Cycling from Tibet to Nepal: the Ultimate Guide to a Lhasa-Kathmandu Bike tour on the Roof of the World
Cycling in the Tibetan Plateaus from Lhasa to Kathmandu is an awe-inspiring experience and a must for adventure cyclists. All around you are scenes of religious devotion, prayer flags fluttering on the tallest mountain passes and processions of devout pilgrims travelling to the numerous monasteries and temples. And the route across the Tibetan plateau, along the world-famous Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway, takes you to some of the most stunning landscapes and sceneries in the world.
Why Cycling from Tibet to Nepal rather than Travel by Car
While a tour across Tibet by car is exciting, there is nothing more thrilling than getting out on the open road and exploring it for yourself. And since it is a long way to trek, cycling is the obvious choice. With one thousand kilometers of open road ahead of you, there is nothing standing in the way of you getting up close and personal with the lofty mountains and crystal clear lakes.
Much more than traveling by car, cycling allows you to really feel the environment you are traveling through, and to experience the best of Tibet and its culture. Not only are you out in the open air more, and able to feel the wind on your face as you ride, but you are not restricted by a set schedule as much as when you are with a group tour in a car. And while it may be more expensive, since you still need the guide and car, it is worth the cost to spend three weeks out in the open plains and mountains of Tibet.
The Biking Route from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Starting from Lhasa, the cycling tour to Nepal covers over 1,000 kilometers, and goes through a lot of different landscapes and terrain, as well as many altitude changes along the way. The standard route includes altitudes such as: Lhasa (3,656m); Kamba La Pass (4,794m); Karo La (5,010m); Gyantse (4,000m); Tso La (4,520m); Lhatse (4,025m); Gyatso La passtibet (5,220m); Shegar (4,050m); Pang Pass (5,150m); Rongbuk Monastery (5,000m); Tingri (4,340m); Lalung Pass (4,990m); Thang Pass (5,050m); Gyirong (2,300m); Dhulikhel (1,600m); Bhaktapur (1,401m); Kathmandu (1,400m).
What to Experience during the Tibet Nepal Bike Tour
The capital city of Tibet, and the ancient center of Tibetan Buddhism, Lhasa is one of the most spectacular cities in the world, despite the fact that you could fit the whole place inside Central Park. Filled with sacred temples, palatial monasteries, bustling streets, and its own urban wetlands, Lhasa has something for everyone.
Tibet’s second-largest town and the traditional capital of Tsang province, Shigatse is a modern, sprawling city, with wide boulevards humming with traffic (even in the pedestrian-only street). As you ride in across the plains, the site of the Potala-lookalike Shigatse Dzong, high on a hilltop overlooking the town, will probably fire your imagination. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, to the west of town, is an ancient and majestic monastery with a magnificent architectural style and a golden roof.
Everest Base Camp
For many people, the main reason that they visit Tibet is to see the amazing view of Everest’s famous North Face. The view of Everest from the base camp gives a clear, sweeping view of the mountain. At 5,200 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest points of any tour of Tibet, and the views of the mountain alone make the long ride across the length of the region worth the effort.
The Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway to Kathmandu
Tibet’s “Friendship Highway”, also known as the Sino-Nepal Highway, starts from Lhasa, and runs through all the way across the region, until you turn off for Gyirong Port. The Tibet Friendship Highway is a celebrated route in the Tibetan Plateau, famous for its scenic wonders, and sightseeing along the Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway is stunning.
The Satisfy to Finish the Longest Descent in the World
After crossing the border, you are faced with one long downhill ride for almost 100 kilometers, covering more than 4,000 meters to the Kathmandu Valley below. The landscape changes as you descend too, going from arid mountainside to lush green vegetation of the Nepalese tropical forests, as well as waterfalls that splash onto the road, forcing you to ride under the falling water.
Best Time to Do Tibet Nepal Bike tour
From April to October is the best season for riding. There is not much rain in Tibet as it is a plateau behind the Himalayan range. Nevertheless, it rains to some extent during July and August and rest of the season is fine with clear sky. There may be snowfall in the high passes if it rains during April and the end of October. Temperature ranges from 0-15 degrees, depending upon altitude and weather.
Apply for Tibet Travel Permit before You Go
To get into Tibet, you will need a Chinese Entry Visa, and a Tibet Travel Permit. The permit is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau, and can be obtained by your tour operator. For travel outside Lhasa, which is all of the trip from Lhasa to Nepal, you will also need the Alien’s Travel Permit, and for some areas, a Military permit as well. Foreign nationals are not permitted to enter Tibet without the Tibet Travel Permit, and it can only be obtained by the tour operators. All visitors are required to use a regulated tour operator, who will provide a support vehicle and a guide for the entirety of the trip. Your tour guide once in Lhasa can obtain some of the permits.
How to Bring Your Bike to Tibet
There is an option for all who are intending to cycle in Tibet to either bring your own bicycle, or to rent one in Lhasa. There are many rental stores in the city where you can hire good quality mountain bikes for the trip, although it is not always guaranteed in the peak season. If you are bringing your own bike with you, then the transport needs to be arranged well in advance.
By Flight to Tibet
Arrangements to transport your bike on the flight to Lhasa should be made direct with the airline you book through. Bicycles are classed as freight on airlines, not luggage, so the cost will be different than if your luggage was just over weight. It is best to check the prices before booking, as some airlines can be rather expensive for freight costs.
By Train to Tibet
You can transport your bike on the train to Tibet from any of seven major gateway cities in China. It must be packed properly, as you are not permitted to transport an unpackaged bicycle on the trains. Your bike will need to be stripped down a little, to fit it into a box measuring 160 centimeters cubed. Taking off the wheels, handlebars, and seat/racks should mean your bike will fit into this sized carton.
More Travel Tips for a Tibet Nepal Bike Tour
Even though you have a support car, you should pack some necessary things to take with you while riding. For example, repair kits and tools, bike spares, first-aid kits, enough food and water, mountain sickness medicine and other necessities.
As Tibet bike tours become popular, there are many bike shops selling and renting mountain bikes in Lhasa. Therefore, you can choose buy or rent mountain bikes in Lhasa. After the tour, you can return the bikes or sell the bike to locals at a reasonable price.
Though the weather during the day is good, the temperature varies a lot between day and night even in summer. Therefore, you need to pack up some warm clothes and shoes, as well as waterproofs.
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