All about the overland travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Why to take an overland tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu
The overland tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu is one of the most popular travel routes in Tibet offering well-balanced natural and cultural beauties, and it is the best way to discover one of the most beautiful untouched corners of the world. Travel along this route, you will have a chance to encounter the hospitable Tibetans, experience their unique customs and age-old traditions, see atmospheric monasteries, and marvel at the breathtaking natural wonders including the world's tallest snow-capped mountain Everest, beautiful glaciers, vast plateau plains, deep valleys, turquoise lakes.
Road condition of the overland route from Lhasa to Kathmandu
The Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway is the most popular travel route for tourists to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu by road. With the continuous development of tourism in Tibet, the section of road from Lhasa to Gyirong border via Shigatse and Mount Everest has been greatly upgraded and well-paved with asphalt. However, the section of road in the side of Nepal is a rugged and bumpy mountain road, the landslide and mudflow frequently happen along this part of the road during the monsoon season (usually from late June to August), making the road being blocked and not easy to go through.
Altitude change along the overland travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Tibet is situated at Qinghai-Tibet Plateau which is known as the roof of the world at an average altitude of over 4,500 meters (14,764 ft) above sea level. The overland route from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Gyirong border crosses over several mountain passes that are even at higher altitudes over 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) above sea level, hence, it will be easy to suffer from some symptoms of high altitude sickness when you travel along this route. Below is a map of altitude change along the overland route from Lhasa to Kathmandu for your reference. Please have a further reading at our Tibet travel tips on ‘How to avoid high-altitude sickness in Tibet’ to learn more details about high altitude sickness and be well-prepared for your Tibet tour.
When to do an overland tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Generally, it is suitable to make the overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu all year round, however, if travelers wish to combine the trekking at Mt Kailash, then it is highly recommended to travel between April and October as the winter snowfalls will cover the trekking paths.
- When we talk about the best season to take an overland tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu, undoubtedly, it goes to the seasons from April to June and September to October. As the weather is warmer and more stable with sufficient sunlight and clear blue skies, in addition, the higher visibility of those periods offers a larger chance to enjoy the real face of Mount Everest North Peak. The less rainfall makes the driving from the Nepal border to Kathmandu smoother.
- The next better traveling season is July and August but it is the monsoon season both in Tibet and Nepal. The Southeast monsoon from the Indian Ocean brings the largest precipitation of the year, making natural disasters such as landslides frequently happen along the section of China-Nepal Friendship Highway in Nepal to block the way to pass through. Moreover, July and August are also the busiest months to travel along this route as the weather is the warmest, the landscapes in Tibet are in their best shape and the oxygen content is the highest among all the seasons.
- Except for trekking along Mt Kailash Kora, it is fine to travel along this route in winter from November to the next March. Apart from its extremely cold and supreme dry air, November is a budget-friendly travel season with the cheapest tour cost to travel. It is possible to get some discount on the major expenses, such as hotels, flights, tourist vehicle and driver, and entrance fees. At the same time, it gains the smallest number of tourists and has the highest visibility, almost no rainfall, of the year.
Top highlights along Lhasa to Kathmandu overland route
This classic overland travel route is well-balanced with natural beauties and cultural activities. It connects dozens of must-see attractions in Tibet like the marvelous Potala Palace, holy Jokhang Temple, stunning turquoise Yamdrok Tso Lake, beautiful Karola Glacier, atmospheric age-old Tashilhunpo Monastery, magnificent Mount Everest view, etc. Here are the top highlights along this route that we carefully picked for you to review:
Potala Palace: The most iconic architecture of Tibet, once was the winter palace of the Dalai Lamas. In order to protect Potala Palace, during the peak season from May to October, tourists are allowed to spend 1 hour inside the palace, while from November to the next April, tourists are permitted to spend at most 2 hours inside the palace.
Jokhang Temple: Regarded as the spiritual center of Tibet, it is another sight situated in the heart of old Lhasa city that you shouldn’t miss as it is one of the best places to experience Tibetan Buddhism and one of the 3 attractions in Tibet listed in the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. It usually takes about 1 hour to visit here.
Drepung Monastery: Located at the foot of Mountain Gambo Utse, about 8 km. (4.97 mi.) west of Lhasa. Drepung Monastery played an important role in the history of Tibetan Buddhism and once was the largest and most powerful monastery in Tibet. The best time to visit this monastery is in the morning as many of the chapels here close at 2 pm. Normally, visitors will spend about 2 hours there.
Sera Monastery: Another must-see monastery in Tibet, it is the second-largest among the “great three” Gelugpa Sect university monasteries in Lhasa, and famous for its unique monks debating between 3 pm and 5 pm at its inner courtyard. Sightseeing here usually takes about 1.5 hours.
Norbulingka Palace: Situated in the western suburbs of Lhasa and listed in the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2001, it is the place where Dalai Lamas spent their summertime and handled government affairs. In August during the Shoton Festival, the Tibetan opera will be performed here and local Tibetans will gather to enjoy the opera and have picnics here. It usually takes 1-3 hours to visit this highlight.
Yamdrok Tso Lake: A breathtaking inland lake with turquoise-blue waters lying on the Southern Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway between Lhasa and Gyantse and surrounded by snow-capped mountains and alpine grasslands. The perfect spot for shooting Lake Yamdrok is Khamba La pass observatory. You can choose to spend about 1-3 hours here for shooting and having a walk along its lakeshore.
Karola Glacier: Karola Glacier is located at the junction of Nagarzê County and Gyantse County in Tibet. It is one of the three major continental glaciers in Tibet with a distance of only about 300 meters away from the highway which connects Lhasa and Gyantse. After passing through Simila pass, there is an observatory near the highway for shooting this beautiful glacier. Travelers usually spend about 30 minutes there.
Pelkor Chode Monastery: A typical Tibetan Buddhist monastery architecture combined with pagodas and temples, here you can see chapels in the pagodas and pagodas in the temples. The sightseeing hour needs about 1-1.5 hours.
Tashilhunpo Monastery: The seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second most important spiritual leader of Tibet. It houses the stupas of the successive Panchen Lamas and many precious cultural relics of Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The time to visit here needs about 2 hours. For trekker lovers sufficient in time, you can choose to have a 2-3 hours trek along the beautiful kora that circles Tashilhunpo Monastery, which offers stunning views of Shigatse and the surrounding countryside.
Mt. Everest Region: At the altitude of 8,848 m (29,029 ft), it is the world highest mountain peak offering magnificent and gorgeous views. It is a must-see attraction worth a stop along the overland travel route to Kathmandu from Lhasa. The best time to shoot Mt. Everest peak is when it is at its sunrise and sunset, and the best spots to shoot Mt. Everest peak is at Mt Everest observatory in Tingri, Zhegula Mountain Pass, a small hilltop near Rongbuk Monastery, and Mt Everest Base Camp.
Recommended tour itineraries
Usually, we would recommend our clients to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu along the China-Nepal Friendship Highway with an excursion to Mt. Everest in 7 days. For those who prefer to include an extension trip to Mt. Kailash, it is advisable to do it in 13 days. Below we have listed their day by day itinerary for you to review. As a local travel agency specialized on arranging tailor-made tours for our clients, we can certainly adjust the itinerary based on your own requirements and preference, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly!
7 days overland tour to Kathmandu from Lhasa via E.B.C.
- Day 01: Lhasa (3,650 m) arrives by flight or train. Have a good rest at your hotel to acclimatize the high altitude.
- Day 02: Lhasa relaxing tour to visit the landmark Potala Palace and the sacred Jokhang Temple, walk along Barkhor Kora by following the local Tibetans.
- Day 03: Another relaxing day tour in Lhasa, visit Drepung Monastery, and Sera Monastery for the famous monks debating between 3PM and 4PM (except for Sunday).
- Day 04: Start your overland journey along the southern route of China-Nepal Friendship Highway to Shigatse (3,800 m). En route, pay a visit to Yamdrok Lake (4,500 m), the beautiful Karola Glacier and the Gyantse Kumbum in a distinctive building style.
- Day 05: Morning, visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, then drive to Mt. Everest through Gawula pass to see the Himalayan Ranges. Visit Mt. Everest Base Camp (5,200 m) and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
- Day 06: Morning, enjoy the spectacular sunrise, then drive further westwards to Gyirong (2,700m). En route, enjoy the stunning view of Peiku Tso Lake and Mt. Shishapangma (8,012m).
- Day 07: Morning, head to Gyirong border and clear customs. Then check in at Nepali Immigration office and obtain your Nepalese visa, and head to Kathmandu downtown.
13 days overland tour to Kathmandu from Lhasa via E.B.C & Mt. Kailash Kora trekking
- Day 01~03: Arrive Lhasa (3,650 m) by flight or train. Then spend the first 3 days to acclimate to the high altitude and visit the highlights of Lhasa: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery with the monks debating.
- Day 04: Today drive along the southern route of China-Nepal Friendship Highway to Shigatse (3,800 m). En route, visit Yamdrok Lake (4,500 m), Karola Glacier, and the atmospheric Gyantse Kumbum.
- Day 05: Morning, visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, then drive to visit Mt. Everest Base Camp (5,200 m) and Rongbuk Monastery and enjoy the beautiful sunset there.
- Day 06: Morning, enjoy the spectacular sunrise, then drive further westwards to Saga (4,640m), view of Peiku Tso Lake and Mt. Shishapangma (8,012m) on the way.
- Day 07: Drive to Darchen (4,600m) via Paryang, enjoy the panoramic views, dotted nomads tents on the way.
- Day 08~10: 3 days Mt. Kailash Kora trek - 52KM, Darchen → Prayer square/two-legged’ Chörten Kangnyi (4,790m) → Chuku Monastery (4820m) → Dira-puk Monastery (5,080m) → Shiva-tsal (5330m) → Drölma-la (5630m) → Zutul-puk Monastery (4,820m) → Barkha Plain → Darchen.
- Day 11~12: Driving days to Gyirong via Saga.
- Day 13: Clear customs and enter Nepal to get the visa on arrival, then head to Kathmandu downtown accompanied by Nepalese driver.
Things to know before you go
Required documents: As a sensitive region of China, there are strict rules and regulations for international tourists to travel Tibet, they’re required to obtain the special Tibet permits in addition to the valid Chinese visa. Please read our Tibet Permit page to get more details. Moreover, they also need to pre-book a tour with a licensed guide and a private vehicle with a driver from one of the local travel agencies like WindhorseTour, because independent travel is not permitted.
How to get to Lhasa: Currently, there are two popular ways chosen by tourists to enter Lhasa, one of which is taking a Tibet train and the other is taking a flight from one of the gateway cities of mainland China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, etc. Please read more details on How to get to Tibet from Mainland China.
High altitude sickness: When making a tour in Tibet, you should always be careful with high altitude sickness as it’s rather common for everyone to have symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. More details, please read over our High altitude sickness page.
Currency: Chinese Yuan (CNY) is the only currency accepted in Tibet, coins are not used in Tibet as popular as in the other major cities in China. When starting your overland journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu, try and get your cash in small denominations, as CN¥100 and CN¥50 bills are difficult to get rid of in rural Tibet. Please kindly read over Money and credit cards in Tibet for more details.
Language: Tibetan and Mandarin are the main languages in Tibet. It’s recommended to pre-learn a few simple phrases of Tibetan once you have stepped into Lhasa. Or you could ask for help from your guide and get some handy phrases if you want to talk to the locals.
Border crossing into Nepal
- (2) passport size photographs are needed in advance for your Nepalese visa.
- Tourist visa on arrival: US$ 30 for 15 days stay, US$ 50 for 30 days stay and US$ 125 for 90 days stay. Payment accepted in cash in US dollars only.
- After clearing the customs and obtaining your Nepalese Visa, usually our friendly and experienced Nepalese driver and vehicle are ready to carry you to their beautiful capital, Kathmandu, at the outside of the Immigration Office.