Amdo gave Tibet some of its most revered figures, including the 14th Dalai Lama, the late Panchen Lama, and Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
This trip starts in Lanzhou (Gansu). Traversing the expansive grasslands of Amdo, we travel through Labrang and Kumbum, two of the largest Gelug monasteries anywhere, and major centers of Buddhist scholarship and art. We pass by Lake Kokonor, the largest salt lake on the plateau, and enjoy Amdo food. Though largely a nomadic people, Amdo food is renowned all over Tibet. All-time favourites include sumptuous boiled highland lamb, delicious egg noodles and crispy breads.
We drive by way of Golmud and approach Lhasa from the nomad country of Nagchu.
Lhasa to a Tibetan is what Mecca is to a Muslim, or Bethlehem to a devout Christian. Many Tibetans wish to make the journey to the holy city once in their lifetime: To accumulate merit and cleanse themselves from misdeeds. In the old days, reaching Lhasa could take months on horseback or years by full-body prostrations.
Today, the journey remains one of life’s most significant, particularly among the Tibetans of Kham and Amdo, whose faith is intensified by their distance from the spiritual center. Soon after harvest, folks journey in truckloads crossing Asia's greatest rivers and wicked high passes, camping in the starlit wilderness, living on Tsampa (parched barley) and strong green tea.
The modern roads to Lhasa were often built along the ancient caravan and pilgrimage trails. Although described as "highways" on maps, the journey is rugged and the facilities en route basic. Khampa Caravan takes you through these classic routes by land cruisers in trips ranging from 14 to 21 days depending on the chosen route.
A thoroughly Khampa-style adventure is guaranteed!
To follow our 2006 trip along the ancient tea-horse trade road (Tib. Gyalam) check out the blog The Tea Horse Road Trek.
In Lhasa: The single most important purpose of pilgrimage to Lhasa is to make an offering at the Jokhang. Situated in the heart of the old town, this is the holiest shrine in all of Tibet with a revered image of the historic Buddha Shakyamuni as a youth. Pilgrims also make day-trips to Sera, Drepung and Ganden, three monasteries in the vicinity traditionally referred to as "the three pillars of the state". A tour of the magnificent Potala Palace with its fabled 100,000 rooms finds place in the list of must-do’s for devotees.
Tibetan pilgrimage, however, always has a social or "fun" component - we will also have our share! Devotees become tourists hanging out at the Bakhor, the main shopping area of the old town. They picnic in the garden of the Norbu Lingkha summer palace, and shop for rugs or turquoise in the old market. Or compare prices for electronic consumer goods such as mobile phones or disc-men in one of the department stores.