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Lhasa to Kathmandu Tibet

Tibet – Lhasa to Kathmandu 2022


TYPE: Mountain Biking Adventure
LEVEL: Challenging
19 Aug – 12 Sep 2022
DURATION: 25 days

    • 490 £

Lhasa to Kathmandu – The Ultimate Adventure

A 25 day mountain biking adventure: the world’s highest mountain bike journey.

This is an epic ride – one of most adventurous a biker can do. 80-90% of this ride is over 4000m above sea level. In 1100km you cross 5 passes over 5000m, a handful of ‘small’ passes over 4000m and you will ride the longest downhill in the world, dropping from 5050m in Tibet to 540m in Nepal over a little more than 150km! It is a real classic and to make your trip even more adventurous, even longer and even more challenging, we have decided to incorporate a four day round trip away from the main Lhasa to Kathmandu road, to visit Rongbuk Monastery and the North Base Camp of Mt Everest.

Throughout the ride, your state of the art bicycles will be a source of great interest. As they will not have seen anything more sophisticated than their basic Chinese-made boneshakers, there are great opportunities to share laughs with local people!

We follow the main Lhasa to Kathmandu route as it runs westwards, parallel to the great Himalaya chain, which forms the border with the territories of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Throughout, the road traverses a high and dry plateau-land, which is punctuated by the spectacular monastery towns of Gyantse, Shigatse and Shegar, as well as several smaller settlements and nomadic Drogpa encampments.

On the detour away from the main route towards the Rongbuk Monastery, the road climbs through almost fifty hairpin bends to reach the Pang La, which affords splendid views of the Himalaya, and of Mt. Everest itself. Everest Base Camp is a ‘not to be missed’ inclusion to this ride. Standing before the exposed and shear North Face of Chomolungma [Mt. Everest] at Everest Base Camp (5500m/18044ft) is a memorable experience that few will ever forget. We will spend a night at Everest Base Camp before riding 70 km back out to the main Kathmandu route.

Back on the main road we reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau as we cross the 5200 metre high Thang La, and begin a mind-blowing descent of 4500 metres, via the border town of Zhangmu, to the valley of the Sun Kosi River in Nepal. A final, easy day’s cycling brings us back to civilisation in the form of Kathmandu.

The Lhasa to Kathmandu tour guarantees to be a high point – in more ways than one – in any cyclist’s life!

Detailed Itinerary:

Day 01 Arrival in Kathmandu
Arrival Kathmandu. We save you from the mad crowd at Kathmandu airport and transfer you to your hotel.

Day 02 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
On your first full day in Nepal there will be a sightseeing tour to some of the most interesting places in and around Kathmandu. In the morning, we will explore the city of Kathmandu particularly the fascinating temples in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, including the Kumari Bahal the home of Kumari, the living goddess. After lunch, we will visit the amazing temples in Patan’s Durbar Square as well as the large Buddhist stupa at Swayambhunath, often referred to as the monkey temple because of the large numbers of monkeys, which have made it their home.

Day 03 Flight to Lhasa
This morning we will be transferred to the airport for the spectacular one hour flight to Tibet which takes us right across the main Himalayan range and features magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a 1 hour drive by private vehicle through a newly constructed tunnel and up along the riverside to Lhasa where we will check in to our hotel.

In the following days we will have time to explore Lhasa which some say is perhaps the most spiritual capital city on Earth. While many people may have a ‘Tibet of the mind’, Lhasa remains a mystery to most of us in the West, although over the centuries Buddhists have travelled in their millions over some of the most extreme, inhospitable and beautiful landscapes on the planet to pay homage at the temples. 

There is so much to see in Lhasa! Chaotic, mysterious and spiritual; with its mixture of the sacred and the mundane, it is full of surprises such as the Islamic area with its mosque, the street pool tables and the sight of young monks playing football. While there is so much to see and you will be keen to get out there – even if you feel fine, we strongly recommend that you rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa’s altitude. 

A point to note is that while you will see all the sights outlined below, the order of visits may change slightly depending on when we arrive and which days and times places are open.

Day 04 In Lhasa
Today will be spent visiting several of Lhasa’s many monasteries in the company of a guide and interpreter. One of these is the Sera Monastery, one of the best-preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within it’s whitewashed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. After lunch we’ll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as well as the Jokhang Temple. This temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet and there is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor – a maze of narrow cobbled streets, which is the central market of Lhasa. The name Barkor actually refers to the pilgrims’ circuit around the Jokhang, which winds its way through the market streets. During the course of their clockwise circumambulation of the Jokhang, the pilgrims regularly stop to scrutinize the merchandise on the stalls which line-up both sides of their route. The Barkor is a fascinating glimpse of the Tibetan past.

Day 05 In Lhasa
Another rest day, in the morning we will visit the Potala Palace, the most spectacular of the sights of Lhasa. Built on a small outcrop known as the “Red Hill,” the Potala Palace dominates the city of Lhasa. There has been a palace on this site since 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century, during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. The Potala is a vast building, containing the private quarters of the Dalai Lama, numerous grand staterooms and many important chapels. In the afternoon those of us who are starting to acclimatise to the altitude of Lhasa may wish to try out their bikes on a short tour around the city.

Day 06 Lhasa Our First Day on the Bike
Another easy day, we will ride out to the Sera Monastery and/or to the Drepung Monastery, either of which is no more than a twenty minutes ride. A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe- inspiring day. Founded in the 14th century, it lies 8 kilometres west of Lhasa under Mt. Gambo Utse. Its name means ‘Rice Heap’ and the monastery covers a floor space of more than 200,000 square meters – it was the largest and richest monastery ever built in Tibet and at its peak, it had a registration of more than 10,000 monks. It was closed in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, but was reopened in 1980 and now has about 500 monks.

Day 07 Lhasa – Chutsu
Starting out on our epic ride back to Kathmandu, we pack our excess gear onto our support truck, taking with us only the things which we are likely to need during the course of the day’s ride – water bottles, camera, wind shirt, and set off on a level and easy first stage to Chutsu. During the course of the day we will find a shady spot along the river to have lunch. Our camp this first night is set right at the beginning of the climb to Khamba La.

Day 08 Chutsu – Namdrok Tso
Today we have to cross the first of the six major passes of our route, the Khamba La [4794 metres]. At this early stage of the trip, and as yet far from fully acclimatized, the climb to this Pass is likely to be a big challenge for us at this stage but the good news is that the entire climb is now paved. From the Pass, there are views out across the turquoise waters of Namdrok Lake. During the period of maximum snowmelt in the spring, several rivers flow into this lake, but they dry up for most of the year. Similarly, the lake has no permanent outflow. Dropping down from the Pass, we continue on tarmac to a good campsite beside the lake near Nagartse.

Day 09 Namdrok Tso – Ralung
From our campsite we bike into the small town of Nagartse, still on tarmac. Leaving Nagartse, our route turns towards the West. The route follows the valley floor for a while before climbing to cross the Karo La [5045 metres], where there is the amazing sight of a huge glacier, which tumbles down to within a few hundred metre of the road. Descending from the Pass, we come into the Ralung valley which is a huge open valley until we reach the village of Ralung. After Ralung we ride for another hour or so to our campsite set in a riverbed, so there is a chance for a cold dip.

Day 10 Ralung – Gyantse
Today we have a relatively easy and mostly downhill stage to Gyantse. The beginning of the day has one short climb to the top of Simi La. All the way to Gyantse we could run into some road work here and there; the plan is to have the road paved all the way to Gyantse by Autumn 07. This is a very important town, which was until recently the third largest settlement in Tibet. There are some very impressive military and religious sights at Gyantse. The commanding fort dates from the fifteenth century, when it was the seat of a powerful warlord. Francis Younghusband’s troops occupied the fort for a month during his expedition to Tibet in 1904. The most famous and beautiful of Gyantse’s numerous monasteries is the spectacularly large and complex stupa, known as the Kumbum. This gold-topped pyramid has been little damaged over the centuries, and is one of the finest buildings in Tibet. The paintings that adorn its many chapels [there are 112 chapels in all] are especially fine. Our overnight accommodation is in a hotel; we probably need a good shower by now!

Day 11 Gyantse – Shigatse
Depending on how late we get into Gyantse on Day 10 we might have to do a little sightseeing in the morning before leaving for Shigatse. The ride to Shigatse is flat all the way on a very well paved road and we should have no problem reaching Shigatse by mid Afternoon. In Shigatse there is time to do some laundry at the hotel, before we usually head out to the night markets.

Day 12 Sightseeing and Rest in Shigatse
Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city, and capital of the province of Tsang. We spend a rest day here. The most interesting of its many sights, are probably the Tashi Lhunpo monastic complex, and also the ruined fortress, which dominates the city’s skyline. A high wall surrounds the red and gold buildings, which make up the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, and around this wall there is an important circumambulation route, which includes small shrines, significant rock inscriptions and many prayer wheels. The circuit takes less than an hour, but much longer if you stop regularly to watch the going on of the Tibetan pilgrims. Little remains of the Shigatse fortress, but the view from the top is spectacular.

Day 13 Shigatse – Tso La
The next Pass, which we have to negotiate, is the Tso La, which lies some 115 kilometres from Shigatse. It is a long day’s ride, with several uphill sections until we reach our campsite before the Pass. The good news is that since summer 2006 this section of the road have been paved, so we should then have a more enjoyable ride and be able to enjoy the stunning scenery on this day even more. We leave the crossing of the Pass until tomorrow.

Day 14 Tso La – Lhatse
Our reward for the hard climb to the Pass is a distant view of Mt. Everest [if the weather is clear]. We descend from the Pass to a small town of Lhatse. Lhatse’s claim to fame is that, the long road to Western Tibet starts from a point 6 Kilometres to the West of the town, where there is a ferry crossing of the Brahmaputra River. 

Day 15 Lhatse – Shegar
Another Pass crossing today, the Gyatso La which is the highest of the passes we cross at 5200m. The road across the pass to Shegar will probably also be paved by spring 2007. The small settlement of Shegar is situated a few kilometres to the North of the main road, and is also known as New Tingri [Tingri is further 65 kilometres to the West]. It is from here that we will set off on our detour to the Rongbuk Valley.

Day 16 Shegar – Pangla
We have allowed four days for our round trip to the Everest Base Camp in the Rongbuk Valley – two days to cycle in, one day in the Rongbuk Valley, and one day to drive and cycle back out. The principal obstacle on the jeep road into the North side of Everest is the Pang La [5150 metres], and this is encountered less than 10 kilometres after we have turned off the main road. A small settlement, Chay, lies at the foot of the Pass, and it is a steady 3 hours climb to the col. We will hope to make this stiff climb up to the Pang La on the first day’s biking, and then drop down to the first clusters of houses on the South side of the Pass which is the village of Tashi Tsom and we will camp a short distance from the village. There are excellent views of Makalu, Everest and Cho Oyu from the Pang La.

Day 17 Pang La – Rongbuk
At Tashi Tsom, the first Sizeable village after the Pass, the road divides, with the Eastern fork going to Kharta and the Kangshung side of Everest, whilst our route continues South-Westerly and then Southerly towards Rongbuk. The route is relatively flat as far as Chhosang, but grows considerably steeper for the final 10 kilometres to the Rongbuk Monastery. Mt. Everest only comes into view during the last hour of this long day.

Day 18 Rest and Exploration day at Rongbuk
We take a rest day at Rongbuk Monastery. There are actually 6 derelict monasteries in this high valley, and only one has been restored to a functioning state, at present. At an altitude of close to 5000 metres, this is a contender for the highest monastery in the world. It is a strenuous 2 hours or so up to the Base Camp area of the North side of Mt. Everest, which is situated in a sheltered spot on the outwash gravels below the Rongbuk Glacier.

Day 19 Rongbuk to Tingri
To cycle to Tingri via the new route from Everest BC, we have to get into the Jeep and truck to cross a big river in one place, otherwise we will try our best to cycle all the way to Tingri and 10 km beyond. Tingri is an unsheltered and windy settlement, directly underneath the imposing Cho Oyu. We cycle a bit beyond Tingri to a little village that has natural hot springs where we can take a bath.

Day 20 Tingri – Thang La
We continue, often with a strong headwind, towards the last two passes and across Lalung La [4990m]. We make our camp just below Lalung La and 8km from the top of one of the highest passes on our route, the Thang La [5050m.]. This is going to be our last big challenge. 

Day 21 Negotiating Thang La
Now well acclimatized we can cycle up to this, one of the high points of our trip. Even in our current shape these last 8km to the top are still some of the hardest of our trip. We get up at daybreak to get up to the top for sunrise, which will truly reward us for the pain with one of the Himalaya’s best panoramic views – from Everest and Makalu in the east to Shishapangma just on our right! We cross the Pass and start our epic descent towards Nepal. We get as close as 40km before the border of Nepal, but are still 2000m above it! We spend the night in a campsite just south of Nyalam.

Day 22 Nyalam – Campsite in Nepal
We’re on the big one – the longest downhill ride in the world! From Nyalam to the lowest point of our ride, across the border in Nepal, is a descent of 3200 metres and we stop only for the border regulations to be completed at Khasa, before we continue into Nepal to the last resort where we will sleep in lush green surrounding for the first time.

Day 23 Campsite – Kathmandu
It’s a long day’s ride through Nepal’s lush green valleys to Kathmandu, but no problem with the supercharged lungs we now have, due to the abundance of oxygen in the air at this elevation. We check into our hotel, and wash three weeks of dirt off us in the best hot shower you’ll ever get!

Day 24 Depart Kathmandu
We take you to the airport and hope to see you again soon!

What’s Included:

Hotel Dhood Gu or similar on BB basis in Lhasa & best available in Gyantse and Shigatse on BB basis
Full board camping at all other places supported by our Tibetan camp staff
Support by 4WD land cruiser and truck (you will be well taken care of on this ride, one western leader and a Nepali bike mechanic will be with you all the time. Besides that we have our Tibetan camp staff drive ahead every day to cook us lunch, set up camp and prepare dinner. We also have a landcruiser follow us on the road as backup)
Guided sightseeing tours with all entry fees
Travel permit
Tibet visa
Airport transfers

What’s Not included:

International flight to and from Kathmandu
Flight Kathmandu to Lhasa (US$480) 
Airport taxes
Travel insurance (we insist you have it)
Emergency evacuation due to any natural calamity or any unforeseen events
Optional trips and sightseeing tours
Additional nights at the beginning or end of trip
Lunch & dinner during hotel stay in Kathmandu, Lhasa, Gyantse & Shigatse
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Bar bills and laundry
Excess baggage charges

Get In Touch

If you have any questions about any of our trips, please call us on 0800 002 9559 or send us a message below.