Tibet Nepal Overland Tour: The World Classic Overland Tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Tibet and Nepal are the closest neighbors, and have much in common. Aside from their shared border within the high Himalaya Range and the fact that both have a base camp at the foot of Mt. Everest, there are many similarities in religion, with Buddhism being the main religion of the Nepali mountain people, as opposed to Hinduism, which is the predominant religion in the rest of the country. Even within Hinduism in the country, there are many aspects of Buddhism that have been incorporated into it, and majority of the people follow a mix of both religions together.
For many foreign tourists, a tour in the Himalaya region incorporates both Tibet and Nepal, and with the opening of the border crossing at Gyirong Port, overland trips from Lhasa to Kathmandu, and vice versa, are more popular than ever. Including the best of Tibet, from the high mountains to the great lakes, as well as the exotic city of Kathmandu, and the temples of Pashupatinath and Boudhanath, a trip overland from Tibet to Nepal is a wonderful adventure covering two distinct peoples and cultures.
Tibet Nepal Highway – The Sino-Nepal Highway from Lhasa to Kathmandu
The 830 kilometer route linking Lhasa with the Nepal border at the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge remains the most popular overland route in Tibet. The Friendship Highway follows the western portion of Chinese National Highway 318 and crosses three passes over 5,000 meters before dropping to 1,750 meters at the border. At the Nepal border, the Friendship Highway continues on the Araniko Highway for a further 115 kilometers to the capital of Kathmandu. Starting in Lhasa, this route goes through many of the most popular tourist spots that the Tibet Autonomous Region has to offer.
The highway starts in Lhasa, as part of the G318 National Highway that runs across China, and on into Tibet. The road passes through the towns and cities of Quzu, Gyantse, Shigatse, Liuxiang, Lhaze, Tingri, Gyirong, and Jilongzhen, before crossing the border on the bridge over the Gyirong Zangbo River, at Gyirong Port. On the Nepal side, the first place you get to is Rasuwagadhi, the border checkpoint where you will be able to apply for the visa-on-arrival for Nepal.
As the only available border crossing between Tibet and Nepal for international travelers, Gyirong Port - now a national first class land port - adds more choices to visit Nepal and Tibet together, on top of the existing option of an international flight between Lhasa and Kathmandu. From the Nepal border, it is a 120-kilometer trip to reach Kathmandu, along the Nepalese side of the Friendship Highway, known locally as the Pasang Laahmu Highway and the Trishuli Highway.
Highlights of Lhasa Kathmandu Overland Tour
The road from Lhasa to Gyirong is filled with many wonders of the Tibetan Landscape, as well as a host of man-made attractions to visit, from monasteries and stupas to small, quaint towns and villages where the ancient Tibetan culture is more easily discovered.
The start of the Friendship Highway is in Lhasa, and you would be remiss to not visit the most important sites in the city before leaving. The Potala Palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama, sits atop Moburi (Red Hill), and looks down on the town of Lhasa from its 3,750-meter vantage point. The world-famous Jokhang Temple, the primary seat of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was built by the 33rd King of Tibet in 647AD, and is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. Inside sits the most precious object in the temple, a life-sized statue of Buddha Sakyamuni when he was just 12 years old. Adorned with many precious gems, this gilded statue is the most sacred object in Tibet. And there is also the beautiful Norbulingka, which used to be the former summer palace of Dalai Lamas in the ancient time, and now is a public park.
Sitting at the foot of Gambo Utse, 5 kilometers outside Lhasa, Drepung Monastery was founded by Jamyang Choge, one of the disciples of Tsong Khapa, in 1416. The Ganden Potrang, sited in the southwest corner of the monastery, was the former residence of the Dalai Lama, until the move to the Potala Palace. Sera Monastery, one of the Great Three monasteries, was founded in 1419. The name, Sera, means "wild rose" in Tibetan, and was so named because of the roses that were in bloom on the hill behind it when it was built. The main attraction of the monastery is the colorful and animated debating of the monks, held under the trees in the debating field every afternoon.
The first site you will reach along the highway is the holy Yamdrok Lake. As the largest fresh lake in the northern of the Himalaya Mountains, it covers around 675 square meters from south to north, like a teardrop lying in the arms of snow-capped giant mountains. Viewing from a distance, you can see fertile pastures full of yaks and sheep, and some small Tibetan villages along the lakeshore.
Karola Glacier is a beautiful glacier only 300 meters from the highway that connects Lhasa and Gyantse. Backing to the south face of Mount Noijin Kangsang, Karola Glacier is the largest of over 100 glaciers that cover the mountainsides, and is made of an ice cap with slow slope and two hanging-glacier typed glacier tongues.
Continuing your trip, you will get to the historical city of Gyantse, where you can visit the mysterious Pelkor Chode Monastery. The monks and tradition of three important sects of Tibetan Buddhism, Sakyapa, Kagyupa and Gelugpa, peacefully coexist in this monastery. Its Kumbum, which is 35 meters high and has 76 small chapels with hundreds images of Kriyatantras, is believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet.
The official seat of Panchen Lama, Tashilunpo Monastery, is also an influential monastery of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is one of the largest temples in Tibet with 57 halls and 3600 rooms. Among them, the Coqen Hall can hold 2,000 monks to take part in Buddhist activities. You can also see the giant statue of Future Buddha, the largest one of its kind on earth, measuring 26.2 meters high, and decorated with precious pearls, turquoises, corals and ambers.
Tourists are visiting the Tashilunpo Monastery
The start of the main trekking routes to Mt. Everest, Old Tingri is a small township that is often used by mountaineers as a base for climbing Everest. The old Shekar Dorje Dzong, or fort, is above the new town and used to enclose Shekar Chode, a Gelug monastery.
The road from Tingri is filled with beautiful sights of lofty mountains, as you get nearer to the mighty Himalaya Mountain Range. The route travels over Ghungtang Lhamo Pass, at 5,236 meters, where you get to see the face of Shishapangma Peak and the beautiful view of Pekutso Lake, before dropping down to Gyirong Town.
At Gyirong Port there is a bridge that crosses the Gyirong Zangbo River, and is the border line between Tibet and Nepal. On most tours, the vehicle you arrive in will not cross the bridge with you, and you will have to walk the short distance between the two checkpoints. On the Nepal side, the checkpoint is at Rasuwagadhi Fort, a historical ruined fort built on the site of a three-day battle during the Sino-Nepalese War in 1792. The fort was built later, during the Nepalese-Tibetan War in 1855, when Jung Bahadur Rana invaded Qing-ruled Tibet.
Langtang National Park
As the road follows the Pasang Laahmu Highway south towards Kathmandu, it skirts along the edges of the Langtang National Park, one of the most unspoiled national parks of Nepal. The park is the most easily accessible highland sanctuary from the capital, and covers 1,710 square kilometers, forming the upper catchment area of two of Nepal's largest river systems, the Trishuli and the Koshi.
Lhasa to Kathmandu or Kathmandu to Lhasa
While some travelers prefer to take the route from Lhasa to Kathmandu, others prefer to go in the opposite direction. Whichever direction you choose largely depends on personal preference and other aspects of your tours in Asia. For some, the train ride to Tibet is one of the highlights of the trip, giving an exciting preview of the trip to come. Others prefer to travel from Tibet to Nepal because they are planning on trekking some of the amazing trails in Nepal, such as the Everest trek or the Annapurna Circuit trek.
Tibet Train Tour is one of the highlights of the trip
For those starting in Nepal, often the next stage of their vacation is a tour in mainland China, making the train ride from the high Tibetan Plateau the last part of their Tibet and Nepal journey. There is no right or wrong way to tour between Nepal and Tibet, and both directions can provide the same views and spectacular scenery, no matter which order you visit them in.
More Adventure – Overland Trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu by Bike
An overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu by bicycle is a three-week long adventure that is not for the faint-hearted. Cycling across Tibet is not something for everyone, and is a true adventure that requires dedication and lots of preparation. Tibet is a sacred land of myths and mysteries inhabited by its ever-smiling people. It has not only exerted a magnetic spell upon travelers for centuries, but also upon spies, missionaries, scholars, geographers, mystics, soldiers and cranks, yet only a few intrepid, serious and determined travelers have been able to cycle across this vast expanse of high-altitude wilderness. Extremely remote and isolated by the most formidable Himalayan ranges, a fascinating world of timeless splendor, unique tradition and breathtaking scenery awaits the adventurous traveler.
An overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu by bicycle is a three-week long adventure
From April to October is the best season for cycling across the plateau. There is not much rain in Tibet, as it lies behind the Himalayan range, but it rains to some extent during July and August, while the rest of the season is fine with clear skies. There may be some snowfall in the high passes if it rains during April and end of October. Temperature ranges from 0-15 degrees depending upon the altitude and weather.
These tours normally follow main highways and vehicle-width dirt roads, which may be smooth, gritty, stony, rocky, rutted, loose or hard-packed. The tracks will rise and fall over undulating, hilly and mountainous terrain, so experience of off-road riding is advisable. The route covers over 1,300 kilometers from the Tibetan capital to the exotic capital of Nepal. Passing mountains, lakes, and rivers, you will climb high passes over 5,000 meters, and see the most amazing sights in the world on this high-altitude cycling tour across the roof of the world.