How to Plan a Tibet Nepal Bike Tour

Bike trip in Tibet is not as challenging as it used to be. It’s not necessary to be a professional cyclist to go on your journey on a bike now. The improvement mainly owes to the sophisticated networks of roads such as G318, X214 and most of them are well paved. The accomplished first-time bike travelers who’ve done Tibet to Nepal bike trip vary from college students, retirees, work classes, etc., and some with certain disability also fulfilled it after the sufficient pre-research and preparation. This article is mainly about how foreigners can prepare a bike trip from Tibet to Nepal, with the itinerary broken down day by day.

Be Aware of 7 Things Before Planning a Tibet to Nepal Bike Trip

  1. In Tibet, all foreign travelers need to travel on an escorted tour; a bike tour in Tibet is not an exception. That means you’ll have to have a guide accompanying you during the entire bike trip. The orthodox way of such an organized bike tour is that you traveled within the agreed itinerary, with the assistance and back up of a 4WD, a driver, a guide arranged by your tour operator;
  2. Along the entire bike trip route starting from Lhasa (3,650m) and ending at Kathmandu (1,350m), the altitude difference between the highest spot and lowest spot can be 4,000 meters; altitude sickness either of an acute or chronic type can be a serious health hazard;
  3. The air on Tibetan Plateau is much thinner than the lowland area. The level of oxygen in Tibet is about 40% lower than that at sea level, which makes all kinds of exercises done by new comers more strenuous;
  4. The climate especially in winter is harsh, with strong headwinds when getting closer to Nepal in the southern region of Tibet;
  5. Though most roads are well paved, some difficult sections do exist with gravels-covered surface and large gradient;
  6. In the remote area, far from major towns Lhasa and Shigatse, lodging options will be limited and the distance between two supply spots could be 100 kilometers;
  7. Although you can take your own bike on a plane or a train to Tibet, it might be very costly. The budget friendly option is to purchase bikes and gears in Lhasa.

Itinerary of Tibet to Nepal Bike Trip (with Tibet Everest Base Camp)

Before the magnitude 7.8 earthquake stroke Nepal in April, 2015, the national border between Tibet, China and Nepal is at Zhangmu Port. Now the only available border crossing is at Gyirong Port, Gyirong Town. This new cycling route shares most sections with the previous one. The different part lies in the section after Lhatse. The bike trip starts from Lhasa and ends at Kathmandu, including two detours to Lake Yamdrok, Gyantse, and Mount Everest respectively, of which the whole length is around 1,248 kilometers.

Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa

Flight FYI: Whether you travel to Tibet from gateway cities of inland China or Kathmandu, Nepal, you can take flights to Lhasa at reasonable price. The best recommended time to make airplane tickets reservation is in March, when many airlines provide early bird discount;

By train: it is available to take the most unique train to get to Lhasa on the worldly highest plateau from Xining. This is the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway. If you depart from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, you’ll still get to pass by Xining and experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

By road: Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Xinjiang-Tibet Highway are the two most popular overland road routes to get to Tibet. And they are also policy approachable to foreign travelers now. These two highways are called as G318 and G219 respectively.

Day 2, 3, 4: Lhasa Sightseeing / Bike and Gear Purchasing / Stocking Up

To have a couple of days staying in Lhasa, where the altitude is lower than those of most destinations along the biking route is very necessary. Lhasa is also Tibet’s culture center which you will find worth a visit. At the intervals of Lhasa sightseeing, you can also do shopping for your bike and gear and stock up for the upcoming bike trip.

Day 5: Lhasa to Chushul 70km

This section is almost entirely peace roads, with companionship of Lhasa River, stretching all the way from Lhasa towards west. The scenery is pleasant. At K4666 of G318, you’ll reach Nietang District, where you can stop for a while to visit Niedang Buddha, which is a giant cliff painting at the riverside. You’ll also get to pass by Tibet Buddhism Collage. Reaching the milestone K4695 means you’ve arrived at Chushul County, which is the first lodging spot. You can also replenish your stock of water or solid food here. Because before reaching the next big town Shigatse, you’ll be on the road for one or two days depending on whether you’ll take the detour to Gyantse via Yamdrok Lake. Another optional accommodation spot: Chushul Bridge, 10km away from the town Chushul.

Day 6: Chushul to Nagarzê 97km

After 23 kilometers, you’ll arrive at Kamba-La Pass(K35). The altitude rises by 1,200m. You may need to get off the bike and push upwards. An outlook with ticket office is where you can enjoy the panoramic view of Yamdrok Lake. And then you can take a downhill road (10km) to the lakefront, and continue with a roughly 50km long stretch to get to Nagarzê County(K92), to call it a day. Highlights for today: Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse Kumbum

Day7: Nagarzê to Gyantse via Karo-La Pass and Simi-La Pass 106km

It takes around 30 km ride from Nagarzê to Karo-La Pass (5,110m); along this section, you’ll get to see the glacier mountain Mount Noijin Kangsang. After the outlook at Karo-La Pass, it turns into downhill road again, on the right side of which lies Manla Reservoir, and then continue riding another 4 km steep ascending road, you’ll get to Simi-La Pass (4,345m), where you can have an overlook at Manla Reservoir. And after 5km up-and-down roads, you’ll pass by a water power station, since where you’ll have a 20km downhill and level roads, leading you directly to the county seat of Gyantse, where you can stay overnight and have stock checked and filled again.

Day8: Gyantse to Shigatse 96km

After the past three grueling days, you’ll welcome the first easy day because of the reasonable distance and the situation of descending altitude along this section. The landscape is also very beautiful, so we recommend you set off early in the morning, leave yourself enough time so that you can slower down your pace to take in the delicate natural beauty along Nianchu River.

Road condition: level roads all the way; on the route to Shigatse, you can have a short lunch break at Bailang County(K45). Overnight in Shigatse.

Day9: Shigatse Sightseeing

As Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet, and the home of Panchen Lama. To stay one day in Shigatse doing sightseeing at Tashilunpo Monastery and stocking up again can be beneficial for a refreshing body.

Day10: Shigatse to Lhatse 156km

This section is very difficult and can be done into two days. The reason that we make it a day trip is for a pleasant overnight stay in Lhatse. If you have to stay overnight at somewhere in the middle, Jiding Town or Liuxiang(K4977),Sajia County (K4959) have basic accommodation, though they are in shortage of water and power, and cannot be described as clean resulting from the water shortage. There is a famous monument indicating that you’re now at the spot 5,000km away from the start point of G318, where a memorial square is built here. After that, only 40km left before you get to Lhatse. Overnight at Lhatse.

Day 11: Lhatse to Baiba/Shegar 83km

With the highest mountain pass Gatso-La (5,248m), along G318, today is very challenging. After several kilometers out of Lhatse, you’ll see a signpost, indicating the two branches G318 and G219. If you take the right road, you’ll head to Ngari region. According to the previous cyclists, this section ranks with even greater difficulty than Sichuan-Tibet biking route. And now you’re getting closer to Mount Everest. Baiba (K5132) is the destination of today, a district, under the jurisdiction of Tingri County. You can purchase the entrance ticket of Mount Qomolangma Scenic Spot in Baiba.

Day 12: Baiba-Basong 77km

Once departing Baiba, there are many check points along the route. After 12 kilometers ride from Baiba, you’ll reach the iconic memorial archway, with the name of Mount Qomolangma Scenic Spot. Then a short drive will take you to the ticket check point and a 20km uphill road will get you to Gawu-La Pass (5,205m). Weather permitting, you can see the four mountains Mount Everest, Mount Makalu, Mount Cho Oyu, and Mount Shishapangma. The destination is Basong, which is 40km away from the Everest Base Camp.

Day13: Basong to Everest Base Camp 40km

You can set off at noon and get to the Everest Base Camp in the afternoon. Weather permitting, you may have a view of the stunning sunset here. Overnight at the tent guesthouses for the sunrise of the next day.

Day14: Everest Base Camp to Gangga Town (Old Tingri) 79km

Get up early to catch the first light that sheds the summit. And then ride all the way westwards to reach Gangga Town, the county seat of the Old Tingri. Overnight here.

Day 15/16: Gangga Town, Old Tingri to Menbu Village 65km

This section can be divided into two or three days to finish. Most of this section is comprised of G318. Though Menbu Village only offers very basic accommodation and meals, to go further to reach the next lodging stop can too grueling and risky. As getting closer to Nepal, you’re very likely to encounter headwinds.

Day 17: Menbu Village to Zongga Town (Gyirong County) 135km

This section is the most difficult part of the bike trip because of the long-distance ride. We suggest that you stay one night along the route or get in the 4WD arranged by your tour operator to cut down some distance to reduce the stress.

Day 18: Gyirong County to Gyirong Town 74km

This is one of the longest downhill sections. You’re now almost leaving the Tibetan Plateau. The dry and barren landscape is no longer in sight. Green dense forests, running rivers and ravines indicates that the region is under the impact of monsoon climate. The well paved asphalt roads make the riding more pleasant. It is a breathtaking beautiful natural scenery that cleans both your eyes and your souls. But you need to be cautious about the blind spot at the many corners of the winding roads.As there are better lodging options in Gyirong Town than in Gyirong Port, you can stay overnight at the town.

Day 19: Gyirong Town- Gyirong Port-Bazaar 80km

Today is the border-crossing day. The riding distance is moderate. The office hours of China Customs are 10:00 to 17:00. And there is 2 hours and 15 minutes time difference between China and Nepal. Although you can do more riding, the road in Nepal side is worse than the worst you’ve encountered in Tibet. Therefore, to stay overnight in Bazaar is high recommended.

Day 20: Bazaar to Kathmandu 85km

Now in the territory of Nepal, the well paved roads are hardly seen. Instead, the dirt roads with only one lane dominates most of the route from Gyirong Port to Kathmandu. Be well prepared before your bike trip in advance to avoid being trapped by deep mud in the monsoon season especially in July, August, September. And your safety should be kept in mind all the time: be alert of the blind spot especially at the corners.

Note: the Thamel region of Kathmandu is abundant with accommodation and board.

Day 21: Kathmandu Sightseeing (disposing the bike and gear)

As most bicycle travelers do, you can sell your bike and gear to the bike rental shops, in Kathmandu before departing Nepal. You may also try putting your sale advertisement on the notice board of the local hostels where some backpackers may purchase your bike and gear and ride it back to Lhasa, taking the same route but in a reverse direction.

Bike Packing Essentials

  1. Bike gear: an excellent brake is essential; derailleur; pump; patch-kit; extra tubes; multitool kit;
  2. A light should be installed at the front and rear of the bike to reduce the rate of a collision;
  3. Bike touring clothing: helmet and gloves (when you accidentally get knocked off the bikes and are also increasing comfort for your hands during the long-distance ride);padded shorts (especially vital for long-distance bike travelers, beneficial to protect your skin and bum); cycling jersey or smaller size of clothes if you don’t like the flapping; dust mask;
  4. Water bottle, water container;
  5. Keeping yourself warm: layered clothing, windproof coats; snood/buff or neckerchief; beanie;
  6. Waterproof stuff: light-weight raincoats; shoes covers (multiple pairs)
  7. Physical sunblock: a sunhat, neckerchief, gloves, long- sleeved clothing, long trousers, snood/buff, etc.
  8. Chemical sunscreen: SPF 50+, apply multiple times a day; take care of the hands as well;
  9. Carry a little more comforts if your bike is strong enough.

Documents Required for Bicycle Travelers Touring from Tibet to Nepal 

  1. Passport with 6 months validity;
  2. Valid Chinese visa;
  3. Tibet travel documents: Tibet Travel Permit (issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau); Border Pass; Military Pass;
  4. Nepal travel documents: Nepal tourist visa (You can obtain it prior to enter Nepal or apply for it on arrival);

Considering a Bike Tour Package?

The Tibet to Nepal bike trip can be condensed into 10 days or extended if you prefer to be more flexible on your journey and get chance to feel the real life of local people. We’re familiar with the traditional bike tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu via E.B.C or capable of tailor-making the off-beaten route for you. More details excluded or the bike trip info in reverse direction from Nepal to Tibet can be provided. Just feel free to send your inquiry to inquiry@gototibet.com

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