June is the beginning of Tibet’s rainy season. But it mostly rains at night and usually comes as light shower. So, most days in June are clear and sunny. The summer temperature in Tibet at this time is 10℃ lower than that in the rest inland China at the same latitude. Though Tibet enters the peak season of tourism in summer, travel to Tibet in June are still relatively economical than that in the upcoming July, August, September and October.
Mount Kailash (6,656m) is located in one of the most remote regions of Tibet, the southwest Prefecture Ngari. Although Mount Kailash is over 1,200 kilometers away from Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, it is visited by pilgrims and trekkers continuously all year around. Even in the harshest snowy and windy winter, never ends the footprints of the devout.
As one of the four holy mountains of Buddhism, and Mount Kailash is also regarded as the center of the world by the four religions Tibetan Buddhism, Bon Religion, Jainism and Hinduism. Therefore, Mount Kailash has been the indispensable venue of the most important religious festival Saga Dawa for Tibetan people, as well attracting pilgrims traveling afar from the neighboring countries such as India, Nepal, Bhutan, etc.
Saga Dawa Festival at Mount Kailash
Saga Dawa is a month-long festival occurring in April according to Tibetan calendar. It is to commemorate the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha. During the month, the middle day April 15th, sees the climax of the festivities, because of the coincidence that the birth, enlightenment, and nirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha all happen on this very day of April 15th. In Tibetan, Saga is the name of a constellation that illuminates brightly in the April night sky, and Dawa means month. In 2019, Saga Dawa month is expected to start on June 4th and last till July 2nd, and the most important April 15th of Tibetan calendar will fall on June 17th, 2019.
As a tradition of Saga Dawa, the most grandeur ritual is to erect a new flagpole of prayer to replace the old one, which is held in Sexiong Town, Purang County, at the foothill of Mount Kailash. After this, pilgrims do the merit making kora at Mount Kailash. It’s believed that to finish one circuit of the kora can cleanse the sin of the person’s lifetime; to do 10 times of kora can avoid ending in the suffering of hell; while to do 100 times of kora can get the enlightenment to be a Buddha in the heaven. Therefore, it is the biggest wish for a Buddhist to do the kora at Mount Kailash. Beyond the pilgrimage journey, Mount Kailash also serve as an enticing trekking spot for trekkers.
There are two trekking routes, the inner circuit and the outer circuit. The inner circuit only needs one day to trek, and is centered by Mount. Yinjietuo, which is located south of Mount Kailash. The outer kora is done with Mount Kailash as the center, which is 52 km long and normally takes trekkers 2 to 3 days to finish. For pilgrims doing prostration rather than trekking, it takes about three weeks to finish the 52-kilometer-long kora.
Pilgrims doing kora around Mount Kailash
There is one flight from Lhasa Gonggar Airport to Ngari Gunsha Airport (also known as Ali Kunsha Airport) daily, departing from Lhasa at 7:00 in the morning and arrive in Shiquanhe Town, Ngari Prefecture, at 9:00 in the evening. The flight cost floats around 2,800 RMB. The distance between the airport town Shiquanhe, and Darchen, Purang County, (the town that is closest to Mount Kailash), is around 200 kilometers. You can rent a vehicle in Shiquanhe to get to Darchen, and start the trekking at Darchen.
Long Distance Bus
You can take a bus to reach Mount Kailash at the Northern Suburb Bus Station of Lhasa to Purang County, Ngari. During the route closer to Purang County, you can inform the driver that you’d like to jump off at Darchen Town. The whole length of this bus route is 1,500 kilometers; and the ticket fee is around 652 RMB. Darchen Town is situated at the intermediate part that is 1,200 kilometers away from Lhasa and 300 kilometers from Purang County. This bus leaves around 11:00 am, and arrive at Darchen at about 11:00 am the preceding day.
It is the most convenient way to travel to Mount Kailash by renting a vehicle. For domestic travelers who can travel by themselves, this is also budget saving without paying extra for the cost on hiring a driver and guide. But because of the limited flexibility the policy allows to tourists holding foreign passports, that they have to travel in a group tour or private tour arranged by an authorized travel agency, foreign tourists cannot rent a vehicle and travel on their own, but to get assistance from a travel agency and get accompanied by a driver and a guide.
Before you start trekking, you can have a good rest in Darchen Town, where accommodation options are multiple and well-conditioned. Backpacker hostels and hotels at the price of 50RMB to 150RMB per night can be easily found. And you can also treat yourself a luxury night at Himalaya Kailash Hotel, which is the best in Darchen Town. During the two-day or three-day trekking of the outer circuit of Mount Kailash, there are some monasteries providing short-term stay along the trekking route, some of which even have their own greenhouse so that the trekkers can get supplied vegetables.
Tibetan people are nature lovers. They have been taking on a tradition of picnic at the luscious grassland or river shores with the green canopies of trees in the warm summer holidays. They invite their families and friends, bring their picnic gear and treats, and just walk into the beautiful wilderness in clear sunny days. They drink highland barley wine, have yak butter tea, play dramyin (a classic Tibetan folk music lute), sing the folk songs and enjoy the Tibetan operas. They have heart-to-heart talk with their loved ones, dance to the music together in a circle hand in hand. They immerse in the beautiful nature and music, and snuggle with their most intimate ones, won’t go back home until dusk. Such a tradition of happy reunion has once been called Suburb Picnic or Suburb Feast. And it is the visitors from out of Tibet who names the tradition as Linka Festival.
It used to be held from May 1st to May 15th according to Tibetan calendar. Given the fact that in Tibet the winter is so long while the summer is sadly short, Tibetan people cherish the warm and sunny days and enjoy them as much as possible.
Till now, Linka is still or even more popular throughout Tibet. In June, if you visit Lhasa, choose a good day and take your snacks and drinks, a picnic cloth and walk into the river valley woods, you will find groups of jolly locals. Just join them with a greeting Tashi Delek!
It is such a loved custom, that the Tibetan in Shigatse even give it a public holiday starting from June 1st (The Children’s Day) and lasting for 5 to 7 days. It is the perfect time for resting and celebrating because the busy spring ploughing has ended and the maintenance job of farming has just come into an interval. In Shigatse, you may also expect grandeur festivities such as horse race, arrow shooting competition during the week-long Linka Festival. However, to have a picnic in the lovely summer day is still the highlight and the most loved part.
Besides Mount Kailash, June, also makes it more pleasant to do sightseeing in the three sacred Lakes Yamdrok, Namtso, and Manasarovar, because the icy surface completes melting. Cities of culture richness, such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse, Tsedang are basically suitable for traveling all year round, the warmer temperature is just a bonus. Other than the central Tibet, the southeast prefecture Nyingchi is quietly hidden in the river valleys with the blooming azalea, blue poppies and newly awakening flower meadows at the forest-edge.
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