Traveling to Tibet is one of the most amazing journeys in the world. Heading up to this high-altitude plateau, the highest plateau in the world, is an exhilarating experience, and there is no greater journey than that following in the footsteps of the great explorers of the early 20th century. Tibet was an isolated land for centuries, and foreign travelers and explorers were often turned back at its borders. Now, things have changed dramatically, and Tibet is an open region where tourists can travel across the plateau from one end to the other. However, this does still require some careful planning, especially for those traveling to Lhasa from Kathmandu in Nepal.
In a direct line, Kathmandu is a mere 607 kilometers (377 miles) from Lhasa, and if you were to fly to Lhasa from Kathmandu, it would take just 90 minutes. But where is the fun in that? The overland route is much more interesting, and a much better adventure as well.
From Kathmandu to Lhasa by road, heading through the recently-opened Gyirong Port border crossing, it is a total of 1,204.78 kilometers (748.62 miles). This includes the die-trips that you will normally take along the road to Lhasa in Tibet, including a trip to Rongbuk Monastery and the famed Everest Base Camp and a detour from the famous Friendship Highway to visit Gyantse and its amazing attractions.
How to Plan Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour via Gyirong Port
If you are thinking of traveling overland from Nepal to Lhasa then there is only one way to go. All overland tours to Lhasa from Kathmandu must pass over the border between Nepal and China at Gyirong Port, the newest overland border crossing checkpoint for Tibet. The most amazing way to enter Tibet, crossing the border is an adventure all of its own, driving up into the massive Himalayas and passing through between these high peaks onto a plateau land where your only thoughts need to be on what you are visiting next.
As a responsible tour operator for Tibet, and the only tour operator that has local offices in Lhasa, Kathmandu, and Chengdu in China, we are committed to giving you the best options for your tour of the plateau region. This is why our overland tour from Kathmandu is now eight days long, while others are still seven days. Our special tour allows you to acclimatize for a day in Gyirong Town, after you cross the border into China. Acclimatizing to the higher altitude is important to help reduce the risk of altitude sickness, which happens at altitudes over 3,000 meters. Normally, this is done in Lhasa, for those traveling the other way. Since you will be heading for one of the highest tourist destinations in Tibet at Everest Base Camp (EBC), we feel it is important to acclimatize before you go there.
We also make time for an overnight stop at Syabrubesi in Nepal, on the road to the border at Rasuwa Gadhi/Gyirong Port. This is due to two reasons: the border closes at around 3:00 pm Nepal Time, so you may not make it in time to process through to Tibet; and the requirement to drive from Gyirong Port to Gyirong Town at night, along narrow and sometimes dangerous roads. It is better to stop overnight and cross the border in the morning, to ensure your crossing is not impeded and to allow your driver to be able to drive during the daytime on the small roads of Western Tibet. – See the detailed itinerary of the 8 Days Kathmandu to Lhasa Driving Across Himalaya Overland Adventure Tour
Once you have decided on taking a tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa, your next step is to come and talk to us, so that we can book your tour of the plateau. When entering Tibet from Nepal, you do not need to get the normal Chinese Entry Visa, and we just need the scanned color copy of your passport. This is to apply for the relevant permits and invitation letters that you will need for traveling in Tibet. From there, once you have decided on the details of your tour, we can make the booking and proceed with obtaining the permits.
Best Time for Kathmandu to Lhasa Tour by Bus
While there is normally no “best time” for traveling to Tibet, as the plateau can be visited at any time of the year, depending on where you are traveling, there are some things to think about when booking this trip in the low season from December to March. There can be some inclement weather in the winter months after you cross the border into Tibet, so it is important to know the weather if you are planning this trip in the winter months.
Normally, the optimum time to travel to Tibet would be from April to November, which covers spring, summer, and autumn. Summer can be a little busy, as it is the peak season, but for the best weather overall, spring and autumn, from April to May and September to November are the best options.
Accommodation and Dinning along Friendship Road
Most of your accommodation along this route from Kathmandu to Lhasa will be in hotels, especially in the major cities such as Shigatse and Lhasa. Hotels are also available in other towns, such as Gyantse and Gyirong Town, though they will be a little more basic in their facilities. In areas such as EBC, where there are limited options for accommodation, the local monastery guesthouse or the tent guesthouses are the only options here, and facilities are very basic, often without running water.
Meals on the plateau can vary, depending on where you are. Lhasa and Shigatse have excellent restaurants and hotel meals that range from authentic Tibetan cuisine to a range of Nepali, Chinese, and even western dishes. Outside the cities, you can find restaurants and hotels that serve some Chinese food, mainly from Sichuan cuisine, though you may not find any western food. Nepali food is often more freely available in the towns around the plateau. In the far west, at the more remote locations, you are unlikely to find many dishes that are not Tibetan, so if you are not a fan, then taking some food along with you for the remote areas is a good idea.
Visa and Permit Needed for Nepal to Tibet by Road
Before traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu, you will need to have all the necessary permits and visa for China and Tibet. While the visa for entry from China can be processed through your embassy in your home country, when traveling from Kathmandu, the visa is completely different.
Known as the Chinese Group Visa, it is only available to travelers heading to Tibet from Nepal, and can only be applied for by the tour operator on your behalf. Once you arrive in Tibet, our local agent will contact you to obtain your passport for the visa application. The application will then be made by him at the Kathmandu Chinese Embassy, which takes around three working days to process. Once it has been approved, our agent will collect it and deliver it to your hotel.
You will also need a number of permits for traveling from Kathmandu to Lhasa, which must all be present before you depart from the Nepali capital. The Tibet Travel Permit is the main one and most important, and it can only be applied for by a travel agency once you have booked your tour. We will use the scanned color copy of your passport to make the application on your behalf, and will receive the permit and the invitation letter for your visa from Kathmandu after around 15-20 days.
You will also need the Alien’s Travel Permit, which covers travel to the “unopened” areas of Tibet outside Lhasa. This is required before you cross the border, as you will be traveling through those areas in Shigatse Prefecture on your way to Lhasa. The permit is applied for in Lhasa, and we will use the Tibet Travel Permit and the scan of your passport to make the application on your behalf.
For all travelers crossing the border between China and Nepal, as well as those traveling to EBC without crossing the border, the Frontier Pass must also be obtained before you leave Kathmandu. Required for all tourists traveling in the region of the Chinese borders with India, Nepal, and Bhutan, this is applied for in Lhasa and can be completed in a few hours, before you leave Kathmandu.
Once your visa has been collected from the Embassy in Kathmandu, our agent will bring it to your hotel, along with the permits that have already been obtained, ready for your trip across the border to the Land of Snows.
Traveling from Kathmandu to Lhasa by road is the adventure of a lifetime, and while it is a little more complicated in getting the permits, passes, and visa, all of this is actually done for you by us, so you only have to worry about being in Kathmandu at least five working days before your expected date of travel to Tibet. This is one of the most exciting tours in Tibet, and is a must for anyone that loves long road trips.