From the horse’s mouth
The Kham Riders (Shamalong Festival)
The Kham Riders (Shamalong Festival)
- 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 : EUROPE - CHENGDU - No ridingInternational flight from the Europe to Chengdu. It is likely that you will need to change planes at least once. Flights are not included.
Day 2 2 : CHENGDU - No ridingBuddhazen hotelYou will arrive into Chengdu, nicknamed the City of Hibiscus, and be met at the airport.
Considered the fifth largest Chinese city, Chengdu has a relaxed atmosphere and retains some of its historic buildings. As well as being the traditional capital of the Shu region in China, it is also home to the largest Tibetan population in all of China, outside of the Tibetan regions.
You will meet your guide who speaks Tibetan and lives in Tagong amongst the highlands of eastern Tibet. In the afternoon, if there is time, you will be able to visit the Wenshu Yuan Buddhist Temple near the hotel. You will enjoy an amazing vegetarian dinner and get to know the rest of your group before spending the night in a small, charming central hotel such as the BuddhaZen (or a hotel of an equivalent standard). Time dependent, you may even have time for a massage if you wish!
Day 3 3 : CHENGDU - DANBA or RONGMI - No ridingDrive to Danba or Rongmi. This is a culturally unique region, with Chinese, Tibetan, and unique characteristics. You will stay in a family homestay in a small village outside of Danba. This will be the starting of your ride the next morning.
Overnight at the family hotel, at an altitude of 2400m.
Day 4 4: DANBA - RIVERSIDE CAMPSITE - 5 hours ridingCampToday is the first day of your trail ride in Tibet. The trail will take you through a deep gorge surrounded by lush forests. After approx. five hours in the saddle, you will reach your riverside campsite at 3300m.
Day 5 5: ZHAKRA YIMSTO - 6 hours riding, 1 hour hikeCampYou will ride to the calm turquoise lake Zhakra Yimtso, at 3,800m, located at the foot of dramatic glaciers fed by a waterfall.
Following a traditional pilgrim trail on foot around the lake, you will complete a traditional kora of the lake (a walk-around), and see the shrines and hermitages nearby.
You will spend the night camping in the low valley below the lake nestled alongside a forest with spectacular views of the glaciers.
Day 6 6 : ZHAKRA YIMSTO - ZHAKRA HOT SPRINGS - 3 hours ridingCampToday's ride takes you into the valley to camp at the Zhakra Hotsprings. The afternoon is spent at your leasure, and you can enjoy these medicinal springs surrounded by prayer flags or those who prefer can hike up the hills.
Overnight at camp at 4100 m.
Day 7 7 : ZHAKRA HOT SPRINGS - GYERGO NUNNERY - 7-8 hours ridingCampRide out over the high Griffon Pass (4900 m) with stunning views of sacred Mount. Zhakra, 5900 m. The day's ride itinerary will follow paths, across hilly, forested land, to the nunnery at Gyergo, one of the main temples in the valley, at a height of 3900m.
Today is a long day in the saddle over very steep terrain. Some riders will prefer to lead their horse on foot.
Enjoy the nuns chanting this afternoon, and stay in a nunnery hut at 3900m.
Day 8 8 : GYERGO NUNNERY - HIGH PLATEAU - 7 hours ridingNomad campRiding out from Gyergo, along a narrow path by the river, you will ride up into the high nomad plateaus. You will ride across the highland plateaus of Tagong - large pastures which stretch for 80km. Many nomadic families settle here each summer with their flocks. There are no modern structures in view - just a few nomadic tents, sacred lakes and small isolated Buddhist temples.
Your ride will end at your guide's home camp, at 4200 m, where you will be wined and dined by the nomadic families camping nearby and learn about their traditional life.
Day 9 9 : DASHIKA NOMAD CAMP - YIBEI LAKE - 3 hours ridingCampThis morning you will take a break from riding and you will spend the day at the family camp in Dashika. This will be an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the lives of these nomads - gathering in yaks and their calves and learning the skills of yak milking, cheese and butter processing and yak fibre spinning for string and rope.
The afternoon sees you back in the saddle for a ride to Yibei Lake, a high sinkhole (cenote) lake at 4450m. During the 3 hour ride across the high plateau, you will see many nomad camps dotted across the area. Yibei is also a great lake to go swimming in - but always a little bit cold!
Overnight at camp, 4450m.
Day 10 10 : YIBEI LAKE - RAGNI LAKE - 5 hours riding + 1 hour hikeCampThe day's ride will take you to a high lookout to the west, which will give you a fantastic view across wolf and gazelle country and the Lhagang plateau's highest reaches. You will stop for your lunch at a lookout, at 4600 m, with unique views of isolated religious retreats nestled in the far-reaching mountains. You will then descend on horseback to discover the sacred Ragni Lake, home of lammergyer birds that make their nest in the cliff sides and the an area at the heart of many legends.
You will spend the night camping close to the lake, at 4200m.
Day 11 11 : RAGNI LAKE - GENUP TEMPLE - 5 hours ridingCampIn contrast to the isolation of the previous days' riding, today you will set out across one of the most populated plateaus in the Tagong region, the Lhagang plateau. This region also hosts a local religious festival - which you may happen upon - where you will experience the monks singing hymns and chanting from their richly decorated tents.
The ride's destination is the Genup temple, an old nomadic temple in the region. This small, remote temple hosts a community of monks every summer. Conveniently situated high up in the mountains, it overlooks the valley and the tranquil atmosphere will no doubt lead you to feel connected to the religious past of Tibet. After visiting the temple, say goodbye to the horses and guides and drive to Khampa Nomad Ecolodge.
Overnight at the ecolodge.
Day 12 12: KHAMPA NOMAD ECOLODGE - No ridingSpend the day at the Ecolodge. Enjoy the sauna, tubing in the river, hot showers, and a hike into the hills.
Overnight at the ecolodge.
Day 13 13: KHAMPA - SHAMALONG - 1,5 hour driveOn waking up in the morning, you will be completely immersed in Tibetan tradition at an equestrian festival that brings together the proud Khampas riders of the Tagong region. In the morning, 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! You will be a spectator to long, short and stunt races.
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.
You will once more camp near the race site for the night - 4100m.
Day 14 14: SHAMALONG - CHENGDU - 6-8 hour driveDrive to Chengdu directly from the Festival. (6-8 hour drive).
Day 15 15 : CHENGDU - No ridingBuddhazen 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.
Your last evening meal will be a dinner at a Sichuan Opera dinner theatre where you will have a final chance to discuss together all the fantastic things you will have done on your trip! You will spend the night at the Buddhazen hotel.
Day 16 16 : CHENGDU - EUROPE - No ridingYou will be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Europe. Your flight home should arrive today, depending on your flights.
Dates & prices
- International flights are not included but can be booked upon request.
- Rates are per person, based on two riders sharing a twin room or tent, and shared communal rooms in guesthouses.
- Groups are composed of 4 - 8 guests plus guides.
- Please note: the ride will also confirm for 3 riders on payment of a supplement of c. $650/$570/£510 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. $675/€580/£520 if we are unable to find a sharer for you
- 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 cook and a team of Tibetan horsemen
Team of yaks for the transport of luggage
Local standard 4 star hotel in Chengdu (twin room)
Guesthouses - sharing a room with 2-5 people
Fees for activities included in the programme
Price doesn't include
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.
Previous experience of adventurous travel is recommended.
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.
Guide and local team
- 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
- You may wish to take some photographs or postcards of your home with you to show your hosts. You may also wish to take some crayons, colouring books etc for the children. Be careful not to take card games as these are frowned upon by the adults, who use them for gambling.
Visa & Health
Foreign nationals must carry their passports at all times as police carry out random spot checks; these are more frequent around times of heightened security such as sporting events.
Visas are required by all nationals referred to above to enter China.
Types and cost:
Single-entry: £30 (UK nationals), £90 (US nationals), £20 (other nationals).
Double-entry: £45 (UK nationals), £90 (US nationals), £30 (other nationals).
Multiple-entry within six months: £90 (UK nationals), £90 (US nationals), £40 (other nationals).
Multiple-entry within 12 months or more: £180 (UK nationals), £90 (US nationals), £60 (other nationals).
You must also pay a service fee of £36 (standard), £48 (express) or £54 (postal applications).
Visa applications for China should be made one month in advance.
The express service requires three days, and the regular service takes four days. Postal applications are usually processed and returned within 10 working days, if all the documentation is in good order
Make sure that you apply for a Chinese visa and do not mention Tibet on your visa application.
To enter Tibet, you must also obtain a Tibet travel permit. We require your passport details at least one month before your date of departure so that we can arrange this for you. Please note, the Tibet Tourism Bureau often puts a hold on issuing permits during times of political tensions and demonstrations and regulations are subject to change at short notice.
Advice for visa application
Visa for China - http://www.visaforchina.org
rather than directly through the consulate.
Addresses of consulates
- Paris | Ambassade de Chine
11 avenue George V
Tél. : 01 49 52 19 50
- Chinese visa application service centre
12 Old Jewry
EC2R 8DU London
Tél. : +44 (0)20 7206 0589
Fax : +44 (0)20 7710 6001
- Ambassade de France en Chine
Faguo Zhuhua Dashiguan
60, Tianze Lu
100600 Pékin (Beijing)
Tél. : (+86 10) 85 31 20 00
Altitude sickness is a serious risk in Tibet. Symptoms range from breathlessness and headaches to lack of coordination and vomiting and can occur at any elevation over around 3000m (almost everywhere in Tibet). It is extremely important to allow several days to acclimatise. For travel outside Lhasa arrange your itinerary so that you don't gain more than 500m of altitude per day.
As with other parts of China hepatitis B is endemic. Sporadic outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) have resulted in a small number of human deaths. Rabies is present and may be a concern if travelling or trekking through rural parts of Tibet. If bitten, medical advice should be sought immediately.
Medical infrastructure is poor in Tibet and services are almost non-existent in rural areas outside of Lhasa. Medical insurance is strongly advised and should include evacuation insurance. The nearest recommended medical facilities are in Chengdu and Kathmandu. Traditional Tibetan medicinal treatments are available in Lhasa.
Food and drink:
All water used for drinking, brushing teeth or freezing (ice cubes) should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water is widely and cheaply available. Be especially careful when eating at small street-side stalls or restaurants where standards of hygiene may not be high. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Bubonic Plague: Although rare, there are cases of bubonic plague every few years in remote areas of Tibet. Try to avoid eating rodent meat, especially from marmots, as much as possible.
Budget and money
1 Renminbi Yuan (CNY; symbol ¥) = 10 jiao/mao. Notes are in denominations of ¥100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1. Coins are in denominations of Y1, 0.5 and 1 jiao/mao. Counterfeit ¥100 notes are commonplace. The Yuan is often referred to as the ‘kuai’ in street slang.
Credit/debit cards (Visa, Diners Club, MasterCard, American Express etc) are accepted in top-end hotels in Lhasa but are of very limited use elsewhere.
ATMs are available in many towns, though those in Lhasa and Shigatse are most reliable. Cash advances from a credit card are available in Lhasa.
Telephone and jetlag
Mobile phone: Tibet's mobile phone coverage is good and you can even make phone calls from Everest Base Camp! Roaming agreements exist with most major international mobile phone companies. Alternatively, you can buy a prepaid GSM SIM card (from China Mobile) that allows you to use your mobile like a local phone with a new number. You'll need your passport to register. Buy scratch cards to top up your balance.
The dialling code for China is +86. You then need to add the dialling code for the Tibetan province - in Chengdu this is 895.
The time zone is GMT +8
Did you know?
Did you know?
On this horseback riding trail in Tibet you may be lucky enough to hear the locals singing a folk song named after the city where you start your riding trail: Kangding Love Song.
This popular Chinese folk song was written in the 1930's in Kangding by a local musician named Li Yi-Ruo. He fell in love with a college classmate, but his family would not agree to the relationship as her surname was also Li. He abandoned his family and was only able to complete his education because of financial support from Miss Li's family.
The song was originally named "Horse riding high upon the mountain side" and Li Yi-Ruo taught it to the local people of Kangding, who loved it and named it the Horse Ride Song. In the mid 1940's a musical student took the song to his teacher who rearranged it for a famous musician, Jiang Dingxian and renamed it Kangding Love Song after it's place of origin. A popular singer, Yu Yixuan added the song to her repertoire and took it across the world.