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Tibet - Ancient Civilisation and Culture

Gyantse, TibetHorse Festival in TibetNorbulingka Summer Palace, LhasaPotala Palace, Lhasa, TibetSonzanlin Interior, TibetTibetan Children on HorsebackTibetan Landscape © Gina CorriganWild flowers, Tibet

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13 days
6 – 18 Sep 2015
Price pp
£2,710 excl. flight
Single supp.
Flight time
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  • The iconic Potala Palace, winter residence of the Dalai Lama
  • Nam Tso Lake, the cradle of Tibetan Civilisation
  • The cobbled streets of Shigatse and Gyantse

This journey takes you into the depths of the Tibetan Plateau through spectacular mountain landscapes. Learn of Tibet's culture, heritage and deep rooted Buddhist beliefs which permeate through all levels of society. You will explore the capital city of Lhasa, as well as the smaller more traditional cities of Gyantse and Shigatse.

Day 1  London/ Chengdu - Overnight flight to Chengdu.
Day 2  Chengdu - Morning at leisure and an optional afternoon orientation tour of Chengdu including a visit to the Giant Panda Research base.
Day 3  Chengdu, Lhasa - Fly to Lhasa, the beating heart of Tibet, and the home of the Dalai Lama. Afternoon at leisure to acclimatise.
Day 4  Lhasa - Morning visit to the Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama. After lunch drive to one of Tibet’s largest monasteries, the
Sera. It has a population of approximately 600 monks and you will witness their daily and often lively debate.
Day 5  Lhasa - Visit the imposing Potala Palace. Construction of the Palace began in 1645, taking over 50 years to complete and as one of the architectural wonders of the world, it still stands in powerful testament to its creators. Visits today will also include the Jokhang Temple and the Thousand Buddha Wall.
Day 6  Yerpa Valley - Drive out of Lhasa to one of Tibet's holiest cave retreats, Drak Yerpa, which is located in spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley. After a mornings exploration and walking in the valley you will visit the Ganden Monastery.
Day 7  Nam Tso Lake - Drive north to Nam Tso Lake, a striking azure saltwater lake, the largest in Tibet and the cradle of Tibetan civilisation.
Day 8  Lhasa, Gyangtse - Depart Lhasa and continue your journey to Gyangtse. Visit the Great Kumbum pinnacle and roam the cobbled streets of this traditional city.
Day 9  Gyangtse, Shigatse - Visit a pottery making workshop en route to Shigatse, and the Panchen Lama's estate.
Day 10  Shigatse - A full day tour of Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. Enjoy a visit to the Tashilhunpo monastery, built in 1447 and known in part for the grandeur and opulence of some of its decoration. You will then have time at leisure to explore the bustling markets of the old city.
Day 11  Shigatse, Tsetang - Drive from Shigatse to Tsetang stopping off at the Bon Monastery of Yungdrungling en route. Yungdrungling sits picturesquely above the east bank of the Nang-gung-chu river near its confluence with the Brahmaputra.  
Day 12  Tsetang, Lhasa, Chengdu - Visit the Valley of the Kings and learn of prehistoric civilisation in Tibet. After lunch fly to Chengdu.
Day 13  Chengdu/ London - Return flight to London.

John Bellezza

John Bellezza

John Vincent Bellezza has been living and traveling in Himalayan regions since 1983. A leading authority on the pre-Buddhist civilisation of Upper Tibet, he is a senior research fellow at the Tibet Center, University of Virginia. Bellezza has charted the existence of the fabled Zhang Zhung and Sumpa kingdoms, covering more than 100,000 miles in Tibet by motor vehicle and on foot and horseback. His findings show that Tibet had attained a surprising level of cultural and technological sophistication rivaling the progress of adjacent countries.

Even before Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the 7th century CE, her civilisation grew to great heights, drawing inspiration from the same cultural wellspring that helped contribute to the formation of Western Civilisation. Some 2700 years ago, a human maelstrom engulfed much of the Old World ineluctably drawing Tibet in its grasp. This was the dawn of the Iron Age, a time when mounted steppe warriors spread across Eurasia, carrying new tools and the arrows of war wherever they went. The roots of this pan-cultural revolution can be traced to the Bronze Age. This was an era when the progenitors of the Tibetans, Indians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks and others were swept up in the world’s first cosmopolitan tide, changing the face of humanity forever.

Bellezza has published numerous articles and scholarly papers about his research and exploration. His books include Divine Dyads (1997), Antiquities of Northern Tibet (2001), Antiquities of Upper Tibet (2002), Calling Down the Gods (2005), Zhang Zhung (2008), Antiquities of Zhang Zhung, vols. 1 & 2 (2011), Death and Beyond in Ancient Tibet  (2013), and Tibet’s Most Ancient Civilization (forthcoming).

Bellezza is also keenly interested in environmental issues, economics and the arts. His two most recent scholarly volumes, Antiquities of Zhang Zhung, are freely available online at More information about John’s life and work can be had on his website, There is also a monthly newsletter called Flight of the Khyung, covering various aspects of his work on this website.


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