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Top Things to Know When Plan a Lhasa to Shigatse Self-Driving Tour

November,18 2019 BY Kham Sang 0 COMMENTS

Want to do something adventurous this vacation? How about a self-drive adventure with your friends into the sacred land of Tibet? The breath of fresh air on your face, the scenery one can see and the mere feeling of freedom and liberation are what defines a self-drive trip to this part of the world. A self-drive is often a wonderful experience to bond with loved ones, catch up and long forgotten memories and most importantly catch up with yourself, making it a must try for everyone.

For any tour of Tibet, preparation is the key to an enjoyable and exciting trip, and that is more so with a self-drive tour, as you will need to ensure that you have all the required documents, permits, passes, and licenses. If any of these are missing when you get to Tibet, then your tour may not be able to go ahead as planned. Here we have a definitive guide on planning your Lhasa to Shigatse self-drive tour on the Roof of the World.

Best Time to Visit Lhasa and Shigatse

While they may lie next to each other on the plateau, the difference in altitude between Lhasa and Shigatse is such that it drastically affects the climate between these two major cities in Tibet. While Lhasa is comparatively mild and pleasant most of the year round, in Shigatse, which is much higher, the weather can be much colder and forbidding, though not as wet in the monsoon season.

The best time to travel in Tibet for a self-drive tour from Lhasa to Shigatse is from May to October. Spring and autumn in these areas of Tibet are mild and pleasant, with clear skies, excellent views, and very little rain. Shigatse area is colder than Lhasa, though as the spring wears on, it does get warmer. Autumn is the warm and lush time of year, when the rains have all gone and the skies clear once more, with warm weather and little rain in both Lhasa and Shigatse.

Summer, from June to August, is the monsoon season in Tibet, but in Lhasa and Shigatse, there is not as much rain as you would expect from a monsoon region. With rainfall rarely exceeding 120mm-130mm even in the wettest month of the year, most of which falls in the late afternoon and evening, there is no reason why you cannot travel this delightful road trip in the summer months either.

Road Conditions from Lhasa to Shigatse

The journey from Lhasa to Shigatse follows the G318 Friendship Highway, the longest road in Tibet. One of the most-used roads in the plateau region, this two-lane highway is one of the best-kept roads in Tibet. Originally, the road across the breadth of the plateau was not all sold tarmac, and there were plenty of rough gravel and dirt patches along the route.

Well paved highway from Lhasa to ShigatseWell paved highway from Lhasa to Shigatse

Now, however, this amazing road is one long strip of asphalt, from the Tibetan capital to the second city. An awesome route to drive along, the whole length of the road is well-paved and well-kept, and takes you through some of the plateau’s most stunning scenery.

Documents Required for Self-Driving in Tibet

A few relevant documents one must not forget to carry along with them on the journey are as follows:
● Chinese Visa along with your Passport
● Tibet Travel Permit

The Visa is required for your entry into China, before traveling into Tibet, and can be obtained from the Chinese Embassy in your home country. The Tibet Travel Permit is required for entry into Tibet and travels in the region, and can only be obtained through a registered tour operator. Once you have booked your self-drive tour with us, we will make the application for the permit on your behalf, using scanned color copies of your passport and visa.

Valid documents play a vital role in determining how smooth your stay will be. Hence, sincere care should be taken about the same, especially, when one is planning a self-drive. The documents required while one is self-driving in Tibet are:
● Vehicle Entry and Exit Formalities
● Valid Chinese Driving License or a Permission Letter stating the same
● Correct and Licensed Vehicle Plate Number
● Photocopies of your passport, and your Chinese Visa
● 3 photographs of your car from all the sides - document the condition of the vehicle
● 2 photos of yourself and the people travelling with you, with a white color background

Sightseeing and Highlights of Lhasa to Shigatse Self-Driving Tour

Lhasa Sightseeing: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Barkhor Street

Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple are two of the most visited places in Tibet. Located in the Tibetan capital, the Potala Palace is located on top of Moburi, the Red Hill, and sits on the site of an ancient fortress that dates back to the 7th century. Formerly the seat of power in Tibet, this iconic building is now a museum and the winter palace of the Dalai Lama.

Potala PalacePotala Palace, a landmark of Tibet.

To the west of the palace lies the sacred Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and the home of the iconic statue of Sakyamuni Buddha at the age of 12. Built in 642AD by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, this holy temple is the most popular pilgrimage site in Tibet. Running around the palace is the famous Barkhor Street, a series of five streets that encircle the temple and its surrounding buildings, and which is renowned as the kora route for the Tibetan pilgrims that arrive in Lhasa. The place is always bustling with energy and is a place one must visit to get the real flavor of life in Tibet. The best times to visit are either at dawn or dusk.

Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake is known to be the largest lake in Tibet, making it a wonder by itself. It is also the second largest saltwater lake in all of China. If this is not enough to bear its credentials, it is also the world’s highest lake. When loosely translated in the local language it means, “Heavenly Lake”, and the snow which melts from the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains accounts for the water supply in the lake. This is also a beautiful place for one to have the best wildlife experience as well as revel in nature's beauty, thus making it a must visit for anyone who loves silent and lush green pastures with vibrant wildlife in and around you.

Namtso-LakeNamtso Lake, the largest lake in Tibet.

Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse

Tashilhunpo monastery is another architectural marvel and historical wonder of Tibet. It is also known as the seat of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second highest religious incarnation. Built in the year 1447 it is one of the six grand monasteries of Tibet. The monastery houses a giant statue of the Maitreya Buddha, known to be the biggest gilded statue of Maitreya, which when translated in the local dialect, means the Buddha of the future. It is also known to hold the tomb of the 4th Panchen Lama.

Tashilumpo MonasteryTashilumpo Monastery, the traditional seat of Panchen Lamas.

Palcho Monastery in Gyantse

Palcho Monastery is known to be built in the early 15th century, making it an impressive historical monument to visit. Located in the northeast of Gyantse with an altitude of 3,900 meters, it is indeed a sight to see. The most famous tourist attractions here are the paintings, Buddha figurines, and statues one can see when here. It is truly breathtaking, and worth every penny spent to get here. The Kumbum Stupa inside the monastery consists of 9 floors, 108 doors and more than 1000 statues of Buddha, which would require you to have an entire day to go through this beauty.

Palcho MonasteryPalcho Monastery, an impressive historical monument in Gyantse.

Mount Everest

No trip to Tibet is really complete without a visit to the most iconic landmark in the world, Mount Everest. Lying on the border with Nepal in the far west of Shigatse Prefecture, this amazing mountain is the highlight of any self-drive tour of Tibet. Travelers can drive all the way to the base camp of the mountain, from where mountaineers make their arduous and exhausting climbs up to the summit, and it has the best view of the mountain’s high peak than anywhere else.

Recommended Routes for Lhasa to Shigatse Self-Driving Tour

Lhasa - Namtso Lake - Lhasa

One of our most iconic tours for exploring Lhasa and visiting the stunning Lake Namtso in Damxung County to the north of the capital, this is one of the best short itineraries for those not really used to driving in high altitudes. The tour covers all the major highlights of Lhasa while you are acclimatizing, such as the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. It also takes you out of the city to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Namtso. The highlight of this 6-day Lhasa and Lake Namtso tour, at an altitude of 4,718 meters above sea level, the surreal beauty of the lake will take your breath away.

Lhasa - Gyantse - Shigatse - Lake Namtso - Lhasa

This amazing 8 Days Lhasa to Shigatse tour of the major cities of Tibet includes a stunning tour of the highlights of the Tibetan capital, as well as two of the three most sacred lakes in Tibet. After leaving the capital, you will drive out towards Shigatse, turning off the Friendship Highway to pass alongside the spectacular Lake Yamdrok, one of the Great Three Sacred Lakes of Tibet and the lifeblood of the Tibetan plateau.

After visiting the lake, you will continue along the local road to Gyantse, where you will visit the Palcho Monastery and the stunning Gyantse Kumbum. A 32-meter high stupa with 108 chapels and nine floors, as well as thousands of small statues and paintings, it is the only stupa of its kind in Tibet.

Then it is on to Shigatse, the second city of Tibet, where you can tour the iconic Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama, before heading back to Lhasa to prepare for the next leg of the tour. The last days are spent traveling to the other sacred lake on this amazing tour, Lake Namtso. Known as the Heavenly Lake, Lake Namtso lies to the north of Lhasa, in Damxung County, and is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, as well as being the largest lake in Tibet.

Lhasa - Gyantse - Shigatse - Mt. Everest - Namtso - Lhasa

If you are looking for a longer tour of Tibet, then this amazing 10-day tour is the ideal trip for you. Not only do you get to experience the stunning delights of the Tibetan capital, but you will also travel almost the entire breadth of Tibet, as you drive from Lhasa to Shigatse, through the city of Gyantse, before heading out to the most popular destination in Tibet, Mount Everest Base Camp.

The trip gives you the chance to explore the base camp itself and the nearby Rongbuk Monastery, the highest Buddhist monastery in the world, before taking the long drive back to Lhasa to prepare for the drive north to Lake Namtso. One of the Great Three Sacred Lakes of Tibet, you get to the lake from the main Qinghai Tibet Highway, crossing the high pass through the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, and dropping down the other side of this stunning range of the Transhimalaya to the lake shore.

At the lake, you can explore the Tashi Dor monastery, on the small peninsula that juts out into the lake, which is also a famous Buddhist site where Padmasambhava once left a handprint in the rock near the meditation caves. And if that is not enough, you can also see the pilgrims that come regularly to the lake to perform the ritual kora around its shores and the vast grasslands to the west of the lake, which are home to many Tibetan nomads and their herds of yaks. >> Check for the recommended 10 Days Lhasa Shigatse EBC Tour

What to Pack for Lhasa Shigatse Self-Driving Tour?

Self-driving from Lhasa to Shigatse, as far west as Mount Everest, can be a little colder than in the eastern areas of the region, and warmer clothing is needed for those early spring and late autumn tours. Less cold-weather gear is needed in the summer, but it is a good idea to have a raincoat handy in case you get caught in a shower. Clothing-wise, you are best having a light but warm pants, with long underwear for those traveling in the colder months, and layers of long-sleeved tops to combat the cold if needed. Since you will be driving, you need to have comfortable driving shoes, instead of heavy boots, though it is handy to have some good strong shoes or hiking boots for the rough areas where you are exploring on foot.

Food is not an essential item for most of the tour, as you can get good meals in the restaurants and hotels that can be found in all of the places the tour travels to. It is handy, however, to carry some snacks and dried or packet foods with you for eating along the way, as you can easily get hungry when traveling at the higher altitudes of the plateau.

A good camera is a necessity when traveling in Tibet, as you will be faced with countless and innumerable sights that you are going to want to photograph for the memories. You can also bring a tablet or reading device to help pass the time in the evenings, as well as your cellphone. If you have spare batteries, it is a good idea to charge and bring them too, as well as a power bank for recharging your devices on the go. Most of these can be recharged in the hotels at the end of the day, or in the vehicle if you have an adaptor.


Self-driving in Tibet is one of the best ways to explore the plateau without having someone else drive for you. Any experienced and ardent driver would jump at the chance to drive themselves across the vast Tibetan plateau, and now you can. With the amazing tours that we offer for self-driving in Tibet, you can take a clean, well-maintained vehicle and make that immense journey across the world’s highest plateau.

Kham Sang

About the Author - Kham Sang

Kham Sang is responsible and honest with more than six years of guide experience in Tibet.She has strong interpersonal skills and can communicate effectively with tourists.

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