Cycling in Tibet Autonomous Region
Many people ask if it is possible to cycling in Tibet. Not only is it possible to cycle in Tibet, it has become very popular over the past 10 years. The same travel regulations apply however, if you want to cycle. There is no independent travel and you still need to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver. There are NO exceptions to these regulations. This of course, causes the price of cycling tours in Tibet to be out of range for most budget travelers. Most cycling trips in Tibet take 2 to 4 weeks and it can get costly having to pay for a guide, private vehicle and driver for that long. Even though you plan to cycle, the government still requires all foreigners to have a “support vehicle” to go with them. The support vehicle usually follows a few kilometers in front or behind you. The guide normally rides in the vehicle and is there if you have any questions about the route or the towns that you pass through. Unless you book a tour through a company that only arranges cycling tours, you will be responsible for all the maintenance of your bike.
Most of the roads across the Tibetan Plateau have improved greatly over recent years. A lot of the popular cycling routes are now on paved roads. For those wanting to get off the beaten path, there are still dirt roads in fair condition that span across northern Tibet as well as more remote regions of the Amdo and Kham regions. The most popular route to cycle is from Lhasa to the Nepal border via Everest Base Camp. This route normally takes 12 to 15 days to cycle. The route around the Yarlung Valley going east from Lhasa is also a popular choice as is the long route out to Mt. Kailash in far western Tibet.
Cycling in Kham region
In the Kham region, the overland route from Kangding to Shangri La has become quite popular. Since this route lies in western Sichuan and northwest Yunnan provinces, no organized tour is required making this route affordable for all budgets. This area is rich in Tibetan culture, even better than some areas in the Tibet Autonomous Region, so don’t feel like you are not seeing the “real Tibet” by taking this route. A popular cycling route in Amdo is the route from Chengdu to Xining via northern Sichuan, southwest Gansu and eastern Qinghai.
If you plan to cycle in Tibet, make sure you bring a good tent, sleeping bag and other quality camping gear. There are towns along most of the popular cycling routes, but you will still need to camp in between towns. Though the Amdo and Kham regions, found in western Sichuan, northern Sichuan, Qinghai, southwest Gansu and northwest Yunnan provinces, are excellent and do not require any organized tour, all foreigners planning to cycle in the Tibet Autonomous Region MUST be part of an organized tour. There are many travel agencies that can arrange cycling tours with the required travel permits, tour guide, private vehicle and driver. Arranging cycling tours in Tibet is very easy to do. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for recommended travel agencies to use when cycling in Tibet.
Extravagant Yak offer excellent, high quality cycling tours in the eastern Tibetan region of Kham. When you contact them, tell them that Losang from the Land of Snows recommended you to them.
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