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How to Travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa?

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Sun Sep 19, 2021
Route for Travel From Kathmandu To Lhasa

One of the most popular ways to enter and tour the incredible Tibet is by traveling from Kathmandu to Lhasa. You can travel either by air or take an overland drive. Tibet is also known as the ‘Roof of the World.’ A visit to the highest settlement in the world, Tibet will be a memorable journey. Mount Everest separates Nepal and Tibet and you will be driving to the base of Everest on the Tibetan side. Enjoy the unparalleled view of Everest from Tibet. Visit the ancient monasteries and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Nepal and Tibet share a close connection which dates centuries back. Moreover, the two neighbors also share history and culture. The princess of Nepal, Bhrikuti married the earliest known Emperor of Tibet, Songtsan Gampo. Moreover, Bhrikuti is credited for establishing Buddhism as the Royal religion in Tibet.

Buddhism ties Nepal and Tibet together and there are many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. Traveling from Nepal to Tibet is symbolic of following the footstep of the Buddhist pilgrims who pledge to visit the sacred shrines and monasteries of these two ancient kingdoms once in their lifetime. Nepal and Tibet also share a good trade relationship from the early days.

The most popular city to explore in Tibet is Lhasa which is rich in culture. You will be gaining a significant level of altitude when traveling to Lhasa (3,658m/12,001ft) of Tibet from Kathmandu (1,400m/4,596ft). It will be best if you acclimatize well in Lhasa first before traveling further. 

If you're planning to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu here's a blog with detail information: How to Travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu?


Kathmandu To Lhasa Overland Tour

Lhasa Overland Tour

An international traveler can do an overland tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa of Tibet via the Gyirong Port of Shigatse prefecture. Since the Kodari border on the route of Kathmandu to Lhasa via Zhangmu is closed since the devastating earthquake of 2015 in Nepal, you will be taking the alternative route. You will be driving on the newly opened Pasang Lhamu Highway from Kathmandu to the Rasuwa Gadhi border before entering Tibet. 

Why Travel Overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa?

The enticing natural beauty of Nepal and Tibet is the highlight of the overland tour. The landscape changes from the verdant hills and snowy mountains to the Tibetan Plateau with the backdrop of the Himalayas. Moreover, you can make multiple stopovers along the way on the road trip.

Taking an overland drive to Lhasa from Kathmandu allows you to visit additional places en route. You will be driving past the Langtang National Park, ragging rivers, temples, and monasteries. You will be crossing the Nepal Tibet border via Gyirong Port, Shigatse of Tibet. Pay a visit to the popular Rongbuk Monastery of Tibet which is considered the highest monastery in the world. Moreover, drive to Gawu La Pass situated at an elevation of 5,198m on your way to Shigaste overlooking the astounding views of the Great Himalayas including Everest. The overland journey will allow you to interact with the locals of Nepal and Tibet and observe the similarities and differences between these two.

Kathmandu to Lhasa Distance

The overland distance between Kathmandu of Nepal to Lhasa of Tibet is 1300km/808mi. But you can shorten your travel distance by boarding an international flight. The air distance from Katmandu to Tibet is around 609km/378mi. As of now, there are only two ways to travel to Tibet from Kathmandu; by air and overland. 

Wondering, if you can take a train from Kathmandu to Lhasa? Well, as of now Nepal and Tibet aren’t lined by railways but there might be in the future. The government of Nepal and China designed the railway project and the first extension of the project from Lhasa to Shigatse, which was completed in 2014, is in operation. The further expansion of the railway into Nepal will make travel easier and will significantly cut down the travel time. Upon completion of the project, you will be able to cover the distance of 1,000km/621mi. in less than one day. 

Route for Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour

Route Lhasa Overland Tour

Take a look at the chart which helps you to get an idea about the day-to-day itinerary and major attractions. Moreover, it helps you to know about the road condition, distance traveled and altitude gained so that you plan accordingly.

Section

Major Attraction

Distance

Altitude Traveled

Road Condition

Kathmandu to Syabrubesi

Langtang National Park, Syabrubesi- trailhead of Langtang Treks

137km/

85.13mi.

1,400m to 4593ft

1,500m/4,921ft

Partly paved and partly dirt road

Syabrubesi to

Gyirong/Kerung

Paba Temple

40km/

24.9mi.

1,500m/4,921ft to

2,700m/8,858ft

Partly dirt road and paved road to Gyirong/Kerung

Gyirong/Kerung to Tingri

Everest Base Camp

Rongbuk Monastery

480km/

298mi.

2,700m/8,858ft

4,300m/14,108ft

Paved roads in the entire journey

Tingri to Shigatse

Via EBC

Tashilumpo Monastery

280km/

174mi.

4,300m/14,108ft

3,950m/12,959ft

Paved roads in the entire journey

Shigatse to Lhasa via Gyantse

Manak Dam Lake, Yamdrok Lake & Korola Glacier

375km/

233mi

3,950m/12,959ft

3,650m/11,975ft

Paved roads in the entire journey

Day to Day Activity from Overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa

Day to day Activity

Day 1: Take a scenic drive from Kathmandu to Syabrubesi (1,500m/4,921ft) - 7 hours’ drive

Take a scenic drive on the meandering hilly roads of Nepal from Kathmandu and enjoy the views of deep gorges, rivers, verdant hills, and snowy mountains. Further, you will be driving past Langtang National Park and Syabrubesi, the popular starting point of famous Langtang treks.

Further, your tour guide of Tibet tour will be waiting for you and you need to keep the required travel documents handy. Moreover, you will be transferred to a Tibetan vehicle and driven to the Tibetan side of the border.

Day 2: Drive to Gyirong/Kerung (2,700m/8,858ft.) - 1 hour drive

As you get near towards Gyirong/ Kerung the astounding views of snowy mountains and dense forest will greet you. Take a stroll in the afternoon in Kerung pay a visit to the Paba Temple which was built by Tibetan King Songtsan Gambo while proposing his wife, Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Moreover, you will observe a Nepali-style temple with intricate murals.

Day 3: Drive to Tingri (4,300m/14,108ft) via EBC Base Camp - 11 hours’ drive

On the following day, you will be driving past a lake and grassland before driving to the base camp of the highest mountain on earth, Everest Base Camp.

Also, visit the Rongbuk Monastery which happens to be the monastery situated on the highest elevation. Continue your drive enjoy the panoramic view of the mountain ranges to Tingri.

Day 4: Drive to Shigatse (3,950m/12,959ft) - 7 hours’ drive

You will be taking the G318 National Highway on your way to Shigatse and will be visiting the Tashilumpo monastery. It is significant as it is the seat of Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second highest incarnation of Buddha. Watch the largest statue of the future Buddhas, Jampa Buddha and Maitreya Buddha.

Day 5: Drive to Lhasa (3,650m/11,975ft) via Gyantse - 12 hours’ drive

The next day, you will be driving to Lhasa via Gyantse and you will see several Tibetan villages. A visit to Manak Dam Lake, Yamdrok Lake and Korola Glacier on your way to Lhasa will enrich your journey. The lake encircled by snowcapped mountains, Yamdrok lake is known to mesmerize its onlookers and is also one of the holiest lakes in Tibet.

Cost for Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour

It costs around USD 1000 to USD 2500 or more for a classic 8 days Tibet tour. A customized private tour will cost more than a group tour. Also, the cost of the Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour depends on different factors like transportation, accommodation, guide, travel permits, documentation, food, and others. If you wish to reduce the cost then you can choose to travel in the off-season which is from mid-November to March.

A travel tip is that it's better to carry local cash for Tibet travel as some areas might lack banks and ATMs. Ask your guide to exchange the currency when you enter Lhasa. 

Hotels for Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland Tour

You can choose accommodation in Tibet as per your travel style. The accommodation in Tibet ranges from basic guesthouses to luxurious 5-star hotels. The price of a guest's house or a 3-star hotel ranges somewhere between USD 15 to 32 per night while the cost of a luxurious hotel will cost around USD 200 per night.

You will find some of the best hotels in touristy places like Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang, and Nyingchi. The hotels serve a wide variety of food and you can choose from Tibetan meals to eastern and western dishes. As you move to the higher region especially Rongbuk and EBC region the accommodation becomes basic and it might be difficult a room with an attached bathroom. The hotels serve Tibetan food like instant noodles, yak meat, Tibetan dumplings, etc.

Tourism in Tibet is seasonal. Hotel prices in the peak tourist season like Summer will be higher and you need to book a hotel in advance. Since winter is a low tourist season so you will get to enjoy discounted rates in hotel charges. However, small guesthouses and hotels will be closed down so you need to confirm your hotel before traveling. Hotels in Tibet need to have a license to serve foreign tourists so make sure that your hotel is qualified to serve the foreign tourists.

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

Kathmandu To Lhasa By Flight

Tribhuvan International Airport

The most comfortable and easiest way of traveling from Kathmandu to Tibet is via airplane. You can board a direct international flight to Lhasa of Tibet. Take one of the most beautiful flights in the world which fly over the Himalayas. Enjoy a scenic flight with astounding views of the towering mountains including the highest mountain on Earth, Everest, Kailash, Cho Oyu, and others. 

It takes roughly around 1.5 hours to fly from Tribhuvan International Airport of Kathmandu, Nepal, and land at the Lhasa Gonggar International Airport of Lhasa, Tibet. Two direct flights operate between Kathmandu and Tibet; Sichuan Airlines and Air China offer the flights. The flights are scheduled in the morning which will give you time to explore the beautiful city later in the day. 

Flights operate daily between these cities throughout the year. Book your flights early if you are thinking of traveling between June to September as these are the peak months of Tibetan tourism.

Kathmandu to Lhasa Flight Schedule

Two prominent airlines Air China and Sichuan Airlines operate regular flights between these two cities.

Air China Flight Schedule from Kathmandu to Lhasa

Departure Days

Alternate days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)

Arrival and Departure

12:00 to 15:30

Duration

1 hour and 15 minutes

Sichuan Airlines Flight Schedule from Lhasa to Kathmandu

Departure Days

Alternate days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday)

Arrival and Departure

12:00 to 16:00

Duration

1 hour and 35 minutes

Note: The above schedules are for reference purposes only and the flights are subject to change.

How to Book a Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa?

Once your trip is confirm, you can book a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa via sites including TripAdvisor and Expedia and also compare prices before booking as well. Moreover, you can get details of flight from the official website of Air China and Sichuan Airlines, the two airlines which operates regular flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa. You will be able to book flights at cheaper rates if you book a month or two in advance. You can also book your flights through reliable tour operators..

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

FAQs On Travelling From Kathmandu To Lhasa

FAQs on Travelling from Kathmandu to Lhasa

How do I get a Tibet travel permit for Lhasa?

A foreign traveler who wants to travel in Tibet must have Tibet Visa or Tibet Travel Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. You can apply for the visa of Tibet only through a registered Tibet Travel Agency. The agency will be applying for the visa on your behalf with a scanned copy of your valid passport which takes around 8 to 9 working days. You need to apply for the Tibet tour at least 20 days in advance as your tour operator or travel company needs to apply for Tibet Permit as well as Visa Invitation.

Additionally, you need to have a special visa called the Chinese Group Tourist Visa, which is available to those entering Tibet from Nepal. Once you arrive in Kathmandu, your tour operator will apply for the visa on your behalf with your valid passport. The visa processing takes around 4 working days.

Indian citizens who want to pay a visit to Mount Kailash, Manasarovar, and other parts of western Tibet need to get a tour and Tibet permit through a registered Nepalese or Indian travel agency that has collaboration with the Foreign Affairs Office of TAR or Pilgrims Center. 

What is the best month to visit Lhasa, Tibet?

April, May, September, October and November are the best months to visit Lhasa, Tibet. Spring season begins in April and the temperature will be warmer in the daytime but night will still be cold. Rainfall ceases with the arrival of September and the temperature starts to get cooler. October and November are the popular travel time and it’s the sunny time when Lhasa receives more than 9 hours of sunshine daily. So, the daytime is pleasant but the temperature might drop below freezing point. During these months the visibility is high and you can enjoy the stunning landscape of Tibetan plateaus and the snowcapped mountains.

How cold can Tibet get?

The weather and temperature of Tibet in winter vary from one region to another due to its geography. Some regions might get arctic-like weather while some areas have winter weather similar to that of northern Europe and Canada.

The winter in the touristy place of Lhasa is very cold but it is comparatively milder than other parts of the country. January is the coldest month of the year but it rarely snows during winter here. The daytime temperature is balmy and around 8 to 10 degrees while the temperatures can drop as low as -10 degrees at night.

Kathmandu to Lhasa flight or by overland? Which is better?

An overland tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa is the popular way to tour Tibet as it will reward you with astounding natural beauty along the way. You will get to notice the change in the landscape along the way as you leave the verdant hills and mountains and enter the Tibetan plateau and cross the vast plains and prairies of Tibet. The road trip will also allow you to witness the remarkable sight of the plateau of the region. Moreover, the adventurous trip in the Himalayas will allow you to observe the similarities and difference between two regions which is separated by the Himalayas. It will at least take seven days to complete the overland tour.

If you are short of time and want to decrease the travel time between Kathmandu and Lhasa then take a flight between two cities. It takes only one and half hours to travel via air and you can enjoy the stunning view of the Himalayas from your aircraft’s window. Since it decreases the travel time it is also budget-friendly.

If you wish to experience the best of both worlds then you can choose an overland journey from Kathmandu to Lhasa and return to Kathmandu via a flight.

Do I Need a Group to Enter Tibet?

It isn’t mandatory to join a group if you book a private tour and it can be booked for a person to an entire family. Private tour is expensive but you will get undivided attention from your guide and you will get to know about the local culture and tradition closely. Also, it gives you the liberty to customize your itinerary and plant your holiday as per your wish.

If your budget doesn’t allow for a private tour then you can choose to travel in a small group with preset dates and itinerary. There are a wide variety of tour itineraries to choose from and you can ask for recommendations from your travel company as well. When traveling in a group you will be sharing the cost of your driver and guide. Also, you will be meeting and interacting with travelers from different parts of the world and will get a chance to expand your horizon.

Can you go to Tibet without a tour?

A foreign traveler must take an organized tour to travel in Tibet without one they cannot enter Tibet. All international tourists need a group tourist visa and an organized tour via a local travel agency. Moreover, they will be accompanied by a tour guide during the whole Tibet tour. Do not expect to visit a monastery alone without your tour guide, not possible. Exploring Lhasa city and eating in a restaurant is the most you can do without a guide in Lhasa.

Is it safe to travel to Tibet alone?

Yes, it is safe to travel to Tibet alone however international tourists require to join an organized private or group tour. Even if you are making a solo trip, you will be accompanied by a guide and other group members during your trip. Local Tibetans are helpful and the public security is good too.

Conclusion

A trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa is a wonderful trip and a great way to witness the cultural and religious similarities and differences between Nepal and Tibet. A good travel partner makes a significant difference to your trip. Choose an experienced and responsible travel partner like Third Rock Adventures and create memories for a lifetime. Feel free to write us and talk with our experienced travel specialist who will help you customize your trip as per your requirement and travel style.



  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Sunday Sep 19, 2021


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Naba Raj

About Author - Naba Raj Amgai

Naba Raj Amgai, stepped into the world of travel and tourism in 1996. He is Founder and Managing Director of Third Rock Adventures.

Beginning his journey in the tourism industry as a humble Porter Guide to founding hospitality establishments and an adventure travel company, he has come a long way.

In a career spanning more than two decades, he has achieved more than anybody dreams of achieving. Along with his professional achievements, his selfless contribution towards his community and society has won him a lot of accolades and praises.

Having dedicated more than two decades in the tourism and hospitality sector, he has amassed a wealth of experience.

After passing high school, he began helping out some trekking guides and was soon recruited as a porter guide at a reputed trekking agency. Within a short time, he was individually guiding clients across the well-known trails of the Himalayas.

He went on to lead tour groups on multi-country tours to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Being a part of mountain climbing expeditions familiarised him with expedition logistics and operations. Later on, he went to become the Executive Director and took over the reins of Operations, Sales and Marketing departments. Spending several years in the tourism field has made Naba Raj Amgai a destination expert.

Travelling is his passion and he has been to many countries across the world – USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Austria and many parts of Asia.

His journeys to different parts of the world have enriched his travel experience and knowledge. This experience has been instrumental in planning and organizing successful trips for several clients.

As of today many reputed travel companies, hotels and restaurants are under his leadership. A dynamic and proactive leader, he continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

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