LOCATION : Western Tibet, near India/Nepal, 1,300 km (800 mi) by road from Lhasa.
TYPE : World's famous religious site
BEST SEASON TO VISIT : Summer / Autumn
THINGS TO DO : Worshipfully walking round it, hiking, photographing
Mount Kailash(冈仁波齐峰), at 6,638 m (21,778 ft) above sea level, is a peak in the Kailash Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Trans-Himalaya in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia that are the Indus River, the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River, and Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet Autonomous Region, China. In Tibetan language, people called Kailash as Gangs Rinpoche(གངས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ) which means 'Precious Snow Mountain'. It is the axis Mundi or center of the world and is thus considered one of the world’s most sacred mountains.
A Sacred Holy Site For Four Religions
It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Tibetan Buddhists consider it as the dwelling of Chakrasamvara (Buddhist Deity) and it represents infinite happiness; for Hindus, it is the abode of Lord Shiva; for Jains, it is the place where its founder Rishabhanatha attained enlightenment; and for Bönpo Religion, Mt.Kailash is a nine-story swastika mountain that is the seat of spiritual power, moreover, the region of the mountain and nearby Lake Manasarovar is where Thonpa Sherab founded and disseminated Bon. Therefore, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash every year.
Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. People making circumambulation around a sacred site or object is called the kora, following a tradition going back thousands of years. The kora is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. However, followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. So it's likely to see that some pilgrims walk in opposite directions. So far, this mountain has not yet been ascended. According to all religions that revere the mountain, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. It is claimed that many people who ventured to defy the taboo have died in the process. It is a popular belief that the stairways on Mount Kailash lead to heaven.
The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km long. Walking around the holy mountain has to be done on foot, pony or yak, taking some three days of trekking starting from a height of around 4,600 m (15,091 ft) past the Tarboche (flagpole) to cross the Drölma pass 5,500 m (18,045 ft), and encamping for two nights en route. First, near the meadow of Dirapuk gompa, some 2 to 3 km before the pass and second, after crossing the pass and going downhill as far as possible (viewing Gauri Kund in the distance).
Some pilgrims believe that the entire walk around Kailash should be made in a single day, which is not considered an easy task. A person in good shape walking fast would take perhaps 15 hours to complete the 52 km trek. Some of the devout did accomplish this feat, little daunted by the uneven terrain, altitude sickness and harsh conditions faced in the process. Indeed, other pilgrims venture a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation: The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four weeks of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation while following this regimen.
How to get to Mt.Kailash?
Currently, you can travel by land from Kathmandu or from Lhasa where flights from Kathmandu/mainland China are available to Lhasa and thereafter travel over the great Tibetan plateau by car. If you choose an overland route from Kathmandu, you will arrive in Darchen of 4,600 m, a small town at the foot of Mt.Kailash in 3 days. If you go there from Lhasa by road, you also can get to Darchen in 3 days.
When is the best time to visit Mt.Kailash?
Generally, May and early June is a good time for kora at Mt.Kailash. The rainy season starts from the beginning of July and there would be muddy in July and August. On 14th, April of Tibetan Calendar, there's a Saga Dawa Festival for remembering the birthday, enlightenment, and death of Sakyamuni. The locals will hold a ceremony for changing the prayer flag at the entrance of the holy mountain Kailash. Buddhists think the merits and virtues will be higher than usual if they start Kora on that day.
What about the nearby facilities?
The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of western Tibet. Despite its minimal infrastructure, modest guest houses are available for foreign pilgrims, whereas Tibetan pilgrims generally sleep in their own tents. The best hotel here is Himalaya Kailash Hotel and the recommended restaurant is Lhasa Restaurant. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places, and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions.