Lhasa to Mount Kailash - the Road Condition and Distance
There are two routes from Lhasa to Mt.Kailash: the southern and the northern ones.
The most popular is the southern route. Chosen by 95% of tourists heading to the Mt.Kailash, it leaves off from Lhasa and goes directly westwards to reach Everest Base Camp through Shigatse and Tingri, then turns to the northwest direction to reach Darch, the starting point to do the Kailash Kora.
Follow our ultimate guide to find out the distance and road conditions of these two fantastic and popular routes from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash.
And furthermore, you can also learn some useful information about the road condition, distance and the time that needed to accomplish the Kailash Kora, and acquire more routes about arriving in Mt. Kailash from other different places like Kathmandu, Simikot in Nepal, Kashgar and Ngari Airport.
The distance and road conditions of the most favorite southern route from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash
The southern route is the most popular route to Kailash, and runs from Lhasa, through Gyantse, Shigatse, Tingri, Everest Base Camp, Saga, and Lake Manasarovar before reaching Darchen after approximately 1,600 kilometers.
Travel Route (15 days):
Lhasa (3650m) - Gyantse (4040m) - Shigatse (3836m) - Tingri (4300m) - E.B.C (5200m) - Saga (4487m) - Lake Manasarova (4588m) - Darchen (4600m) - Mt. Kailash (6638m)
Total distance: 1600 km
The road is long, but many local pilgrims walk this route to Kailash carrying their own food along with them, for the food is scarce in this remote region of Tibet. We organize 15 days small group tour to Mount Kailash along the southern route, and we have arranged approximately 3,000 foreign tourists each year to enjoy the pleasant and lifetime Kailash trip.
Another thing you need to know is that you will spend about 6-8 hours per day on the bus and the road condition is good except for some sections in raining or winter season. As Mt. Kailash is located in Ngari region, Tibet's most remote area, it would be better for tourists to be fully prepared even for the distance and the road conditions before your departure to ensure a safe and sound journey. And here we provide you with the most detailed information about the road condition and distance from Lhasa to Kailash.
We divide the entire route into four stretches and for each section, it has its own features. Follow us to find out the distances and road conditions of this classic Lhasa to Kailash tour through Everest Base Camp.
Frist stretch of the route: Lhasa – Shigatse (270KM; Perfect G318 Friendship Highway)
Distance: 270 km
Road condition: G318 Friendship Highway, perfect but with intermittent speed limits
Leaving off Lhasa, we follow the G318 Friendship Highway and go straightly westwards with a completely worry-free road condition. The asphalt-covered road during this section ensures a splendid road condition with no bumpy road surface but smooth and unobstructed national highway.
However, speed traps are set up along the entire road, which directly results in a low-speed moving and costs approximately more than 5 hours to cover this section of the road.
G318 Friendship Highway, perfect but with intermittent speed limits
Second stretch of the route: Shigatse – Tingri – Everest Base Camp (363KM; Good G318 Friendship Highway)
Distance: 363 km
Road condition: G318 Friendship Highway (Shigatse – Tingri; 243 km) and asphalt winding mountain road (Tingri – Everest Base Camp; 120 km)
Leaving Shigatse, the road condition remains to be perfect since we continue to follow G318 Friendship Highway until we reach the Tingri County after 243 km’s drive. This also means the majority part of the roads from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp is under an ideal condition.
Roads have changed since we leave the Tingri County for Everest Base Camp. We take a southward drive to the Rongbuk Monastery located 8 km away from the north side of the Everest Base Camp. The road condition turns to be winding and the asphalt paved hillside road also makes your on-the-way journey comfortable and worry-free.
G318 Friendship Highway (Shigatse – Tingri; 243 km) and asphalt winding mountain road (Tingri – Everest Base Camp; 120 km)
Third stretch of the route: Everest Base Camp – Saga County (340KM; Asphalt Covered Road)
Distance: 340 km
Road condition: mostly the asphalt covered road
After the once-in-a-lifetime stay on Everest Base Camp or in the Rongbuk Monastery, it’s time to leave off the Everest Base Camp and head for Kailash by first heading to the county named Saga, which is widely accepted as the portal of the Ali prefecture, for it has been serving as the transportation junction as well as the transfer station for foods and materials for quite a long time.
Fuel stations, retail stores and some other repair shops are doing their business here, providing indispensable goods and services for travelers and tourist buses heading westwards. So check everything and get fully prepared before going westwards.
Most of the road sections are paved by asphalt from Everest Base Camp to Saga County, so the road condition is never as bad as you might think.
Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp
Fourth stretch of the route: Saga County – Mt. Kailash (638KM; Perfect State Road 219)
Distance: 638 km
Road condition: State Road 219, perfect
Leaving Saga County, we begin to follow the State Road 219 and head northeast. The road is well paved with neither rough road section nor the bumpy road surface. In fact, the entire road condition is as perfect as we have previously imagined.
If your travel schedule is tight, then you can choose to skip the EBC tour and go directly westwards to arrive at the Kailash by following the route listed below.
Lhasa (3650m) - Gyantse (4040m) - Shigatse (3836m) – Lhatse (4012m) - Saga (4487m) - Lake Manasarova (4588m) - Darchen (4600m) - Mt. Kailash (6638m)
Total distance: 1400 km
It is also the shortest route to Kailash from Lhasa, while the northern route takes a long and roundabout way far away in the north to get there, covering more than 2,000 kilometers of the total journey. However, this route we only recommend for tourists with a tight schedule, for it will definitely miss the popular and most classic Everest Base Camp part during the whole journey.
Perfect State Road 219; Stop by for the Gorgeous Scenery.
The Highlights of the Southern Route from Lhasa to Kailash
Besides the Everest Base Camp, there lie many other breathtaking sceneries out there for you to explore. Starting off from Lhasa in the early morning, the turquois winding Yamdrok Lake(4400 m) unveils the beauty in all its splendor in front of your eyes after driving over the Gampala Pass (4790 m). The solemn snow-capped Mount Nyenchen Khangsa (7191 m) stands nearby the Lake, adding splendors to each other with everlasting harmony.
Photograph the Korola Glacier and sense the static flow of ice on the way to Gyantse, the historical Tibet’s third largest city (After Lhasa and Shigatse). Pay a visit to the famous Pelkor Monastery and Gyantse Kumbum and appreciating an inspiring panoramic view of the Gyangtse Fortress.
Barley is widely grown in Shigatse areas, so grasp the chance to appreciate the barley mills and landscape of barley fields there in summer.
Shortly after crossing over the Tsola Pass (4600 m) and Gyatsola Pass (5248 m), you get a panorama of undulating and magnificent Himalaya Mountains at Gawula Pass (5198 m), the world-class site to appreciate mountains along the Himalaya Range. Then we drive directly to the Everest Base Camp to have an intimate contact with the sacred Mt. Everest as well as the arrays of stars in the sky.
After enjoying the sunrise of the Mountain, we are heading northwest for Saga County, the transportation junction on the State Road 219, then take a swerve and go directly westwards for Lake Manasarovar, and finally reach Darchen near Mt. Kailash.
The Gampala Pass and the beautiful Yamdrok Lake are in sight
The distance and road conditions of the northern route from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash
The north road from Lhasa to Kailash makes a large roundabout in the northern part of Tibet through Nagqu, Shigatse and Ali Prefectures. Soil forests, snow mountains, plateau lakes, grassy marshlands, hills and Danxia landforms spread all along the journey, making the on-the-way scenery the most unique and stunning than any other places in the entire Tibet.
Lhasa –Damxun (4200 m) – Namtso Lake (4718 m) –Baingoin (4700 m) – Nyima (4800 m) – Wenbu North Village – Wenbu South Village – Coqen (4700 m) – Ringtor (4770 m) – Yagra (4800 m) – Hor (4600 m) – Darchen (4600 m) – Kailash (6638 m)
Total distance: 1832 km
With no ideal road condition and a long time on-the-way journey, only a small number of visitors are willing to choose this route to reach Kailash. However, among all those visitors who have explored this route, no one would not be stunned by the breathtaking sceneries with wide visual fields, exquisite tranquil plateau lakes and kinds of wild Tibetan animals including Tibetan gazelle, marmot, black-necked stork, Tibetan wild donkey, etc.
Besides, snow-capped mountains, as well as the soil forests, forms the panoramic background on the way with intermittent exotic geological landforms, making the on-the-way journey the most exotic and unforgettable one in all your life.
The road condition of the north route is apparently inferior to the south one in most sections of the entire journey.Unlike the road from Gyirong portal to Kathmandu, most sections of the road from Lhasa to Kailash are the gravel-paved road with most distinctive features of the bumpy and rough road surface with pits. Only the four-wheel drive can deal with the situations possibly happen along the route.
We have divided the entire route into eight sections according to the road conditions as well as on-the-way sceneries. Just follow us to see what we are going to explore along the journey.
Frist stretch of the route: Lhasa – Damxung – Namtso
Distance: 250 km
Road condition: Asphalt-paved road, perfect
Visit the second largest magnificent lake in Tibet and third largest saline lake in China. The asphalt paved road ensures an unimpeded traffic from Lhasa to Namtso Lake.
Second stretch of the route: Namtso Lake - Baingoin
Distance: 197 km
Road condition: Gravel paved road
The road from Namtso Lake to Baingoin is under construction, making this section of road condition muddy in rainy days while sending clouds of dust and debris in the air during sunny days. So, the bumpy road requires more skilled driving technique. Yield your steering wheel to the more skillful driver if you are not confident about your driving skills.
Third stretch of the route: Baingoin – Nyima
Distance: 335 km
Road condition: Gravel paved road and grassy land with forks and shortcuts
The road from Baingoin to Nyima is dominated by gravels and debris. Some sections are meadows with boundless grassland and only the vehicle tracks point the heading way. Magnificent plateau lakes and fresh grassy marshland are along the whole journey.
If you plan to visit the Puruogangri Ice Field in Shuanghu County, then you need to take a swerve northeast and take another 460 km round trip from this section of the road.
Fourth stretch of the distance: Nyima – Wenbu South Village
Distance: 130 km
Road condition: Unsurfaced dirt road withvehicle tracks;comparatively poor road condition
The road from Nyima to Wenbu South Village is sometimes straight and sometimes curved with no fences but the vehicle tracks. Grassland stretches as far as the eye can see while the boundless prairie extends in each direction to the aerial boundaries.
1. Wenbu North Village
2. Wenbu South Village
Wenbu north and south villages by no doubt are the perfect combination with nature. Both of the two villages have attached great importance on agricultural cultivation. With larger size of cropland, Wenbu north village have more accommodations with stunning lake views than Wenbu south village
When you visit Tangra Yumco Lake (4528 m) from Nyima, you first encounter the small-sized Wenbu south village. In the place where the sacred Chonzom Mountain located, Wenbu south village attracts many local Bonism believers to come to do the kora.
Guideboards and electric towers dot along the way. When the setting sun drapes over the prairies and the mountain ranges, the entire Bonism rooted village is exposed to the setting sun, making all the visitors drunk with this transient beauty.
1. Too excited and surprised to find these two villages in such desolated north Tibet. Breathe taking and stunning. Cars passing by is just like the outer interference to both of them.
2. If you happen to reach the village in May, you may possibly encounter the Carnival held by the locals for a new round of plow.
Fifth stretch of the route: Wenbu South Village – Coqen
Distance: 250 km
Road condition: Mostly the gravel paved dirt road with the bumpy surface and pitted holes.
Road condition from Wenbu South Village to Coqen is not as ideal as you might have thought except the only 20 km's oil paved road. Dirt and gravel-paved road makes it even harder to drive when the rainfall occurs. Water gathers on the road surface and makes it muddy when the rainfall comes.
1. Trari Namtso Lake (4613 m)
2.Tangra Yumco Lake (4528 m)
Trari Namtso Lake and Tangra Yumco Lake are two can’t miss lakes with distinctive features along the entire route. Trari Namtso Lake, serving as the third largest lake in Tibet, is surprisingly a saline lake on such high elevation.
The turquoise and quiet lake surface is just like a brush of deep blue painted by the artist or a blue velvet connecting the earth and sky. Prayer flags and cow skulls by the lakeside are the good wishes as well as the everlasting reverence extended by the local Tibetans.
As the sacred lake of Bonism, Tangra Yumco Lake never fades away its splendor. The isolated location makes the holy lake a small number of visitors to set foot on. The long range of Dargo Mountain stands by the lakeside, adding magnificence to the lake's holiness.
In addition, sceneries during this section have changed. The open grassland is still stretching in all directions to the horizon where undulating mountains stand.
Sixth stretch of the route: Coqen - Ringtor
Distance: 320 km
Road condition: Gravel paved road with pits on the surface; some swamps with unknown conditions distributed along the way.
Duringthe entire journey, the road condition is not that complicated but distributed with some unthreatening unknown swamps which may likely make your wheel bog into it. Most of the sections are still gravel paved dirt roads.
1. Rinchen Shuptso Lake (4760 m), Zabuye Lake (4421 m) and Taro Tso Lake (4545 m)
2. Vast stretches of the marshland
3. Deep blue sky without no clouds
The unique Rinchen Shuptso Lake makes every visitor absolutely impressed with the deep blue lake water and its grandness in size. In the center of the lake there raises a small hill with an arc-shaped path stretching to the lake-side, making it another featured scenery along the entire journey.
The Zabuye Lake, with another name of Zabuye Chaka, meaning the Zabuye Salt Lake, sets along this section of the route. It boasts its name for the abundant Brine resources, saline sediment resources and biological resources.
With liquid and solid state coexisting in the southern part of the lake, the lake surface appears to be white, blue and yellow like a master’s oil painting for the breathtaking view.
Besides the lakes, swamps are along the way. Never try driving on the grassland surface with gathered water nor through the rivers, or your car may get trapped without any sign.
Seventh stretch of the route: Ringtor – Yagra
Distance: 97 km
Road condition: gravel paved dirt road with unknown signs, poor road conditions
Areas during this section are mainly depopulated zone with dirt roads and unknown signs, easy to get lost. Try to follow the deep car tracks and maintain at a comparatively slow speed.
1. Try passing this section of the road in company with other cars
2. Try to pick a four-wheel drive with the high-powered engine.
1. Nganglha Ring Tso Lake (4700 m)
2. Snow-capped mountains and vast stretches of prairies
3. All kinds of wild animals including Tibetan gazelle, marmot, black-necked stork and Tibetan wild donkey
Depopulated zone with breathtaking on-the-way sceneries. The more remote the lake locates, the more tranquil the sceneries will be. So lakes lying quietly in this area, not very big as you may find, can definitely provide you with a sense of calmness and tranquility. Bondless prairie stretches to the skyline, making your view more open than any other place in Tibet.
Wild Tibetan animals like marmot, black-necked stork, Tibetan wild donkey as well as the most favorite Tibetan gazelle are running on the grassland without any restraint or grazing grass with their families. Pull over your car and have an intimate contact with these Tibetan spirits.
Eighth stretch of the route: Yagra – Hor – Darchen
Distance: 253 km
Road condition: Rough and bumpy gravel road; corrugated road; not ideal
The road approaching Kailash from Yagra to Darchen through Hor is becoming rough and bumpy. In sunny days, dust often blows into the sky as you passing by. In rainy days, the road turns to be muddy. Try driving on the comparatively smooth surface to avoid having your tires punctured.
1. Cross the Gangdise Range Pass (5515 m)
2. Real wasteland
3. Boundless open field
4. Oasis and flocks of goats
5. Tibetan antelope and wild ass racing against the cars
When you drive into this area, you begin to enter the wasteland. Explore deeper, snow-capped mountains come out of sight. What you can find are all mysterious and isolated landforms as well as the depopulated zones with deadly stillness lying in front of your eyes.
If you are lucky, you may probably encounter herds of Tibetan antelope racing against your cars on one side.
Unlike most of the iconic Tibetan scenery, the exotic landform definitely can add awarded marks to the on-the-way sceneries of this route and you are recommended not to miss it.
1. When the wind blows, dust plumes overhead on the road. Pull over your car to the side of the road and explore deeper in the area like taking a posture-free photo on the wildland a little bit far from the road.
2. Watch your steps in case of slippery.
Do not expect too high on the road conditions on the north route from Lhasa to Kailash, but the on-the-way sceneries are totally worth the torment. In addition, the road condition along the entire northern trip is much poorer when comparing to the southern one, nevertheless, they are just bumpy, winding, gravel-paved or muddy and never like some really risky hillside roads on which driving with one negligence may possibly result in the major accident.
Antelopes documented grazing and playing on the boundless prairies
Yaks lying on their stomachs leisurely and enjoying the summer refreshment by the Namtso Lake
Local Tibetans are appreciating the glamorous sunset on the hillside of Wenbu South Village
First impression of early Winter at Shuptso Lak
Tibetan wild donkey walking with vigorous steps by the lake
The road condition and Distance of Mount Kailash Kora
The kora, or religious pilgrimage route, around Mt. Kailash is believed to be a ritual that brings good fortune to those who complete it, and even more for those who circumambulate the mountain in prostrations along the entire 52-kilometer route.
Buddhists believe that walking around Kailash once will clear away the sins of a lifetime, walking it 13 times will bring enlightenment within one lifetime, and walking it 108 times will bring instant enlightenment. While most foreign travelers take 2 or 3 days to complete the 52-kilometer trek, Tibetans normally do it in one long 14 to 16 hour day.
Starting place: Darchen (4,600 m)
Ending place: Drirapuk Gompa (5,210 m)
Distance: 13 km
Road condition: Gravel-paved road with broad visions
The trek starts in the small village of Darchen, which has numerous simple guesthouses where visitors can stay to rest before taking on the kora. From Darchen, at 4,675 meters, it is a short walk to the trailhead, then you work your way up on the first day to Drirapuk Gompa (5,210 meters), passing the beautiful peak of Tsering Chonga (5,592m) along the way, as well as some stunning waterfalls. There is a great view of the summit of Kailash from the gompa, a peak that has never been climbed due to the sacred religious significance of the mountain.
Village of Darchen in Tibet
Starting place: Drirapuk Gompa (5,210 m)
Ending place: Dzutripuk Gompa (4810 m)
Distance: 18 km
Road condition: Gravel-paved road with prayer flags and magnificent mountains
Day two of the Kora is the hardest day, as you will have to cross the Dolma-la pass, at 5,630 meters. The road or pass is often blocked by snow in the winter months until April. It is a 7-8 hour trek from Drirapuk to Dzultripuk Gompa, at 4,810 meters. However, the view from the Dolma La Pass is spectacular, and the whole pass is festooned with thousands of prayer flags set there by the many Tibetan pilgrims that make the circuit.
Dolma La Pass During Kailash Kora
Starting place: Dzutripuk Gompa (4810 m)
Ending place: Darchen (4,600 m)
Distance: 7 km
Road condition: Bumpy and winding road with undulating mountains and hills
The third and final day of the Kailash trek is the easiest, as it is mostly downhill from Dzultripuk Gompa back to Darchen, where you first started, taking around three hours. The first stop is in the village of Dzongdui, where you will see a wall of hand-carved mani (prayer) stones. Traditionally, Tibetans finishing the kora will purchase a mani stone and add it to the pile. From Dzongdui, the trail turns to the west and offers a sweeping view of the Barkha Plain. You can see the massive peak of Gurla Mandhata in the distance, as well as the waters of Rakshas Tal. From Dzongdui, it is just 4 or 5 kilometers of easy walking to Darchen.
Trekking through Dirapuk Monastery
The Other Routes to Mt. Kailash
From Kathmandu to Kailash
Kathmandu (1400m) - Syabrubesi (2380m) - GyirongBorder (1800m) - Gyirong Town (2700m) - Saga (4487m) - Lake Manasarovar (4588m) - Darchen (4600m) - Mt. Kailash (6638m)
This travel route is typically chosen by most of the Hindu pilgrims from India and widely accepted as the shortest way to reach Mt. Kailash. You need firstly arrive at Kathmandu three days before your leaving for Mt. Kailash to get China Group Visa.
Leave Kathmandu to arrive Syabrubesi after 7-8 hours’ drive (Approximately 130 km), then you can enjoy our transfer service. Settle down there for one night and head directly for Gyirong Border, the Sino-Gyirong border, to arrive in Gyirong Town for accommodation. Then, the next day, drive upwards to Darchen through Saga, the portal of Ali Prefecture.
1. Passing the Gyrong Port which is located on the new Sino-Nepal border and was reopened to international tourist in August of 2017 is currently the shortest way to Kailash.
2. Unlike the northern roads from Lhasa to Kailash, Road condition from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port is much poorer with narrow gravel-paved winding roads on mountains, bumpy, muddy and uncomfortable. More possible to encounter the landslide and mudflow in monsoon season from mid-June to early September.
3. The route elevations from Kathmandu to Saga or Paryang increase dramatically from 1350 m to 4600 m in just short three days through the Nepal-Tibet border with the elevation of 2300 m.
4. If you choose this route, you will definitely miss the classic on-the-way scenery from Lhasa to the Everest Base Camp.
5. Entering China through Gyrong port means you first need to pack your passport and acquire Chinese visa. Then you should apply for the Tibet Travel Permit to get qualified to go to Tibet. If you are heading for Kailash, then you are further required to get your Alien’s Travel Permit, Military Permit as well as Foreign Affairs and Frontier Pass.
You could take our classic travel route 22 Days Travel to western Tibet from Nepal into consideration.
Hindu Pilgrims eating holy Prasad
From Simikot to Kailash(By helicopter)
Kathmandu (1400 m) – Nepalganj (50-minute fly; 150 m) – Simkot (45-minute fly; 2910 m) – Hilsa (20-minute fly; 3640 m) – Purang (30-minute fly or 1-hour drive; 3900 m) – Lake Manasarovar (3-hour drive; 105 km; 4588 m) – Darchen (4600m) – Mt. Kailash (6638 m)
This helicopter ride is collected exclusively for wealthy tourists. If you determined to try this one, you also need to arrive in Kathmandu three days before to acquire your China Visa before crossing the Gyrong border. After spending one night stay in Purang, you can travel northward to arrive at Darchen through the sacred Manasarovar Lake.
1. Expensive in prices, not affordable for most of the tourists.
2. Cancellations of ticket or hotel reservations occur constantly due to the constant flight delay, postponement and cancellation caused by the varying weather.
3. Also miss the classic Lhasa to Everest Base Camp overland tour.
4. Flying from Nepal to Kailash results in dramatic altitude change, not recommended if never experienced such altitude change in such a short span of time.
Take a helicopter to Mt.Kailash
Travel overland from Kashgarto Kailash
Total distance: 1,671 km
Road condition: Ideal
Kashgar is located in the west of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with the altitude of 4,167 m. Before your heading for Kailasho, you need to get to Kashgar by flight or train from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, etc. Then drive southwards to arrive at Darchen by Karghalik, Rutog and Shiquanhe.
1. Costly and also inconvenient
2. Abrupt elevation rise to 4,167 m and continue to increase to 4950 m for crossing the Mazar Mountain along the way may possibly cause acute altitude sickness
3. Barely any classic breathtaking sceneries on the route and you also miss the Lhasa to Everest Base Camp tour.
Kashgar is an oasis city in Xinjiang
Drive from Ngari Gunsa Airport (4274 m) to Mt. Kailash
Total distance: 200 km
Road condition: Ideal national highway
Considering the abrupt rise of altitude, you are not recommended to take a flight directly to Gunsa Airportfrom Lhasa, Xi’an, Kashgar and Urumchi and continue to take a drive to Kailash. Lacking spans of time acclimating the altitude may easily cause you to suffer from acute altitude sickness.
Besides, sceneries on the route never prevail. Who else is willing to take a long overland trip to Tibet and just do the Kailash Kora without caring about the even much more breathtaking on-the-way sceneries?
1. Abrupt elevation ascent makes you possible suffer from acute altitude sickness
2. No stunning scenery along the route and you also miss the classic and world-class attractions from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp.
Pick up the most appropriate route for yourself and get more useful information about the best time to tour the Kailash
Conclusively, the road condition of any of the two routes from Lhasa to Kailash is perfect. The most popular south one always prevails not only for its magnificent on-the-way view like the world-class Gewula Pass from which a panorama of magnificent Himalaya Mountains can be appreciated, but also for the perfect asphalt-paved road which brings you a worry-free journey.
Typically, with the total distance of 1600 km and a perfect road condition, a 15-day journey can be enough to cover most of the entire trip including the iconic landmark of Everest Base Camp. As a result, the south route is what we have carefully selected for you to ensure you have an impressive and unforgettable journey in Tibet.
If you have any question on the route, distance or road conditions, please feel free to drop us a line.