How to Plan a Nepal to Tibet Tour
Many travelers want to incorporate Nepal and Tibet in one tour, and with the opening of the overland border crossing at Gyirong Port, this is now even easier to manage. Tours to Nepal and Tibet can start in Kathmandu, and travel overland to Lhasa, or vice versa. Alternatively, you can tour Nepal first, and then fly to Lhasa, to travel around Tibet before taking the world-famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway off the plateau and into China.
Whatever route you want to take, there is a tour that can suit your every need, and at Tibet Vista, your requirements are the most important thing. Visit the famous Potala Palace and the Jokhang temple, before heading out into the west of Tibet to see the majestic Mount Everest. In Kathmandu you can visit the fabulous Durbar Square, and tour the Chitwan National Park, or take a 14-day trek to the southern Everest Base Camp and back.
Nepal, a landlocked country between India and China, is known for its mountain peaks. The small country contains eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Cho Oyu, to name a few. Nepal is well known for its natural beauty and it has its own unique cultures. There are more than 70 ethnic groups around this small country and more than 60 different languages are spoken in different parts of Nepal, although Nepali is the official language.
Nepal is well known for its natural beauty
A country of multiple climates, Nepal has everything from the high-altitude Himalayan climate to the sub-tropical forest regions closer to sea level. The capital, Kathmandu, sits in the Kathmandu Valley, which is widely considered to be the “real” Nepal, and is one of the most popular trekking regions in the world, with treks to Mount Everest, the Annapurna Circuit, and many other high mountains. For those who are not into trekking, Kathmandu has some of the most spectacular old architecture in the country, and the historic Hindu Temple at Pashupatinath is a must-see site.
Tibet is a popular destination for tourists in Asia, with its high-altitude plateau climate, lofty mountains, snow-capped peaks, and crystal clear lakes. Known officially as the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, the region is home to hundreds of ancient Buddhist monasteries, the former palaces of the Dalai Lama, the world’s highest mountain, and the most holy mountain in four different religions.
A land of extremes, Tibet’s climate can change within minutes, and a warm day can quickly become cold. The general climate of Tibet is one of arid, dry cold, with biting winds and freezing nights. However, the exhilaration of trekking through this plateau landscape, and the sight of its high snow mountains makes it well worth visiting. Take in the Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama, and the holiest temple in Tibet, Jokhang, before driving along the Friendship Highway to the city of Shigatse, and the gateway to the spectacular Mount Everest.
Planning the Trip
Planning any trip that incorporates Nepal and Tibet requires collaboration with a registered tour operator for the Tibet side of the tour. Tibet Vista has many tours that cover the trip between Tibet and Nepal, and is able to obtain the permits required for traveling in Tibet, whether from China or from Nepal.
The Nepalese part of the trip is easy to organize, and the country has a well set-up tourist industry, with easy, cheap travel around the area of the Kathmandu Valley, although travel further afield can often be bumpy and tiring. If you intend to do any trekking in the region, Nepal has some of the world’s best trails, and there are guides available for all if you are new to high-altitude hiking.
Required Permits and Visas
Starting in Tibet
China has a strict policy on foreign visitors to Tibet, and independent travel is not permitted. all travel to Tibet must be done through a registered tour operator, such as Tibet Vista. Aside from your passport and Chinese Entry Visa, you will need several other permits in order to get into and travel around the region. Your tour operator can arrange these, once your itinerary has been booked, and will provide you with the Tibet Travel Permit, to allow you to get in to the region from China, by train or flight.
Tibet Travel Permit
They will also obtain the Alien’s Travel Permit, which is required for travel outside Lhasa to places like Everest National Park, and the Military Permit, which is needed to visit certain sensitive areas of the region, such as Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. These are obtained using your original passport and Tibet Travel Permit once you are in Lhasa.
If you are traveling overland to Nepal, you can arrange your Nepal Entry Visa at the border beyond Gyirong port, or at the arrivals terminal of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
Tip: It is important not to mention Tibet in your itinerary when applying for the Chinese Entry Visa, as this can cause complications. Travel through China is not restricted to just your itinerary, so changes can be made easily.
Starting in Nepal
While majority of visitors to Tibet apply to enter the region from China, it is also possible to enter through Nepal, from Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital. Visitors who want to enter from Nepal have different requirements for visas and permits, although the rules on travelling independently in Tibet are still the same.
The Group Tourist Visa is a kind of single-entry visa that is obtained through the Chinese Embassy in Nepal by your tour operator. Individual applications to the embassy are not permitted. Your tour operator will require a scanned copy of your passport. However, the Group Tourist Visa can be obtained for an individual. Normally, all the members of a group will be named on the visa, and it is required that all members enter and leave Tibet at the same time and through the same port of exit. There is also a restriction on the number of nationalities in a group, which is limited to two only. There are also restrictions for the nationals of 26 countries that require them to obtain the Group Tourist Visa from the embassy in their home country.
Similar to entry from China, the Tibet Travel Permit is obtained by your tour operator, along with the Group Tourist Visa using the scanned copy of your passport, once your tour has been booked. For both Permit and Visa from Nepal, you should be in Kathmandu at least four days before your tour into Tibet to process the application. Your Group Tourist Visa and Tibet Travel Permit will be delivered to your hotel in Kathmandu.
How to Get There
Nepal has one international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, just east of Kathmandu. There are few direct long-distance flights to Nepal - getting here from Europe, the Americas or Australasia will almost always involve a stop in the Middle East or Asia. Because Nepal does not lie on any major transit routes, flights to Kathmandu are expensive, particularly during the peak trekking season. The best options are to fly to India or Thailand first, and get a connecting flight to Kathmandu from there. If you are flying from the United States or Europe (including the UK), you can have a local travel agent arrange the connecting flights, to lessen the hassles of visa requirements in India or Thailand, but you will not be allowed to leave the airport during the layover.
Our tibetan tour guide is meeting client at Lhasa Airport
Traveling to Tibet can actually be a lot easier than getting to Nepal. While you can get a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa, you will have to go through the complex flight plans to get to Nepal first. However, by getting a flight into China, you can get connecting flights to Lhasa from several major international airports, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, or you can take the world-famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway from one of seven gateway cities in China, direct to Lhasa.
Best Time to Go
Nepal is a country that has drastic altitude change inside its limited strip of land area. While the plant and animal life varies greatly at the different altitudes, so does the climate, and when to visit normally depends on what you want to do there. For trekking, the best times to go are from April to June and from October to February, since the monsoon season from July to September is not good for treks. However, for general sightseeing around Kathmandu and the valley areas, even the rainy season is possible, if you are not averse to the odd downpour in the afternoons.
Due to the high evaluation, Tibet has a quite different seasons from other places, with a longer winter. Visits to Tibet can be made at almost any time of year, Except in February and March, when the region is closed to tourists. The best times for tourists are normally from April to May, the Tibetan Spring, and from September to October, the autumn season. The weather in these shoulder seasons is less wet, but is still warm enough to travel around the region comfortably. Summer is the rainy season, although even the rainy season in Tibet is never very rainy, and the mountain passes are guaranteed to be snow-free. However, for those wishing to see the summit of Everest, summer is not the best due to the cloud cover that often obscures the peak.
Top Sights to See
Chitwan National Park is a preserved area in the Terai Lowlands of south-central Nepal, known for its biodiversity. Its dense forests and grassy plains are home to rare mammals like one-horned rhinos and Bengal tigers. The park shelters numerous bird species, including the giant hornbill. Dugout canoes traverse the northern Rapti River, home to crocodiles. Inside the park is Balmiki Ashram, a Hindu pilgrimage site.
The Kathmandu Valley lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of Asia, and has at least 130 important monuments, including several pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists. Discover ancient temples and myths in the valley of gods where Hinduism and Buddhism meet, and watch how the people of the valley still use their temples to practice rituals that have been passed from generation to generation.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. Built in the 5th century and later renovated by Malla kings, the site itself is believed to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered there. The largest temple complex in Nepal, it stretches on both sides of the Baghmati River, which is considered holy by Hindus. The main pagoda style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver, and woodcarvings of the finest quality. Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath.
Untouched by the 2015 earthquake, Bardia National Park is the largest national park and wilderness area in the Terai and has excellent wildlife-watching opportunities. Bardia is often described as what Chitwan was like 30 years ago, before being overrun by tourism. The park protects one of Asia’s largest stretches of tiger habitat, and there are also healthy populations of wild elephants and one-horned rhinos among the 30 species of mammals living here.
Potala Palace, situated in the west part of Lhasa, is actually an architecture group situated on an extremely high mountain in the northwest of Lhasa, consisting of temples, palaces, dormitories and office areas. This amazing palace has the honor of being the highest ancient palace in the world, with its highest point reaching 3,750 meters above sea level and towering 100 meters above the city of Lhasa. The fifth Dalai Lama built it as the center of Tibetan government in 1645.
Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan pilgrims. Listed as one of the World Cultural Heritage sites of Tibet, it is situated at the heart of the old town of Lhasa and surrounded by Barkhor Street. Built in the 7th century by Songtsen Gambo, with roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles, the temple demonstrates a combination of the architectural style of Han, Tibetan, Indian and Nepali, as well as a Mandala world outlook of Buddhism.
Tourist is worshipping before the sacred Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar to show his respect
A great mass of black rock soaring to 6,638 meters, Mt. Kailash has the unique distinction of being the world's most venerated holy place at the same time that it is the least visited. The supremely sacred site of four religions and billions of people, Kailash is seen by no more than a few thousand pilgrims each year. This curious fact is explained by the mountain's remote location in far western Tibet. A sacred mountain to four religions – Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Bonpo – Kailash is known to them all as the mythical Mt. Meru, the Axis Mundi, the center and birth place of the entire world.
One of the holiest of Tibetan lakes, Lake Manasarovar is close by Mt. Kailash, and often the next stop for many tourists and pilgrims. During the summer, the lake is full of swans, which bring their own form of grace to this holy lake. There is a kora that runs around the lake, and you can often see Tibetans or Hindus circling the lake and praying on its shores. Manasarovar is one of the three holy lakes of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the highest freshwater lake in the world at 4,590 meters. It is the source of four of the greatest rivers in Asia, the Brahmaputra, Ghaghara, Sindhu, and Sutlej. For Buddhists and Hindus, it is believed that by bathing in the clear blue waters of the lake you will wash away all your sins.
And, of course, no visit to Tibet would be complete without a trip to the world-renowned Everest Base Camp. The Tibetan side of Mount Everest, which lies on the border of Tibet and Nepal, is more easily accessible than the southern base camp, and the road runs from the Friendship Highway straight up to the base camp itself. One of the main reasons many people visit Tibet, the base camp sits at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level, and the views of the mountain from there are spectacular.