Every twelve years, a sacred pilgrimage to a mystical mountain in western Tibet takes on a higher meaning. Mount Kailash, located in the high plateaus of the Ngari region, is believed by some Buddhist and pre-Buddhist religious communities to be the meeting place of heaven and earth and circumambulating the mountain brings spiritual merit. Although many make the trek to do so annually, every twelve years during the Tibetan Horse Year (2014 being one of them), the circuit takes on special sanctity, and pilgrims who do so are allowed to enter the otherwise forbidden Inner Sanctuary.
Led by former TV host and humanitarian aid worker Cristy Elmendorp, Soma Journeys, a small-group luxury tour company that specializes in exotic cultural experiences in Asia, is organizing a pilgrimage trip to Mount Kailash as well as through the surrounding region and its ancient culture. The trip—a 22 day adventure from Sep. 2-24—begins in Kathmadu, where the group will meet before flying to the remote Humla region in northwestern Nepal. From there, a six-day trek to the small Tibetan town Purang ventures through the beautiful Karnali River valley, over the Nara La pass (14,700 ft), past hot springs, and stops into Yalbang Monastery. From there, the mountain is within reach, and the circumambulation begins, with visits to a couple more monasteries and the picturesque Lake Manasrovar along the way. The journey’s highlight—entering the Inner Sanctuary—occurs on the 15th, and from there, the rest of the trip unwinds through the vast landscape of central Tibet, spending nights in towns Saga, Lhatse, Shigatse, Gyantse, and finally passing the Karo La Pass into Lhasa—Tibet’s ancient capital city. En route are markets, myriad Tibetan Buddhist holy sites, more monasteries, and, of course, stunning landscapes. Two days in Lhasa are spent visiting the summer palace of the Dalai Lama as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site Potala Palace, where he still retains his private quarters. A farewell dinner commemorates the journey before returning to Kathmandu and onward home.
The tour’s itinerary is subject to weather conditions and the wishes of those on the journey. As always, Soma’s goal is to have its travelers experience a new part of the world in an interdisciplinary fashion, interacting with locals and learning about the region and its history through firsthand cultural experiences. This sacred pilgrimage will surely prove nothing less than a staunch upholding of this mission.
For more information, visit Soma Journeys.