Flying to Lhasa for your Tibet tour is one of the most popular ways to travel to the region, and in comparison to the trains, it is the fastest method of travel. While they may have a more scenic route across the plateau to Tibet, the extensive time it takes to use the train is not everyone’s first choice.
With dozens of flights to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital every day, it is easy to get to Tibet quickly, and the flights leave from 18 different airports across China. The main cities for flights to Tibet include Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, and Kunming, among others, and with a flight time of around 3 to 6 hours, it means you can be in Tibet faster, allowing you more time to relax and acclimatize ready for your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
You can also take a flight to Lhasa from the only international departure location in the world, Nepal. The flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa run daily and are a popular way to get to Tibet, with carriers including Air China and Air Tibet.
Lhasa Gonggar international Airport is the only international airport in Tibet, and is the main arrivals hub for majority of the flights to the region. The airport connects Lhasa to multiple cities across China, as well as the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. However, even though there are a large number of airports available from which to take your flight to Tibet, you are advised to book your flight as early as possible to avoid missing out on your preferred flight to the region. Even the flights can be booked out fairly quickly, especially in the summer months when demand is at its peak.
Flights to Lhasa from Mainland China
Flights to Lhasa depart from a large number of cities across China, and the most popular of these cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi’an. Chengdu is the most popular of all the routes to China, and is a flight of only around two and a half hours. Chengdu-Lhasa Flights leave Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport 12 times a day, and cost from around US$ 290 for an economy flight to Lhasa. Cheaper flights can be found from Chengdu, thanks to the additional discounts that can be had when booking through the airport itself, and there are indirect flights through Kunming and Xining that can make the cost of the flight cheaper.
Enjoy a panoramic view of the Himalayas on the flight to Tibet
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is another popular airport for flights to Tibet from Chongqing, with more than ten flights per day to the Tibetan capital airport. Chongqing often has more discounts for flights to Lhasa than Chengdu, and for those flying through the airport it can be the cheaper option if budget is an issue. On average, the cost of a regular economy flight to Lhasa is around US$ 280 per person, and with the available discounts, it can be a very affordable option. Flights take around 7-9 hours to get to Lhasa, depending on whether direct or indirect flights, and the major carriers from Chongqing are Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines.
In the east of China, Beijing and Shanghai also offer direct flights to Tibet, and both offer connecting flights that run via Chengdu or Xi’an. Flights from Shanghai to Lhasa departing from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport or Hongqiao International Airport can take from 5-9 hours, depending on direct or indirect, while Beijing-Lhasa flights from Beijing Capital international Airport take around four hours direct or 6-7 hours via Chengdu. From Shanghai, flights start at around US$ 530, while it is a little cheaper from Beijing at around US$ 515. Both Shanghai and Beijing are considered to be good gateway cities for flights to Tibet.
Xi’an also has both direct and indirect flights to Lhasa, and is one of the major air traffic hubs in China for international and domestic flights. The Xian Xianyang International Airport offers seven direct flights per day, which take around three hours, as well as several indirect flights via Xiahe and Xining that can take up to 8-9 hours. Xi’an is a popular gateway to Lhasa because of the stunning tourist attractions of the area, including the world-renowned Terracotta Warriors. Flights from Xi’an to Lhasa cost from around US$ 360 per person for an economy ticket.
Flights also run from several other cities in China, although there are less daily flights to Lhasa from other places, and the costs are sometimes higher due to the lower numbers of tourists traveling to Lhasa from other areas of China. There are five flights from Xining to Lhasa, which can take from 3-7 hours, depending on connections, and cost from around US$ 290, while from Kunming, the four direct flights cost from US$ 360 and take from 3-5 hours. Kunming Airport is actually a major international hub these days, with flights arriving from Europe, America, Canada, and several other international locations.
Flights to Lhasa from Kathmandu, Nepal
Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal is the only international airport outside China that offers direct flights to Tibet, and there are at least four flights per day. The airport, which is located around six kilometers from the city center of Kathmandu, operates the direct flights with Tibet Airlines, Air China, Sichuan Airlines, and China Eastern, and the average direct flight takes around 90 minutes to cover the 600-kilometer distance to Lhasa.
Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal
Nepal is a popular departure location for travel to Tibet, both overland and by flight, although the cost of the flight is a lot more expensive than from any city in China, at around 700 US dollars for an economy flight. However, despite it being more expensive, the ease of getting the visa from Kathmandu for entry to Tibet has made it a viable route.
The flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is also considered to be one of the most stunning routes in terms of view, as the flights pass directly over Mount Everest on the way to the Tibetan capital, and passengers get a good view of Everest, Lhotse, Kanchenjunga, and several other high peaks from the windows of the plane. And since the average flight altitude of 30,000 feet is just a little higher than the world’s highest mountain, the views are stupendous and clear.
Where is Lhasa Airport
Lhasa Gonggar International Airport is located some distance from the Tibetan capital, at Jiazhulin Town in Gonggar County of Shannan Prefecture. At 62 kilometers from the city, it takes around 60-90 minutes to get to the center of Lhasa, and it lies on the road towards Tsedang, the capital of Shannan Prefecture. At an elevation of around 3,570 meters, it is one of the highest airports in the world.
The original airport in Tibet was in Damxung County, to the north of Lhasa, and was run as the main airport from 1956 to 1965, when the airport moved to its present location in Gonggar County. A relatively flat area of land fringed in the south by mountains, sitting on the edge of the Yarlung Zangbo River Valley, is the site of the airport, and the runways all run east/west due to the wind directions and the mountains and river either side of it.
How to Get to Lhasa Downtown from the Airport
Getting to the airport from Lhasa and vice versa, for many tourists to Lhasa, is not much of a problem, as foreign tourists are not permitted to travel around Tibet without their guide, driver, and private vehicle. On arrival at the airport, a driver and guide will normally pick up the tourists entering via flight, and transport them to their respective hotels in Lhasa. On certain occasions, if there are very few passengers, a local taxi is used, but public transport, even the airport shuttle bus, is not permitted to allow foreign tourists to travel on it.
Upon your arrival, our Tibetan tour guide will pick you up on time
A taxi from Lhasa Gonggar International Airport costs around 80-100 CNY, and takes a little over an hour to reach the center of Lhasa, while the shuttle bus costs as little as 25 CNY for the same trip, and does it in almost the same time. Pickup for the shuttle bus is at the Domestic Arrival hall of the airport, and it is a cheap and easy way to get to the city for Chinese tourists arriving by air.
Tips for Taking a Flight to Lhasa
Flights to Lhasa leave from all over China and Kathmandu, and all have the same thing in common: you cannot board a plane to Tibet without the original copy of your Tibet Travel Permit. Only available through booking a tour with a Tibetan tour operator, the permit is arranged by them, and delivered to you before you fly.
Lhasa lies at an altitude of 3,656 meters above sea level, and taking a flight does not allow for acclimatization to the increased altitude. This can possibly lead to altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), and can range from mild headaches, nausea, and vomiting to more severe symptoms and even aneurisms. It is advisable to rest well once you reach your hotel in Lhasa before you starting your Lhasa tour, and allow your body to acclimatize properly, drinking lots of water and eating small meals of high protein and vegetables.
Lhasa is a temperate area of Tibet, and average temperatures fluctuate less than in other areas of the region. The high temperatures in the summer months can reach as much as 25 degrees Celsius, with lows at night of around 4-5 degrees, although it has been known to reach freezing even in the summer. Winter temperatures are much colder, with nighttime lows of around -7 to -10 degrees, and highs of around 8-10 degrees in the daytime. Packing warm clothes is a must for Tibet, even if you are visiting in summer, as it can still get chilly.