How to Get to Mount Kailash: the ultimate guide for 2023
Traveling to Mount Kailash, far in the west of Tibet, is not as hard as it may sound. While the mountain does lie in one of the most remote areas of Tibet, it is well served by road from Lhasa, and can be easily reached from both Kathmandu in Nepal and Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Prefecture of China. As with any travel in Tibet, a pre-booked tour is required, and once your tour is booked we will provide the tour guide and driver for your trip to the world’s most sacred mountain.
Get to Mt. Kailash from Kathmandu
One of the three routes to travel to Mount Kailash, the route from Kathmandu is one of the easiest, as well as the shortest of the three, at around 782 kilometers.
Before traveling into Tibet and on to Mount Kailash, you will need to book your tour to Tibet. Once booked, we will be applying for the various permits on your behalf. The first permit you will need is the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP), which is required for entering in the area of Lhasa Prefecture-level City and traveling in Tibet . This is applied for by us using your passport through the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) in Lhasa, we will also apply for the Restricted Areas Permit, also known as the Military Permit, as both of these take around 20 days to process.
You will also need the other permits to travel over the border from Nepal to Tibet, including the China Group Visa to enter Tibet from Nepal and the Alien’s Travel Permit, for travel in the opened areas of Tibet outside Lhasa, and the Frontier Pass, which is required for all tourists, domestic and international, when traveling in the areas of Tibet that border with Bhutan, Nepal, and India.
Traveling from Nepal to Tibet over the border or by flight to Lhasa does not require the normal Chinese Entry Visa. A special visa is issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, known as a Group Tourist Visa, which can only be applied for on your behalf by the tour operator. Once you arrive in Nepal, we will use your passport to make the application for you, which takes around three days to process. You should be in Kathmandu at least 3 working days before your travel date, to ensure that it is processed in time. Normally, if the visa is applied for on Monday, it will be available for us to collect and deliver to you by Wednesday late morning.
Get to Mt. Kailash from Kathmandu by Overland
One of the most popular routes to take for those traveling from Nepal, the Kathmandu Kailash overland tour via Gyirong Port is one of discovery and excitement, traveling over the border between Nepal and China, and then northwest to Darchen. The route from Kathmandu to Gyirong takes you by bus to the Sino-Nepal border, at Rasuwa Fort. Once across the border to Gyirong Port, you will be met by your guide and driver, and taken to Gyirong Town.
Once crossing the border, our Tibetan tour guide will pick you up on time at Gyirong Port.
From there, you head northwards along the 214 County Road through Shigatse Prefecture, and on to Saga. From Saga, the road is the G219 National Highway, which runs all the way to Darchen, passing Lake Manasarovar along the way. Mount Kailash lies a little to the north of Darchen, and this small Tibetan town is the gateway to the sacred mountain as well as the starting point for the Kailash Kora trek.
Get to Mt. Kailash from Kathmandu by Flight
Instead of traveling overland to Mount Kailash direct from Kathmandu, you can take the option of flying to Lhasa and then traveling overland from there. The main advantage of taking this route is that you will get to spend a few days in Lhasa, acclimatizing and sightseeing, before heading out on the road to the sacred Mount Kailash. This route takes you from Lhasa to Gyantse, the home of the Gyantse Kumbum, and then on to Shigatse. With time permitting, you can even make it to EBC and appreciate the world's highest mountain so up-close. From there, you will continue west to Lhatse, where the road forks and you take the G214 National Highway that runs through Saga and Paryang to Darchen and Mount Kailash. See the details of 15 Days Kailash Pilgrimage Tour from Kathmandu (fly in and out via Lhasa)
Get to Mt.Kailash from Mainland China
If you are traveling to Mount Kailash from one of the major tourist cities in China, then the obvious route to take is to go to Lhasa first. There are two options to accomplish this, either by flight or by train, and both have their advantages.
For travel from one of the major cities in China to Kailash, there are certain documents that you need, which differ slightly from those required for travel from Kathmandu. The first document you need is the Chinese Entry Visa, which you can obtain from your local Chinese Embassy and which takes around three days to process.
Once you have that, then you can book your Kailash tour with us, and we will use the scanned copies of your passport and visa to apply for the Tibet Travel Permit. The Tibet Travel Permit takes around 20 days to process, and you need to book your tour in plenty of time to allow us to make the applications and receive the permits.
The remaining permits you need can be applied for once you arrive in Lhasa, such as the Alien’s Travel Permit, Military Permit and the Frontier Pass. Both of these permits will be applied for in the relevant offices in Lhasa by your tour guide once you arrive, and take just an hour to process.
Travel from Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xining, Xi’an to Mt. Kailash
Traveling from one of the cities in Mainland China means taking the flight or train to Lhasa. Flights to Tibet can be taken from one of many airports in China, including Beijing, shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Kangding, Xi’an, Xining, and many more. Flight times vary from 7-8 hours when traveling from the east coast to as little as two hours from Xining and Kangding.
If you want to experience train to Tibet, Qinghai Tibet Railway from Xining is the better choice.
Where you are going and how you want to travel can dictate the best options for traveling to Tibet, and can help you decide on which cities to start from in mainland China. For example, if you are into the trains, and want to experience the life on board the unique trains to Tibet, then there is no better place to start than from Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province and the start of the Qinghai Tibet Railway. For people that want to experience the unique Chinese metropolitan culture, Shanghai and Beijing are ideal starting points, or for the historians and ancient Chinese culture enthusiasts, Xi’an or Beijing (for the Great Wall) are two of the best options.
If you travel by Tibet train, you have a choice of seven gateway cities from which to depart for Tibet. Trains depart daily from Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, and every other day from Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining. Trains take from 22 to 55 hours to get to Lhasa, and the trip is one of the most spectacular in the world, traveling up over some of China’s highest mountain ranges to get onto the Tibetan plateau.
If you travel by flight, you have a variety of options to choose from for flights to Tibet, including Chengdu, Xining, Beijing, and Shanghai, or you can combine a flight with the train from Xining, to make the most of seeing the vast Chinese metropolises and taking the best train option as well.
Get to Mt. Kailash from Kashgar
Traveling from Kashgar in the north is a massive journey, and one that requires dedication and stamina, as you will spend several days in the car driving along the highway that links Xinjiang with Tibet.
While travel permits are not required for travel into and around Xinjiang, aside from the usual Chinese Entry Visa, you will need all of the documents to get into and around Tibet before you leave Kashgar. Since you will also need a pre-booked tour to travel in Tibet, once your tour is booked we can make the applications for you. It is best to book your tour before you travel to Xinjiang and China, as the processing of at least two of the permits you will require can take up to 20 days.
The Tibet Travel Permit and Restricted Areas Permit must be applied for as soon as your tour is booked, and will be ready once you reach Kashgar to take the trip to Mount Kailash. The Alien’s Travel Permit and Frontier Pass are also required, and will be applied for in Lhasa and forwarded to your guide to be given when he meets you in Kashgar before you leave for Tibet.
Useful Tips for Getting to Mt. Kailash from Kashgar
Traveling south to Mount Kailash is a huge adventure, and one that will take you 1,549 kilometers across China. This epic adventure can be done in just 31 hours, if your guide drives non-stop through the day and nights, but then you would miss some of the stunning sights along the route from Kashgar to Kailash.
Starting from Kashgar, it takes several days in driving along the highway to Tibet.
The route follows the Xinjiang Tibet Highway, the highest drivable road in the world, and takes you through several counties of Xinjiang and past the stunning Quanshui Lake before entering the disputed area of Aksai Chin, which forms part of the boundary between Xinjiang and Tibet.
After arriving in Tibet, the road runs south through Rutog County, in Ngari Prefecture, and south along the shores of Bagong Lake and over the 4,725-meter Marion La Pass. After the pass, you will enter Gar County, the location of the Ngari Gunsa Airport in Shiquanhe Township. Then it is on into Burang County, the location of the ancient Guge Kingdom of Tibet, and on down to the small town of Darchen at the foot of the mountain.
Other Things That Merit Your Attention
if you are planning a trip to Mount Kailash, then there are a few points to consider in making your booking. The first is that Tibet is not available to international tourists in late February and March due to the travel policy.
Ideally, the best season to travel to Kailash is in the spring, from late April to the beginning of June, and the autumn, from October to the end of November. Travel is possible in the summer although it can get a little wet around the mountain as it is the monsoon season.
Altitude sickness is a major concern, as you will be traveling at altitudes well above 5,000 meters several times during the trip. It is essential to acclimatize properly when entering Tibet, as well as when ascending to much higher altitudes. - Know more about Altitude of Mt. Kailash Tour or Kora and How to Avoid the High Altitude Sickness
One of the main things to remember about Mount Kailash, aside from the fact that you are not permitted to set foot on the actual mountain for religious reasons, is the kora route around the mountain. Of the four religions that revere this sacred mountain, Hindus and Buddhists travel the kora route around it in a clockwise direction. Only the Jains and Bonpo make the ritual kora in an anti-clockwise direction, and unless you are a member of one of those two religious’ groups, your trek around the mountain will be done traveling clockwise.
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