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3 Different Ways to Travel from Chengdu to Lhasa

Last Update: May 19, 2020

Chengdu, being the capital city of Sichuan, always emits a cosmopolitan flair with the sober skies and tall building and crawling traffic. Yes, it might seem like a dull place in the surface, but you will soon realize that’s not the case. Chengdu is the home for the pandas, amazing cuisine, and a starting point to the journey to the “Land of Snows”; From Chengdu you can get to Tibet by air, road, and train.

Chengdu to Lhasa by Train:

Of the six routes, Chengdu is one of the most popular gateways to Tibet and the third shortest too. The frequency of trains from Chengdu is higher and so it is easier to obtain tickets compared to other starting points.

Chengdu to Lhasa Train Schedule

Chengdu Lhasa train is air-conditioned with pressurized cabins, oxygen supply system. The windows have UV filters. The train goes to Lhasa every other day, meaning odd days in certain months (February, March, June, July, September, and October); even days in certain months (January, April, May, August, November, and December.) It’s the vice versa while coming back from Lhasa.

The train journey covers a distance of about 3000 kilometers, and will take about 36 hours for the whole ride. From Chengdu at 485 m, the train will go through huge altitude change before it finally reaches Lhasa, at an elevation of 3650 meters. Fortunately, after passing Golmud (2780m), the train will offer the oxygen supply throughout the cabin.

Chengdu Lhasa Train Timetable

Train No.Train RouteDep./Arr.Duration
Z322 Chengdu/Lhasa 21:37/9:55 36hrs
Z324 Lhasa/Chengdu 18:40/6:58 36hrs

Attractions along Chengdu Tibet Train Journey

Only after crossing Lanzhou you will be seeing some of the prettiest and eye- pleasing sceneries. Here are some of the attractions you will see along the way.

1) Qinghai Lake:

At an elevation of 3, 200m, Qinghai is the largest island saltwater lake in China. The beauty is even more amplified during the seasons of summer and autumn. This lake is also one of the favourites among the photographers to capture the sunrise along the horizon.

The sunset in Qinghai LakeThe sunset in Qinghai Lake

2) The Bird Island:

Fondly called the Bird Island, the island in the western shore of Qinghai lake is a haven for birds. More than 20 varieties of birds migrate here during summer months when the ice melts off. The air sings the melodies of these birds like a never ending record player.

The Bird IslandThe Bird Island

3) Cha’erhan Salt Lake:

The distinctive smell of salt in this region gave it the name ‘a world of salt.’ It is also popular for its mirror like reflective water surface. In this region you can see a lot of nomads and local tents.

Cha’erhan Salt LakeCha’erhan Salt Lake

4) Kunlun mountains:

Kunlun Mountains the snow-capped beauties of China are at an altitude of 5000- 6000m. They are covered in snow all around the year and cold even during months of summer. You will see a sudden shift in scenery and temperature when you go through this area.

Kunlun mountainsKunlun mountains

5) Hoh Xil (Kekexilli):

Being the largest depopulated area in China and third largest in the world, it has an average elevation of 4, 000m. The harsh climate changes and thin air made it inhabitable to man but a haven to the animals. Some of the wildlife that inhabit there are Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, snow pheasants, wild yaks, snow leopards, black- necked cranes, and white- lip deer. If you are lucky, you can see a couple or more from the train.

Tibetan antelopes in Hoh XilTibetan antelopes in Hoh Xil

Next you will cross the Tanggula pass, which is the highest point of elevation in the whole journey at 5, 072m and Tuotuo River.

Tanggula passTanggula pass

Next you will be crossing the Tsonag Lake which is one of the highest fresh water lakes in the world, followed by Yambajan hot springs, famous for its hot springs boiling out of cold plateau phenomenon, and then finally Lhasa, capital of Tibet.

Tsonag LakeTsonag Lake

Life onboard Chengdu to Tibet Train

Food:

There is plenty food and drinks available in the train. Every train has a separate dining car where they prepare the food. You get western breakfast with eggs, coffee, toast and such. But for lunch and dinner you get only Tibetan and Chinese food with a lot of noodles varieties to choose from. The food on train is little expensive than on land. For lunch and dinner each dish in CNY 25, so the total cost for two would be around CNY 100. In case you’t want to spend so much on train you can buy noodle cups and other snacks from supermarkets or stations as there is unlimited supply of hot water in the train.

Dining car in the trainDining car in the train

Medical facilities:

There are trained doctors and nurses in the train in case of any medical emergencies. Since a lot of them face altitude sickness, there are oxygen tanks in the train for those who need them. Acclimatization by train is much better than going in flight, as the altitude change is too sudden and sometimes our body cannot handle well. Do visit your doctor before taking up this trip and get medicines according to your body condition. There are emergency buttons in bathroom that alert the nurses in case something happens.

Oxygen supply system in the trainOxygen supply system in the train

Toilet and other amenities:

There are both western and Asian style toilets. One each at the end of every car. They are clean and maintained well, but towards the end of the journey they seem to become a little dirty. Do buy your own toilet paper and towels before getting on the train. Due to long hours of journey, the toilet paper in the bathroom might get over pretty fast.

Toilets in the trainToilets in the train

Chengdu to Lhasa by Flight:

There are more than ten direct flights from Chengdu to Lhasa every day. The flight leaves from early morning to late night from Chengdu Shuangliu Airport and will take only about 2 hours to get to Lhasa. In spite of the number of the flights, during the peak season the flights are almost always booked. So, it is better to make your reservation in advance.

Chengdu Lhasa Flight Schedule

AirlineDep./Arr.TimingsDuration
Chengdu Airlines Chengdu/Lhasa 6:30-9:00 2h 30m
Tibet Airlines Chengdu/Lhasa 6:00-8:30
12:50-15:15
22:05-00:30
2h 25m
Sichuan Airlines Chengdu/Lhasa 7:00-9:35
7:30-10:05
8:30-11:05
11:25-14:15
2h 35m
Air China Chengdu/Lhasa 6:00-8:30
6:15-8:45
7:20-9:45
12:50-15:15
13:05-15:35
22:05-00:30
2h 30m
China Eastern Chengdu/Lhasa 7:00-9:35
8:30-11:05
10:35-13:10
11:25-14:15
2h 35m
Shenzhen Airlines Chengdu/Lhasa 6:00-8:30
12:50-15:15
22:05-00:30
2h 25m

For travelling to Tibet by flight, the altitude change happens too fast and too sudden unlike the way by train or road. Since Chengdu is at an elevation of 500m and Lhasa is around 3, 650m. When taking the flight there will be no time for you acclimatize to the high elevation. You might have nausea, light headedness and other symptoms of altitude sickness. It’s advised to have a good rest after your arrival in Lhasa. Running and jumping should be avoided. Before travelling consult your doctor, get medicines suiting your body conditions.

Chengdu to Lhasa by Road:

Sichuan-Tibet highway is one of the six highways to Tibet and the longest high altitude highway in China as of now. It took four- six years to build make this highway accessible. This highway is divided into two routes: the northern route and the southern route. Both start from Chengdu and end at Lhasa. This route is known to be one of the hardest road trips in the world.

In this route the local lifestyle and culture are deeply intertwined and is maintained till today. The scenery is full of deep gorges and virgin forests. It is common to get stuck for a few days in case of heavy rainfall in this route. The best time to travel would be May, June, September, October, and November. Packages are available for July and August, but be warned these two months see a lot of rainfall. The route is closed during the winter months from December to April.

Sichuan - Tibet Highway Northern Route

The Sichuan-Tibet Highway Northern Route is the longest part of this highway. Compare with the Southern Route, it is a more roundabout route. The Northern Route takes around two weeks to traverse. The Northern Route is the best route for those who are interested in exploring more of the Kham Tibetan culture and history, and is best done using a good four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Distance: 2, 293km
Duration: 50h (approx.)
Travel Route:
Chengdu—348km—Danba—82km—Bamei—243km—Garze—205km—Dege—253km— Chamdo—989km—Lhasa

Attractions along Sichuan - Tibet Highway Northern Route

1) Wolong National Natural Reserve:

It is p resent in Qionglai Mountains region and was established in 1963. It covers a total area of 200,000 hectares and houses golden monkey, white lipped deer and more 150 rare panda endangered species.

Wolong National Natural ReserveWolong National Natural Reserve

2) Mt. Siguniang:

This comes near Xiaojin. Siguniang literally means four pretty girls in Chinese indicating the four separate mountains. The mountains are at elevation of 6, 250m, 5, 664m, 5, 454m and 5, 355m.

Mt. SiguniangMt. Siguniang

3) Danba ancient block towers:

These are famous ancient block towers built by the Qiang minority group. It is used for living and fighting. The buildings are cast in iron.

Danba ancient block towers title=Danba ancient block towers

4) Huiyuan Monastery:

Next you will be travelling to Bamei. Huiyuan Monastery is located in the northeast part of the city. This monastery is a good resting place.

Huiyuan MonasteryHuiyuan Monastery

5) Yulong La- tso Lake:

You will be passing some of the largest monasteries in Garze. While going towards Dage you will come across the magnificent Yulong La- tso Lake. The beautiful lake is backed by huge glaciers. It is at a height of 6, 018m. If you want a better view, you can trek a couple of hours from the left side of the lake.

Yulong La- tso LakeYulong La- tso Lake

6) Namtso Lake:

Namtso Lake is also known for its beauty and sacredness. It is the highest saline lake in Tibet and is at an elevation of 4, 718m. It is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the Nyainqentanglha Mountain range. It is lies in between the Damxung county of Lhasa prefecture and Baingoin County of Nagqu prefecture.

Namtso LakeNamtso Lake

Now you will be getting closer to Lhasa. After driving 245km from the lake you get to the infamous Yanbajing hot springs. You can rest up a little bit before leaving to Lhasa which is just 75km from there.

Sichuan- Tibet Highway Southern Route

The Sichuan-Tibet highway southern route was formally opened in 1958, which begins in Chengdu and terminates in Lhasa. It is praised as the most beautiful road to Tibet. There are picturesque landscapes along the way, including magnificent canyons, expansive grasslands, etc. It is a golden route for travelers and photographers to enter Tibet by overland. Tourists can also experience the colorful Tibetan culture along the way.

Distance: 2, 149km
Duration: 43h (approx.)
Travel Route:
Chengdu—297km—Kangding—71km—Xingduqiao—bridge—205km—Litang—276km—Markam—157km—Zogang—290km—Ranwu—358km—Nyingchi—401km—Lha

Attraction along Sichuan- Tibet Highway Southern Route

The southern route is also nothing short of scenic wonders. Here are some of the wonders you will see along the way.

1) Mugecuo Lake:

Mugecuo is one of the biggest highland lakes in China and it is popularly known as the ‘savage lake.’ It lies at an elevation of 2, 600m- 3, 780m. This lake has hot springs, trees, forest, snow peaks, and unique stones.

Mugecuo LakeMugecuo Lake

2) Hailuogou:

Hailuogou is a unique glacier park in China. The park here boasts many attractions like ice falls, virgin forests, khampa culture, and glaciers. This place is one of the core scenic spots in the Gongga Mountain area and will make you take out camera and click right away.

HailuogouHailuogou

3) Maoya grasslands:

Maoya grasslands is a huge grassland surrounded by mountains in the west of Litang. You can also see Genie Mountains along with the grasslands. It is formed by three main sacred peaks at an elevation of 6, 224m, 5, 807m, and 5, 780m.

Maoya grasslandsMaoya grasslands

4) Midui Glaciers:

When you drive towards Bomi County, you will see a soike in the number of glaciers. The most famous of all is the Midui Glaciers which is dubbed as ‘world wonders of the glaciers.’ It is situated in the main peak at an elevation of 6, 800m.

Midui GlaciersMidui Glaciers

5) Lulang forest:

Lulang forest has many kinds of rare plants growing here and it is easy to get attracted to the serene natural beauty here. This place is also famous for Shiguo Chicken, it is known be super delicious and very different.

Lulang forestLulang forest

Now before entering Lhasa you will come across these beauties too: Nyang River, a major river in south- west Tibet and longest tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo River; Basum Lake known for the snow mountains in the background and beautiful views of seagulls and cranes in and around the; Mila Mountain Pass, from where you journey is almost to an end.

Nyang RiverNyang River

Car Rental and Other Tips:

The best car to hire would be land cruiser as there more storage space for luggage. You have go through an agency if you want go by road. Foreigners are not allowed to drive by themselves. You need an agency approved guide and driver with you and also all the required permits. The car rental will be billed in terms of distance. It will be CNY 4- CNY 6 per kilometre. Although you can find enough food and restaurants along the way, it is best to pack some food with you in case they are closed or you don’t find the food you want. It is common get altitude sickness. So if you have time you can acclimatize by staying a couple of days in some places.

The best car to hire would be land cruiserThe best car to hire would be land cruiser

Make sure you consult your physician before taking this tour because; this route is one of the toughest roads trips in the world. Do not forget to buy some oxygen tanks; you might need in places with higher altitudes. Carry warm clothing as it is generally cold and gets even colder at the night. Sometimes they are really cold, thermal wear and just jerkins will not do. Add more layers on your clothing to stay warmer.

Conclusion

Lhasa is the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, and is one of the most mystical cities in the world. It attracts thousands of tourists to visit every year. There are several ways to get to Lhasa from Chengdu, which way you choose depends on your own personal preference, time, and your budget. Flying is the fastest one, while the train is much cheaper. If you want to stop to take photos and view the scenery, and you have plenty of time, travelling overland from Chengdu to Tibet will be a great choice. For more questions about the travel from Chengdu to Lhasa, you can just feel free to contact us.

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