The Tibetan Autonomous Region is a place often dreamed of for years in advance of a visit. Visitors don’t always realize the restrictions available to foreign travelers about where they can and cannot travel within the TAR. Here are some guides to help in planning a trip around the TAR traveling as an independent traveler on public transportation and where you will need to hire a car and driver. Permit status can change at any time.
(see also Overland to Tibet)
Lhasa by Air (6 Days)
A tour of the Lhasa region. Having arrived suddenly at a high altitude, travelers are very strongly recommended to take it easy for the first two days in order to acclimatize. The flight from Chengdu to Lhasa is the shortest among those available from Chinese cities. Alien Travel Permits are not required for Lhasa.
Day 1 – Chengdu/Kunming (By Air) – Lhasa (PM: Barkhor) Day 2 – Lhasa (Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka) Day 3 – Lhasa (Potala Palace) Day 4 – Lhasa (Drepung and Sera Monasteries) Day 5 – Lhasa (Day trip to Ganden Monastery) Day 6 – Lhasa (By Air) – Chengdu/Kunming (or Kathmandu, Nepal)
Tibetan Areas in Qinghai and Gansu along with Tibet Overland (11 days)
Day 1 – Lanzhou, Gansu (By Bus) - Xiahe Day 2 – Xiahe (Labrang Monastery) Day 3 – Xiahe (By Bus) – Tongren, Qinghai (Rongbo Monastery) Day 4 – Tongren (By Bus) - Xining Day 5 – Xining – Ta’er Monastery (Day Trip) (Arrange train tickets before leaving Xining in the morning) Day 6 – 8 – Trip to Qinghai Hu Day 9 – Xining City Sightseeing Day 10 – Xining (By Train) - Lhasa Day 11 – Arrival at Lhasa
Excursions around Lhasa (7 Days)
Day 1 – Lhasa (By Bus) - Xigatse Day 2 – Xigatse (Tashilhunpo Monastery) (Arrange alien travel permits in the morning) Day 3 – Xigatse – Sakya (Sakya North Monastery) Day 4 – Sakya (AM: Sakya South Monastery) – (PM: By Bus) - Xigatse Day 5 – Xigatse (By Bus) - Gyantse Day 6 – Gyantse (Pelkhor Choede) Day 7 – Gyantse (By Bus) – Shigatse (By Bus) – Lhasa
Excursion into Shannan (8 Days)
Travel to Shannan prefecture, the ancestral home of the Tibetan Royal Family, and the location of Samye Monastery, Tibet's first Buddhist Monastery. Tsethang is an open city, but the rest of the prefecture requires an Alien Travel Permit.
Day 1 – Lhasa (By Bus) – Entrance to Drachi Valley (2-3 Hr Walk) – Mindroling Monastery (Stay) Day 2 – Mindroling Monastery (Walk, Hitch, Boat and Truck) – Samye (Stay) Day 3 – Samye (Samye Monastery) Day 4 – Samye – Chimphu Hermitage (Day Trip) Day 5 – Samye (By Boat, Bus) - Tsethang Day 6 – Tsethang – King’s Tombs at Chongye (Stay) Day 7 – Chongye – Tsethang (Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 8 – Tsethang (By Bus) – Lhasa
From Lhasa to Tsethang area (By Land Cruiser) (3 Days)
Alien Travel Permit required.
Day 1 – Lhasa - Mindroling Monastery - Tsethang Day 2 – Tsethang Area (King’s Tombs, Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 3 – Tsethang (Both Ways by Boat) – Samye – Lhasa
From Lhasa to Kathmandu (By Land Cruiser) (9 Days)
Land Cruiser is the main option on this route since there is no public transportation between Shigatze and Dram, though some travellers have successfully hitch-hiked on this route. Alien Travel Permit required.
Day 1 – Lhasa – Yamdrok Yumtso Lake – Nangartse - Gyantse Day 2 – Gyantse (Pelkhor Choede) Day 3 – Gyantse – Zhalu Monastery - Shigatse Day 4 – Shigatse (Tashilhunpo Monastery) – Sakya Day 5 – Sakya (Sakya South Monastery) - Shelkar Day 6 – Shelkar – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp Day 7 – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp Day 8 – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp – Tingri – Milarepa Monastery – Dram (Border, Land Cruiser terminates here) Day 9 – Dram – Kodari (Nepalese Border) – Kathmandu
From Lhasa to Kongpo (By Land Cruiser) (9 Days)
A scenic tour.
Day 1 – Lhasa – Kongpo Gompa Day 2 – Kongpo Gompa - Basong Tso Lake Day 3 – Basong Tso Lake Day 4 – Basong Tso Lake - Bayi Day 5 – Bayi – Nyingtri – Serhyim La - Menling Day 6 – Menling – Lhopa village - Nang Dzong Day 7 – Nang Dzong - Tsethang Day 8 – Tsethang Area (King’s Tombs, Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 9 – Tsethang (By Bus) – Mindroling Monastery - Lhasa
To Mount Kailash (Kang Rinpoche) and Guge Ruins (By Land Cruiser) (3 Weeks)
The region visited in this tour is only accessible by land cruiser.
Day 1-6 – Lhasa (North Route) – Ali Day 7 – Ali - Toling Day 8 – Toling – Guge Ruins (Day Trip) Day 9 – Toling - Montser Day 10 – Montser – Tirthapuri – Darchen (Mt Kailash) Day 11-15 – Pilgrimage around Mt Kailash Day 16 – Darchen - Lake Manasarover Day 17-22 – Lake Manasarover (South Route) – Lhasa
Tours Not Sanctioned by Government
The following tours may rely on buses and hitching lifts from trucks. If caught by the Public Security Bureau, you may be fined and/or jailed and then requested to leave the area.
From Yunnan to Lhasa (2-3 Weeks)
The best time time to travel this route is April-May and October-November.
From Chengdu to Lhasa (2-3 Weeks)
Bus runs from Chengdu to Dege, Chamdo and Lhasa.
Bus runs to Mangkam
From Xining via Yushu to Lhasa (2-3 Weeks)
Bus runs to Yushu.
From Kashgar to Lhasa, via Mt Kailash (Kang Rinpoche) (35-50 Days)
Bus runs to Yecheng