How to Get the Tibet-Nepal Tour Package You Want

Boudhanath Stupha in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Boudhanath Stupha in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo © yowangdu.com

Do you dream of taking the amazing overland trip from Tibet to Nepal? 

The journey through the Himalayas is one of the world’s greatest adventures — it starts in the high-altitude holy city of Lhasa, stops at the breathtaking Everest Base Camp along the way, crosses the Tibet-Nepal border, and ends up in fascinating Kathmandu.

Most of the tours follow a very similar path — you can see a popular basic itinerary below — but your trip can be fantastic or terrible depending on the travel agency you choose. So if you’re looking for a Tibet Nepal tour package —  either a private tour or a budget-friendly group tour — heads up that you need a good Tibet travel agent.

In this post, we help you figure out what kind of Tibet trip is right for you, show you a popular itinerary, share why it is important to pick a good travel agency, and, finally, if you want, connect you quickly to a reliable agent who can give you the exact tour that you want.

Note: Tibet-Nepal overland tours were closed for two years after the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu, but re-opened in 2017, with a new border crossing at Kyirong. 

What Kind of Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour is Right for You?

Do you want a private, customized tour, or a more affordable group tour? Both can be great, but here is a quick look at the pro’s and con’s of each:

GROUP TOURS

Pros

  • Significantly cheaper
  • Meet other travelers and make friends
  • Have the option of adding a couple of private days, for acclimatization, or to see sights of your choice

Cons

  • Fewer date choices
  • Need to follow the group itinerary
  • Need to follow the general group pace
  • Trip officially ends at the Nepali border

PRIVATE TOURS

Pros

  • Keep your own pace, not someone else’s
  • See and do what you want
  • Stay at the hotels of your choice
  • Acclimatize more easily and safely by taking a few extra days here and there
  • Freedom to choose your start and end dates
  • Choose to extend the tour all the way to Kathmandu

Cons

  • More expensive

Outline: A Popular 8-Day Tibet-Nepal Tour Package

Potala Place: Tibet Nepal Tour

Brief Description of the Tour

Upon arrival in Lhasa, you spend a couple of slow days beginning to acclimatize to the 12,000 foot altitude. Lhasa is itself an ancient and fascinating city with sites – the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung and Sera Monasteries. Each of these is awesomely beautiful and significant to Tibetan Buddhism and culture.

If you want you can pay for a couple of extra private-tour days in Lhasa before your group tour, for easier, safer acclimatizing before you head out on the road. 

The overland journey begins with views of the sacred Yamdrok lake, glaciers near the Karo la pass, and the Buddhist treasures of the Gyantse Khumbum and the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse. The road continues to the fabled Everest Base Camp, where on clear days you can see the glorious Tibetan face of Mount Everest. To finish off the 8 day journey, you drive to the Nepali border by descending slowly into the Kyirong Valley, then crossing the border to Nepal. You can obtain your Nepal visa on arrival at the border. 

Statues at Sera Monastery

This sample group tour officially ends at the Nepali border. At the border, you have the choice to hire independently one of the many Nepali jeeps and vans available to continue your journey into Kathmandu, or you can choose to have a Tibetan agent arrange a Nepali driver to meet you at the border and transfer you to a hotel in Kathmandu. (Many travelers prefer to do it on their own, since it is cheaper to hire a driver at the border than to arrange it ahead of time, but it is up to you.)

Day by Day Itinerary

DAY ONE: Arrive in Lhasa by air or train

You are met at the airport or train station by your Tibetan guide and driver and taken to your hotel in Lhasa, about an hour’s drive, or half an hour’s drive from the train station. (To acclimatize more safely, we recommend staying in Xining for 2 nights before taking the Tibet train.) You’ll need to take it easy this day, to start acclimatizing. Overnight in Lhasa.

DAY TWO: Guided Tour of Lhasa:  Potala Palace – Jokhang Temple – Barkhor street

This is another day to acclimatize and go slow. You can have an easy visit to the incomparable Jokhang Temple, and stroll the center of Lhasa city life, the Barkhor path around the Jokhang. In the afternoon, you will visit the Potala Palace, former winter home of the Dalai Lamas. Overnight in Lhasa.

DAY THREE: Guided Tour of Lhasa: Drepung Monastery – Sera Monastery

On this day you will visit what was once the world’s largest monastery, Drepung Monastery in the morning, and in the afternoon, Sera Monastery, where you can view the living monastic tradition of Buddhist dialectics among the monks (everyday except Sunday). You need to continue to acclimatize. Overnight once again in Lhasa.

DAY FOUR: Overland Lhasa — Gyantse — Shigatse

The overland journey starts with a climb up to the Kampa la pass and views of lovely, turquoise Yamdrok lake and continues through mountains and villages to a stop at the Karo la pass to see the holy Mount Nyenchen Kangsar glacier. Another stop is at Gyantse, to visit the magnificent Kumbum stupa and Palkhor Choede monastery and a final late afternoon drive to Shigatse. Overnight in Shigatse.

DAY FIVE: Shigatse  — Sakya Monastery — Shegar

Today’s drive crosses the Tso La pass and includes a visit to the ancient monastery of Sakya before finishing up in the town of Shegar, where you overnight.

DAY SIX: Shegar — Rongbuk Monastery — Everest Base Camp 

This high-altitude day heads for the foot of Everest, crossing several passes, and, weather permitting, with your first views of the holy mountain, which Tibetans call Chomolungma.  The day’s destination is Everest Base Camp in the Rongbuk valley, where the high lonely Rongbuk monastery is located. You have the option to take a short trek to the tent guesthouse area to lower Base Camp, or a minibus if you prefer. Overnight at the local tent guesthouses except for winter, when the tent guesthouses close and only Rongbuk monastery guesthouse is available.

View of old Shigatse from the Tashilumpo Kora.
View of old Shigatse from the Tashilumpo Kora.

DAY SEVEN: Rongbuk — Old Tingri — Kyirong

After viewing Mount Everest by morning (again, weather permitting), we drive south to Nepal via the Thong La pass, descending steeply with waterfalls and lush plant life signaling the decrease in altitude. We overnight in the Tibetan border town of Kyirong.

DAY EIGHT: Kyirong — Sabrubesi

On this day your Tibetan driver and guide will bring you to the border and help you clear Chinese customs. As they cannot go further, you will then cross the bridge and either book one of the available jeeps or vans to Kathmandu, or if you wish to pay a little more for our services, we will arrange for you to be met by a Nepali driver, who will bring you to Kathmandu. (Unless you have booked a private tour, keep in mind that you will need to arrange for a hotel in Kathmandu.)

Customize Your Own Tibet to Nepal Journey

Group Tours 

Even if you take a group tour, you can customize it by adding private tour days to the beginning of your trip. You can make a trip that lowers your risk of getting altitude sickness, for example, by flying from anywhere in mainland China to Xining, on the far eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and spending a couple of nights in Xining for acclimatization purposes. (Talk to your doctor, as well, about the possibility of taking Diamox altitude sickness prevention medication.) Then, take the Tibet train to Lhasa, and pay for 2 “private tour” days in Lhasa before your group tour starts. This will give you very needed extra time to rest and acclimatize to the high altitude, plus a little bit of extra time for checking out fascinating Lhasa.

Private Tours

If you go on a private tour, you will have your own designated guide and driver. You can base your trip on the  group itinerary as above but slow it down in ways that will allow you to acclimatize easier and better, or to allow yourself to spend more time taking in the sights in Lhasa and at each step on the journey. Within reason, you can change your trip on the fly, and follow your own pace, staying longer where you like and less long in places you are not so interested in. If you’d like some help developing a private Tibet-Nepal tour package, fill out the travel inquiry form at this page. At no cost to you, we will introduce you to a trustworthy Tibetan-owned agency who can help you plan the exact trip you want. 

Choosing the Right Travel Agency for Your Tour

So much can go right if you pick the right agency and so very much can go wrong if you don’t. If you’re searching online, you will find a whole bunch of agents who may look very similar, with similar trips. In the Tibet travel world, this is a huge illusion. 

Some of the most unsavory Tibet travel agencies are actually some of the most prominent in Google search results! If you have the bad fortune to pick one of these bad ones, which advertise themselves as “local Tibet travel agents,” but are actually Chinese owned, you run the risk of being left in the lurch if something goes wrong with your trip, not getting your permits, getting hit with hidden fees or costs after you arrive in Tibet, or getting a Chinese guide instead of a Tibetan.

On the other hand, if you pick a reliable agency, you will get legitimate, caring local Tibetan guides and drivers who can share with you the experience of  real Tibetan life, culture and spirituality. The agency will take good care of you if anything goes wrong on the trip, charge you exactly the price they quoted you, not a penny more, and importantly, they will be Tibetan-owned, so that you not only get the benefits of working with guides and drivers who know what they’re doing, but you also support the local Tibetan economy.

After years of research, lots of experience (sometimes hard experience!) and deep connections with Tibet travel agencies, we have learned how to separate out the good Tibet travel agents from the bad. And if you like, we can connect you with one of the best, at no cost to you.

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Updated on July 20, 2020. First published on June 25, 2014.

Your Tibet travel advisors, Lobsang and Yolanda

Most people who want to go to Tibet don't know how to get there or who to trust for help. We’re Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, and we help make Tibet travel more simple, safe and ethical so you can feel peace of mind about your trip. Learn more about us and YoWangdu here.

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