Tibet is home to the mighty Himalayas and the land of blue skies, red robes and the divine Shangri-La; Tibet is all that and more. This paradise, known as the “Roof of the World”, is the highest place on the planet, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters. To experience mountain peaks covered in ice, meditations with monks and monasteries carved into hillsides has long been a dream destination for many outsiders. If you are seeking authentic adventure then Tibet has proven to be a destination that will tick that box. Tibet is without a doubt a destination like no other and truly one of a kind.
At Crooked Compass have a few unique experiences that we recommend for your Tibet travels and no trip to this region would be complete without at least of one these activities included in your itinerary. Read on to find out about some unique experiences for your Tibet adventures…
Tibet is a land of high mountains and huge lakes, all of which have some religious or holy significance in Tibetan religion and culture. The most sacred is the Great Three Holy Lakes of Tibet being Lake Manasarovar, Yamdrok Lake, and Lake Namtso. These three lakes are part of the mainstays of Tibetan Buddhist devotion and intense pilgrimage locations. A favourite for the Crooked Compass team is Yamdrok Lake and our pick if you only have time to visit one.
Yamdrok Lake or Yamdrok Tso is also known as the Scorpion Lake for its unique shape and covers a staggering 230 square miles and lies at nearly 15,000 feet above sea level. Rife with aquatic life, dotted with islets, and surrounded by fields of wildflowers, Yamdrok Lake is not only naturally stunning but an important place of pilgrimage; its waters are believed to hold powers of rejuvenation and longevity. After a Dalai Lama passes away, the senior monks are responsible to find the boy in whom the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama has gone to abide. They come to Yamdrok Lake to chant and pray, and throw hada (a piece of silk used as a blessing object) and other holy articles into the lake to get the reflection of the specific location of the Dalai Lama’s soul.
At one time there were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet. However, nearly all of these were ransacked and destroyed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Most of the major monasteries have been at least partially re-established, while many others remain in ruins.
One of our favourites is Samye Monastery which is laid out on the shape of a giant mandala, with the main temple representing the legendary Mount Meru in the centre. Other buildings stand at the corners and cardinal points of the main temple, representing continents and other features of tantric Buddhist cosmology. The main temple is full of Tibetan religious art in mural and statue forms, as well as some important relics. Many Tibetan Buddhists come on pilgrimage to Samye, some taking weeks to make the journey.
One of the most unique experiences in Tibet is a visit to Drak Yangzom & Dzong Kumbum. The cave complex of Drak Yangdzom has long been a favourite among the traveller because there’s just nothing else like it in Tibet. Getting into the caves involves climbing a wood and yak hide ladder high up into the mouth of a cliff and then hauling yourself up a narrow, slippery shute into a sacred cave complex before a nun finally drags you by the feet through a tiny opening in the rock wall into the inner sanctum, the sacred cave of a Himalayan saint. It’s the craziest excursion in Tibet. On the other side of the valley is Dzong Kumbum, a less narrow but much longer cave complex of several branches. Our Tours By Design team can organise for you to join a group of Tibetan pilgrims for a tour of the sacred marks, stalactites and pools.
Lhasa is rightly one of the most featured and dreamt-about cities in the world. This is not only because of its remoteness, its high altitude at 3,650 metres means limited accessibility, but also because of its impressive heritage of over a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history that has helped to create the romantic and mysterious Tibetan religion.
Differing from the inland cities and other places in Tibet, Lhasa is unique with an allure all of its own. In the Tibetan language, Lhasa means the Holy Land or the Buddha Land. It is the centre of Tibet’s politics, economy and culture. The splendour and grandeur of the Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.
Tibet is without a doubt a destination like no other and truly one of a kind. If you would like to make this experience yours then contact us today. Check out our range of small group tours in Tibet here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.