Shoton Festival

900 years of Tibetan tradition....

As the monks of Drepung monastery emerge from weeks of quiet
meditation, and pilgrims gather in their thousands, mulberry smoke
rises, horns reverberate throughout the valley, and the best of Tibetan history and culture comes to life.

Journey overview



For three months in the Tibetan spring and summer, as the weather warms and the insects awaken, the monks of Drepung stay indoors to avoid stepping on tiny new lives and pray for prosperity. When they emerge, the lay people give thanks for the monks' blessings and protection, and feed them sho (yogurt).

Over 900 years, Shoton has evolved into a week-long celebration and Wanderlust Journeys places you right in the middle of the inspiring religious ceremonies and high-spirited festivities.

Join family picnics in the park, wander the local markets, assault your ears with Tibetan opera accompanied by traditional dancing and walk the kora around the Barkhor with pilgrims from all over Tibet . Partying groups gather to feast on barley wine, butter tea and home-made desserts, spinning their prayer wheels and counting their mala beads, as celebrations continue long into the night around large bonfires.

The highlight of Shoton, is the annual unfurling of the giant thanka. Gather with all of Lhasa in the early morning, high on the hillside at Drepung Monastery, as a procession of over one hundred lamas, slowly open the 500-square-metre painting of Sakyamuni Buddha. The air fills with Khada (white scarves) thrown by pilgrims wanting to purify their spirit and soul. We have our turn at redemption and the energy is palpable. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you will be touched by the worshipping and festive atmosphere.

Before Shoton, we journey around central Tibet, exploring Tsedang, the cradle of Tibeten civilisation, and the time-worn towns of Gyantse and Shigatse. At 4,794m, savour the majestic views of the turquoise Yamdrok-tso Lake and Mt. Nojin Kangsang (7,206m) and travel next to the holy Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) which flows 2,900km down to the Bay of Bengal in India.

Nepal is our gateway to Tibet and, while waiting for Visas and on return from Lhasa, we will stay in gorgeous, boutique accomodation and explore the extraordinary, medieval city of Bhaktapur and walk the 'kora' with the faithful, around the stunning Boudhanath stupa.

Group Journey 2024

Beginning and ending in Nepal, this amazing journey across the roof of the world peaks with five full days in Lhasa, where you will breathe in the energy of the centuries-old, Buddhist Shoton festival

  • 22nd July - 9th August, 2024
  • 19 Days
  • 12 Nights in Tibet |6 Nights in Nepal
  • Grade - Easy
  • Group size- Min 6  Max 10

Itinerary 


Day 1: A warm welcome 

A warm welcome at Kathmandu airport before being whisked away to friendly and comfortable accommodation, tucked in a vibrant, local neighborhood.

Accomodation: The Perch, Naxal

Meals: D

Days 2: Walk back in time

Full briefing over breakfast, then head down to Durbar Square with your guide, a World Heritage Site and the traditional heart of old Kathmandu. Dating from the 3rd century, with much of the construction between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries, it is an active, living square filled with temples, palaces, and courtyards. There will be plenty of time to explore, absorb, and even visit the living goddess.

After exiting Durbar Square, you are now plunged straight into the fascinating maze of streets, laneways, and temples that make up the ancient marketplace of Ason Tole, where trading first commenced in the 6th century, and locals still do their shopping today.

Finally, the evening brings a delicious traditional feast

Accomodation: The Perch, Naxal

Meals: B, D

Days 3: Sleep peacefully in a Tibetan monastery

Experience your own mini Himalayan climb up the 424 steps to reach the nirvana of Swayambhunath, Kathmandu’s chief ‘power place,’ where Hindu temples and deities are combined into a 1,500-year-old Buddhist site.

Drive to Phullahari Monastery, a peaceful sanctuary nestled in the hills surrounding Kathmandu, and soak up the wonderful views of the valley while enjoying fresh food from the monks' garden.

Accomodation: Phullahari Monastery

Meals: B,L, D

Day 4: Share your stories with monks

After a peaceful night's sleep, join any of the daily prayer sessions in the exquisitely ornate Gompa (temple).

Spend the rest of the day relaxing, eating, and chatting with the monks about Tibetan religion and culture. If you love coffee, this is a great place to indulge and then work off the extra energy on scenic hill walks

Accomodation: Phullahari Monastery

Meals: B, L, D

Day 5: Breathtaking views of the Himalayas

Relax on the stunning early morning flight to Lhasa, then experience your first views of the striking, high-altitude Tibetan plateau during the drive to Tsedang, considered to be the birthplace of Tibetan civilization.

Accomodation: Hotel Tsedang (or similar), Tsedang

Meals: B, L, D

Day 6: Journey back in time

Start your Tibetan journey inside the oldest building in Tibet, Yumbu Lhakhang, an ancient palace built in the 2nd century BC.

Then, explore Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, founded in 775 AD. An imposing sight, Samye Monastery consists of 108 temples designed as a circular mandala to represent the cosmos.

Accomodation: Hotel Tsedang (or similar)

Meals: B, L

Day 7: High passes and a sacred lake

Driving over two high passes, the crisp, crystal clear air of the remote high altitude landscape produces bold vibrant hues where large expanses of azure sky, pristine white clouds, deep, lush green hills and tranquil turquoise lakes all bestow a mystical allure upon the surroundings.

A final descent through rustic villages brings you to the fertile valley of historic Gyantse, part of the old trade route between India and Tibet

Accomodation: Hotel Yeti (or similar), Gyantse

Meals: B, L, D

Day 8: Hang out with 100,000 gods and demons

Spend the day engulfed in the architectural masterpiece of Kumbum Stupa, overflowing with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities. Roam the old town, climb to the top of the dzong (fortress) and stroll down to the peaceful haven of Rabse Nunnery.

Accomodation: Hotel Yeti (or similar), Gyantse

Meals: B, L

Day 9: Flying monks, telepathy and generating internal heat

For centuries, while Tibet was a hidden land sealed from the outside world, ancient mysteries flourished. One of the most famous monasteries to teach the secret lores was Shalu, just near Shigatse.

Feel the intense energy from centuries of supernatural practices as you enter this ancient and unique blend of Tibetan and Chinese architecture.

Accomodation: Hotel Mansarovar (or similar), Shigatse

Meals: B, L, D

Day 10: The Panchen Lama's home, a city within a city

Built by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 AD, Tashilhunpo Monastery became home to successive Panchen Lamas, Tibet's second-highest incarnation, and life here today continues unchanged from its origins.

Join fervent pilgrims from around Tibet and explore the narrow, cobbled lanes twisting around aging buildings. Examine the incredible ancient tombs of Panchen Lamas, visit the stunning assembly hall and chapels, and marvel at the 26-meter-high, golden statue of the Future Buddha—the largest gilded statue in the world.

Accomodation: Hotel Mansarovar (or similar), Shigatse

Meals: B,  L

Day 11: Follow the fourth longest river in the world

The Yarlung Tsangpo flows 2,900kms to the Bay of Bengal and is your companion on the drive to Lhasa.

Shoton is an exciting time to stay in the capital, as pilgrims from all over Tibet arrive to participate, so over the next few days we will keep the timing of your visits to the must-see locations flexible.

Accomodation: Hotel Kyichu (or similar), Lhasa

Meals: B, L, D

Days 12-13: Witness the power of faith

Be prepared for moving and unforgettable experiences as you join the devout pilgrims openly displaying reverence to their spiritual heritage at the majestic and auspicious sites of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor, Sera and Norbulingka monasteries.

Accomodation: Hotel Kyichu (or similar), Lhasa

Meals: (Day 12 - B, L)   (Day 13 - B, L, D)

Day 14: Let 900 years of tradition purify your soul

Become emotionally immersed in the fervour, gasps and tears during the breathtaking annual spectacle of the 500 square-metre thangka of Sakyamuni Buddha being unfurled on the hillside at Drepung monastery, and let your kata fly through the air for redemption.

Then, as in any good festival, it's time to party. Join the feasting, games and opera at Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace.

Accomodation: Hotel Kyichu (or similar), Lhasa

Meals: B, L

Day 15:Meet the family


Escape the bustle of Lhasa to a nearby village and visit a family home to share food, stories and laughter before wandering down to the local temple to sit with the monks for an enlightening discussion on rural monastic life, and maybe share a bit of local gossip.

Accomodation: Hotel Kyichu (or similar), Lhasa

Meals: B, L

Day 16: 2,300 years of medical wisdom

Gaze in awe at the ancient thangkas hanging in the prestigious House of Medicine and Astrology, depicting the collective knowledge of Sowa Rigpa, the Tibetan science of healing.

In the evening, it’s time to step out in traditional Tibetan dress to join your guides for a dinner celebrating all your adventures on ‘The Roof of the World’.

Accomodation: Hotel Kyichu (or similar), Lhasa

Meals: B, D

Day 17: Peace among the chaos

Once again, flying by the majestic Himalayan mountain range, arrive back in Kathmandu and transfer to Boudha, the Tibetan quarter of town.

An afternoon guided walk will orientate you around the winding streets, eventually emerging in the heart of Boudha—the striking, giant 14th-century Boudhanath Stupa, its mandala design standing as a beacon of Buddhist belief.

Every morning and evening, you are free to wander down and join the monks, locals, and pilgrims performing Kora. As in Lhasa, not only is it a devotional and meditative practice, but it's also a time to exercise, catch up with neighbors, gossip, and check out the tourists.

Accomodation: Shambaling Hotel, Boudhanath

Meals: B, L

Day 18: Reflect on all that has past

Boudhanath is full of Tibetan monasteries, glorious galleries, quirky shops and delicious food. Today you are free to explore at will and see where the day takes you.

In the evening, everyone will come back together for a celebratory farewell dinner.

Accomodation: Shambaling Hotel, Boudhanath

Meals: B, D

Day 19: One last memory

Walking the early morning Kora and receiving a final blessing from the monks is the perfect way to conclude your journey before flying home.

Meals:

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Shoton festival 


What's included


  • Economy airfare Kathmandu to Tibet & return
  • Tibet Visa and travel permits
  • 18 nights accommodation twin share
  • 12 nights Tibet, 6 nights Nepal
  • English speaking local guides throughout Nepal and Tibet
  • All Shoton Festival activities
  • Self cleaning and purifying water bottle
  • All ground transportation and transfers as per itinerary, by private vehicle
  • Emergency oxygen cylinder in vehicle in Tibet
  • Meals as per Itinerary including traditional Nepali welcome dinner & traditional Tibetan farewell dinner
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • Crumpler travel wallet

What's not included

  • International airfares (our travel manager can help you find the best airfares to connect with this trip and assist you with any ongoing requests)
  • Expenses of personal nature e.g. alcohol, laundry, room service etc.
  • Nepal Visa (pay on arrival at Tribhuvan Airport, Nepal)
  • Travel Insurance (must cover all activities undertaken)
  • Meals not mentioned in itinerary

Physical


Minimum fitness level
  • To be able to carry your own bag around airports etc. if required
  • Walk up and down stairs
  • City walking can be over uneven ground, narrow laneways, dodging people animals and traffic.
Difficulty

This trip is operated at a leisurely pace but there will be some standing around and queuing, especially if you want to join the pilgrims on the hillside at Drepung for the unfurling of the Thanka. 

The Potola has around 430 steps to climb.

While in Tibet you will be at high altitude which can make you short of breath.

Travellers with additional needs are welcome to contact us to discuss your particular requirements

Sounds incredible! 

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