Tibet-Nepal Friendship Highway
The Friendship Highway, also known as China-Nepal Highway connecting Lhasa, China with Kathmandu, Nepal, the westernmost part of China National Highway 318, is with a total length of 943KM while 829KM in Tibet. After passing through Shigatse and Lhatse, it is divided into 2 branch lines, the east line via Zhangmu, a border in China side, to Kathmandu, and the west line via Gyirong, another border in China side, to Kathmandu.
However, the east line via Zhangmu to Kathmandu has been closed for tourists since 2015 due to the heavy damage caused by the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The west line via Gyirong to Kathmandu has been opened as the border for traveling to Kathmandu since September 1, 2017. Since then, all the overland tours from Lhasa to Kathmandu will cross through this line to Nepal. The road in Tibet is well-paved while in Nepal is rugged and bumpy.
The China-Nepal Friendship Highway is the most popular travel route in Tibet for tourists involving the two major urban centers of Shigatse and Gyantse, and other important attractions such as Sakya, Mt.Everest Base Camp. Foreign travelers need to take an organized trip through a travel agency like WindhorseTour to the border with several excellent detours along the Highway.
The travel along this highway is suitable all year round. It attracts thousands of travelers every year, while the best seasons to travel along this route are April to June and September to October, due to its more stable weather with a clear sky, the higher visibility, and fewer travelers. July and August are a good time too since the weather of these 2 months are the warmest, the mountains/valleys are in an amazing color of green, the landscapes are at its best shape among all the seasons, but you should be aware that they are the busiest months and road in Nepal side in July and August is often blocked by the landslides.
Generally, travelers spend about 7-10 days traveling along the route to enjoy the spectacular Tibetan Plateau view. Normally, it is highly recommended to have a 2-3 days’ leisure trip in Lhasa to acclimatize to the high altitude before the overland trip to Nepal. The overland trips head straight from Lhasa to the Coiling, Scorpion-lake Yamdrok Lake, which is one of 3 holy lakes in Tibet, and take in the views from Samding Monastery before heading to Gyantse. In Gyantse, visit the famous Gyantse Kumbum Stupa and several adventurous excursions around the town, it always depends on the time. A 1.5-2 hours’ drive from Gyantse to Shigatse, en route, you can make a detour to Shalu Monastery and see interesting Tibetan art.
Shigatse is the second-largest city in Tibet and is the capital of Tsang Area. Here you will visit the impressive Monastery Tashilhunpo and the spectacular tombs of the Panchen Lamas. A 2 hours’ trekking along the Kora that circles Tashilhunpo Monastery brings you amazing views of Shigatse and the surrounding countryside. Before heading to Lhatse from Shigatse, you can detour off the friendship Hwy to check out the stunning Sakya Monastery, stay there overnight and investigate the Northern Ruins or stay in nearby town Lhatse.
Closer to the border, the most popular scenic spot in Tibet is the Everest Region. Many people drive straight from Shegar to the entrance of Mt. Everest Nature Reserve, then change an Eco-sightseeing bus to Rongphu Monastery there, and have a short hike to Everest Base Camp, Leave the next day. And some others take 3-day trekking from Old Tingri, enjoy both adventure and extraordinary views of Everest and other mountain peaks.
After Mt. Everest, head to Gyirong and then further to Nepal, bypassing the Old Tingri where you can have good views of Cho Oyu. On the way to Gyirong, you will appreciate the unimaginable beautiful natural scenery like Lake Peiku-Tso and Mount Shishapangma (8,020m).