Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet From Kathmandu through Nepal's remote Humla Valley to the majestic Lake Manasarovar, sacred Mt Kailash and across the Tibetan Plateau July 4 – July 29, 2010 Program Information Packet ruary 13, 2010 Febr r Dear Friends, ves a e It giv me great pleasure to announce the opportunity to pilgrima together t the sacred mountain o Kailash, in y age to d of r or rs ying or s western Tibet, in the summer of 2011. Fo many year I've dreamed of journey there, fo this place, spiritually, is he considered to be the center of th universe. ilgrimage to Tibet is be organized by Steven L Blanc, fou This Spiritual Pi o eing Le irector of Int under and di ternational tural Advent Cult tures, and a friend. l I will be teaching editation alon the way. A g/facilitating yoga and me ng s Among all that comprises this special journey, icularly circlin the sacred Mt Kailash and Lake M parti ng d int we Manasarovar, I want to poi out that w will be in a places re wher we can enc v counter the vastness and purity of natture, magnifi icent light, an breathtaki vistas, wh we can nd ing here e eel ce hope to deeply fe ourselves and our plac in the univ verse. Here o the Tibeta plateau, re on an eferred to as the "Roof off World”, we c hope to find perspect the W can f tive. This jou urney can be o vision qu our we k uest, where w take stock of who we and e w n are a where we are going, where we can meaningful engage wit the myster of this exi lly th ry istence and thhrough that find our way to w wholeness. eace, In Pe iel Dani Orlansky Daniel Orlansky, MMA oga or oga, y A yo teacher fo 17 years, is certified in Meridian Yo Kali Ray TriYoga and Kundalini Yoga. He ho a olds ters n mast degree in Expressive Art Therapy y/Dance The erapy from L Lesley Univer ng n rsity and has been a visitin lecturer in es movement studie at Tufts University. A g the ol, graduate of t Boston Shiatsu Schoo Daniel tea aches and directs yoga her teach trainings worldwide. Visit Daniel on the web at www.yoga w.com aofenergyflow February 13, 2010 Warm greetings: International Cultural Adventures (ICA), in collaboration with Daniel Orlansky, is pleased to present you with this comprehensive Program Information Packet which describes the Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. We have strived for a very unique experience in creating this journey, differing from the norm, with an emphasis on more time in the wildness and among authentic older cultures by: trekking through Nepal's remote Humla region via an ancient pilgrimage and salt trading route, crossing into Tibet on foot; trekking around the majestic Lake Manasarovar during the full moon (frequented by pilgrims almost as often as Mt Kailash, although the circuit is rarely completed except by the most devout pilgrims); trekking around the sacred Mt Kailash; Exploring the vastness of the Tibetan Plateau by vehicle as we drive from Mt Kailash to the lush Kathmandu Valley. Also, there is a leisurely pace and several rest days built into the itinerary for which we will integrate some optional spiritual components, such as yoga and meditation practice. We hope that this information will give you a clear understanding of the journey and assist you in gaining clarity about your decision to join us. This packet contains a detailed program itinerary, an overview of the journey, some exciting images and descriptions of places you’ll visit, information about ICA, details about what the program includes and excludes, instructions on what to do if you are interested in joining us and more. We trust that you will enjoy the journey of discovery as you read through this information packet. Thank you for your interest in the Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. We look forward to hearing from you if we can assist you further. Sincerely, Steven Le Blanc Director WEB: www.ICadventures.com/spiritual_pilgrimage.html EMAIL: spiritualpilgrimagetotibet@ICadventures.com Contents About International Cultural Adventures ……….…………………....……………………...…….5 Program Itinerary.………………………………………………………………………………..…..8 Overview of the Journey.......….………………………………………………………………...……9 Program Details……............….………………………………………………………………...……12 Maps of our Journey..…………………………………………... …………………………..………15 Program Facts & Fees..……..……….…………………………………………………………….....17 Tibet……………….............….………………………………………………………………...……18 Mt Kailash..………..............….………………………………………………………………...……22 Lake Manasarovar.................….………………………………………………………………...……23 Sacred Sites of the Kathmandu Valley…………..……………………………………………...……24 International Cultural Adventures About Intern A t al tural A nationa Cult tures Advent e Since 1996 Interna ural res g ry ucational, and volunteer ational Cultu Adventur (ICA) has been creating extraordinar cultural, edu ce s S ca. servic experiences in Asia and South Americ Our unique programs ca to adventu e ater uals urous individu from all w walks of life — hers, students, outdoor enth teach utives, and mo husiasts, execu ore. Our C ign ms o Custom Desi Program allow you to create a truly unique inter y rcultural exper deeper insights into local rience. Gain d s ged a cultures, enjoy rugg outdoor adventures, ex wn xplore your ow special inte mbine them all in one enrichi journey – erests, or com ing p r s dventures take you into som of the most breathtaking areas on Eart – including it’s up to you! Our extended or short-term ad me t th al, a Nepa Tibet, India and Peru. Our mmission is to e m enlighten the mind and enri the spirit o each progra participant by providing unique travel ich of am t g oppoortunities to deevelop new pe n A erspectives on life and gain a greater understanding of our global community. ICA programs are not tours but e cipants to beco immersed in the cultur and comm experiences that allow partic ome res munities of distant lands. We b aving your fam believe that lea miliar surround dings to travel abroad can p l fect Our profoundly aff your personal growth. O own osity about for curio y onal as nd and reign cultures, combined with our affinity for internatio travel, ha led us aroun the globe a changed way ce the w we understand the world and our plac in it. gued by moun Intrig d ntain cultures, we gravitated to the ancien lands of the Himalaya and the Andes, w nt e d where we’ve nnurtured close relationships with the people of these spectac Over s, cular regions. O the years we’ve devel loped an exten k nsive network of competent viduals and reli indiv ations so that w can assure you a safe an enriching ex iable organiza we nd xperience. mately, our tea aims to hel make the w Ultim am lp world a better p place by creati opportuni ing le mmunities in ities for peopl to serve com , he need, strengthen th bonds betw ness ween cultures, and increase global awaren and respe ect. Steven L Blanc – Di Le irector Steve founder of the organiza en, f eled ely t ation, has trave extensive throughout Asia and South America. His intimate style of travel l acquainted him with the pe has a m eople and hist tory of exotic cultures. Wit a backgroun in the field of experiential education th nd d n ss acros the globe, SSteven has reaalized how cro oss-cultural intteractions enli ighten the min and enrich the spirit. He draws upon nd h n his pe iences and international alliances to desig highly uniq and reward programs ersonal experi gn que ding s. EMAIL: info@ICAdventures.com • WEB: www.ICAdventures.com PHONE: 888-339-0460 • 617-431-4597 International Cultural Adventures What people said about ICA “As far as ICA goes, I can recommend them without reservation. Their planning, philosophy, attention to detail, follow through, concern for safety and the content of what they have supplied so far has been outstanding.” ~Gail Reardon, Taking Off (Consultant to students age 16-25 looking for year round experiential learning opportunities) “Everyone – from Amanda in Cusco to Silvia and their crew to Ana Maria with whom we stayed in Ollantaytambo – was warm, generous and loving. The tears we shed upon departure were heartfelt. It was a life-changing trip for all involved.” ~Anne Dixon, Spanish Teacher, Deering High School (Portland, ME) – Custom Group Program, Peru, Apr 2004 “Overall, I think you did a fantastic job! Thank you so much for creating such an amazing itinerary for us. We learned so much; you took care of us well and gave us good advice. You were really well prepared, organized and thoughtful, and you kept our parents alive and breathing!! Thanks again!” ~Elizabeth Downey (age 19, New York City) – Custom Program, India, Jan-Jun 2000 “The program was designed beautifully. I never felt as if I were a tourist in Peru, but rather an involved, active member of my experiences. I felt as though everyone there was as happy to associate with me as I with them and that a great cross-cultural experience could take place.” ~Andrew Halladay (age 20), Custom Program, Peru, Aug 2005 “I marvel at how well structured the trip was and how dedicated my helpers/guides were. The combination of events on this trip exceeded my expectations. I am still under the spell of the trip. I remain thankful that you were able to create such a rich experience for me.” ~George Bouchard (age 74, Maine) – Custom Program Nepal & India, Sep-Dec 2008 “Thank you for all of your support. Your effort was critical to the result. The experience of working with you on my first great adventure opens my eyes to all that needs consideration. The choices you offered and your knowledge and flexibility are greatly appreciated. So what do we do next?!” ~Keith & Dan Relyea (ages 57 & 20, Wisconsin) – Custom Program Nepal & India, Mar 1998 NEPAL INDIA TIBET BHUTAN ECUADOR PERU CHILE BOLIVIA Your unique adventure—customized to Our affordable adventures, long or ICA can map out a brief or extended the time you have and the activities short, take you into some of the most adventure for you or your group with as you enjoy. ICA provides you or your breathtaking areas on Earth. Whether little or as much support as you need. group with an opportunity to create a touring fabled cities, trekking around We organize our adventures in such unique travel experience by combining snow-capped volcanoes or rafting places as Nepal, India, Tibet, Ecuador local culture, outdoor adventures and through wild valleys, ICA gives you the and Peru. Follow in the footsteps of your special interests all into one unfor- chance to take it all in with the support Everest climbers, explore monasteries gettable journey. of experienced local guides. of the Kathmandu Valley by mountain bike, heal body and mind with a Yoga retreat in India, scuba dive in the Galapagos – it’s your choice. An ICA travel plan can help you experience a truly close encounter with a different culture. We offer various levels of cultural programs... CLASSIC ADVENTURES: These programs allow you to experience the land and the people in a casual way with adventure travel as the primary catalyst for interacting with the local culture. CULTURAL ADVENTURES: These programs combine cultural-sharing and special interests with classic adventures. With cultural-sharing, you engage in and are exposed to the culture on a deeper level. There are more opportunities to interact with local people in their everyday lives and, thus, share in the culture. CULTURAL IMMERSION EXPERIENCES: These programs are designed for people who desire to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of exotic cultures. Live with a local family! Serve a community in need! Study the language and put it to use! A comprehensive orientation sets the stage for a deeper and more intimate cross-cultural experience. Make friends and make a contribution through these extraordinary immersion programs. Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet Program Itinerary: July 4 - July 29, 2011 # Day Date Activities Accommodations Meals Arrival in Kathmandu, Final Preparations for the Journey - 2 days 1 Sun 4-Jul Pick up from the airport and transport to your hotel / Explore on your own / Welcome dinner Kathmandu: Hotel D 2 Mon 5-Jul Pre-departure trip briefing/ Final preparations for journey / Explore a few sacred sites in Kathmandu (on your own, time permitting) Kathmandu: Hotel B The Journey Begins: Trekking through the Humla Valley into Tibet - 7 days 3 Tue 6-Jul Flight: Kathmandu - Nepalgunj (1.5hrs) / Overnight at hotel Nepalgunj: Hotel B 4 Wed 7-Jul Flight: Nepalgunj - Simikot (50mins) / Trek: Simikot to Dharapuri (2300m, 2.5hrs) Camp B,L,D 5 Thu 8-Jul Trek: Dharapuri to Kermi (2690m, 5.5hrs) Camp B,L,D 6 Fri 9-Jul Trek: Kermi to Yalbang (3020m, 6hrs) Camp B,L,D 7 Sat 10-Jul Trek: Yalbang to Tumkot (3200m, 5.5hrs) Camp B,L,D 8 Sun 11-Jul Trek: Tumkot to Thado Dhunga (4330m, 6hrs) Camp B,L,D 9 Mon 12-Jul Trek: Thado Dhunga to Sher (3860m, 3.5hrs) / Immigrations formalities - Enter Tibet / Drive: Khoja to Lake Manasarowar (4570m, 3 hrs) Camp B,L,D j , g y y Around the Majestic Lake Manasarovar, highest body of fresh water in the world - 5 days 10 Tue 13-Jul Lake Manasarovar: rest & acclimatization day at Chiu Monastery (4570m) / Soak in the hot springs Camp B,L,D 11 Wed 14-Jul Manasarovar Trek: Serlung Monastery (7hrs) Camp B,L,D 12 Thu 15-Jul Manasarovar Trek: Turgo Monastery (7hrs) - [full moon] Camp B,L,D 13 Fri 16-Jul Manasarovar Trek: Gossul Monastery (7hrs) Camp B,L,D 14 Sat 17-Jul Manasarovar Trek: Chiu Monastery (6hrs) Camp B,L,D The Kora: Spiritual Pilgrimage around the Sacred Mt Kailash - 5 days 15 Sun 18-Jul Drive: Tarchen (4520m, 30km, 1.5 hrs), explore Seralung & Gyangtak Monasteries (4960m, 3-6hrs) Tarchen: Guest House B,L,D 16 Mon 19-Jul Kailash Trek: Tarchan to Damding Donkhang (4890m, 5.5hrs) / Evening of full moon Camp B,L,D 17 Tue 20-Jul Kailash Trek: Damding Donkhang to Jarok Donkhang (5210m, 6hrs) Camp B,L,D 18 Wed 21-Jul Kailash Trek: Jarok Donkhang to Zutul-Phuk (4790m, 7hrs) Camp B,L,D 19 Thu 22-Jul Kailash Trek: Zutul-Phuk to Tarchen (4520m, 3hrs) / Drive: Tarchen to Chiu Monastery for soak in hot spring (1.5hrs) Camp B,L,D Journey across the Tibetan Plateau to the Kathmandu Valley - 5 days 20 Fri 23-Jul Rest day / Drive: Chiu Monastery to Hor (4480m, 2hrs) Camp B,L,D 21 Sat 24-Jul Drive: Hor to Drongpa (4480m, 11hrs) Camp B,L,D 22 Sun 25-Jul Drive: Drongpa to Pekhu Tso (4595m, 7hrs) Camp B,L,D 23 Mon 26-Jul Drive: Pekhu Tso to Nyalam (3750m, 6hrs) Nyalam: Guest House B,L,D 24 Tue 27-Jul Drive: Nyalam to border / Immigrations formalities - Enter Nepal / Drive: Kathmandu (1370m, 7.5hrs) Kathmandu: Hotel B,D Full Circle: Back to Kathmandu and the Onward Journey Home - 2 days 25 Wed 28-Jul Free day in Kathmandu / Farewell Dinner Kathmandu: Hotel B 26 Thu 29-Jul Transport to the airport / Flight: Kathmandu - Home en route B Itinerary subject to change due to forces beyond our control, such as weather, and to take advantage of spontaneous cultural & spiritual events Meals: (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) International Cultural Adventures Overview of the Journey Highlights Arrive in Kathmandu for final preparations for your journey Fly from Kathmandu westward to Simikot via Nepalgunj Trek for six days through Nepal's remote Humla region, crossing into Tibet on foot Trek for four days around the majestic Lake Manasarovar during the full moon Trek for four days around the holy Mt Kailash with other pilgrims Rest and soak in a hot spring by Chiu Monastery on Lake Manasarovar after each trekking phase Drive for four days across the vastness of the Tibetan Plateau and back to the lush Kathmandu Valley This extraordinary journey takes you through the hidden Humla Valley in Nepal to Tibet's mythical Lake Manasarovar and then to the sacred Mt Kailash. The pilgrimage begins with a flight to the far western city of Nepalgunj where we’ll spend one night. Next morning we fly to Simikot, where our trek begins. Our trekking route follows the Humla Valley westward from Simikot along an ancient pilgrimage and salt trading route used by Tibetans who exchanged valuable salt for grains in Nepal. Even today a remnant of this early commerce still continues and we may see the occasional caravan plying its trade. As we trek over several days, the elevation increases until we cross a high pass called Nara La (4620 meters/ 15,157 feet) and then we descend to the Tibetan border. We will witness magnificent and varied scenery along the way including snowy peaks, cliffs, gorges and waterfalls and pass through remote hill villages amid their terraced fields, where life's essence has changed little over the centuries. Trekking through the Humla Valley will be the perfect way to acclimatize to the rigors of the Tibetan plateau. We’ll go through immigration formalities in a small village, where we will be met by our Tibetan team. We drive overland north past Gurla Mandata Himal to the shores of Lake Manasarovar where we camp at Chiu Monastery. The next day we will enjoy a rest/acclimatization day among the beauty of the lake and be able to soak in the nearby hot spring. We will utilize the next four days to trek around the holy Lake Manasarovar, exploring the monasteries and marveling the landscape. We arrive back at Chiu Monasteray for the night, setting out the next morning for Tarchan, the starting point of our trek around Mt. Kailash. After getting settled in, we’ll explore Seralung and Gyangtak Monasteries, which are located to the north of Tarchan, with spectacular views of the south side of Mt Kailash. The following day, our 4-day journey around Mt. Kailash begins. The traditional circuit, called a kora, proceeds in the clockwise direction, which is mandatory for Hindus and Buddhist pilgrims who walk this sacred route. (The Tibetan Bon Po sect requires its followers to circle the mountain counter- clockwise.) The route around the mountain is 50 kilometers/32 miles and some pilgrims make the circumambulation or 'kora' in one exceptionally long day. Many pilgrims do several further circuits of the mountain before returning home. We will take a leisurely four days to do the trip. This will allow us to see the various different facets of the mountain at sunset and sunrise and visit several important monasteries along the route. Tarchen is located due south of Mount Kailash and we begin by walking in a north-westerly direction across the Barkha Plain to reach a cairn and prayer flags at 4,730m/15,518 ft This is the first of the four chaktsal-gang ('prostration stations') on the kora. We then cross the broad valley of the Lha Chu and descend to Darbochhe where there is a single tall pole adorned with International Cultural Adventures prayer flags. These flags are renewed every year on the day of Buddha's birth - when the full moon occurs in the month of May. Situated nearby is the chorten-kangri. To pass through the small archway formed by the two legs of this chorten is regarded as an auspicious act. From this important site the trail continues to Shershong. Shortly after this we cross to the west bank of the Lha Chu and continue across scree slopes to our campsite near Damding Donkhang (4995m/16,388 ft) where we are rewarded with fine views of the west face of Mt. Kailash. On day two of the kora, we follow the Lha Chu River, crossing two small tributary streams via log bridges and trek to Diraphuk. If we continued north we would eventually come to the source of the Indus River. From Diraphuk we head east, crossing the river, and begin the long climb up to the high point of the circuit at the Drolma La. We camp at Jarok Donkhang with superb views of the north face of Kailash. We begin the next day with a gradual climb towards the pass. Soon we are climbing steeply and pass the sacred site of Shiva Tsal, where Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims leave offerings to the Gods. The final section leading up to the pass is lined with cairns and prayer flags and at the crest of the pass lies a huge rock, the Drolma Stone, liberally festooned with prayer flags and religious icons. Banknotes from India, China and Nepal are pasted to the rock using 'ghee' or yak butter, and coins are placed in every available crevice. Pilgrims from all religions and sects prostrate themselves in front of this stone and walk around it three times before continuing the kora. This is the highest point of the kora at 5636m/18,491 ft. From here, we have a final look at the north face of Mt. Kailash before beginning our steep and rocky descent on the east side of the pass. Eventually we reach the Lham Chu Valley and then follow a stream down for about 5 miles/8 kms to our campsite situated in the tranquil green meadows just below Zutrulphuk Monastery. The monastery is said to have been used for meditation by the Tibetan saint Milarepa. During this descent we will cross the Khado Sanglam River from where there are the only views we get of the mystical east face of Mt Kailash. Our final day on the kora is an easy three hour walk back to Tarchen. We pass many walls of Mani (prayer) Stones and carved yak skulls that line the trail before exiting the Zhong Chu Valley on a trail that contours high above a narrow gorge where we can see Rakas Tal shimmering in the distance, the beautiful lake situated just west of Lake Manasarovar. The hills become less vegetated and more desert like as we approach the Bharka Plain with seemingly limitless views towards the Indian Himalaya. We reach Tarchen around midday and drive to Chiu Monastery on Lake Manasarovar for a soak in the hot spring and camp. We have scheduled a spare day to allow for any possible disruptions to our planned itinerary, which could be as diverse as vehicle breakdown, weather or acclimatization issues. If we stick to our schedule, we will use the next day for a rest on the shores of Lake Manasarovar. We have three days of driving across the high Tibetan Plateau. The road is rough and there are some rivers to cross. Wild antelope and kiang (the Tibetan wild ass) are a common sight. This is the land of the drogpa nomads and we will pass many encampments with large herds of sheep and goats. The drives are long, bumpy and often dusty but International Cultural Adventures the scenery is magnificent. Overall a demanding journey, however we travel in comfortable Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles well-suited to the rough terrain. The first night we’ll set up camp near the small town of Drongpa. The next night we camp at a beautiful high mountain lake, Pekhu Tso, which will be our last night of camping. We will leave Pekhu Tso around midday and drive through some of the most beautiful wilderness of the whole journey. We join the main Lhasa to Kathmandu Highway where we are gifted with a view of Mt Everest as the road climbs to the Lalung La (5124 m/16,811 ft) before descending and climbing again to the Tong La (5120 m/16,797 ft). Slowly the green begins to return and the browns of the high mountain desert leave us. We finally reach the town of Nyalam where we spend the night at a basic hotel. The final day of driving, we reach the Tibetan border at Zhangmu, complete immigration formalities and re-enter Nepal by walking over the Friendship Bridge into Kodari. We finish our journey by driving back to Kathmandu. We should reach our hotel in the latter part of the afternoon with the rest of the day free to relax. The following day is a free day to explore some of the fascinating sites of Kathmandu. There will be a farewell dinner that evening. International Cultural Adventures Program Details Getting to Kathmandu, Nepal: You will need to make your own arrangements for international flights and must arrive in Kathmandu no later than July 4, 2010. With the advent in online flight booking sites, arranging your own flight to Kathmandu should be a breeze. It is imperative that you secure your flights as soon as possible after you confirm your participation on the program to ensure you are able to arrive by the start date. In general, the earlier you make a booking, the more options you will have to choose from and the cheaper your flights will be. Accommodations: All accommodations during the program are included in the program fee and will be on a twin share basis. In Kathmandu, we will be staying in a very comfortable 4-star hotel just outside of the main tourist area, Thamel. This will provide you with an authentic city experience and the convenience of all that the vibrant Thamel has to offers during our brief time there. The majority of our nights will be spent under the stars in our tents. We will spend one night in a basic hotel in Nepalgunj en route to Simikot, the start of the Humla Vally trek, one night at the Tarchen Guest House prior to starting the kora around Mt Kailash and one night in a guest house in Nyalam, the night before we arrive back in Kathmandu after the trek. A single supplement option (private hotel room and tent) is available for an additional charge. You are welcome to arrive early or stay after the program ends to explore the wonderful and exotic sites of the Kathmandu Valley and beyond. Any additional costs outside the realm of the itinerary will be your own responsibility. Meals: All meals as per the Itinerary are included in the program fee. There will be a group welcome dinner on the first night of the program and a farewell dinner on the last night at a delightful restaurant which includes a Nepali cultural dance performance. While camping, all meals are included. Freshly prepared hygienic meals will be provided by our well trained and experienced cooking staff during the trek with an emphasis on ethnic diversity, including Nepali, Sherpa, Tibetan, Italian and Indian cuisines. Each day dinner and breakfast will be provided in the same camp where we spend the night and lunch will be prepared en route at a pleasant picnic area, unless it is a rest day. There are a few lunches and dinners that are not included while not on the trek to allow you the flexibility to experience some different options at your leisure. Transportation During the Program: All essential transportation is included in the program fee and itemized on the Program Facts and Fees page. Trek Leaders: It is our practice to employ local staff to utilize local expertise and as a way of giving back in the countries where we do our programs. By employing and training local people, we help support them and put something back into their communities. Our trek leaders have been through comprehensive trainings in various areas such as trek guiding, eco-trekking, conservation and biodiversity, English and wilderness first-aid. Pre-Trek Meeting: Prior to our trek, on the second day, we will have a pre-trek meeting at our hotel in Kathmandu. The intention is to ensure that you are properly prepared and, also, for you to meet your trek leader and other team members and have an opportunity to ask questions before we depart the following day. Weather: Regarding weather, the best months to travel to Tibet are May, June, July, August & September. The weather is generally sunny and warm during the day and the nights cool down and temperatures can fall to freezing. Mountain weather can change rapidly and be unpredictable. During this trek, we will be moving from warmer climates at lower elevations in the Humla Valley to cooler conditions at higher elevations in Tibet. We must be prepared for all possible weather situations, including freezing temperatures and even snow! Altitude/Acclimatization: For most of the journey we will be travelling through very isolated areas and be experiencing the effects of living at much higher altitudes than most of us normally do. Since the trek takes place at high altitude, we have planned the trek with staged ascents and a number of rest days to allow you to properly acclimatize. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlates with susceptibility to International Cultural Adventures the effects of altitude. The most common symptoms of high altitude are shortness of breath, headache, nausea, subsequent emotional irritability and difficulty with sleeping. Some people experience symptoms and some people don’t. Thousands of people from the West trek safely in Nepal and Tibet each year. However, it is important that you understand the types of illnesses that can occur at high altitude and their potential severity. Physical Conditioning: It is important that you be healthy and in proper physical condition for this trek. We will be hiking 6-8 hours most days at altitudes ranging from 7500 feet/2300 meters to 18,491 feet/5,636 meters in remote areas, sometimes over high passes. The higher the altitude the less oxygen there is in the air. Your cardiovascular system should be relatively strong for you to cope with the physical demands of this trek. Generally speaking, the better your physical condition the more you will enjoy this journey. Itinerary and Theme: We have strived for a very unique experience in creating the Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet, differing from the norm, with an emphasis on more time in the wildness and among authentic older cultures by: trekking through Nepal's remote Humla region via an ancient pilgrimage and salt trading route, crossing into Tibet on foot; trekking around the majestic Lake Manasarovar (frequented by pilgrims almost as often as Mt Kailash, the circuit is rarely completed except by the most devout pilgrims); trekking around the sacred Mt Kailash; Exploring the vastness of the Tibetan Plateau by vehicle as we drive from Mt Kailash to the lush Kathmandu Valley. In addition, there is a leisurely pace and several rest days built into the itinerary for which we will integrate some optional spiritual components, such as yoga and meditation practice. On the Trail: We have three different and diverse trekking phases: Humla Valley, Lake Manasarovar and Mt Kailash. These routes have been briefly described on the Program Description page. Most days, we will be trekking a stimulating 6-8 hours. Each person will carry their own day pack with essential items for the day, such as: an extra warm layer(s) of clothing, wind/rain jacket, water bottle(s), and camera. All the rest of our supplies will be carried by pack animals (yaks). Our cooking staff will prepare all of our meals each day and in the morning and evening we’ll have a dining tent set up. At night we will be sleeping in tents at campsites near a water supply. On the trek, we erect a toilet tent for each camping site and our crew strives for a room with a view. A typical day on your trek... About 6am, one of the crew will wake you with a “Good morning…bed tea sir/madam?” After enjoying a warm cup of tea nestled in your sleeping bag, you will be provided with a basin of hot water to wash up. You’ll pack up your personal duffel bag and day pack and wander over to the dining tent for breakfast. Our team will disassemble the camp and load the yaks. After some optional stretching, yoga and/or meditation we will trek for about three hours through whatever glorious terrain the day offers us, whether it is forests, hills, mountains, local villages, alongside a river or a combination. We’ll stop for about an hour at pleasant area to enjoy a tasty lunch and then continue trekking for another three or more hours depending on our particular destination for that evening. Upon arrival, you will be offered a hot drink and some light snacks and have the freedom to explore the area or relax until dinner is served in our warm and cozy dining tent. In the meantime, our crew will be unloading the yaks and getting camp set up. There will typically be several choices of delicious food each evening. In the evening you may find yourself reading or discussing the day among your fellow trekkers and crew, singing songs, star gazing or playing some new card game that the crew taught you. On occasion, we may find that our crew wishes to share their traditional songs and/or dance moves with us. Finally, after another day in paradise, we will retire to our tents for a well deserved rest. As you are nestled in your warm sleeping bag, reveling in wonder of the passing day, thinking that it doesn’t get much better than this…your crew will mysteriously appear with a hot water bottle to keep you extra cozy and warm throughout the coolness of the night among the peacefulness of the mighty Himalaya. Program Fee / What is Included and Not Included: In designing this special program, we have attempted to find a balance between time, affordability and a unique and an exceptional quality experience. We realize that few people visit this very special and remote area of the world and those that do venture out will likely only do it once in a lifetime. So this journey is a once-in-a-lifetime Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. We have incorporated all the essential elements of this journey into the cost of the program so you do not need to be concerned about additional International Cultural Adventures payments once you arrive and can focus on the journey at hand. Please refer to the Program Facts and Fees page for an itemized list of everything that is included and not included and the program fees. Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is mandatory for everyone on this program. The minimum required by ICA is medical expenses and emergency medical transportation/evacuation insurance. If you are from the USA, we can assist you in obtaining a basic or comprehensive travel insurance policy. If you are from outside the USA, we can make recommendations. Your Safety: Your safety is of paramount concern while journeying with us. We will be carrying a basic first-aid kit including some medications, a Portable Altitude Chamber and satellite phone in case of emergency situations. Please note that the trek leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Every effort will be made to keep to the original itinerary, however keeping in mind that this is adventure travel in a remote mountain region, we cannot guarantee it. Weather conditions, the health of members and unexpected events can all contribute to changes in the itinerary. Your leader will try to ensure that the trip runs according to plan, and it will be helpful if we all show up with an open mind, flexibility and a sense of adventure. After all, is it not the journey that matters in the end? What’s Next: We hope that this Program Information Packet has given you a clear understanding about the Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. If, after reading through this information packet, you are interested in joining us on this Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet, please contact us via email at spiritualpilgrimagetotibet@ICadventures.com to request a Program Application Packet. This packet contains the necessary forms and other important information necessary for your participation on this program, including Program Application, Terms & Conditions, Waiver, Physician’s Approval, among others. This would be an appropriate time to ask any questions that have not yet been addressed, although most logistical questions will likely be answered in subsequent mailings after your acceptance has been confirmed. We need to receive your application and $650 deposit by October 31, 2010. The deposit will become non- refundable after December 1, 2010. The reason this is non-refundable is because we will need to make certain payments at this time to ensure that we get out flights, hotels, etc, and these payments are non-refundable to ICA. All terms and conditions are explained in the Program Application Packet. After we receive your application materials and complete our review, we will notify you of your acceptance on the program. You will then receive our comprehensive Pre-Departure Packet, which contains information on health and immunizations, visa acquisition, weather and climate, a detailed packing list, and much more! It will help you prepare for and get the most out of your Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. Conclusion: We thank you for taking the time to read through this comprehensive Program Information Packet. We hope you enjoyed it and are able to join us on this enriching journey. If you are not able to join us at this time, we hope that one day in the not-so-distant future you will make it to this part of the world. These are truly very special and unique places on this planet. Since things are changing at such an alarming rate one never knows when the change will affect these special places. Finally, we welcome you to pass this information packet on to others that you think may be interested in and benefit from this Spiritual Pilgrimage to Tibet. Although it is on our web site, we are not mass marketing this special program. It is being offered to a relatively small group; those within our extended communities. International Cultural Adventures Maps of our Journey International Cultural Adventures International Cultural Adventures Program Facts & Fees Program Facts Inclusions Accommodations Our local Team Kathmandu hotel: four nights (day 1, 2, 24, 25) English speaking first-aid and eco-trained Nepali leader and Nepalgunj hotel: one night (day 3) assistant leader for Nepal trekking Nyalam hotel: one night (day 23) English speaking first-aid and eco-trained Tibetan leader Tarchan guest house: one night (day 15) and assistant leader for Tibet trekking Camping: eighteen nights Sherpa, assistant Sherpa, cooks & kitchen staff, yak men & yaks, drivers Transportation Domestic flights, airport departure tax, cargo: two Equipment (Kathmandu-Nepalgunj, Nepalgunj-Simikot) Two-person sleeping tent: on twin sharing basis Int’l airport transfers in Kathmandu: two (day 1, 26) Sleeping pad Domestic airport transfers: three (day 3, 4) Kitchen tent, dining tent, shower tent, toilet tent During trek by Toyota Land Cruiser: (day 9, 15) Toyota Land Cruisers: four passengers per vehicle Vehicle support during Manasarovar trek: four (day 11-14) Support truck Across Tibetan Plateau to Nepal border by Toyota Land Basic first-aid kit, including some medications Cruiser: (day 20-24) Portable Altitude Chamber and satellite phone for From Nepal border to Kathmandu by bus: (day 24) emergency situations Meals (as per itinerary) Miscellaneous Welcome dinner: (day 1) Chinese visa fees Breakfast while staying in hotels: five (day 2-4, 25-26) Special trekking permit for Humla region, Nepal All meals during trek: (lunch day 4 - breakfast day 24) Entry fees for Manasarover, Kailash and Humla regions Special farewell dinner: (day 25) Complementary duffel bag for your trek Exclusions Round-trip international airfare, Passport, Nepal visa fees (including re-entry fee from Tibet) All meals not listed on the itinerary, excess baggage charges, photography charges (in some monasteries) Any costs arising from unforeseen events outside our control (e.g., landslides, delayed flights due to weather, etc.) Personal expenses such as immunizations, laundry, snacks, drinks, alcoholic beverages, gifts, phone calls, gratuities, etc. Travel insurance (minimum required by ICA: medical expenses and emergency medical transportation/evacuation insurance) Program Fees 1 **Minimum of 10 participants required** $3990 per person (~€2927)2 10-13 participants $3590 per person (~€2633) ***$400 discount for over 13 participants*** 1: Please note that our prices are subject to foreign exchange rates and their fluctuations. Although we will make every effort to maintain these prices, we reserve the right to adjust them, as per our Terms & Conditions, up to the date of final payment in order to fairly reflect any significant changes in international exchange rates that may occur. 2: Euro amounts displayed as a quick reference for Europeans with exchange rate as of 13-Feb-10, however, all payments must be made in US funds as per our Terms & Conditions. International Cultural Adventures Tibet A century ago, a visit to Tibet took stamina, nerve and a good deal of luck. Isolated by formidable geographic barriers and guarded by its government, Lhasa, its capital, was truly a forbidden city. Few Westerners met the challenge, but the tales they returned with tantalized the imagination of the world. Today, with the opening of air and land routes from Nepal, travelers have plenty of opportunities and a number of ways in which to gain first hand insight into the myriad sights and sounds of this exotic and ancient land, and to lose themselves in the rich Tibetan culture, architecture, landscape, and religion. The spirit of adventure, however, still remains. Hidden behind the Himalaya and rising nearly five kilometers above sea level, Tibet is a land unlike any other, a magical realm of vast open spaces, clear light and pure color, dominated by an intensely blue sky. About Tibet: Tibet, a province-level administrative region of China, is located in a high-mountain area in the southwestern part of the country. It is officially called the Tibet (in Chinese, Xizang) Autonomous Region (TAR). Throughout its long history, Tibet at times has governed itself as an independent state and at other times has had various levels of association with China. Regardless of China's involvement in Tibetan affairs, Tibet's internal government was for centuries a theocracy (state governed by religious leaders), under the leadership of Buddhist lamas, or monks. In 1959 the Dalai Lama (spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and at that time the head of Tibet's internal government) fled to India during a Tibetan revolt against Chinese control in the region. China then took complete control of Tibet, installing a sympathetic Tibetan ruler and, in 1965, replacing the theocracy with a Communist administration. Land & Resources: Tibet covers an area of 1,222,000 sq km (471,800 sq mi). It is bounded on the north by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province; on the east by Sichuan and Yunnan provinces; on the south by Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), India, Bhutan, and Nepal; and on the west by India. Lhasa is the region's capital and largest city. Some Tibetans contend that Tibet includes parts of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces where ethnic Tibetans live. With an average elevation of 4,900 m (16,000 ft), Tibet is the highest region on earth. For this reason, it is sometimes called the “Roof of the World”. Most of the people in Tibet live at elevations ranging from 1,200 m (3,900 ft) to 5,100 m (16,700 ft). Tibet is also one of the world's most isolated regions, surrounded by the Himalayas on the south, the Karakoram Range on the west, and the Kunlun Mountains on the north. The southern part of Tibet is situated entirely within the Himalayas, and many of the world's highest summits are located in the main Himalayan chain, which extends along Tibet's southern frontier. Among the principal peaks are Mount Everest (8,850 m/29,035 ft), the world's highest mountain; Namcha Barwa (7,756 m/25,446 ft); and Gurla Mandhata (7,728 m/25,354 ft). The Kailas Range, a chain of the Himalayas, stretches parallel to and north of the main chain and has peaks of up to 6,700 m (22,000 ft). Between the Kailas Range and the main chain is a river valley that extends about 1,000 km (about 600 mi). The Brahmaputra River (known in Tibet as the Yarlung Zangbo) flows from west to east through most of this valley. The Kailas Range slopes north to the Tibetan Plateau (Qing Zang Gaoyuan). This vast tableland extends to the Karakoram Range on the west and the Kunlun Mountains on the north. The Tibetan Plateau, which slopes gradually from south to east, is broken by mountain outcroppings and has an average elevation of about 4,510 m (about 14,800 ft). The eastern part of Tibet is a rugged region with numerous smaller mountain ranges interspersed by deep valleys. International Cultural Adventures Flora and Fauna: Vegetation on the Tibetan Plateau is extremely sparse, consisting mainly of grasses and shrubs. Scattered wooded areas occur in the extreme west and east. Most vegetation, however, is concentrated in the Brahmaputra, Indus, and Sutlej river valleys. These areas support a number of species of trees, including conifers, oaks, cypresses, poplars, and maples. Apple, peach, pear, and apricot trees are cultivated in the valleys. Tibet is home to a variety of wildlife. Musk deer, wild sheep, wild goats, wild donkeys, yaks, and Tibetan antelope are common in mountainous areas. Other large mammals include leopards, tigers, bears, wolves, foxes, and monkeys. Birdlife includes geese, gulls, teal, and other species of waterfowl, as well as pheasants and sand grouse. Climate: Tibet has a dry, cold climate with an average annual temperature of 1° C (34° F). Temperatures in the mountains and plateaus are especially cold, and strong winds are common year round. The river valleys experience a more moderate climate. Lhasa and central Tibet have an average temperature of 0° C (32° F) in December and an average of 17° C (60° F) in June. The daily temperature range is great. On a typical summer day, the temperature can rise from 3° C (37° F) before sunrise to 27° C (81° F) by midday. In general, temperatures in Tibet frequently drop suddenly after sunset. The average annual precipitation is 381 mm (15 in), with the largest amount falling in the southeast. The People of Tibet: The population of Tibet was 2.62 million in 2000, yielding an average population density of about 2 persons per sq km (5.2 per sq mi), the lowest of any region in China. Because the 1990 census was the first properly conducted count, population figures for Tibet prior to that date were largely imprecise estimates. Experts believe that before Chinese Communists began controlling Tibet in the 1950s, the region's population was declining due to illness, poor pre- and postnatal care, and a sizeable proportion of men becoming celibate monks. It is estimated, however, that the population has nearly doubled since that time, as a result of better health care, increased availability of food, and relative political stability. The vast majority of Tibet's people live in rural areas, and a large but diminishing part of the population is nomadic (having no fixed residence) or semi nomadic. Lhasa, the capital and largest city, is Tibet's principal center of trade, tourism, commerce, education, and government, and the headquarters of the region's major religious institutions. Xigazê (Shigatse), the second largest city, is also an important trade and commercial center and the home of the Panchen Lama, the second most important leader in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. Ethnic Groups & Languages: The majority of people in Tibet are ethnic Tibetans, and the largest minority is Han Chinese, China's majority ethnic group. According to the 1990 census, 3.7 percent of Tibet's population was Han Chinese; however, this and other population figures are believed to be incomplete, as they do not include the much larger number of Han who have come to Tibet looking for work opportunities and have not officially registered as residents. The large number of Han has exacerbated already tense relations between Tibetans and China's central government over governmental policies in Tibet. There are also smaller populations of ethnic Lhoba, Moinba, Deng, Xiaerba, and Hui (Chinese Muslims). Most people in Tibet speak Tibetan, a language of the Tibeto-Burman subfamily of Sino-Tibetan languages. Various dialects of Tibetan are spoken in different regions. Putonghua (Mandarin) Chinese, China's official language, is also used, particularly by Han Chinese, government agencies, and most commercial enterprises. People can request the use of Tibetan within the legal system. Little Chinese is heard in Tibet's rural areas. International Cultural Adventures Religion: Tibetan Buddhism is the religion of the overwhelming majority of the population. Buddhism was introduced into Tibet from India, originally in the 7th century, and then, after a period of persecution, it was reintroduced in the 11th century. Tibetan Buddhism evolved into four sects: the Nyingma, which bases its teachings on translations of the earliest works from the 7th century; the Kagyu, which was founded during the 10th and 11th centuries; the Sakya, which was founded during the 11th century and led by Tibet's principal political rulers before the Dalai Lamas; and the Gelugpa, which originated in the late 14th century and became the largest of the four. The Dalai and Panchen Lamas belong to the Gelugpa sect. Historically, religion permeated every aspect of Tibetan life. The only educational system was religious, all cultural and intellectual activities were centered on religious beliefs, and the heads of government were Buddhist monks. However, from 1966 to 1972, during the Cultural Revolution, religious practice in Tibet was completely curtailed. Bands of Red Guards, youths loyal to Chinese leader Mao Zedong, destroyed temples and other religious structures in Tibet, and persecuted monks and nuns. Today, Buddhism is practiced widely in Tibet. Many monasteries and other religious buildings have been rebuilt, and monks and nuns are once again openly practicing their religion. Tibetan Buddhists are expected to recite prayers and mantras regularly, prostrate themselves at religious shrines, make offerings to temples and monasteries, and participate in various other religious rituals. Tibetans also enjoy a number of religious and cultural festivals, including Lohar, the Tibetan New Year; Monlam, which celebrates the victory of Buddha over his opponents; Sakadawa, which celebrates the anniversary of the birth, death, and enlightenment of the Buddha; and the Butter Lamp Festival, which commemorates the death of Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. However, the Chinese government still enforces various restrictions, which many Tibetans deeply resent. These include a limitation on the number of clergy and the number of religious buildings. Moreover, police agents are assigned to the monasteries to prevent political activities. At times, the government also outlaws the public display of the Dalai Lama's picture. Way of Life: Since assuming control in the 1950s, the Chinese Communist administration has improved Tibet's transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, Tibet's economy has grown and diversified. As a result, Tibetans in urban areas now enjoy considerably more material benefits in the form of food, clothing, housing, technology, and entertainment. Far less improvement has occurred in rural areas. Modern conveniences have also allowed for a wider dissemination of traditional culture. Tibet has a number of professional opera and theatrical troupes, which perform throughout the region and elsewhere. There are Tibetan-language television and radio programs, as well as newspapers and books. In spite of these material changes, however, Tibet remains one of the poorest regions in China, particularly its rural areas. In the mid-1990s the average annual per capita income for city dwellers was about $120, while rural people earned about half that amount. Although the Chinese government contributes subsidies to help offset Tibet's low standard of living, controversy has developed over who benefits from this aid. China's central government has admitted that more money has gone to better the lives of Chinese officials and workers in Tibet than the lives of Tibetans. Throughout most of Tibet's history, women were treated as second-class citizens. Although the Chinese government legalized the equality of women in the 1950s, everyday practice continues to lag far behind the law. In the mid-1990s a small number of Tibetan women held positions in local government, higher education, and the arts. Economy: Subsistence agriculture dominates the Tibetan economy. Arable land, concentrated mostly in the river valleys, is limited in area. The principal subsistence crops are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, and various vegetables and fruits. Cotton, soybeans, walnuts, tea, and hemp are grown as commercial crops. Raising livestock is the primary occupation of the Tibetan Plateau region. In addition to sheep, cattle, and goats, the herds include camels, yaks, horses, and other beasts of burden. Some coal mining takes place in Tibet. The region's manufacturing International Cultural Adventures sector has expanded since 1959 but remains limited to small-scale enterprises producing such goods as textiles and electrical equipment. The production of local handicrafts constitutes a major supply of income. Craft items include woolen carpets, fabrics, aprons, quilts, clothing, furniture, wooden bowls, gold and silver jewelry, and Tibetan hats. There are no railroads in Tibet. The road system, which did not exist before 1950, has grown to about 22,000 km (about 14,000 mi). A trans-Tibetan highway now runs from west to east. Other highways connect the region with Xinjiang and Qinghai to the north, Sichuan to the east, and Nepal and India to the south. Tibet has two commercial airports; the more important one is located near Lhasa. Since the 1980’s tourism has become an important source of revenue in Tibet. Most visitors stay in the Lhasa area, although Xigazê and the base camp of Mount Everest are also popular sites. Political Situation: We encourage you to educate yourself about the current situation in Tibet. Here are a few sites that may be helpful: http://www.tchrd.org/ http://tibet.dharmakara.net/ http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/recent-press-releases http://www.tibetwrites.org/?Diagnosing-the-Current-Situation http://interdependent.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/lodi-gyaris-summary-of-the-current-situation-in-tibet/ International Cultural Adventures t h Mt Kailash h eau, High on the remote western Tibetan plate in the n t he s, northernmost region of th Himalayas just north of Nepal and d a, India is one of the most sacred moun e ntains in the world: Mt. Kailash, the holy moun ses ntain. It ris to 21,778 8 feet/ rs st t /6,638 meter in one of the highes and most rugged par of the Hrts Himalayas. M ack Made of bla rock, the e symm k metrical peak has a distin nctive diamon nd-like shape with four s e steep facades. The landscape around t mountain the n gged and dry but crossed by crystallin blue stream and other bodies of w is rug y d ne ms r he water. Near th sacred mo e ountain is the ce he e tra, ali sourc of four major rivers: th Indus, the Brahmaput the Karna and the Su utleg. Mt. KKailash is a sacred moun ntain to folloowers of fou of the grea religions o Asia: the Buddhists, H ur at of Hindus, Jainss, The e and the Bönpo. T Tibetan people have named it K che, w Kang Rinpoc or Snow Jewel, and the Indians refer to it as unt Mou Meru. Ac ccording to one descript Vishnu Purana, a religiou Hindu text, Mount K tion in the V us e Kailash is the er cente of the univ s verse and its four faces a made of c are , apis d, crystal, ruby, gold, and la lazuli. It is the pillar of the world center of the world mand the c e dala, and is l located at th heart of si mountain ranges symb he ix tus. bolizing a lot The fou ur rs om hen the river flowing fro Kailash th flow to t four quar rters of the w world and div the worl into four r vide ld regions. itual pilgrims from the w For thousands of years, spiri s o y to world over go to this holy mountain t circumammbulate rather than scale the h t he at een high peak. (It is the most significant peak in th world tha has not se any kno own climbing g mpts.) To cir it, saying ones prayer along the w is consi attem rcle g rs way, ially auspicio removing all negative idered especi ous, e ma time. karm in this lifet International Cultural Adventures Manasar Lake M rovar g th Lying to the sout of Mt. Kai ilash are two lakes. The w l, western lake is known as Rakshas Tal and its neig e ghboring lake he r, ude 0 sea one to th east, Lake Manasarovar at an altitu of 14,950 feet above s level, is o of the hig ghest bodies of fresh ld. water in the worl The crysta o o een f he alline blue to turquoise to emerald gre colors of the lake, in contrast to th arid landsscape immed d diately around it and the s ains silver mounta beyond, create a stun nning vista. ed Calle Tso Rinpo us oche, (Preciou Lake in Tib betan), Lake M r e Manasarovar is by far the more signif ficant of the two lakes in ilgrimage, att a spiritual sense. Like Mount Kailash, it is a place of pi ious people f tracting religi from India, T e Tibet and the hboring coun neigh ng ntries. Bathin in the Man nasarovar and drinking its water is bel anse all sins. lieved to clea ormer times, eight Buddh gompas s In fo hist surrounded th margins o the lake. T Buddhists, Lake Manas he of To , sarovar was t o he the mpas represe seen to represent the Wheel of Life, with the hub at th center of t lake and the eight gom enting the es he place where the spokes of th wheel conn nected with t rim. Th one full k pilgrima around th lake the hus, kora age he esented a single turning of the wheel, with all of th benefits th apply. repre o he hat International Cultural Adventures Sacred Sites of the Kathmandu Valley NAGARKOT Nagarkot is located on the rim of Kathmandu Valley at an elevation of 7,200 feet and offers a 200-mile panorama of the Himalayas from Mt Everest in the east to Dhaulagiri in the west. It is 75 minutes drive from Kathmandu and is best for sunrise and sunset. At dawn and dusk the snow-covered peaks are painted in shades of rose, pink orange and gold. It is a sight not to miss, though one can never be sure of the visibility of the mountain ranges even during the winter months. Seeing a single pink peak appearing in the midst of clouds can be as thrilling as seeing the whole 200-mile panorama of peaks. Since mornings are clearer than afternoons, it is recommended spending a night up here. Nagarkot is also a place for day hikes, especially when you do not have enough time for long treks. The Best part of these hikes is that everything goes down the hill from the time you start. The three possible destinations for day hikes from Nagarkot are Banepa, Sankhu and Changu Narayan. BOUDHANATH STUPA On the eastern side of Kathmandu, just north of the airport and an interesting walk from Pashupatinath, is the huge stupa of Boudhanath, the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the Asia’s largest Buddhists monuments. It is the religious centre for Nepal's considerable population of Tibetans and there are a number of thriving monasteries and Manu small shops selling Tibetan artifacts (beware prices are high and bargaining is essential). Many of these Tibetans are refugees who fled their country following the unsuccessful uprising against the Chinese invasion in 1959. They have been energetic and successful in the intervening years as the large houses surrounding Boudhanath testify. While political and religious oppression continues in Tibet, this is one of the few places in the world where Tibetan culture is both accessible and unhindered. The late afternoon is good time to visit when the group tours depart and the place returns to being a Tibetan town. Prayer services are held in the surrounding gompas and as the sunsets the community turns out to circumambulate the stupa. This seems to be a combination between religious observance (the very devout are very serious) and a social event (family group chat and laugh). Do not forget to walk around stupa in a clockwise direction. Boudhanath has always been associated with Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhism. One of the major trade routes from Lhasa came through Sankhu and Boudhanath therefore lies at the Tibetan traders entry to Kathmandu. One can easily imagine the traders giving thanks for their successful journey across the Himalayas, or praying for a safe return. People still come here to pray before undertaking a journey in the Himalaya. SWAYAMBHUANTH The Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath, situated on the top of a hill west of the city, is one of the most popular and instantly recognizable symbols of Nepal. The temple is colloquially known as "the money temple" after the large tribe of handsome monkeys that guard the hill and amuse visitors and devotees with their tricks including sliding gracefully down the double banisters of the main stairway to the temple. The roving band quickly snatch up any offerings of food made by devotees and will just as quickly grab anything you may be carrying. Geologists believe that the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake and legends relate that the hill on which Swayambhunath stands was an island in the lake. It is said the Emperor Ashoka paid a visit to the site over 2000 years ago. An inscription indicates that King Manadeva ordered work done on the site in 460 AD and by the 1200s it was an important Buddhist centre. In 1346 AD Muslims invaders from Bengal broke open the stupa in search of gold. Under the Mallas various improvements were made and the great stairways to the stupa was constructed by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century. PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE One of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. Pashupatinath lies five kilometer east of the city centre. The richly ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Chronicles indicate the temple's existence prior to 400 AD. Devotees can be seen taking a holy dip in the holy Bagmati River flowing beside the temple, also a World Heritage Site. Not only is Pashupatinath the most important Hindu temple in Nepal it's one of the most important Shiva temples on the sub-continent and draws numerous devotees from all over India each year including many colorful sadhus, those wandering ascetic Hindu holy men. Shiva is the destroyer and creator of the Hindu pantheon and appears in many forms. His terrible forms are probably best known, International Cultural Adventures particularly his appearance in Nepal as the cruel and destructive Bhairabs, but he also has peaceful incarnations including those of Mahadev and Pashupati, the Lord of the Beasts. As the shepherd of both animals Shiva as Pashupati shows his most pleasant and creative side. Pashupati is considered to have a special concern for the kingdom of Nepal and accordingly he features in any message from the king. Before commencing any important journey the king will always pay a visit to Pashupatinath to seek the god's blessing. Although Shiva is often a bloodthirsty god he is not so in his incarnation as Pashupati. So no animal sacrifices are made here though they are at the nearby Guheswori temple. Nor is leather (since it comes from cow) allowed inside the temple and you will see Hindus removing their shoes before entering the main gate. Near the entrance to the temple there are people selling flowers, incense and other offering materials. Although non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple you may catch a glimpse of the mighty figure of Nandi Shiva's bull, inside the temple. It dates from the last century but the small bull in front of the temple is about 300 years old. The black, four-headed image of Pashupati inside the temple is said to be even older and the Muslims invaders destroyed an earlier image in the 14th century. Although westerners are not allowed to enter the temple, there is plenty to be seen along the riverbanks and you can look down into the temple from the terrace hillside on the opposite bank. You can also visit Pashupatinath en route to Boudhanath they are an interesting short walk apart. CHANGU NARAYAN TEMPLE The beautiful and historic temple of Changu Narayan stands on a hilltop at the eastern end of the valley, about 4 kilometers north of Bhaktapur. Although the temple dates from 1702, when it was rebuilt after a fire, its origin go right back tot he 4th century and there are many important stone images and sculptures dating from the Lichchhavi period. Despite the temple's beauty and interest it attracts relatively few visitors because of its comparative inaccessibility. These days you can drive right to the temple via Bhaktapur or much better, it makes a perfect walk from that town or an interesting destination on the walk down from Nagarkot. The double roof temple is dedicated to Vishnu in his incarnation is Narayan and is exceptionally beautiful with quite amazing intricate roof struts depicting multi-armed goddesses. In front of the temple is a figure of Garuda dating back to the 5th century. The man bird mount of Vishnu has a snake around his neck and kneels with folded hands facing the temple. Stone lines guard the wonderfully glided door flanked by equally detailed gilded windows. Two pillars at the front corners carry the traditional symbols of Vishnu, the conch shell and the charka. It is situated on a ridge overlooking the Valley, about 12 kilometers to the east of the city. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. One of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture, the temple is embellished with exquisite wood and stone carvings. The sacred complex is a World Heritage Site. BHAKTAPUR Bhaktapur, also known as Bhadgaon (pronounced bhat-gown) or "the city of Devotes' is the third major town of the valley and in many ways the most medieval. Since the major West German-funded Bhaktapur Development Project in 1970s, it has been a much cleaner and tidier town. But there's still a distinctly timeless air to the place. The project not only restored buildings and paved dirty streets but also brought sewerage facilities. The oldest part of the town is around "The Tachupal Tole", or Datttatraya Square, to the east of the town. Bhaktapur was the capital of the whole valley during the 14th to 16th centuries and during that those periods the focus of the town shifted west to the Durbar Square area. Much of the town's great architecture dates from the end of the 17th century during the rule of King Bhupatindra Malla.
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