Cycling across the high altitude Tibetan Plateau from Lhasa to Kathmandu is an awe-inspiring experience and a must for adventure cyclists
Cycling across the high altitude Tibetan Plateau from Lhasa to Kathmandu is an awe-inspiring experience and a must for adventure cyclists
The cycling tour from Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal is regarded as one of the toughest cycling challenges in the world. It is a high altitude cycling tour that takes you all the way to Everest Base Camp.
If you are an adventure cyclist then this is a tour worth looking at. 80-90% of this cycle ride is over 4000m above sea level. It covers a distance of around 1100km across the plateau along the friendship highway and crosses five high altitude passes over 5000m. It then drops from 5050 to just over 540m over a short distance of around 150k. If this is not epic, what is? And the highlight is a visit to Everest Base Camp.
This cycling expedition allows for plenty of time to explore the heart of Kathmandu and its famous landmarks as well as enjoying a short cycle in Kathmandu. On the Tibetan Plateau there is time to explore many of Lhasa’s stunning monasteries while we slowly acclimatise to the altitude, before heading out on the tour. We have a support vehicles all the way to carry equipment and give riders a break when they need it.
The cycling tour across Tibet requires fitness, endurance and stamina, as you will be cycling up high mountains and along undulating plains. There are major 5 passes above 5000m. Kamba La is one of the most difficult as well as Panga La (5150m), which are the high points of journey and offer with superb views. The distances given each day are estimates as they depend on camp points and road deviations.
One of the highlights of the journey, apart from the stunning mountain lakes is to finally reach Rongbuk Monastery after a long day of cycling. It is the last long slow uphill after Pang La to reach base camp. You have a chance to cycle to base camp on your second day or take in some well earned rest. The highest monastery in the world is here at 5,000 meters above sea level, the Rongbuk Monastery which is part of the Nyingmapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and is unique in that both monks and nuns live together in the same monastery.
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FIXED DEPARTURES FOR 2022
20 April 2022 - 12 May 2022
04 May 2022 - 26 May 2022
18 May 2022- 09 June 2022
13 June 2022 - 05 July 2022
13 July 2022 - 04 August 2022
10 Aug 2022 - 01 Sep 2022
05 Sep 2022 - 27 Sep 2022
14 Sep 2022 - 06 Oct 2022
19 Sep 2022 - 11 Oct 2022
05 Oct 2022 - 27 Oct 2022
Day-1: Arrive Kathmandu and transfer to Hotel
Day-2: Full day Guided sightseeing around Kathmandu valley.
Day-3: Morning cycling
This morning we drive to Mutku and then cycle to Budanilkantha, where we are collected and driven back to Kathmandu. Here we do a gear check and collect our passports from the embassy.
Day-4: Kathmandu to Lhasa (3660m)
Transfer to the airport for the hour-long flight across the main Himalayan range. Afternoon at rest to acclimatise to Lhasa’s high altitude.
We will visit Lhasa’s many monasteries and sites, such as the Sera Monastery, and the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama.
We visit the Potala Palace and Drepung Monastery founded in the 14th century, and once the largest in the world, with a population of around 10,000 monks. The afternoon, is a time to relax or further explore the area.
Day-7: Cycle to Kampa Pass
Today you start your cycle tour across the Tibetan Plateau. The first riding day is short and easy as you head out along the Friendship Highway. The road is in good condition and relatively flat. The trip will take you along the Tsangpo River to foot of the Kamba Pass (3700 m). When you arrive at the camp you will find tents, latrines, shower tent and facilities ready. Accommodation in tents [Cycling distance +/-: 85 km].
Day-8: Kamba Pass
Our first mountain pass. A strong uphill climb along a tar road of several switchbacks, reaches a summit lavishly adorned with prayer flags (4794m). After descending we continue alongside Lake Yamdruk, at the far side of which we set camp (4490m). Overnight in tents. [Cycling distance +/-: 55 km]
Day-9: Karo Pass
Leaving the beautiful lake behind, we cycle along the Friendship highway which soon becomes a gravel roadway, through a ravine and up to the foot of the Karo Pass (4750m), where our tented village will be prepared for the night. Accommodation in tents. [Cycling distance +/-: 54 km]
Day-10: Karo Pass to Gyantse
A significant time on the tour, as we have to get up early to climb the high Karo Pass (5010m). Around us we can see glaciers stretching down to 6000m and beautiful lakes. You are rewarded for your effort with a night in Gyantse (3980m). Hotel.
First we will visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating from the 14th century and the Kumbum, a large gold-domed stupa with several small chapels, containing an impressive collection of Tibetan Buddhist murals. We then drive on the highway towards Shigatse. Although this involves a longer distance, the highway is tarred and flat. In the afternoon we will arrive in Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse (3860m). [Cycling distance +/-: 94 km]
Day-12: Gyachung Monastery
We leave Shigatse and ride over two small passes and through several small Tibetan villages. We will cycle past the isolated Gyachung Monastery and camp. Accommodation in tents at around 4100m. [Cycling distance +/- 75 km]
The route lead us through picturesque valleys before the long route begins which leads over the Tso-La (4520m). After lunch we head towards Lhatse past the hot springs and camp about 10km outside of town. Accommodation in tents. [Cycling distance +/- 95 km]
We view the stunning canyon of the 5220m Gyatso-La. On a clear day you will be rewarded for your effort with your first view of Mount Everest. After a 40 km ride through flat prairie towns, you will arrive in the town of Pelbar, often referred to as Shegar. Shegar, is a popular stopover for anyone heading to the Everest region. This is a long and grueling ride through the canyon. [Cycling distance +/- 75 km]
Day-15: Pang Pass
Just outside of Shegar, we will divert off the main Lhasa-Kathmandu highway and head towards the world’s highest peak, Everest. After passing through the border control point, you will be faced with 20km’s of uphill switchbacks (42 hairpin bends in total!) before you reach the summit of the Pang Pass (5150m). Your reward will be some of the most magnificent views of Everest and her surrounding peaks. Enjoy lunch as you gaze over Makalu (8463m), Shishapangma (8012m), Cho Oyu (8210m), Lhotse (8516m), Everest (8850m) and several other breathtaking peaks. Then a 20 kilometer downhill follows to the Rongbuk Valley (4200m), where we camp. Overnight accommodation in tents. [Cycling distance +/- 67 km]
Day-16-17: Rongbuk Monastery Everest Base Camp
Now you should be at peak fitness and excited about the approach of Everest Base Camp. A bumpy road winds up through the Rongbuk valley until the majestic Mount Everest appears before you. We will camp beside the monastery with the unforgettable sight of the 8848m peak in front of your eyes. We will stay here for two days. One your second day, you can either read a book or get even closer to Everest by taking a walk, cycling or hopping on a donkey and cart ride to Everest base camp, which is 8km from the campsite. Accommodation in tents (5150m). [Cycling distance +/- 35 km]
Leaving Rongbuk, we drive back down the bumpy road and then take a "short-cut" into the mountains. Another bumpy trail takes us over a canyon and down into Tingri (4340m). Overnight in tents. [Cycling distance +/- 86 km]
Day 19 Cycling to before Paiku-Tso Lake (BLD)
After breakfast in Tingri we will then start our ride to the Paiku-Tso Lake. Paiku-Tso Lake is a lake at 4,591 meters on the Tibetan Plateau at south of the Yarlung River. The lake is 27 kilometers long and 6 kilometers wide at its narrowest. It is surrounded by mountains reaching 5,700 to 6,000. Streams fed by glaciers cascade to the valley floor. Today is a long day of cycling but the rewards of the lake are worth ever second. Overnight accommodation in tents [Cycling distance +/- aprox 95 km]
Day 20: Cycling to Upper Kerong (Gyirong )
Today we cycle mainly downhill to Gyirong Town at 2,700 meters. It is an important town in the cross-border trade between China and Nepal and serves as the border between China and Nepal. Overnight accommodation in tents). [Cycling distance +/- 100 km]
Day 21: Cycling to Kerong border
After breakfast in Gyirong we will start cycling to the Kerong border and camp for the night. It is a beautiful scenic campsite and you can use the rest of the day to explore the area. Overnight accommodation in tents). [Cycling distance +/- 70 km]
Day 22: Morning cycling till Syburbesi DRIVE to Kathmandu (140 KM)
After the breakfast, we will start cycling until around midday when we should reach Syburbesi where a vehicle will be waiting to transfer back to Kathmandu Overnight accommodation in hotel).
Day 23: Final Departure from Nepal.
End of services
There are actually a number of required documents.
If starting your tour in Nepal you will need a multiple entry visa or if starting in Tibet, an entry visa for Nepal. Both can be obtained on arrival for $50.
For Tibet, who will need a China Visa. These can only be applied for in Kathmandu if travelling in via Nepal, otherwise from a visa agent if entering directly into Tibet.
You then also require a special Aliens Travel Permit to allow you to enter certain areas of Tibet such as Everest Base Camp and then a Tibet Travel Permit. Tibet Travel Permit can only be obtained by a registered tour operator, and is required to gain entry to Tibet, including boarding the plane or train, and will be checked at any of the checkpoints throughout the region. Both of the latter as well as the visa for Tibet if entering via Kathmandu are arranged by us.
You must of course also be in possession of a valid passport which is valid for at least 6 months from the end of the tour.
We highly recommend bikes with front suspension will help with the corrugation/washboard tracks on gravel roads, not to mention potholes. Although full suspension bikes can work it can be hard going for mainly tar surfaces.
When it comes to gear ratio we suggest a low gear such as a 22-tooth granny cog on the front crank though at the end of the day proper gearing is something you just have to feel out based on the terrain etc.
You can of course bring your own bike with you for the tour, you can buy or hire one in Lhasa.
Given the high altitude and low atmospheric pressure, Tibet has an intricate climate with two different weather zones between the Northwest and South east. The northern sections are dryer and colder than the south where there is more rain. Overall, cycling across Tibet can be done between April and October but certain months bring better weather.
April can still see the end of the winter snow fall and likewise October the start with the arrival of winter.
The bulk of the rainfall (albeit low), comes in July and August and can run into September.
Spring and autumn bring the most stable weather with milder temperatures, less or little rain and lighter winds.
Servicing for bikes in the region is rare, and you do not want to be stuck miles from anywhere with a broken wheel. The repair tools that you may require more frequently include
If bringing your own bike, it is essential that the bike is serviced and that all essential components are checked before you depart. Attention should be paid to the following aspects: chain, release clamps, tyre and inner tubes should be checked.
The weather during the day if there is no wind and the sun is out can be quite warm but it can quickly drop to/or below freezing at night For this reason you need to have a mix of light wickable gear for cycling and warm clothes to pull on if the temperatures suddenly drop such as gloves, jacket, long pants and arm and knee warmers.
We also highly recommend a few buffs where on can be used to cover your nose and mouth for dusty sections. Our general gear includes, in additional to toiletries, sleeping bag, medical kit and basic bike tools:
This is a really difficult one to answer directly - "how will I cope with the altitude". To be honest, this is an ' unknown' factor as no-one can predict how your body will cope at altitude. People, who have been to altitude many times in the past without problems, may suddenly develop problems. There are many factors that play a role.
Any altitude over 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) is usually defined as high altitude. Tibet is a land with average elevation above 4,000m. The tour is at high altitude so proper acclimatisation is paramount as is drinking plenty of water. It is also advisable to consult a doctor before traveling to ensure that you do not have any underlying issues.
Yes you can and we can easily plan your trek on dates that suit you. However given the cost of the trip it is best to go on a group departure date. If you are planning your own group we need a minimum of 4 people.
Yes there are. Mera peak has 3 summits and the highest is at 6,476m/ 21,246 feet. The three are: Mera North, 6,476 metres (21,247 ft), the one we summit; Mera Central, 6,461 metres (21,198 ft); and Mera South, 6,065 metres (19,898 ft), as well as a smaller "trekking summit", visible as a distinct summit from the south but not marked on most maps of the region.
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