Ultimate Guide to the Himalaya Road Trip from Tibet to Nepal

Last updated: March,07 2020

Traveling from Tibet to Nepal is one of the most popular tours in the region, and driving along the 1,080-kilometers route that links Lhasa with the exotic Nepali capital of Kathmandu is an adventure that will leave you breathless. The normal route follows the Friendship Highway, the Tibetan portion of the vast G318 National Highway, which extends from Shanghai to Zhangmu. While flying to Kathmandu from Lhasa is a popular mode of transportation, it is not to everyone 's liking, and for many, the overland route from the Tibetan capital to the Kathmandu Valley is one of the most exciting road trips of all time.

The route follows the Friendship Highway for more than 800 kilometers, as it passes by the stunning Lake Yamdrok, heads through Gyantse and Shigatse cities, and takes a short detour to allow you the chance to visit Mount Everest, before culminating at the Sino-Nepal border, at Gyirong Port, the new international border crossing between Tibet and Nepal. Once across the border, it is a short ride on a local or private bus to the stunning capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, and the end of the road.

Highlights of Himalaya Road Trips from Tibet to Nepal

Traveling this long and winding road between two of the Himalayas most stunning capital cities takes around 7 days, though it can take longer, depending on where you are visiting along the way. The route is filled chock-full of amazing and spectacular sights, many of which are almost as old as the plateau itself. And nothing beats that feeling of gazing in awe at the sheer size of some of the world 's highest mountains.

Everest Base Camp

Undoubtedly, the most popular site in the Himalayas, the northern Everest Base Camp (EBC) is one of the easiest ways to get a great view of the highest mountain on the planet. Extending 8,848 meters into the sky, this massive peak is capped with snow all year round, thanks to its immense height. For those wishing to get the best photos of the mountain, there is no better choice than taking an Everest Base Camp tour in Tibet. Located just 12 kilometers to the north of the peak, the base camp is easily accessed by road from the G318 Friendship Highway, which saves the long trek that is required to get to the southern EBC in Nepal.

The route from the Friendship Highway to EBC is around 100 kilometers long, and passes by the world 's highest monastery, Rongbuk Monastery, at 4,980 meters above sea level. The final stretch of gravel track to the point where you can get the best view of the summit lies just before the “climbers base camp”, and is the highest point that tourists can get to on the mountain. Eco-buses run the route to reduce traffic along this short stretch.

Gawula Mountain Pass to enjoy the great view of the four highest peaks in the world

As you travel along the road towards Mount Everest, you will crest several mountain passes along the way. The highest of these, the Gawu La Pass, lies at an altitude of 5,198 meters above sea level, just a couple of meters short of the EBC altitude. The pass is strewn with Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, and it is a popular tradition for even tourists to hang one there themselves when they stop at the crest of the pass.

Gawula PassTourists enjoyed the great view of Mount Everest at Gawula

Nothing that you see along the road to Gawu La can prepare you for the sight that will greet you as you reach to top of the pass. Not only does it afford you one of the most breathtaking views of the distant Mount Everest that you will encounter, but you also get an additional view from the top of the pass. Mount Cho Oyu, Mount Shishapangma, Mount Lhotse, and Mount Makalu, four of the 8,000+ meter mountains that make up the highest mountains in the world are clearly visible from the pass. This stunning panoramic vista of the world 's highest mountains makes the long drive up the mountain worthwhile, though you might want to prepare yourself for the descent. The road going down from the pass towards EBC is one of the windiest roads in the world, switching back and forth as it wends its way down the mountain through the Mount Everest National Nature reserve to the base camp and Rongbuk Monastery.

Himalaya mountain areas on the way from Gyirong to Kathmandu

Once you have done the Nepal Tibet border crossing at Gyirong Port to Rasuwa Gadhi in Nepal, you are presented with a stunning view of the high mountains behind the Chinese border checkpoint you just passed through. Turning around towards Kathmandu, the road you take from Rasuwa Gadhi runs down through the Himalayas, getting lower in elevation with every kilometer you travel. The high mountains soon give way to the dense forests of the Langtang National Park, and the rolling hills of the mid-region of Nepal.

To the east, in the midst of the park, lies the peak of TsangbuRi, a minor peak of the Himalayas that stands 7,205 meters above sea level in the Langtang Himal area of the Himalayas. As the road heads down towards Dunche, the forests begin to give way to rolling hilly grasslands that lie on the sides of the Trishuli River Valley. By the time you reach Bidur, the first major town since crossing the border, the altitude has dropped to around 750 meters, and the route turns east to head along the valley to Kathmandu.

Tibet to Nepal Road Trip Route

The route from Lhasa to Kathmandu is one that covers more than 1,000 kilometers, traversing the Tibetan plateau to its westernmost point before heading on down into Nepal to rediscover the exotic capital city of Kathmandu.

Once you are done touring around the stunning sights of Lhasa, you head out of the city along the Friendship Highway as far as Dagaxiang, where you turn off to head southwest along the S307 regional highway, which takes you past Lake Yamdrok to the beautiful city of Gyantse. After spending some time in the city exploring the stunning Gyantse Kumbum, a 32-meter stupa that is the only one of its kind in Tibet, it is then on to Shigatse, the second city of Tibet.

Shigatse is the home of the Tashilhunpo Monastery, which is situated on a hill in the center of the city. After exploring the monastery, it is then back out onto theFriendship Highway towards Old Tingri, the turn-off for Mount Everest. The drive to Tingri is around 290 kilometers, and takes around five hours to drive. From Tingri, which is also the starting point of the spectacular Tingri EBC trek, it is around 80 kilometers to the Rongbuk Monastery, the world 's highest monastery at 4,980 meters.

The night is then normally spent in the monastery, before heading to the base camp itself. After spending enough time at EBC to take a vast amount of photos, it is then back along the local road to the Friendship Highway. The road forks some distance from Tingri, and you take the G214 National Road to Gyirong Town, where you will stop for the night. In the morning, it is a short ride to the border at Gyirong Port, where you will cross the Resuo Bridge, which spans the Trishuli River Gorge into Nepal.

Check the detailed itinerary of 7 days Lhasa to Kathmandu small group tour with fixed departure date and price for 2020 and 2021 Tibet Nepal tour here.

Best Time to Take a Himalaya Road Trip from Tibet to Nepal

Tibet and Nepal have very differing climates, thanks to the shadow effect of the Himalayas. While the monsoon season in Tibet is relatively mild, in Nepal it is much harsher, with more rain and severe floods in many places. Summer, which is the monsoon season in Tibet, is the peak period for traveling in the region, but is not a great time to travel in the lower regions of Nepal, especially in the valley areas. Nepal has a typical sub-tropical climate in the lower regions, with a heavy monsoon season from June to the end of September.

The best time to travel in Nepal is normally from October to April, when the weather is mildest;However, the harsh winters in the mountains make it unsuitable for travel. For a Tibet Nepal tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu by overland, taking into account the differing climates, the best time to go is from March to May and from October to December.

Travel Tips for the Himalaya Road Trip from Tibet to Nepal

For those planning a road trip across Tibet to Nepal, here are a few tips to help you sort out all the details before you travel.

Get the Tibet Travel Permit before You Go

The Tibet Travel Permit, which is required to get into and around Tibet, can only be obtained through the use of a registered tour operator for Tibetan tours. Here we can make the application for the TTP on your behalf, once you have booked your Tibet tour with us. Applications take around 20 days to process, so it is best to book as early as possible. We will need a scanned copy of your passport and Chinese Entry Visa to process the application, and the permit will be forwarded to your hotel in China before you leave for Tibet.

Travel Permit to visit TibetGet the Tibet Travel Permit before You Go

See how to get your Tibet Travel Permit with 4 simple steps here.

Pay Attention to the Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can be a debilitating illness if you are not careful. While most people get mild symptoms of altitude sickness when traveling to extreme and very high altitudes, there are ways to help your body acclimatize that can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Avoid strong coffee and alcohol, as these leave you dehydrated and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated at the higher altitude. Dehydration can lead to more severe symptoms that you may think is just a dehydration headache. The main symptoms of altitude sickness in Tibet are headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and a general feeling of exhaustion. Plenty of rest and avoiding strenuous exercise allows the body to acclimatize within 1-2 days, and you should be ready to travel further afield by then.

Where to Live and What to Eat during the Overland Trip

Hotels in Tibet are not up to the standards you might expect from western hotels, and the class system of the hotels is a little different. Major cities such as Lhasa and Shigatse have four and five-star hotels, but in most places, three stars is as high as it gets. Some areas, especially in the more remote parts of the plateau, only have accommodation in the form of guesthouses and lodges, which only have basic amenities, and often no running water. A sleeping bag is useful in many of the guesthouses, especially the tent guesthouses at EBC, as the nights can get quite cold, even in the summer months.

Food can be found in many eateries and restaurants in Tibet, though it is mostly Tibetan and Chinese cuisine. Sichuan cuisine is the predominant Chinese food found on the plateau, and is very tasty. Tibetan food, while good at rejuvenating your energy levels and is high in proteins, may not be to everyone 's taste, and is sometimes the only food available. However, it can be very tasty, and should be tried first. If you are not fond of the local fare, you should get some packet foods before leaving Lhasa or Shigatse for the more remote areas, as these foods are scares out in the west of the region.

How to Pass the border at Gyirong Port

The border controls at Gyirong Port are geared to process tourists as efficiently as possible, though on the Nepal side, it is much more relaxed and much less efficient. When exiting China, you should make sure that you have all your permits with you as well as your immigration and customs declarations, as these will all be checked at the border checkpoint. In Nepal, you can get your visa at the checkpoint 's immigration desk using your passport, a photo, and a completed application form, and the process is relatively simple, taking around 30 minutes to process the application. Once cleared from immigration, you are free to enter Nepal and get your transport to the capital city, kathmandu.

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