OVERLAND TO TIBET
Traveling to Tibet overland is a great way to visit off-the beaten path places, explore remote areas, meet people with different cultures and traditions, and enjoy incredible landscape views along the way.
Many high quality highways were built in the recent years connecting major cities in Western China, remote areas of Tibet and at the Tibet-Nepal border with Lhasa, Tibetan capital. Traveling on these highways is very comfortable and the new road quality is good. Many of these routes will take you through scenic areas making your adventure unforgettable.
5 MAIN ROUTES TO TRAVEL OVERLAND TO TIBET
Click to navigate to the route that interests you or scroll down to read details about each overland traveling option.
HOW TO TRAVEL OVERLAND TO TIBET
TRAVELING FROM CHINA TO TIBET OVERLAND
The two most popular cities where you can start your overland adventure are Chengdu and Xining. Both are interesting cities with a lot of places to visit.
When you start your overland journey to Lhasa from Chengdu or Xining, you will see Eastern areas of Tibet. Eastern regions of Khan and Amdo speak a different Tibetan dialect, have distinct traditions and wear local traditional costumes. The journey will allow you to experience Tibetan culture in its variety, while enjoying diverse landscapes along the way.
WHERE TO START YOUR OVERLAND JOURNEY IN CHINA
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province and famous for its giant panda breeding center. Although Chengdu is not one of the famous cities in China, there is a lot to explore there. In Chengdu, you can visit several interesting Buddhist and Taoist temples, there are two giant pandas breeding centers, many parks and famous Chinese Opera. In addition, you can take short trip to Leshan Giant Buddha statues and Mount Emeishan.
Xining is the capital of the Qinghai province. It is located in Amdo region of Eastern Tibet. In Xining, you can visit Kumbum (Taer) monastery, one of the most important Gelug school monasteries. It was built at the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelug school. You can also visit beautiful Qinghai lake and grasslands with some Tibetan nomads living in the area. You can also visit Rebkong and Labrang, Amdo religious centers.
Large Tibetan city in Yunnan province. The historical overland route from Kunming to Lhasa is currently closed for foreign visitors. However, you can first visit Kunming, and then travel to Chengdu. From Chengdu, you can take one of the routes to Lhasa. It is also easy to travel from Kunming to Lijiang or Shangri La.
Lijiang is located in Yunnan province, in Tibetan Kham region. The Old Town of Lijiang is authentic and very well preserved. Lijiang is often a starting point to exploring beautiful natural spots nearby. The most popular places to visit are Tiger Leaping Gorge for trekking or exploring the deep canyon, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Lugu Lake.
The name Shangri La first appeared in a novel “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton and described a fictional place. To promote tourism, city in Yunnan province (Tibetan Kham region) with original name Zhongdian was renamed to become Shangri La. Unfortunately, the old town with wood structured burned in a fire and you can see mostly reconstructed buildings. However, it is still very beautiful. The signature large stupa on the hill above the Old Town dominates the landscape. Ganden Sumtseling Monastery located near the city is one of the main attractions.
CHENGDU TO LHASA VISA SOUTHERN ROUTE G318 HIGHWAY
Distance: 2,200 km
Duration: 7 days (driving only, not including sightseeing in Lhasa)
Highlights: Basum Tso lake, Lulang Forest, Ranwu Tso lake, Midui Glacier, Yela mountain, Pomda Grassland, Lawu Mountain, Markham and Jinsha River, Litang, Ka’er monastery, Xinduqiao.
The road follows the G318 highway. It is the longest highway in China stretching from Shanghai to Zhangmu near Tibet-Nepal border. The highway route is very scenic, crossing many mountain passes, including the famous 72 bends that road makes running up the mountain.
The highway section from Chengdu to Lhasa is approximately 2,200 km long. First, you will travel from Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province. Then you enter Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and its capital city Kangding. It is the Tibetan Kham region. You will make a stop at Xinduqiao with gorgeous views on the local villages, bridges and beautiful landscape. We drive through Litang (4000 meters) and its famous grasslands.
As we drive to Tibet Autonomous Region, we will see several impressive mountains: Yela mountain, Dongda Mountain, and great rivers (including Jinsha, Lancang and Parlung Tsangpo rivers).
The Eastern Tibet often called Tibetan Switzerland is one of the most impressive stretches of the journey. We will enjoy the views on Ranwu Tso lake with a gorgeous backdrop of the Midui glacier. After that we will drive to another wonderful lake – Basum Tso with a small island and a temple on it. Finally, we will visit Lulang forest before reaching Lhasa.
CHENGDU OR XINING TO LHASA VISA NORTHERN ROUTE G317 HIGHWAY
There are 3 main starting points for this journey:
CHENGDU TO LHASA VIA G317 HIGHWAY
Distance: Approximately 2,300 km
Duration: 14 days
Highlights: Kangding, Xinduqiao, Jinsha River, Jiaju Tibetan Village, Kandze Monastery, Dege, Kumbum Monastery, Qinghai Lake, Namtso lake, incredible grassland and mountain views along the way
When you start your journey in Chengdu, you will first travel through Amdo region of Eastern Tibet. Some sections of this route are just dirt roads. That’s why it is best to travel outside of the rainy season when the roads can get muddy and landslides can happen. In addition, the roads goes up and down high mountain passes, making many turns and becomes narrow at times. Even during summer months some high passes can be covered with ice and snow making the road slippery. That’s why it is very important to have an experienced driver. Although the road conditions are poor at times, the views are amazing. This route takes you to remote areas, where you can see the traditional lifestyle of Tibetans. You will also see stunning landscape views.
Unfortunately, this route is currently closed for foreign visitors. You can, however, drive through the Eastern Tibet areas from Chengdu to Xining, take a train from Xining to Golmud and continue overland journey from Golmud to Lhasa. If you wish to drive all the way from Chengdu to Lhasa, you can travel via Southern Route following G318 highway.
The highlights of the trip through Amdo are Jiaju village, Danba, Dege, and Kumbum monastery. First, you will travel from Chengdu to Kangding. Enjoy magnificent mountain views and a sight of the Da-Chu river along the way. If you want to make a stop at Kangding, you can take short trekking tours from there and visit a local hotspring. After that we will travel to Xinduqiao with wonderful views of Tibetan villages nested on the mountain slopes. The scenery is lovely too, with lush grasslands, fast river streams, and the snow capped mountains on the background.
On the way to Dege, you will see the alpine lake Yilhun La-Tso surrounded by many rock carvings and later magnificent Chola glaciers. Once we reach Dege, we will visit the famous Printing press and the monastery. Dege is a center of Buddhist studies in Amdo region with many Buddhist monasteries. At the same time, there are many small crafts centers. Artisans create handmade sculptures, thangkas and other religious objects.
From Dege the road takes us to Chamdo, Northern area of Tibet Autonomous Region. Over the next few days, you can see and visit many interesting places. There are many high mountain passes on the way and a sight of Jinsha river. You can visit important monasteries: Jampaling Monastery, and Riwoche Monastery. From Chamdo we reach Nagqu and then drive to Namtso lake. After visiting the heavenly salt water lake in Tibet, we finish the journey in Lhasa. Once we reach the capital of Tibet, you can continue traveling in Tibet Autonomous Region with one of the private or group tours.
XINING TO LHASA VIA G317 HIGHWAY
Distance: 1950 km
Duration: 6 days
Highlights: Kumbum Monastery, Qinghai Lake, Tanggula Mountain, Namtso Lake, Yangpachen Hotspring
You start your adventure in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. The city is also a great starting point to explore Amdo region of Tibet. From Xining you can take short trips to Labrang and Rebkong, the Buddhist centers of Eastern Tibet.
You will begin your overland journey with visiting Ta’er (Kumbum) monastery, one of the six main Gelug school monasteries. From there we continue driving to Qinghai lake, the largest saltwater lake in China. For the next few days we will drive through vast grasslands, cross incredible mountain passes and can often spot some wildlife in a distance.
We will enjoy the sight of the Namtso lake, gorgeous sacred lake in Tibet. We can spend time walking on its shore on the Tashi Peninsula. Finally, we will drive to Lhasa making a stop at the Yangpachen Hotspring.
GOLMUD TO LHASA
Distance: 1300 km
Duration: 3 days (not including any sightseeing in Lhasa)
Highlights: Qarhan Salt Lake, Tanggula Mountain, Namtso Lake, Yangpachen Hotspring, nomadic grasslands
Route from Golmud to Lhasa is the shortest overland trip to the capital of Tibet. To reach Golmud, you will take a train going from any major city in China to Tibet. You will get off at Golmud station where you will meet your guide.
From Golmud you will drive through nomadic grassland areas with a mountains in the background. The most beautiful mountain range on the way is Tanggula Mountains.
After that, we will visit the sacred Namtso lake, the highlight of the journey! This salt water lake is often called the heavenly lake because of its high elevation. On the way to Lhasa, we can also stop at Yangpachen hotspring if you want to relax and warn up.
Once we reach Lhasa, you can continue your adventure in Tibet with one of our private or group tours of your choice.
LHASA TO KASHGAR OVERLAND
Distance: 3,100 km
Duration: 11 – 18 days depending on selected itinerary
Highlights: Kashgar, Himalayan Mountains, Guge Kingdom, Mount Kailash, Manasarovar Lake, Everest, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Pelkor Chode Monastery, Kumbum stupa, Yamdrok Lake, Karola glaciers, Lhasa
FROM LHASA TO KASHGAR
Very few visitors travel overland to Tibet from Kashgar. However, it is one of the most spectacular routes. The road between Kashgar and Lhasa is about 3,100 km long. If you start traveling from Lhasa, it is best to spend at least two first days in Lhasa to acclimatize to high altitude. You can explore the capital of Tibet and visit its most sacred sites: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera and Drepung monasteries.
After that, we travel to Shigatse. On the way we will stop at the Yamdrok lake, Karola glaciers and visit Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa. From Shigatse we travel to Everest and then to Manasarovar lake and Mount Kailash. You can take an optional 3 days trek around Mount Kailash. After that, we continue our journey to Guge Kingdom in the Western Tibet. From Guge we continue driving along the Western edge of Tibet until we finally reach Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The landscape here changes dramatically as we drive through the Gobi desert. Once we reach Kashgar, an oasis in the desert, you can stay a few days there exploring the capital of Uigur region.
FROM KASHGAR TO LHASA
You start your adventure in Kashgar an oasis in the middle of a desert. It is a capital of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. We highly recommend spending a couple of days in Kashgar, exploring the largest mosque in China Id Kah Mosque, Uyghur Bazaar, Apak Hoja Tomb, and the old Muslim quarters at the heart of the city.
From Kashgar we drive through the Gobi desert first to Yecheng, then to Dahonliutan, and finally to Rutok. Once we are in the Tibet Autonomous Region, we will first drive to Siquanhe and then to Guge Kingdom. Guge stood on the crossroad of the trading routes and became an important religious and cultural center in 11th century.
After visiting Guge Kingdom, we drive to lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash region, where you can join pilgrims and walk around it. The trek is 52km long and takes 3 days to complete. From Kailash region, we can travel to Shigatse and then to Lhasa. However, most people prefer to make a one day detour to visit Everest and enjoy the magnificent view on its North face.
In Shigatse, we visit Tashi Lhunpo monastery. From Shigatse we drive to Lhasa, visiting Gyantse Pelkor Chode monastery with Kumbum Stupa and Yamdrok lake along the way.
When we reach Lhasa, you can explore the capital of Tibet. We offer a wide range of Lhasa tours.
TRAVELING FROM NEPAL TO TIBET OVERLAND
There are 2 main routes connecting Nepal and Tibet: at the Gyirong entry port and at Semikot/ Hilsa. The most popular route is going through Gyirong. The border is located near Everest in one of the most beautiful parts of the Himalayan range. If you wish to travel through Central Tibet, visit Lhasa, Shigatse and Everest Base Camp in Tibet, traveling to Nepal through Gyirong is the best option.
For those who wish to travel to Western Tibet to visit Manasarovar lake and Mount Kailash, crossing border at both Gyirong and Simikot is possible. Gyirong is a little further from Kailash region and requires 2 days of driving. It takes about one full day to drive from Gyirong to Kathmandu.
Simikot border crossing is much closer to Manasarovar and Kailash. Simikot is, however, is far from Kathmandu. The most popular way to reach it is to take 2 flights from Kathmandu and then a helicopter ride.
TRAVELING FROM KATHMANDU TO LHASA OR LHASA TO KATHMANDU
When traveling through Tibet, one of the major concerns is the high altitude. That’s why it is a lot easier to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu than in the opposite direction. Unless you are visiting high altitude areas in Nepal, it is much better to start your journey in Lhasa, travel to Tibet-Nepal border and then continue your adventure in Nepal. It allows you to gain elevation gradually and naturally acclimatize to the altitude.
All travelers visiting Tibet from Nepal must obtain Tibet group visa in Kathmandu.
WHO HAS TO APPLY FOR GROUP VISA
Everyone traveling from Nepal to Tibet has to obtain Chinese group visa. Even the nationalities who dont need a Chinese visa when traveling from China, have to apply for the group visa if traveling from Kathmandu.
HOW LONG IT TAKES TO RECEIVE THE GROUP VISA
It takes 3-5 business days to receive the visa, depending on the service you select. Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu doesn’t process applications on weekends and during both Chinese and Nepalese national holidays.
The requirements are the same as for the regular Chinese Visa Application.
- Chinese Visa Application
- Passport, valid for at least 6 months with at least one blank page
- Copies of passport and previous Chinese visas (if you have any)
- Passport size photo
LHASA TO KATHMANDU AND KATHMANDU TO LHASA OVERLAND
Most travelers drive from Lhasa to Tibet-Nepal border and from there to Kathmandu. The classic tour from Lhasa to Tibet-Nepal border is 7 days long. We meet in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where we will spend 2 days exploring the greatest Buddhist monasteries, 7th century Jokhang Temple and the incredible Potala Palace. From there, we will drive to the Everest Base Camp, visiting Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse Monastery, Kumbum stupa and Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse along the way. After that, we reach Everest and spend a night by the highest mountain in the world. On the following day we reach the border. From there you continue your adventure in Nepal.
CLASSIC LHASA TO NEPAL ITINERARY
Day 1: Arrival in Lhasa
Day 2: Lhasa City Tour: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple
Day 3: Lhasa City Tour: Drepung and Sera Monasteries
Day 4: Driving to Shigatse: Yamdrok Lake and Glaciers
Day 5: Driving to the Everest: night by the Everest
Day 6: Driving to Gyirong pass. Nepal border
Day 7: Departure from Tibet
LHASA TO NEPAL/ NEPAL TO LHASA VIA SIMIKOT/ PURANG COUNTY
Visitors traveling from Nepal to Western Tibet, Manasarovar lake and Mount Kailash often select the route going through Hilsa(Nepal) and Simikot at the Tibet-Nepal border. This entry point is within a short distance from Manasarovar lake and Mount Kailash.
The easiest way to reach Simikot is by taking 2 short flights from Kathmandu and a scenic helicopter ride. If you wish to explore mountain areas in Nepal, there is a trekking route available from Hilsa to Simikot.
You if are traveling to Simikot by flights, allow a couple of extra days in Tibet at Manasarovar lake to acclimatize to high altitude before heading to Mount Kailash.
The best time to take this route is in May – early June and September – October. During the rainy season in July and August, the road in mountain areas might be blocked by mudslides and create traffic jams.
OTHER WAYS TO TRAVEL TO TIBET
Although traveling to Tibet overland is one of the most scenic ways to reach Lhasa, it is also the slowest and in many cases more expensive way. The alternative options to traveling overland to Tibet are taking a train or a flight.
FLIGHTS TO LHASA
Flying to Lhasa is the most popular way to reach Tibetan capital. Flights depart from all major Chinese cities and from Kathmandu, Nepal. It is the fastest way to travel to Tibet. The shortest connecting with China is in Chengdu. Many nonstop flights depart from Chengdu to Lhasa everyday. The flight duration is about 2 hours and 25 minutes. The shortest flight to Lhasa is from Kathmandu. It is about 90 minutes long. If the weather is clear, you can also see a great view on the Himalayas. Keep in mind, that when you traveling from Nepal, visa requirements are different.
TRAINS TO LHASA
Traveling by train is also a popular way to reach Tibet. The Qinghai-Tibet railroad is the highest railroad in the world going through mountain passes over 5,000 meters high! Of course, there is supplemental oxygen on a train. The train ride offers great views when you travel through Tibetan plateau. However, it takes much longer to reach Lhasa by train, from 20 hours to over 2 days depending on the city where you start your journey.
|Beijing||40 hours||3757||Every Day|
|Shanghai||47 hours||4373||Every Day|
|Xian||31 hours||2864||Every Day|
|Chengdu||36 hours||3070||Every Other Day|
|Chongqing||36 hours||3030||Every Other Day|
|Guangzhou||53 hours||4980||Every Day|
|Xining||21 hours||1972||Several Times Every Day|
|Lanzhou||24 hours||2188||Several Times Every Day|
You can read details about both of the traveling options in the articles below.
LHASA CITY TOUR OPTIONS
POPULAR GROUP TOURS FROM LHASA
7 DAYS LHASA TO NEPAL TOUR
During this 7 days tour you will see the most beautiful places in the Himalayas. We start in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where we visit UNESCO World Heritage sites Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, and two important monasteries – Sera and Drepung. After that we will drive to Shigatse through Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glaciers, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum Stupa. On the following day, we reach the world’s highest mountain Everest to spend one night by the Rongbuk monastery. Finally, the road will take us to Nepal border at Gyirong port.
8 DAYS LHASA TO EVEREST TOUR
A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok Lake and Karola glaciers.
15 DAYS MOUNT KAILASH TOUR
One of our most popular group tours, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and going to Mount Kailash for three-days trekking around this sacred mountain. During this tour, we visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa, Mount Everest, Lake Manasarovar, Chiu Monastery, Mount Kailash, and much more.