Lhasa, the mythical city protected by the towering peaks of the Himalayas, was known for a long time as the “Land of the Gods”. The very few privileged travelers who visited its white walls spoke of healing, spirituality, and tranquility among its inhabitants and of the amazing palaces that served as the residence for the Dalai Lama, the living God of the Tibetans. These days. the elusive capital of Tibet is accessible by the luxurious Shangri-La Express. The train will travel through the enigmatic mountainous region of northwest China at a height of more than four thousand meters (13,000 feet), surpassing even the five thousand meters (16,000 feet) in the Tangula Pass.
The Shangri-La Express is one of the most modern private trains in China, and offers two types of cabins: the Diamond Class, featuring a double bed and desk with a large window to admire the landscape, and the Heritage Class, with two single beds and a bay window, both offering the services of excellence and distinction required by the most demanding travelers.
Towards the “Roof of the World”
The experience of traveling from China to Tibet in the lap of luxury can well be described as a journey of personal initiation, as it will travel through a thousand-year-old and little-known region exploring ancient cultures. The 12-day plan proposed by Shangri-La Express will help the visitors adapt to the mountains’ high altitudes and, at the same time, allow them to enjoy the fullness of traveling to one of the spiritual centers of the world.
After a four hour flight from Beijing, travelers will stay at the Sheraton Urumqi Hotel in the city of Urumqi, an early Chinese stop on the ancient Silk Road. From that moment, the trip will continue through stops along the oldest trade route in the world, connecting Central Asia with Europe, while continuing to climb day by day towards the elevated Lhasa.
The experience of traveling from China to Tibet in the lap of luxury can well be described as a journey of personal initiation.
In the first phase, in addition to the Sheraton Urumqi, travelers also will stay at the five-star Radisson Blu Kashgar hotel in Kashgar. During the next four days, travelers will get to explore the magic of these two cities—Urumqi and Kashgar—and can walk through the crowded streets and stalls of the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, a fabulous regional fair that evokes the old markets of the Silk Road.
Two days later, from the small oasis city of Dunhuang, travelers will ride a camel in the desert to discover the fascinating Magao Thousand Buddha Cave Complex, with more than 500 caves carved into the rock, all housing sculptures and representations of Buddhist religious art.
A place for meditation
Jiayugaun is another stop along the ancient route. Located in the best-preserved part of the Great Wall of China, it was built during the Ming Dynasty. In this place, the traveler will have a perfect opportunity to experience the intensity of the endless Gobi desert, a feeling that often induces introspection and meditation.
Very early on the ninth day starts the final leg of 14 hours— through the “Roof of the World”— to Lhasa. Supplemental oxygen will be pumped up through the train’s ventilation system, although individual oxygen masks will also be available if necessary.
In Lhasa, three nights of accommodation will be provided at the luxurious five-star hotel St. Regis Lhasa Resort, the most sought-after in the area.
There will also be enough time for an interesting tour of the Barkhor Street Market, which from the 12th century until today has been among the liveliest in the region and it is the commercial center of Lhasa.
During the next two days, travelers also will visit the four essential points of the city: the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, built in 1740; the imposing Potala Palace, his winter residence built in 1645; and the 7th-century Jokhang Temple, which contains a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, perhaps the object of greatest veneration in Tibet.
Te Shangri-La Express is one of the world’s most fascinating routes for its exoticism, extreme landscapes, and the possibility to interact with so many ancient cultures. ■