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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446467183
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

To a Mountain in Tibet

Longlisted for the Dolman Travel Book of the Year - this is the doyen of travel writing at his elegiac and luminous best.


Mount Kailas is the most sacred of the world's mountains - holy to one fifth of humanity. Isolated beyond the central Himalayas, its summit has never been scaled, but for centuries the mountain has been ritually circled by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

Colin Thubron joins these pilgrims, after an arduous trek from Nepal, through the high passes of Tibet, to the magical lakes beneath the slopes of Kailas itself. He talks to secluded villagers and to monks in their decaying monasteries; he tells the stories of exiles and of eccentric explorers from the West.

Yet he is also walking on a pilgrimage of his own. Having recently witnessed the death of the last of his family, his trek around the great mountain awakes an inner landscape of love and grief, restoring precious fragments of his own past.

'I would rather read Colin Thubron than any other travel writer alive' John Simpson

  • Pub date: 1 September 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446467183
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

About the Author

Colin Thubron

Colin Thubron is an acknowledged master of travel writing, and the winner of many prizes and awards. His first writing was about the Middle East - Damascus, Lebanon and Cyprus. In 1982 he travelled into the Soviet Union in an ancient Morris Marina, pursued by the KGB, a journey he recorded in Among the Russians. From these early experiences developed his classic travel books: Behind the Wall (winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award), The Lost Heart of Asia, In Siberia (Prix Bouvier) and Shadow of the Silk Road. His most recent book is To a Mountain in Tibet (all available in Vintage). Colin Thubron was President of the Royal Society of Literature from 2010 to 2017.

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Praise for To a Mountain in Tibet

“Daring and brilliant. Thubron has crafted a book which beautifully describes one man's experience of loss, familial love, and even the state of mortal indeterminacy itself - how we all keep our memories, consoled and bewildered by turns, the sun on our faces, and the birds carrying above”

Joanna Kanvenna, Observer

“A master class in travel writing that's also infused with the author's "shadowy melancholy" of ageing and grief...Thubron showcases here all the skills that have earned him the champion's belt as Britain's best living travel writer”

Sunday Times

“Exquisitely written, To a Mountain in Tibet is not just a travelogue; it amounts to a heart-felt hosanna to the travails of walking... Colin Thubron takes us back to the days of exploration when the going was rough. To a Mountain in Tibet, a matchless work of literary travel, confirms Thubron as a wise and discriminate prospector in the affairs of man.”

Ian Thompson, Irish Times

“This is a bold and brave journey, an elegiac book by a master of prose at the height of his powers.”

Justin Marozzi, Evening Standard

“Given that Thubron has shown himself over a lifetime's work to be our finest, is seems fitting that what is as much memoir as travel book should have as its setting the greatest spiritual pilgrimage the East has to offer”

Daily Telegraph

“The writing glitters. Thubron has always been a travel-writing stylist, in the lyrical mould of Patrick Leigh Fermor, but with the quartz-like eye of Freya Stark”

Tom Adair, Scotsman

“As he makes the arduous ritual circle of Kailas, the rocks and gullies come alive with their sacred meanings and give us an understanding of faiths held with a passion unfamiliar in the West. His profound, elegant and fascinating little book is much weightier than it appears.”

Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail

“Thubron's books celebrate the terrible, pitiful, beautiful, human condition ... To a Mountain in Tibet offers no redemption and no conclusion. Instead, it is an elegy for everything that makes us human”

Sara Wheeler, Guardian

“The most profound and revealing thing [Thubron] has ever written”


“This is not only a book about Tibet; it is a book about Colin Thubron and much the richer for that”

Country Life

“The subject matter - gloomy, perhaps, in other hands - shines in Thubron's beautiful prose”

The Lady

“Thubron's descriptive writing is as dazzling as the scenery. His scholarship on the area's religious and political history is enthralling”

Tom Robbins, Financial Times

“It could have been written for radio in how vividly it makes you see pictures, hear sounds, notice the worn trainers on the man who joined them for part of the trek, catch the tap of the sherpa's staff. It sounds like a conversation with the listener's imagination”

Daily Telegraph, Book of the Week

“With a landscape that easily provokes superlatives or just stupefied wonder, and a culture steeped in esoteric beliefs, Tibet needs a writer of Thubron's caliber to do it justice”

Lonely Planet

“He describes both landscapes and humans in sharp poetic detail and provides a deceptively simple account of both the inner and outer journey.”

The Week

“In an elegiac mood and powerful prose. Thubron considers the significance of his journey, the poetry and politics of the region, and the bleak landscapes that reflect solitude”


“An utterly absorbing read... An elegiac meditation on life, death, family and mortality. Beautiful”


“Thubron is an impressive prose stylist..he writes with great elegiac precision”

Times Literary Supplement

“It's a pleasure to follow Colin Thubron's hesitant pilgrimage ... the last of the great post-war British travel writers”

Waterstone's Books Quarterly

“Amid the desolation there is a beauty that comes not only from the things that Thubron chooses to describe but from the way in which he describes them”


“What Thubron provides in his inimitable way is an account of both fellow pilgrimsand himself”


“Wonderfully poetic tale”


“Colin Thurbron's ode to a mystical mountain in Tibet... Not to be missed”

Daily Telegraph

“This latest travelogue confirms Colin Thubron as one of the greatest contemporary travel writers”

Time Out

“I am haunted by its spare simplicity and beauty”

Simon Winchester, Daily Telegraph, summer reading

“His measures prose matches the region's stark beauty. Refreshing”

Financial Times

“haunting and profound”

Sunday Express Magazine

“This pure artist of the voyage looks back backwards and within, to his late mother and his childhood, as well as up to the Himalayan peaks and peoples that he sumptuously evokes”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Books of the Year

“[An] elegiac account of high-altitude piety...he's still one of the best in the business”

Helen Davies, Sunday Times, Books of the Year

“An absolutely terrific book. Thubron has perfect pitch. He uses the minimum of words to maximum effect. His descriptions are fresh and acute and he can convey atmosphere and emotion on the head of a pin. The journey to Mount Kailash is enthralling and he keeps the reader right beside him every inch of the way”

Michael Palin, Observer, Books of the Year

“Punchy, evocative... It is a dangerous journey up to 18,000ft, where Thubron, who is mourning his mother, is hit by altitude sickness”

Tom Chesshyre, The Times

“Punchy, evocative... It is a dangerous journey up to 18,000ft, where Thubron, who is mourning his mother, is hit by altitude sickness”

Tom Chesshyre, The Times

“Abook which beautifully describes one man's experience of loss and familial love”

Joanna Kavenna, Guardian

“[Thubron] skilfully balances his poetic descriptions of the land and its subtle, shifting colours with human stuff - observations of his fellow travellers, encounters and personal anecdotes, snippets of history and rather interesting accounts of Tantric Buddhism, with its swirling pantheon of blue-faced demons, bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses... Thubron has recently buried his last living relative and his grieving gives depth and weight to his meditations on Tibetan Buddhism”

Angus Clarke, The Times

“This is a superb book from a writer who over his lifetime has shown himself to be our finest modern chronicler of Asia”


“The keenest-eyed, least self-absorbed, of literary travellers, Colin Thubron writes with a pin-point elegance and economy that directs your gaze to a place and its people, rather than to the author's foibles... His tales of seekers, refugees and mystics richly sketch the background of Tibetan history and Buddhist belief. Above all, his lean and supple prose draws meaning and moment from every encounter. "To the pilgrims, there are no mute stones" - and not to their ultra-observant companion”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

“His book is interspersed with poignant passages about his late parents and sister, who died in an avalanche when he was 23. Thubron also reveals some cultural surprises.”

Simon Shaw, Daily Mail

“Making a lyrical hymn out of travel writing, Thubron's evocative pilgrimage is typically poised yet, triggered by the death of his mother, also unusually personal”

Sunday Telegraph

“Thubron's writing is as spectacular as his surroundings so he therefore makes you feel as though you are treading the path with him”

Charlotte Vowden, Daily Express

“[Thubron] doesn't just walk into the higher reaches of the Himalyas but explores his own reaches of eternity as well as the more outer regions of Buddhism and Hinduism”

The Irish Times

“Deploying a poetic blend of travel and memoir, Thubron uses Buddhism to inform reflections on the cycles of life and the meaning of suffering... it is an elegy for everything that makes us human”

Sara Wheeler, Guardian

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