A View of Tibet

Travel Guide: Planning a Memorable Trip to the Mount Everest Base Camp in Tibet

Tibet. Now an autonomous region governed by China. It has its own religion known as Tibetan Religion and its own language. Tibet is the original home to the Dalai Lama. After the 1959 Tibetan uprising the Dalai Lama escaped to India. Where he currently lives in exile while still remaining the spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama. To those that do not know, is considered a living Buddha of compassion. He is a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Chenrezig who renounced Nirvana to help humankind. After the 17th century the Dalai Lama also wielded full political authority over the isolated Tibetan kingdom. 

This travel guide will cover your trip to Tibet. What you can expect with the climate and altitude. I have decided that the focus will be a trip from Lhasa to the Mount Everest Base Camp. This means you will be travelling through three towns before you get to the base camp. Lhasa, Shigatse and Tingri. So sit back, relax and learn a little more about the wonderful Region of Tibet. 

Things you need to know

There are a few things you need to know before your trip to Tibet. From what to bring along to the altitude sickness and what you can do about it. As always you will need to be respectful of the holy places and the people. Lhasa for example once served as the winter home of the Dalai Lama and still holds religious significance. You may see many people ‘prostrating’ or praying. As such you should always exercise respect and thoughtfulness toward them. But I digress. I have noted down a few things that should help you on your adventures in the Tibetan Region. Enjoy.

The Beautiful Region of Tibet
Credit: https://www.businessdestinations.com/destinations/the-ethics-of-visiting-a-region-in-dispute/

Entering Tibet

Tibet is quite difficult to get into unlike most places in China. There are several travel restrictions that are in place that you need to be aware of. So please do your research even after reading this if you are interested in a visit. The first restriction has to do with getting into Tibet itself. There are no international flights from foreign countries to Tibet except for Nepal.

This basically means that you can only enter Tibet through China or Nepal which borders Tibet. Along with the limited entry points to Tibet you will also need an entry permit for this region of China. You will most likely not be allowed to apply for this on your own. But a travel agency will help you apply for it. This permit will be checked before you board a train for flight when travelling around Tibet or to Lhasa. 

The second restriction is that you are not allowed to travel to Tibet independently. You must work through a travel agency and have a tour guide. This means that all the foreign citizens must have their vacation organized by a Travel Agency. They will tailor your vacation to what you need and assign you a guide for your trip. Additionally they will make you an itinerary and apply for your travel permit. So even if you are wandering around Tibet’s Capital, Lhasa you will be accompanied by a tour guide. 

Backpackers in Tibet
Credit: https://itibettravel.com/backpacking-tibet/

You may not see everything there is in Tibet. There are several restricted areas which only the military may enter or areas that are completely off limits. There are several different permits which you may need to visit certain areas. These may include: 

  • Tibet Entry Permit: You will need this permit to visit places such as Lhasa, Shigatse or Lake Mantso.
  • Aliens’ Travel Permit: You will need this to visit places like Nyingchi or Mount Everest and you will need to apply for this permit within Tibet. 
  • Military Area Entry Permit: To see places such as Bome, Rawu, Shannan, Naidong, Gajah, Nang County or Ngari. 

Another interesting restriction is that during the Losar Tibetan New Year Festival it is very likely Tibet will close foreign travel for a time. This means that between February and March there will be limited or no travellers in Tibet. Overall there are a series of restrictions that you need to be aware of. I have put the important ones here but as I said before. Please make sure to do your research and make sure you know what you are allowed to do and when. 

What should I wear?

It is important to pack clothes that will suit your environment when you are on vacation. As with anywhere, what you will need depends on when you are travelling. Tibet is no different. Between April and October the temperatures will fluctuate between 12 ℃ -23 ℃ and apparently this is the best time to travel in Tibet. From late October to March the temperature will fluctuate between -12℃to -10℃. This is usually the down time of tourism in Tibet. This is because of the snow and the fact that a lot of the tourist attractions are closed.

However the travel cost is lower between these months. The sun can be quite intense in Tibet. Especially in the higher up cities Like Lhasa and Shigatse. As such make sure that you bring a hat and sunblock. Because the elevation is so high in cities like Lhasa. You will burn faster and quicker. So Bring the Necessities so that you do not get badly burned. 

Mout Everest
Credit: https://www.budgettibettour.com/tibet-winter-tour/what-to-wear-in-tibet-winter.html

Also because the air is thin it cannot radiate or absorb the heat. This can make the temperatures quite extreme day or night. As a general rule these are the articles of clothing you should bring with you. You should bring jackets, jeans or any other thick outdoor clothing you might have. Cotton fabric for shirts is recommended. This is because it is lightweight, breathable and socks up sweat. This helps you to cool down more efficiently and be more comfortable.

If you are checking out the Everest Base Camp or Namtso you will need to prepare warmer clothing. Even in the summer months temperatures can drop below zero. So be sure to pack warm coats, scarves and anything else you might need. Pack practical shoes such as hiking boots or other warm and resilient shoes.  

Altitude Sickness

There is a reason Tibet is known as ‘The Roof of the World’. The altitude on the Tibetan Plateau is about 4.500 meters. Because the region itself is on such a high plateau altitude sickness is a very real eventuality. If you want to reach the Mount Everest Base Camp you will need to acclimate to the altitude for a few days in the cities leading up to this base camp. But you do not need to worry too much about this uncomfortable condition. There are plenty of effective preventative measures that are in place. Your guide will take good care of you and will know exactly what you do to help you should you feel unwell. 

So what is altitude sickness? This is something that could happen to anyone if they are at high elevations over 3,000 meters. Altitude sickness can be a result of high atmospheric pressure and thin oxygen. So those that travel that much higher than sea level, such as the Everest Base Camp are at a higher risk. Altitude Sickness can occur because less oxygen reaches the muscles and organs like the brain. This means that our heart and lungs work harder to compensate and this can make you feel weak and ill. Because it can get quite severe you need to take care to acclimate to the high altitude before venturing higher up. 

Mout Everest
Credit: http://www.oneworld365.org/blog/10-things-to-know-before-trekking-to-mount-everest-base-camp

What happens if you get it? It is important to realise that the lack of oxygen at such a high altitude will affect most people to some degree. It can vary from mild to severe. Someone that suffers from mild altitude sickness is common in travellers and usually develops within the first 24 hours at that altitude. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Sleeping

You may suffer from one or a few of these when you first arrive in Lhasa . After several days this should dissipate and you should be acclimated to the altitude. Most cases are mild but some can be more serious and without warning can be fatal. Severe symptoms of altitude sickness can be any of the following: 

  • Accumulation of Fluid in the Lungs & Brain
  • Breathlessness at Rest
  • Dry Irritative Cough (You may get pink, frothy sputum)
  • Severe Headache
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Confusion
  • Irrational Behaviour
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness

This is by no means meant to put you off travelling to Tibet. But it is important to understand the risks. You should NOT rush acclimating in Lhasa if you are planning to go higher. If you are travelling with someone you should keep an eye on them and make sure they get help even if they are experiencing mild symptoms. The cities are well equipped and your guide should know what to do. There are often oxygen canisters around the area should someone need it. 

On the way to the Mount Everest Base Camp

There are three towns on the way to the Everest base camp. Lhasa, which is the capital of the region of Tibet. Shigatse, which is higher up in elevation than Lhasa. Finally there is the town of Tingri. These settlements get higher up as you get away from Lhasa. Each town has plenty to see and do. They are all beautiful and have such a beautiful culture and people. As I said in the previous section. Please take your time before moving onto the Everest Base Camp. You will need time to acclimate and of course you will have your guide to help you out. Have fun exploring Tibet.

Traverse Lhasa

One of the most famous sites in Lhasa is the Potala Palace. It is massive and majestic on the slopes of the Red Mountains in the Tibetan Region. This palace is the highest palace in the world. It is so prominent that no other buildings in Lhasa may be taller than the Potala Palace. The name means ‘ High Heavenly Realm’ and for very good reason. This dramatic palace was the winter home of the Dalai Lama in the 7th-century.It is also the seat of the Tibetan government and a prominent military fortress. There are over 690 murals and thousands of painted scrolls to view in the palace. If you want to check out the palace. Take your time and discover everything that the palace holds.

Monks Debate at Sera Monastery
Credit: https://holeinthedonut.com/2019/07/21/video-tibetan-monastic-debate-buddhism/

If you are in Lhasa you should go and take a look at the Drepung Monastery. This is one of the largest and most powerful monasteries in Tibet. The name ‘Drepung’ means ‘collecting rice’. It is home to more than 10,000 monks and is still one of the greatest monasteries in Lhasa. There is a lot you can learn about the culture and religion itself. If you are in Lhasa you should check out the Drepung Monastery. 

Barkhor Street is an old district In Lhasa. It is an ancient circular street which loops around the Jokhang Temple. It was built in 647 by the first Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. This is one of Lhasa’s most famous attractions. The streets are lined by traditional stores. Which sell Tibetan Knives, Prayer Wheels and Tibetan Scrolls. Among other things. It is said that visitors should walk around Barkhor Street clockwise and hold a prayer wheel. This follows one of Tibet’s holiest rituals and pilgrimage routes. 

Finally for this section of your Tibetan Trip. I thought I should mention the Sera Monastery. It is also one of the three greatest monasteries of Lhasa. Its name means ‘Wild Rose’ . This name comes from the rose-covered hillside it was built on. It was founded in 1419. In its prime it held over 5,000 monks and had five colleges. It was also one of the few monasteries that escaped destruction during the Cultural Revolution. Of course if you are visiting this monastery you should make sure to check out the heated debates the monks have at certain times of the day. The Sera Monastery is definitely a place you should check out In Lhasa in the Tibetan Region.

Experience beautiful Shigatse

The next stop on the way to the Everest Base Camp is Shigatse. This is the second largest city in Tibet. Shigatse is also known as Xigatse which means ‘The Fertile Land’. This city borders ‘Ngari’ and is to the west of ‘Nagqu’. It is about 276 km from Lhasa and is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama. He is one of the spiritual leaders of Tibet. This gem of a city is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Tibet. This is because of the ancient culture and majestic monasteries. 

One of the places you could check out in Shigatse is the Palcho Monastery. If you want to see everything this monastery has to offer. You will need about 2 hours to fully explore everything.  The monastery was built in 1427 and is a traditional monastery. It is a really gorgeous place to check out if you are interested in checking out the ancient culture of Tibet. 

Another place you could take a look at is the Shalu Monastery. It dates back to the 11th century and is the only monastery in the Tibet Region the architecture combines Tibetan and Chinese architecture. There are a series of gorgeous murals lining the walls of the corridors in the assembly hall. On top of that there are chapels to see and history to learn. So if you want to delve into Tibetan culture this is the stop for you in Shigatse. 

Shigatse Tibet
Credit: https://www.viator.com/en-GB/tours/Lhasa/5-Day-Private-Tour-to-Tibet/d22453-5488P29

Explore the Mount Everest Base Camp

You will travel through Tingri and up to The Mount Everest Base Camp. The Tibetan side of this famous mountain is known as the North Base Camp. It is possible to visit this base camp without hiking for a few days. It is an underdeveloped part of Tibet. This basecamp may not be as iconic as the Nepalese camp. But it holds an isolated feel with a gorgeous mountain view which does not compare. There are a few accommodation options for you if you want to experience the awe inspiring view at the Base Camp. 

One of the options is a tent hostel. They usually have 10 beds per tent but in peak season there may be more beds. There should be toilets and hot water outside the hostel but there are no showers. There should be food and drink provided. the hostel should have blankets and stoves to keep you warm at night.  One big plus about these hostels is that there is electricity. The electricity has a low voltage. So you are recommended to charge any technology you have before you leave Shigatse.

The second option is the Rongbuk Monastery. This is the highest monastery in the world. They now  Offer rooms for travellers but you can only see Mt. Everest through a valley between mountains.  There are about 30 rooms available at the monastery and more than 100 beds. But it is hard to get one of these beds at peak season. They do not offer the best food at the monastery but it is available should you want it. There are public toilets available. But it is recommended to bring your own toilet paper. To keep you warm there are stoves and blankets but it is once again recommended that you bring your own warm sleeping bag just in case. There is not a lot of electricity available at the monastery. As such you should be diligent and make sure that all your equipment is charged and ready.

The Mount Everest Base Camp - Tibet
Credit: https://www.yowangdu.com/tibet-travel/everest-base-camp-tibet.html


That concludes this week’s travel guide. Tibet is a beautiful place with an ancient history and a beautiful people. There are more areas you can check out of course and plenty more within the cities you can explore. So if none of the things I have listed suit you do not worry. There is plenty to explore and experience in this amazing region. I hope that I have inspired you to want to explore Tibet and maybe even make it to the Everest Base Camp. It is never too late to explore another country. Or go on an adventure. 

So if you liked this week’s article please go and check out some of my other work. You might like my piece on Tokyo, Japan or my Iceland article. As always, have fun and be adventurous. 

One thought on “Travel Guide: Planning a Memorable Trip to the Mount Everest Base Camp in Tibet

Leave a Reply