The Mount Kailash Pilgrimage is one of the most challenging, demanding and rewarding treks in the world. The Tibetan route is a sacred place for four different religions so pilgrims descend on it in throngs, joined by Western travelers seeking peace in this holy area.
If you’re trying to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Mount Kailash is the perfect place to do it. Along the oft-trodden path of the pilgrimage, you can meditate and find inner peace, all inspired by your breathtaking surroundings. The Mount Kailash pilgrimage is a necessary addition to any peace-seeking BUCKiTDREAMER’s planner.
Get Started at the Right Time The best time of year to start your Mount Kailash trek is from April-October when the weather is more camp-friendly. Visiting during the winter months is not advised, as the mountain becomes covered in treacherous snow and ice. If you can, try to visit around the 15th day of April in the Tibetan calendar. The Tibetan festival of Saga Dawa falls on this day, which brings with it an influx of visitors celebrating the birthday of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Find Transportation Getting to Mount Kailash is best done via the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. From here, pilgrims can fly to Lhasa and hire a car to bring them the rest of the way to the mountain. There are plenty of car rental companies in Lhasa to chose from, our pick being Tibet Lhasa Da’an Car Rent. When you have your wheels, burn rubber down the Sina-Nepal Highway to bring you to your destination. Along the way, you can make a detour to the stunning Lake Manasarovar or the mighty Mount Everest.
A Starting Sight for Sore Eyes Your Mount Kailash pilgrimage will start in the gorgeous village of Darchen at the base of the mountain. From here you’ll be given a sneak peek at stunning dipped valleys, crystalline turquoise lakes and snow capped mountains. Grab a good meal in Darchen to set you up for a challenging day’s worth of hiking. Don’t worry about packing too much food – there are snack vendors along the trail that will keep you sustained.
Get Close to Nature To enhance your experience and really get back to nature, we suggest that you camp along the trail if you plan to spend more than a day on it. Although most Tibetans will only spend a day completing the pilgrimage, a lot of Western visitors opt to take their time over 2-3 days. As the trek will take you over 4000 meters above sea level, and it can get very cold at night, so make sure to pack warm sleeping gear. As the weather on the mountain is susceptible to changing suddenly, make sure your tent is water and windproof to keep you safe from the elements.
Pay for a Porter or Pack Animal Carrying all that camping equipment is seriously exhausting work in an area of such high altitude. For this reason, it’s advisable to hire a porter or a pack animal in Darchen. You’ll be charged around 200-300 CNY per day, depending on the time of year and the weight of your luggage.
Choose Wise Clothing Clothes-wise, it’s prudent to pack warm for the Mount Kailash pilgrimage. As you’re in a high altitude area, the temperature can dip pretty low, so it’s best to keep yourself well heated. Even if hot weather is forecast for your trip, avoid short bottoms, as you could fall prey to some pretty nasty insect bites on the trail.
Part One of the Pilgrimage The pilgrimage itself is broken up into three main stages, the first spanning 20 kilometers and 6 hours. Leaving Darchen, you’ll ascend the southwest ridge of Mount Kailash, admiring the artistic prayer flags dotted along the way. From here, the trail curves north and brings you into the depths of the Lha Chu valley where the Lha Chu River will lead you towards the Dira-Puk Monastery.
Before you get to Dirapuk, you’ll cross the river directly below the majestic Chuku Monastery perched high above the barren expanse of the valley. You can stock up on food here from the nomad stalls along this part of the trail. The portion of the trail between Chuku and Dirapuk boasts some of the most stunning scenery on the whole route, so take your time to take it all in. If you don’t feel like camping when you reach Dirapuk, you can pay 50 CNY to stay in the monastery’s guesthouse overnight.
Part Two of the Pilgrimage The second part of the pilgrimage should take you around 8 hours to complete and covers 18 kilometers. Wake up early on your second day and head east, crossing the Lha Chu again to start your ascent to Drolma La. After two hours of trekking, you’ll come to one of the most symbolic points of the trail, Shiva-Tsal. Here, pilgrims are meant to go through a symbolic death and be re-born at the top of Drolma La. When you reach the peak, stock up on food and water and begin the 400-meter steep descent to the banks of the Lham-Chu Khir. Follow the eastern bank of the river, boulder hopping where necessary, to make your way to the lush grassy fields approaching the Dzultul Puk Monastery. Camp up here for the night to prepare for your final journey.
Part Three of the Pilgrimage The final, shortest leg of the pilgrimage should only take you around 3 hours. From your camping spot, you’ll be taken through a narrow canyon just past the monastery. You emerge from the canyon onto the awe-inspiring Barkha Plain, which will lead you along a simple one hour trek back to Darchen – pretty easy stuff right?!
Completing the Mount Kailash pilgrimage not only gives you a massive sense of accomplishment, but it also brings you all-encompassing peace that will long resonate through your bones. Make sure to post any snaps from the magnificent bucket list trek across all your social media platforms, hashtagging #BUCKiTDREAM to inspire fellow BUCKiTDREAMERs to follow suit.