This 18 days tour will test your stamina on the mountain roads of Tibet. We will start our journey in Lhasa, at an elevation of 3,650 meters above sea level. We will spend the first 3 days acclimatizing and exploring the capital of Tibet. From there we will start our cycling adventure. On most of the days, we will cover between 50-90 km depending on the difficulty of the road and weather conditions.
Main Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung and Sera Monasteries, Barkhor Street, Yamdrok Lake, Pelkor Chode Monastery, Kumbum Stupa, Tashi Lumpo Monastery, Everest Base Camp, Rongbuk Monastery, Phelku Tso lake.
Duration: 18 days
Maximum Elevation: Gyatso La Pass 5,248 m/ 17,200 ft
Best Time to Travel: April through November
Day 1. Arrival in Lhasa
You arrive at the Lhasa Gonggar Airport or the train station. The airport is 62 km/ 39 miles away from the city, and it takes approximately one hour to get to the hotel from there. On the way to Lhasa, you will enjoy beautiful views of the mountains. The train station is located in Lhasa, and you will only need a short transfer to the hotel.
Depending on the time of your arrival, you might have some free time to spend in Lhasa. Our guides will be happy to advise you on what you can do with your time in Lhasa. Remember, that Lhasa is located at 3,650 meters/ 12,000 ft above sea level and you will need some time to acclimatize.
After you check in the hotel, you are welcome to explore the city, visit nearby temples, do some shopping, try delicious Tibetan food in one of the local restaurants, or just take a rest.
Walking around Barkhor Street can be an excellent choice for your first day in Lhasa. You will join crowds of pilgrims, local Tibetans, and monks circumambulating the Jokhang Temple.
Most importantly, on your first day in Tibet, be sure to relax, enjoy your day and allow some time for acclimatizing.
Day 2. Lhasa City Tour: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple
This tour visits the two most important religious sites in Tibet.
The Potala Palace was the seat of the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century. First, the guide will take you to the Chak Pori Hill to take photos of the majestic Palace. We will then go inside and spend approximately 1.5 – 2 hours there. While there, you will see many of its most famous artifacts.
There will be free time for lunch after visiting the Potala Palace.
Time permitting, you can walk around the Potala Palace and join many of the local Tibetans.
Next, we will walk towards the Jokhang Temple. It was built in the 7th century to display the Jowo Shakyamuni statue – the statue of the 12-year-old Buddha before his enlightenment. The statue was created at the time when the historical Buddha lived. It is elaborately decorated with gold, jewels, and precious stones.
After visiting the temple, we recommend taking a walk around Barkhor Street.
Day 3. Lhasa City Tour: Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery
We are visiting the two most important monasteries in the capital.
We will first visit Drepung Monastery, which once was the largest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.
There will be free time for lunch after the Drepung Monastery.
In the afternoon we are visiting Sera Monastery. It was founded by Tsongkhapa’s disciple in the 15th century. Nowadays it is famous for monks’ debate that you can witness. Debates are a very important part of learning and understanding Buddhism. Monks gather in the courtyard in the shade of the trees to refine their knowledge.
Day 4. Lhasa City to the foot of Kambala pass
Distance: 85 km
Today we start our cycling tour. The first day will be short to warm up before the long journey. We will head towards the Friendship Highway that runs across the Tibetan plateau. The road we take is smooth and the elevation is approximately consistent.
Once we leave Lhasa, you will cycle by the impressive Buddha Rock Carving, and along the beautiful Lhasa River ( Lhasa Kyichu) and Brahmaputra River to the foot of the Kamba La Pass (3700 m).
Yarlung Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra) is one of the longest rivers in Tibet. It is also a holy river. It originates in Mount Kailash region, the holiest mountain for Buddhists and Hindu. That’s why Tibetans and Hindus believe that the Brahmaputra is a holy river.
We will set us our camping tent at the foot of Kamba La pass.
Day 5. Cycling towards Yamdrok Lake via Kamba La Pass
Distance: 55 km
In the morning we have to cross the first high pass on our way. Power up for the steep climb uphill to reach the Kamba La Pass (4794 meters). The zigzagging road overlooks beautiful valley and mountains and is decorated with thousands of prayer flags. Before we reach the top of the hill, prepare to take photos of the breathtaking views.
After taking a short break at the top, enjoying the view, we start descending. First, we will get a sweeping view of the Yamdrok lake (4490m). It is one of the holy lakes in Tibet, and it is famous for its turquoise-colored water. We will continue cycling along the lake until we reach its shore. We will camp there overnight.
Day 6. From Yamdrok Lake to Karo La Pass
Distance: 54 km
In the morning, you can walk around the Yamdrok lake and enjoy the sunrise.
After that, we will continue our cycling journey along the Friendship highway through mountain ranges towards the foot of the Karo La Pass (4750m). The road goes slowly up the hill towards the pass.
We will camp there for a night.
Day 7. From Karo La Pass to Gyantse
Distance: 80 km
Accommodation: hotel in Gyantse
Today we have to start early in the morning to cross our second high pass – Karo La Pass (5010 m). You will get a wonderful view of thousands of years old glaciers over 6000 meters high. If we reach the glaciers early, you will explore it before other tourists reach this area.
After that, we will head towards Gyantse (3980m), an old town with a rich history.
Day 8. Cycling from Gyantse to Shigatse
Distance: 94 km
Accommodation: hotel in Shigatse
In the morning we will visit Pelkor Chode Monastery and Kumbum Stupa, the largest stupa in Tibet. The Kumbum stupa was built in the 14th century. The stupa has nine levels, 108 cells, and 75 chapels. You can visit the inside of the stupa and go up as you can get a nice view of the town, monastery complex, mountains and surrounding fort from one of the higher levels. The statues inside the Pelkor Chode Monastery are special for this region. You can also see an impressive collection of Tibetan Buddhist murals.
From the monastery area, you can get a great view of the Gyantse Dzong. The fort is topping the mountain.
After that, we will cycle to Shigatse. It is Tibet’s second-largest city. The distance is a little longer than in the previous days, however, the road is nice and flat.
Day 9. From Shigatse to Gyachung Town
Distance: 75 km
In the morning we will visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of Panchen Lamas. The monastery complex is large, and it houses the largest statue of the Future Buddha in the world.
After that, we will continue our journey through two mountain passes and several Tibetan villages towards Gyachung Town.
We will camp near Gyachung Town.
Day 10. Gyachung Town to Lhatse
Distance: 95 km
Today we will cycle along the highway through gorgeous valleys. Prepare to cross the Tso-La pass (4350m) on the way. It is a relatively easy road uphill. After crossing the pass, we will continue riding along the highway.
In the afternoon, we will cycle towards Lhatse, We will pass hot springs, police checkpoint. After we pass Lhatse, we will drive about 10km further, and camp outside of the town near the foot of Gyatso-la pass.
Day 11. From Lhatse to Shegar
Distance: 75 km
Accommodation: hotel in Shegar
We start our day cycling from the foot of the pass (3,900 m) over the Gyatso-La Pass (5248m). It is a strenuous uphill ride. Gyatso-la pass is one of the highest points of our trip.
From the pass we can sometimes see nomad families with yaks and wild Tibetan Antelopes.
On the way down from the pass, you can see Mount Everest when the weather is clear.
After that, we will cycle for another 40km before reaching Shegar. This town is a popular stopover place for visitors heading to the Everest region.
Day 12. Shegar to Everest valley via Pang-la Pass
Distance: 67 km
Today’s ride will be a little tough as the road condition is not as good as that of the past days. You will divert off the flat highway just outside of Shegar, then head towards the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
After passing through the border control point, you will face 20 km of uphill zigzagging road with 42 bends before reaching the Pang-La Pass (5150m). Your reward will be some of the most magnificent views of Everest and surrounding peaks. If the wind is not too strong we will have our lunch break here. Enjoy lunch looking over Makalu (8463m), Shishapangma (8012m), Cho Oyu (8210m), Lhotse (8516m), Everest (8850m) and several other breathtaking peaks.
After lunch, we will finish the day by cycling 20 km downhill towards Everest Rongbuk Valley (4300m), where we camp overnight.
Day 13. Everest valley to Rongbuk Monastery
Distance: 35 km
Accommodation: tent guesthouse or Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse
Today we are approaching one of the highlights of the tour- Everest Base Camp. It is also the highest point on our way at 5,200 meters above sea level.
Stay overnight in the tent camp or in the Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse (dorm beds). Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world and a highlight on its own.
Day 14. Rongbuk – Old Tingri
Distance: 76 km
Accommodation: camping in Tingri
Today we are leaving Rongbuk and cycling on the bumpy road to take a shortcut through the mountains. The trail takes us over a canyon and down into Tingri (4340m).
Day 15. Old Tingri – foot of Thongla pass
Distance: 70 km
Today you can expect a flat ride for almost the entire day. On the way, we can see more wild animals such as wild donkeys, Tibetan antelopes, and black-neck-crane. From here, you can see the peaks around you, including Shishapangma (8012m). We will stay for camping at the foot of Thongla pass.
Day 16. The foot of Thongla pass – Pelku Tso lake
Distance: 68 km
Along the way today you can see wild donkeys and Tibetan antelopes, as well as a spectacular view of Pelku-tso lake. Phelku Tso lake is surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. You can also see Shishapangma mountain, one of the mountains above 8,000 meters (8027 m). We will find a nice camping ground near the lake and stay there overnight.
Day 17. Pelku Tso – Kyirong town
Distance: 80 km
Accommodation: Overnight in Gyirong hotel
Today, we will tackle our last mountain pass. In the morning, we are cycling to the Gongthang-la pass (5220 m). You will be rewarded by the breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains as you freewheel downhill from the top.
Once we reach the bottom of the hill, the rest of the road towards Kyirong is easy and the landscape is completely different from what you saw in the previous days. Altitude is lower here. The elevation of the border town Kyirong is 2300 m. You can see waterfalls and a lot of greenery. Sometimes if we are lucky you can even see monkeys.
Day 18. Nepal border. Departure from Tibet
This will be our last day in Tibet. In the morning you will cycle towards the Tibet-Nepal border. The road is about 30 km and you will be descending downhill. Once you cross the border, you can continue your journey in Nepal. It takes 1 day by car to reach Kathmandu from the border or about 4 days if you continue cycling.
ALTITUDE ON THE TOUR
This cycling tour from Lhasa to Nepal border takes you on the roads of Tibetan Plateau, the highest plateau in the world. Even visiting Tibet as a tourist becomes difficult for some people because of the high altitude. For those, who want to cycle through Tibet, it becomes especially important to properly acclimatize for the altitude to enjoy their time in Tibet.
On the way from Lhasa to Nepal border you will cross several points above 5,000 meters: Gyatso la pass, Gyawu la Pass, and Gongthang la Pass. In addition, you will stay overnight near Rongbuk monastery at 5,050 meters above sea level. In addition, Tibetan mountain roads are often going up and down hills making many bends.
To acclimatize to the high altitude we spend the first 3 days of your tour in Lhasa at an elevation of 3,650 meters. After that we start cycling adventure slowly, increasing altitude only slightly on the fourth day of the tour. On the following days we will be following the classic “saw” principle, when we increase altitude during the daytime and descent for the night to rest and recover. Itinerary is designed to let you go up the highest passes early in the morning when you are full of energy, and cycle downhill or on flat roads in the afternoon.