Mount Kailash Tour from Nepal: Kailash tour options from Kathmandu, Nepal
Getting to Kailash can be done from either Lhasa, Xinjiang, or Kathmandu in Nepal, and while many people travel from the Tibetan capital, it is fast becoming more popular to start the tours from Nepal, the only country with direct flights to the Lhasa Gonggar International Airport. Some of the main reasons for traveling from Nepal are the simple visa requirements for the country, the ability to travel in Nepal before or after traveling to Tibet, and the fact that the Chinese Entry Visa required for entry through China is not needed. Instead, a Group Tourist Visa is issued from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, all applied for and obtained by your tour operator on your behalf.
The Most Popular Option: Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa and Follow the Overland Tour to Mt.Kailash
The main route used by travelers from Nepal is taking you to Lhasa by flight, and then traveling overland to Mount Kailash as part of your overland tour of Tibet. A hugely popular choice by any travelers, the trip starts in Kathmandu, and takes one of the flights from Tribhuvan International Airport to Lhasa, a flight that takes around 90 minutes and costs from around 350 US dollars per person. While the flight may be a little more expensive that other short-haul flights like this, the monopoly held on this route by Chinese-only airlines does mean that you are guaranteed good service. It also works out a lot cheaper than flying to a city in mainland China and then getting a connecting flight to Lhasa.
There are two options for this kind of tour, and both are absolutely stunning. You can choose from a 15-day Lhasa Kailash tour that starts and ends in Lhasa, from where you can take your flight or train on to your next destination; or the 13-day Lhasa Kailash Kathmandu tour that starts in Lhasa and takes you to Mount Kailash and then across the Sino-Nepal border to travel by road back to Kathmandu.
Both tours start in Lhasa, and begin with a tour of this ancient city on the roof of the world. Then it is off to visit Yamdrok Lake on the way to Gyantse, the home of the famous Kumbum Stupa, before heading off to Shigatse, Tibet’s second city. From Shigatse, it is then off to visit Everest Base Camp (EBC) and the world’s highest monastery, Rongbuk Gompa, before heading northwest to Saga, the last decent-sized town before you reach Ngari Prefecture and Mount Kailash.
From Saga, you then head to the small village of Darchen, from where the three-day trek around the sacred mountain starts. An awesome experience, the trek follows the ritual kora route of the pilgrims that trek around the mountain in search of enlightenment. After finishing the trek, and possibly taking a dip in the waters of the holy Lake Manasarovar, it is back to Saga. And this is where the tours differ.
The 15-day tour then heads from Saga to Sakya, the home of one of Tibet’s most famous ancient monasteries, before heading back to Lhasa, via Shigatse. In contrast, the 13-day tour leaves Saga for the Chinese border with Nepal, at the now-famous Gyirong Port. Lying in the lush and beautiful Gyirong Valley, the border crossing links China and Nepal via the Resuo Bridge, which spans the Trishuli River Gorge to the Nepali border checkpoint of Rasuwa Gadhi (Fort). From there, you can get the local bus or a shared van that will take you back to Kathmandu, a six-hour drive along rough roads, but through some of Nepal’s Himalayan foothills with wondrous views.
The Closest Option: Travel Overland from Kathmandu to Mount Kailash via Gyirong Port and Saga
Another popular route these days, thanks to the reopening of the Gyirong Port border crossing in August 2017, is the overland route that starts in Kathmandu and travels to Mount Kailash by road. As a popular way to travel to the sacred mountain, you then have an option of continuing your tour as part of a Small Group Tour that ends in Lhasa, or customizing your tour to take you back across the border to Kathmandu. Whichever route you choose to follow after your visit to Mount Kailash, you are guaranteed to have an amazing time at the sacred mountain.
Gyirong Port links China and Nepal via the Resuo Bridge
The route to Mount Kailash from Kathmandu via Gyirong is pretty much a reversal of the last part of the 13-day Small Group Tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu, and follows the same routes, albeit with days spent acclimatizing along the way because of the huge increases in altitude.
Starting at Kathmandu, you can either take the local bus to Rasuwa Fort, which costs around 1,500 NRs and takes around six hours, or we can organize a vehicle to transport you there, at an additional cost, which also takes around six hours. Once at the border crossing, you will exit Nepali immigration and walk across the bridge to China. On the Chinese side of the border, your passport and papers will be checked at the immigration desk, after which you will be allowed to enter China, and your tour guide will be waiting in the waiting area of the Immigration Office.
Your guide will then take you to the vehicle, where you will also meet your driver, and your tour will start with a short drive to the town of Gyirong, around 24 kilometers to the north. There, you will need to spend a day acclimatizing to the higher altitude, before moving on. From Gyirong Town, you will head to the town of Saga, the important hub before reaching Kailash where you can pick up any items you have forgotten, and where you can get a good meal in one of the decent restaurants, and stay in a warm bed, for possibly the last time until you have finished the Kailash kora trek.
From Saga, it is a long day of driving to get to Darchen, the start of the trek, where you will stop overnight before departing for the foot of the mountain. The trek around the mountain takes three days, and you can stay at two of the five monasteries that are located close to this sacred and unconquered peak, if there is room. They can be busy in the peak months, so you may have to sleep in a tent. Bring a good sleeping bag just in case.
Once you are finished on the kora, then it is time for the rest of your tour, or your trip back to Kathmandu, whichever you decided to take when you booked your tour.
Option 3: A Helicopter Travel Route from Nepal to Mt.Kailash via Nepalgunj and Simikot and Hilsa and Purang
There is also a third option for getting to Mount Kailash from Kathmandu, and one that is not as popular, but is much more exciting and adventurous. A combination of flights, driving, and trekking, this route takes a completely different course to get to the sacred mountain, one which passes over the Himalayas at Nepal’s most northwestern point, Hilsa.
A Helicopter Travel Route is perfect for those that are short on time and have the decent budget to make the trip.
This is the kind of tour that is perfect for those that are short on time and have the decent budget to make the trip. Ideal if you just want to visit Kailash and Manasarovar without stopping in the rest of Tibet, and have a limited time in which to undertake the thrilling trek around the mountain. It is also the only route to Mount Kailash that includes a helicopter ride into the mountains in order to walk across the Sino-Nepal border.
11 Days Tibet Kailash Pilgrimage Tour by Helicopter from Nepal starts with a flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj Airport, in the south of Nepal, which takes around 45 minutes, and where you will rest to acclimatize a little before continuing. The second leg of the trip is a flight to Hilsa, close to the Sino-Nepal border, by helicopter. This 20-minute flight takes you across some of the most amazing countryside in Nepal, with jungle and hilly landscapes soon giving way to the immense peaks of the mighty Himalayas. After landing in Hilsa, it is a ten-minute walk across the border and into Tibet, where you will be met by your Tibetan guide and driver with your vehicle, and driven to the town of Purang (Burang) County of Ngari Prefecture, known as Taklakot in Nepali.
From Burang, you will then be driven to Lake Manasarovar, where you will spend a day enjoying the lakeside scenery, or having a dip in the sacred and refreshing waters of the lake. From Manasarovar, you will then drive to Darchen to start your trek around the kora route of the pilgrims. Once completed, your return journey is the same route, although it is quicker going back to Burang and across the border to Hilsa, where you will get the first helicopter to Nepalgunj Airport and your flight back to Kathmandu.
Conclusion: the Most Recommended Way to Kailash from Kathmandu
While all three routes are stunningly exciting and amazing adventures that will stay with you for a lifetime, the most recommended route would have to be the overland trip from Lhasa to Mount Kailash, using either the 15-day or 13-day tours.
Traveling to the heights of the Tibetan plateau can be a dangerous thing if you are not fully acclimatized, and the trip through Lhasa gives you a better opportunity to acclimatize to the increases in altitude than any other route. It also means that you can incorporate the delights of the Tibetan capital with your tour while you acclimatize, sights which should not be missed for anyone visiting Tibet.
This is also the most cost-effective route as well, as the Small Group Tours can reduce the cost of your trip if you are on a tight budget. Sharing the cost of the guide, driver, and private vehicle, and even giving you cheaper hotel rooms by sharing with other travelers in the group, this is the best option for many people.
If budget is not an issue, and you love the adventure but have little time, then the helicopter trip to Mount Kailash via Hilsa is the best option, as it is straightforward and simple.