The Chengdu to Lhasa overland tour is undoubtedly the most amazing journey via Sichuan Tibet Highway and it is a lifetime journey that one gets to experience. You can view the lovely scenery that changes from Chengdu Plain to the Tibet Plateau. One can certainly enjoy the look of the Snow Mountains on the way and also get to experience the different cultures in the villages and this is sure to surprise you. The stunning forest and rivers are the ones that are going to capture your heart.
Why we choose Sichuan Tibet Highway?
The Sichuan Tibet Highway crosses the high mountains, valleys, lakes, primeval forest and many dangerous sections. You can get to enjoy the lovely views on the way as the places are filled with unique tradition, practices and customs. You can also get to meet the Tibetan locals and nomads and get to know their customs and culture during the course of your trip. You can also get a lovely chance to experience the stunning landscapes in the Eastern Tibet and Western Sichuan. At present, it is considered the lengthiest high altitude road that is known to China. Since the time the Sichuan-Tibet Highway is opened, it has undoubtedly played a prime role in the social stability and economic development of the place.
Different travel routes to Lhasa from Chengdu
There are two different routes which the travellers can use from and both the routes begin with an altitude of 500 meters and thereafter they follow the same route. Initially, it begins with Kangding and crosses the Xinduqiao Bridge. Thereafter different routes are taken with changes in altitude.
The northern route of Sichuan Tibet Highway G317 is about 150 km longer when compared to the southern route and this totally a different journey altogether. The journey begins with Chengdu and once leaving Xinduqiao, it further takes towards north to Bameizhen. Thereafter the travellers move forward to Yala Jokul Scenic Area and reach Garze Monastery. After this, the journey moves towards the left side through Dege, Chamdo and Nagqu. Thereafter the journey moves towards Damxung and passes the Lake Namtso and finally reaches Lhasa.
The southern route of Sichuan Tibet Highway G318 is at a higher elevation when compared to the northern route. Firstly the journey begins with Xinduqiao and crosses Litang grasslands. Then the journey takes various turns at places like Markam, Zogang, Ranwu, Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, Nyingchi, Shannan and finally to Lhasa.
Different road condition and altitude changes
The northern route of this highway is travelled via Garze and Chamdo and these are tar roads. In the mountain areas, there are some roads in poor condition. Once the travellers pass Baqing, the road that goes to Lhasa is tar road with speed limit. The southern route meets the area of Hengduan Mountains. The condition of the road after Nyingchi is great and also gas speed limit prescribed.
Sichuan Tibet overland journey starts from Chengdu, an elevation of about 500 meters, and ends in the region of Lhasa, an altitude of about 3,656 meters. There are chances that people who undertake this journey experience slight altitude sickness. Once you leave Chengdu there will be a rise in the altitude by 2,560 meters and when you reach Kangding you would have covered a distance of about 297 kilometres. Upon reaching Xinduqiao Bridge you would have already covered 368 kilometres and this means you are above 3,000 meters from the sea-level.
In case you experience altitude sickness when you drive, you should make sure somebody else drives in your place. If you do not have a traveller with you, then it is better to stop and rest. This will help your body to adjust to the increased elevation. In case you are travelling with your guide, then it is essential to inform your guide to get help before you move to the higher destinations.
Different natural scenery and cultural landscape
The elevation of the two routes varies slightly. However, the landscape of these two routes differ. The northern route has level road and ranges from Xinduqiao to Chamdo and crosses the grasslands and high mountains till it reaches Chamdo. Thereafter the geography changes along the valleys that go towards Nagqu grasslands. Once the travellers pass this area, it turns level again and crosses the massive grassland and heads to the Nagqu Town.
Towards the southern route, it is completely different as most of the part crosses the mountain area with the road that winds between crossing passes and high mountains. As the winding turns are more towards the northern route, it is often considered dangerous when compared with the northern route.
However, either of the two is known for their unique scenery with a lot of places of interest and amazing beauty. Both the routes are filled with distinct Tibetan culture and amazing landscapes and thereby the journey becomes extremely memorable.
Highlights along Sichuan Tibet Highway Northern Route G317
When you choose the northern route, once you leave Chengdu, you come across one of the best conservation projects and it is Dujiang Dam. It was built by the Qin dynasty. Close to this is the Qingcheng Mountain and these two are considered the world heritage sites since the year 2000. En route you can also find Siguniang Mountain close to Xiaojin. On the route to Dege you can find the amazing Yulong La-tso which is an alpine lake that is featured with huge glaciers. Towards the last stretch of your journey to Lhasa, you can find the best sights here and that is Lake Namtso, which is one of the finest scenic spots. It is also known to be a huge saline lake in this region. Close to this are a lot of caves which are visited by numerous pilgrims. Finally, before you reach Lhasa, you can visit Yangpachen and this is known to be one of the finest natural hot springs. This site is known to have the highest hot springs in the world. This route is merely populated and you can watch the nomads and the herds mainly around the Lake Namtso.
The northern route is featured with numerous temples and monasteries. Due to this, you can learn a lot of about the Buddhist culture. Planning a trip to Jiaju villages of the Danba county can certainly be an incredible experience. The Huiyuan Monastery, Nyitso Monastery, Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, Bakong Scripture Printing Press Monastery, Jampaling Monastery, Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace are some of the best places that you can explore.
Highlights along Sichuan Tibet Highway Southern Route G318
When you take the southern route, the first place that you can choose to visit is the Mugecuo Lake. This lake is referred as the savage sea and is featured with many forests, lakes, snow peaks, hot springs, standing stones and snow peaks. Thereafter you can visit Hailuogou, which is well-known for the forests, ice falls and glaciers. Moving forward you can plan a visit to the Maoya Grasslands which are known to be hilly grasslands. Further to this, you can visit places such as Chamdo Prefecture, Bangda Prairie, Ranwu Lake, Lulang Forest, Basum Lake and Nyang River.
The southern route is the best route and this is indeed every photographer’s delight. The mesmerising beauty of nature here is definitely a treat to the eyes. The route is filled with a lot of mountains and lakes and provides you with some amazing sights. The Mugecuo Lake and Hailuogou Glaciers are surely going to fill your heart with joy. Some of the other places that you can visit include Pucuogou Natural Ecological Reserve, Zogang County, Licang River and Nujiang River. Overall, this route offers the finest landscapes and will certainly make a worthy drive.
Different accommodations and travel costs
Accommodation along the highway for foreign travelers with their guide is limited to the tourist-based hotels and hostels. While there are many other lodges and truck-stops along the road, which are used by cyclists and hitchhikers, they are off-limits to tourists. So make sure you book your Tibet tour with the help of a good travel agency. The journey should take about eleven to fifteen days.
Staying in Tibet can definitely be a great experience. Depending on your spending power and also your lifestyle, the rates are going to be different. Those who are looking for a budget stay, the cost would be somewhere between 8 to 12 USD for a room and this is most of the times without an attached bathroom. If you are travelling with another person, you can easily get a double room with an attached bathroom for 30 to 60 USD for every night. This could be a little expensive, however, you can choose certain amenities.
If you want to have the best staying experience, then you can get the finest of all restaurants which would cost from about 90 to 150 USD. The hotels here will suit the budget of different types of travels and also facilitates are easy booking.
Which one shall I choose National Highway G317 or G318 to Tibet?
Both the highways provide you with an incredible journey experience. If you want to save time, then you can certainly go for the southern route G318 as the distance covered is less when compared to the northern route G317. Both the journeys will be adventurous as you can experience flora and fauna to the best and can also get to know the rich Tibetan culture.