After breakfast depart Sakya, following the Friendship Highway for a few kilometres before turning onto a road that winds through Qomolangma National Park, the world’s highest national park. Spanning 78,000 square kilometres it boasts ten mountains over 7,000 metres high and an additional five that peak above 8,000 metres, including the legendary Mount Everest, known as Mount Qomolangma in Tibetan.
Tourist vehicles are restricted in the area and you will be required to transfer onto a bus for the final 20 minutes of your journey.
Your destination is the tiny Rongbuk Gompa, which is regarded as the highest monastery in the world (at 5,000m) and unusual in that it is home to both monks and nuns. Cloud-cover permitting, from here you should catch your first unobstructed view of the snow-covered north face of Mount Everest - the tallest mountain in the world at 8,848m. Until recently it was possible to trek for a few kilometres further up the valley towards Everest Base Camp, which sits at 5,200 metres, however the government has currently restricted access to the area for environmental reasons. Stroll around the monastery complex: lines of prayer wheels and colourful prayer flags surround the large stupa and numerous meditation caves are hidden in the mountainside. Just above the monastery there’s a particularly magical, unobstructed view point.
Next door to the monastery is Rongbuk Guesthouse and it is here that you will spend the night. The sun sets quite early, and you’re likely to spend the evening in the small restaurant, huddled around its warm stove. The guesthouse is incredibly basic in all departments (this is Everest Base Camp after all!) however the views at sunrise and sunset certainly make what will undoubtedly be a chilly night, worthwhile.
Overnight at Rongbuk Guesthouse.