The route from Lhasa (ལྷ་ས) to the Nepal border or to Everest Base Camp is the most popular route travelers take in Tibet. This route is along the Friendship Highway which connects Lhasa with the Nepal capital city of Kathmandu. Though this route has become very popular with foreign tourists from China and the rest of the world, it is still an excellent route to take with many interesting things to see. The best way to do this journey is to fly to one of the large cities on the east coast of China such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou and then make your way to Xining. There are daily flights as well as trains that connect these 3 cities with Xining. Xining (known as Siling in Tibetan) is on the far northeast corner of the Tibetan Plateau in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo (ཨ༌མདོ) . From Xining, you can take the train to Lhasa in about 25 hours. In Xining it is usually easier to get train tickets to Lhasa then in the larger cities such as Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai or Guangzhou. All together, a a trip going by train from Xining to Lhasa and then a 4WD trip down the Friendship Highway takes between 8 and 10 days. Here is what that trip looks like:
Day 1: Take the train from Xining (elevation 2300m) to Lhasa (ele. 3550m). The train takes just over 25 hours and goes through the Tibetan areas of Amdo (northeast Qinghai province) before heading south through Golmud, Nagchu and arriving in Lhasa. The scenery along this route is stunning. There are 3 classes of tickets for the train: Soft sleeper, hard sleeper and seat. Both sleeper classes are comfortable. Only take the seat if there are no sleeper tickets available. The picture below is of Jokhang Temple ( ཇོ་ཁང་).
Day 2: Arrive in Lhasa from Xining. Most of the trains from Xining and the rest of China arrive in Lhasa between 6:30pm and 9:45pm.
Day 3: Stay in Lhasa. You can go to the famous sights in Lhasa such as The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery, The Norbulinka, Drepung Monastery and Barkhor Square. It is wise to spend at least a few nights in Lhasa to acclimatize before heading to higher elevation places along the Friendship Highway.
Day 5: Go from Lhasa to Gyantse (ele. 4000m) via Yamdrok Lake . Yamdrok Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet. The lakes sits at 4450m and has an excellent view of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang which rises to 7191m. From the lake, you will descend down to the city of Gyantse (རྒྱལ་རྩེ་), which is home to the Gyantse Kumbum, the largest stupa (chorten) in Tibet. In Gyantse, you can also visit the the historic hilltop military fort. There are several good hotel options in Gyantse. The picture below is of Yamdrok Lake.
Day 6: Go from Gyantse to Shigatse (ele. 3900m). Shigatse (གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ) is the second largest city in Tibet and is home of Tashilhunpo Monastery. There is excellent hiking around the monastery and several good markets in town to purchase souvenirs. There are many hotels to choose from from budget to 4 star.
Day 7: Go from Shigatse to the small village of Tashi Dzom near Mt. Everest via Sakya Monastery. Sakya Monastery is the head monastery of the Sakya sect of Tibetan buddhism. The fortress like monastery is very unique in Tibet. There is good hiking on the mountains behind the monastery. Tashi Dzom (ele. 4350m) is a small village with not a lot to do, but it serves as a good point to spend the night at before making the final approach to Mt Everest Base Camp. On the drive from Tashi Dzom to Base Camp, there are good views of the Himalaya Mountains. Accommodations in Tashi Dzom are limited to basic guesthouses. The picture below is at the Kumbum chorten in Gyantse.
Day 8: Drive from Tashi Dzom to Mt. Everest Base Camp (ele. 5200m). The drive to Base Camp crosses over a high mountain pass which gives an excellent sweeping view of the Himalaya's. Rongbhu Monastery, the highest monastery in the world at 5000m, is 8km before base camp. There is a small guesthouse at the monastery as well as well as the "tent city" near base camp that offers beds in traditional style Tibetan tents for around Y40 per person. The picture below is taken at Rongbhu Monastery with Mt. Everest (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ) in the background.
Day 9a: With Day 9 there are two options to choose from. The first option is to go from Mt. Everest Base Camp to the Nepal Border at the small town of Dram (known as Zhangmu in Chinese). The border is not open 24 hours so you may have to spend the night here and then cross the border the next morning. You can cross the foot bridge over the border into Nepal and then take a bus or taxi into Kathmandu. Vehicles from Tibet normally cannot drive into Nepal. From the border to Kathmandu will take around 4 or 5 hours. There are several decent hotels to choose from in Zhangmu with places to exchange money into Nepali rupees. You can get a Nepali visa at the border.
Day 9b: The other option is to return to Lhasa from Mt. Everest Base Camp. Day 9 you would begin to go back to Lhasa. You would go from Mt. Everest to the small town of Lhatse or Shigatse.
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