From the horse’s mouth
The Kham Riders (Tagong Festival)
The Kham Riders (Tagong 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 Europe to Chengdu. It is likely that you will need to change planes at least once. Flights are not included but we can advise you on the best flights to take.
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 evening, 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).
Day 3 3 : CHENGDU - KANGDING - 6-8 hours transferYou 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 4 4 : KANGDID - TAGONG FESTIVAL - No ridingGuesthouseRoad 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 5 5: 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 6 6 : 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 7 7 : ZHAKRA - ZHAKRA YIMTSUO - 5 hours riding + 1 hour hikeCampYou will ride on horseback to the calm turquoise lake Jara Yimtsuo, 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 8 8 : 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 9 9 : GYERGO - YAK CAMP - 4 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 10 10: YAK CAMP - YIBEY LAKE - 3 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.
Back in the saddle, you will roam through the wildest part of the highlands, close to one of the sacred lakes. These lakes appear to be bottomless and legends abound about nomadic camps which disappear, only to reappear on different shores, many miles away!
You will 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!
You will spend the night camping.
Day 11 11 : YIBEI LAKE - RAGNI LAKE - 5 hours ridingCampThe 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 at 4200m.
Day 12 12: RAGNI LAKE - GENUP GOMPA - ZHONGLU - 4 hours riding + 3 hour driveIn 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. Road transfer to the village of Zhonglu, near Danba, where you will spend the night in a lovely renovated courtyard hotel.
Night at the hotel (3800 m).
Day 13 13 : DANBA - CHENGDU - No ridingBuddhazen hotelYou will be driven to Chengdu over the Jia Jin Shan Pass, where the first Giant Panda was discovered. This is an incredibly scenic road that passes through pine forests, high mountains, and then down in amongst "Edge Tibetan" villages. This drive gives one a sense of the cultural continuum from Tibet into China proper, as well as allowing you a glimpse into rural China.
The drive will take 10-12 hours, depending on the state of the roads. You will spend the night at the BuddhaZen Hotel.
Day 14 14 : 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.
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 15 15 : CHENGDU - EUROPEYou will be taken to the airport to catch your flight back to Europe. You will likely arrive back home today, depending on your flight route.
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/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. $475/£370 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. £460 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
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
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 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.