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Sichuan Tibet Railway: A Faster Train Ride to Lhasa from Chengdu in the Future

Last Update: March 11, 2023

Currently, the only way to get to Lhasa by train from Chengdu is to take the famous Tibet Trains that take you along the scenic Qinghai Tibet Railway. But this will not always be the case, and in a few years, you will be able to travel on a direct line from Chengdu to Lhasa by train.

This is the upcoming Sichuan Tibet Railway, which will eventually be the shortest railway connection to Tibet, instead of one of the longest via the Qinghai Tibet Railway.

Sichuan Tibet Railway is Under Construction

The Sichuan Tibet Railway is still currently under construction, and is not expected to be completed before 2026, though some experts say it could be as late as 2030. Construction began on the opposing ends of the railway line back in 2014, and two sections of the line are already completed and open for use.

Sichuan Tibet Railway Under ConstructionThe Sichuan Tibet Railway is under construction.

An Express Railway to Tibet

One main advantage of Sichuan Tibet Railway will be the reduction in the time it takes to travel from Chengdu to Lhasa. The current route covers a distance of 3,070 kilometers. However, the new line will shorten the journey by reducing the distance to around 1,629 kilometers. This new route will be even shorter than the Xining to Lhasa route, which is the main part of the Qinghai Tibet Railway.

The line begins in Chengdu West Station, and consists of three sections which are built and operated in stages. Both the first part and the final part have already been completed. The first part follows the route from Chengdu to Ya’an, a section that covers around 140 kilometers. The final section is from Lhasa to Nyingchi and covers around 434 kilometers.

Chengduxi Railway StationChengduxi Railway Station

The second section will run from Ya’an to Nyingchi, in the easternmost prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Covering around 1,200 kilometers, this is the longest and most complicated section of tracks to be laid, passing through mountains in the eastern ends of the mighty Himalayas.

The route will run roughly parallel to the G318 Sichuan Tibet Highway, and will pass through Litang, Zogang, and Bomi on its long route to Nyingchi. Construction of Ya’an to Nyingchi section began in 2020, and is expected to last for around 7-8 years before completion.

Chengdu to Ya’an Railway Section

The rail line from Chengdu to Ya’an has been operational since December 28, 2018, and has become an essential route for travelers heading to western Sichuan. With a design speed of around 200 kilometers per hour, it has dramatically reduced travel time. Covering a distance of about 140 kilometers, dozens of high-speed trains departing daily take just 1 to 1.5 hours to make the trip.  

Chengdu to Ya 'an high-speed railwayChengdu to Ya'an high-speed railway has been operational.

The train passes through 11 stations, including Wenjiang, Chongzhou, Dayi, Qionglai, and Pujiang, stopping briefly for pick-ups at all main stations. A second-class seat ticket for the journey from Chengdu to Ya’an typically costs around eight dollars per person.

This train line provides a perfect jumping-off point for exploring the ancient city of Ya’an, which has a rich history of over 2,000 years, as well as the renowned Bifengxia Panda Center.

Lhasa to Nyingchi Railway Section

The Nyingchi to Lhasa Railway, the final section of the Sichuan Tibet Railway, has also been put into operation since 2021. It makes travel between these two popular tourist destinations much faster.  

The Nyingchi to Lhasa RailwayThe Nyingchi to Lhasa Railway is now put into use.

Covering a distance of around 434 kilometers, the line passes directly through the mountains, with around 75 percent of the tracks being made up of bridges and tunnels. It boasts stunning scenery, passing through picturesque mountains, deep valleys, and crystal-clear rivers.

The bullet train from Lhasa to Nyingchi departs two times every day, and only takes about 4 hours to complete the journey. With this new railway section, tourists can now experience the beauty of eastern Tibet with ease and comfort.

Other Available Ways to Travel from Chengdu to Lhasa

While the Sichuan Tibet Railway is still in construction, there are plenty of other ways by which you can travel from Chengdu to Lhasa. And while some of them may still be a lot longer, they still have some amazing benefits, not the least of which are the amazing views.

1. Chengdu to Lhasa Train via Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Being one of the most popular train routes from mainland China to Lhasa, the Chengdu to Lhasa train is an amazing journey of adventure and discovery. A journey of around 36 hours 18 minutes, which covers a distance of 3,070 kilometers, the train from Chengdu to Lhasa is a hot route in China with international tourists.

Qinghai-Tibet RailwayTraveler can take the Qinghai-Tibet Train via Xining.

Trains from Chengdu to Lhasa depart every other day. The trains are equipped with three types of seating classes, from hard seats and hard sleepers to luxurious soft sleepers, the most expensive way to travel. However, it is still cheaper than traveling by flight, so is well worth the cost.

From Chengdu, the train heads in a loop to reach the plateau, passing through Guangyuan, Lanzhou, Xining, Delingha, Golmud, and Nagqu. Crossing over Kunlun Mountain, the Tuotuo River, and the Tanggula Pass, this amazing route has some of the most outstanding views in the world.

2. Chengdu to Lhasa Overland Trip

Another option for traveling to Lhasa from Chengdu is to take an amazing overland trip. Probably the most beautiful overland journey on the planet, the road route from Chengdu to Lhasa takes you through mountains and valleys in the eastern end of the mighty Himalayas.

G318 National HighwayThe stunning scenery along G318 National Highway

The tour follows the route of the infamous G318 National Highway, parts of which are rated as some of the most dangerous roads in the world. The road heads west from Chengdu, passing through Kangding and Xinduqiao, before crossing into Tibet at Markam, and continuing through Zogong, Bomi, and Nyingchi to Lhasa.

Covering an immense distance of 2,146 kilometers, the overland trip from Chengdu to Lhasa takes you up into the eastern mountains of the Himalayas, and through diverse natural landscapes that are the locations of many small Tibetan communities and villages. The road through Nyingchi reaches altitudes of just over 5,000 meters in places, and passes such amazing sights as the Midui Glacier, Rawu Tso, and the beautiful and sacred Basum Tso.

3. Chengdu to Lhasa Flight

Chengdu has many daily direct flights to Lhasa, with the earliest flights starting at less than 6 a.m. and continuing until 10 p.m. The average flight time is only about two and a half hours. If you are in a rush without surplus time, you can choose to take the flight to Tibet from Chengdu.

Lhasa Gongga AirportOur Tibetan guide will pick you up at Lhasa Gongga Airport.

The main airlines operating the Chengdu to Lhasa flights are Tibet Airlines, Air China, Sichuan Airlines. The flight departs from Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, which is located 16 km southwest of Chengdu. Passengers can take a taxi, metro line 10, or airport shuttle bus directly to the airport from downtown.


The Sichuan Tibet Railway may not be ready to be used for several years, but once completed, it will offer a faster and more comfortable way to travel. Meanwhile, there are other options available for those wanting to visit Tibet. You can take the Chengdu to Lhasa train via Qinghai-Tibet Railway, or take a flight, or an overland trip. For more questions about Tibet travel, please feel free to contact us for inquiries.

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