyekundo and was established in the 14th century.
Day 4: Jyekunduo to Nangchen (Nangqian), Drive Time: 3 hours, Elevation: 3660m / 12,000ft
From Jyekundo, we will travel south to Nangchen (Nangqian in Chinese), a town with population of 40,000. This drive is stunning. We will pass through yak-filled grasslands that give way to rugged mountains. Nangchen is a pleasant Tibetan town in one of the most remote regions of the Tibetan Plateau.
Day 5: Nangchen to Gar Monastery (Ga’er), Drive Time: 2 hours, Elevation: 3875m / 12,700ft
Gar Monastery, or Ga’er in Chinese, is a stunning isolated monastery located at almost 3900 meters elevation. The monastery has two sections, upper and lower. The area is surrounded by wildlife including blue sheep, marmots, pika, Himalayan griffon and more. The monastery provides excellent day hiking opportunities and fantastic vistas!
Overnight: Gar Monastery
Day 6: Gar Monastery to Tsechu Monastery to Nangchen, Drive Time: 5 hours, Elevation: 3660m / 12,000ft
Tsechu is the former capital of the ancient Nangchen kingdom. It contains a massive pile of hand carved prayer stones than number well over 100 million. The pilgrimage path along the prayer stones is popular among local Tibetans. The monastery was established in the year 1818. It remains a sacred place in eastern Tibet to this day. After exploring Tsechu, we will return to Nangchen for the night.
Day 7: Nangchen to Gaden Monastery, Drive Time: 2 hours, Elevation: 3600m / 11,800ft
Today’s destination is Gaden monastery, located on a beautiful bend of the upper Mekong River. It is highly scenic and a perfect place for photographers. Gaden was originally a Nyingma sect monastery and was founded in 1535. In the year of 1652, the 5th Dalai Lama visited the monastery on his return trip to Lhasa from Beijing. Afterwards, the monastery converted into a Geluk Sect monastery. Later, the 7th Dalai Lama also visited this monastery. It now is home to more than 100 monks.
Overnight: Gaden Monastery
Day 8: Gaden Monastery to Jyekundo, Drive Time: 6 hours, Elevation: 3660m / 12,000ft
Along the way back to Jyekundo, we will visit the Rongpo National Park. Rongpo is home to the rare black-necked cranes, bar headed geese, horned lark, different kinds of vultures, and many other bird species.
Day 9: Jyekunduo to Dzachukha (Shiqu), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 4200m / 13,780ft
Leaving for Dzachuka, we will stop at Sershu monastery, the largest Gelukpa monastery in Kham, and home to more than 1300 monks. It was established in the early 18th century. Then we leave for Palge Mani Stone Pile, the world’s largest prayer stone pile as listed in Guinness World Records. A circuit around the mani stones will take 2 hours. It is a great place for photography.
Day 10: Dzachukha to Dzogchen (Zhuqing), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 3960m / 13,000ft
Our first stop today is Shechen monastery, an important Nyingma monastery of Tibetan Buddhisim. We will then continue our scenic drive to Dzogchen, located beneath a huge glacier-covered mountain. The monastery is well known in eastern Tibet and offers excellent day hiking opportunities.
Day 11: Dzogchen, Elevation: 3960m / 13,000ft
We will spend a full day exploring the village and monastery located in Dzogchen. We will experience traditional Tibetan village culture as well as photograph the amazing nearby mountain.
Day 12: Dzogchen to Garze (Ganzi), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 3300m / 10,800ft
Our first stop today is at the spectacular lake of Yilhun Lha Tso, one of eastern Tibet’s most holy lakes. The lake is lined with hand-carved prayer stones that are more than 600 years old. Garze is a small Tibetan town surrounded by beautiful mountains and stunning landscape. The villages, temples, and monasteries here are perfect for photographers! We will visit Garze monastery in the afternoon, which has 500 years of history.
Day 13: Garze to Serta (Seda), Drive Time: 5 hours, Elevation: 3900m / 12,800ft
After breakfast, we leave for the world’s largest Buddhist institute found at Larung Gar in Serta County. The drive along the way is quite nice as we will pass through several traditional Tibetan villages where you can see huge stone and wood homes. Serta Larung Gar Buddhist Institute was founded by Kenpo Jigme Phuntsok in 1987. He started in the in Lorog valley with only a few disciples, and a tent, to practice Buddhism. After hearing his great fame of the Buddhist teachings, more students gathered, and the institute now has more than 40,000 Buddhist monks and nuns.
Day 14: Serta, Elevation: 3900m / 12,800ft
In the morning we explore more of the Serta region. We will start by making a pilgrimage at the Gyutril Lhakhang (Magical Temple) . Then we leave for sky burial site to experience how Tibetan people react to the death, and funerals of loved ones. Here we will witness Tibetans donating their bodies to the vultures after their death.
Day 15: Serta to Dzamtang (Rangtang), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 3260m / 10,700ft
Today we will explore the nomadic areas along the way to Rdo Drubchen. Rdo Drubchen is another beautifully located monastery surrounded by forests and mountains. This monastery has more than 800 years history. We will then continue to Dzamtang, passing Yutok, and Shuchong monasteries on the way.
Day 16 Dzamtang to Barkham (Ma’er Kang), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 2500m / 8200ft
Our destination today is Barkham, the capital city of Ngawa Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. It is a modern Tibetan town set alongside a beautiful river. We will visit Tugchen, a very sacred and historical temple with 1200 years of history. A sacred statue of Buddha Shakyamuni is kept inside. Barkham is our last destination on the Tibetan Plateau before we return to the mega-city of Chengdu.
Day 17: Barkham to Chengdu, Drive Time: 6 hours
After breakfast, we will drive to Druokegyi, ancient palace of the powerful king Jokdze Gyalpo. This area is filled with traditional Gyarong Tibetan architecture, which has huge castle-like homes. Then we leave for Chengdu. We sincerely wish you have a wonderful time with us! We wish you a safe journey back home!