The road linking Tibet, China and Nepal is called China Nepal Highway or Sino-Nepal Highway, or Friendship Highway. This is an 829-kilometer-long road route which was put into use since May, 1967. It is made of two main parts, the Tibetan section in China and the Nepali section starting from the national border in Tibet and ending at Kathmandu, the capital city in Nepal.
The Tibetan section of China Nepal Highway belongs to China National Highway 318 (G318), the longest national highway (5,476km in length), which starts from Shanghai, crossing through the provinces in middle China, such as Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan and finally linking Tibet Autonomous Region at Yangpachen, Damxung County, Tibet and then stretching southwards passing by the western part of Lhasa, connecting Tibet’s second largest city Shigatse and reaching Zhangmu, Nyalam County, Tibet, the ending point of the Tibetan section of China Nepal Highway.
The route consisted of Yangpachen, Shigatse, Lhatse, Tingri, Nyalam and Zhangmu Port (Friendship Bridge), along which the average altitude is 4,000m.
Road condition: almost the entire route is made of paved roads, and comes with two-way traffic, which is very smooth for driving. So, in order to avoid the exceeding speed situation, there are strict regional speed limit according to the local traffic authorities. The well-conditioned road enables the safety of driving and makes the passenger feel relaxed to enjoy the scenery outside of the window along the way.
Note：The Friendship Bridge at Zhangmu used to be the port between Tibet, China and Nepal before the Nepali earthquake in 2015. After the earthquake, the new border has been relocated in Gyirong port, Gyirong county.
China Nepal Friendship Highway
The Nepali section of China Nepal Highway, also named “Araniko Highway” in Nepali, which links the ending point of the Tibetan section at Zhangmu Town, and then heads southwards to reach Kathmandu, Nepal. This section is 114 kilometers long, of which the altitude is around 1,500m. It traverses the Himalayas, winds through the south slope of Himalayas, and extends with the paralleling Sun Koshi River and Bhote Koshi River and finally reaches Kathmandu.
The route: starts from the previous port at Zhangmu or the current port at Gyirong, and travels along Araniko Highway and ends in Kathmandu.
Road condition (current using one): from Gyirong border to Kathmandu, the distance is only 160 kilometers, however it takes at least 6 hours or up to 10 hours to get to Kathmandu. The average speed is roughly 20km/h. The coarse situation of road surface made of sand, dirt, gravels and stones makes the driving very hard, and that the roads are almost all constructed in the mountain areas winding relentlessly put it even more difficult and risky.
1. Since the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the border at Zhangmu has been damaged and closed; the reopening time remains indefinite. The new border at Gyirong Town has ever since been put into use.
2. Since this section is very bad condition, we recommend you embark the road trip in the early morning to make sure the 6-10-hour drive all carried out in the daytime rather than to take a night drive, for the sake of your safety.
China Nepal Highway has crossed over four mighty mountains, respectively Tsola Pass (4,950m), Gyatso La Pass (5,260m), Tong La Pass (5,324m) and Yakrushong La Pass (5,627m). As the southern part of the route gets influenced by sub-tropical climate and monsoon climate, in summer months, the downpours can lead to landslide, avalanche, crushing and falling stones, deris flow, and other natural disasters. The majority of this route features arid and cold climate, when the winter months can be frigid and the heavy snow may lead to road block. Therefore, travel overland between Nepal and Tibet in summer or winter is not advisable.
Gyatso La Mountain Pass
Mandatory: Passport, Chinese Group Visa, Tibet Entry Permit (issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau).
Optional: Border Pass, Alien’s Travel Permit, if you plan to detour to visit Mount Everest along this route.
Mandatory: Passport, Nepal Tourist Visa, (issued by Nepali Embassy or Nepali Consulate).
Optional: Border Pass, Alien’s Travel Permit required when entering jurisdiction of Tingri County, Shigatse City, Tibet.
To get well prepared based on weather and safety consideration, the road trip between Nepal and Tibet can be a precious lifetime memory. As the majority of this route is within the territory of Tibet, China, here’s coming brief introductions to the highlight attractions in the order from Kathmandu to Lhasa.
1. Kathmandu to Gyirong Border
Driving along the dirt roads from Kathmandu to Gyirong border takes around 6-10 hours. Gyirong border (Rasuwa Bridge) is 25 kilometers away from Gyirong County. The scenery is beautiful because of the evergreen vegetation and breeks along the road. However, the ill-conditioned road might give you tension that distracts and perturbs your mood to admire the scenery
2. Gyirong Valley
Once entering Tibet, the roads get evidently better. You can now relax and enjoy the landscape. Gyirong Valley has very beautiful four seasons. The spring officially starts in May, when all grasses sprout and fruit trees have their blossom full of the canopies, and everything is in a reviving and refreshing mood. July, August and September are the rainy season in this area. It nearly rains every day. The bonus is that rainbows could be anticipated. Tibet highland barley turn into yellow in August, adding a warm tint into the delicate image. The vapory fogs hovering in the halfway of the mountains, as if turning Gyirong Valley a mysterious fairy land..When the foliage turns into yellow or reddish orange in October and November, it is autumn that brings the fabulous color feast. The temperature drops low now, although the noon sunbeams still keep you warm, a wind-proof coat or down coat for the early morning and late night should be prepared. Winter of Tibet may really show you how Tibet got the name” the Land of Snow”, especially in the coldest months December and January.
3. Paiku Lake
Paiku Lake orPelkutso Lake, is located in Gyirong County, 40 kilometers south of Yarlung Tsangpo River, and 60 kilometers north of Mount Shishapangma (8,013m), the only 8,000m+ peak that is entirely within the territory of China. With an altitude of 4,580m, covering an area of 284.4 sq km, Paiku Lake is the largest lake in Shigatse area. It is quite a charming off-the-beaten nature attraction. To take a short detour visiting Paiku Lake before you continuing your journey to Lhasa in the north, will definitely give you a time of tranquility with the companionship of the dazzling water. In clear days, the lake reflects the image of Mount Shishapangma.
4. Mount Everest
From Gyirong to Mount Everest, you will first pass by Tingri, where you can have a good rest to visit Everest the next day or head directly to the Everest Base Camp and admire the sunset on the same day. During this trip you’ll stop by two spectacular passes: Thong La pass (5050m) and Lalung La pass (5082m), where you can enjoy fabulous views of the high mountains including Mount Shishapangma (8,013m). Besides, in clear days, you can also catch a glimpse of four 8000m+ high mountains: Mt. Lhotse (8,516m), Mt. Everest (8,848m), Mt. Qowowuyag (8,201m) and Mt. Mayalu (8,463m).
5. Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse
As Tibet’s second largest city, Shigates is also the very important transportation hub between the north and south networks. It is a must pass stop, where the culture fanatics may get excited to visit Tashilhunpo Monastery, the once residence of Panchen Lama. It was founded by the First Dailai Lama in 1447, and got expanded by the Fourth Dalai Lama and successive Panchen Lamas.
6. Gyantse Kumbum
Gyantse Kumbum is reputed as the ten thousand stupas, which is a very unique monastic architect, as part of the Pelkor Monastery in Gyantse Town.
7. Yamdrok Lake
As one of the three sacred lakes for Tibetans, this lake has not only the religious and spiritual importance, but soothing beauty that may bless you with inner serenity. The water color varies according to the weather. In sunny days, the lightly rippled water reflects the sky in a peaceful manner. Even in overcast days, the water has its own beautifulness, when it is in dark deep blue as if a centuries old sapphire. Photos can hardly do justice to how beautiful it is. You can either have a broad view of Yamdrok at Kamba-La Pass (4,700m) or have a stroll at the lakefront.