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Should I Take Lhasa to Kathmandu Overland Trip or Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland?

Last Update: March 26, 2020

One of the most amazing journeys in the world is the trip between Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and Kathmandu, the exotic capital of Nepal. Lying side-by-side across the mighty Himalayas, these two superb destinations are often traveled together as one trip. Traveling overland between Lhasa and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting adventures in the Himalayas, taking in the best of both worlds, and being able to see the world’s highest mountain from both sides.

The crossing between these two awesome destinations lies at the small town of Gyirong, in Shigatse Prefecture of western Tibet. Opened in 2017 after an earthquake devastated the original crossing at Zhangmu, Gyirong Port is now a major tourist and trade crossing with Tibet’s closest neighbor.

Taking the overland route between Lhasa and Kathmandu is one of the best ways to visit the plateau, crossing the vast plains and prairies of Tibet by road, making it one of the highest road trips available today. The route takes you to see some of the most amazing sights of the plateau region, including Mount Everest and the sacred Jokhang Temple, and gives you the unique opportunity to experience the delights of the real Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley, as well as the stunning Hindu and Buddhist temples that can be found there.

Why Take an Overland Trip between Lhasa and Kathmandu?

If the reasoning of “because it’s there” is not enough reason to travel across the plateau and the Himalayas together, then there are a million other reasons to take the trip. You can visit the unique Tibetan people and learn more about the culture and religion, you can spend time exploring the lanes and alleys of the world’s highest capital, and you can get a glimpse of one of the oldest statues of Buddha in the world, believed to have been blessed by Buddha himself more than 2,500 years ago.

A trip between Tibet and Nepal is a great way to discover the unique differences and similarities of the people and the culture, and in Kathmandu, you can find out how much Tibetan Buddhism has influenced Hinduism in Nepal, making it unique from Indian Hinduism.

Everest Base CampNorthern Everest Base Camp lying in Tibet

You also have the chance to visit both sides of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. Base camps for Everest exist on both sides of the mountain, north and south, with the northern base camp lying in Tibet while the southern base camp is located in Nepal. The overland route between Nepal and Tibet takes you to some of the most historic sites in the world, not to mention bringing you up to the highest plateau and mountain range on the planet. Only on this amazing adventure can you truly discover the majesty of the mighty Himalayas, the natural border that separates China from Neal and India.

What to See during the Overland Trip between Lhasa and Kathmandu?

The overland tour takes in most of the important cultural, religious, and historical sites of both Nepal and Tibet in a way that you cannot imagine unless you take the trip. In the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, you will get to visit inside the amazing red and white Potala Palace, the iconic image of Tibet in many people’s minds, lying on the top of the Red Hill, overlooking the town itself. Below, you will find the sacred Jokhang Temple, constructed in the 7th century to house one of the oldest known statues of Buddha, brought to Tibet by the Chinese bride of Songtsen Gampo, Princess Wencheng. And around the temple lies the ritual kora route, the sacred walk in reverence of the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism in Lhasa. Pilgrims come daily to Lhasa to make the trek around the temple as a means of attaining merit towards enlightenment, and you have the chance to join them on this stretch of their spiritual journey.

Potala PalaceVisiting the amazing red and white Potala Palace as the iconic image of Tibet.

Outside Lhasa, there are a wealth of things to see and experience, from the stunning sights of Lake Yamdrok and the pristine white of Karola Glacier to the 32-meter, 108-chapel stupa in Gyantse, the only one of its kind in Tibet. Further, in Shigatse, you have the chance to visit the palace of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second highest incarnation, at the Tashilhunpo Monastery. And before you reach the awesome Everest Base Camp (EBC) at 5,200 meters, you will stop briefly at the highest monastery in the world, Rongbuk Monastery, where you can choose to stay the night. Or you can stay overnight at the base camp, sleeping in Tibetan nomadic yak-hair tents, which remains an awesome experience for anyone.

In Kathmandu, there is more to see than you could possibly fit in a month. Hundreds of temples line the streets and outlying areas of the Kathmandu Valley, which also has some of the best panoramic views of the Himalayas from anywhere outside Tibet. The home of the ancient Newari culture of Nepal, the valley has always been known to the Nepalese as “Nepal proper”, and is the location of the Royal Capital of the Kingdom of Nepal, before it became a democratic country.

Boudhanath StupaBoudhanath Stupa is one of the largest spherical stupas in the world.

From the stunning Boudhanath Stupa, with its massive Buddhist mandala structure that makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in the world, to the amazing Swayambhunath Temple, an ancient Buddhist site that is the most sacred pilgrimage site in Nepal for Nepali Buddhists. You also have the famous Pashupatinath Temple, the most sacred Hindu temple complex in the country, which serves as the seat of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, an incarnation of the Hindu Lord Shiva.

Which Way Should I Go - Lhasa to Kathmandu or Kathmandu to Lhasa?

Getting to Lhasa or Kathmandu

Which direction you take when traveling between the capitals of Lhasa and Kathmandu is entirely up to you. Both routes have amazing locations, stunning sights, and outstanding landscapes, and are awesome tours in their own rights.

If you are planning on traveling to Kathmandu from Lhasa, you will need to obtain your visa for China first, and then book your trip so that we can arrange he relevant permits in time for your tour. You will travel from mainland China by flight or train, whichever piques your interest, and will get to tour around the world’s highest capital city first, before traveling to the rest of the plateau.

Gyanstse KumbumGyanstse Kumbum is one of the highlighted attractions during the trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu.

In the other direction, it can be said that it can be easier and cheaper to travel to Kathmandu instead of China, especially for those coming from Europe, as the connections are good. You can fly in from your home country and then start your tour without the additional travel that would be required when entering from China. The tour takes you across the border first, and then across the plateau to finish with the stunning delights of the City of Sunshine, Lhasa.

Travel Documents

There are subtle differences in the documents you need when traveling from Nepal as opposed to traveling from China to Lhasa. When entering Tibet from China, you will need to apply for and obtain a regular Chinese Entry Visa, so that you can enter the country before heading for Tibet. When we apply for the Tibet Travel Permit, which allows you entry into Tibet, we will require scanned copies of both visa and passport in order to make the application.

However, when entering Tibet from Nepal, you do not need to get the visa first, as he standard visa for China is not applicable for entry from Nepal. Instead, a special Chinese Group Visa is issued to tourists in Kathmandu once you arrive there. The visa is applied for by us using your original passport and Tibet Travel Permit, and takes around three working days to process. Also, a visa is not needed for the Tibet Travel Permit application for tourists entering from Nepal.

Altitude Change

Traveling to Lhasa from mainland China means a huge increase in altitude, from almost sea level to more than 3,600 meters in a short time. Whether you travel by flight or train, the results are the same, and you are likely to get a little altitude sickness for the first couple of days. However, this soon wears off, and you will be ready to head out to the rest of the plateau region. The advantage of traveling to Tibet this way is that you can tour around the city whilst you are acclimatizing and your body adjusts to the higher altitude.

When traveling from Kathmandu, while the altitude change may not be as much, it is just as likely for you to get some of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Most tours do stop in Gyirong for a day to acclimatize, and then continue on to the first of the high-altitude sights at Everest Base Camp. Gyirong actually lies at around 2,980 meters above sea level, and while good for intermediate acclimatization, is not ideal for full adjustment. You may find that the altitude sickness can take a little longer to dissipate while you travel towards Shigatse. However, by the time you get there, it should have gone.

Extension of Tibet Nepal Tour

If you are not finished with traveling around after your tour of Tibet, the tours between Lhasa and Kathmandu are ideal for continuation trips to other places. When traveling across the plateau from Lhasa, you can continue on into other areas of Nepal, from the wildlife of the Chitwan Safari Park to the sublime peace of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

Chitwan Safari ParkFurther explore the Chitwan Safari Park after your Tibet Nepal tour

Similarly, traveling to Lhasa from Kathmandu means that you can finish your tour of Tibet and then continue on into mainland China, by flight or train, for a further tour of this vast country. The visa only covers up to 30 days from the date of issue in Kathmandu before your Tibet tour, but will still give you plenty of time to spend touring the ancient and modern sites of China.

Recommended Itinerary of Overland Tours between Lhasa and Kathmandu

Lhasa to Kathmandu Overland in 7 Days

The ultimate in overland tours from Lhasa, this unique trip from the Tibetan capital to the exotic capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is the most popular tour in Tibet. An experience that is yet to be beaten on the roof of the world, the tour is packed full of the rich cultural traditions of the Tibetan people, the vibrant history of this ancient land, and the most outstanding sights you will ever set your eyes upon. At every turn, there is something new to see, and then you can cap it all off with a trip to the home of the Newari people, the original peoples of Nepal in their traditional home in the Kathmandu Valley, the heartland of this Himalayan kingdom. Check for the 7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu overland tour in details.

Kathmandu to Lhasa Overland in 8 Days

While the reverse trip is a little longer than going from Lhasa to Kathmandu, it is just as exciting, and is among the most popular tours of the plateau region. As well as a peaceful stop in Syabrubesi before you cross the border, you will be able to spend a full day in the Gyirong Valley, one of the least visited valleys in Tibet by international tourists, and see the beauty of this unique backyard of Tibet and the Himalayas. Along the way, you will visit the world’s highest mountain, stop at the world’s highest monastery, and see the plateau’s most unique stupa, which stands 32 meters tall. And then you finish it all off in style, with a unique tour of the region’s provincial capital, Lhasa, known as the City of Sunshine. Check for the 8 days Kathmandu Lhasa overland tour in details.

Conclusion

Traveling between Kathmandu and Lhasa is one of the most amazing trips on the planet, crossing the vast open wilderness that is the world’s highest plateau. Which way you decide to take this outstanding trip is entirely up to you. Both directions have their benefits and good points, and while they do have their differences in style and travel, there are no bad points about either direction.

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