Tibet is one of the main tourist destinations in Southeast Asia. It is a fantastic place, located on its high plateau on the world's roof. Filled with high snow-capped mountains, countless sacred lakes, and hundreds of ancient Buddhist monasteries and holy sites, the Tibet Autonomous Region is a land where the ground meets the sky. The sharp needles of the Himalayas jut out like giant teeth in the clouds.
Tibet's closest neighbor is Nepal, the land-locked kingdom in the Himalayas, which has become a Mecca for trekkers and mountain lovers everywhere. Once the world's most popular backpacker destination, this diverse country offers everything from the world's highest mountains to rainforests filled with tigers, elephants, and crocodiles. And for those traveling to Tibet from international destinations, there is no better place to start your journey and enter the plateau than Kathmandu.
Why travel to Tibet from Nepal?
As the only country globally with international access to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Nepal has a unique advantage over all other Asian countries when traveling to Tibet. Situated side by side on the crest of the mighty Himalayas, these two close neighbors have shared history, culture, and much more over the past several thousand years. They are more intimate than any other neighbor that might be, sharing even the highest mountain in the world.
One of the advantages of traveling to Tibet from Nepal is the mountains themselves, especially Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain. The summit of Mount Everest, which stretches along the border between Nepal and China, lies right on the border between the two, with the northern slopes in Tibet and Nepal's southern slopes. It means that there are two base camps to choose from, both at altitudes above 5,000 meters. You can take advantage of being able to see or visit the highest mountains on both sides.
Transportation is another convenience to travel from Nepal to Tibet. With international access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Nepal offers both flights and overland travel to Tibet. Flights leave daily from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. The crossing of the 607 kilometers from Kathmandu to the international airport of Lhasa Gonggar in Tibet only takes 90 minutes. Alternatively, you can take the land route from Kathmandu to Lhasa and cross the border into Tibet at the newly opened port of Gyirong.
If you travel to Tibet by land, you can drive to Mount Everest at the beginning of the tour, instead of finishing the trip as most tours that start in Lhasa do. It gives you a travel advantage as you then descend when you cross the plateau, reducing the risk of altitude sickness.
Entry from Nepal also makes it easier to obtain documents for Tibet. Instead of applying for a Chinese entry visa yourself through a Chinese embassy before your trip, your travel agent will make all the arrangements and use on your behalf once you arrive in Kathmandu. It saves you the hassle of traveling to and from the nearest embassy to apply for an entry visa to China.
Traveling from Nepal to Tibet by land
Nepal to Tibet by land through Keirong
Nepal's overland journey to Tibet is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to reach Tibet. Instead of taking a flight to Lhasa from Kathmandu, you travel overland through the port of keirong, the Chinese border checkpoint on the China-Nepal border. The trip is relatively easy, and you can reach within six hours from the Nepalese capital, although you must stop along the way and leave from near the border in the morning when it closes at 3 pm Nepali time.
Classic Itinerary: from Kathmandu to Lhasa by land through Mount Everest
This classic 8-day trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa, which takes you through the mighty Himalayas, is one of the most popular tours in Tibet and a great way to tour the plateau from Nepal when you have limited time. You will cross the border at the port of Gyirong and stop in the city of Gyirong to acclimatize before starting the long journey to the base camp of Mount Everest at 5,200 meters above sea level. The base camp is not far from the remote Rongbuk Monastery, known as the world's highest Buddhist monastery.
From there, you return to the Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway and travel east via Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city, and Gyantse to the Tibetan capital Lhasa. This impressive city, known as the City of the Sun because of the many sunny days a year, is the religious and cultural heart of Tibet and is home to the 1,300year-old Jokhang Temple, the holiest temple in Tibet. It is a beautiful city with a wealth of famous sights, including the Potala Palace, the impressive red and white palace of the old Tibetan government during the Buddhist rule of the lama of this high plateau country.
Adventure Route: from Kathmandu to Lhasa by land via the Kailash
If you are feeling a little more adventurous for your trip to Tibet, then the 15-day tour, which includes both Mount Kailash and Mount Everest while you travel to Lhasa, is a great adventure that will take you to the highest mountain in the world and the holiest mountain in the world in one fell swoop.
Heading north from Gyirong, you will reach the sacred lake of Manasarovar, known as the place where Maya Devi received the Buddha and where Buddhists and Hindus bathe in the lake to rid themselves of a lifetime of sin. Then it is on the nearby sacred mountain of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and Bonpo, Mount Kailash. At only 6,638 meters, this is still the highest mountain in the Gangdise Mountains of the Transhimalaya and the place of Tibet's most arduous journey, Mount Kailash kora.
After completing the three-day hike around the holy mountain, you will travel south again to stop at the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest. With its base camp on the northern slope at an altitude of 5,200 meters, peaks rise above the Himalayan range, and the view from the base camp in Tibet is the best in the world.
Then you will continue to Shigatse and Gyantse and the sacred Yamdrok Lake as you cross the Tibetan plateau to the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Then you have three days to explore this breathtaking city of the sun and discover the Potala Palace's treasures and the ancient Jokhang Temple, which have been unknown to the outside world for over 1,000 years.
The trip from Nepal to Tibet by airplane
There are daily flights from Kathmandu throughout the year, with several flights during the preceding travel months of Tibetan tourists. The flights from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport take about 90 minutes to cross the 607-kilometer-long plateau and directly over the summit of Mount Everest.
What is the best and fastest way to get from Nepal to Lhasa?
These flights are not cheap and can cost up to $300 per person on a simple economy flight. Daily flights are operated by two major Chinese airlines, Air China and Sichuan Airlines, and depart in the morning, which means you have time to explore the city of the sun a little before your first day in Tibet is over. For many people traveling to Tibet from international locations outside of Asia, Nepal is a popular stopover before flying to Tibet.
Travel documents needed to enter Tibet from Nepal
To enter Tibet from Nepal, you must have several documents before you are allowed to cross the border. This requirement to have all necessary documents applies to both land and air travel. It is not possible to enter Tibet from Nepal without having all documents in your possession.
Chinese visa and group permit for Tibet-Nepal
The first thing you need is the Tibet Travel Permit, which is required to enter Tibet and travel in the Lhasa region. You will receive this from us with a scanned copy of your passport before your trip. Processing usually takes up to 15-20 days, so it is advisable to book well in advance to ensure that the permit is ready for your departure date.
You will also need a Chinese group visa, a special visa that is only available to those entering Tibet from Nepal. It is not possible personally or in advance but is issued on your behalf by your travel agent upon arrival in Kathmandu for your trip to Tibet. After your arrival, we will receive your passport and apply for it at the Chinese Embassy, which does not allow personal applications. Processing usually takes three working days, so you should be in Nepal at least five days before your trip.
Other documents for the travel to Tibet
There are other special permits required for travel in Tibet, and while they are required for travel to specific places on the plateau, they are also required for those flying to Lhasa, even if there is no contact with the ground in that area.
The first is the Foreigners Travel Permit, which is required for travel to the "non-open" areas of Tibet outside of Lhasa. You will typically receive this permit when traveling from mainland China to Lhasa, but for those traveling from Nepal, we will apply for and receive the license on your behalf before your journey. The other permit usually required in Lhasa is the border passport, which is necessary for all travelers going to the general areas of China's border with Nepal, India, and Bhutan. We also request this passport in advance so that it is ready when you are ready to travel.
Finally, you will also need the restricted areas, also known as a military permit. It is required for travel to certain military restricted regions of Tibet, such as Ngari and Nyingchi. It is only required to enter Tibet from Nepal if it takes you to Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture. Like the Tibet travel permit, it is requested in advance and can take up to two weeks.