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The Sino-Nepal Highway, also known as Friendship Highway, is a celebrated scenic route on the Tibetan Plateau. This highway with scenic wonders includes two parts, the westernmost part of National Highway NO.318 from Lhasa west to Lhatse then south to Nepal, and the southernmost part of National Highway NO.219 from Lhatse to Gar in far western Tibet.
Its trunk starts at Lhasa, capital of Tibet, passes near turquoise Yamdrok Lake, through Gyantse to Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city and home of the Panchen Lama, then continues west parallel to the Yarlung Zangbo River/Brahmaputra, then to Lhatse, where one branch continues west and upriver as China National Highway NO.219, finally crossing the Brahmaputra/Indus divide near sacred Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, then on to Ali in Gar County, while the other branch from Chapu maintains the Hwy NO.318 route number.
Hwy NO.318 turns southwest and crosses the main Brahmaputra-Ganges divide at Lakpa-La Pass at 5,250m above sea level. Descending 800 meters onto alluvial plains of the Bum-Chu - also known as the Arun in Nepal - the highway passes Shegar (New Tingri) and Old Tingri, both gateways to Rongbuk Monastery and the north side of Mount Everest. Continuing southwest, the highway climbs over Lalung-La at 5,050m above headwaters of the Matsang Tsangpo (Sun Kosi). This stream as well as Bum-Chu/Arun flow south into Nepal, two of the Seven Koshis joining forces before breaking out of the Himalayan foothills and continuing south to the Ganges. Friendship Highway then descends through Nyalam, then more steeply through a canyon to Zhangmu where Friendship Bridge crosses into Nepal at mere 1,750m above sea level. The extension to Kathmandu is named Arniko Rajmarg.
Along the Friendship Highway, you can visit beautiful turquoise Yamdrok Lake that is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet, the Karuola Glaciers lying on the roadside, the Pelkor Chode Monastery with unique style taking in several sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the famed Tashilhunpo known as the Panchen Lama's seat, the Sakya Monastery reputed as the "Second Dunhuang" for its magic murals. Of course, you can make a detour to drive 100km south of Friendship Highway to visit Everest Base Camp and the world's highest monastery, 5,000 meters Rongbuk Monastery.
This highway is not only a popular overland route from Kathmandu to Lhasa, by also an important route for pilgrims to make their way from all corners of Tibet to the spiritual center in Lhasa and to the sacred Mount Kailash and holy Lake Manasarovar in western Tibet.
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