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The Best Hiking Trails in Tibet & Yunnan

Tibet is a hikers’ paradise and offers tons of hiking opportunities. The best hiking trails in Tibet
include Tiger Leap Gorge, Baima, Meili Yubeng, Ice Lake, and many more.

Jul 15 2021

Often referred to as the “Roof of the World,” Tibet is a mystical wonderland and a hiking paradise with an average elevation of over 14,370 ft. Its rugged landscape spans across the Tibetan Plateau to the foothills of snow-capped mountains and offers tons of hiking opportunities. As an avid hiker, Tibet should be at the top of your destination list. Hiking in Tibet goes beyond westerners’ definition of enjoying nature or physical challenges like mountaineering and rock climbing. In Tibet, hiking serves as a means to worship nature. Some of the best hiking trails in Tibet are pilgrimages. For Tibetans, mountains and lakes are not only seen as beautiful attractions but also holy and represent something higher. They worship their sacred mountains and holy lakes, like Yamdrok, Namtso, Manasarovar, Basum, Ranwu, and Pangong Tso. 

Tibetans circle sacred mountains forming pilgrimages. As they hike, the winds whisper the mountain's legend to the pilgrims. Hiking in Tibet is a journey from ignorance to enlightenment that can cleanse sins and take the hiker closer to nirvana. During your Tibetan tour, you’ll see pilgrims hike around sacred mountains in worship. You can also join the pilgrimage and indulge in Tibet’s immersive hiking experience. But first, you need a list of the best hiking trails in Tibet. 

Yubeng trail Yubeng trail

Yunnan Area

Baima Snow Mountain (White Horse) 

Apart from snow-capped mountains and lakes, Tibetans also worship the color white. Mountains with the whitest snow are sacred and divine, which is why Baima or White Horse Snow Mountain is revered. Located in southwest Yunnan Province, Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve offers one of the best hiking trails in Tibet. The Baima Snow Mountain Hike has breathtaking views, scenic landscapes, and rich biodiversity, including some of the rarest flora and fauna species. 

Songtsam offers this Tibetan hiking tour. The best time to experience this hikers’ paradise is in the summer. The warm sun rays melt the snow into crystal-clear water, which flows down the 18,503-feet peak to create a picture-perfect backdrop. You can stay in Songtsam Meili Lodge and take about a 40-minute drive to Baima Snow Mountain and hike some of the best hiking trails in Tibet for 4-6 hours. The trail’s level of difficulty is “Medium,” making it ideal for veteran and intermediate hikers. 

Baima Snow Mountain Baima Snow Mountain

Tiger Leap Gorge Hiking Trail 

Tiger Leap Gorge is one of the world's top 10 famous hiking trails, protected between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. This hiking trail in the Three Parallel Rivers area goes through an ecological hotspot with rare animals and plants. As an avid hiker, Tiger Leap Gorge offers you a unique opportunity to indulge in an immersive hiking experience with dramatic scenery to keep you company.

The most popular hiking trail is the High Trail, which includes a well-maintained path above the Yangtze River. During your hike, you’ll experience the culture of the Naxi people and their traditional foods. Tiger Leap Gorge is one of the best hiking trails in Tibet for many reasons. You can stay at Songtsam Lijiang Lodge to access picnic spots and other breathtaking areas guided by Songtsam tour guides. The lodge is about 52 miles or a 2-hour drive away from this hiking trail. 

Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail Tiger Leaping Gorge

Yubeng Trail (Meili Snow Mountain)

Hidden at the foot of Meili Snow Mountain is the remote village of Yubeng at around 9842 feet above sea level. Its unique location has protected its essence of ‘Shangri-La’ and offers two breathtaking hiking trails, Pilgrimage to the God Waterfall and Ice Lake trek. Both trails are beautiful and challenging, which is why they are famous among hikers. But first, you have to get to Yubeng Village, which is a challenge on its own. 

Pilgrimage to the God Waterfall strikes a balance between physical challenge and spiritual rejuvenation. The trail has a slight slope and stretches from Yubeng Village to the God Waterfall, with an elevation of 11,154 feet. According to Tibetan legend, Kawagebo retrieved the holy water from the sky. So, Tibetans offer Meili's "inner prayer" with loud chants and singing under this sacred waterfall. The round trip from the village to the waterfall and back is about 8.7 miles and can take 5-6 hours to complete. It is one of the best hiking trails in Tibet for intermediate hikers.

If you’re looking for the best hiking trail in Tibet to push your physical strength to the limit, look no further than Meili Snow Mountain Yubeng Trail. The Ice Lake hiking trail consists of two legs, from Yubengshang Village to Xiaonong Base Camp and from the base camp to Binghu Lake. You can hike for 3- 4 hours from the village to the base camp. Rest for a few hours, and then complete the second leg within 1-2 hours to reach Binghu Lake. This lake's elevation is around 12,860 feet and was formed by melting water from glaciers in the surrounding mountains. The trail is 9.3 miles from Yubengshang Village to the Ice Lake and back. It is rated “Difficult” and requires hiking experience to complete the round trip within 5-7 hours. 

Located in Yubeng Upper Village, Songtsam Glamping Yubeng offers you a unique opportunity to conquer these hiking trails. This lodge also gives you access to popular religious events in Tibet held in Yubeng village. These hiking trails will meet all your needs. 

Yubeng Trail Yubeng Trail

Sichuan Area

Yading Kora Trek 

Located in Yading National Park, close to Shangri-La town, this pristine wonderland with “Three mountains of God” offers one of the most stunning hiking trails in Tibet. The three holy mountains are regarded as incarnations of Bodhisattvas, making the pilgrimage sacred and highly cherished. Otherwise known as Daocheng, it is home to a variety of wildlife, such as water deer, golden monkeys, and argali. The lakes at the base of the mountain are rumored to act as mirrors for the nymphs of the forest. What’s more, to say, the views in this region are absolutely breathtaking. In 1928, this hikers' paradise was featured in the National Geographic Magazine in a sensational piece by the American explorer Joseph Rock.

Yading’s Small Kora is a short trail of about 18.6 miles and takes 1-2 days to circle the holy Xiannairi Mountain. The Big Kora is a long route of about 74.5 miles that circles three holy mountains and can take about 4-7 days to complete depending on your hiking experience. Both trails are rated “Difficult” and go over several passes above 13,123 feet, narrow paths, and rocky sections with steep ups and downs. You need advanced hiking and trekking experience to conquer Yading’s trails. Scenically, the Big Kora is highly regarded around the world for its astounding views. The trek around the Big Kora is known to be expeditionary, and there are six high-altitude passes. Along the hike, you will be able to view three famous lakes, called Pearl Lake, Milky Lake, and 5 Colors Lake. Get your camera ready (and perhaps an oxygen canister, just in case) and embrace this challenging but rewarding journey filled with valleys, rivers, and glacier lakes.

Yading Kora Trail Scenery Yading Kora Trail Scenery

Lhasa Area 

Ganden to Samye Trail 

The stretch from Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery allows you to combine sightseeing and hiking. If you're touring Tibet's Lhasa city, you can stay at Songtsam Linka Lhasa and start your hike from the ruins of Ganden to Samye Monastery. It is a popular trekking and hiking route in Tibet due to its proximity to Lhasa city and connection with the two famed monasteries.

The stretch from Ganden to Samye is around 50 miles and includes several passes like Chitu La and Shug La that exceed 16,000 feet. It is difficult and requires a long-distance hiking experience to complete. On the other hand, this hiking trail is scenic and goes through beautiful lakes, snow-capped mountains, meadows, and lush alpine forests. The breathtaking panoramic views along the way can motivate avid adventurers to conquer this challenging trail.

Lhasa Area Lhasa Area

Sera Monastery to Pabonka Hermitage Hike 

Located about 5 miles from Lhasa, Sera Monastery is a popular destination for tourists and hikers. Pabonka (Pha Bong Kha) Hermitage is part of Sera Monastery, with a short but scenic hiking trail connecting the two sites. You can hike from Sera to the ancient royal palace in Pabonka for one and a half hours. This hike is short, easy, and ideal for novice hikers and tourists seeking leisurely nature walks. If you are visiting Lhasa, you can include this hike in your Tibetan tour itinerary. You take a short bus ride from Lhasa to Sera, then hike to Pabonka Hermitage through a small Tibetan village and around ancient ruins. Pabonka sits on the mountainside and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the scenic Lhasa Valley. You can see the backside of the famous Potala Palace. It is one of the best hiking trails for beginners in Tibet. 

Scenery of Sera Monastery Scenery of Sera Monastery

Tsurphu Monastery to Leten Hike 

Tsurphu to Leten hike offers you an opportunity to experience the nomadic lifestyle on the Tibetan Plateau. If you’re visiting Tsurphu Monastery, consider adding this hike to your itinerary. This trail is 6.8 miles and takes 3½ hours to hike from Tsurphu to Leten. It has an ascent of 1640 feet and goes through gardens with old trees, seasonal grazing fields, alpine valleys, streams, and well-graded paths along a rocky gorge. It ends at the natural bowl of Leten. You can allocate one day of your Tibetan tour to hike to and from Leten. Or, visit Tsurphu Monastery in the morning, hike to Leten around noon, make camp for the night, and then head back the next day. It is short, authentic, and ideal for beginners and intermediate hikers. If you’re a pro, you can extend your hike to Dorje Ling or trek from Tsurphu to Yangpachen.

Tsurphu Monastery Tsurphu Monastery

Tsurphu to Yangpachen Hike 

Tsurphu to Yangpachen hike offers you an opportunity to experience the Tibetan Plateau and the nomadic culture. This high-elevation hiking trail goes through several alpine valleys and untainted wilderness with the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance. During your Tsurphu to Yangpachen hike, you can learn about farming practices, food, and the traditional Tibetan way of life. This trail is rated "Difficult" and takes 3-4 days to complete, with a maximum altitude of about 17,388 feet. It is one of the most authentic and adventurous hiking trails in Tibet. 

People hiking People Hiking

Namtso Lake Trekking 

With an elevation of 15,479 feet, Namtso Lake is about 43.5 miles long and 18.6 miles wide. It is the biggest saltwater lake in Tibet, with mesmerizing turquoise blue water. The rugged landscape around this holy lake offers immersive hiking experiences with a picture-perfect background. From late May to October, you can take a 118-mile drive from Lhasa to Namtso Lake and join pilgrims circling this holy lake. This hiking trail is becoming increasingly popular

among hikers visiting Tibet. The wide-open spaces, bluish waters of the lake, and the towering peaks of the Nyechen Tangla Mountain Range in the background enhance the experience. But, the hiking trail is difficult, long, and involves going over the high Yangpachen Pass at 18471 feet. You need at least a week, advanced hiking experience, and proper acclimatization to conquer this trail. 

Namtso Lake Namtso Lake

South Tibet

Mt. Everest Base Camp 

Mt. Everest has fascinated hikers, trekkers, adventurers, and climbers since time immemorial. It sets the strong apart from the rest of us. Your Tibetan hiking tour will not be complete without a hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp, sitting at 20800 feet above sea level. It is one of the best hiking trails in Tibet, with varying levels of difficulty for intermediate and professional hikers.

If you have hiking experience, you can hike from Rongbuk Monastery to Mt. Everest Base Camp. The Advanced Everest Base Camp is 12 miles and one of the most popular trekking trails in Tibet. Although the slope is not too steep, you will gain around 4300 feet from the monastery to the base camp. If you prefer long-distance trekking, you can hike the Tingri – Rongbuk Monastery – Mt. Everest Base Camp trail. This hiking trail is around 49 miles and takes several days to complete.

Mt. Everest Mountain Mt. Everest Mountain

Pilgrimage to Mount Kailash 

Mount Kailash or Precious Snow Mountain in Tibetan is a holy mountain. It rises 22,000 feet and lies in a remote part of the Tibetan Himalayas close to Nepal and India. Its unique location and spiritual importance make it one of the top pilgrimages in Tibet. Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims trek to this mountain and circle around it to cleanse their sins.

As an adventurous hiker, you can join the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and learn the core tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, Bon, and Hinduism from fellow pilgrims. This holy mountain is also the source of the Yarlung Tsangpo (closed), Indus, Sutlej, and Karnali that flows into the Ganges, which are Asia's greatest rivers. The hiking trail around Mount Kailash is about 32 miles long. The cold, high altitude, and rugged terrain make it very difficult to conquer. If you manage to conquer Mount Kailash, you can extend your Tibetan hiking tour of the region to the sacred Lake Manasarovar. It is one of the best hiking trails in Tibet for many reasons.

Mt. Kalish Mt. Kalish

Shalu to Nartang Hike

This hiking trail takes you on an adventure starting from Shalu Monastery in Gyantse to Nartang Monastery, a few miles west of Shigatse. The best time to experience this hike is in spring and autumn. But you can hike this trail all year round since there are only light showers in the summer and very little snow in winter. The trail is only 16 miles and combines hiking, appreciation of nature, and cultural tour.

You can take two days to hike and visit all the sites along the route, from Shalu to Nartang. On the first day, visit Shalu Monastery before hiking through Ripa Hermitage, Phunup Village, the Showa La Pass, and camp at Upper Lungsang at 13320 feet. On day two, hike through the Char La Pass at 14927.82 feet and visit Ngor Village and small farming communities on the way to Nartang Monastery. The trail ascends and descends gradually over the passes and is easy, making it ideal for novice hikers, nature lovers, and outdoorsy men and women.

shalu monastery Shalu Monastery

Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon 

In Nyingchi, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon has one of the longest and deepest valleys in the world. It is the perfect tourist destination for adventure trekking and hiking in Tibet. This hikers’ paradise offers one of the best hiking trails in Tibet, facing the Namcha Barwa Mountain. Its beautiful peak contrasts with the deep valleys to create a surreal hiking experience. You can stay in Songtsam Namcha Barwa Lodge to access this 6-mile hiking trail easily. The trail goes through the canyon’s rugged scenery, untainted landscapes, and lush forests to the last village in Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon. No man has ventured beyond this village, making it the last stop to the “no man’s zone. Although the canyon is not currently open for international travelers, it is definitely a unique visit to put on your bucket list.

Man hiking Man Hiking

There are tons of hiking opportunities in Tibet. Unlike westerners, Tibetans hike to worship sacred mountains and holy lakes. You can join a popular trek or hike one of the best trails in Tibet. Some of the best hiking trails include Baima and Meili Snow Mountain, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (closed), Ice Lake Trekking, Tiger Leap Gorge, and many more. Songtsam retreats and lodges offer easy access to the most popular hiking trails and trekking routes in Tibet.