The Best Short Treks in Tibet
There are lots of treks you can take in Tibet, from the hike to Mount Everest to the short strolls around the Lhasa foothills and the hermitage sites of the Tibetan capital. For someone who wants to experience trekking at high altitudes, but wants a nice short trek, there are some amazing treks that run for just 2-4 days.
The best trek really depends on several factors, including your expectations, preferences, schedules for travel, and budget. Some treks are more suitable for experienced trekkers, like the Kailash Kora Trek, while others are ideal for novices to high-altitude trekking. Whatever your preference and experience, there is a short trek waiting in Tibet for you to come and enjoy.
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3-day Kailash Kora Trek
The most arduous trek on the plateau, the Kailash Kora Trek starts and ends at Darchen, the small village just below the southern face of Mount Kailash. However, for many people, it begins at Sarshung Village, where the eco-bus drops them off for the first leg of the trek, up the Lha-chu Valley.
The route of the trek takes you around Mount Kailash, the sacred mountain of four religions, in the course of three days. The first section runs from Sarshung Village to Drirapuk Monastery, the second monastery on the trail around the mountain. After a night’s rest, you will continue over the Drolma La Pass to reach the second night’s stop at Dzultripuk Monastery. The final day is the shortest, taking you back out onto the plains to Zongto, where most people stop and get the bus back to Darchen.
The trek takes three days for most hikers and tourists, although the local Tibetans can do the whole route in a single day as part of their pilgrimage. Most articles cite the distance of the trek as being one of 52 kilometers. In actuality, the distance that most people take for the kora trek is a lot less. For those starting in Sarshung Village and ending in Zongto, where the last teahouse is located, the trek is only 38 kilometers. However, even for those starting and ending in Darchen, the route is actually only 48 kilometers long.
Spring and autumn, from April to May and September to October, are the best times to take this trek. The weather is clear enough for great views and dry, so the hard trail is not any harder. It can be hiked in summer, but it is hotter and more likely you may experience some rainfall.
4-day Tingri to EBC Trek
The hike to Mount Everest’s northern base camp is one of the most popular treks in Tibet. The trek starts in Old Tingri, on the G318 Friendship Highway, and ends at the Everest Base Camp next to the Rongbuk Monastery.
The route of this amazing trek takes you through some of the most outstanding landscapes in the region. From Tingri, you trek south through Cholung Gompa and the fields of barley to reach Lung Thang on the first day. In the morning, the trail continues southwards, passing through Pang la and Churak, to reach the Lamna La Pass, below which you camp for the night. The third day sees you trekking through the farming fields and meadows, along the gravel trails that lead you to Zommug, where you stop for the night. The final leg of the trek takes you over the rough terrain to the Rongbuk Monastery and EBC.
The trek is now actually only 66 kilometers long, as the tourist base camp was recently moved to be closer to Rongbuk to preserve the environment of the actual base campsite. The trek is a four-day hike that is done in sections that make the most of the landscapes and the location of decent camping spots.
While it may not be the hardest trek in Tibet, this is no walk in the park. The trek runs through landscapes that are above 4,500 meters and has a climb up to more than 5,000 meters at its highest point. However, it is suitable for lesser experienced trekkers, with no high-altitude experience.
The best time to tackle this trek is from April to May and September to October, the spring and autumn, as the weather is dry and pleasant with no rain. The trek can be done in summer, but there is no guarantee you will see the summit of the mountain due to cloud cover.
4-day Ganden to Samye Trek
Another popular trek in Tibet is the iconic four-day hike from Ganden to Samye. The trek starts at Ganden Monastery in Lhasa, and ends at the Samye Monastery, on the other side of the mountains, in Shannan Prefecture.
After departing from Ganden, the route takes you from the nearby Tsubshi Village to Yama-do, a couple of hours down the trail. The second day of trekking takes you up the Shug La Pass and through the Tsotup Chu Valley, ending the day at the campsite in the valley. The following day, the route heads on through the valley and p to the Chitu La Pass, before descending to the fields below for the next campsite. The final day is a shorter hike through the fields to Changtang Village, where you will be picked up for the short drive to Samye Monastery.
While the actual distance to Samye from Ganden is around 70 kilometers, the last 24km is done by car, so you actually only trek around 46 kilometers for the whole four-day trek. The trek is actually four days long, though the first day is spent split between touring around Ganden Monastery and then 2-3 hours of trekking. And each subsequent day only averages 5-6 hours of hiking for a more moderate pace.
Spring and autumn, from April to May and September to October, is the best time for this trek. The drier weather in Lhoka is better than trying to trek in the summer rains, which are heavier in the southern areas of the plateau.
2-day Shalu to Nartang Trek
An ideal short trek for beginners to high-altitude trekking, this is a great local hike around the Shigatse area. The trek begins at the Shalu Monastery, just outside Gyantse, on the road to Shigatse from Lake Yamdrok. The end of the trek is at Nartang Monastery, just outside Shigatse to the west.
The route is shorter than most, and after visiting Shalu Monastery, you will take the trail past the Ripa Hermitage and through Phunup Village to the Showa La Pass. Then drop down to the campsite at Upper Lungsang at 4,060 meters. The second day takes you from Upper Lungsang to Nartang Monastery, passing through Ngor Village from the high Char La Pass (4,550m). After a brief stop at Ngor, you will finish the trek to Nartang Monastery, through the small villages and farming communities.
A short trek, the route covers a distance of only 26 kilometers. The trek is a short two-day hike through the countryside around Shigatse. The hike does reach extreme altitudes, though the climbs to the passes are more gradual and less felt. And the shorter hiking days makes it more suitable for novice hikers to Tibet.
Any time of the year can be good for this trek, with spring and autumn being the best time to travel. With fewer rains in the area around Shigatse in the summer months, you will barely even notice the difference in the weather, except for it being much warmer. It is also a good short winter trek, as there is little snow and the high passes remain open.