Traveling from Lhasa to Nyingchi is an easy route, and there are several options for tourists. While you can take this trip by flight, it is often better to do so by car, traveling overland to the area of Tibet known as the Swiss Alps of Tibet. The new open Lhasa to Nyingchi railway further offers a convenient way to travel. Read on to know the details.
Where is Nyingchi in Tibet?
The prefecture-level city of Nyingchi lies to the east of Lhasa, in the lower southeastern area of the Tibetan plateau. A distance of roughly 419 kilometers from Lhasa, Nyingchi is noted for its stunning landscapes, beautiful lush scenery, and alpine views.
Nyingchi Prefecture-Level City lies to the east of Lhasa.
Bordered to the west by Lhasa and Shannan, to the north by Nagqu and Chamdo, and the east by Sichuan Province, Nyingchi lies at the foot of the eastern Himalayas, and is provided with the most outstanding views you could ever imagine.
Lhasa to Nyingchi by Overland
Traveling from Lhasa to Nyingchi by overland is the best option for travelers to this alpine area of the plateau, and you do have a choice of the northern or southern route. While many choose the northern route to Nyingchi for the faster trip and better roads, especially now the new expressway is open, some do opt for the longer and more scenic southern route, through Lhoka Prefecture.
1. North Route - the Classic One
Road Route: Lhasa - Mila Pass - Gongbo Gyamda - Basum Tso - Bayi Town (400 km)
The route to Nyingchi from Lhasa in the north follows the new Lhasa Nyingchi Expressway, a faster multi-lane highway that has replaced the former highway. Recently opened to traffic, the expressway has made travel to the eastern prefecture of Tibet faster and more comfortable, reducing driving time from 8 hours to around 5 hours to cover the vast 400-kilometer distance.
Lhasa to Nyingchi highway along well-paved road
The road passes through several amazing locations along its length, the first of which is the famous Mila Mountain. No longer does the road head up over the Mila Mountain Pass, but instead drills its way through the mountain to emerge on the other side. Cutting 5.27 kilometers through the mountain, the tunnel lies at an altitude of 4,750 meters, making it the highest highway tunnel in China.
Known in Tibet as Draksum Tso, the Basum Tso Lake is another amazing sight on the route to Nyingchi from Lhasa. Located at an altitude of around 3,700 meters, this unique lake is renowned as one of the most beautiful in eastern Tibet. Surrounded by stunning mountains, and the subject of dozens of mythical stories and legends, the lake is also the site of Tashi Island, home to the Tso Dzong, a Nyingmapa chapel in Tibetan Buddhism. For those traveling to Nyingchi from Lhasa for the first time, the northern route is the best route to take.
Amazing Basum Tso Lake is a must-see in Nyingchi.
2. South Route - the Scenic One
Road Route: Lhasa - Samye Monastery - Tsedang - Mainling - Bayi Town (600 km)
If you love sightseeing, then the southern route is the best option for you. Traveling down from Lhasa into Shannan Prefecture, known here as Lhoka, the route then heads west through Tsedang, the seat of Shannan, and on to Mainling County in Nyingchi before heading finally to Bayi Town, the center of Nyingchi Prefecture.
Samye Monastery is a highlight along the south route from Lhasa to Nyingchi.
A distance of around 607 kilometers, this scenic southern route takes around 11 hours 30 minutes to drive, and should only be done by experienced drivers. A long drive to the center of Nyingchi Prefecture, the route passes by several amazing attractions that are well worth visiting for those that have the time to take this extended trip through Shannan.
One of the main attractions of this route is the Samye Monastery, an ancient 8th-century monastery that lies at the foot of Mount Hepo Ri to the north of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Further along the route, you will pass through Tsedang, the seat of Shannan Prefecture and the main town in what is known as the Cradle of Tibetan Civilization. Tsedang is also the location of the Yumbulakang Palace, the first building in Tibet.
Lhasa to Nyingchi by Train
Since the completion of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway, the train journey from Lhasa to Nyingchi offers a faster way for tourists to travel between the two cities. It is a wonderful journey of remarkable experience, covering a distance of approximately 402 kilometers through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in Tibet.
The Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway landscapes.
The train departs twice every day from Lhasa Railway Station, respectively at 8:00 and 13:45 am, and takes about 4 hours to reach Nyingchi Railway Station. On the way, it passes through small towns and villages, including Gonggar and Bayi, providing passengers with stunning views of the snow-capped mountains, glaciers, deep valleys, and lush green forests.
There are three different types of seats on the Lhasa to Nyingchi bullet train: second class, first class, and business class. The second class is the most economical, with open seating. First class offers more comfortable seating arrangements, and business class has private compartments. You can choose the one that best suits your need and budget.
Lhasa to Nyingchi by Flight
While there is an airport in Nyingchi - the Nyingchi Mainling Airport - there are currently no flights scheduled from Lhasa to Nyingchi. If you want to take a flight to Nyingchi, you will need to first fly from Lhasa to one of the cities in mainland China. In total, you can expect it to take around 10 hours to travel to Nyingchi via mainland China, which is twice the time of the normal drive, and around 20 times more costly.
Nyingchi Mainling Airport is the only one airport in this region.
However, if you are intending to take a flight to Nyingchi, and are willing to travel to mainland China to do so, there are direct flights from Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an etc. From Chengdu, there are four daily flights, departing at around 7:00 to 8:30 in the morning, which take around 2 hours 15 minutes to reach Nyingchi’s Mainling Airport.
From Xi’an, there are three daily flights departing at around 6: 30 to 7:30, and landing in Nyingchi at around 9:00 to 11:30, taking 2 hours 30 minutes to reach Mainling Airport.
However, Nyingchi Mainling Airport is located in a mountain valley at 2,949 meters above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains. While it is the lowest airport in Tibet, it is also the hardest to get to, due to its location. The airport is often enveloped in clouds and fog throughout much of the year, and on average, flights can often only run for around 100 days of the whole year, so you may be out of luck.
Can I Cycle from Lhasa to Nyingchi?
With the road to Nyingchi from Lhasa being a decent highway, cycling is one option you can choose to get to the prefecture, though you will need to be pretty fit to manage the long 400-kilometer ride. The trip normally takes around four days, and there are plenty of towns and villages that you can stop in along the way, for meals or just to rest and enjoy the scenery.
We can arrange cycling tour from Lhasa to Nyingchi for you.
However, as international tourists are not permitted to travel independently in Tibet, you will need to be on a booked tour with a registered travel agency that will provide your guide and support vehicle. We can arrange this for you, and make your dream of cycling along the Tibetan plateau come true.
The road from Lhasa to Nyingchi has plenty of hostels and guesthouses along the route, so you will have plenty of options for accommodation to suit your needs. There are also places to eat along the way, but in case you are not a fan of Tibetan and Sichuan cuisines, you might need to bring some packet foods with you.
There are many ways to get to Nyingchi from Lhasa, including overland, by train and by cycling. And first of all, you need to prepare the required documents including Tibet Travel Permit, Alien’s Travel Permit, etc. Luckily, we can help to arrange them on your behalf, so that you can enjoy your Lhasa and Nyingchi tour smoothly and worry-freely. For more questions about traveling from Lhasa to Nyingchi, please feel free to contact us for inquiries.
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