- Complete immersion in local culture as we work directly with Tibetans in the Tagong valley
- Spend two nights with a family of nomadic herders in their camp
- A variety of accommodation: camping, nomad camps, Buddhist monastery, mountain retreat and guesthouse
Day 1 1 : ARRIVE IN CHENGDU - KANGDING - 6-8 hours transferMorning meet-up in Chengdu. You will be transferred by car to Kangding at 2,600m. This journey takes about 6-8 hours, depending on the conditions of the road, but it is an experience not to be missed!
Kangding is a small mountain city and its inhabitants are mainly Han Chinese although there is a notable Tibetan presence and flair, particularly noticebable in its shops, restaurants and temples. For centuries it has been the meeting place for Chinese and Tibetan culture, and has served as a trading centre for tea and yak hide. It is also seen as a final outpost before the wild Tibetan mountains and passes of the Chengdu-Lhasa highway and the Tibetan region of Kham.
Your first night spent in a hotel in Kangding is the first step in your acclimatisation en-route to the plateau.
NB. If the weather has been bad and the road damaged by landslides etc. then you will fly up to Kangding instead.
Day 2 2 : KANGDID - TAGONG FESTIVAL - No ridingEcolodgeRoad transfer to Tagong (3,700m) (a 2-hour drive). You will be completely immersed in Tibetan traditions at an equestrian festival that brings together the proud Khampas riders of the Tagong region. The horses are blessed with juniper smoke and then the races begin. Although the Tibetan horses are small, the ground shakes and emotions are high! This is also an opportunity for the Tibetan nomads to show their wealth in a spectacle of colourful traditional clothing. Participants wear colourful, shiny outfits and hats whilst ladies wear jewellery made from jade, amber, coral, ivory, silver and gold.
It is a true honour to be able to observe this festival which is still extremely rare and secretive. Your guide will help you with the local way of life so that you can completely immerse yourself in the warm Tibetan hospitality.
Spend the night in a family hotel in Tagong - built around the monastery Lhagang and surrounded by meadows - it is almost exclusively populated by Tibetans.
Day 3 3: TAGONG - KHAMPA - 3 hours ridingToday is an acclimatisation day. You will meet the horses and head out on a short ride to Khampa Nomad Ecolodge, at an altitude of 3800m.
Day 4 4 : KHAMP - ZHAKRA MOUNTAIN - 4 hours riding +3 hours hikeAfter a short car ride to the trailhead at Gyergo Nunnery, you will ride out over the high Griffon Pass (4900 m) with stunning views of sacred Mount. Zhakra, 5900 m).
Dismounting, you will then hike back down into the valley to camp at the Zhakra Hotsprings. You will hike for around 3 hours before making camp at 4100 m.
Day 5 5 : ZHAKRA - ZHAKRA YIMTSUO - 7-8 HOURS HIKECampHiking day! Hike up from the hotsprings and cross over a high pass with close glacier views. This area is very wild and full of animals. Sleep near a high lake.
Day 6 6 : JARA YIMTSUO -EMPTY VALLEY - GYERGO NUNNERY (3900m) - 6 hours ridingMonasteryYour day will start with a ride out across the vast grasslands of the so-called "Empty" valley which is punctuated with the camps of nomadic families. Crossing a slightly lower mountain pass, you will arrive - tired! - at the nunnery at Gyergo, in time for afternoon chanting with the nuns.
You will spend the night in a 'nunnery hut' in the grounds of the monastery at 3900m.
Day 7 7 : GYERGO - YAK CAMP - 7 hours ridingNomad campBack in the saddle, you will ride up into the high nomad areas. Today's ride will take to the home yak camp of our guides. You will have the opportunity to watch as the herders bring in the animals, catch and tie the calves, and do the evening milking.
Overnight at camp near the farm, at an altitude of 4300m.
Day 8 8 : YAK CAMP - BADI GOMPA - 6-7 hours ridingCampIn the morning, you are welcome to try yak milking, cheese and butter processing, yak fibre spinning for string and rope, and yak herding.
Ride across the grasslands to Badi Gompa, a small nomad temple.
Pass many small nomadic camps. Camp with views of deep valleys.
Day 9 9 : BADI GOMPA - MEDITATION CAVE - 6 hours ridingCampRide in remote areas, past high lakes, to a meditation cave. You will camp here or lower as needed by the group according to acclimatisation.
Day 10 10: DRAPA LAKE - 6-8 hours riding + a hikeCampToday is a high ridge ride and walk with stunning views in all directions, reaching 4700 meters. There are parts of the ridges that are narrow and require walking the horses. This is a hard day for the riders and a challenge for the horses. Today's trail ride ends at Drapa Lake, a beautiful lake in a deep valley, with a small farmer/nomad village, and Choyu speakers.
Day 11 11: LAKES AND WATERFALLS - 6-7 hours riding and a hikeRetrace your steps back out of the valley, walking part of the way, and then down a steep trail on the other side. You will see extremely remote lakes and waterfalls from this barely-there trail. Again, it is necessary to walk the horses. End at a small village with a lovely gold-roofed temple where you will set up camp for the night.
Day 12 12: YIBEI LAKE - 5-6 hours ridingBack in the easy grasslands, ride back up onto the plateau and to Yibei Lake, a high sinkhole (cenote) lake. Yibei is a great lake for swimming, but cold! You're now riding at an altitude of 4450 meters.
Day 13 13: GENUP GOMPA - 6 hours riding + 2 hours driveRide to Genup Gompa, a 300-year old nomad temple perched on the side of hill. You will then be transferred by car to Zhonglu Village, near Danba. Stay in a lovely renovated courtyard hotel here.
Day 14 14: RETURN TO CHENGDUReturn to Chengdu by car over Balang Shan, and through Wolong Panda Reserve (not stopping, although this can be arranged if the whole group is interested). This is a long drive of around 6 hours.
Day 15 15 : CHENGDUBuddhazen hotelThe day will be yours to do with as you wish in Chengdu. It might be possible to arrange a visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Centre (which usually welcomes babies in the summertime), the QingYangGong Daoist Temple, or the Tibetan quarter.
You will spend the night at the Buddhazen hotel.
Day 16 16 : CHENGDU - DEPARTUREYou will be taken to the airport to catch your flight back to Europe or the US. You will likely arrive back home today, depending on your flight route.
Dates & prices
- Rates are per person based on two riders sharing a twin room/tent and communal rooms in gites.
- Groups are comprised of 4 - 8 international riders plus guides
- Please note: the ride will also confirm for 3 riders on payment of a supplement of c. £510/$630/€580 per person. Once the group has reached 4 people, we will remove this supplement from your invoice and refund you if you have already paid it.
- There is a single supplement of c. $780/€730/£645 if you end up in a single room
- Rider weight limit is 85 kg. Heavier riders please contact us.
- A visa is required to enter China and is your responsibility.
The itinerary may be modified at anytime for security reasons, meteorological or events beyond our control such as blocked roads, rivers in flood, drought, strikes and local holidays. Equus Journeys, our local partners and their local guides will always strive to find the best solution and will alter the itinerary as needed.
The names of the hotels and accommodation are given for information only and depending on availability, they may be modified without notice and replaced by another of a similar standard.
1 Tibetan-English interpreter and guide
1 horse and yak team
Luggage carried by yaks
Airport transfers (if your dates are different from the rest of the group, please contact us)
Double room in a 4* standard hotel in Chengdu
From 2 person to 5 person rooms in guesthouses
Price doesn't include
International flights booked on request
Tips to local team
Guide & local team
Minimum riding ability
Minimum riding ability
Rider weight limit is 85 kg. Heavier riders please contact us.
Tacking ability and participation
Trip conditions and Requested experience
This ride takes place in a mountainous environment between 3,800m and 4,800m. All nights are spent at an altitude of 4,000m or lower. The altitude is increased gradually to help you acclimatise but you must respect the advice of your guide. You should speak to your doctor before joining the trip particularly if you have any medical conditions relating to your heart, blood pressure or respiratory system. You should prepare for the holiday by increasing your endurance training - fast walking, jogging, cycling, swimming etc.
All your belongings are carried by a team of yaks or horses.
Previous experience of adventurous travel is strongly recommended. An alternative to this ride is the Shamalong race which is less strenuous.
Please note access to medical facilities is limited and helicopter evacuation is not possible in the mountains - in certain cases evacuation may be by motorcycle and horseback until you can reach an ambulance.
Visiting a new country offers the opportunity to meet other cultures with different mentalities, therefore it is important to accept these differences and respect the local way of life.
We also recommend taking some leather laces so you can tie your coat behind your saddle.
We recommend our riders to wear a helmet to the correct standard and you should bring your own to ensure a proper fit
In Chengdu, you will be staying in a local hotel.
During the trail:
Breakfast: coffee, tea, powdered milk, bread, jam, eggs or Chinese food (noodles, fried rice etc)
Lunch: Light picnic (bread, sausage, yoghurt)
Dinner: Rice, vegetables, meat - fragrant Chinese and Tibetan cuisine
In towns and villages you will eat in local restaurants.
Take care not to drink water from unknown sources. Mineral water is provided at every meal whilst on the trail, or you can refill your bottles using boiled water (or bring water purification tablets). In restaurants it might be possible to get beer or fizzy drinks.
- Equus Journeys strongly recommend that you wear a riding helmet and that you take your own to ensure a correct fit. There are many lightweight options available nowadays
- Sunhat for when not riding
- Sunglasses - with a cord attached so they don't fly off when riding
- Buff or bandana
- Warm hat for cold nights when camping
- Thermals (long or short sleeved)
- Long sleeved shirts provide protection from the sun and are an extra layer
- Lightweight fleece or jumper
- Warm fleece or jumper (and a spare in case one gets wet)
- Warm and waterproof jacket - it can rain at any time of year and the evenings can be particularly cold
- Lightweight, comfortable riding trousers or jodhpurs - we recommend riding in them at home before taking them on holiday to ensure they don't rub
- Casual trousers for the evenings, such as jeans or tracksuit bottoms
- Waterproof over trousers
- Lightweight, comfortable trousers for non-riding days
Hands and Feet
- Comfortable riding boots. We recommend short boots with half chaps but you may wish to take long chaps as an extra layer against inclement weather. We don't recommend taking your favourite long leather boots in case they get damaged
- Waterproof shoes/boots can be useful for abundant dew in the mornings or when it rains
- Trainers or equivalent light shoes for moving around the camp in the evenings
- Several pairs of warm, thick socks
- Gloves - your hands are particularly exposed to the sun, cold or rain whilst riding. Waterproof gloves can be particularly useful
- Sleeping bag. You need at least a comfort factor down to minus 5 celsius, but would recommend at least minus 8 or 10 celsius.
- Sleeping bag liner - silk, cotton or fleece - adds an extra layer
- Self-inflating mattress such as a Thermarest
- Pyjamas or tracksuits or thermals for sleeping in
Other useful items
- Swimsuit - for swimming/bathing in rivers
- Towels - lightweight camping ones will both dry and pack more easily
- Small backpack for accessing items required during the day (carried by support crew)
- Camera and high capacity memory card. Spare battery
- Bumbag for carrying your camera and small items whilst riding
- Headtorch or small torch for moving around camp at night - bring spare batteries and bulbs
- Water bottle (2 litres or 2 x 1 litre)
- Wet Wipes or equivalent (for when washing facilities aren't available)
- Toilet paper and a lighter to burn it with
- Small plastic bags for rubbish
- Ear plugs (for light sleepers)
In your hold luggage
- Any liquids, such as shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant unless they are less than 100ml and all bottles can fit in a small, clear, plastic ziplock bag. We recommend biodegradable washing products where possible.
- Swiss army knife (or equivalent)
In your hand luggage
- Any valuables, such as your camera, ipod, ipad etc.
- Your riding hat
- Sunscreen and lip balm - should be high factor
- Insect repellent, preferably containing deet
- Any medication you regularly take
- Blister plasters in case of any rubs
- Antiseptic cream, plasters, aspirin, anti-histamine, insect-bite salve etc...
- Spare prescription glasses/contact lenses
- Eye drops
- Imodium or similar anti-diarrhoea medication
- Re-hydration sachets
- Water purification tablets
- Antiseptic wipes
- Handwash gel
- Please don't take a hard sided suitcase. Your luggage should be soft sided with a capacity of 60-80 litres. We recommend taking a backpack or similar. The luggage limit on the ride is 15kg per person.
- Backpacks cannot be worn whilst riding. We recommend a small bumbag or a coat with pockets so that you can carry small items with you during the day (camera, sunscreen, lipbalm etc)
- We recommend travelling in your riding boots and carrying your hat and some riding clothes in your hand luggage - then if your luggage goes astray you are still able to ride!
- Tall riders may benefit from taking a pair of long stirrup leathers with them (the local stirrups are adjustable but are sometimes limited in length)
- We recommend taking a copy of your passport and insurance documents with you in case you lose your originals
- Please take your rubbish home with you. There are no recycling facilities in Tibet, so take your used batteries, aerosols etc back home and dispose of them appropriately. Try to leave excess packaging material at home before travelling
- Travel light. It's a little known fact, but the lighter you pack, the better for the environment as heavy bags will produce higher emissions (when flying a plane or driving a car!).
- Reduce plastic waste. Take your favorite reusable bottle with you. Avoid single-use bags, cups, or straws.
- Preserve nature. Always take your rubbish with you during the ride and recycle them. Leave all the flowers or plants as you found them, and never get too close when observing wildlife. Make sure to use eco-friendly products such as body wash or laundry detergent (if camping) to protect both your skin and the environment.
- Choose your experiences carefully. Respect animal life by not participating in any activities that abuse wild animals (shows, elephant rides, etc.).
- Support local populations. Buy local handicrafts, be respectful of customs, and learn about the culture of local communities.
- Share! Raise awareness among your family and friends about sustainable tourism.
Did you know?
Did you know?
On this horseback trail in Tibet you will visit the oldest Buddhist monastery in Kham - Lhagang.
Story has it that in 640CE, Princess Wencheng, the Chinese bride-to-be of the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, was on her way to Lhasa when a precious statue of Jowo Sakyamuni Buddha fell from the cart. A replica of the statue was carved at the spot where it landed and a temple was built around it.
The replica statue still stands in Lhagang monastery; the original is housed in Lhasa's Jokhang temple and is the most revered Buddha image in Tibet.