and the Top of the World!
June 12 - 25, 2024
Dear Members & Friends:
The Tibetan Plateau has for centuries been a place of fascination for Western naturalists and explorers. Nowhere else in the world even comes close to putting so much terrain so high into the sky. Tibet is also home to a free‑spirited pastoralist people with a distinctive Tantric Buddhist spirituality. Expansive grasslands in the eastern part nurture some of the richest alpine plant communities in the world.
The Tibetan highlands—beyond the Himalaya range and west of Sichuan’s panda country—form a resplendent tapestry of rolling hills, meadows, lakes surprisingly large and often a sky of deep blue with endless puffy clouds. Local people still accompany their herds of yak, camping in traditional tents of canvas and felt. Birders and plant enthusiasts tend to be well-rewarded for their efforts.
Our adventure will begin with a visit to Chengdu, vibrant capital city of Sichuan. We will visit the giant panda breeding center in Chengdu, one of three locations for panda breeding and conservation in Sichuan.
We will then fly west to explore the cultural heart of Tibet. The Tibetan Plateau has long been a place of fascination for Western naturalists and explorers. Our first destination in Tibet will be Tsedang near some of the oldest villages and sacred sites in Tibet. They pre-date Buddhism in this area by more than a thousand years.
Then we head to Lhasa, renowned for its sacred sites, and profound spiritual significance to the Tibetan people. These include Jorkang Temple, the Potala and Norbulinka Palace, the residences of the Dalai Lama, and Ganden Monastery, poised dramatically on a ridge that overlooks the upper reaches of the Lhasa Valley.
We will also explore Namco Lake which lies in a basin at 15,500 feet elevation. Here the air is extraordinarily clear, offering luminous vistas of glaciated peaks that encircle thebasin. Semi-nomadic families live here during summer, tending their herds of yaks and ponies.
Although the Tibetan Plateau is quite high, we will spend most of our time at moderate elevations. Lhasa is 11,700 feet above sea level. After a few days, most visitors acclimatize and do fine at these elevations. Our highest point overall is the pass that leads to Namco Lake at 16,900 feet. This excursion probably will set a few personal altitude records for our travelers!
What to Expect: This expedition is planned for travelers who would enjoy exploring the heritage of the Tibetan Plateau. This expedition will be a tremendous experience for travelers with an appetite for adventure who would enjoy exploring fascinating areas of Tibet and the “Top of the World.”
Leading the expedition will be excellent guides with experience in Tibet. The group will travel 4 to 7 hours by bus or van on each of several days. On traveling days, we will take time for both planned and spontaneous stops to walk, photograph, and talk with local people. Walks will be at a leisurely pace suitable for discovery.
Weather is pleasant in Tibet during the early summer, with midday temperatures in the 70s to upper 80s and some rain.
We will acclimatize as we adjust to the elevation. Around Lhasa, we will stay no higher than 11,700 feet and will drive over one pass at 16,900 feet. Two nights may be spent at 13,900 feet or may be spent in Lhasa. Please be flexible concerning time schedules, hotels, food, bumpy roads, and mechanical breakdowns. (No smoking in vehicles or during lectures or meals, please.).
We sincerely hope that you will be able to join us in Tibet in 2024!
Margaret M. Betchart
Betchart Expeditions Inc.
For AAAS Travels, Sigma Xi & ACS Expeditions
$4,595 plus air.