Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure: the best guide to riding your motorbike to Lhasa

November,14 2019 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

Everyone who rides a motorcycle would love to feel the freedom of the wind in their face and the sun on their skin as they weave their way along winding mountain roads and delve deep into the valleys of mystery that lie between the high snow-capped mountains.

Taking your ride across the Tibetan plateau gives you more freedom than traveling in a car, and is nowhere near as exhausting as riding a bicycle. Who can resist the pull of the open road, when the roads are more open than anywhere else on the planet? Where distant mountains loom on the horizon, getting closer with every mile as you eat up the tarmac. Meeting with devout monks, innocent and traditional locals, and amazing pilgrims making their way along the same road on their hands and knees to perform some Buddhist ritual at some sacred site a thousand kilometers from their home.

The Best Travel Route to Ride Your Motorbike to Lhasa

While there are many places to visit in Tibet, you know there is nothing like taking that bike along some of the world’s longest and highest roads, which makes the ideal tour of Tibet - the ride from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Following the 900-kiloometer-long Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway, the road that runs from Lhasa to the Nepal border, this is the ultimate in long rides.

The MotorcyleA wonderful Tibet Kathmandu Motorcycle adventure tour.

The route takes you out west from the exotic capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, towards Bidur, a small town to the northwest of the capital, at the lower end of the Langtang National Park. From there, you head north to Rasuwa Gadhi, the ancient ruined fort where the road crosses the Resuo Bridge over the Trishuli River Gorge to Gyirong Port and into Tibet.

After passing through customs and meeting your guide, your first stop will be a short distance from the border, at Gyirong Town. There you will need to stop for the day to acclimatize to the extreme altitude of the plateau.

Himalayan Motorcycle AdventureWe can provide the logistics of the motorcycle during your Himalayan motorcycle adventure

Once rested and ready, your first full day in Tibet will take you to the most stunning sight in the world, Mount Everest. At 8,848 meters above sea level, this massive mountain can be seen from miles around over the plains, standing tall above the other high mountains in the Himalayas. The route takes you from Gyirong town to meet the G318 Friendship Highway, where you will head west for a while before turning south off the highway to get to Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world.

Your morning on the next day is spent at the famous Everest Base Camp, where you can get photos to prove you took your ride to the roof of the world. Once you are done there, you will head back along the same road to the Friendship Highway, which will take you to Shigatse City, the second city of Tibet. Shigatse is the home of the famous Tashilhunpo Monastery, famous for being the seat of the Panchen Lama. It is now the largest fully-functioning religious institute in Tibet. And for those that love Buddhist statues, the huge gilded statue of the Maitreya, the Future Buddha, is a sight to behold.

Himalayan Motorcycle AdventureThe mountain that you will pass by in motorcycle adventure

The ride from Shigatse to Gyantse, your next stop, is a distance of around 93 kilometers, and you will stop for a break there to visit the Pelkor Chode Monastery. The monastery is the only monastery in Tibet that houses three separate school of Tibetan Buddhism, a unique occurrence in this devout Buddhist land. Inside the monastery grounds lies one of the most amazing sights in the world, the famous Gyantse Kumbum. A stupa of immense size, it stands 32 meters tall with nine levels and 108 chapels inside. The spire of the stupa is made of gold, and glints majestically in the sun.

From Gyantse, it is then a 264-kilometer ride to Lhasa, passing along the shores of one of the Great Three holy lakes of Tibet, Lake Yamdrok. Lying at an elevation of 4,441 meters, this unique lake is fed by snow melt from the surrounding mountains and has no outflow, yet does not get bigger. This means the lake is in perfect balance, with the inflow being exactly equal to the evaporation rate of the water in the lake.

Along the Way of Motorcycle AdventureOne of our clients enjoyed his motocycle tour in Tibet. What a lifetime experience.

After a short ride from the lake, you will enter Lhasa, the City of Sunshine on the high-altitude plateau. Filled with amazing sights, this is where your bike gets to rest, as you can tour most of the city’s sights without driving. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the Jokhang temple, with its stunning statue of Buddha from the time of the Tibetan Empire. Trek the stairs of the Potala Palace to discover the former center of government in Tibet and the winter palace of the Dalai Lama.

Travel Documents Needed for Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure

As with all trips to Tibet, you cannot travel unaccompanied, and you will need to have booked your tour through a registered Tibet tour operator. You will also need several permits for traveling in Tibet. Riding a motorcycle across Tibet is the closest you can come to independent travel in the region.

The Tibet Travel Permit is the first permit you will need, and it is obtained by us once you have booked your tour. This allows you to enter Tibet and travel in the area around Lhasa. Alien’s travel permit is required for travel outside Lhasa, to places like Mount Everest, while the Frontier Pass is needed for travel close to the borders of India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Tibet Travel PermitAs a professional travel agency, we will help you to get all necessary visa for your motocycle travel.

All of these permits are obtained by us on your behalf and will be given to you before you leave for Tibet. However, there is the matter of the visa to get into China. The normal Chinese Entry Visa is not valid for entering from Nepal, and you will need to have a Group Tourist Visa before you can travel. This takes around 3 working days to process, so you need to be in Kathmandu around five days before your departure date. Our representative in Kathmandu will collect your passports when you arrive, and process the application on your behalf.

Best Time to Enjoy Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure

While it is possible to visit Tibet at any time of year, there are times when riding a motorcycle across the plateau is not advisable. Winter can be cold and icy, while summer can get a little too wet in places. The best time, to get the ideal weather and climate, is in the spring, from April to early June and the fall, from Sept. to the end of Oct.

How to Physically and Mentally Prepare the Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure

Physically, there is little to prepare for, unless you are planning to go trekking at high altitudes. However, even for those riding a bike across the plateau, a decent degree of physical fitness should be attained. You should also make sure that you understand the symptoms of altitude sickness you do not want to suffer from altitude sickness whilst riding a motorcycle.

Mentally, you should be prepared to see some of the most amazing sights in the world, and travel vast distances in one long run. Although for most bikers, this is a normal thing to do anyway. Preparation is the key, though, and you should be aware that riding on the plateau is very different from riding around at sea level. You need to be more focused and concentrated on the road ahead, despite there being little traffic, as the landscape can be deceptive, and sharp bends and dips can come up suddenly.

What to Pack for the Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure

While the spring and fall are not particularly cold, traveling on a motorcycle can be a chilly experience at sea level. On the plateau, it can get even colder. You are advised to have motorcycle leathers for the trip, as these are the best option for staying both warm and safe, although they are not really required. A good strong pair of motorcycling pants or jeans and a good jacket are adequate for riding across Tibet.

You should have plenty of thinner layers to wear underneath, which you can remove or add as necessary, and a good pair of biking boots are better than rubber shoes for riding a motorcycle. For warmth, keep a good thick sweater handy for when you stop and want to remove your jacket. You are advised to bring some waterproofs as well, as it can rain at any time on the plateau, not just in the monsoon season.

Dining and Accommodation along the Way

Accommodation along the route of the tour is normally in guesthouses or hotels that are chosen according to your budget. Hotels in Tibet are a little different than the ones you may be used to in other countries. While you are usually able to get the major requirements that you might expect, such as clean rooms and toilets, good dining, and even Wi-Fi these days, the standard classification of the hotels is slightly lower than in the west.

Dinning in Local FamilyYou just ride for the gorgeous scenery, we will take care of all details including food, accommodations, etc.

In Lhasa, you can get Tibetan five-star hotels if that is what you are looking for, though once outside the major cities, hotels are more likely to be Tibetan guesthouses. The guesthouses are clean and comfortable, but often with just basic facilities, usually with no hot running water. In some of the more remote regions of Tibet, even cold running water is a luxury, and water is dragged from a well outside for your use.

If your tour takes you outside the major cities, especially to areas such as Everest and Kailash, you should bring a bedroll or good sleeping bag with you, as the nights can get cold even in summer, and the few blankets available may not be enough to stay warm.

In the larger cities, at the decent hotels, you can find all kinds of food, including some western dishes. However, for the most part, the food you find on the plateau is either Chinese food (mainly Sichuan or Han cuisine) and Tibetan dishes.

Tibetan food is tasty and nutritious, designed for surviving on the high-altitude plateau where many vegetables will not grow. Meat, usually Yak or Mutton, is predominant in Tibetan cuisine, as is the ever-present tsampa, small balls of dough made from barley flour and tea. If the cuisine if not to your liking, then you can bring packet meals and pot snacks with you from Lhasa or Kathmandu to eat along the way.

Dos and Don'ts for such Himalayan Motorcycle Adventure

The temperature in Tibet varies greatly from day to night, and it can get very cold in the more remote regions, even in summer. Having a good warm jacket is essential, especially once you stop, as you might feel the evening chill more after the sunny days.

It is also a must to wear a helmet when riding in Tibet, for your own safety. While the main roads are well paved, some of the minor roads are just gravel or dirt, and you want to be safe and protected when riding over rough terrain.

Sunglasses are essential when riding a motorcycle across the plateau, at any time of year. The thinner atmosphere makes the sunlight brighter, and continued exposure to the bright sunlight can be damaging to your eyes. The sun can get into your eyes if you are driving towards it as well, which could make your vision poorer. Sunglasses will help you to be able to see properly with the sun in your eyes. Get a pair with good UV filters.

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

Energetic, responsible and reliable, Sonam is a guide with more than seven years experience informing visitors about heritage sites and attractions places in Tibet.

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