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Kathmandu Lhasa Overland Travel

The connection between Lhasa and Kathmandu, two greatest cities on the Himalaya Range, have existed and continued for more than 1000 years. In 8th century, great Buddhist Master Padmasambhava traveled from Kathmandu to Lhasa. He also brought the Buddhism to the land of Tibet. Since then, Tibet and Nepal has built a tight tie of both economy and culture exchange. There were many great Buddhist masters came to Tibet to teach Buddhism. While, Tibet also sent many people to Nepal to learn Buddhism and Architecture.

Today, as the construction of China-Nepal Highway, the overland route between Kathmandu and Lhasa has become a word famous travel. Travelers from around the world travel from Kathmandu, pass the border port, and enter the land of Tibet to explore wonderful culture and beautiful landscape of Tibet. There are also many tourists travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu.

Know Before You Go

1. How Many Days Will I Need to Do a Kathmandu Lhasa Overland Trip

Generally speaking, a Kathmandu Lhasa overland trip takes about 7~9 days. The trip can be shortened or extended, depending on the destinations you want to visit. The most class route, Kathmandu – Mount Everest – Shigatse – Gyantse – Lhasa, needs only 7 days to finish. If you want to travel at a slower pace, you can extend the trip to 9~10 days.

2. You Have to Obtain Necessary Visa and Permits

To have a Kathmandu Lhasa overland trip, you have to apply for several necessary visa and permits. The required travel documents vary by the actual routes. Tibet Entry Permit and Border Pass are required for both routes. If you travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa, you have to obtain a Group Visa before your Tibet trip.

3. Independent Travel Is Not Allowed in Tibet

China National Tourism Administration stipulates that all foreign tourists, including Taiwanese, are not allowed to travel Tibet independently. You are only permitted to travel to Tibet with a China travel agency which will arrange travel services for you, including creating itinerary, tour guide, driver and vehicle, permit application, etc. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a free and relaxing trip in Tibet. Actually, most areas in Tibet are open for foreign travelers, and can be visited with a tour, private tour or group tour, with China travel agency.

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
China-Nepal Highway

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland Routes

Kathmandu is the only international gateway city to travel to Tibet for foreign travelers. Before 2015, travelers entered Tibet from Zhangmu Border which was later closed due to the strong earthquake damage in August, 2015. On 30 August, Gyirong Port on Tibet-Border was opened for foreign travelers to enter Tibet. Currently Gyirong Port is the only border port which allows foreign travelers to enter Tibet. It is located in northern Nepal (southern Tibet), about 160km from Kathmandu City.

Travelers can also directly leave for Nepal tour after their Tibet trip, instead of returning back to mainland China. Gyirong Port is the only port that allows foreign travelers to enter Nepal from Tibet.

Kathmandu to Lhasa or Lhasa to Kathmandu?

It depends on you to enter Tibet from Kathmandu or travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu. No matter which route you choose, the experience is almost the same. Our advice is – if you want to have a flexible itinerary in other places in China beyond Tibet, you are suggested to travel from mainland China to Tibet, then travel to Nepal. At this circumstance, you have to obtain a regular Chinese Visa which ensures more days and flexibility when you visiting China. It is also easier to extend a regular Chinese Visa. If you have a trip in Nepal before Tibet trip or a China trip, you are suggested to travel from Kathmandu to Tibet, which will save a lot of time. But a Group Visa will be required. This special Chinese visa usually can only allow a trip around 30 days in China, including Tibet. Besides, you can only visit the destinations assigned on the Group Visa.

Brief Route

Kathmandu - Gyirong Port - Gyirong Town - Lhatse – Shigatse - Gyantse - Yamdrok lake – Lhasa

Distance: 943km

Since you will stop for sightseeing before arriving at Lhasa, your Kathmandu to Lhasa overland trip will be divided into several parts as following:

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Kathmandu City
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Gyirong Port at Nepal Tibet Border
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Gyirong Port Location Map

Kathmandu to Gyirong Town (Day 1 – 115km)

Although there is only about 160km’s driving from Kathmandu to the border, but you have to depart early because the road condition is not very well. There are usually traffic jams. Besides, you have to leave enough time to check through the port custom. Crossing the border, you will be picked up by tour guide of your travel agency, then be escorted to Gyirong Town for accommodation.

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Kathmandu Gyirong Port Route Map

Gyring Town to Mount Everest (Day 2 -325km)

The driving from Gyring Town to Mount Everest is the longest part of the overland trip. But it is necessary because there is no bigger town to accommodate before getting to Mount Everest. The whole distance is around 325km, approximately a driving of around 9 hours. The road is not very wide with only two lanes, but the road condition is great. The views along the road are stupendous. In clear days, you can see the clear face of Shishapangma Peak and enjoy the beautiful view of Pekutso Lake.

The final destination for today’s driving is the Rongbuk Monastery, the highest-altitude monastery in the world. Here is the best location to watch the mighty Everest. Today’s accommodation can be arranged at Rongbuk Monastery Guest House or Local Tents Camp near Rongbuk Monastery. But please be aware that the accommodation facilities are quite basic here.

If you think you may not adapt the high altitude of Mount Everest, or don’t want to bear the poor accommodation on Mount Everest, you can choose Shegar Town (Old Tingri) as today’s final destination where there several better hostels. This town is about 90km from Rongbuk Monastery.

Attractions to visit: Shishapangma Peak, Pekutso Lake, Rongbuk Monastery

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Gyirong Town to Rongbuk Monastery Route Map

Mount Everest to Shigatse City (Day 3 – 335km)

In this section, you will transfer from Mount Everest to Shigatse City, the second largest city in Tibet. Bad news! It is another hard driving more than 330km, but it is worth doing. Before the long driving, put all yourself to enjoy your time on the world’s highest peak. You can get up early to enjoy the marvelous sunrise, then take a sightseeing bus to the Everest Base Camp where you can get closer views of Mount Everest. Then return to the accommodation area, and set out for your trip to Shigatse.

The road condition for this section is much better than the former day. Most parts of the road have been maintained well. There is not many things to do. Just enjoy the fantastic landscape passing by outside your window.

Accommodation will be arranged in Shigatse City. Here you will enjoy better hotels, ranging from 2 star hotels to 5 star hotels.

If you prefer a slower pace, you can divide this section into two parts - Everest to Lhatse, then Lhatse to Shigatse. But you have to plan an extra day. You can go to see the famous Sakya Monastery in the day 2.

Attractions to visit: Everest Base Camp, Sakya Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Mount Everest to Shigatse Route Map

Shigatse City to Lhasa (Day 4 – 355km)

The section from Shigatse City to Lhasa is the best highlight of your overland trip. Though there is about 355km to drive, but it won’t cost as much as time as previous days because the road and traffic condition is better. You will see vast farmlands, Tibetan villages, herds, lakes, snow peaks, and glaciers along the road. Leave Shigatse city, and drive about 2hours. Then you will get to the heroic town - Gyantse. Travelers usually stop here, and spend about 1~2 hours to visit the famous Palcho Monastery, then keep driving to Lhasa. Gyantse has many other sites to see. If you want, you can stay a full day here to see the dominating Gyantse Dzong and unique Pala Manor.

After Gyantse visit, you will go to Yamdrok Lake, which is a driving about 160km. Before getting to Yamdrok, you will take two short breaks along the road at Manla Dam and Karola Glacier. While, the best highlight of course is Yamdrok Lake. You can stop at the lake side and higher mountain pass to enjoy the landscape.

Leaving Yamdrok and driving down the mountain road, you will see Lhasa River. Drive along the river, you will finally get to the holy city Lhasa.

Attractions to visit: Palcho Monastery, Gyantse Dzong, Pala Manor, Karola Glacier, Yamdrok Lake

Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Shigatse to Lhasa Route Map

Top Things to Do along Kathmandu Lhasa Overland Route

The Kathmandu Lhasa overland route is full of things to do. The drive route itself is a classic tourist itinerary which connects many of most popular attractions in Tibet, such as the world's highest peak Mount Everest, official seat of Panchen Lama, magnificent Potala Palace, etc. Following is the Top 10 Most Popular Attractions you have to explore:

1. Mount Everest

Altitude: 8,848 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Mt. Everest, the top of the World, is the must-go destination of your life journey. As the goal achievement of many mountaineers, it shows the most beautiful natural beauty in the world, including perennial snow, amazing sunrise and sunset, dazzling starry sky etc. learn more >

2. Sakya Monastery

Altitude: 3,000 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Sakya Monastery is the principal monastery of the Sakyapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, located in Sakya County, about 160km southwest of Shigatse, on the road to Tingri in Tibet. Built in 1073 by Khon Khonchong Gyalpo, on the hill side with gray earth surrounded, it means the “Grey Soil” in Tibetan. learn more >

3. Tashilhunpo Monastery

Altitude: 3,880 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Tashilhunpo Monastery is the seat of successive Panchen Lamas. Founded by the First Dalai Lama, it is an important monastery in Tibetan history. It keeps many treasures, including the priceless Future Buddha Statue, precious Buddha Stupas, and more manuscript Buddhist texts and numerous murals. learn more >

4. Palcho Monastery

Altitude: 3,900 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Palcho Monastery is a typical combined building with stupa and temple, and quite different from other Tibetan monasteries in more aspects. By housing three sects of Sakyapa, Kadampa and Gelugpa together, it has a hard-won lenient tolerance among the Tibetan sects to balance them well. learn more >

5. Gyantse Dzong

Altitude: 4,140 meters
Best time to visit: April to October

Perched high above the center of Gyantse Ancient Town, Gyantse Dzong (Gyantse Fortress) is one well preserved Dzong with historical significance in Tibet. Climbing to the top of Gyantse Dzong, you will get the fabulous view of Palcho Monastery and Gyantse’s whitewashed old town below. learn more >

6. Karola Glacier

Altitude: 5,560 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Within only 300 meters from the highway which connects Lhasa and Gyantse, Karola Glacier can be seen easily when your car pass by. It is made of an ice cap with slow slope and two hanging-glacier typed glacier tongues, occupying 9.4 square kilometers and reaching to 5,560 meters high. learn more >

7. Yamdro Lake

Altitude: 4,441 meters
Best time to visit: Summer & Autumn

Among the three holy lakes in Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake is the most reachable one. Without an outlet, it seems like a natural reservoir with a perfect balance between the melted snow water and the evaporated lake water. By standing the hilltop around, you can have a far view of the fresh water under the sunshine. learn more >

8. Potala Palace

Altitude: 3,700 meters
Best time to visit: April to October

Only the given words cannot form the real Potala Palace. It's not only the center of Lhasa, the house of treasure, or the winter palace of Dalai Lama, but also the start of your Tibet Travel, an essential part of your life journey. learn more >

9. Jokhang Temple

Altitude: 3,650 metersAltitude: 3,650 meters
Best time to visit: April to October

The 1,300-year-old Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Lhasa permeated with intense incense. The life-sized statue of the Shakyamuni at the age of 12 is worshiped in the main hall. learn more >

10. Sera Monastery

Altitude: 3,700 meters
Best time to visit: April to October

Also one of the three greatest monasteries, Sera Monastery is mostly famous for Buddhism debating which a spectacular way of discussing the Buddhist knowledge, which makes it as a must-see in Tibet. The Buddhist halls are amazing as well. learn more >
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Rongbuk Monastery on the Mount Everest
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Palcho Monastery
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Palcho Monastery
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Gyantse Dzong
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Yamdrok Lake
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Potala Palace
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Jokhang Temple
Kathmandu Lhasa Overland
Sera Monastery

Necessary Permits for Kathmandu Lhasa Overland Travel

Kathmandu to LhasaLhasa to Kathmandu
Group Visa, Tibet Entry Permit, Tibet Border Pass Chinese Visa, Tibet Entry Permit, Tibet Border Pass, Nepal Visa

Group Visa

Group Visa is a special kind of Chinese Visa for foreign travelers to enter Tibet from Nepal. Common Chinese Visa doesn’t allow foreigner to enter Tibet from Nepal. With this Group Visa, one can also extend its trip to other provinces and cities in mainland China. Travelers can only apply for this permit at China Embassy in Kathmandu City. Original passport is required. learn more >

Tibet Entry Permit

Tibet Entry Permit is foremost and compulsory for foreign passport holders to enter Tibet. Issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau, it is also called TTB permit. Without the permit, you can’t board your flight to Tibet or cross overland from Nepal, also will not be able to get other permits to continue to travel Tibet further.

Every non-Chinese passport holder, including US citizens, UK citizens, Australians, Canadians, Germans, Taiwanese, etc., has to obtain Tibet Entry Permit. It takes about 15~20 days to obtain this permit. learn more >

Tibet Border Pass

To pass the China-Nepal border area, travelers have to hold a Border Pass which is issued by Tibet Armed Police Border Corps in Lhasa. It can't be applied by travelers individually. One has to contact a Tibet travel agency to apply the Border Permit from the Tibet Armed Police Border Corps in Lhasa. learn more >

Chinese Visa

If you want to travel from Tibet to Nepal, you have to obtain a Chinese Visa first. Group Visa is not qualified. The Chinese Visa will also be used to apply for Tibet Entry Permit before your trip. learn more >

Nepal Visa

If you travel from Tibet to Nepal, you have to apply for a Nepal Visa, which is simple and quick. You can apply for Nepal Visa at the Nepal border(Gyirong Port). Passport is needed to apply for Nepal Visa.

Group Visa
Group Visa
Tibet Entry Permit
Tibet Entry Permit
Tibet Border Pass
Tibet Border Pass

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