Hello. My name is Sylvain. I’m from Belgium. I travelled to Tibet at age 29 in January 2018 with Tibet Vista. I booked their one week Lhasa to Gyirong tour. That is the tour you need to book if you feel adventurous enough and want to make the overland Tibet to Nepal tour. Tibet Vista takes care of everything and accompany you all the time once you are in the Tibet Region proper and if you request them, they can also help you with transportation before and after. Here below is what I did : a whole trip from Shanghai to Kathmandu by either train or bus. All transportation was organized by Tibet Vista.
My whole journey from Shanghai to Kathmandu
Preparing the Trip to Tibet
I first contacted Tibet Vista in August 2017 for a trip in the winter. You need to plan your trip a few months in advance as you will need a visa for China and a permit for the Tibet region. This can take a few months. Tibet Vista will help you with the procedures. Tibet in winter ? Yes, I chose that time because it is the wet season in Northern India at that time and the probability to have a cloudless Himalaya is greater. Once the administrative part of the job was set, I specified the itinerary I wanted to do : a whole overland trip from Shanghai to Kathmandu including their Lhasa to Gyirong one week tour. Tibet Vista booked me the trains from Shanghai to Lhasa with a one day stop in Nanjing and Xi’an as requested and they explained me how to collect the tickets at each station. Once in Lhasa they also helped our group getting a bus or jeep from Gyirong the last town in Tibet, to Kahtmandu in Nepal.
Curious kids in the Tibet train
Take the train to Lhasa! Lhasa is at 3600m above sea level and you won’t get any lower for a week. The train from any big Chinese city to Lhasa is the right thing to do if you want to avoid or limit the altitude sickness effects. Some people in the group took the plane and had serious headaches during all the trip and they didn’t visit all the sites because of that. I’d also not recommend doing the same tour from Kathmandu to Tibet because that way you’ll go up much faster than when coming from China.
The Nyanqentanglha, 7162m, from the Tibet train
The train journey likely takes around two days depending on where you start from and you’ll change train at Xining where you step in the famous pressurized Tibet train. The sights from that train are unforgettable. The Tibet plateau is all yellow and red, contrasting with the blue sky, frozen lakes and rivers, and snow-capped mountains here and there. A clever eye might also notice when you pass through the Tanggula railway station, the highest train station in the world at 5068m.
How I Enjoy Lhasa to Gyirong Tour
While most travellers pick a loop tour from and to Lhasa, this tour starts in Lhasa and finishes in Gyirong 20km before the border between China and Nepal. This adds a travel spirit to the tour as you never go back to the same place and you just keep moving west and south. Lhasa being north of the Himalaya and Gyirong being south of it, this also means you truly cross the Himalayan range.
Stop at the Lake Peiku on the way to Gyirong
You also connect different worlds ; a Buddhist China to the north versus a Hindu India to the south, and a cold and sparsely inhabited Tibetan plateau on one side, versus a warmer and greener crwoded Nepal on the other side. The day of my arrival to Lhasa, Tenzin, our guide, welcomed me at the train station and drove me to my hotel where I just rested for the rest of the day. The second day I met with the other travellers of our group and that’s when it really started. Here below is our exact program :
|Day 1 - Arrival to Lhasa||I met my guide and went to the hotel to rest.|
|Day 2 - Drepung & Sera monasteries||I met the group and we visited the Drepung and Sera monasteries around Lhasa.|
|Day 3 - Potala and Jokhang Temple||We visited the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa city centre.|
|Day 4 - From Lhasa to Shigatse||We took our minibus and went to Shigatse. On the way we crossed the Yarlung river (the upper part of the mighty Brahmaputra), we climbed the Gampa La pass (4998m), went around the sacred Yamdrok lake (4441m), stopped at the Karo La pass (5030m) and glacier, and visited the old Gyantse town (4000m) and its Palcho monastery.|
|Day 5 - From Shigatse to Rongbuk||We visited the Tashilhunpo monastery in Shihatse and then went to Rongbuk near the Everest Base Camp. On the way we stopped at the Gyatso La pass (5248m) the highest point of the tour, and at the Kyawula pass (5180m) where you can enjoy one of the best views on the Everest and Himalaya. But that day was unfortunately the only cloudy day of the tour. After we went to the Everest Base Camp at 5200m and slept in a lodge at 4980m close to the Rongbuk monastery.|
|Day 6 - From Rongbuk to Gyirong||We climbed the Kyawula Pass again and this time we had an amazing panorama at sunrise on the Himalaya and several 8000m including the Everest ! After that we stopped at Tingri town (4300m) and then at the Paiku lake (4591m). We climbed our last pass the Ghungtang Lhamo (5236m) and descended to Gyirong (2800m).|
|Day 7 - From Gyirong to Kathmandu||We left one last time with the minibus and reached the border post of Rasuwa Gadhi. Afer a last goodbye to the guide we crossed the border and walked in Nepal. There a previously booked bus took us to Kathmandu.|
We were a dozen people, mostly from Europe and North America and we were accompanied by our guide Tenzin and the driver. The transportation was made with a modern and comfortable minibus. The atmosphere in our group was perfect. Tenzin guided us through all the sites to visit and he provided us with abundant information about Tibetan culture, heritage and traditions. He did his best to accomodate our wishes with the schedule and helped us in any way possible if we needed. - Check more Lhasa to Kathmandu tours.
Grazing yaks dotted in the wilderness
I decided to travel to Tibet as part of a world tour I was doing at the time. I wanted to connect China to India and as I love mountains, Tibet was the perfect option. I was more interested in the landscapes than the culture and traditions. You’ll receive a lot of cultural information during your trip and Tibetan culture is very rich and complex. If this is the main reason of your trip, you might find interesting to have a book during your trip so that you can cope with all the information you’ll receive and so that you can relate what you see with what you know or read.
My Five Best Memories in Tibet
1) The visit of the Potala palace in Lhasa : this is the most famous monument in Tibet and it will not disappoint you. Once the residence of the Dalai Lama, climbing its numerous steps will exhaust you but it is worth it. The palace took its current form in the 17th century.
Magnificent Potala Palace in Lhasa
2) The Karo La glacier : not far from the sacred Yamdrok lake is the Karo La pass at 5030m. The pass meanders around the Noijinkangsang moutain culminating at 7191m. Between the pass and the summit is the Karo La glacier. When the sky is blue the view over the brown moutain and white glacier is incredible.
Massive Karo La glacier, close to Yamdrok Lake
3) The Gyantse town : this small but historical town is a gem. It is situated at an altitude of 4000m and it used to be the 3rd largest town of Tibet and an important trade center. Its main sights are its fortress and the Palcho monastery that contains one of the most beautiful Kumbum or multi-storied Bhuddist stupa-like temple.
Nepali-stylle Kumbum stupa in Palcho monastery
4) The Everest Base Camp : the base camp is at 5200m in a valley dominated by the Everest mountain that culminates at 8848m. Every step there is exhausting. Unfortunately for us, the weather was cloudy just that day. Still, our excitation was not diminished. We spent the night in a lodge next to the nearby Rongbuk monastery at 4980m ! - Join the popular Lhasa to Everest Base Camp tours.
Spend the night in the yak tent at EBC
5) The Gyirong valley : the Ghungtang Lhamo is the last and second highest pass of the tour at 5236m. After that you begin the long descent to Gyirong at 2800m on the southern side of the Himalaya. In a few hours the landscape and climate radically change as you leave the Tibetan plateau behind, go through a deep canyon and finally reach the lush and subtropical Gyriong.
The Rasuwa Gadhi border post from the Nepalese side
An extra memory : the road to Kathmandu and the insane views we had from our bus over the valley !
My Tips for Your Tibet Tour
1) Plan your trip several months in advance in order to quietly deal with the administrative part of the journey and choose the right season.
2) Take the Tibet train from at least Xining to Lhasa as it will provide you with the best possible progressive and slow acclimatation to high altitude.
3) If you take a tour with the intention to reach Nepal, take the bus service from the Nepalese border to Kathmandu if offered by Tibet Vista. The border might be a chaotic place.
4) Take warm clothes, especially warm gloves, and warm pyjamas. The hotels where you will sleep are luxuous but not very warm.
5) Take some banknotes with you, if possible yuans or at least US dollars, as relying on ATM only might lead to some frustrations.
6) Take a book about the Tibetan culture and heritage if you are particularly interested into that. It will help you absorb all the information you will receive during your tour.
7) Don’t forget the usual traveller stuff such as power adaptators and so on.
To future travellers, enjoy ! Tibet is a very beautiful and safe place. Its people are very kind and will probably take many pictures of you. You only need to take care of the altitude. My travel experience before and during the tour with Tibet Vista has been very good and professional. If you go with them, everything should be fine. Cheers !