Designed for experienced & active travellers in good physical condition. These itineraries may include full-day hikes (sometimes at high altitude) and/or full-day excursions. Trails often include steep ascents/descents on mountainous terrain.
Pilgrimage Journey to Mount Kailash for the Saga Dawa Festival
May 25th – June 9th 2020
With Sisse Budolfsen & Alex d’Artois
We invite you to take part in experiencing one of the most authentic living traditions in the world, namely the Buddhist culture of the Himalayas, on a pilgrimage journey to the holy land of Tibet. The countless blessings from the accumulation of merit of the many yogis and yoginis who have practiced the path of awakening here for centuries, seep out of every monastery and shrine in Tibet. On this pilgrimage journey we travel to Mount Kailash in the Western part of the country, regarded by Tibetan Buddhist masters in the Himalayan region as one of the holiest mountains on our planet.
The Pilgrimage in a Nutshell
We start the journey in Kathmandu where everyone gathers. After spending two nights here we continue the journey onward to Lhasa. Just half a century ago, very few foreigners travelled to travel to Tibet. Today, it has opened up very rapidly, yet in spite of this exposure to the outside world, it has kept its sacredness and authenticity very much alive; This is a living tradition of awakening the heart of compassion. We will spend a few days acclimatizing in Lhasa, before we head West toward Gyantse, Shigatse, Saga, Chiu Gompa and finally, to Mount Kailash where we will do the three-day kora. We return to Nepal south of Saga and will travel overland into Nepal via the new border crossing between Tibet and Nepal.
Alex d’Artois, Co-Director & Facilitator
Originally from Canada, Alex has been based in Nepal for the last number of years and has in-depth knowlege on the many sacred sites of Nepal and the Himalayas.
Alex has studied Buddhist philosophy at a University based out of a Tibetan monastery in Kathmandu and is therefore familiar with a classical Tibetan learning environment. At the same time, Alex’s studies in Tibetan Buddhism have stemmed from a psychological/’mind-training’ interest, which comes out in his approach to meditation, philosophy, and various cultivation practices from the rich Tibetan Buddhist wisdom tradition.
Sisse Budolfsen, Co-Director & Facilitator
Thanks to a wealth of experience in Nepal and in the Himalayan region, Sisse is a knowledge gateway between Asia and the West. For the last twelve years, Sisse has been traveling to Nepal and Tibet. Sisse is originally from Denmark.
Ten years of experience with meditation practice and for the last years, guiding meditation at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center (HBMC) in Kathmandu, combined with local experience as a freelance consultant for various international organisations, her studies of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan language, as well as working as a travel guide in the Himalayan region are the basis of her expertise to found Himalayan Hermitage. Sisse is the founder, as well as photographer and facilitator of Himalayan Hermitage.
There is no prerequisite for joining a pilgrimage, nor is it required to have any knowledge or experience with the practice of meditation. Simply, to have the wish to go deeper with one’s mind, and to have curiosity regarding its functions is enough. There is nothing religious about the practice of meditation or in visiting sacred places. In fact, there is nothing even Buddhist about it! The idea of pilgrimage here means that while we are exploring sacred sites, we are also investigating ourselves with a ‘tried & true’ internal/contemplative process called meditation. The practice of meditation is simply a tool to bring your mind back to a place of naked awareness, to a place of basic space with yourself and environment. It is simply a technique with which to uncover all the layers of hope, fear, grasping, and judgement that are all such strong habits which cloud the mind. With the practice of meditation we can learn to come back to ourselves, to become familiar with the groundless, unfabricated, and raw quality of reality.
The daily schedule in this 16-day itinerary comprises of meditating together every morning and evening – this can be for 30-60 minutes (several sessions of sitting and walking meditation) depending on what the group wants and where we are in our itinerary. Buddhist philosophy sessions are roughly 1 hour/day combining a short presentation with group discussion. Throughout the 16 days we slowly walk through all 3 yanas (vehicles) of the Tibetan Buddhist path. We explore how & why shamatha/mindfulness (one-pointed ‘calm abiding’ meditation) + vipassana (insight) are used as tools from the beginning through to the end of the path. The foundational path of the Shravakayana is comprised of: ‘The 4 Turnings of the Mind’, ‘Refuge’, ‘The 3 Marks of Existence’, and ‘The Four Noble Truths’. There is an emphasis on exploring the middle yana – the Mahayana (the ‘great vehicle’ of the Bodhisattvas) which entails: ‘Bodhicitta’, ‘The 6 Paramitas (perfect actions)’, ‘Shunyayta (emptiness)’, ‘Relative and Ultimate Truth’, and ‘Lojong (mind-training)’. We contemplate Lojong slogans as brought forth in an accessible way by great Tibetan/Western hybrid teachers Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chodron. We touch upon the final yana of the Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) by exploring its many expressions and intricate symbolism. At face value Tibetan Buddhism may look esoteric, but with investigation we may see first-hand how it is simply a system for training one’s mind by utilizing various methods which combine mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom cultivation practices.
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL IN KATHMANDU
Arrival and pick up at Tribhuvan International Airport of Kathmandu. We drive straight to Vajra Hotel and rest till dinner. After dinner there will be an introduction to the pilgrimage journey by your hosts and guides, Sisse Budolfsen and Alex d’Artois.
DAY 2 – BOUDHA & PASHUPATINATH
We have a half day program after lunch, and venture out into Kathmandu, visiting the ancient, holy Hindu temple of Pashupatinath, followed by the Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath. We spend the afternoon getting ready for our next day departure to Lhasa.
DAY 3 – LHASA
We arrive in Lhasa and go straight to the hotel where spend the afternoon resting before dinner. Lhasa is at an altitude of 3650 meters, so it is important to rest and acclimatize during our first few days.
DAY 4 & 5 – LHASA
In the next couple of days during of our stay in Lhasa we visit the Potala Palace, what used to be the residence of H.H the 14th Dalai Lama, followed by the spiritual heart of Lhasa, the Jorkhang temple.
The following day we visit two of the greatest Gelugpa monasteries of Tibet, Drepung and Sera monasteries, located at the periphery of Lhasa.
DAY 6 – SAMYE
The following day we venture out of Lhasa to the first ever founded monastery in Tibet, the “unchanging, spontaneously arisen” Samye from the 8th century that hold great importance for the origins of Tibetan Buddhism. On our journey to Samye we drive along the great Yarlung Tsangpo river (Brahmaputra river) and the many willow trees along the banks of the river. We spend the night in Tsetang, near the Yarlung Tsangpo river.
DAY 7 – GYANTSE
We leave Lhasa and travel Southwest toward Gyantse, our next stay on our way West toward Mount Kailash. This is a ride with beautiful sceneries along the way, and after we have climbed the first pass, we will come to one of the four holy lakes in Tibet, namely the Yamdrok Tso. The turquoise color of the lake is pristine. We spend the night i Gyantse.
DAY 8 – SHIGATSE
After breakfast we travel through farm land from Gyantse to Shigatse on a shorter day’s journey, and spend the afternoon visiting and paying homage to Tashilungpo, residency of the Panchen Lamas. We spend the night in Shigatse.
DAY 9 – SAGA
From Shigatse and morning kora around Tashilungpo, the most important monastery in Shigatse, we travel onto Saga, the last stop before we reach the holy lake of Manesarovar and Mount Kailash.
DAY 10 – CHIU GOMPA
We arrive at Chiu Gompa and Lake Manesarovar, and for the first time on our journey we are able to glance upon the majestic Mount Kailash. We camp at the lakeside in tents.
DAY 11 – DARCHEN & KORA STARTS
We travel from Lake Manesarovar onto Darchen, the gateway to where the kora around Mount Kailash starts. We spend the night in Darchen.
DAY 12 & 13 – KORA AROUND KAILASH
The next morning, we start the kora, and for the coming three coming days we circumambulate the holy mountain. The mountain itself is 6,700 meters high, and the highest point we reach on the kora, Drolma-la pass is be 5,630 meters.
DAY 14 – KORA AROUND KAILASH
We complete the kora late morning, and travel back to Saga.
DAY 15 – KYIRONG BORDER
This morning we make our journey South to Kyirong – the new border crossing between Tibet and Nepal.
DAY 16 – KATHMANDU
We make our return to Kathmandu. We spend the last night of our pilgrimage journey together in Kathmandu.
‘Early Bird Special’: 4999 USD (expires 6 months prior to the start of the journey)
Normal price: 5299 USD
Single Supplement: 575 USD
16 nights/17 days
All accommodation, meals & transport in Nepal & Tibet
Experienced guides & instructors
Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa
Healthy, vegetarian meals
Daily Dharma talks & introduction to meditation
Notebook for journaling during the pilgrimage
International flight ticket to Nepal
Personal insurance during the pilgrimage
Personal visa to Nepal (25 USD for 15 days / 30 USD for 30 days to be purchased upon arrival)
Any alcoholic beverage during the pilgrimage
Tip to local guide and porters
To secure your place in this journey please visit the ‘Book a Journey‘ page and follow through the 3 steps explained.
We wholeheartedly look forward to having you on one of our journeys!