There are only two ways to enter Tibet, via Nepal or China. A lot of international tourists choose to go via China as it has convenient international flight connectivity. But going via Nepal has its own charms and advantages. Nepal is a small and beautiful country wedged between India and China. A place that is so much like Tibet, a place filled with monasteries, Buddhism, mountains, and serene views. It is much faster to get to Tibet from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Tibet, famously known as the ‘Roof of the World,’ will only be countless times more beautiful than you had imagined. Here are some tips and information on how to get to Tibet from Nepal.
Overland from Nepal to Tibet
Overlanding is one of the purest forms of adventures in Tibet. Overlanding takes a lot more time and costs more than any mode of transport. Overlanding is also a journey where you can explore the landscape, experience the native culture, and connect with the locals in an authentic way. There is one highway that connects Nepal to Lhasa – the Sino Nepal Highway. It is also called as the Friendship Highway. This highway is 870km long and takes you across many places of religious and cultural importance and through many postcards perfect sceneries. Some of the attractions that you can catch on the way are Yamdrok Lake, Samding Monastery, Rongbuk Monastery, Thashilunpo Monastery, Sakya Monastery, Pelkor Chodo Monastery etc.
Here is a small breakdown of Friendship Highway:
Kathmandu – Gyirong – Saga – Lhatse – Shigatse – Qushui – Lhasa
The highway starts at Kathmandu and then goes via Gyirong which is the border between Nepal and Lhasa. Almost 3/4th of the route falls in Tibet. Once you enter Tibet you will be going via Shigatse. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet. Since you will be traveling in a car you can take a detour and visit the Everest Base Camp. It is at EBC you will be able to visit the famous Rongbuk Monastery which is one of the highest monasteries in the world. Going by road can be time-consuming but it is one of the most rewarding ways to travel in Tibet.
Nepal to Tibet by Flight:
Traveling by flight is one of the fastest ways to travel to Tibet from Nepal. The fly time is only a little more than an hour and there are direct flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa that operate regularly. During the summer and peak tourism months there are flights every day. During winter months there are only 2 or 3 flights per week. The flights are operated by Air China, China Eastern and Sichuan Airlines. In Kathmandu you have to show and prove that you are part of an organized tour in Tibet, only then you will be able to get on the flight. You need to have the necessary paperwork like permits and itinerary and hotels arranged to prove that you have arranged the trip formally through a travel agency.
Although going by flight is faster and cheaper, you will be missing a lot of scenic views and attractions that are only possible to see while going by road. When you are traveling by flight you are ascending very quickly and your body does not have enough time to acclimatize, so it is common to experience basic symptoms of altitude sickness like headaches, loss of appetite, and feeling nauseous. They usually go off in a day or two. It is advisable that you get medication for altitude sickness before the trip. But if you are on a trip with limited time then flight is definitely the best option to travel by. Once you reach the Lhasa airport, your agent will be waiting for you with a private vehicle for your group.
Mount Kailash via Simikot Trek:
Entering Tibet by trekking to Mount Kailash via Simikot is a unique and adventurous way to get to Tibet. This option is not chosen by many because it is expensive and takes 17- 20 days to get to Tibet. En route you will be doing a kora trek around Mt Kailash and visiting Lake Mansarover. Nevertheless, this way is a road less traveled in a true sense. This way involves both trekking and going by car.
Simikot is located in the northwest of Nepal. Once you arrive at Kathmandu you will be required to take two flights to reach Simikot, first from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj and then from there to Simikot. From Simikot you will be trekking for 5 days to reach Helsa, a small Nepalese village that is located right across the border of Tibet. You will be walking across a bridge to get to Tibet and get to Purang in a car. From Purang you will be trekking to Mt Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. After which you can get to Lhasa. All through this trek, you will be required to have an authorized guide with you. Here is a rough itinerary of this trek:
Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu
Day 2: Preparing for visa and next day trip
Day 3: Kathmandu to Nepalgunj by flight (1 hour)
Day 4: Fly to Simikot and trek to Dharapori
Day 5: Trek from Dharapori to Kermi
Day 6: Kermi to Yalbang
Day 7: Yalbang to Tumkot
Day 8: Tumkot to Yari
Day 9: Yari to Hilsa Village
Day 10: Hilsa to Purang
Day 11: Purang to Montser
Day 12: Transfer to Darchen
Day 13: Mt Kailash Kora day 1
Day 14: Kora day 2
Day 15: Kora day 3
Day 16: Lake Mansarover
Day 17: Mansarovar to Saga
Day 18: Saga to Shigatse
Day 19: Shigatse to Lhasa
This is definitely not a budget-friendly or a time friendly way to get to Tibet, but the views and experiences along the way are worth every penny and every second that will be spent on this trek.
Nepal Tibet Tour Visa Requirements:
In addition to acquiring a visa for entering Nepal, you have to get a Chinese visa from the Chinese embassy. For traveling in Tibet only group visas can be obtained. To enter Tibet and travel within Tibet two permits are required – Tibet Travel Permit and Aliens Travel Permit. Tibet Travel Permit to enter Tibet and Aliens Travel Permit to travel outside of Lhasa. All the permits and visa can be arranged through your tour operator itself. It takes 3-5 working days to acquire the permits to enter and travel in Tibet. You will be required to send soft copies of your passport and visa to acquire the permits. It is important to keep your permits safe as they are asked everywhere including hotels, tourist attractions, trains, airports, etc.