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BT-03 Yunnan & Tibet Explorer


17 nights from UK £ TBC per person

Price based on 2 people travelling. This price is to give guidance and final quotes vary by date, exchange rates and are subject to availability. Trip runs April to December.
Please Note: This is a private tour (not a group tour). It can be tailored to your requirements and we can also book your international flights if required. An altitude of over 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) is reached on this trip. Whilst the vast majority of people experience little more than shortness of breath there is a very small risk of more severe complications such as acute mountain sickness (AMS). Note that level of fitness and age are no indication as to whether you are more susceptible or not to AMS.

Starting in KUNMING the trip moves to DALI & LIJIANG, two of Yunnan’s must see destinations full or colour and culture before a flight to LHASA to start the classic overland journey to Kathmandu taking in GYANTSE, SHIGATSE & EVEREST and the wild unspoiled scenery, unique culture of Tibet and its breathtaking architecture.

The trip finishes in the lush KATHMANDU valley rounding off this incredible experience with a taste of the Sub-continent.

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BT-03 Yunnan Tibet Explorer map


Day 1 - Arrival Kunming

Arrival in Yunnan Province’s Capital, Kunming

We will be greeting you at the airport from where you will be transferred by private car and English speaking guide to your hotel. Kunming, at 1,890m, is one of those rare Chinese cities that is good to visit all year round. Renown for its greenery and a degree of prosperity it is also more relaxed than many Chinese cities.

The rest of the day is free to relax from the long flight or start to explore the city with the help of your personalised Trip Guidebook we send you before the trip.

Meals Included: None today.

Day 2 - Kunming to Dali

Visit the Unique Limestone Karst Formations of the Stone Forest & Bullet Train on to Dali

Today’s tour leaves the city driving 85 km south east to the extraordinary and unique Stone Forest or “Shilin” in Mandarin. This area of unusual and photogenic Karst formations covers a vast 2,670 sq km and is believed to have been formed over 270 million years ago. You see some of the Greater Stone Forest, Lesser Stone forest, the edge of the wild outer Stone Forest and the Stone Forest Lake.

Transfer straight to the station to catch a bullet train to Dali. Early evening arrival in Dali, an ancient capital of both the Bai Kingdom during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Kingdom of Dali, which reigned from 937-1253. This relaxed town has a backdrop of the beautiful Cangshan Mountains that peak 4,200 meters and is situated close to the shores of lovely Erhai Lake.

Your guide and driver will meet and transfer you to your hotel with the rest of the evening free.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 3 - Dali

Scenic Erhai Lake, Guanyin Temple, Butterfly Spring & the Village of Xizhou

Today we leave the city to visit some of the surrounding sights of interest. We head to Erhai lake for a boat trip to some of its islands ad Guanyin Temple. From the lake you can really appreciate Dali’s position nestled in between the Cangshan mountains and the lake shore. Continue by car to the village of Xizhou 20 km away and well known for its Qing Dynasty architecture. The Xizhou craftsmen who built these houses plied their skills throughout Southeast Asia including Vietnam and Burma before returning home to build their own masterpiece. Most houses are still occupied by local families. We also visit Butterfly Spring, famed for its park and the butterflies that flock to the shallow pools.

Return to Dali with free time in the evening.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 4 - Dali to Lijiang & Shuhe

Explore the Old City & the Magnificent, Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas Before Driving to Lijiang & Shuhe

This morning a tour of Dali including the Old City and Three Pagodas. The relaxed Old City is well preserved and known for its architecture and being the cultural centre of the local Bai people. The Tang Dynasty Three Pagodas are some of the best preserved Buddhist structures in China and are set in a beautiful location reflecting in a lake with a mountain backdrop.

This afternoon depart Dali by car and driver for the picturesque 3 to 4 hour journey to Lijiang with opportunities to stop for photos along the route. Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage city of cobbled streets and tiled roofs set against the magnificent backdrop of the 5,596 meter high, 13 peaked Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Arrival in Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage city of cobbled streets and tiled roofs set against the magnificent backdrop of the 5,596 meter high, 13 peaked Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. For your accommodation we have selected the Shuhe area about 3km from Old Lijiang. This areas has some lovely traditional style hotels and is reminiscent of a less touristed Lijiang yet still has easy access.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 5 - Lijiang

The 13 Peaked Jade Snow Dragon Mountain & Lijiang Old City

Today we drive the 15 km through beautiful countryside to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the 5,596 meter, thirteen peaked massif clearly visible from Lijiang but much more impressive up close. We take a cable car up to a high grassland plateau on the mountain from where the snow covered peaks tower above.

Descend by cable car and visit Lijiang’s Old City including the fabulous palace of the Mu Clan who ruled over this area for 400 years. This large complex is a superb example of local Naxi architecture. You also visit the Black Dragon Pool, a beautiful park containing traditional architecture and one of the most famous views in China of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain – stunning if the weather cooperates!

Return to your hotel in Shuhe with the rest of the evening free.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 6 - Lijiang & Tiger Leaping Gorge

Dramatically Beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge, One of the World’s Deepest

Today a trip 60 km out of the city to dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge, a contender for the deepest gorge in the world being 3,900 meters from the river at the bottom to the top of the peaks of Haba Shan to the west and Yulong Xueshan to the east. You will see the gorge from several vantage points and have time to walk around to get more of a feel for this awe inspiring landscape.

Return to your hotel with the rest of the evening free.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 7 - Lijiang

Free Day to Explore Lijiang & the Surrounding Villages & Landscape

Today is free to either relax in lovely Shuhe or continue to explore the labyrinth of the Old City which throws up surprises at almost every turn. Renting bicycles and exploring the surrounding countryside is another option perhaps making the ride to Baisha Village about 40 minutes away.

Either way there is plenty to do around Lijiang including settling in one of the numerous cafes and watching the world go by!

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 8 - Lijiang to Lhasa

Flight on to Lhasa and Your First Taste of This Extraordinary City

Free time until a transfer to the airport for your flight to Lhasa. Your guide will have your Tibet Travel Permit and plane ticket. Arrival at Lhasa’s Gonggar airport after what has, cloud cover permitting, been a spectacular flight. Your guide will be meeting you at the airport for the 1 hour drive to Lhasa.

Tibet’s capital, at a quite manageable altitude of 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) is a unique city and a real highlight or any trip. The setting, history, architecture, people and contrasts all make for a very special travel experience. Free time to relax and adjust to the altitude or start exploring the city.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 9 - Lhasa

Drepung Monastery, Nechung Residence, Sacred Jokhang Temple & Kora

Today first head 5 km out of Lhasa to Drepung Monastery, the largest in Tibet located on Gambo Utse mountain. Founded in 1416, it was the principal seat of learning for the Gelugpa school and at its height was thought to contain up to 10,000 monks (now there are 300). About 10 minutes walk from Drepung is Nechung Chok which was the residence of the State Oracle of Tibet. This small monastery was also evocatively known as the ”Demon Fortress of the Oracle King.”

After lunch (own arrangement) visit the Jokhang Temple constructed in 642 AD and considered the most sacred and important temple in all Tibet. It is located at one end of Barkhor Square, a fascinating meeting point for pilgrims from all over the region making for an intense atmosphere infused with incense and devotion. Surrounding the temple is the Barkhor Kora, a 1 km circular walk for pilgrims and locals as well as a fascinating market selling all the goods a pilgrim might need on their travels.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 10 - Lhasa

The Truly Spectacular Potala Palace & Ancient Sera Monastery

Today you visit one of the architectural highlights of China – if not the world – the vast Potala Palace, former residence of Dalai Lamas. Building started in 1645 and has been added to over the centuries. It is 13 stories high and contains over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. You will see some of the meeting rooms as well as the extraordinary chapels with their vast gold and jewel encrusted shrines to previous Dalai Lamas – the chapel of the 5th Dalai Lama has a stupa coated in 3,727kg of gold and 18,680 precious stones. The Potala dominates Lhasa and the views from the palace stretch out across the city to the surrounding mountains.

Continue to Sera Monastery, spread over 28 acres at the base of Pubuchok mountain and built in 1419. The highlights are the great assembly hall and some of the colleges located within the complex with their wealth of architectural features and shrines.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 11 - Lhasa to Gyantse

Kambala Pass, Beautiful Yamdrok Lake & Norjing Gangsang Glacier

Today we journey to Gyantse, 230 km south of Lhasa. The city is soon left behind as the road winds up the 4,780 meter (15,680 foot) Kambala pass colourfully strewn with prayer flags fluttering in the wind. See spectacular views in all directions before the road descends to the beautiful 72 km long Yamdrok lake with its spectacular backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Follow the lake shore before heading back into the hills passing the Norjing Gangsang Glacier, where we can stop for photos.

Continue along the road stopping at villages and scenic spots before reaching Gyantse (3,977 meters / 13,050 feet), Tibet’s third largest city. Free time to explore and if you have the energy the walk up the Dzong (fortress) that dominates the city is recommended for both views and acclimatization.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 12 - Gyantse to Shigatse

Palcho Monastery & Kumbum & Vast Tashilhunpo Monastery & Market

This morning visit Gyantse’s main monastery, the Palcho or Pelkhor Choede in Tibetan. The sprawling monastery complex dates back to the 9th century. It is most famous for the Kumbum, a 32 meter high 9 floored shrine which contains 108 unique chapels and is the largest of its kind in Tibet.

It is a 100 km drive to Shigatse at (3,840 meters / 12,600 feet) where we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and has since been the traditional seat of the “Tashi” or Panchen Lama. The monastery is fascinating as is the walk around the Kora which stretches up the hillside behind the monastery offering good views of the complex and Shigatse itself. We can also visit the local market.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 13 - Shigatse to Shekar

Tashilhunpo & Sakya Monasteries Before Journeying Deeper Into Tibet

This morning we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and has since been the traditional seat of the “Tashi” or Panchen Lama. The monastery is fascinating as is the walk you can do around the Kora which stretches up the hillside behind the monastery offering good views of the complex and Shigatse itself.

Drive on 127 km to Sakya monastery, the seat of the Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery’s architecture is very different to others in Tibet as it is Mongolian in design dating back to 1268. Continue deeper into Tibet stopping when you wish before reaching the remote town of Shekar (New Tingri). Try to get a good nights rest in preparation for Everest Base Camp tomorrow.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 14 - Shekar to Everest Base Camp

The Superb Gyawu Pass View of the High Himalayas & Drive to Everest Base Camp

Depart Shekar stopping at the Gyawu pass for a breathtaking panoramic view of the highest peaks of the Himalaya. Drive on to Rombuk Monastery, the gateway to Everest. From Rombuk the hike to Everest Base Camp (5,200m / 17,000 feet) takes 2 hours although there is often a national park bus in service if you do not want to walk. The sunset on Everest is sublime as well as the mountain under a star or moonlit night – pray to the mountain Gods for no clouds! Rough and ready high altitude night at either Rombuk Monastery or up at Base Camp itself where there is seasonal tented accommodation run by local nomads (approximately May to October).

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 15 - Everest Base Camp to Kyirong

Sunrise at Everest Base Camp & the Amazing Drive on to the Border

Despite the inevitable cold it is well worth trying to get up just before dawn to catch the sunrise on Everest. The morning is spent exploring the area around camp before driving on late morning to Kyirong the last town on the Tibetan side of the border. On the way, you can spot the breathtaking Mt. Shishapangma and Pekutso Lake. After passing Ghungtang Lhamo (5236m), we will finally arrive in Kyirong in late afternoon.

The scenery rapidly changes as the altitude decreases, greening up and becoming lush and by the time the border town, perched on the steep mountainside, is reached. The world looks a very different place to what it did this morning as you prepare for your last night in Tibet.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 16 - Kyirong to Kathmandu

Entering Nepal, the Lush Kathmandu Valley & Change of Culture

After breakfast drive the 25km to the actual border and say goodbye to your Tibetan driver and guide. Pass through China immigration and walk across the short stretch of no mans land to Nepalese immigration in the town of Rasuwagadhi where your driver will be waiting for you. If you need to obtain a Nepal visa now is the time to do that. The 130 km 5 to 6 hour drive down to Kathmandu is initially through stunning lush mountain scenery which steadily becomes more tropical and couldn’t be further removed from the dry Tibetan Plateau.

Far more India than China, Kathmandu makes Chinese cities look exceptionally well ordered! Life appears frantic and chaotic here. Long a travellers mecca for Himalayan trekking, Kathmandu has mastered the art of providing creature comforts to the weary traveller. The city is culturally rich and beyond it the rest of Nepal and the sub-continent awaits! Your driver will drop you at the hotel in Kathmandu with the rest of the day free.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 17 - Kathmandu

Highlights of Kathmandu Including Durbar Square, Boudhanath & Pashupatinath

Today we cover the highlights of the capital starting with the central Durbar Square, Hanuman Dhoka with its many old palaces, temples and pagodas. Continue to the Temple of Living Goddess “Kumari”, and the Kasthamandap Temple, believed to be constructed from the wood of a single tree and from which the city derives its name. On to the huge in size and importance Buddhist Boudhanath Stupa before finishing at the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and located on the bank of the holy Bagmati River. Return to your hotel with a free evening perhaps relaxing in the cafes and restaurants of popular Thamel district.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 18 - Depart Kathmandu

Free Time to Explore the Sights of Kathmandu Before Onward Travel

Free time in Kathmandu until a transfer to the airport for your flight out of Nepal. If you prefer to stay longer in Nepal we can book additional hotel nights for you as well as some short tours around the Kathmandu Valley or longer excursions through the country – click here for more options.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.


The hotels & accommodation used for this trip are from our hand picked selection and all are excellent for their class. We also offer upgraded hotels in most locations. Click here to explore additional hotel options and let us know of any changes you wish to make.


What is included?

Transport between destinations as described.

All accommodation as specified under the accommodation tab

All private transfers and any other transportation as described

All meals as specified in the itinerary

All tours as specified in the itinerary

All entrance fees to sights toured in the itinerary

24 hour emergency assistance

Tibet Travel Permit needed to travel in this province

Back up oxygen cylinder outside of Lhasa in case of altitude issues (extremely rare this ever needs to be used!)

Visa Paperwork required in order to obtain the visas

Financial Peace of Mind as your trip is protected

What is not included?

International Airfare to / from the start / finish of your trip – we can book these flights on request

The Chinese & Nepalese visas – we can advise and partner with VisaCentral

Travel insurance to cover any medical treatment – we recommend Citybond Suretravel (UK residents only)

Discretionary gratuities to drivers and guides

Laundry and bar bills, photographic charges in some monasteries, additional costs due to unforeseen expenses that may arise due to the factors beyond our control like personal illness, weather, landslides, etc…

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