The Roof of the World | The mighty Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet

Sometimes a world trip is more than packing suitcases, taking a tour, shooting photos and happily returning home. Sometimes a country is more than a place where you visit a few cities, shop for an hour and browse some museums. Some destinations show you what real beauty is. Pure nature that we often forget. Secluded, far away from the world as we know it. Countries where you get to know special cultures and meet people who organize their lives completely differently than we do. India, Tibet and Nepal are such countries.

There is no 9 to 5 mentality here, you will not find crammed supermarkets and iPads or luxury mobile phones. In these areas people live a simple existence, without luxury but with respect. Respect for each other and their environment. Welcome to the roof of the world, where you will be surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Himalayas.

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Sacred Tibet

This sacred journey begins in Tibet, the home of the Dalai Lama. This monk is the spiritual leader of the Tibetans in a country where Tibetan Buddhism is religion number one. Tibetans believe in a guru, also called a lama. Buddhism is therefore known here as Lamaism.

Tibet, Dalai Lama
Tibet, Dalai Lama

Peaceful Tibet has had a turbulent history that still leaves its mark. In 1950 independent Tibet was unceremoniously taken by People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama fled to neighboring India to avoid being caught by China. The Dalai Lama still lives in exile today.

Also read: The 10 Most Beautiful National Parks in Nepal | Unparalleled Beauty

Strict rules

To this day, Tibet is part of China and many restrictions still apply. For example, when applying for a visa, note that no tourists are allowed in Tibet in March. You need a visa for China and a travel permit for Tibet. Your passport must be valid for another six months after your return to the Netherlands or any other country.

Tibet, Monks (children) in training
Tibet, Monks (children) in training

More importantly, it is forbidden to travel around on your own. You should always travel with a guide and in a group. Restrictions also apply to Tibetans. For example, only a limited number of monks may be assigned to each monastery. Fortunately, we still see the old Tibet in the capital Lhasa and other cities such as Shigatse, Chamdo and Nagchu.

Lhasa, Land of the Gods

The traditional capital of Tibet is called Lhasa and is located at an altitude of 3600 m. Remarkably, this is the lowest point in all of Tibet. On arrival in the plane you will be surprised by the vast mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Prayer flags wave at you. Faith and Buddhism are in the genes of Tibet and you can feel that everywhere.

Lhasa, Tibet
Lhasa, Tibet

The cheerful monks with their red and orange robes always smile at you in a friendly and uninhibited way. The highlight of Lhasa is the Potala Palace. A visit to this immense complex is an enchanting experience. Temples, tombs, chapels and countless rooms were once the winter home of the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures.

Also read: World wise | Information about the world | Continents, countries and facts

Another must-see is the Jokhang Temple, the religious center of Tibet. Pilgrims and monks travel to this temple on foot, over desolate roads and high mountain passes. During this long journey, they drop to their knees every few meters to murmur their prayers. Once inside the temple you can smell the yak butter candles and feel the serenity.

Via Gyantse to Shigatse

Via Gyantse, where you can visit the impressive Kumbum Stupa – the House of 100.000 Buddhas – you travel on winding mountain paths with beautiful views to Shigatse. Here you will find the Tashilhunpo Monastery, where the huge golden tomb of the 4th Panchen Lama is located.

Kumbun Stupa, Tibet
Kumbun Stupa, Tibet

Another important attraction is the 27 meter high statue of the future Buddha, the Maytreia. You are already at very high altitudes here and you will most likely have to get used to the lack of oxygen. But for anyone who wants to see and experience the roof of the world, it's just a matter of accepting and persevering.

Prayer flags on the roof of the world, Tibet
Prayer flags on the roof of the world, Tibet

Here too you see prayer flags everywhere and monks walking and praying on the pilgrim path. Prayer wheels spin continuously and if you listen closely, you can hear the chanting of the pilgrims chanting their mantras. Tired of traveling at high altitudes? Even a holy journey cannot do without nutritious food. Try a yakburger or tasty momos (Tibetan dough snacks).

Everest Base Camp

Before traveling to the border of Tibet and Nepal, a stop at the Everest Base Camp is an absolute must for the real world traveler. Here, at 5200 meters altitude, you can see why Tibet and Nepal are the roof of the world. Far away from civilization and high in the clouds you can enjoy this special landscape for hours.

Everest base camp - roof of the world
Everest base camp – roof of the world

Not many people get the chance to experience the world in this unforgettable way. In the distance you can see the white peaks of Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain. You spend the night in Lao Tingri and then continue to Nepal via Zhangmu.

Mount Everest - The roof of the world
Mount Everest – The roof of the world

Kathmandu, Nepal

Once in Nepal you leave the Tibetan plateau with its characteristic mountain passes and rugged rocks to suddenly end up via the Friendship Bridge in a green area with waterfalls and forested mountain slopes. Nepal, homeland of Buddha, lovingly welcomes you with authentic villages and spectacular views. After a few hours' drive you arrive via medieval Bhaktapur in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. This colorful and busy city is a good place to recover from the long journey. Especially the Buddha district with more than fifty monasteries is worth a walk.

Kathmandu - Monk in Nepal
Kathmandu – Monk in Nepal

Also read: The raw beauty of the Trans Siberian Express

From Kathmandu, trips to the royal city of Patan and the blue-green lake of Pokhara are recommended. Patan, City of Beauty, has an old part. This is where temples and monasteries converge on Durbar Square, the city's religious hub. From Kathmandu you eventually fly back to your trusted The Netherlands, with in your luggage a mountain of new impressions and wonderful life experiences.

Seeing and experiencing the roof of the world will impact you for the rest of your life. This is a bucket list experience that you will never forget. You can tell the people at home how beautiful it was, you can show you beautiful pictures, but no one will really understand what you experienced. In a sense you experience the roof of the world more or less alone. Deep inside you have found and experienced the ultimate peace. You made it, you're back home. You can be proud of yourself.

Plan your holiday to Asia here

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  • Correction: You should try to get into town early in the morning, when the guides aren't awake yet. This way you can talk to the Tibetans and ask what they really think of the Chinese occupation.

  • You should try to get up early in the morning, when the guides aren't awake yet. This way you can talk to the Tibetans and ask what they really think of the Chinese occupation.

  • Nice article! I have been there myself. A magical country which only increased my great love for travel.
    I made a film of it myself that has inspired many already their image of Tibet. For each
    enthusiast, just like this article, the films are a must see.

    It's also great that you pay attention to this beautiful country!

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