Journey to Tibet has long been dream for many travelers. Even though there are many ways to reach Tibet. But these incredible 6 overland routes to Tibet are the only options by car at this moment. These challenging routes attract many travelers to follow these ancients trade routes. There are different rules and restrictions to travel to these routes. I recommend you to check with your Tibet travel agency for updates.
The six possible overland routes to Tibet
1: Qinghai to Tibet Highway Overland Route 青藏线
This route start from Xining / Siling and ends in Lhasa.
Xining is the capital city of Qinghai Province. Xining is a relatively new developing city in the northwest of China with a population of over 2 million. Xining is also a gate way to travel to many Tibetan regions in Amdo. Qinghai Tibet highway is one of the busiest route to Lhasa as it’s all paved road with accommodation and restaurant along the way. You can take small car, van or tourist buses on this road. Though if you hire a land Cruiser, it makes you more comfortable. This yearly open road is also one of the most beautiful highway in whole China. You will see wild animals like Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, wild yaks with stunning views of endless nomadic pastures and snow mountains.
The average altitude is about 3900m / 12790ft. So it is recommended to stay 2 -3 nights before take this highway in Xining. The most high passes are Kunlun Pass and Tanggola Pass with altitude above 5000m / 16400ft.
Xining to Lhasa overland route: Xining – Qinghai Lake – Tsaka Salt Lake – Delinha – Golmud – Kunlun Pass – Tanggula pass – Amdo County – Nakchu – Damxun – Namtso Lake – Yangpachen Hotspring – Telungdechen – Lhasa
Qinghai Tibet Highway total distance: 2000km / 1240miles
This route is open to foreign tourist, however you need to obtain a Tibet Travel Permits in advance. More info about Tibet Travel Permits.
2. Sichuan Tibet Overland Route （Southern Route and Northern Route）川藏线
There are two different routes. Both of them start in Chengdu and ends in Lhasa.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province. It is also known as “Heavenly State”, the habitat of the adorable giant panda and one of the most historic cities in China. Situated at the middle reach of the Minjiang River, west of Sichuan Basin, it is a pivotal hub connecting the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Spot, Emei Mountain, Leshan Giant Buddha as well as Daocheng and many of Sichuan’s other famous tourist attractions.
Chengdu is one of the gate way to reach Tibetan Region of Kham.
In this Sichuan Tibet overland route, you will experience local life style and shocked by the views of deep gorges and virgin forests as you drive. Though they are basic accommodations and restaurants from time to time but these routes are not recommended to visit after August as it’s raining season. So it’s common to stuck few days by road collapse or wash away in the rainy season.
Sichuan Tibet Southern Route 川藏南线:
Chengdu – Ya’an – Luoding – Kangding – Xinduoqiao – Litang – Batang – Markham – Bangda – Basuo – Rawok Lake – Lugu Glacier – Midui Glacier – Bomi – Nyingtri – Gongbo Gyangda – Mendrok Gongka – Lhasa
Sichuan Tibet Southern Route total distance 2180km / 1354miles.
Sichuan Tibet Northern Route 川藏北线:
Chengdu – Danba –Daofu – Luohu – Gantse – Manigangol – Yilhun Lhatso lake – Dege – Jiangda – Chamdo – Dingqing – Baqing – Nakchu – Damxun – Namtso Lake – Yangpachen Hotpring – Lhasa
Sichuan Tibet Norther route total distance 2400km / 1490miles
3. The Ancient Tang – Tibet Road 唐蕃古道
This Route start from Xining , Qinghai Province and ends in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city.
Though historically, this ancient route start from Chang’an the capital city of Tang Dynasty to the capital city of Tibet – Lhasa. This ancient route is a trade route from China to Tibet and then to Nepal and India. But this route became more famous in China recently, because it is also the route that Princes Wencheng took to marry with Tibet’s King Sontsan Ganbo in 7th century. But because of Xi’an to Xining highway is packed by cars and concrete buildings. Most travelers and adventurers start their trip from Xining and ends in Lhasa.
The Ancient Tang – Tibet Route:
Xining – Dongkor / Huangyuan – Qinghai Lake – Chabcha – Maduo/Matoi – Jyekundo / Yushu – Nangchen – Riwoche – Dingqing – Baqing – Nakchu – Damxun / Dangxun – Yangpachen Hotpring – Namtso Lake – Lhasa
The Ancient Tang – Tibet Route total distance : 2150km / 1335miles.
4. Yuannan Tibet overland route or Shangri-la to Lhasa Overland Route 滇藏线
This route start in Shangri-la or Gyalthang and ends in Lhasa.
Shangri – la is located in the northwest of Yuannan Province. As you can see from it’s name that it became tourist destination for both home and abroad. There are tones of travelers from all over the world come to visit Shangri – la every year. It is surrounded by holy snow mountains on all sides, the lost paradise of Shangri-La is a verdant valley with endless grasslands, azure lakes, pastoral villages, and grand gorges. In town, tour sacred monasteries and share a cup of tea with the friendly locals. One of the special thing on this route is that you will see many different minorities with their own traditional architecture and dresses.
The Yunnan to Tibet overland route:
Shangri – la – Dechen – Markham – Bangda – Rawok Lake /Ranwu lake – Lugu Glacier – Midui Glacier – Bomi – Tashigang – Nyingtri – Basum Tso Lake / Drak Sumtso Lake – Mendrok Gongka – Lhasa
The Yunnan to Tibet overland route total distance 1680km / 1043miles
This route has been closed for foreign travelers since 2010. The reopen of this route is still unknown.
Please be caution to travel in the raining season(August and September). The road can be damaged at any time.
5. Kashgar to Lhasa Overland Route
This route from Kashgar and ends in Lhasa
Kashgar is located at the west end of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Kashgar has a rich history of over 2000 years and served as trading town on the Silk Route between China and middle east. It has been always a strategically important city in the history and today.
The Kashgar to Lhasa route are the most dangerous route among the 8 routes especially Kashigar to Ngari part. Because 1: The road condition is very bad and there are many bumping parts and 7-8 high passes. 2. You are traveling in some of the inhabited regions in China, so you may not see a single person for couple hundred kilometers. 3. There are many some intersections to lead different directions, so have a local guide is essential. Therefore, be prepared well before you beginning this journey. The average altitude is 4000m.
Kashgar to Lhasa overland Route:
Kashgar – Yecheng – Dahongliutan – Jieshan pass – Dolma – Ritok – Gar or Shiquanhe – Ruins of Guge Kingdom – Tirthapori – Garuda Vally – Darchen – Mt. Kailash – Lake Manasarovar – Paryang – Saga – Shigatse – Gyantse –Yamdrok Lake – Lhasa
The Kashgar to Lhasa overland route total distance: 3100km / 1926miles
6 Nepal – China (Tibet) friendship high way 中尼友谊公路
The Nepal – China highway also known as friendship highway. This scenic route connecting Lhasa – the capital city of Tibet and Kathmandu – The capital city of Nepal. This route is one of the highest highway in China with travel through three passes over 5000m / 16400ft. The lowest altitude from 1740m to 5200m. So it’s important to give you enough time to acclimatize before reaching Mt. Everest Base Camp.
None – Chinese travelers have to obtain a Tibet Group Visa in Kathmandu to Travel on this route. This A4 size paper of visa is only applicable in Kathmandu through a local Tibetan travel agency. In order to obtain this visa, you will need about 3 days in Kathmandu. For more info, please check here.
The Friendship highway in Tibet routes:
Kathmandu – Kodari – Dram / Zhangmu – Nyalam – Old Tingri – Mt. Everest Base Camp – Shegar or New Tingri – Sakya – Lhatse – Shigatase – Gyantse – Karo – la Glacier – Yamdrok Lake – Brahmaputra River – Qushi – Lhasa
The Sino – Nepal Friendship highway total distance: 900km / 560miles
The average altitude is 4300m.
More info about Tibet Travel Pemrits and Tibet Group Visa, please check here.
More info about Chinese Visa, please check here.
Tours in Tibet, please check here
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