Enter a Buddhist monastery in Tibet and you may witness a sacred ceremony called the “offerings of the five senses,” with burning incense, cakes, and silk offered up to the gods to represent smell, taste, and touch, and mirrors and bells symbolizing sight and sound.
True to its Tibetan surroundings, Adventure Access’s Amdo Overland Experience provides travelers with an equally stunning sensory feast. From the sight of sweeping mountain peaks and plains, to the sounds of monastic prayer flags snapping in the wind, to the mouth-watering aroma of baking balep bread and simmering thupka noodle soup, you will be deeply immersed in the moment as you experience the flavors and textures of Tibet. Whether you go solo or with a group, two weeks spent as one of the few travelers to visit Amdo, the eastern Tibetan Plateau, is more than just a tour—it’s a stimulating journey for all of the senses.
See a Larger Than Life Landscape
With its twin monasteries tucked into a high mountain valley, the town of Langmusi pairs its dramatic setting with some spectacular hiking. Trekkers can duck into the “tiger caves” that gave the town its ancient Tibetan name (Taktsang Lhamo) on a hike into the Namo Gorge, carved by the White Dragon River. The hike through the deep and narrow gorge soon opens onto a pair of spectacular valleys, with alpine meadows bracketed by snow-covered mountains.
Hear the Call of Tibetan Longhorns
The squeak of a thousand spinning prayer wheels and the call of Tibetan longhorns welcome you to the Labrang Monastery, whose 2,000 resident monks invite you to explore this sprawling center of Buddhist religion, reflection, and study in Xiahe. Spread over 2,000 acres, the monastery grounds are open for tours and also can be viewed from above on a hike along the high ridgeline overlooking the main temples.
Smell Burning Incense and Yak Butter
Incense. Earthy herbal perfume. The smell of burning yak butter, used widely to fuel lamps. These are among the most memorable scents of Tibet, but not the only ones. The rush of clean mountain air, for example, is an exhilarating part of a hike around Xue Bao Ding, the highest mountain in eastern Aba Prefecture, which can be combined with a homestay in Shanglami village. Likewise, a hike to the 306-foot Zhaga Waterfall in the Muni Valley is a treat for all the senses: the sound of the tumbling water, the vibrant colors produced by the mineral spring feeding the falls, the wafting incense from the nearby Yellow Hat monastery, and, nearby, the cool mineral waters of the Er Dao Hai thermal springs will soothe hikers’ weary feet on a summer hike.
Taste Homemade Traditional Tibetan Cuisine
The world over, it’s grandmothers who make the best comfort food. Zhuo Ma may be the friendly owner of Jiuzhaigou Home Stay, but it’s Ama, her mother, who rules the kitchen and serves traditional Tibetan meals to overnight guests. The family also owns the A Bu Lu Zi EcoLodge and its namesake gourmet restaurant, where Zhou Ma’s brother, Ke Zhu, leads cooking classes—just one of the unique activities that Adventure Access can arrange thanks to their deep ties to the local community.
Milking a yak may be the most memorable hands-on experience you’ll have in Tibet, and it’s just one of the many activities squeezed into Adventure Access’ Nomad Experience, a three-day trip into the Yellow River region. Known as the cradle of Chinese civilization, the Yellow River is at its most scenic in Tibet. Whereas most rivers flow through a valley, the Yellow River is unique in that it flows on top of wide open grasslands—making for an otherworldy landscape. Here, travelers can ride ride alongside nomadic horsemen and enjoy the rich tapestry of life on the Ruo Er Gai grasslands. Aided by local families, you can churn yak milk into butter or cheese, get your hands dirty while foraging for wild herbs, help raise one of the traditional black cloth tents of the Dropka people, or simply relax under the soft light of a billion stars.