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Basic Facts about Tibet and Nepal Tour

Tibet and Nepal are neighbors in the Himalayan region of Asia, and while they have many things in common, they also have their differences. Both places are unique in their cultures, religions, and beliefs and even the countries themselves are unique and different from anywhere else in the world. Traveling to either of these beautiful places is a real adventure, and one that will leave you breathless, yet yearning for more. A tour that covers both of these amazing places is possible, and you can start either in Lhasa or Kathmandu.

Distance between Tibet and Nepal

The overland distance to Kathmandu from Lhasa is around 1,000 kilometers, although in a straight line it is only 606 kilometers. The road route takes more turns and twists around the various lakes and mountains in Tibet and Nepal, and passes through some of the most spectacular towns and villages in this region of Asia. In these high-altitude area full of mountains and lakes, roads are very rarely straight for more than a few hundred meters, often switching back and forth as they climb the mountain passes and detouring around the huge lakes that cover the region.

Travel overland from Tibet to Nepal via Gyirong Travel overland from Tibet to Nepal via Gyirong

Traveling overland across the Tibetan Plateau and down from the Himalayas into the Kathmandu valley is a trip that takes around 24 hours by car, but which really needs at least 7-8 days to give you chance to experience the beauty and cultures of these wonderful lands.

Altitude of Tibet and Nepal

The route from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu is traveled mostly at the high altitudes of the Tibetan Plateau, which averages more than 4,000 meters. The lowest point of the journey is the start at Lhasa, at only 3,656 meters, and rises on the way to Gyantse, at 4,000 meters above sea level. Shigatse, another city on the route and the second largest city in Tibet lies at an altitude of 3,800 meters, while the famous Rongbuk Monastery sits at an elevation of 4,980 meters.

 Gawula pass Gawula pass at 5,198 meters

There are also higher places that are crossed in the immense journey across the plateau, such as Gawula pass, at 5,198 meters and the famous Everest Base Camp, which is at 5,200 meters above sea level. Tibet is a land on a high plateau known often as the “Roof of the World” and the “Third Pole”. The Tibetan plateau is the highest plateau in the world, and the altitude makes the air thinner and contains less oxygen, which is what causes altitude sickness.

Once you get to the western edge of the plateau, and cross over into Nepal, the altitude starts to drop quickly, as you descend from the 5,000 meter plus altitudes to the low altitude of Kathmandu, at only 1,400 meters. Nepal is a land of changing elevations and climates. Along the border with Tibet, the altitudes are high, many over 5,000 meters in the high mountains of the Himalayas. And the mountain peaks are even higher, with Everest sitting at 8,848 meters.

 Terai region Terai region of Nepal

As you move further away from the border, the land drops to the foothills, which average less than 4,000 meters, and then to the rolling hills below, at altitudes well below 2,000 meters. Finally the land slopes down to the lowland Terai region, which extends along the border between Nepal and India, and is at elevations well below 1,000 meters along its entire length.

Roughly rectangular in shape, Nepal’s landscape slopes from its eastern border down to its western border, in a very uniform pattern. This makes for a unique climate difference in the different areas of the country, and which allows parts of the country to be open for tourism while other parts are closed due to rain or extreme cold.

Cultures of Tibet and Nepal

The Tibetan culture is one that is unique in the entire world. Living on a high-altitude plateau and cut off from many external influences, the Tibetans have developed their own unique cultural traditions over more than three hundred centuries. The remoteness of the plateau, cut off by the Himalayas, has preserved many distinct local traditions, and has stimulated the development of this unique culture.

 Jokhang Temple Tibetan pilgrims prostrating at Jokhang Temple

Buddhism is one of the things that has exerted strong influence on Tibetan culture since it was first introduced in the seventh century. Buddhist missionaries from mainland China and India introduced new arts and customs to Tibet, which were taken in by the people and incorporated into their own culture. Even the religion itself has developed in a completely different form from the original since it came to the region, influenced by the Bon traditions and other local beliefs. Now, Buddhism is not just a religion in Tibet, it is their whole way of life, and so interwoven with the culture that they are now inseparable.

The remoteness of the plateau has also influenced the Tibetan reliance on pastoralism, and a lot of the region is involved in the raising of livestock such as cattle, yaks, and sheep. This and the arable farming that covers many parts of the plateau, produces the unique Tibetan cuisine that includes yak meat, mutton, and the famous tsampa, made from highland barley, the region’s biggest crop.

In Nepal, the Hindu and Buddhist traditions date back more than two thousand years, and the culture has been hugely influenced by Indian, Mongolian, and Tibetan cultures. Rich and unique, the Nepalese culture has developed over the millennia into a multi-dimensional heritage that encompasses the diverse ethnic groups of the country. It is manifested in their dance, arts, crafts, folklore, languages, and literature, and has a huge impact in the celebrations and festivities of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions.

 Dance in Nepal  The women of Nepal are dancing in festival

Nepal is primarily Hindu, with only around eleven percent of the population practicing Buddhism. However, many of the traditions of each religion can be found in the other, and it is normal for Hindus to practice traditions that originated within Buddhism. Yet despite Lumbini being the birthplace of the original Buddha, Hinduism accounts for more than eighty percent of the population. Even in the festivals, of which majority are of Hindu origin, Buddhism has had a major influence.

Agriculture in Nepal dominates their economy, and is the livelihood for majority of the nation’s population, while only around 20 percent of the total land area can be used for cultivation. Majority of these fertile lands are in the lowland Terai region, and the adjoining hill region. Rice is the largest and most important crop in the country, and largely influences their cuisine.

Nepalese cuisine has been developed from a variety of cuisines, based on the agriculture of the country. The most popular dish being Dal Bhat, it is eaten all over Nepal by everyone, and is a soup made from lentils and spices and served over boiled grain or rice. The cuisine is hugely influenced by Indian, Tibetan, and Thai cuisine, and contains a lot of spices and curries, with condiments such as spicy pickles in small amounts. In more recent times, several Chinese dishes, including Chow Mein have come to the country, and have become a popular part of the local cuisine, albeit with their traditional addition of spices.

Tourism of Tibet and Nepal

In Tibet, tourism is centered around organized tours with registered tour operators that will take you on a journey of explorations around the top sites in the region. From the beauty of the Potala Palace, to the sacred Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, or the stunning sight of Everest from the North Base Camp and the highest monastery in the world, Tibet is almost as if it was designed to be a tourist trap. You get to experience the wealth that is Tibetan culture, and find out about how hard it is to live in this high altitude region, on an organized tour that will allow you to visit, albeit briefly, some of the holiest and most sacred sites in Tibetan Buddhism.

 Nepal trekking Trekking and mountain climbing have made Nepal a hot destination for tourists and adventure seekers

Tourism in Nepal is centered around its Himalayan landscape, with the high mountains and clear lakes that extend along the eastern edge of the country, and is the largest industry and biggest revenue in the country. With eight of the ten highest peaks in the world, trekking and mountain climbing have made Nepal a hot destination for tourists and adventure seekers. With its cool weather and great attractions like Mount Everest, Nepal is now one of the top trekking destinations in the world.

It also includes wilderness tourism in its tourist features, with a huge part of the country dedicated to wildlife parks that contain rare and endangered species of animals and birds. From the spectacular Bengal tiger adventures to the elephant and rhino safaris, Nepal has a huge amount of wilderness activities on offer. There are even places where you can go bungee jumping, rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, and hot air ballooning over the mighty Himalayas.

Time Difference of Tibet and Nepal

Tibet and Nepal are neighbors that share the same border, but they are in completely different time zones. Kathmandu is set in the NPT time zone, which is normally set at GMT plus six hours. However, while much of Tibet actually lies to the northeast of Nepal, it comes under the Chinese time zone, CST, which is eight hours ahead of GMT. This means that two towns directly across the border between Tibet and Nepal, such as Rasuwagadhi and Gyirong, are actually two hours different in time.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland.With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate and humorous, he devoted his entire life guiding and serving international tourists travelling in Tibet.As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience , he once had an exclusive interview with the US media. Currently he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into troubles, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

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