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Lhasa to Kailash and Manasarovar Distance: How Far and How to Get There

Last Update: March 1, 2024

One of the most sought-after journeys on the Tibetan plateau is the excursion from Lhasa to Mount Kailash. Though Mount Kailash may not stand as tall as the Himalayan peaks, it holds the distinction of being regarded as the most sacred mountain in four religions globally. During your visit, you also have the opportunity to explore Lake Manasarovar, recognized as the world's highest freshwater lake. There are different routes to travel from Lhasa to Kailash and Manasarovar, either by overland or by flight. Read on to learn more details.

Where are Lhasa and Kailash Manasarovar? How Far are They?

Located in the far west of Tibet in the Ngari Prefecture, Mount Kailash is the highest mountain in the Gangdise Range of the Transhimalaya. Lying fairly close to the Chinese border with India, Mount Kailash sits to the north of the main road from Lhasa to Xinjiang, and directly opposite the sacred lake Manasarovar, one of the Great Three Sacred lakes of Tibet.

Mount Kailash 
 and Lake ManasarovarMount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in Ngari Prefecture of Tibet

From Lhasa, the road distance to Darchen, the closest village to Mount Kailash is around 1,309 kilometers, not including the distance for the side trip to Mount Everest. In a direct line, Darchen is around 957 kilometers from Lhasa, but unfortunately, there is no direct flight to the area of Mount Kailash. However, it is possible to fly to Gunsa Airport in Shiquanhe in Ngari Prefecture, and then drive south to the mountain. Most people tend to travel overland to Mount Kailash, though, as the long journey by road includes visits to Mount Everest Base Camp and other popular attractions along the way.

Lhasa to Kailash and Manasarovar by Road: The Classic South Route via EBC

Travel Route: Lhasa - Shigatse - EBC - Lake Manasarovar- Darchen - Mount Kailash
Total Distance: 1,577 kilometers

The southern route from Lhasa to Mount Kailash is not only shorter but also popular among tourists. Beginning in Lhasa, the route follows the G318 Friendship Highway, passing the stunning Lake Yamdrok, considered one of Tibet's most sacred lakes and believed to be the life-blood of the region.

Lake YamdrokStop at Lake Yamdrok for a stunning view

From the lakeshore, the road leads to Gyantse, once the largest town in Tibet, featuring the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the famous Gyantse Kumbum. Beyond Gyantse, the journey continues to Shigatse, the second-largest city and the initial stop on Mount Kailash tours from Lhasa. The following day, the tour proceeds along the G318, heading to Tingri, and takes the Zhufeng Road to the renowned Everest Base Camp and Rongbuk Monastery.

At Everest Base Camp, you can capture Mount Everest from various angles and enjoy a night's stay at the tent guesthouses. The following day, the route leads to Tibet's western region, the Ngari plateau, with Saga as the next stop—a small town in Shigatse Prefecture, just north of the famous Peiku Tso. Continuing from Saga, the road follows the G219, passing through Zhongba County and tracing the Yarlung Tsangpo River for a stretch. Finally, you'll pass by the north of the stunning Lake Manasarovar before reaching the small village of Darchen, the starting point of the Mount Kailash kora.

Rongbuk MonasteryWitness the grand Everest peak view at Rongbuk Monastery.

In total, the journey from Lhasa to Darchen, including stops at various attractions and a 3-day trek around Mount Kailash, requires approximately 15 days.

Most travelers heading for Mount Kailash prefer the southern route for several reasons. Not only is the route much shorter and faster compared to the northern route, but it is also well-paved for the entire journey. Moreover, the route traverses the most scenic places in Tibet, covering classic cities and cultural landmarks. Additionally, the southern route allows for a gradual ascent, making it easier for travelers to acclimatize to the high altitude towards Mount Kailash.

Lhasa to Kailash Manasarovar by Road: The Adventurous North Route via Namtso

Travel Route: Lhasa - Namtso Lake – Nyima – Coqen – Yagra– Darchen – Mount Kailash
Total Distance: 1,740 Kilometers

If you're feeling adventurous, think about taking the northern route. You'll follow a roundabout path, passing through Lake Namtso, and then continue across the northern prefecture of Nagqu to enter Ngari and reach Darchen from the north.

Lake NamtsoPhotograph the breathtaking Namtso Lake en route.

The journey begins in Lhasa, following the Qinghai-Tibet Highway to Damxung Town. From Damxung, a local road crosses the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains to reach Lake Namtso, known as the Heavenly Lake, which is the largest lake in Tibet.

After exploring Lake Namtso, the route continues across the provincial boundary into Nagqu Prefecture, heading northwest on the S301 to the small town of Baingoin. Spending the night in Baingoin, the route then heads west along the S604 to reach Nyima County, the westernmost county of Nagqu, crossing the vast Changtang grasslands, home to Tibetan antelopes, wild yaks, kiangs, and various other local wildlife.

Home to Tibetan wild animalsOne can expect to see rare Tibetan antelopes while traveling along the northern route to Mount Kailash.

Continuing west from Nyima, the road passes through North Wenbu and South Wenbu villages, taking smaller local roads to reach the town of Coqen for another stop. After Coqen, the route follows the S206 for a while before turning onto smaller roads, passing by the picturesque Ngang Lha Ring Tso Lake in Zhongba County of Shigatse.

Traversing an area with hundreds of small lakes and swamps between them, the route takes small local roads through Ringtor and Yagra, finally passing through Hor Qu near the northern shores of Lake Manasarovar to reach Darchen.

This route is slower than the Classic Route, featuring gravel, muddy, and unsecured sections depending on the location and weather. However, you'll have the chance to visit Namtso, one of the three holiest lakes in Tibet. Depending on the time of year, you might encounter a tranquil lake bordered by snow-capped or bare hills, with herds of yaks present regardless.

Throughout the rest of your journey, you'll traverse soil forests, snowy mountains, lakes, marshlands, and prairies. In essence, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of one of the world's most scenic and least populated areas.

Lhasa to Kailash Manasarovar by Flight: Time-saving yet Lack Altitude Acclimatization

If you're short on time and have adapted well to high altitudes, you might consider covering some ground from Lhasa to Kailash and Manasarovar by plane.

The nearest airport to Mount Kailash is located in Gunsa Village, just outside Shiquanhe Township, the seat of Ngari Prefecture. Darchen, the starting point for the Mount Kailash Kora trek, is around 200 kilometers from the airport. A direct flight from Lhasa covers a total distance of around 1,000 kilometers.

Known as Ngari Gunsa Airport, at an altitude of 4,274 meters, it is the fourth-highest airport in the world (the other three also being within China) and has daily flights from Lhasa Gonggar International Airport. The flight departs at 7:50 am daily and takes around two hours to cross the plateau. At a cost of around 3,190 yuan, the flights are not the cheapest, but if you have very little time to spare and still want to visit the mountain, this is the ideal way to travel there.

Can I Get From Lhasa to Kailash Manasarovar by Train?

You can cover some distance from Lhasa to Kailash and Manasarovar by train. The railroad connects Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, with Shigatse, the plateau's second-largest city. There are two departures every day, occasionally three, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Taking a train can save you a lot of time if you're in a hurry. The journey takes about two and a half hours while driving between Tibet's major cities can take a full day. But you'll miss some of Land of Snows' top attractions, such as the sacred and scenic Yamdrok Lake if you travel by railway. However, if you have little time, but would like to visit Mount Everest on your way to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, this is the way to go.

What Travel Permits to Obtain for Kailash Manasarovar Tour from Lhasa?

The Tibet Travel Permit and Chinese Visa are essential for travelers venturing to the world's highest and largest plateau. You can obtain the Chinese Visa independently in your home country or a third country through a Chinese Embassy. To secure the Tibet Travel Permit, your tour operator will handle the application process using your original passport and the China Visa. Once you have the Tibet Travel Permit, you are eligible to board the train or flight to Lhasa.

Tibet Travel PermitTibet Travel Permit is a must for touring Tibet.

Moreover, additional documents are required for a visit to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, namely the Alien's Travel Permit and Military Permit. The Alien's Travel Permit is granted to tourists exploring remote areas such as Mount Kailash and Mount Everest. Military Permits are necessary for accessing specific remote and sensitive border areas across Tibet. Your tour operator will assist in obtaining both documents after you arrive in Tibet.

Conclusion

Although Mount Kailash is situated in the far west of Tibet in Ngari Prefecture, it is still relatively easy to get to. There are a few ways to get there depending on your time, acclimatization, and preferences. As all tourists must be on a pre-booked tour of the region, complete with a guide and driver, it is the tour operator who makes all the arrangements for you. This makes a trip to Mount Kailash as simple as just contacting us to make all the arrangements on your behalf.

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