Lhasa to Kathmandu Bicycle Ride, Tibet to Nepal

This is a quick post about my Lhasa to Kathmandu bicycle ride. I provide details that include maps, costs, logistical requirements and facts as well as links to additional details, photos and videos. This is a self-guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.

This adventure took place around 20 years ago, but now, just like then, no one really knew if this could be done independently.

Like any good adventure, this one started with a simple misconception. The seed (to ride a bicycle from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal) was planted when I met two scruffy Englishmen at the Kathmandu Guest House. This is an extreme ActivityThey had just ridden their bicycles thru Tibet to Kathmandu and spoke very highly of the 1,000+ km adventure. I knew that Tibet is a high plateau of the Himalayan mountain chain, but was under the misconception (created by a fine Canadian Public School education) that a plateau is a flat high place and since the Tibetan plateau was at approximately 4,000 meters and that Kathmandu was around 1,000 m, so the ride would essentially be downhill.

Through bitter experience I discovered that there certainly are some major downhill portions on the last two days of the trip, however, for the balance of the journey the route climbs over nine grueling high mountains passes that range from 4,520 to 5,220 meters. Further, the ascent to many of these passes start about 1,000 meters below, and 10 to 20 km before, the pass crests.

Add to that equation the fact that you have to cycle with a fully loaded bicycle, the altitude robs mortals of stamina, accommodation is sparse and primitive, food is either Chinese noodles or non-existent, the roads are either paved or sand, the weather consists of scorching hot, freezing cold, blazing sunshine or cold rain, and finally constant gale force headwinds (to the extent that you have to peddle hard down some major declines simply to maintain forward motion). Yet I didn’t know any of this when the seed of an idea blossomed into a plan.

To the seed into reality I started searching the Chinese embassy website to determine visa/permit requirements. It became apparent that I could apply for a standard visa and fly from Kathmandu to any Mainland Chinese city and then train back to Lhasa to begin the adventure or I could join a package tour in order to receive a Tibet permit.

The package options included flying from Kathmandu directly to Lhasa ($300) and then paying for a minimum 15-day permit package ($160 for the permit and a ride from the Lhasa airport). A cheaper alternative with a longer permit stay was an overland jeep trip ($400) for 7 nights and 8-days, that provided a 25-day permit. I opted for the jeep trip since it would take me over some of the same roads I would be cycling and would therefore provide me with route insight and enough days to purchase a bicycle in Lhasa and cycle back to the boarder before the permit.

My only reservation was that packages tend to be cattle calls with a lot of people, of various ages, lifestyles, and personalities forced to co-habitat. I certainly didn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of losers, but had no choice given the lucrative restrictions imposed by the Chinese government for entry into Tibet from Nepal. I booked the package with some doubts, purchased a used one-man tent, a gas cooker, cooking pot, and air mattress (that leaked incidentally).

One of the English gents had also lent me his bicycle saddlebags so with my acquired gear and my existing trekking stuff I was prepared for what I assumed would be a simple 3-4 week adventure.

This narrative is continued on the Lhasa to Kathmandu Bicycle Ride page.

cost range

Total Cost Range of this Activity is: $$$

Cost Details:

7 night jeep package for 25 day permit & to get to Lhasa
Buy bicycle in Lhasa & bike gear
15 nights (2/3 at Gh or homestay & 1/3 in tent)
Nepal entry visa at border
Total $915
2007 prices

Click to watch Video Part 1


Detailed Lhasa to Kathmandu Route Map

Lhasa – Kathmandu Friendship Highway Map

Friendship Highway Altitude Profile

Lhasa-Kathmandu by Friendship Highway: Profile of the Friendship Highway (Tibet) and Arniko Highway (Nepal)

Source: Profile was measured and made available by Laura Stone during her two years biking journey across Himalayas.

Oxygen Rates at Altitude

Related Links

Maps of tibet


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The entire ride took 16 days. It was a hell of a ride and I do not recommend it without a group and support vehicles. Lodging and food (and passes) were simply too much of a hassle.

Click to watch Video Part 2

The final Part

Click to watch Video Part 3

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Lhasa to Kathmandu cycling narrative

Lhasa to Kathmandu photos