Nakchu Horse Race Festival Tour of Tibet

Highlights:

  • Grab your horse or your camera, (we do not suggest both) and enjoy a long day of festivities and races at the annual Horse Racing Festival, which is held in August each year. Rows of tents cover the vast green grassland, hosting more than 10,000 spectators from afar. In addition to the various equine events, such as shooting on horseback and cross-country racing, the festival also provides an opportunity to watch regional folk dances. In the evening we will gather around the campfire for more singing and dancing.
  • On this tour you will see the best sights of Lhasa, the holiest city in Tibet. You will visit the Potala Palace, the seat of the Dali Lama, and the Jokhang Monastery, the spiritual center of the region.
  • The “rooftop of the world” long inaccessible to foreign visitors, is now available for you to discover. Tibet, with its holy Buddhist shrines, impeccable natural scenery, and breath-taking mountains, is certainly one of the world’s most exciting travel destinations.

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 arrive in Lhasa

You will fly (or take the train), in to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. 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 meters (11,975 feet) 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 center of Tibet's politics, economy and culture. The city has also been appointed as one of the 24 historical and cultural cities of China. The splendor and grandeur of the Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.

Upon arrival you’ll be met by your local guide, and you’ll be driven to your hotel, where the rest of the evening can be spent at your own discretion. It is recommended you take it easy and pace yourself, on account of the large altitude change you ill be experiencing.

Day 2 Lhasa (B, L)

Today will be a full day of touring the best sights in Lhasa. After breakfast, we will go to the Potala Palace, which is the most renowned highlight of Lhasa. The world famous Potala Palace is located on Moburi (Red) Mountain, to the west of old Lhasa. It is a huge treasure house of materials and articles from Tibetan history, religion, culture and art. The palace is widely known for the precious sculptures, murals, scriptures, Buddha statues, murals, antiques, and religious jewelry housed within. They are of great cultural and artistic value. In 1994, the Potala Palace was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was originally built in the 640s, during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo of Tibet. The Potala has been a sacred place for hundreds of years. Thousands of pilgrims from Tibet, other parts of China and abroad come every year to pay homage. Their devotion is shown by the difficult journeys they have to make to reach “the City of the Gods".

Then it is off to the Jokhnag Temple, which is located in the center of old Lhasa city. Jokhang Monastery is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) Branch of Tibetan Buddhism. It was originally built in 647 AD. It is said the site was chosen personally by the wife of King Songtsan Gampo, the Tang Princess Wen Cheng. The princess perceived Wutang, a lake in Lhasa, to be a “devil’s heart”, a source of evil, and had it filled in and the temple built on the site to counteract evil forces. It was built by craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal and thus features different architectural styles. Jokhang means "House of Buddha". Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.

A short walk from the Jokhang Temple is the Barkhor Bazaar. The Barkhor (pilgrims’ circuit) is found in the heart of Lhasa encircling the Jokhang Temple. It is the earliest remaining street in Lhasa. It bustles with activity and is always jam-packed with traders and hawkers. It is a "must" for souvenir-hunting tourists. Many people call the Barkhor "the window of Tibet" as it exhibits a typical Tibetan life. The old circumambulation circuit is always crowded with pilgrims from everywhere. Some are monks, and some are businessmen from Kham, a region encompassing East Tibet and part of Sichuan Province. Here you will find people from all over Tibet. You can experience different styles of dress and languages. Even the similar-looking clothes of the monks vary depending on the different branches of Buddhism they practice.

The rest of the night can be spent at your own leisure.

Day 3 Lhasa-Naqju (B, L, D)

Today we will drive to Naqju in order to witness and experience the Nakchu Festival. Under good road conditions, the 315 km (197 mi) journey from Lhasa to Nakchu should take approximately 6 hours. Though the journey is long and at times ardurous, there is no such thing as an ugly road in Tibet. We will pass beautiful temples and shrines and encounter herdsmen and pilgrims as we traverse deep valleys and drive across rugged passes.

The Chachen Horse Race Festival at Nakchu is a very typical festival in Northern Tibet. It could be traced back to the 8th century when the Gar Family was in power ruling Tibet on behalf of the Kings of Tibet. The Tibetans are a nationality on horse back, so they treasure horses as their friends and as one of the family members. They never kill horses for meat, because they believe horses are the messengers of God. During the festival, the nomad peoples will gather in Nakchu, grandly dressed. Tents of all kinds scatter across the grassland like flowers in bloom. During the day, you will get to watch games such as horse racing, yak racing, wrestling, stone lifting, riffle/arrow shooting on horse back, artful horse riding; all will be held for the nomads. It is a good time to chat with each other, change goods and buy necessities. Also, it is a good time for young Tibetans to get know each other and fall in love.

We will stay overnight in Naqju.

Day 4 Naqju-Lhasa (B, L)

Today will be the second day of the Nakchu Festival, and you will get to experience more of the pageantry and rich cukture of the Tibetan Nomads. Horse racing, archery, wrestling and more will be on hand to entertain you.

Later in the day we will make the drive back to Lhasa, where you will stay at the hotel you had previously stayed at.

Day 5 Lhasa (B, L)

After breakfast, we will do some more sightseeing around Lhasa, with our first stop being at Norbulingka, Tibet’s Summer Palace. Norbulingka was built in 1755 and became the place where the successors of the seventh Dalai Lama dealt with affairs, held celebrations, spent the hot season, rested and conducted religious activities. In mid-March every year, the Dalai Lama would move here from the Potala Palace, and stay until the end of October, when he would return to the Potala Palace. So, Norbulingka is called the Summer Palace and the Potala Palace the Winter Palace. The garden covers an area of 46 acres (19 hectares) and the palace has 370 rooms of different sizes. In the garden visitors can worship Buddha, relax and study the Tibetan-style palaces.

Then we will head over to the Sera Monastery, the last of the three principal Gelupka, or Yellow Hat, Buddhist monasteries to be built in Lhasa. The Sera Monastery has been listed as one of the China's National Cultural Relics since 1982. Sera comprises a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections. It once housed nearly 10,000 monks, and is proud of its glorious history during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Sera means hailstone in Tibetan, and legend tells that it hailed during the foundation of this famous monastery.

In the afternoon, we will make an exciting outing to the Drepung Monastery. Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the first of the three principle monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism. Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, Buddhism is the branch followed by most Tibetans, and the most influential figure in this faith is the Dalai Lama. Drepung Monastery used to be the living quarters of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama between 1645 and 1694. Drepung was listed as a national cultural relic in 1982.

Day 6 Lhasa-departure (B)

After breakfast, you will be taken to the Lhasa airport (or train station), where you will travel to your next destination, ending your tour with us.