CHENGDU TO LHASA OVERLAND

11 DAYS CHENGDU TO LHASA OVERLAND TOUR VIA G318 SICHUAN-TIBET HIGHWAY

The scenic route follows the national Sichuan-Tibet Highway G318. Traveling from Chengdu to Lhasa overland is a great way to visit remote areas, enjoy stunning landscapes, and learn more about rich Tibetan culture. The journey starts in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, famous for its giant pandas breeding center and spicy cuisine. You can spend a few days in Chengdu exploring the city and prepare for your tour in Tibet. Although Chengdu is not a very famous city in China, there are still a lot of places you can explore in Chengdu.

The National Highway G318 will take you through truly magnificent landscapes, however, it is for experienced drivers only. At times the road becomes narrow, follows canyons and high mountain passes with many turns. Fortunately, the views along the way are breath-taking. You will see deep canyon gorges, snow-capped mountain peaks, vast grasslands, alpine lakes, glorious rivers, and dense forests. In addition, we will visit important Tibetan monasteries and explore cities along the way. 

We will finish our journey in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. While in Lhasa, we will visit Potala Palace, the magnificent residence of the Dalai Lamas, 7th century Jokhang Temple and the most important monasteries. At the end of the tour you can extend your journey by joining one of our group tours in Tibet or following your own private-tour itinerary.

DETAILED OVERLAND TOUR ITINERARY

DAY 1: CHENGDU

Your tour guide and driver will come to your hotel in Chengdu to meet you. You will discuss upcoming tour details, and guide can address all your questions.

DAY 2: CHENGDU – YA’AN – LUDING – KANGDING (2400 meters).

Distance: 315 km
Driving: 6-7 hours

Luding Hailuogou Gongga Mountain, Sichuan

Today is our first day on the way to the Roof of the World. We will drive from Chengdu to Kangding through Ya’an and Luding. On the way, you will see Dadu River, the upper reaches of Yangtze River.

Kangding is 300 km away from Chengdu and it is the capital city of Ganzi Tibetan Prefecture. The road connecting Chengdu and Kangding is in good condition. The stretch to Ya’an is a paved highway. After Ya’an the road is more narrow with many twists, but safe. 

We arrive in Kangding in the evening. After you check in the hotel, you  can walk around town to explore local life.

Original name of Kangding in Tibetan is Datseto. It is one of the biggest cities in the traditional Tibetan area. Historically it was an important business center between China and Tibet on the Tea-horse-road. 

DAY 3: KANGDING – LITHANG (4200 meters)

Distance: 273 km
Driving: 7 hours 

Kangding Sichuan

Today we will drive to Lithang through Xinduqiao Bridge. On the way we can see a huge grassland area with Tibetan nomadic life and an amazing nature with domestic animals including yaks and sheep.

In the morning we will drive towards the first high mountain on our tour. You will see the Zheduo mountain (4298m). We continue driving and we will pass the newly constructed Kangding airport before reaching Xinduqiao about 90 km from Kangding. Xinduqiao is a famous photography spot with small villages scattered on the hill slopes. After that, we continue our journey to Lithang.

Lithang is located in a high valley. It is very famous in Tibet, because it is the birthplace of the 7th and 10th Dalai Lamas.  
The Ke’er is the prominent monastery in Lithang. It belongs to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. The entire monastery is built on the mountain. You can capture beautiful images of the monastery from a distance. 
When we arrive in Lithang, we will check in a hotel, and you can explore the city afterwards. 

DAY 4: LITHANG – BATHANG (2580 meters) – MARKHAM (3875 meters)

Distance: 300 km
Driving: 7 hours

Today we will enter the Tibet Autonomous Region. On the way enjoy exceptional views on snow capped mountains and Tibetan nomadic areas.  We will cross the Yangtze river bridge in Bathang, and that is an official border line of the TAR. The check point is at the end of the bridge, where you need to present your documents and Tibet Autonomous Region Travel Permits.

After the checkpoint, the road runs in a deep gorge with endless mountain views and fabulous scenery towards Markham. Markham town has been a strategic crossroads town on trade routes between Tibet and Sichuan.  We are now in the Easter part of Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is also known as Tibetan Switzerland for its beauty. 

When we reach Markham, you can explore the traditional local market.

View of mountains along the Road 318 in Zuogong(Zogong)

DAY 5: MARKHAM – ZOGONG (3877 meters) – POMDA (4120 meters) – BASHOE (3280 meters)

Distance: 355 km
Driving: 8 hours 

Today we are driving towards Bashoe through the Zogong and Pomda town. Zogong is a small Tibetan town and Pomda is a very large grassland area, (known as Bangda in Chinese language). Here, the altitude is 4390m above sea level. You can see the most important natural pastures in Eastern Tibet. There is also an intersection of the Southern and Northern Sichuan-Tibet highways. It used to be an obligatory stop on the famous Tea Horse road. 

Because of the dramatic change in altitude, you can experience four different seasons in a single day. Moving further westward, we start seeing pristine forest, small Tibetan villages, and fabulous mountain views. We will cross two high mountain passes. The first pass on the way is Dongda pass (5005m). Next, we will reach Lawu pass (4358m). Today the road is nice most of the way until we reach Hengduan Mountain Range. It is the dangerous natural barrier on our way. The sky road is making impressive 72 bends on the way up to the mountain range top. After that, the road follows a stream, passes several small villages and finally leads us to a small town of Bashoe

bird's-eye view of the Zig zag road know as the Nujiang 72 turns

DAY 6: BASHOE – RANWU TSO LAKE (3960 meters) – POMI (2725 meters)

Distance: 222 km
Driving: 6 hours

Today we are driving towards Pomi through Ranwu lake (also known as Rakwa Tso, Rawu Tso or Ranwu Lake). The lake is in Bashoe County, Chamdo Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region.  Ranwu Tso covers an area of 27 km² and sits at an elevation of 3,850 meters. The alpine lake is incredible, with deep blue color and magnificent snow-capped glaciers in the background. On a clear day you can see a dramatic reflection of the mountains in the clear waters of Ranwu Tso. After that, we continue driving to Pomi. The altitude along the way is gradually decreasing and you can notice climate and landscape changes.

DAY 7: POMI – NYINGCHI:  distant view of Mt. NamchaBarwa(7782m), Lulang Forest

Distance: 300 km

namcha barwa peak in tibet

Today we will drive to Nyingchi through Lulang forest. The dense forest covers an area of 15 square km and serves as a habitat to local wildlife. On our way we will stop on the Sechen-la pass to look at the forest from the viewing platform. From the top of the pass you can see how large the forest area is. On a clear day we can also see a distant view of  mountain Namcha Barwa, one of the most beautiful mountains in Tibet.  

After that, we will continue driving towards Tashi-Gang village, where we stop for lunch in a local Tibetan outdoor restaurant. In addition to a restaurant, there is a shooting range for bow and arrow shooting. 

After lunch stop, we continue driving through some of the most beautiful areas in this region. We will visit Lulang forest with tall and old trees, where we will stop at the oldest and largest tree of the forest – King Cypress

As we drive further, you will see many small villages along the way. In spring, this area is covered with peach blossom, and it attracts thousands of tourists every year. After that, we continue our journey to Nyingchi.

DAY 8: NYINGCHI TO LHASA: Basum Tso lake

Distance: 400 km

Today we will drive to Lhasa (the capital of Tibet). Our journey to Lhasa will be interesting and scenic. On the way you can see Nyang River, a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo River. One of the highlights of the day is gorgeous Basum Tso lake

Once we reach the entrance gate, we have to take the government-provided tour bus. It takes 15 minutes by the bus to reach the lake shore. 

Basum Tso is a sacred lake of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a small island with a Buddhist temple that we can visit following a scenic bridge. 

After that, we continue driving to Lhasa. We will cross the Mila pass (5013 meters), one of the highest passes on the national G318 highway. 

DAY 9: LHASA SIGHTSEING: Drepung and Sera Monasteries

We are visiting the two most important monasteries in the capital.

We will first visit Drepung Monastery, which once was the largest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.

There will be free time for lunch after the Drepung Monastery.

In the afternoon we are visiting Sera Monastery. It was founded by Tsongkhapa’s disciple in the 15th century. Nowadays it is famous for monks debate that you can witness. Debates are a very important part of learning and understanding Buddhism. Monks gather in the courtyard in the shade of the trees to refine their knowledge.

DAY 10: LHASA SIGHTSEING: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple

This tour visits the two most important religious sites in Tibet.

The Potala Palace was the seat of the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century. First, the guide will take you to the Chak Pori Hill to take photos of the majestic Palace. We will then go inside and spend approximately 1.5 – 2 hours there. While there, you will see many of its most famous artifacts.

There will be free time for lunch after visiting the Potala Palace.

Time permitting, you can walk around the Potala Palace and join many of the local Tibetans.

Next, we will walk towards the Jokhang Temple. It was built in the 7th century to display the Jowo Shakyamuni Statue – the statue of the 12-year-old Buddha before his enlightenment. The statue was created at the time when the historical Buddha lived. It is elaborately decorated with gold, jewels, and precious stones.

After visiting the temple, we recommend taking a walk around Barkhor Street.

DAY 11: DEPARTURE FROM TIBET

Please prepare in advance for your departure. It takes approximately one hour to drive to the airport and around thirty minutes to reach the train station. We will arrive at the airport three hours before your departure flight if you are traveling to Nepal and two hours before any domestic flight.

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bird's-eye view of the Zig zag road know as the Nujiang 72 turns