Mount Kailash Yatra: a Pilgrimage Trek around Mt. Kailash

Mount Kailash Yatra: a Pilgrimage Trek around Mt. Kailash

By Carol WangUpdated Nov. 23, 2021

Sacred Mount Kailash is in the remotest region of Tibet and is believed to be the center of the world in four religions. Holy Lake Manasarovar, near the foot of Kailash, is also a pilgrimage site.

Every year, many believing pilgrims from India, Nepal, China, and many other countries visit Mount Kailash for a yatra (pilgrimage), which usually includes a kora trek around it. Mount Kailash was covered by National Geographic as No. 5 of the “Top 10 pilgrimage routes around the world” in April 2021.

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What is a Kailash Yatra?

In Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, a yatra is a pilgrimage of great moral significance. It is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith.

Mount Kailash Yatra>Pilgrimage to Mount Kailashi

Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are where pilgrims believe that Shiva (for Hindus) or Buddha Demchok (for Tibetan Buddhists) resides.

It is believed that a pilgrimage followed by walking around the mountain and/or lake (two separate koras) can wash away the sin of your whole life while walking ten circuits around Kailash can save you from the suffering of hell.

Kailash’s peak is often enwrapped by misty fog and clouds, so Tibetan people think it is a sign of good fortune if anyone can see its peak clearly.

Pilgrims always walk in a clockwise circuit, and devout Tibetans prostrate themselves on the ground after every few steps in worship.

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Where to Start a Mt. Kailash Trek

The starting point for Mount Kailash kora is a small town called Darchen (Baga Township), which is located southwest of the mountain.

Darchen is about 1,200 kilometers (700 miles) from Lhasa, capital of Tibet and the journey takes about 2 days.

Kailash tour map

Most people start in Lhasa with a visit to the Potala Palace and its surrounding ancient monasteries to acclimate, then drive to Shigatse and stay overnight. Then they go on to Darchen via Saga and Payang.

Fantastic views along the road from Lhasa to Shigatse, this trip includes the iconic landmarks, holy Yamdrok Lake as well as countless opportunities to experience the Buddhist cultural touch.

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How many days for a Mt. Kailash Trek (Kora)?

Usually, a 3-day trek is needed for a Kailash kora. The distance around Mount Kailash is 58 kilometers (36 miles) with the lowest altitude of 4,675 meters (15,338 feet) at Darchen and the highest of 5,648 meters (18,530 feet) at Dolma La Pass.

Kailash kora

A Typical Kailash Trek (Kora) Plan

Day 1: Darchen to Dirapuk Monastery— 24 km (15 miles)

This part is relatively easy with gentle slopes. The altitude increases from 4,675 to 5,080 meters (15,338–16,666 feet).

Day 2: Dirapuk Monastery to Dzultrituk Monasteryvia Dolma La Pass — 24 km

This is the most difficult part of the kora. There are no paved roads, just chaotic rocky paths.

The 6 kilometers (4 miles) of the path that climbs over the Dolma La Pass is called the “deadly 6 kilometers” because the altitude increases sharply to 5,648 meters(18,530 feet).

After the hardest 6 kilometers is a flat river valley. Have some rest at the campsite, then go onto Dzultrituk Monastery and rest overnight. If you still have the energy to go further, you can complete the kora by going on to Darchen on day 2.

Day 3: Dzultrituk Monastery to Darchen— 10 km (6 miles)

The trekking on the last stretch is much easier than it was on the stretch before, but there are some narrow mountain paths on steep slopes. When you return to Darchen, celebrate your success in overcoming the kora!

Lake Manasarovar Treks (Koras)

Lake Manasarovar Treks

A Manasarovar kora can be finished in 3 to 4 days, and the trekking distance is about 93kilometers (58 miles).

Going on kora around Lake Manasarovar is much easier than one around Mount Kailash as the altitude is lower at about 4,500 meters (14,800 feet) and there are not as many steep rocky paths.

The streams and rivers on the way may cause difficulties although some bridges have been built over them. During the rainy season (July and August), you may need to use a longer route to avoid the flooded or swampy ground.

You can start your journey from any lakeside area but the most recommended place is Chiu Monastery to the northwest of the lake. You can have a good meal and rest there, check your equipment and supplies, and purchase extra things you need there.

A Typical Manasarovar Trekking (Kora) Plan

Day 1: Chiu Monastery to Horqu— about 28 km(17 miles)

Day 2: Horqu to Seralung Monastery— about 16 km(10 miles)

Day 3: Seralung Monastery to Trugo Monastery— about 17 km (11 miles)

Day 4: Trugo Monastery to Chiu Monastery— about 32 km (20 miles)

Contact us to tailor-make your tour schedule

How Much Is a Kailash Yatra Tour?

A tour to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar costs from around US$2,000 per person[2021], starting with a Lhasa highlights tour and then the drive to Darchen via Shigatse.

The price is based on a private group of 2–5 people and includes private guides and drivers, accommodation, itinerary meals, entrance fees, all travel permits, and tax.

Other expenses are not covered, such as tips for guides and drivers, a porter or a yak, alcohol and non-itinerary meals and food/drink, flights to/from Tibet, and travel insurance. Contact us to get a firm quotation

Please look at our 14-Day Tibet Tour including Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar for more details.

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Best Times for Mt. Kailash Treks

The spring to autumn period has the best times to go on Mount Kailash yatra.

In spring (May to June), most days are fine with a clear sky and temperatures rise above freezing. Witness the first green leaves and fresh beautiful scenery after the melt.

In summer(July to August), there is the warmest weather and the highest oxygen levels. The possibility of altitude sickness (though still high) is the least. It is likely to rain due to the monsoon, but most of the rains are light and at night.

In autumn (September), temperatures drop rapidly but there is a brief month with generally above-freezing weather and low rainfall to attempt a kora before winter sets in.

In winter (October to April), heavy snow will seal the mountain passes and it is nearly impossible to make a Kailash kora journey.

>>Also to find out Best Time to Visit Tibet

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Documents Needed for a Kailash Yatra

The airports in Tibet (mainly Lhasa Gonggar International Airport) only connect with Mainland China cities and Nepal, so you can only enter Tibet from mainland China or Nepal.

Whether you enter Tibet from a city in mainland China or Nepal, you will need a China visa. See how to apply for a China visa. You are advised to apply 2 months before your visit.

If you are traveling from Nepal, you can apply for a group visa there. >>See how to enter Tibet from Nepal.

A Tibet Travel Permit is needed to visit Tibet, and an Aliens’ Travel Permit and a Military Permit are needed to visit Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar.

Remember that you cannot visit Tibet independently and are only allowed to travel with a tour service (such as China Highlights).

If you travel with us, we will help you to get all of the visas and permits (our cooperator in Nepal will help you to apply for a visa if you are traveling from there).

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Mount Kailash Mount Kailash

Documents and Policy for Indian Travelers

For Indians traveling to Mt. Kailash, Tibet permits require a completely different process.

Permits are issued jointly by the Tibetan Foreign Affairs Office, the Tibet Region Military, the Armed Police Tibet Frontier Corps, and the Department of Public Security.

The Foreign Affairs Office and Pilgrim Center also called the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center, is the only organization that can arrange Indian travelers access to visit the Mt. Kailash region.

It will arrange all travel documents and arrangements including accommodation, transportation, local vehicles, tour guides, and any other requirements.

China Highlights is unable to facilitate Indians’ travel to the Kailash-Manasarovar region (Ngari), no matter whether for a pilgrimage or any other visit. However, we are happy to help you with non-Ngari Tibet tours.

>>Read about How to Plan a Tibet Trip in 2021 — Suggestions and Ideas 

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Avoiding High Altitude Sickness

1. Consult your doctor as to which medicine is suitable for you to use to fight altitude sickness. If possible, have a complete physical checkup.

2. Take regular exercise and avoid catching a cold. If you catch one (or fall ill in any way) before departure, postpone your travel plans.

3. Stay for one or two days in lower altitude places in Tibet, such as Lhasa and Shigatse, to help your body adapt to the altitude.

4. Take your warmest clothes (ideally those designed to be lightweight and breathable) to keep warm. It is easier to get altitude sickness when the body is cold.

5. Drink some Tibetan butter tea to warm up your body and help you to conquer altitude sickness.

6. Don’t take risks. If you feel exhausted or sick, you may not be able to go further safely and are advised to descend to a lower altitude.

7. Ask your local tour guide's help to recover or to get to a nearby medical service base for treatment.

>>Read more advice about altitude sickness for reference.

Useful Tips for a Kailash Trek

Take enough cash: In this remote region of Tibet, your credit card is useless and mobile payments may not work due to a poor Internet connection. You can exchange your currency into RMB in the port as you enter Tibet. A cash amount of 1,000–1,500 RMB is usually enough.

Hire a porter: In Darchen, you can hire a porter to help you carry some of your baggage and give you advice along the way.

Don’t take risks: If you feel exhausted after the first day’s walking, you may not be able to go further and are advised to return the way you came or to hire a local Tibetan who can take you back on horseback.

Assist each other: Your fellow travelers, as well as everyone who is going the same way as you, are the most reliable source of power for you to overcome the challenge. Feel free to accept their help and assist others when they are in need.

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What to Pack for a Mount Kailash Trek

Clothing

Mountaineering boots: Wear well-designed boots that can protect your ankles and are waterproof.

Quick-drying, breathable clothes: Technical outdoor wear (including underwear) that wicks sweat will help you avoid chills that sap energy and increase the risk of altitude sickness, and as a bonus is lightweight.

Windproof outdoor (down) jacket: The higher the altitude, the stronger the wind.

Other clothing accessories: At different stages, you’ll feel the need to wear a hat, sunglasses, and gloves.

Technical Equipment

Alpenstock(s): Take your own or buy one (or a pair of walking poles)when you arrive.

Knee supports: You may want to add protection to your knee joints as the trek is particularly hard on them.

Crampons: It is snowy all year round on the mountain pass, so a pair of crampons will help you navigate the snowy or frozen mountain paths of Dolma La Pass. Hire them from your guide if you don’t have your own.

Other Equipment

Sleeping bag: Although quilts are provided in the boarding places (monasteries), they are generally not very clean because it is hard to wash them in a dry and cold environment. Take your own sleeping bag to get a better night’s sleep.

Energy-boosting food: Prepare some chocolate or compressed biscuits (for emergency energy needs). You don’t need to carry too much food or water as they are sold at supply points and monasteries along the kora route.

Wet wipes, tissues, hot water flask, etc.: Baths/showers are not available near the mountain. Use wet wipes and some hot water to keep clean. There are no toilets in the wilds and certainly no toilet paper, and the monasteries’ facilities are very basic. Toothbrushes, soap, etc. aren’t provided but can probably be bought.

Rubbish bag: Don’t throw non-degradable rubbish in the wild. Collect your rubbish in a bag and throw it away in the proper places.

Backpack: Take a backpack to hold all of the items mentioned above (a capacity of about 30 liters is enough).

>>Also to find out What to Pack for a Tibet Tour

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Complete a Kailash-Manasarovar Trip with Us

If you are ready for a Kailash and Manasarovar yatra (or a non-religious adventurous trip), we can give you a helping hand.

We will help you to get all of the necessary documents and will manage all of the bookings for you. Just tell us your plan and let us assist you with your challenge.

If you are looking to go sightseeing in Tibet, check out our top Tibet tours and add Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar as two of the attractions when booking if they’re not included.

See the following popular Tibet tours for inspiration:

All our tours are customizable. We can also create an expert itinerary from your requirements.

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