UPDATED NOV 2016: Read this post to understand how to travel from India to Tibet. For more information, please email me at: email@example.com
UPDATED NOVEMBER 2016
About every week, I receive an email asking if it is possible going from Tibet to India (or vice-versa). If you are wanting to travel overland, the answer is no. There are no border crossings between Tibet and India that are open to foreigners. There are a handful of passes through the Himalaya’s that connect Tibet with India, but these are only for use by Indians, Tibetans and Chinese who hold a special permit that allows them to do some small trade in specific areas. The main 3 passes between Tibet and India are:
1. Shipki La pass, located between Himachal Pradesh, India and Ngari prefecture, Tibet
2. Lipulekh pass, located between Uttarkhand, India and Ngari prefecture, Tibet
3. Nathu La pass, located between Sikkim, India and Shigatse prefecture, Tibet
Again, it is NOT possible for non Indians and non Chinese to cross from Tibet to India (or vice versa). The only way to go overland into Tibet from the sub-continent is through Nepal. However, since April 2015, the main overland border from Nepal to Tibet has been CLOSED due to an earthquake and landslides. It is impossible to say when the overland border from Nepal to Tibet will reopen. For now, the only way to go from Nepal to Tibet is to fly. There are 4 weekly flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa.
The Shipki La pass reopened in 1994, after being closed for nearly 32 years after the Sino-India War of 1962. With proper permits, locals from both sides of the border can sell certain items for a short period of time most years at the top of the pass. The Lipulekh pass, elevation 5334 meters, reopened in 1992. This pass can sometimes be used by Indian pilgrims who are on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in western Tibet, though each year the Chinese government determines if they will allow Indians to cross here or not.
The Nathu La pass, elevation 4310 meters, opened in 2006 for local traders. Traders from both sides of the border who have the correct permits can engage in trade for 3 or 4 days each week during the late spring and summer months. In 2015, the Nathu La opened to a very small number of Indians who were going on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash. It is likely that the Nathu La will continue to open to a very small number of pilgrims (around 250 per year), but ONLY those holding an Indian passport. Foreigners are not allowed to cross this border.
With there being no overland routes directly between Tibet and India that are open to foreigners, how can someone get between these two places easily? There are a couple of options to choose from. If you are wanting to go overland, the only way is to first go to Nepal and the continue from there. It is quite easy to arrange travel from Tibet to Nepal along the Friendship Highway, which links Lhasa to Kathmandu. Read the following link for more details on the Friendship Highway:
UPDATE: The overland border from Tibet to Nepal has been closed since April 2015 due to the Nepal Earthquake. It is impossible to say when this border will reopen. For now, the only way to go from Tibet to Nepal (or vice versa) is to fly.
From Kathmandu, it is easy to continue on to India either by bus or flight. Keep in mind that most nationalities require an Indian visa in advance. This can be obtained in your home country or at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. NOTE: It is also possible to go through western Tibet into Xinjiang province in far northwest China and from there cross into Pakistan and then into India. However, this route takes considerable time, especially if you are trying to get to Delhi, south India or northeast India. Also, the cost of the required organized tour through western Tibet to Xinjiang is quite high.
Flights from India and Nepal to Tibet
There is only one international airport on the Tibetan Plateau and that is in Lhasa. Lhasa is connected internationally to Kathmandu, Nepal, with flights nearly everyday throughout the year. From Nepal, it is easy and relatively cheap to fly to Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata.
There are no flights from Lhasa to anywhere in India or anywhere else internationally besides Kathmandu. There are several cities in Mainland China that have direct flights to India. Kunming is probably the best place to fly to India from as it is easy to reach from Lhasa and it is easy to reach from Xining and Chengdu, if you are coming from the Amdo and Kham areas. Kunming has a daily flight to Kolkata on China Eastern Airlines. From Kolkata, it is easy to fly to other major cities across India.
There are other cities in Mainland China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, that also offer flights to India, but these are quite far from the Tibetan Plateau. If you are going to be in Tibet and you are wanting to fly to India, the best place to go is Kunming.
If you have any questions about how to get from Tibet to India or any other Tibet travel related questions, go to my Facebook Page or feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org