Altitude: 6,714 meters
Location: South-West Tibet, Ngari Province
Due to its religious significance, Mount Kailash was never climbed
ABOUT MOUNT KAILASH
Mount Kailash is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Asia. However, due to its remote location, high altitude and a long trek circling around it, not as many people visit it. Those who engage in a long tour to the Western Tibet will have an experience of a lifetime. The majestic snow-capped mountain is a great reward.
The mountain is sacred for 4 religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bon. Kailash has 4 faces and 4 major Asian rivers originate from its four sides. Many of the legends are related to the mountain. When trekking around the sacred Kailash you will see many religious places and shrines along the route.
MOUNT KAILASH IN RELIGION
The Kailash and Manasarovar region is sacred for 4 religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bon. Followers of all these religions visit Kailash on the pilgrimage. Pilgrims attempt to walk around the mountain following a 52km long path around it.
Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism walk around Kailash in a clockwise direction, and only followers of Bon walk in an opposite direction.
KAILASH IN BUDDHISM
In Buddhist tradition, Mount Kailash represents Mount Meru. According to beliefs, Meru is a center of cosmology. Similar to how everything revolves around Meru, pilgrims circle around Mount Kailash.
In addition, the history of Kailash is related to Milarepa, who meditated in the caves around the Mountain. Milarepa is a famous yogi and one of the founders of the Black Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism. Milarepa was also fighting with the Bon religion master Naro Bonchung near Mount Kailash. There are still many sites with the signes of this legendary battle.
According to Buddhists, the peak of Kailash is a home to Buddha Demchok.
KAILASH IN HINDUISM
In Hinduism, Mount Kailash represents Mount Meru, the axis of the world. They believe that Lord Shiva together with Parvati stay on top of Kailash. For Hindus, seeing the divine Shiva’s place, helps to combat ignorance and delusion. At the same time, taking a ritual bath in a sacred Manasarovar lake, can purify from the sins of 100s of lifetimes. Mountain Kailash connects heaven and hell.
Indian Pilgrims traveling from India to Tibet
There is an important rule for pilgrims holding Indian passports traveling to Mount Kailash. Indian pilgrims need to travel with one of the tours arranged by Indian travel agency. All Tibetan agencies can arrange tours for all other nationalities, except for the Indian. There are many agencies arranging pilgrimages from India to Kailash, including the government Kailash Manasarovar Yatra tours run multiple times each year.
KAILASH IN JAINISM
Jains call the mountain Astapada. According to Jains beliefs, the first prophet achieved enlightenment in Kailash region.
KAILASH IN BON
Bon is an animistic religion that was spread in Tibet before the adoption of Buddhism. There are still followers of Bon in Tibet, mostly in the Easten part. In Bon religion, its founder Shanrab descended from the heaven on Kailash. Kailash was at the center of the Bon empire in the early history of Tibet. Followers of Bon religion walk around Kailash in a counterclockwise direction.
FACES OF KAILASH
Mount Kailash has four distinct faces corresponding to four cardinal directions. In addition, four of Asia’s largest rivers originate at the four sides of Kailash. The four sides of the mountain and four rivers are associated with four animals.
|South||Karnali, which feed the Ganga||Peacock|
HOW TO TRAVEL TO MOUNT KAILASH
There are 5 main routes leading to the sacred mountain. Although many visitors want to complete the Kailash tour in the shortest time possible, we advise being careful with the itinerary. The trek around Kailash lies at a high altitude. The lowest part is at approximately 4,500 meters, and it reaches the highest point at 5,640 meters above sea level. That’s why it is very important to properly acclimatize to high altitude. The best way to acclimatize is to spend time gradually approaching the elevation above 4,000 meters. That’s why the best tours to Kailash take about 2 weeks. Although it might seem like a long tour, it is the best way to safely enjoy your adventure!
SOUTHERN ROUTE FROM LHASA
About 1,350 km from Lhasa
It is one of the most popular routes to reach Mount Kailash. This route is really great for acclimatizing to high altitude prior to Kailash trek. Most travelers usually spend 2-3 days in Lhasa, exploring the capital. From there, you will drive first to Shigatse, visiting Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glaciers, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa. On the next day, you can travel directly to the small town Saga. However, most travelers take a one day detour to visit Mount Everest. Spending a night by the majestic Evererest is a great experience. In addition, staying at 5,050 meters helps to acclimatize for your Kailash tour. From Everest, you will drive to Saga. From Saga, you can either drive first to Manasarovar Lake or go straight to Darchen.
NORTHERN ROUTE FROM LHASA
Some visitors arrive at Kailash via the Southern Route and then return to Lhasa via the longer Northern Route. It is longer compared to the South road and you can see different scenery along the way. In addition, the Northern route is a lot less touristy and visits remote areas with untouched nature. You will see many gorgeous lakes, grasslands, and of course, mountain ranges on the way. We often see wild animals, such as Tibetan antelopes, donkeys, and kayaks in remote areas of Tibet. In addition, Northern Tibet is famous for its gorgeous lakes. You will see many of them along the way. The highlight of the route is Namtso lake, often called the Heavenly lake. This salty lake is surrounded by Tanggula mountain range.
FROM SIMIKOT/PURANG COUNTY AT TIBET-NEPAL BORDER
About 130km driving from the border to Darchen.
There are two ways how you can get to Simikot from Nepal. You can take two flights from Kathmandu: first to Nepalgunj and second to Simikot. After that you can either trek or take a scenic helicopter ride to Tibet-Nepal border. After you cross the border, you will be only about 130 km from Darchen.
Once you cross the border, you will need to approach Darchen slowly as you will gain altitude very fast. It is best to spend at least a couple of days near the border, and then a couple of days by the Manasarovar lake. Only after you acclimatized to altitude, you should continue to Darchen.
There are two important things you need to know if you are following this route. First, you will need to obtain Chinese group visa in the Embassy in Kathmandu. It takes 3-5 business days. That’s why the tour is perfect if you want to explore Kathmandu and Nepal in addition to visiting Mount Kailash. Second, it is best to take this tour outside of the rainy season. During the rainy season, flights and helicopter rides are often delayed because of weather conditions. If you decide to travel during the rainy season, allow a couple of extra days in case there are any delays.
About 1,600km from Kashgar
This is probably the least touristy route among all others. You can take it if you wish to visit Uygur Autonomous region together with Tibet. The newly built Xinjiang-Tibet Highway connects Western Tibet with Kashgar. The route goes through the magnificent Karakorum mountain range. When you enter Xinjiang, you will see the vast Taklamakan desert.
When you start a tour in Kashgar, the capital city of Xinjiang situated in a large oasis, you will first drive to Yecheng. On the next day, you will drive to Dahongliutan. From Dahongliutan you can visit Pangong Tso lake at the border between Tibet and India. From Pangong Tso lake, on the next day you will drive to Tada to visit Guge Kingdom. You can spend an extra day in Tada to explore it or head to Mount Kailash on the following day.
BY FLIGHT FROM ALI IN WESTERN TIBET
About 425km from Ali airport
The fastest way to reach Kailash is to take a flight from Lhasa to Ali airport in Western Tibet. However, you shouldn’t fly straight to Ali without properly acclimatizing to high altitude. The airport is the fifth highest airport in the world, sitting at 4,270 meters above sea level. You need to spend a few days in Lhasa (3,650 meters) or nearby areas before flying to Western Tibet.
From Ali, you can reach Darchen in one day of driving. If you wish to explore other areas in Western Tibet, we highly recommend taking a shout tour to Guge Kingdom. It is important to note that all foreign tourists visiting Tibet have to travel in a tourist car with a licensed local guide. Even if you are taking a flight, your car will be traveling from Lhasa to meet you at the airport. That makes this route more expensive compared to a more traditional way of traveling to Kailash by car.
COMPLETE GUIDE: PREPARE FOR MOUNT KAILASH TOUR
All you need to know to get ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Information about required documents, ways to travel, the best season, what to wear and pack, how to prepare physically and what to expect on your journey.
MOUNT KAILASH FESTIVAL CELEBRATION
The largest festival in the Kailash region is Saga Dawa. Tibetans celebrate it on the full moon day in April, according to Tibetan Lunar Calendar. Saga Dawa commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
During the celebration, the over 20 meters long flagpole is replaced. The flagpole represents the axis of the Universe, and every year it is renewed. After the new flagpole is placed, Tibetan oracles predict events for the upcoming year based on how it stands.
Hundreds of people gather for the event from all over Tibet. On the evening of the previous day, Tibetans visi the flagpole to cut off parts of prayer flags to keep them as amulets.
Saga Dawa festival is a great time to visit Mount Kailash. You will see many pilgrims wearing their best traditional costumes. It is an impressive and bright event.
PLACES TO VISIT NEARBY
The sacred Lake Manasarovar located only about 40 km from Darchen is a must visit when traveling to Kailash. It is a freshwater lake. Similar to Mount Kailash, the lake is sacred for 4 religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bon. You can visit the lake for a day or drive around it to see it’s beauty from all sides.
DIRA PUK MONASTERY
Dira Puk Monastery is located on the walking route around Mount Kailash. From Dira Puk, you get an incredible view on the North Face of Kailash.
ZUTUL PUK MONASTERY
Zutul Puk monastery is located on the East side of Mount Kailash. At the center of monastery is meditation cave of Milarepa. At the monastery grounds, the legendary fight between Milarepa and Bon religion leader Naro Bonchung took place.
KAILASH AND MANASAROVAR SOURCES OF 4 RIVERS
Four major Asian rivers have their sources on four sides of Kailash. These four rivers flow across Asia and huge population of the neighboring countries depends on the water from these rivers.
RECOMMENDED TOURS TO MOUNT KAILASH
15 DAYS MOUNT KAILASH GROUP TOUR
One of our most popular group tours, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to Mount Kailash for a three-day trekking around this sacred mountain. During this tour, we visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa, Mount Everest, Lake Manasarovar, Mount Kailash, and much more.
17 DAYS MOUNT KAILASH AND GUGE KINGDOM FROM LHASA
A private tour taking you from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet to the most Western part of the country. The tour includes three days trekking around Mount Kailash and visiting the ruins of the Guge Kingdom on the West, in addition to Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse, and Everest Base Camp.
2021 SAGA DAWA FESTIVAL TOUR TO KAILASH
This special tour takes you to the sacred Mount Kailash during the biggest festival of the year. Saga Dawa Festival celebrated the day of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. It attracts thousands of pilgrims from all around Tibet, India, and the world. You will see the greatest diversity of Tibetan national dress as people wear their best clothes for the festival.