Lhasa to Kathmandu

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2015: Due to the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015, the overland border crossing between Tibet and Nepal (and vice-versa) is closed until 2016. This means it is not currently possible to go overland all the way from Tibet to Nepal.

The 830 kilometer route linking Lhasa with the Nepal border at the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge remains the most popular overland route in Tibet. The Friendship Highway follows the western portion of Chinese National Highway 318. At the Nepal border, the Friendship Highway continues on the Araniko Highway for a further 115 kilometers to the capital of Kathmandu. Starting in Lhasa, this route goes through many of the most popular tourist spots that the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has to offer.

The Jokhang Temple

Pilgrim in Lhasa

Potala Night

Potala at night

Tibetan woman

I get a surprisingly high amount of emails from across the globe from people who tell me they only have 4 or 5 days to spend in Tibet and they want to know if it is enough time to see Lhasa and travel along the Friendship Highway to the Nepal border.  I always laugh when I get these types of emails! These people have spent so much money getting to Tibet and then want to rush through it leaving no time to really see what Tibet has to offer! For most people, Tibet is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It is best to give yourself adequate time, not only to adjust to the high elevation, but to really experience the amazing culture and beauty of Tibet. I have been privileged  to travel across the Friendship Highway more than a dozen times. Though it can be done in fewer days, I recommend taking 11 days in going from Lhasa to Kathmandu (though the most I have taken is 21). The following itinerary allows you to acclimatize in Lhasa and to ascend in elevation at a relatively safe pace. It also allows you to see much of what this amazing route has to offer, including some places that few others see!

Drepung Monastery

Drepung, one of Lhasa’s main monasterys

Around Lhasa’s Barkhor

Monks at Drepung

Old Town Lhasa

Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa

The first day you arrive in Lhasa, it’s best to relax and take it easy. Lhasa sits at 3650 meters (12,000 feet) and has considerably less oxygen in the air than Chengdu, Beijing and even Xining. While there is no way of eliminating the risk of altitude sickness while in Tibet, you can drastically reduce the risk of severe symptoms by taking proper time to acclimatize.

Days 2-4: Explore Lhasa

Though Lhasa is now a  large city and only has a small Tibetan Quarter, it is still a fun place to explore. Along with the most famous temples and monasteries in Tibet and the hum of thousands of pilgrims walking and prostrating around the Barkhor, Lhasa has many excellent restaurants, bars and hotels to choose from. I suggest taking 3 full days to spend in Lhasa. This is enough time for you to visit the main monasteries of Sera and Drepung as well as go to the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Temple, Ani Sangkhung Nunnery, Norbulinka, Nechung Monastery and spend plenty of time shopping and walking the pilgrimage circuits.

Yamdrok Lake

Gyantse Kumbum

Day 5: Lhasa – Yamdrok Lake – Gyantse  Distance: 260 kilometers/162 miles

It’s now time to hit the road for the adventure of a lifetime! After leaving the city of Lhasa, you will drive southeast along the Kyi Chu River སྐྱིད་ཆུ་, a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་. The first major site along the way is the scenic lake of Yamdrok. The turquoise colored lake lies at 4447 meters/14,590 feet. You first see the lake as you cross the 4700 meter/15,420 foot Kamba La Pass. In the distance beyond the lake, you get a fantastic view of the glaciated peak of Nojin Kangtsang rising to 7191 meters/23,593 feet.

Descending from the Kamba La Pass, the road follows alongside Yamdrok Lake to the small town of Nakartse སྣ་དཀར་རྩེ་. Though there are some decent accommodations here, I recommend just stopping here for lunch. About 10 kilometers/ 6 miles east of Nakartse is Samding Monastery བསམ་སྡིང་དགོན་པ་. This monastery has a sweeping view of the plains below as well as the mountains in the distance. Relatively few travelers stop here, but it is worth the short detour.

Leaving Nakartse or Samding Monastery, you continue driving east towards the Karo La Pass. This pass lies just under 5000 meters/16,400 feet and serves as the boundary between Lhoka prefecture ལྷོ་ཁ་ས་ཁུལ་ and Shigatse prefecture གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་ས་ཁུལ་ (not to be confused with the town of Shigatse). The high pass sits at the base of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang, the snow-capped peak viewed from above Yamdrok Lake. From this pass, you can get a great view of the glaciers as they stop just above the highway. There is a stupa here as well as thousands of prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

From the Karo La Pass, the road continues to descend to Gyantse རྒྱལ་རྩེ་. Gyantse, elevation 4025 meters/13,210 feet, is one of the most interesting towns in all of Tibet. The massive hilltop military fort called the Gyantse Dzong dominates the skyline. It is one of the best preserved “dzong” (fortress) remaining in Tibet. You can purchase an entry ticket and explore the old fort on your own. The other main attraction in Gyantse is the 35 meter high Gyantse Kumbum Stupa རྒྱལ་རྩེ་སྐུ་འབུམ. This stupa, one of the highest and largest in Tibet, is found on the grounds of the Pelkor Chorten Monastery དཔལ་འཁོར་མཆོད་རྟེན་དགོན་  Construction on the Gyantse Kumbum began in 1427. The stupa has 6 floors to explore, with each floor having several chapels. The Pelkor Chorten Monastery has many pilgrims from the surrounding area during Losar or Tibetan New Year, which is one of the best times to visit the region.

Though Gyantse is relatively small, there are a couple of good accommodation choices in town. My favorite is the Yeti Hotel, which offers hefty discounts in the low season (November-April). Surprisingly, there are also some good restaurants in town. I prefer the Tashi Restaurant.

Samding Monastery

Pelkor Chorten Monastery

Karo La Glacier

Karo La Glacier near Gyantse

Tibetan woman

Day 6: Gyantse – Shigatse  Distance: 93 kilometers/58 miles

The short drive from Gyantse to Shigatse can be done in about 90 minutes and passes through fertile plains where wheat and barley are grown. Shigatse གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་ is the second largest city in Tibet and is the former  capital of the traditional Tibetan region of Tsang གཙང་. The traditional Tibetan region of Tsang is now found in the 18 county prefecture of Shigatse. Shigatse is a fairly modern city with a population of over 100,000 and sits at an elevation of 3845 meters/12,615 feet.

The main attraction in Shigatse is the Tashilhunpo Monastery བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་པོ་དགོན. Tashilhunpo is of the 6 main monasteries of the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism and was founded in 1447. Before the Cultural Revolution there were more than 4000 monks in residence here. Now there are around 600. Tashilhunpo Monastery is the home monastery of the line of Panchen Lamas པན་ཆེན་བླ་མ་, the most influential line of lama’s in Tibet after the Dalai Lama ཏཱ་ལའི་བླ་མ་. The tombs of the 5th through the 10th Panchen Lama’s are found within the huge monastery.  Tashilhunpo is a major pilgrimage destination for Tibetans from across the plateau. The monastery sees the most pilgrims during New Year time, though there are usually at least a few hundred here each day throughout the rest of the year. There is an easy 1.6 kilometer/1 mile pilgrimage circuit lined with prayer wheels that goes around the outside of the monastery that is well worth hiking. It gives great views of the monastery and of the city of Shigatse. It is best to visit the monastery in the early morning as this is when it is the most active.

Nearby to Tashilhunpo Monastery is the newly rebuilt Shigatse Dzong གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་རྫོང་. The original was built in the early 17th century, but was destroyed in the 1960’s. Reconstruction of the Dzong began in 2005 and was completed in 2007. It was rebuilt in the same location and in the same design, but is slightly smaller than the original. For unknown reasons, the Shigatse Dzong had yet to open to tourists the last time I visited (late 2015), despite construction being finished.

The Walking Street, a few hundred meters before Tashilhunpo Monastery, is filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and tea houses. Be careful though…even though it is officially a pedestrian only street, there are still cars and motorcycles that come through.

Since Shigatse is a large, modern city, there are plenty of good accommodation choices. I almost always stay at the 4 Star Gesar Hotel, which offers great prices even in high season. Another good option just a short walk from Tashilhunpo Monastery is the Gang Gyan Shigatse Hotel. Good restaurants include the Third Eye, which is next door to the Gang Gyan, and the Songtsen Tibetan Restaurant, located on the Walking Street.


Tashi Lhunpo

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse

Monks at Tashilhunpo

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tibetans spinning prayer wheels

Day 7: Shigatse – Sakya Monastery – Baber  Distance: 282 kilometers/176 miles

After Shigatse, the route to the Nepal border continues west through small farming villages. Feel free to tell your guide to stop at one or two of these villages to explore them. These small villages can be a lot of fun! The main attraction along this route is the massive fortress-like monastery of Sakya ས་སྐྱ་དགོན་. Sakya Monastery is the seat of the Sakya Sect, one of the 4 main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.  This monastery will look much different than the other monasteries you have seen so far along this route. The most obvious difference is the color of the monastery. Nearly all Sakya sect monasteries in Tibet are painted gray, white and maroon. Sakya Monastery  is very old and was founded in the year 1073, though the main monastery is newer and was founded in 1268. The monastery is built like a fortress with high walls and watchtowers on the corners. It is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in Tibet.

Sakya Monastery is located in Sakya county and is 25 kilometers/16 miles off of the main Friendship Highway. The town is quite small, but is fun to explore on foot. On the north part of town, there is a village as well as the ruins of the original monastery, which was founded in 1073. The newer part of Sakya town, elevation 4313 meters/14.150 feet, is fairly uninteresting and few people choose to stay here. There are a couple of hotels and restaurants if you do decide to stay here.

After Sakya Monastery, you will get back on the Friendship Highway and drive west towards the town of Lhatse ལྷ་རྩེ་. Lhatse, elevation 4025 meters/13,205 feet,  is a good place to stop for lunch. I almost always eat at the Lhatse Tibetan Farmer’s Hotel, which has a decent restaurant serving simple Tibetan and Western food.

From Lhatse, it is a further 80 kilometers/50 miles to the town of Babar དབལ་འབར་, the last town of size before entering the Everest Nature Reserve. Baber is quite small, but has a couple of guesthouses and restaurants and a few small stores where you can stock up on simple supplies. Seven kilometers northwest of Babar is Shekar ཤེལ་དཀར་, a slightly larger town that few travelers take time to go to. Shekar has an amazing mountain top Dzong (fortress) that lays in ruins. It is quite a hike getting to the top, but you will be rewarded with a view of Everest in the distance if you make it. There is a trail that leads the 2 kilometers or so to the top. Local guides can usually be hired around the village at the trailhead to take you to the top for around 80 RMB. There is also a small monastery along the trail, just a short hike past the trailhead.

Babar, elevation 4320 meters/14,175 feet, is where your guide will purchase your entrance tickets for the Everest Nature Reserve. Be sure you are clear with the travel agency you choose whether or not these entrance tickets are included in your price as these tickets are not cheap (180 RMB per person + 400 RMB per vehicle. You will also have to pay 180 RMB for your guide to enter the nature reserve).

The best place to stay in Babar is the Kangjong Hotel. It has double rooms with private bathrooms and showers as well as simpler dorm style rooms. They also can cook up simple, but good Tibetan and Western food for reasonable prices.

Using yaks to till

Shekar Dzong

Village near Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery

Day 8: Babar – Pang La Pass – Everest Base Camp  Distance: 112 kilometers/70 miles

Up until this point, the Friendship Highway has be entirely paved. About 6 kilometers past the Babar checkpoint, the cut-off road to Everest Base Camp (EBC) appears. From here to EBC the road becomes a decent quality dirt road. The first village you come to is called Chay, about 3 kilometers/2 miles past off of the cut-off. At Chay, your guide and driver will need to get out and register you with the authorities. Normally you do not need to go to the checkpoint and can either stay in the vehicle or walk around the village. From Chay, it is just a short, but winding drive, to the top of the Pang La Pass. The Pang La Pass, sitting at 5200 meters/17,062 feet (some guide books list it a 5050 meters, but my altimeter and Google Earth both listed 5200 meters as the elevation), gives an amazing sweeping view of the Himalaya Mountains. This is truly one of the highlights of this overland journey! On a clear day, which is most days from October until early May, you can get an excellent view of not only Everest ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ་, but also of Lhotse (4th highest peak), Makalu (5th highest peak), Cho Oyu (6th highest peak), Shishapangma (14th highest peak) and Gyachung Kang (15th highest peak). For the best views, leave early in the morning so that you can see the sun rise across the Himalaya’s.

As you descend from the Pang La Pass, you will pass through several small villages. A good place to stop for a late breakfast is Tashi Dzom, elevation 4155 meters/13,635 feet. There are several guesthouses to choose from that serve good food. Another 10 kilometers past Tashi Dzom is a smaller village called Basum, which has a guesthouse and a small store with simple supplies. About 56 kilometers past Basum, you arrive at Rongphu Monastery རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་, the highest monastery in the world at 5000 meters/16,400 feet above sea level. There are a handful of friendly monks and nuns who live here year-round. Rongphu Monastery sits in front of a huge backdrop of  Everest’s North Face. On a clear day, this is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

A few kilometers past Rongphu Monastery are the Everest Tent Hotels. This group of yak wool tents are the furthest that travelers are allowed to sleep who don’t hold a hiking or climbing permit for Everest. There are about 2 dozen or so “tent hotels” that all offer the same services (for the same prices) of a relatively clean bed, meals, drinks, snacks and souvenirs. This is also as far as your driver is allowed to go during the high season. From here, you will have to take an “environmentally safe” bus the additional 3 kilometers/2 miles to the official base camp of Everest, elevation 5200 meters/17,060 feet. This bus costs 25 RMB per person for the roundtrip.

NOTE: During the low season from November through early April, the tent hotels are closed and the bus stops running. There are simple accommodation options at Rongphu Monastery, though it would be best to stay at Tashi Dzom where the guesthouses are considerably warmer. Also, your driver will be allowed to drive all the way to base camp during the winter months.

Though you probably won’t sleep well due to the elevation, staying at EBC allows you to watch the sun set over Everest as well as rise on it the next morning. If you are having problems breathing at EBC, it is highly recommended that you descend to lower elevation. The small villages of Basum and Tashi Dzom are only a short drive away and are nearly 1000 meters/3280 feet lower than EBC. Another option is to just visit EBC for a short while and then continue on to Old Tingri, which is also considerable lower than base camp.

Pangla Pass

Pangla Pass on the way to Everest

Cho Oyu

Everest viewed from Rongphu Monastery


North Face of Everest

Day 9: Everest Base Camp – Old Tingri  Distance: 65 kilometers/41 miles

If your plan is not to continue from EBC to Nepal, you would begin your return journey to Lhasa on this day. You can make it back to Lhasa in 2 long days. Otherwise, after you take your sunrise shots of Everest, you will continue on your Himalayan adventure. The drive from EBC to Old Tingri isn’t far, but the road is a bit rough in spots. Also, there are a few nice villages to stop at and explore as well as other sweeping views of the Himalaya’s, particularly of Mt. Cho Oyu, the 6th highest peak.

Old Tingri is a small, one street town that doesn’t have a whole lot to see. However, after spending the night at EBC, Old Tingri will be a welcomed site! There is a nice sweeping view of the Himalaya’s from the far west end of town that is quite spectacular. There are several guesthouses in town, though none are that great. I normally stay at the Kangar Hotel, which looks out to a sweeping view of the Himalaya’s, including Cho Oyu and Everest.

The Himalaya’s

Shisha Pangma Tibet

Mt. Shisha Pangma, the 14th highest peak

Day 10: Old Tingri – Peiku Lake – Shisha Pangma Base Camp – Dram  Distance: 285 kilometers/178 miles

NOTE: Due to the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015, it is currently NOT possible travel beyond Old Tingri. The overland border crossing to Nepal most likely will remain closed until mid-2016

Most people  just go from Old Tingri straight to the Nepal border at Dram this day, however I suggest an alternative. About 70 kilometers past Old Tingri, you come to a fork in the road that heads west. This dirt road leads 65 kilometers/40 miles to Peiku Lake པད་ཁུད་མཚོ་ and to the base camp of Mt. Shisha Pangma ཤིས་ས་སྤང་མ, the 14the highest peak on earth rising to 8013 meters/26,289 feet. This is an amazingly beautiful region of Tibet that few discover. The first time I took this route, my driver, who had been driving across Tibet for 15 years, had never been to this area. Abundant wildlife live here. I have seen packs of wolves, herds of gazelle and wild donkey’s as well as many foxes and Himalayan Griffons.

Peiku Lake sits at 4585 meters/15,045 feet. Its crystal clear waters offer great views of the nearby Himalaya’s. This is truly one of the best kept secrets in western Tibet! From the lake, you will drive back east towards the main Friendship Highway. Not far past the lake is the turn-off to the base camp of Shisha Pangma. There is an old stone sign that lists the base camp at an elevation of 5000 meters. The view of Shisha Pangma from here is unbelievable.

From Shisha Pangma base camp, you will return to the Friendship Highway and go south towards Nepal. About 24 kilometers/15 miles south of the Peiku Lake cut-off, you come to the top of the Tong La Pass, the last high pass before descending to the sub-continent. This pass sits at 5129 meters/16,828 feet and offers another sweeping view of the Himalaya’s, including a great view of Shisha Pangma. From the Tong La Pass, it is all downhill the remaining 90 kilometers/56 miles to Dram འགྲ་མ, the last town on the Tibet side of the border. This 90 kilometer stretch of road drops more than 2700 meters/9000 feet in elevation. The last 30 kilometers from the town of Nyalam གཉའ་ལམ་ to Dram, the geography changes drastically. You leave the rocky, arid, dusty and treeless Tibetan Plateau and enter a humid, dense, evergreen forest that is filled with waterfalls.

Dram, known as Zhangmu in Chinese, has to be the most unique town in all of Tibet. It is built clinging to the foothills of the Himalaya’s, so it is very narrow and steep. Its one street is incredibly busy with both Chinese and Nepali trucks. In fact, if you arrive in the middle of the day, it can take your driver up to 2 hours to work his way around all of the big trucks from the top of Dram to the lower section, even though the distance is only 4 or 5 kilometers! More than once I have just gotten out and walked to the hotel and waited for the driver to meet me. Dram is a very diverse town with roughly equal parts being Tibetan, Chinese and Nepali. Nearly all business signs are written in Tibetan, Chinese, Nepali and English.

Even though Dram receives plenty of tourists because of it being on the border, there really aren’t a lot of good choices in accommodations. There are plenty of places to choose from, though none of them are all that great. I usually stay at either the Sherpa Hotel or the Zhangmu Hotel. The Zhangmu Hotel is probably the best in town and does offer a decent breakfast, but it is quite overpriced. Last time I was in Dram, I noticed a new, modern youth hostel a couple hundred meters up from the Sherpa Hotel. The rooms all looked clean and nice. I don’t remember the name of it, but it is on the right side as you descend towards the border. The best place to eat is probably the Tibetan/Western restaurant located across from the Zhangmu Hotel.


Shisha Pangma

Road to Peiku Lake


Day 11: Dram – Sino-Nepali Border – Kathmandu  Distance: 123 kilometers/77 miles

NOTE: Due to the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015, it is currently NOT possible to go to Dram or cross over from Tibet into Nepal. 

If you arrive in Dram in the late afternoon or early evening, it is best to stay the night and enter Nepal in the morning. The main reason is that the roads in Nepal are quite dangerous, especially at night. The drive from the Tibet-Nepal border to Kathmandu takes about 4 or 5 hours and I highly suggest avoiding this if you are going to be taking it at night.

The border crossing from Tibet to Nepal is not actually located in the town of Dram. The border is a further 8 kilometers/5 miles past Dram along a very winding road. The border opens at 9:30am Tibet time. Your driver and guide will lead you to the border crossing. For some odd reason, all of your bags will need to be inspected before you can leave Tibet. If you have any guidebooks on Tibet or anything with pictures of the Dalai Lama, it will most likely be taken. In 2009, I had my Lonely Planet Tibet guidebook taken from me with no real explanation given to me. Immigration is fairly straight forward and takes little time. At the Tibet side immigration, you will say goodbye to your guide and driver as they will not be crossing the border with you. Be sure to leave them a good tip, as is customary, for getting you safely across Tibet!

Leaving customs on the Tibet side, you will cross over the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge, which spans across the Bhote Kosi river. Half-way across the militarized bridge, there is a red line which is the actual border between Tibet and Nepal. Photography on and around the bridge is forbidden. If you do take a photo, plain-clothed Chinese police officers will make you delete it. On the other side of the bridge, you have arrived in Kodari, the first town in Nepal. Most foreigners can obtain a visa-on-arrival in Kodari. A 15 day tourist visa costs $25, while a 30 day visa costs $40. Payment can also be made in Chinese RMB. You will need to also fill out a visa application form as well as submit 1 passport photo. Be aware that Nepal is 2 1/4 hours behind Tibet time.

From Kodari to Kathmandu is about 115 kilometers/72 miles. From Kodari, there are several public buses that make the 5 hour journey. Another more comfortable  option is to hire a private jeep. If you are traveling with a group of 3 or 4, this is a good option as the price is quite reasonable and you can stop anywhere you want along the way to take pictures. If you are interested in adventure sports, you need to stop at The Last Resort. It is located about 12 kilometers/8 miles past Kodari and is one of the best places in Nepal for bungee jumping, hiking, rafting and mountain biking. The road continues to descend to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu.


The Bhote Kosi river

As with all travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Friendship Highway requires that all foreigners be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver. There are NO exceptions to this. There is a seasonal bus that runs from Lhasa to Kathmandu, but foreigners are NOT permitted to take it. This 10 day itinerary is just my recommendation. You can choose to modify this in anyway you like, however, I do recommend spending at least 3 nights in Lhasa to acclimatize and take at least 3 nights to get to Everest Base Camp to minimize the risk of serious altitude sickness.

Contrary to popular belief, the Friendship Highway is open year round and only very rarely closes to heavy snow. It is unlikely you will have any problems taking this route in the winter. Also, nearly all of  the Friendship Highway is now paved. There are only small sections that remain dirt. The exceptions are the 165 kilometer/103 mile loop from the Friendship Highway to EBC and back to Old Tingri and the 130 kilometer/81 miles to Peiku Lake and back. These sections of the road, which are not part of the official Friendship Highway, remain dirt.

Altogether, the itinerary I described covers a total of 1220 kilometers/763 miles with 830 of those kilometers (520 miles) being on the Friendship Highway. It is one of the best overland routes in Tibet and really, in the world. Summer time can bring heavy clouds, limiting your views of Everest and the Himalaya’s. This is the reason I recommend doing this route in the low season, which is from mid-October until late April. During this time, the weather is generally clear and dry allowing good views of the mountains.

I have done this route many times over the past 10 years. If you have any questions about it or want a recommendation on which travel agency to use, feel free to email me at thelandofsnows@gmail.com

Losang བློ་བཟང་

Kathmandu Boudha

Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu

116 thoughts on “Lhasa to Kathmandu

  1. Debra

    Hi Jamin and Team,

    First, thank you very much for your site and details about traveling around Tibet.
    My friend recommended to me to visit Tibet, as it has a feel to some of Peruvian culture, which I have lived and traveled a bit.

    Anyway, I do have a question or two that I would most gratefully appreciate your feedback on. I have been doing research most of this day to find out:

    1- As of April 2013, it seems that a solo traveler, like myself can travel to Tibet. However, regulations can change at anytime. I plan to travel Oct/Nov. FROM Kathmandu, Nepal probably. I read that getting visas from Kathmandu is easiest to get to TIbet and takes about 15 days to process permits. Is that true?

    2 – I am a budget travel photographer. Can you give me an honest breakdown on how much I would need to travel to/in Tibet? I know it depends on many facets. just an average for, lets say, to and from Lhasa..then, maybe on or two other places.. A simple trip.

    3- The OVERLAND tour you posted.. from Lahsa to Kathmandu… can it be done in reverse.. Kathmandu to Lahsa?
    2a – What travel company/companies do you suggest?
    2b – What is the average cost of this? A deposit?
    2c – Would I need to go with tour group? How does it work for a solo traveler?

    4 – Afterwards, I would like to get back to Kathmandu… is flying the only way… if not, another tour group overland?
    4a – cost about 500usd to fly?

    Well, it seems expensive.. so, I need to know if this is something I can do on a reasonable budget or have to put Tibet on the Bucket List.

    Thanks for any information you may be able to pass along.

    All the Best,

  2. Can Vo

    Dear Losang:

    I intend to go to Tibet in late September 2013. I would like to take a 10-11 days tour. Could you please advise me what travel agency that can give me a good tour.

    Thank you very much for your assistance.

    Best regards,


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Tibet, including the regions of Amdo and Kham, cover more than 25% of the landmass of China. In other words, the Tibetan Plateau is HUGE!! There are very few agencies that specialize in arranging tours to all areas of Tibet. Let me know which specific region of Tibet you are planning to go to and email me at thelandofsnows@gmail.com. I will then get back to you on an agency recommendation.



  3. Laddor

    First and foremost, insightful information and stunning pictures…Thanks! your words, make me want to jump to the plane immediately to see Mt Everest!
    I like your itinerary, very logical to slow down the pace in high elevation…
    Do you know any tour that has a slow pace like your suggest? Two weeks??? i even wonder whether if the weather is not good, stay one or more nights to wait for the weather to be better. I do not want to miss good shots of the scenery. What month is the best weather?

    Thank you again for sharing Tibet and Mount Everest.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Laddor, with tours in Tibet YOU decide how long you want to take and where you want to go. The itineraries listed on travel agency websites are just suggestions that can be customized in anyway.

      For views of the Himalaya’s, the months from October through early May are the best. These months generally have clear weather and good views of the mountains.


  4. Laddor

    Thanks for the reply. I put you on my facebook and so I can see the gorgeous pictures you post. Will you be leading a tour next year to see Mt. Everest? I want to join you to take good pictures.

  5. Bec Fitzsimmons

    Hi Losang, my friend and I are hoping to travel to tibet mid February 2015. My plans at the moment are flying in from Delhi and then travelling overland to Kathmandu. I was hoping you could recommend us some travel agencies that we could explore tibet with and then travel overland to Kathmandu. Thank you, Bec.

  6. Stephen


    Could you please let me know how much this 10 day tour is?

    There will be two of us and happy to join a group.

    We will be in Kathmandu next April/May & would like to go from there to Tibet & then back to Kathmandu for our flight home.

    Thank you.

  7. Pedro

    I have a friend called Nestor who wants to go from Lhasa to Katmandu by bicycle, starting around august 19/20th. Do you have a tour like this?

    Kindest regards


  8. Kevin

    Hello !

    Fantastic description of the trip !! We’ll done !!
    This is exactly what I wish to do also.
    It will be end of October / beginning of November. From Lahsa to Kathmandu.
    Which agencies do you recommend ? I would like it to be relatively cost effective but of reasonably good quality.
    I will be on my own, therefore have to be part of a group !!!!
    I of course need the agency to help me obtain the entrance permit…

    Many thanks in advance,


  9. Jade

    Hi Kevin, I am planning on going to Tibet oct 18-26/27 also. I’m a solo traveler as well from the US. If you found a good company , can you let me know please? Thank you! Looking to do the Lhasa-EBC-Kathmandu trek as well.


  10. nvmanna

    My name is NVMANNA from Hyderabad- India. Me and my friend, we are actually doing PhD. . but we are trying to plan our trip in the month of March 2015. International Conference in Lhasa to attend then we can go to Bejing That´s why I wrote to you. I read you webpages. Our dream will be to cross Nepal to Lhasa then bejing . We read in your web that the road from Kathmandu to Lhasa is open in March We are planning to cross from Katmandu to Tibet then Lhasa at the first week of March , do you know which is the best city in order to get the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)? Please send me planning to economy travel to china information to my email moreover, this very nice web, reply as early as possible

  11. Frank

    Hello Losang,

    We are a family with 3 children age 16,18 and 21. Can you give me an idea of costs for the trip from kathmandu to Lhasa for 12 days with the bus and then on by train tot Chengdu.
    Or is it better to do it the other way around?


    Frank Onwezen
    The Netherlands

  12. Joanne Gonsalves

    Hey Losang, been watching your posts and replies and am simply itching to get myself to this fascinating part of the world. I am travelling solo in March/April and would appreciate some advice on who to approach to join a group or sort solo arrangements with in KTM. My actual journey is Tibet but from South Africa think it is going to be best to start in KTM , join an organised overland and back to KTM. What do you suggest? I love the description you have given for the Overland Lhasa to KTM, sounds exactly what I am hoping to experience, just need to be able to fit it in the budget so your advice on which reputable agency to go with is greatly appreciated. Keep up your amazing posts, so inspiring 🙂
    On the Enlightenment Journey…..
    Jo from World

  13. Donna

    Hi – thanks for the great article on Lhasa to Kathmandu via EBC. This is exactly what we are hoping to do later this year. Could you please recommend travel agencies who can help us. Many thanks!

  14. Stephanie

    Hello Losang, My friend and I want to take this journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu via EBC in middle September. Would you please recommend an agency to us as well. Thank you for your help and your wonderful website.

  15. Patrick

    Hi Losang,
    congrats – lovely pictures, amazing. Could you evtl make me a suggestion for a tour operator. I would love a smaller group when we travel Nepal.
    best regards patrick

  16. Erik


    Thank-you for your thorough report on the crossing between Lhasa and Kathmandu. I am planning a trip to the area mid November. Would you have any travel agencies you could recommend to me? I will be taking the train from Beijing to Lhasa as my entry and then flying out of Kathmandu.



  17. Patrick

    hi Losang,
    refering to my post and your answer on the 8th. I have not received it or deleted it accidentially – could you simply resend your email eventually?

    cheers and looking forward – thx in advance.

  18. Martijn jonkers

    Hi Losang,

    Ive just read your article about overland trip from lhasa to Katmandu. Ive been looking for a tour thats a bit longer than the standard 7 or 8 days. Could you please advice me of tour operaters where i can book tour as described above please? Am arriving in lhasa between 19th and 22nd of april 2015.

    Kind regards
    Martijn jonkers

  19. Rob Afman

    Great information, just what I needed!
    Can’t wait to visit that magic place.
    I am planning on traveling from Chengdu towards Lhasa by train.
    Hoping to arrive in Lhasa and eventually follow the journey you’ve described to eventually end up in KTM. However I am a solo traveler and therefore could use some advice on which agency to approach.

    Martijn Jonkers, also a Dutch guy seems to be arriving in Lhasa round about the same time so maybe I can even join him on the journey into Lhasa.
    Could you perhaps help me get into contact with Martijn?

    Great job Losang, nicely provided detailed information.
    Kind regards,

  20. Gayan


    Im planning to take Kathmandu to Lhasa by land with EBC. Also from Lhasa to Beijing by train (planning to see great wall of China). Can you recommend any reliable agencies with Toyota 4wheel drive. Idea is to visit in Aug or Sep.

    Anyone like to join???

    Gayan Sanjeewa

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author


      As nearly all of the main travel destinations in Tibet now have good roads leading to them, there is no need to take an oversized, fuel-guzzling Toyota LandCruiser. In fact, nearly all of the LandCruisers in Tibet that were used for tourism have been replaced as they are no longer needed (due to Tibet having good roads). While travel agencies still use 4 wheel drives, they are not Toyota LandCruisers, but more fuel efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles. In addition, they also use vans.

      I have sent you a couple of emails with some further advice for you on your upcoming journey. Further questions can be directed to me at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com


  21. ganu anand

    You have provided lovely information. I have plan to travel Beijing-Lhasa-Kathmandu in April-May this year. ( With trip to Kailash)
    I need your guidance in arranging 4WD, accommodation and other things.
    If you can give me your phone number than I can call you at time suitable to you.

  22. Thomas Jensen

    hello. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip fromBeijing-Lhasa-Kathmandu. But we have found it a little difficult to plan. We have a little tight budget, so it should not be too expensive. we very much hope that you can help us a bit.

    thank you

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello…I sent you an email with further information about how to get to Tibet as well as some travel agency recommendations. Keep in mind that Tibet is not really a budget travel destination. However, traveling with a small group of 4 to 6 can make the costs of traveling in Tibet more affordable. Please send any other questions to me at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com


  23. Chaitanya Gandhi

    Hi…Firstly wonderfully written. I was planning a trip to nepal from india reaching nepal on 5th June. But due to misfortune that has struck to the people of Nepal i am not intended to travel and enjoy in the times they are rehabilitating and then i read your post here.
    Now firstly budget is critical to me and i have a return ticket from kathmandu on 13th which i need to take because lhasa to delhi flight costs 40k which goes out of my budget so returning back to kathmandu is better i believe.
    So i have days in hand i.e.
    5- Arrive kathmandu at 10am
    13-Reach Kathmandu by 6pm

    Do you suggest me to travel or should i look for an alternative options and skip this plan.

  24. Willem

    Thanks for this clear description of this wonderful route.
    We are planning to do exactly as you describe it but then with our 2 small daughters of 10 and 7 next year end of April.
    Do you have any recommendations for us to avoid altitude sickness and do you feel it is wise to do this with 2 small children?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello! It is impossible to eliminate the risk of altitude sickness in Tibet. However, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of serious altitude illness. The best thing to do is to spend a night in Xining (elev: 2300 meters) before arriving in Lhasa (elev: 3600 meters). I then recommend staying at least 3 nights in Lhasa before going to higher elevations. If you plan to go to Everest Base Camp, I suggest spending 3 nights in Lhasa and then a further 4 nights in places like Gyantse, Shigatse and Tingri before arriving at Everest. Children over the age of 4 usually do well at high elevation, but acclimatizing is a MUST. I sent you an email with further information.


      1. Ray

        Hi Lobsang,

        I am planning a similar trip in November with my 2 daughters (ages 10 and 12). I would appreciate your suggestions for recommended travel agencies. I would like to travel by train from Beijing to Lhasha and subsequently on to Kathmandu overland assuming the route is opened by then.

  25. david

    i have indian passport. i want to transit tibet to go from kathmandu to China mainland, Is it sufficient to go with chinese visa. do i need tibet travel permit?

  26. Tony

    Hello Lobsang,

    thank you for this piece. It is the most helpful I have read.

    I would be very grateful for your list of tour operators, particularly any who offer the itinerary you have described.

    also, which is your very favorite month to do this trip?

    very many thanks, tony

  27. sanjoy

    hellow lobsang

    Nice photos, i am Indian citizen,want to go lhasa by air from kathmandu. Can you provide me some reliable travel agent who can help me.

  28. Alicia Gonzalez

    Hello we are palnning a trip to China next year and we will like to know how will be the cost of the 11 day trip overland from Lhasa to Katmandu. This will be something around late september, early october. Of course assuming the highway re open.

    We had been to Katmandu before, so we tought of staring at Lhasa and finishing in Katmandu.


  29. Julie

    Hello Lobsang,

    Wonderful photography and information…

    I’d like to travel overland from China, through Tibet and into Nepal and would appreciate your list of recommended travel agencies.

    Kind regards

      1. Henry Caplan

        Hi Lobsang,

        I would like to plan a similar trip as Julie above and was hoping you could provide me with some more information.

        Thank you,


  30. maria

    hi Lobsang!
    i am planning a trip from Lhasa to Katmandu next December! any extra information and a list with recommended travel agencies would be really useful!


    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      The Friendship Highway goes from Lhasa to the Tibetan town of Zhangmu, located on the Tibet border with Nepal. This road is open and has been open. However, the international border crossing between Tibet and Nepal is closed and remains closed as this post says. Travel in Tibet is NOT affected, unless you want to cross over into Nepal.


  31. Wan

    Hi Lobsang,

    Thank you very much for the great sharing. I am looking at the possible route of Cheng Du -> Lhasa -> EBC -> Kathmandu (via overland if the Friendship Highway is opened).

    In this case, do we need any visa or permit to enter Kathmandu? If yes, it be applied through travelling agency in Tibet or in our own country?


  32. Erin Corey

    Hi Lobsang,

    Thank you so much for the great read, it was very informative! I have a few questions and was hoping you could help. It seems as though they are similar to a few of the questions asked above!

    1) Can I reverse this journey starting in Kathmandu and finishing in Lhasa?

    2) How should I go about finding the right guide?

    There are 2 or 3 of us traveling together at the end of May, beginning of June. Thanks so much!

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Yes, this route can be traveled in both directions. Once the border reopens between Tibet and Nepal, this route will resume allowing foreigners as it has for the past few decades.

      In Tibet you need far more than just a guide. You need a complete organized tour that can only be arranged through a travel agency. For travel agency recommendations in Tibet, please send me an email at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com


  33. Kaushik Krishnakumar

    Hi, I would like to know if I can take a overland trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa on the 1st week of May 2016 and if the road is open after the earthquakes if so whats the best travel agency in kathmandu would you recommend?



    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      No, you will not be able to. For one, travel permits for Tibet take at least 2 weeks to arrange. It is far too late for you to get permits now to travel to Tibet. Second, the international border from Nepal to Tibet is still closed. It will not open to foreign travelers until sometime next month (June).


  34. Kristin and Stephen Powers

    Hello Lobsang

    My husband and I are traveling from Chengdhu to Lhasa (after being in China for 3 months) and would then like to do this journey as you describe if possible. We plan to travel late December 2016 through January 2017. Hoping that the friendship Highway will reopen by then.

    Could you please connect us with some travel agencies and guides and any information on budget or the ability to pair up with other travelers, like Maria who sent you a message in February…

    We are also wondering if there is any service work we could offer anywhere.

    Thank you, your story is very inspirational.


  35. Carlson

    Hi Lobsang

    Thanks so much for the info. I just wanna find out is 9 days enough to have a trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu? and also I will be travelling in the month of Sept, is it a suitable travel season?


    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      September is a good month to travel to Tibet, especially after mid-September. The weather is generally good then. Nine days is ample time to go from Lhasa to Kathmandu. I sent other information to you by email. Enjoy your journey!!


  36. Paul Robson

    Amazing information, thank you.

    We are planning a trip in 2017/18 coming to Lhasa after a couple of days acclimatizing in Xining and then onto Kathmandu via EBC so your itinerary is perfect.

    Could you send us your recommendations for travel agency’s please.

    Best wishes Paul

      1. Lynn M

        Hi Lobsang,

        We have the same plan as Paul. Your trip looks awesome. Could you also send me the information?

        Kind regards,



    Hi Lobsang,
    Could you send us your recommendations for travel agency’s please.

    Best wishes Romzi

  38. Chrisian

    Hai Lobsang,

    We 4 people are planning to join tibet tour to kathmandu on mid sept, is the weather ok to see everest?

    Here is the detail :
    12-18 Sept tibet tour
    18 sept kelong border to kathmandu
    19 sept fly to pokhara
    20 sept saronkat sunrise
    21 sept fly back home

    Is the itin good? Could you refer us the travel agent? Thanks before


    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author


      The weather in mid-September is okay for seeing Everest. It is not the best, but is still okay. To avoid altitude sickness and spending long days in a vehicle, I strongly recommend extending your time in Tibet by at least 2 days. Most journeys from Lhasa to the Nepal border take 8 to 10 days.

      I emailed you some travel agencies to contact for your upcoming journey.


  39. Jerry Lapp

    Tashi Delek, Lobsang . . .

    Do you know whether the Friendship Highway or Kyirong border are open to foreign tourists yet? I keep hearing a June opening for the Kyirong border. I’m hoping to travel Lhasa to Kathmandu later this month with a small group.



  40. John

    Is the overland border open yet?

    I will be in Lhasa mid July and want to return from Lhasa to Kathmandu by vehicle.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      John….Sorry, there still has not been given any official news from the local government here in Lhasa regarding the reopening of the border to Nepal. WHen there is official news, I will immediately post it on my website and Facebook page.


  41. Joao

    Hello! Congrats to your website! I am planning to go to Tibet in mid-November. Which agencies do you recommend for a more budget than luxury experience? Also, is the driving from Lhasa to Kathmandu somewhat dangerous? My spouse has fear of very thin roads close to high banks.

    I hope the road is open by November.

    Thanks. Kind regards from Brazil!

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      I hope you are doing well in Brazil. Thank you for the compliments on my website! I have emailed you some travel agencies in Tibet to contact. The roads in Tibet are very safe and are no narrow with high banks or drop-offs.


  42. jaswinder singh

    thanks for detailed information , i am planning to travel on bike from lhasa to kathmandu , can you suggest any good agency and expected cost for two peoples.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Cycling in Tibet is certainly possible, but will be expensive for a solo traveler. Finding 3 to 5 others to join you will drastically lower the cost. I have emailed you some reputable travel agencies in Lhasa to contact.


  43. Greg Flannigan

    Thanks for sharing all of this information. In 2005, I walked from Lhasa to Kathmandu with a friend, following the friendship highway the entire way. It seems like it was so long ago, but the photos and descriptions has brought back so many emotions! XOXO

  44. Dave Smithies

    Hi Losbsang

    I really enjoyed your great write up. It was very informative and had lots of great information on timing and pace of travel. Currently planning a mid November trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Any recommendations on travel agencies / tour companies that have trips that are close to your suggested itinerary.
    Many Thanks in advance and please keep up the good work !


    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hi Dave….Thanks for the compliments on my website! I emailed you a couple of excellent travel agencies to choose from. Be advised that currently the overland border crossing from Tibet to Nepal is CLOSED. The only way to go from Tibet to Nepal right now (August 2016) is to fly.

      Enjoy your journey!

  45. Jade

    Is there a website to see when the friendship highway will be open for Tibet to KTM Im looking to do this trip in December and information seems to be hard to find!

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello….Due to the 2015 Nepal Earthquake and recent flooding and landslides in Nepal, the overland border crossing from Tibet to Nepal is CLOSED and will most likely remain closed for at least another 6 months to 1 year. With the border beijing closed, the only option to go from Tibet to Nepal is to fly.


  46. Lisa

    Hi Lobsang,

    thanks for sharing that most useful informations. We are currently already looking a bit around for our trip in September 2017, hoping the road will be open by then.
    Could you please also send us your information email? it would be very appriciated.

    If some other travellers read this and are interested to share costs with us (german couple in 40s)- feel free to contact.

    Best regards from Bavaria!

  47. Suresh

    HI Lobsang, Good day to you. After complete my tour in Lhasa, i planing cross overland to kathmandu in may 2017. Possible?



  48. Mee Mee

    Hi, Can you advise us the travel route plan to visit Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal in 10 days. A single goal we want to achieve is to take a picture of Mt Everest from Rougbuk Monastery (Rongbu temple). To do that we have to take into the consideration that we are travelling with 2 seniors and 2 kids so the journey needs to be relatively safe, easy and fun. Any advice you can give is much appreciated.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello….10 days to travel through Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal while going to Rongphu Monastery is not possible For this journey, you would need about 19 to 22 days. Children under the age of 5 should NOT travel to Tibet due to possible health risk. In addition, all seniors traveling to Tibet, especially to the Everest Region at Rongphu Monastery, should understand that the region is high altitude, remote and poor. There are no luxury accommodations or restaurants there….only extremely basic guesthouses. Seniors going to Tibet should also be in good health and able to walk 4 to 5 kilometers per day. If you have further questions, please email me directly at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com


  49. Letizia

    Hi Losbsang

    Currently planning a 2-week trip to Lhasa in June 2017, and thinking of going to Kathmandu and Bhutan after 2 weeks in Lhasa. Is it possible to travel to Kathmandu from Lhasa by bus despite the overland border being closed after the 2015 earthquake?


  50. KENNY

    Hi! Lobsang, how are you? Wondering is the Friendship Highway is under repairing ? is there any alternative access by road between Lhasa and Kathmandu? We plan to go somewhere around early September. If a senior citizen with age of 77 , can walk, no health problem, any advise on this?



    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello….The Friendship Highway is OPEN and has been open. I think you are confusing it with the Tibet-Nepal overland border crossing, which is closed. This border crossing does NOT affect travel on the Friendship Highway except at the actual border crossing. You can still travel everywhere in Tibet and Nepal, but you cannot cross over from Tibet into Nepal at the Friendship Bridge. I have emailed you further info to assist you.


      1. Alain Buffing

        Hi Lobsang,

        Thank you for this update. Also thanks for the detailed information on this webpage, very very interesting.

        I was wondering if it is possible to cross the border from Tibet to Nepal, or that it is still closed?



  51. Carles

    We want to go to Nepal this November by land , through Lhasa.

    How long will remain close the border? there’s any other way to cross to Kathmandu from Tibet?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      You can if you want, but bottled drinking water is readily available along this entire route. Only reason you would need a filter is if you plan to go trekking or climbing in extremely remote areas. The route from Lhasa to Kathmandu is not remote and has stores all along it.


  52. Duncan A Farquharson

    I hear the border is finally open again – can you make some recommendations for a guide for a bicycle trip lhasa to kathmandu

  53. Raghu

    We are planning a trip in end of Dec to Tibet – Lhasa to Kathmandu by road. We have come to know about the jeep travel from border to Kathmandu. please let us know if it is required to pre-book this service, or will jeeps be available readily after crossing the border.

    the private jeep price quoted comes around USD 250 – 280 per jeep.

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