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Mount Kailash Trek: An Overview

An expedition to Mount Kailash in Tibet will likely be a very sacred experience, considering that the trans-Himalayan mountain is cherished by followers of four religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bon. It is so sacred, in fact, that climbing to its peak of over 6,600 meters is prohibited. Instead, trekkers opt to complete the kora, circling around the base of the mountain on a life-changing experience.

Even without a summit to the peak, the altitude of the Mount Kailash trek alone is enough to challenge even the most seasoned trekkers on this adventure through the Tibetan Plateau. No other trip in China will push the mind, body and spirit quite like a Mount Kailash trek.

Mount Kailash trek facts

Trek difficulty: Intermediate – challenging. The jagged path has many potholes and trekkers need to have some level of fitness for the extremely high altitude.
Trek length: 3 days; 52 kilometers
Remoteness: Remote but serviced by basic food and amenities
Max altitude: 5630 meters at Drolma La Pass
Accommodation: Basic guesthouses / mud houses / camping
Best season: Early summer (May – June) is the best time due to warmer temperatures and easier travel conditions. Almost equally popular is fall (September – October) as the skies are often clear following the monsoon season (July – August).
Transport to/ from trek: Flight or train to Lhasa, Tibet or flight to Kathmandu, Nepal followed by a drive to the village of Darchen.
A view of a snow-capped mountain with blue sky and clouds
Trekkers can arrange guides and animals—if they choose to hire them— through a central office in Darchen

Required permits

  • Tibet Travel Permit
  • Alien’s Travel Permit & Military Permit
  • Foreign Affairs Permit
  • Frontier Pass

Mount Kailash trek: Standard itinerary

The most popular Mount Kailash trekking route is the southern path beginning in Lhasa. A typical itinerary for this route spans two weeks.

  • Day 1: Flight or train to Lhasa and a day of acclimatization
  • Day 2: Day of exploration in Lhasa
  • Day 3: Second day of exploration in Lhasa
  • Day 4: Lhasa – Shigatse (3950m)
  • Day 5: Shigatse – Saga (4600m)
  • Day 6: Saga – Manasarovar (4550m)
  • Day 7: Explore Manasarovar and drive to Darchen
  • Day 8: Day one of the kora circuit
  • Day 9: Day two of the kora circuit. Cross the Drolma La Pass
  • Day 10: Day three and completion of the kora circuit. Return to Saga
  • Day 11: Saga – Shigatse
  • Day 12: Shigatse – Lhasa
  • Day 13: Recovery day in Lhasa or early departure
  • Day 14: Flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu, or flight or train from Lhasa to Mainland China

Alternate routes

  • Via Kathmandu: Although the southern route via Lhasa is most common, there are alternative routes you can take. Start the journey from Kathmandu, Nepal to reach Mount Kailash in a shorter time frame. This trek crosses the Gyirong border and into Gyirong town before continuing towards Saga and Darchen. However, this route has potential dangers such as landslides, especially during the monsoon season (July – August).
  • Longer journey from Lhasa: Another option is taking the northern route starting from Lhasa. If you have 22 days available, you can tackle a thrilling circuit trek. After acclimatizing in Lhasa, venture along the north road to Ngari and Tholing before reaching Darchen. After completing the kora, visit Lake Manasarovar, one of the world’s most sacred fresh-water lakes (it is believed that bathing in the water cleanses you of past sins and drinking the water will ward off diseases), and continue your journey across the Nepal border.
  • A peek at Mount Everest: Another alternative is to get a jaw-dropping glimpse of Mount Everest on your way to Kailash on a 13-day itinerary. Starting from Lhasa, pass iconic sites such as Lake Yamdrok, the Rongbuk Monastery and the north face of the world’s tallest mountain. After finishing your Kailash mountain trek, cross the Nepal border and make your way to Kathmandu.

Mount Kailash: Safety tips

  • This is a high altitude trek. Three days for acclimatization is required before embarking on your journey.
  • Early summer (May – June) temperatures can range from 16 °C – 22 °C during the day and can drop to 0 °C at night. Bring appropriate clothing for warmer and colder environments.
  • Sun protection on your trek is critical due to increased exposure to UV rays the higher you climb. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm to protect your skin and eyes from damage.

Making this rite of passage alongside dozens of devout pilgrims can truly be an enlightening experience and successfully completing the kora requires fierce commitment and perseverance. Nevertheless, the dramatic landscapes of the Mount Kailash trek make the journey that much sweeter with sweeping views of snow-capped peaks, sapphire-blue lakes, enchanting valleys, and peaceful monasteries.