Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRIs: Biggest Guide Ever!

Last Updated on May 5, 2024 by asoulwindow

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Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRIs

During Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet autonomous region of China, I realized that more American NRIs than I had imagined, embark upon this once in a lifetime yatra every year. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is not just another trek or picnic but it is an inward journey and a matter of deep faith in Shiva Bhagwan. This exhaustive guide on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for NRI answers all the frequently asked questions.

NRIs, while residing outside India, often maintain strong cultural and religious ties. Undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a way for them to connect with their roots and participate in a spiritual journey that is deeply embedded in the Indian cultural fabric.

Even after an Indian Hindu has left India, he carries the faith with him. The belief in all the Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon never diminishes even when the NRIs or non-resident Indians relocate to a foreign country like USA. This is the reason why so many Indians travel back to various places in India such as Varanasi and even Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRI
This is the divine north face of holy Kailash Parvat from Deraphuk near Darchen. Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRI.

Soul Window Observations

Despite their acquired American accents and a borrowed American lifestyle, the NRIs chant ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Om Namah Shivay’ with full surrender and complete faith in Shiv Bhagwan.

I met and interviewed several American NRIs during Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. All of them told me how lucky they feel to have been able to complete the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra so successfully, without any vighna or obstacle.

Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRI
Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRI

Can Americans go to Mount Kailash?

Are Americans allowed to go to Mount Kailash? Yes, of course. Every year, many American NRIs (non-Resident Indians) and even many Caucasian Americans visit Mount Kailash and nearby areas in Tibet with much enthusiasm.

The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a spiritual journey to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, situated in the Himalayas. While primarily open to Indian citizens, same routes are also allowed for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to participate.

Gauri Kund near Dolma La Pass. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Tibet
Abhinav Singh at Gauri Kund near Dolma La Pass. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Tibet

What is the eligibility for American NRIs to participate in Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

NRIs typically need to follow the same application process, including obtaining necessary permits from the Indian government. It’s advisable to check with the Ministry of External Affairs or the authorized tour agencies for the most accurate and up-to-date information on eligibility and procedures for NRIs undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

I am sharing a detailed checklist of travel essentials required for American NRIS in this blog. This is the most detailed blog on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for American NRIs or American citizens.

How can American NRIs prepare for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

Mount Kailash Tour from USA need special preparation because of the distances and different set of rules. The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a significant pilgrimage for Hindus, Buddhists, Bons and Jains. The journey usually involves circumambulating Mount Kailash and taking a dip in Lake Mansarovar, believed to cleanse one of sins and bring spiritual enlightenment.

NRIs interested in the yatra should be aware of the specific guidelines and requirements set by the Indian government. They may need to coordinate with the designated authorities, obtain necessary permits, and adhere to the prescribed routes and timelines.

The yatra is physically demanding due to high altitudes, so participants, including NRIs, should ensure they are in good health and adequately prepared for the challenging conditions. I highly recommend American NRIs to plan well in advance and stay informed about any updates or changes in the pilgrimage process. The rules keep changing and a local tour guide can best provide the immediate changes in policies.

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Tibet
Can you spot the Nandi in stone. Kailash Parvat in background. Darchen

Why NRIs from USA go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

Mount Kailash, considered sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bon religions, attracts pilgrims seeking a profound connection with their faith, along with an adventurous journey through the breathtaking landscapes of Tibet.

NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) from the USA, like other pilgrims from around the world, undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for various reasons:

  1. Religious and Spiritual Beliefs: Many Hindus believe that Mount Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism. The pilgrimage is seen as a way to attain spiritual blessings and purification.
  2. Cultural and Historical Significance: Kailash Mansarovar is not only a religious site but also holds cultural and historical importance. Pilgrims may be drawn to experience the rich cultural heritage associated with the region.
  3. Personal Transformation: The arduous journey to Kailash Mansarovar is often considered a test of one’s physical and mental endurance. Pilgrims undertake the yatra seeking personal transformation, self-discovery, and a deeper connection with their faith.
  4. Symbolic Representation: For some, the physical act of circumambulating Mount Kailash is symbolic of the spiritual journey towards self-realization and enlightenment. It is believed that one parikrama (circumambulation) around Mount Kailash can wash away a lifetime of sins.
  5. Adventure and Nature: Apart from its religious significance, the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra offers breathtaking landscapes and a unique adventure. Pilgrims may be drawn to the natural beauty of the region, including the pristine Mansarovar Lake and the challenging trek around Mount Kailash.
  6. Global Indian Diaspora Connection: NRIs, while residing outside India, often maintain strong cultural and religious ties. Undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is a way for them to connect with their roots and participate in a spiritual journey that is deeply embedded in the Indian cultural fabric.
Author Abhinav Singh with Mayur of Rocky and Mayur fame from Highway On My Plate. In Deraphuk.
Author Abhinav Singh with Mayur of Rocky and Mayur fame from Highway On My Plate. In Deraphuk.

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra from USA for Americans and NRIs

Mansarovar Yatra from USA is very popular. So many American NRIS perform the yatra every year with much enthusiasm and excitement. Large families often travel all the way from USA to Tibet to participate in the yatra. I met many American NRIs whose families settled in USA decades ago. They told me about their experience of the yatra with me which I am sharing below:

Vipul Kumar from Boston, United States of America, who is in his mid-30s, tells me,

“This is my first time at Mount Kailash and I have come all the way from Boston in United States. I am a pharmaceutical researcher by profession. This has been a wonderful experience. Even the vegetarian Sattvik food I was served here was exceptionally good and had a lot of variety. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra indeed is a yatra of a lifetime.”

Akhil Srivastava from London, UK, also in his 30s said,

“This is my first Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. It is a very nice experience. Just after we crossed the border, I noticed that the food cooked for the yatris is also very good. Everyone must do Kailash Mansarovar Yatra at least once in their lifetime.”

The information I have shared here are true for non-American NRIs as well.

Mansarovar Lake, West Tibet
Author Abhinav Singh at Mansarovar Lake, West Tibet

Why am I the right person to talk about Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

Well, while I participated in Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, I met manyNRIs and did deep conversations with them. Also, my aunt is an American NRI since 1980s, so I understand the need of NRIs well. I have quote some of the NRIs I interviewed during the yatra in this blog.

Having done the yatra myself left me with a rich experience. I now know what it takes to actually do the yatra. The hardships and challenges faced during the yatra is best understood when experienced. Of all the people who have done the yatra, I am the only one who has documented it in a blog.

This is why you can rely on all the information regarding NRI travel in Tibet for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which I have shared here in great detail. You can easily plan Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from USA using this detailed guide.

Based on my personal experiences, this complete guide on Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRIs covers all the questions you may think of!

Gauri Kund near Dolma La Pass, Tibet
Author Abhinav Siingh at Gauri Kund near Dolma La Pass, Tibet

You can-not go on Kailash Manasarovar Yatra until He calls you!

Each year, very few Indians get the permit to embark upon the epic Kailash Manasarovar Yatra in their lifetime. The ones who do are considered to be the luckiest ones. I feel unless and until Shiv ji calls you, it is impossible for you to perform the parikrama during Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, come what may.

No matter how much money, power and privilege you have, if Lord Shiva doesn’t want to see you, you will never make it there!

I firmly feel I was called by Shiv ji. I didn’t even know much about Kailash Manasarovar Yatra until I found myself performing kora or parikrama around the holy Kailash Parvat. It was a sudden invite for me, much like a summon by the God. I realized how lucky I was to go on the holy Kailash Manasarovar Yatra only after I returned back.

Now when I think of it, all the NRIs from United States of America are also some of the luckiest people who God called. It is not easy to go on Kailash Manasarovar Yatra from USA. The fact that the American NRIs I met were not only able to visit Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake but also perform parikrama around Mount Kailash without any hindrance such as falling sick, cancelled flights, bad weather etc, means something. They have the blessing of Shiva Bhagwan.

a holy dip at Mansarovar Lake, Tibet
Author Abhinav Siingh having a holy dip at Mansarovar Lake, Tibet

How to Plan a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

How to Plan Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from America? Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRIs need special planning. Let me tell you how you can easily plan Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for NRI. In this guide, I am sharing how it works for travelling from USA to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

It is not an easy trip to make which means it involves a lot of planning. The number of devotees who go on yatra every year, whether Indian citizen or American citizen is very less.

When I went on yatra, I noticed that overall pilgrim footfall during the yatra was pretty low in numbers due to low cost and difficulty in reaching. Almost half the Hindu pilgrims who I met during the yatra were well spoken NRIs, mostly from USA. That said, with improved facilities, more and more fixed departure groups of NRIs are planned every year.

Mount Kailash Tour from USA must be done with a local guide. Let me assure you that once you book with one of the mandatory tour operators, they will take care of the rest and you will not have to worry and plan about hotels, transport choices, food etc. Of course, you can let them know about your preferences in terms of food, accommodation, transport etc based upon your fitness level, time at hand and budget.

Mansarovar lake, Tibet
Panaromic view of Mansarovar lake, Tibet

How many flights American NRIs need to take from USA to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

To embark upon a journey to Mount Kailash from the United States of America indeed involves very long and arduous travels. The travel from USA to Nepal or China itself is very taxing and drains physically and emotionally. Add to it, 1-2 days required to recover from the jet lag.

The long-haul flight from places like Los Angeles or San Francisco in USA to Nepal or China, followed by more flights, train or overland road trip to get into Tibet is definitely demanding in my experience. You must be physically fit and faithful to cover this first leg of the yatra.

How to reach West Tibet for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from USA?

The American NRIs need to reach either India, Nepal or China first to start their journey of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Once the NRI pilgrims reach Nepal or China from United States of America, then they can arrive at Taklakot via either flights or road from Nepal.

From other places in China, you can take an overland journey to Tibet and can even include a trip to Lhasa. You must note that the overland journey takes many days to arrive at Darchen near Mount Kailash.

You must mentally prepare for long road trips. However, I feel that the road trip within Tibet itself is so scenic that it is a yatra or journey itself. Enjoy the views and make stops till you reach Taklakot or Darchen.

I had flown from India to Kathmandu from where I took a private taxi to Shyafrubensi via Langtang National Park. The last place in Nepal where I arrived by car was Ghattekhola, Rasuwa Gadhi before I crossed over to Tibet via foot. My first stop in Tibet was Kyirong, followed by Saga, Taklakot, Mansarovar, Darchen, Deraphuk and Zuthulphuk.

I highly recommend that you take this route because it is picturesque, full of adventure and leaves you with a deeper understanding of the Tibetan culture. From my personal experience, it is an adventure of a lifetimes. I have travelled a lot across the world since the year 2008 and needless to say the yatra is still my personal best trip yet. Do read my exhaustive blog on road trip to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nepal.

trekking during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Author Abhinav Siingh trekking during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Is it easy to go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra Tour from the USA?

How to plan for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra Tour from the USA? It is definitely not straightforward and simple to do Kailash Mansarovar Yatra Tour from the United States of America? You must plan months in advance to see the dream come true. Hours of meticulous planning and taking into account several factors is just the tip of the iceberg.

Choosing the best time to go, allocating budget, arranging for the proper travel documents, buying the right clothing and gears, comparing services of tour agents, learning about acclimatization at high altitudes, selecting the best possible route suitable for you,

Now you know that it is not as easy as going to Chichen Itza from USA. But if you are reasonably fit and have enough budget to spend on this yatra, then an unforgettable travel experience to the sacred Kailash Parvat awaits you!

snow laden Dolma La Pass
Author Abhinav Singh at holy snow laden Dolma La Pass

What is the cost of Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA?

What is the price of Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA? How to Budget the Cost for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA? These are some frequently asked questions. First things first! Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from America is not cheap by any means.

Well, I think money is not really the issue with most American NRIs. Most of the Non-Resident Indians living in various parts of USA such as New York, Florida, California, Texas etc either own profitable businesses or are employed in good position at reputed places.

Almost all the Indian NRIs living in USA are well off and have deep pockets. The American dollar anyways is more powerful in Tibet, China and other parts of Asia. Therefore, the cost of Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA is affordable for most NRI Americans. One major unavoidable cost which NRIs from USA have to bear are the expensive flights from USA to China or Nepal.

The time of the year and type of travel such as flights/overland/train rides also decide the budget for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra tour. For example, summer and even the shoulder season of spring and fall months are the most expensive ones due to high demand and high footfall of tourists in Tibet.

You can bring down the costs by choosing to not stay in luxury hotels, traveling in big groups, joining other groups, taking cheaper trains instead of flights etc. To explain this better, train from Guangzhou, which is the farthest city in mainland China from Tibet is also cheaper than flight from anywhere in mainland China.

Here is one more idea! You can also try a combination of cheaper Chinese airliner with trains to bring down the cost. Connecting flights to Xining, followed by a short train journey to Lhasa is also a good option. All said and done, let me repeat that Mount Kailash Tour from USA is definitely an expensive one.

But as I said earlier money alone can not guarantee your participation in the epic Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA. Until Lord Shiva wants to see you, it really is not possible to go on this journey, even despite of all your wealth.

during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Author Abhinav Singh during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Can American NRIs travel Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from India?

Mansarovar Yatra from USA can be easily done via India too. Some American NRIs I know have many family friends and relatives living in various parts of India such as Kolkata,New Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi etc. Therefore, they mostly club a visit to India either before the yatra or after the yatra or both, depending on their budget and the time they have.

Yes, it is possible for NRI Americans to go on Kailash Mansarovar tour from India via Nepal. After visiting their friends and family, NRIs fly to Nepal from India, followed by their journey into Taklakot in West Tibet by either a road trip or helicopter ride from Hilsa in Nepal to Taklakot.

It is not every day that NRI Americans travel to India due to various issues such as lack of leaves from office/business, exams of their kids, health issues etc. Therefore, it is a golden chance for American Indians to easily club a trip to India along-with Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

The fact that Tibet is located so close to India and shares a long border makes things even easier. NRIs can easily meet their family and friends in India and perform the yatra on the same trip as well. However, to make this work smoothly, the most challenging part is to manage at least a month-long- leaves from work. It is however, easier to manage so much time for housewives, students and retired people.

Tibetan family in Taklakot aka Burang or Purang near tri junction of India Nepal and West Tibet
Tibetan family in Taklakot aka Burang or Purang near tri junction of India Nepal and West Tibet

What are the Travel Documents Required for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

Red-tapism in China is as rampant as in India. Needless to say, the process to get permits for travel within Tibet as an American is not a straightforward one. If you are planning Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from United States of America, you must keep these things in mind.

The process is long and tiring, whether it is obtaining the Chinese Visa for Americans, or the special permits required by all foreign national to travel within the Tibet Autonomous Region, which includes getting at Mount Kailasha and performing parikrama around the holy mountain.

Why American NRIs must book Kailash Mansarovar Yatra with a tour agent?

That said, if you hire a good travel agent then it is half the battle won. The travel agent will do all the boring admin work for you for an extra fee. The good news is that most of these permits, issued by the Chinese government are applied for the tour operators once you have booked the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra tour with them.

Several Kailash Mansarovar Yatra packages include these permits. I had booked with a tour agent as well and I must say that it was a very smooth process which required very minimal work from my side. Having said that, there are still some processes which you need to do yourself.

To summarize, in order to get close to Mount Kailash you must sort out various aspects of Chinese red tape. And always remember that the choosing the best Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA makes all the difference.

North face of Mount Kailash at Deraphuk
North face of Mount Kailash at Deraphuk. Seen here is author Abhinav Siingh

Tibet Travel Permit Required for American NRIs doing Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

One more reason why American NRIs must book Kailash Mansarovar Yatra with a tour agent is that it is mandatory for a non-Chinese citizen to travel anywhere in Tibet with a guide. No Americans are allowed entry in Tibet without a local tour guide. For the same reason, a tall English speaking Chinese tourist guide (who despised Indian food) accompanied us throughout the yatra.  

These permits are mandatory if American NRIs want to travel to anywhere Tibet including Taklakot or Purang/Burang, Mansarovar Lake, Rakshas Taal, Gauri Kund and Mount Kailash. You don’t need to worry though. Since, it is not allowed to visit Tibet without a tour agency, so rest assured your chosen tour agent will arrange for these permits without you even asking them to.

As soon as you book Kailash Mansarovar Yatra with your chosen tour operator, the first thing he or she will do is arrange for your permits.

Do American NRIs require a Visa to do Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

Kailash Mansarovar from USA for Americans & NRIs required the individual to get a Visa. Yes, it is mandatory for American NRIs to obtain a Chinese Visa before embarking upon Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

If you are an Indian origin person and an American citizen holding American Passport then you must obtain a Chinese Visa before entering anywhere in Tibet or China.

You must remember that Indian origin U.S. citizens should have a valid passport which is valid at least 6 months beyond their departure date to enter anywhere in Tibet or China. U.S. citizens are also required to obtain a Chinese visa. Failing any of these will result in the rejection of your entry in Tibet by the Chinese officials.

Which documents are required for procuring permits for American NRIs doing Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

For the Tibet travel permit, an American NRI must submit a scanned copy of his or her American passport and visa on mail to the tour operator. The tour operator then takes care of the rest of procedure and no actionable is required from the applicant. It takes a total of approximately 20 days or slightly less or more for the documents to be processed.

In my case, once I had arrived in China, my tour operator had delivered the Tibet Travel Permit directly to my hotel in Kathmandu (or mainland China in your case). I had ensured that the permits are delivered to me even before I caught the started from Kathmandu. I had booked the yatra with a Nepali tour agent.

In case you are flying into Tibet from China or Nepal or taking the popular Tibet train to Lhasa, make sure you receive the permits before entering Tibet.

Rakshas Taal, Tibet
Rakshas Taal, Tibet

Which permits American NRI devotees require after arriving in Tibet?

Which permits are required for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from America? This is a frequently asked question by the NRIs living in USA. After I arrived in Tibet, my local Chinese tour guide asked me for the original copy of my passport and original copy of my Chinese Visa.

These documents are required to obtain the Frontier Pass, Alien’s Travel Permit and the Military Permit, all of which are essential permits mandatory for visiting holy places such as Mount Kailash, Mansarovar Lake and other nearby places such as Yam Dwar, Rakshas Taal etc.

Soul Window Thoughts

These Tibet travel permits are required from American NRIs to travel to other parts of Tibet as well such as the picturesque Qomolangma National Park, which I visited after the yatra and even the Tibetan side of Mount Everest. For record, I have done Everest Base Camp Trek from Nepal. Do check out my detailed Nepal blogs.

But worry not, my Chinese tourist guide ensure that all the permits were sorted and readily available even before I began the road trip to the next destination in Tibet. It will be the same for you! You just need to choose the right tour operator.

Do only Indian Americans go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

Traditionally, mostly Indian NRIs or Indian origin American citizens go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. However, this is not always true. I was surprised to meet 3-4 Americans travelling around Mount Kailash, Mansarovar Lake, Rakshas Taal and many other places in Tibet during my 15 days long road trip across West Tibet and Nepal.

You will be surprised to know that throughout the year many white Christian Americans visit different parts of Tibet as well. Of course, spirituality is not their aim. (or maybe it is!) There are several exciting trekking trails around Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake which attracts the Caucasian Americans.

Rainbow and yaks in Deraphuk
Rainbow and yaks in Deraphuk I saw

I must add that the reasons for undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra can vary among individuals, and while some may be motivated by religious beliefs, others such as Caucasians may approach it as a cultural or adventurous experience.

It is well known that it is prohibited to climb on Mount Kailash which is sacred to Hindus, Bon people, Jains as well as devout Buddhists. The adventure enthusiasts from U.S.A. go on several treks around Mount Kailash. Some Caucasian Americans even stay in this region for months and practise Yoga and meditation apart from Buddhist monastery hopping, hikes and treks.

The sheer raw beauty of the Tibetan landscape, Tibetan way of life, mystical monasteries like Chiu Gompa, rich endemic wildlife and the rough terrains of Ladakh like Tibet also attract the Caucasian American citizens to Tibet.

During my deep travels in both Ladakh and Tibet, I realised that the above-mentioned factors are also the reason why many Americans visit Ladakh in India every summer. Ladakh and Tibet share international borders. The food, culture, wildlife, climate, temperatures, landscapes and religions of both Ladakh and Tibet are strikingly similar with each other.

To summarize, Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from United States of America is also performed by Caucasian Americans who are more interested in trek and adventure than spirituality.

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Tibet. Seen here is my co traveller Swati Jain

Chinese Visa for American Citizens and NRIs

Mansarovar Yatra from USA also involves dealing with the Chinese red-tapism. The first step towards Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is to get a Chinese Entry Visa. It is mandatory for travel within Tibet because China controls Tibet as of now. Same Chinese Visa rules apply for Caucasian American Citizens as well as Non-Resident Indians who hold American passports and have American Citizenships.

In most instances, NRIs traveling within West Tibet (where the yatra takes place near the trijunction of India, Nepal and Tibet) choose to travel through China. Needless to say, the Chinese Visa can be easily obtained from the local Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

Some of the main offices of the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in USA from where you can apply for the Visa of China are listed as below:

  • Houston, Texas
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Washington D.C.
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • New York, New York State

Of all the Chinese embassies scattered around USA, the main embassy which is located in Washington D.C. serves several other states of USA. To add, other consular offices around the United States of America serve other states in groups. I am sure you didn’t know about this little-known information.

As an American NRI, you may either apply for the Chinese Visa by personally visiting the above- mentioned Chinese Embassy in USA or send a mail using the U.S. Postal Service registered mail. If choosing this option, then you must also include a pre-paid return envelope.

Should elderly American NRIS go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

In my opinion, the best time to go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is between 18- 60 years of age. However, I have seen older people on the yatra as well. Many NRI devotees do not do complete parikrama but have darshan till the North face of Kailash Parbat in Deraphuk and return back to their hotels in Darchen, located merely 15 minutes away on a car.

I have seen elderly people facing breathing issues and many were unable to complete the yatra. Having said that, elderly people may still do it well depending upon the fitness. I know many 70 and 80 years old who have done Everest Base Camp Trek with some assistance. Elderly people may also hire pony horses in case they are not fit to climb or walk long distances.

All said and done, I highly recommend that you go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra before the age of 50.

How do I get to Kailash Mansarovar from USA?

How should the American NRIs choose the best way to travel to Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake from the USA?

Reaching Tibet in China from USA was never straightforward. The American NRI travellers need to suffer several hours of various connecting journeys, long transit periods in airports which is sometimes followed by picturesque train travel or overland journey to the holy Kailash Parvat and Mansarovar Lake.

From what I have observed, most of the NRI Americans catch a flight to China or Nepal or India from various major American airports such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas and New York.

The good news is that there are so many direct flights available from most of the above-mentioned major international airports of United States of America to main cities in China. Main cities with international airports in China till where you can catch a direct flight from USA include metropolises like Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao and Nanjing.

What’s more? You will be spoiled for choices because apart from the direct flights between USA and China, several other indirect flights or connecting flights run between USA and many other locations in different parts of China.

The prices of the flights heavily depend on the season, demand, which airport you are departing from, which airport you are arriving at in China/Nepal or India. That said, expect to pay around US$ 500 to US$ 1000 on direct flights. There is no way you can take a direct flight to Lhasa because despite having an international airport, only international flights from Nepal are allowed in Lhasa.

How Americans NRIs can travel from mainland China to Tibet by flight?

In case you have arrived directly in China as an American NRI, then you will have 3 options to reach Tibet. No prizes for guessing that flights from destinations in mainland China to Tibet is the fastest option (but oh-so-boring!). Many places in mainland China such as Xi’an, Chongqing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing have direct flights to Lhasa in Tibet.

Here, I must add that Chengdu to Lhasa flights are the most popular for various reasons. China is a big country, so expect to spend anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours in flights depending upon your departure airport.

Holy Dolma La pass during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Holy Dolma La pass during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

How Americans NRIs can travel from mainland China to Tibet by train?

How to go Kailash Mansarovar from United States of America by railway? It is a commonly asked question.

The second and most exciting way to reach Tibet from mainland China is to take the fast trains. Luckily, Lhasa is connected to as many as 7 gateway cities in mainland China by trains. I find trains very exciting as you can see more of the landscape instead of being holed up in a plane. Trains also allow more movement.

The only disadvantage trains have is the time taken. Expect to spend anywhere between 22 hours and 55 hours in a train to reach Tibet from various places in mainland China such as Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Xining in that order.

Personally, I am a freelancer and do not work in a desk job, so I can afford to travel long distances in a train for over 2-3 days. In fact, I often do that only for the pleasure of long train rides in beautiful locations like Tibet.

I highly recommend that you must experience the train journey to Tibet at least once in your lifetime. It is an experience in itself! In case you are pressed for time, like sadly most people are these days, but you still want to experience a train to Tibet, then I would suggest that you must catch the train to Lhasa from Xining, which has the closest train station from Tibet. This indeed is the best option if time is an issue. But then you will have to plan to reach Xining as well.

How Americans NRIs can travel from mainland China to Tibet by road trip?

How to go Kailash Mansarovar from United States of America? All said and done, if time and money is not an issue, then I highly recommend a scenic overland journey to Tibet like I did. While I did the road trip to Darchen, Taklakot and Mansarovar in Tibet via a road trip from Kathmandu in Nepal, you may take the overland route from either Chengdu in Sichuan Province or Xining in Qinghai Province of mainland China. The Sichuan-Tibet overland tour is one of the most scenic routes you will ever take.

Both Sichuan-Tibet and Chengdu-Tibet routes are roughly 2000 kilometers long. Needless to say, it is not for everyone. Unless you have passion for travel like me, do not try this as it can be very tiring. It can take as many as approximately 11-12 days to drive across the plateau to Lhasa by these two routes from mainland China.

Distance between Lhasa and Darchen near Mount Kailash is approximately 1,211 kilometers. The overland route between the two major regions of Tibet is picture postcard perfect! It can take anywhere between 5 to 9 days to cover the distance between Lhasa and Darchen.

The number of days vary depending upon the side trips and long stops you wish to take. There are temptations galore in Tibet and you may easily end up extending your plans or include more places as your drive. This is why you must also keep at least 3-5 days in buffer.

For example, you may want to do this-17-days long epic tour known as Kailash Manasarovar Full Moon Tour & Guge Kingdom Exploration. This is the route:  

Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse – Everest Base Camp – Saga – Darchen – Zanda – Kailash Trek – Darchen – Saga – Gyirong – Tingri – Lhasa

The overland route from Lhasa to Mount Kailash is not to be missed! I have been on such long road trips many times in the past and can again do it. But if this is not your cup of tea, then take the above-mentioned train and flights options.

To arrive at Darchen from Lhasa, you will be driven on the baby bottom smooth roads on the scenic G318 Friendship Highway through Shigatse. You will finally arrive at Darchen after driving on the G219 National Highway in the north direction for few hours. I highly recommend that you make several pit-stops during this road trip.

Some of the scenes you can come across include large herds of yaks grazing on grass, change of landscape every few minutes, small Tibetan villages en route etc. During my road trip across West Tibet, I had also stopped at some small towns, monasteries and abandoned homes en route.

If you have some extra time and budget, then I highly recommend you to stop at the Mount Everest Base Camp. Thank me later.

Kyirong near Nepal Tibet border. Beginning of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Tibet.
Author Abhinav Singh in Kyirong near Nepal Tibet border. Beginning of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Tibet.

How Americans NRIs can travel from Nepal to Tibet?

How do I get to Kailash Mansarovar from USA via Nepal? Well, I did Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from Nepal and found it to be very exciting.

For more fulfilment, I advise you to fly from USA to Kathmandu, Nepal to join Kailash Mansarovar tour. This is the route I took. It made sense to have divine darshan of Lord Pashupati at the world-famous Pashupati Nath Mandir, located near Thamel in the heart of Kathmandu.

It was a soul stirring moment for me to have grand darshan of the supreme God in this famous Kathmandu temple and attend the energetic evening aarti. The auspicious start to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Kathmandu ensured my yatra was successful. With the blessings of Bholenath, I was able to complete the parikrama successfully without any health issues or other obstacles. From Kathmandu I did a road trip till the border town of Kyirong in Tibet.

While in Kathmandu, you can also pay a visit to Vishnu Narayan Temple and Guheshwari Mata Temple. You can do this independently or request your tour operator to arrange for it. Some tour agents include a visit to these Hindu temples in the Kailash Yatra package meant for USA passport holders.

Soul Window Moments

What’s more? I even spent many days at Deraphuk, the north face of Kailash Parbat for many days. I feel very lucky because not many get this opportunity! I cried while meditating facing Kailash Parbat and saw many miracles. Do read all my blogs on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to know my experience!

It is very easy to find reasonably priced direct as well as connecting flights from many international airports in USA such as Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Francisco to the humble Tribhuvan International airport located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Normally, tour agents who offer Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake tour from USA, do not include the return flight costs in their package. However, you may request the tour operators to book the flight tickets for you at additional cost. If you have time to research, you can book the ticket yourself as well because this will save you money.

After you arrive at the Kathmandu Tribhuvan International airport, you must visit the designated office of immigration officer which is located right inside the airport. This is where American NRIs are issued Nepal VoA or Visa on Arrival. On the other hand, Indian citizens do not need any Visa.

Once you get hold of the Nepalese Visa, you can walk through the customs and exit the airport. If you have already booked your transfer to the pre-booked hotel, then a representative is likely to come to airport to pick you up. I recommend this for smoothly arriving at your cozy room after a long tiring journey (and jet lag).

How to obtain China entry visa at Kathmandu as American NRIs?

As an American passport holder, you can easily approach China Embassy in Kathmandu and apply for the Visa of China. Starting from April, 2023, The Chinese government has made it compulsory to go through biometrics before you submit the passport for China visa. This new rule is mandatory for all non-Indian passport holders.

But worry not! It is not as complicated as it sounds. Since you will be traveling with a tour operator, he will arrange for it and will also collect your passport for submitting to the Chinese embassy. On an average the Chinese embassy officials take around 2-3 working days to grant visa to American passport holders.

You can spend this time exploring the lovely city of Kathmandu and the nearby Nagarkot. You can also make a quick excursion to Jomsom, the Muktinath Temple in the Mustang region of Nepal or even take an adventurous mountain flight. Head office of many tour operators who arrange yatra is located in New Delhi. You must check with them if you want to book in advance.

Fly to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu airport

Here you have two options. You can take a road trip from Kathmandu to Shyafrubensi via Langtang National Park. Head next day to Rasuwa Gadhi in Nepal and cross over to Kyirong in Tibet. This is what I did. I find it very exciting and adventurous.

entering Tibet from Nepal. Kyirong near Nepal Tibet border. Beginning of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Tibet.
Author Abhinav Siingh entering Tibet from Nepal. Kyirong near Nepal Tibet border. Beginning of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Tibet.

Other option is that you take a direct flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj. The flight duration between Kathmandu and Nepalgunj is only one hour. Nepalgunj, which is located in Western Nepal does not have good roads from Kathmandu. This is why, all the pilgrims take this short flight to Nepalgunj.

Western Nepal is also much poorer and has inferior road connectivity and is when compared to the more prosperous and touristy Eastern and Central regions of Nepal. However, since Nepalgunj, which is located close to Tibet is the gateway to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, it is easy to find decent, if not luxurious hotels, homestays and lodges here.

Reaching Nepalgunj from Lucknow

How to go Kailash Mansarovar from USA via India? Here is a tip for you! You can also reach Nepalgunj via Lucknow. I am sure you didn’t know this.  Not many realize that Nepalgunj, the small city in West Nepal is located very close to Lucknow and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, I myself crossed over to Dhangadhi in West Nepal from Dudhwa National Park near Lucknow.

Dhangadhi to Nepalgunj distance is only 183 kilometers and it takes only 4 hours and 15 minutes to travel via Mahendra Highway/AH2/H01. Lucknow to Nepalgunj distance is 188 kilometers and it takes around 4 hours and 15 minutes via NH927. Kailash Yatra from USA can be very easily planned in this way as well.

Many American NRIs such as my Mausi have several relatives living in Lucknow and other cities of Uttar Pradesh. So, it is a great idea to start your journey from Lucknow. This way you can meet your relatives, friends etc and also go on yatra. After all, no NRIs travel to Asia from USA often. So, why not make good use of it.

Fly from Nepalgunj to Simikot

Simikot, which is situated in the Karnali Province of Nepal is where the NRI devotees spend a night before proceeding towards Taklakot aka Purang or Burang in West Tibet to continue your Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which you started all the way from United States of America. This is the last test you will endure before arriving in Taklakot.

Simikot, which is a small hill settlement in upper Western Himalayas of Nepal is home to a very small airport and helipad which serves the entire Humla district. Guesthouses, lodges and hotels with Indian food and common toilets are available here. These are basic but set in a picturesque location.

This is the trickiest part of the journey. After arriving at Hilsa via Simikot from Nepalgunj, you may face some problems. I have heard of countless stories of yatris or pilgrims stranded in Hilsa or Simikot due to unfavorable weather conditions. Poor infrastructure, bad facilities and lack of good roads only adds to the woes. Flight delays are very common in this region due to unpredictable weather.

The flight takes anywhere around 50 minutes to one hour to cover the distance between Nepalgunj and Simikot. The direction, weather, wind speed etc decide the duration of flights often. These are often small aircrafts which accommodate only 18-20 passengers at a given time. Watch out for the spectacular bird’s eye view of the stunningly beautiful Nepalese Himalayas from the flight.

I have flown in such airplanes many times including Kathmandu to Lukla for Everest Base Camp Trek and Kathmandu to Pokhara. Since Simikot is not accessible by the National Road network of Nepal, therefore it is only possible to reach here by flights.

There are not many service providers in Nepal who manage such flights on Dornier aircrafts. These flights are mostly included in your package.

Board a chartered Helicopter flight to Hilsa

From Simikot, the devotees need to take helicopters to reach Hilsa. It is a short flight between Hilsa and Simkot which lasts merely 25 minutes. However, it is not uncommon to hear helicopter rides between Simikot and Hilsa getting cancelled due to bad weather. The same happened many times when I was doing the yatra.

At such flights in Nepal, I am mostly glued to the window seat because the views in these regions of Nepal are amazing. Expect breathtaking views of green mountains, small villages, water bodies, dramatic landscapes and snow-clad mountains during the flight.

Your final destination in Nepal during the yatra via this route is Hilsa which is a small and charming Nepalese village located near the Tibetan border. These helicopter rides are managed by the tour agents for you, so you don’t need to worry. They also take care of you in case there is a health emergency or stranding due to bad weather.

Amazing rainbow I saw in Deraphuk Guesthouse. West Tibet.
Amazing rainbow I saw in Deraphuk Guesthouse. West Tibet.

Hilsa to Tibet: How to go Kailash Mansarovar from USA?

Once you reach Hilsa, you need to make the final journey to Taklakot, also known as Burang or Purang. Do read my detailed blog on Taklakot for more information. The devotees are now driven on luxury buses to your respective hotel after completing the boring immigration and custom formalities at the border.

I stayed in a semi-luxury hotel. Burang is one of those few hotels in West Tibet which have semi-luxury hotels. There are no ultra luxurious hotels here. Before you arrive at the hotel, you will again be stopped for further customs and body screening.

Personally, I relaxed at my hotels, explored the nearby vibrant markets and ancient Buddhist monasteries and took it slow. I stayed in Taklakot for many days and understand the place well. From Burang, both Mansarovar Lake, Rakshas Taal and Darchen are located very close to each other.

What should American NRIs pack for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

To visit Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), you must dress according to the local weather and carry some essentials such as dry fruits, walking sticks, Diamox (to fight AMS) etc.

It is also advisable to arrange for your travel cum medical insurance before leaving United States of America.

I have already shared a complete list of necessary packing list for Kailash Mansarovar travel for American travelers in my blog. This detailed blog has the checklist of everything you will ever need for the yatra.

Yam Dwar, Darchen
Author Abhinav Singh at Yam Dwar, Darchen

Why all American NRIs must go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra?

United States of America has a huge Indian diaspora who have been living in USA since more than 4 or 5 decades. Despite such a long time in a foreign nation, the Indians who are now American citizens have not given up on their rituals, customs, traditions, language and even Indian accent.

In fact, I feel that the Indian people living in USA as American citizens are even more closely connected with their roots than Indians living in India. For example, my mausa ji or maternal uncle who lives in California plays tabla and does riyaz (practice) daily and my mausi or maternal aunt cooks delicious Indian food every day and is still eager to learn more Indian recipes.

Their daughters, now in their 40s have been practicing Indian Classical dances like Kathak and Bharatnatyam since childhood. To compare, I do not know many Indian families living in India who do that. They keep asking me how to plan Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from California. This is why I wrote this blog.

Most of the well-educated and rich Indian diaspora living across USA as American citizens are Hindu and practice their faith religiously. The biggest wish of a devout Hindu is to go on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra at least once. It is the holiest of all the Hindu pilgrimages along-with Govardhan Parikrama near Mathura. This is why so many American NRIs embark upon Kailash Mansarovar Yatra every summer.

Yam Dwar, Darchen
Author Abhinav Singh and his co travellers at Yam Dwar, Darchen

When Is the Best Time for a Mount Kailash Tour from the USA?

Well, I traveled to the West Tibet region for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in the second week of August, around the Indian Independence Day. I observed that August is indeed the best time for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. I noticed that the days are warm and nights are cold in Tibet in August.

It drizzled slightly on the first day of my parikrama, but it was easily manageable because it doesn’t rain much in Tibet. The rainy season in Tibet fall in the months of June, July, August and September. Much like the adjoining Ladakh in India, even at the peak of monsoon, the rainfall in the entire Tibet region isn’t much.

This is why some people also go for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in September and October, which is drier, but colder (and manageable). Basically, to sum up, April to October is the best time for trekking in this region. This is also when many white people from America also visit Tiber for adventures, road trips and high-altitude treks.

Though with new facilities and better connectivity, you can travel to Tibet throughout the year now, but summer is the most popular time for performing parikrama during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra due to suitable weather. The 3 days long parikrama around the holy Kailash Parvat is not easy to perform, this is why the yatra is done only in the summer months.

The warmer summer months of April, May, June, July and August are the most suitable to perform the kora trek or parikrama around Mount Kailash near Darchen. Spring and fall months in Tibet are also popular due to crisp weather, clear skies, amazing views and moderate temperatures.

The sacred Dolma La Pass already had good snow when I did the yatra in August, so you can imagine how difficult it will be to trek on this high-altitude mountain pass in peak winter months. This is why no one goes on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra during winter months of November, December, January and February. It is almost impossible to trek on the high pass due to heavy snow.

Taklakot aka Purang or Burang in West Tibet near India and Nepal.
Author Abhinav Singh in Taklakot aka Purang or Burang in West Tibet near India and Nepal.

Conclusion: Kailash Mansarovar Yatra for American NRIs

In my experience, Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from USA is easily doable with a little planning and of course, a lot of cash. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any American NRI to be able to plan a journey to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. I know many people who have done the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra many times.

It is the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage and the biggest dream of all Hindus is to perform a parikrama or kora around the sacred Kailash Parvat and take a holy dip in serene Mansarovar Lake at least once in their lifetime.

Choose the best Kailash Mansarovar tour from USA and embark upon a journey of a lifetime. In this detailed blog, I have elucidated on how it works for travelling to Kailash Mansarovar from USA for the American passport holders which include USA nationals & non-resident Indians or NRIs. Do share this blog with your Indian friends living in different parts of USA and inspire them to embark on this holy Hindu pilgrimage.

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