Potala Palace - the poignantly empty winter home of the Dalai Lama, is the dominant landmark of Lhasa. Towering 117 metres above the city, it’s a masterpiece in design; 13 stories high, containing thousands of rooms. It was the heart of Tibet, its (exiled) government and people. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing an incredible 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. Perched on the side of Marco Ri - the main buildings are the White Palace, the living quarters of the Dalai Lama; the Red Palace, which is purely for Buddhist prayer and the Tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama, with its giant stupa containing one ton of gold and jewels!
Jokhang is the holiest Temple in Tibet; located in the Barkhor district, it houses a solid gold shrine of the enlightened Buddha. The temple is not the most attractive sight but it is certainly the most fascinating. A continuous flow of pilgrims, travel around the complex in an anti clockwise direction, prostrating themselves with varying degrees of exertion and frequency, and spinning hand-held prayer wheels. The temple is a veritable hive of activity and a wonderful place to witness the practises of Buddhism. From the flat roof of the temple there are fabulous views of the city.
The Friendship Highway is a breathtaking 736km scenic route that connects Lhasa to the Nepal border at Zhangmu and continues on to Kathmandu. The highway itself starts from Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, passing the turquoise Yamdrok Lake lake, before connecting to Shigatse, the home of the Panchen Lama, via Gyantse. The road forks after this, with one branch heading west to the city of Ali. The other branch continues south, past Shegar, New Shegar, and to Rongphu Monastery near Everest Base Camp. From here the road continues on to the Nepali border at Zhangmu, and Kathmandu. Highlights along the route include the beautiful Yam Drok Lake, one of three sacred lakes and said to be the female guardian of Tibet; the Rongphu Monastery, which at 5000m is the highest monastery in the world; Everest Base Camp and stunning vistas of the snow capped Himalayas.
The mighty Mount Everest straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet, towering at 8850m, it is the highest mountain in the world, with wind speeds sometimes exceeding 400 km/h at its peak. Everest is over 60 million years old and has an almost spiritual status, known to the Nepalis as Sagarmatha (goddess of the sky) and the Tibetan’s as Chomolungma (goddess of universe). On 29th May 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary (NZ) and Tenzig Norgay (NP) were the first to reach Everest’s summit. Since then Everest has become a Mecca for mountaineers of all nationalities, with around 6,000 attempting to follow in Hillary’s footsteps to reach the summit, but only 2,250 making it. Trekking to Everest Base Camp is hugely popular; ascending through awesome panoramic landscapes to reach the camp at 5200m. Unfortunately the views of Everest from the base camp are limited, so most trekkers in Nepal take the short but steep hike up Kala Pattar, (5545m) where the views are unsurpassable.
The UNESCO listed Pashupatinath Temple, known as ‘The Temple of Living Beings,’ is one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world, attracting thousands of pilgrims. The temple’s existence dates back as far as 400AD and the beautiful, richly ornate pagoda, houses the sacred linga of Lord Shiva. Beside the temple, along the banks of the holy Bagmati River you can see the ancient religious tradition of ritual cleansing, reminiscent of scenes beside the river Ganges in Varanasi.
Royal Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Nepal’s natural wonders, covering 932 sq. km across south central Nepal. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest National Parks in Asia, Chitwan consists of tropical and subtropical forests and is home to more than 50 species of animal including the Royal Bhengal tiger, Indian one horned Rhino, wild elephant, bison, Fourhorned antelope and leopard. Not to mention the 525 species of birds and 55 amphibians and reptiles, including the Golden monitor lizard, Gharial crocodile and python.
The picturesque town of Pokhara is the gateway to the magnificent Annapurna Range which consists of five mountains over 7200m including Annapurna I, the 10th highest mountain in the world and Machhapuchare which despite falling short of 7000m, is one of the most extraordinary mountains due to its unique ‘fishtail’ peak. The Annapurna Region is the most popular place for trekking in Nepal, due to its incredibly diverse landscape; giant snow capped mountains, beautiful rhododendron forests, terraced hillsides and rice paddies. The lookout point at Poon Hill reveals one of the most spectacular panoramas of the high Himalayas in Nepal; a sea of peaks line the horizon.