Cycle Tibet & Nepal
Cycle Across the Roof of the World
Tibet & Nepal Cycling Tour - Lhasa to Kathmandu
Trip Notes • Back to this tour's main page
|2||Fly to Lhasa||Lhasa||B|
|3||Visit Jokhang, Sera||Lhasa||B|
|4||Free morning, visit Braille Without Borders||Lhasa||B|
|5||Visit Drepung - cycle, free afternoon.||Lhasa||B|
|6||Visit Ganden, cycle||Lhasa||BD|
|11||Visit Kumbum. Free afternoon||Gyantse|
|13||Visit Tashilhunpo monastery. Free afternoon||Shigatse|
|20||Visit Everest base camp||Rombuk Camp||BLD|
|25||Rest Day||Sun Kosi||BLD|
Day 1: Arrive Kunming
This is arrival day and you’ll be met by your Bike Asia leader in the evening to go over the trip ahead. Kunming is a great place to explore with its wide boulevards and modern shopping centres giving way to back lanes and old wooden buildings. There are plenty of things to keep you busy if you arrive early. Check out the Tang Dynasty Pagodas or join the Buddhist pilgrims to the 1000 year old Yuan Tong Temple, the largest of its kind in Kunming. This temple is a great place to try Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. We will meet in the evening for the group meeting to go over the formalities of the trip. For dinner, we will head to sample some of the local cuisine – maybe dinner at one of the nearby Muslim restaurants with their array of spiced meats, fresh vegetables, noodles and stuffed sweet breads!
Day 2: Kunming - Lhasa
Today we take a three and a half hours flight to Lhasa We transfer from Gonkar airport by bus to our hotel in Lhasa. You are likely to feel the effects of altitude right away so we will be taking things nice and slow with a Tibetan dinner and a briefing.
Days 3-6: Lhasa
We take a few days in Lhasa to acclimatize to the altitude so that when we jump on our bikes we'll be ready to ride. This will give us plenty of time to visit the amazing Potala Palace- the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama - and explore the many other spiritually significant city sights such as Sera, Ganden, and Drepung monasteries. We stay in the Tibetan quarter which is the home of the Jokhang Temple, the most important shrine to all Tibetans. Pilgrims arrive in Lhasa daily from all corners of Tibet and make the traditional circuit of the Jokhang. This circuit, the Barkhor, has become an attraction in itself and it is an experience just to wander along with monks and nomads, to get lost amongst the stalls and discover the many smaller nunneries and shrines. You’ll have plenty of free time to soak up the unique ambience of Tibet’s capital and its friendly people. On our last day in Lhasa we’ll cycle to Drepung monastery to test our legs and get the bikes set up for the big ride.
Days 7-10: Lhasa - Gyantse
Off at last! We wave goodbye to Lhasa as we hit the road for four days of some pretty hard riding to find our legs. The first section of our journey will take us to Gyantse where, after camping under the stars, we will enjoy the comforts of hot showers and hotel beds. Highlights will include riding the Kamba La Pass (4900m) to view the spectacular Namdrok Tso, one of Tibet’s sacred lakes, and another big climb over the Karo La, our second big pass, before descending into Gyantse. This leg takes us on a combination of paved and dirt roads. There are some challenging climbs, made difficult by the altitude and some nice descents but the majority of the cycling is fairly flat. You will still be acclimatising so the daily distances aren’t huge so as to allow you to work yourself into the ride.
Day 11: Gyantse – Free Day
This is a free day to check out Gyantse and rest those weary legs. This small historic town has retained much of its old Tibetan charm and is a great place to wander around. Visits to Pelkor Chode Monastery and the Kumbum, one of Tibet's most famous and architecturally unique buildings, are a must. Gyantse Dzong, the 14th century fort that rises over the town’s centre is a great vantage point to view the nearby monastery and surrounding valley.
Day 12: Gyantse - Shigatse
We are on the road again for a big day’s ride through some beautiful rural scenery on generally flat, sealed roads. We should make the most of the tarmac and get some speed up! Our goal today is Shigatse, Tibet’s second biggest town. This is the home of the Panchen Lhama, a spiritual figure who is revered throughout Tibet. His traditional seat is Tashhilunpo Monastery and you’ll catch the sun glittering on its gold-tipped spires as we get close to town.
Day 13: Shigatse – Free Day
Another free day? What’s going on?! Tashhilunpo monastery is yours to explore for the day. Or, if you have seen enough temples to last you a while, then walks around the Tibetan quarter and hiking in the surrounding countryside are highly recommended. But remember what lies down the road! Everest is looming large in the distance and it’s a long way before our next rest day!
Days 14-16 - Shigatse to Shegar
Three days will take us from Shigatse into Shegar. This is tough, though rewarding, riding over the passes of Tsuo La (4500m) and Lhakpo La (5220m), camping in the Tibetan countryside along the way. Our campsites will be a welcome sight at the end of these days and the culinary magic of our Nepali and Tibetan cooks will be most appreciated. You'll be surprised by the variety of food they can produce on a camp stove!
Days 17-21 - Shegar to Everest and Old Tingri
We turn off the Friendship Highway and head south on rough dirt roads over the Pang La pass (5200m) with its unparalleled panoramic views of the Himalayas. If the weather is kind this is the view that most will remember, a first clear view of Everest (known as Qomolangma to Tibetan people), the world's highest mountain! From this spot you can really sense the power of this mountain as it rises above a string of snow-capped peaks, all impressive in their own right. This leg will be the highlight for many as we pedal to Everest Base Camp (5150m). Along the way we'll see the ruins of civilizations lost to the past and the last few Tibetan villages before setting up camp at Rongbuk monastery. You'll have ample opportunity to take in the experience of observing Everest with a whole day to ride the last few km to base camp where you can view the mountain up as close as you are allowed to get without a climbing permit! Riding back to our camp you can fall asleep with a moonlit peak to close your eyes to. We'll head back to the Friendship Highway and travel across country to Old Tingri where we will put up our feet with the Himalayas as our backdrop.
Days 22 & 23 - Old Tingri to Zhangmu
This leg is one of the most thrilling of the whole trip! First, we ride out of Old Tingri into a dry moonscape passing ruins of destroyed princedoms and towns that seem to be slowly turning to the dust of their surroundings. This land is truly awe-inspiring and it gets ever more dramatic as we ascend our final pass, Lalung (5050m), to be confronted with another view of the Himalayas. Nepal beckons beyond, and cycling down through these mountains we begin a huge drop in altitude to Zhangmu, a thrilling downhill which is a part of the biggest descent on the planet. From the dry rarefied air of Tibet down to the lush green rainforests of Nepal all in a matter of hours, this is a great ride! We stay on the border for the night at Zhangmu.
Day 24 - Zhangmu to Sun Kosi Valley
After crossing the border it's back on the bikes and riding along the Sun Kosi river. You'll be amazed by the sudden change in scenery, people, culture and cuisine. The roads are suddenly jammed with traffic of all kinds and you'll have to have your wits about you. After a spectacular ride we arrive at our deluxe campsite for a well-earned rest.
Day 25 - Sun Kosi Valley Rest Day
This is a rest day in a great location where you can shake out the dust, breathe a deep lungful of oxygen, put your feet up and reflect on an epic journey. If there's still some adventure left in you then you can always do some white water rafting, canyoning or bungy-jumping to keep the pulse racing!
Day 26 - Sun Kosi Valley to Dhulikhel
Our last uphill! On this night we will stay in the hill station farming community of Dhulikhel. An early morning wake-up with sunrise could provide you with a last view of the Himalayas before heading into the bustle of Kathmandu. This is a special way to say goodbye to a special region.
Day 27 - Dhulikhel to Kathmandu
Our last day's ride is an easy flat one into Nepal's most populous valley although negotiating our way through the traffic of this busy capital could make it one of the most difficult! We'll check into our hotel and then freshen up before hitting Kathmandu's Tamil district for our final night dinner, celebration and a well-deserved beer!
Today is departure day. You are free to leave at any time.
- 27 nights accommodation (15 nights camping, 12 nights in hotels)
- Tents and foam sleeping mats for camping
- All land transport en route, & flight from Kunming to Lhasa
- Meals: Breakfasts (25), Lunches (18), Dinners (19)
- Support vehicle
- Tibet Permit
- Bike tools
- All water and snack food whilst cycling
- Local guide, cooks and drivers
- Bike Asia tour leader
- Jokhang, Drepung, Pelkhor Chode and Tashilhunpo Monastery entrance fees. Gyantse Dzong entrance fees.
Note: We have not included entry tickets to the Potala Palace; these are now notoriously difficult to obtain with the restricted daily number of visitors.
Bike Asia Travel Style
We think cycling through a region for the first time with a group of like-minded people is a great way to travel in Asia. Our aim is to provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, learn about new cultures, experience different landscapes and most all to have some fun. Cycling is a major part of our trips – they are cycle tours after all. We have designed them so that they are accessible to people with a reasonable level of fitness. Different trips will require varying degrees of physical ability. Each trip dossier has specific details on terrain, cycling conditions, distances covered each day and an altitude profile. All of our trips are fully supported, so should you want or need to take a rest, there will be a seat for you and a place to put your bike. Our trips are also designed to allow you the opportunities and time to appreciate the environment, scenery and culture around you, and to participate in any activities that may be on offer.
An integral part of travelling is to have a positive impact on the country that you are visiting. On this trip there are a number of things you can do to have a positive impact on the communities that we visit.
Dress: Tibet and Nepal are still quite conservative areas. In rural areas and temples overly revealing clothing is considered offensive. You should make an effort to dress more conservatively in these situations. Walking around a village in bike shorts is not appropriate so if you wish to cycle in just bike shorts you should have something with you, on the bike, to put on over the top (long loose shorts or a skirt/sarong). When visiting temples shorts are acceptable providing they cover the knee. Singlet tops are not acceptable in temples.
Phrase Book: A highly memorable part of your travels will be the local people you meet. In the tourist areas some people will speak English but away from these areas you should learn a few words of Tibetan. We will teach you some of the basics but if you want to really interact we recommend bringing a phrase book.
Donations: Often when coming on trips overseas people like to bring items such as sweets, pens and books for children or old clothing for families. While this is a fantastic idea, if distributed in the wrong way it can actually create more problems. Giving away anything to local people can create an expectation that visiting foreigner equals free give-aways. In some communities in Asia this has created whole villages where the only interaction is the locals asking for things. If you would like to donate anything to the communities that we visit we suggest that you give the items to us and we will then pass them on to development organizations, schools or whole communities. In this way items are distributed to those really in need by those working in the communities.
Poverty: In Tibet and Nepal there is poverty which you may see. If you choose to give something to a beggar you must bear in mind the value of money in the country you are visiting. There are organizations which are working to alleviate this poverty and may be able to do more good with donations that you make. Your Tour Leader will be able to provide more information about this.
Support Organisations There are a number of organizations which we hope you can support in one way or another. Your Tour Leader will provide more information on these as you travel.
For more information about Bike Asia's commitment to ethical and sustainable travel practices, please read our Responsible Travel Policy.
The accommodation on this trip is varied to say the least. 15 of the 27 nights are spent camping. We provide tents for all passengers and the sleeping arrangements are for twin-share so if you are a single traveller you will be paired up with someone of the same sex. This ensures that whether you are travelling solo or with friends, everyone is paying the same rate. We also provide one foam mat for each participant. Should you want to bring your own super-deluxe self-inflating, ultra-light, ergonomically designed mattress... you're most welcome! For those non-camping nights, we will be staying in a mixture of hotels and guesthouses. We choose hotels (where possible) that are comfortable, centrally located places which are adequate in every way, with twin-share facilities and private bathrooms. Guesthouses are more basic with shared washing and toilet facilities.
We will have a support vehicle (or two) for the whole duration of the cycling component. There is an international flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa on day 2, and we may use public transport to get around Lhasa.
Transfers: Individual arrival and departure transfers can be organised through us for a fee, if you let us know when you book the trip.
Bikes are not included on this trip. You will need to bring your own bike, and spare parts to keep it maintained.
Food is a very important part of any travel experience. Most of the meals on this trip are included in the trip cost, with a few exceptions like free days. To see which meals are included, read the inclusions list or the itinerary. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and should you have any other dietary restrictions, you just need to inform us. We will have our own cooks on this trip for all the camping days. They can cook a variety of food from just a pot, wok and pan. In places like Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse, we will be eating in restaurants. The food is healthy, very fresh and very tasty, so don't worry, we’ll make sure you have more than enough fuel to get up those Himalayan mountains!
You will need to bring money on the trip to pay for the following; some meals, drinks, activities in the free time, departure tax and of course shopping. We suggest you utilise a variety of methods for accessing money. There are:
- ATMs where you can use your Maestro, Cirrus, Visa and Mastercard
- Venues where you will be able to exchange all major forms of currency and Traveller’s Cheques into the Chinese Yuan
- Limited credit card facilities.
The amount you bring is going to depend on how much you plan to spend. To give you an indication of prices
Beer would cost CNY 4 (local), 15 (bar)
Dinner at local restaurant CNY 10 - 20
Dinner at foreign restaurant CNY 25 - 40
There will be very few opportunities to spend money whilst cycling so most of your shopping will need to be done in Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and Kathmandu.
The Chinese currency is the Chinese Yuan (CNY). Exchange rates at the time of writing are:
1 AUD = 6.4 CNY
1 USD = 7.7 CNY
1 EUR = 10.5 CNY
1 GBP = 15.3 CNY
1 CAD = 6.9 CNY
1 NZD = 5.7 CNY
The Nepalese Currency is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). Exchange rates at the time of writing are:
1 AUD = 58 NPR
1 USD = 69 NPR
1 EUR = 95 NPR
1 GBP = 139 NPR
1 CAD = 62 NPR
1 NZD = 52 NPR
We also recommend that you bring US $100 in emergency funds, to be used when circumstances beyond the control of Bike Asia necessitate a change in itinerary.
Obtaining your own travel insurance is required in order to participate on a Bike Asia tour. It will need to include a minimum coverage of medical expenses with emergency evacuation, personal liability and accident insurance. Your group leader will need to see a copy of your insurance at the group meeting on the first day.
Joining Point Instructions
You will need to arrive at the starting point hotel in time for the group meeting, which will be held on the evening of day 1. The hotel is 10 km from Kunming International Airport. Once you exit the arrivals hall follow the signs outside to the Taxi stand/pick up point. There is usually an airport official organising the passengers and taxis, these taxi’s will use the metre, if they don’t push it down to start it, you can. We recommend against using a tout that approaches you offering the services of a taxi – these guys will always rip you off! The trip is about 10km and should take 15-20 minutes in good traffic. All drivers know our hotel, it is very well-known. The hotel is located in the centre of the city, with twin-share rooms, private bathrooms, hot water and television and 24 hour reception.The hotel address is:
The Camellia Hotel - 96 East Dong Feng Road, Kunming, Yunnan, China
There is a map included in the print version (PDF).
You will need to have an extremely high level of fitness and determination to participate in this trip. We are cycling at altitudes from 3700 to 5200 metres above sea level! These are the Himalayan Mountains after all, so expect a lot of long, steep ascents and descents. Training is strongly recommended.
There will days where the terrain is a mix of undulating, flat, sealed surfaces and steep, rocky climbs. We have two passes over 5000 metres above sea level to climb and descend. At least 80% of the trip will be cycling on unsealed surfaces, with a mix of dirt roads, rocky and very rocky surfaces. The days may be very hot when we are cycling in full sun, however the weather can change quickly if there is cloud cover and wind. September is a fairly dry month so we do not expect a lot of rain, however there might be last summer rains which will make roads muddy. The highway can be washed out with heavier rain and this is not uncommon! Cycling at altitude will make the climbing much more difficult than you would normally find cycling at sea level.
In order to make the most of your holiday, the healthier you are the more you will enjoy it! For a list of vaccinations we recommend that you seek advice at a travel clinic at least six weeks prior to departure. Our group leader will have Senior’s Level first aid training and will travel with a first-aid kit, however it is also recommended that individual travellers have a basic first aid kit with any personal medical requirements. Our group leader is not authorised, for legal reasons, to administer any kind of drugs, including pain relief tablets, antibiotics etc so be sure to pack a supply of your favourite pain-killers. Pharmacy products vary in different countries and you may not be able to buy products that are widely available at home. Include the following: plasters, dressings, bandage, calamine lotion (a must for soothing sunburn), oral re-hydration treatment (in case of bouts of diarrhoea), insect repellent, insect sting relief, antiseptic cream and antiseptic wipes.
Altitude: We recommend that for this trip you print out this document on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and read it carefully before arriving in Kathmandu. Should any passenger suffer from any serious symptoms of AMS and they are not improving with time (i.e. not acclimatising), then we may have to ask that passenger to leave the trip and return to a lower altitude. This decision would not been taken lightly but would obviously be in the interests of the passenger and his/her health & safety.
For more information on travel health, you can click on the links below:
All travellers will need to obtain a Chinese and a Nepalese visa. For the latest information, see your travel agent. Please bear in mind we will be entering Nepal twice.
Luggage / Packing List (Guide Only)
We strongly advise against using a hard shell suitcase for this trip. Tibet is not a suitcase or wheelie-bag friendly country. We will be camping most nights and the ground will be grass and earth. A soft backpack would be the most suitable, and the easiest to transfer in/out of the trucks in the morning and evening. Keep in mind when you are packing that often our local crew are lifting our bags before we cycle into camp, so try to pack as lightly as possible. Please check our climate charts to assess your clothing requirements, or contact us if you are unsure.
- Long trousers
- Warm jacket
- Woollen socks
- Sandals/light shoes
- Swimming costume
- Rain/Wind coat
- Heavy duty moisturiser and lip balm
- Tampons (hard to get in China)
- Small towel
- First aid kit
- Mosquito Repellent
- Camera and film
- Contact solution
- Passport with 6 months validity and spare pages
- China / Nepal Visas
- Passport photo
- Travel insurance details
- Flight tickets
- Money - travellers cheques / cash / credit card
- Guide/phrase book
- Money pouch
- Sleeping bag
- Sleep sheet
- Medication (eg. cold tablets, headache tablets, sleeping tablets)
- Main / Day pack
- Alarm clock
- Plastic bags
- Pocket knife
- Playing cards, football, frisbee etc.
- Optional daypack, bumbag or handlebar bag.
- Cycling gloves
- Lip balm
- Water bottle/bladder
- 2 x Padded bike shorts with something to put on over the top when off the bike
- Light wind-proof, rain-proof jacket for cycling
- Cycle shoes
Pre/post trip accommodation
If you would like us to organise some extra nights accommodation either before or after the trip at our start or finish point hotel, just let us know when you book the trip.
One of the reasons that our trips run so well, and are so much fun is the effort and energy put in by our local crew. On this trip, we will have drivers, cooks and a local guide. Their mix of professionalism, enthusiasm and sense of fun are infectious. We recognise that the wages in an economically developing country are vastly different to ours and ask that if you are satisfied with the service you show your appreciation with a tip. Your group leader will collect this at the end of the trip and organise a small thankyou presentation. As an indication only, we recommend you allocate USD 30. Tipping is NOT compulsory and it is meant to be a reward for good service.
Our cycling tour leader has the authority to change or cancel all or part of this trip if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. This decision would not be taken lightly, and where possible it would be made in consultation with our local crew, local operator and Bike Asia management. Your leader will be present on all included activities, staying at all the same hotels, guesthouses and of course cycling with you. During free time, should you choose to participate in any optional activities that are not part of our itinerary, please note that we cannot give any representations or guarantees about the safety of the activity, the standard of the operators running them or the equipment that they use.
In the group meeting on day 1, your tour leader will run a session on cycling safety. Whilst some travellers will have had years of touring experience, for others this might be their first cycling trip. We need to cater for a range of abilities and experience and it is in everyone’s interest to learn about the particulars of cycling in this region from someone who has already done it. It goes without saying that by running and participating in a cycling trip, both parties accept an inherent level of risk. However, we take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we ask that you cycle in a safe and responsible manner and that you look out for the well-being of your fellow travellers. Cycling helmets must be worn by all cyclists at all times whilst cycling.
Most national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information before departure. The links for some major travel advisories and updates are listed below
We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling in cities, for the safe keeping of your passport, money, credit cards and traveller's cheques. Utilise the hotel's safety boxes or safe where these are available.
In Kathmandu, Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse you will be able to access email, phone, fax and post offices. Away from these cities there will be little chance to email and the main communication will be phone. You should leave your family or friends the Bike Asia contact details. Our office staff will be able to get in touch with us in an emergency.
Bike Asia Tour Leader
Our leaders are passionate about Asia and cycling... phew! They love what they do and take their job seriously. They will make every effort to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable trip with as much fun as possible. They bring many qualities and skills to this role; knowledge of group cycling, safety, management, and liasing between you and the local crew. In working for us, they have made a commitment to learning as much about the culture, language and customs of Tibet & Nepal as possible, and they are happy to share any of this knowledge with you. However, please keep in mind that they are not local and will not know everything.
We don't have many, but the ones we do have are important. We always abide by the laws of the country that we are travelling through. This means you are not to use any illegal drugs or use prostitutes. Any passenger who does so will be asked to leave the tour immediately.
After you have completed the trip, we want to know what you thought about it. This is important to us, as it is through your feedback that we monitor our trips and make improvements for the future. Log on to our website and click on the feedback link. It will take you a minimum of 3 minutes, or should you feel like writing in more detail, then a little longer. If you fill in the feedback form, we’ll give you an automatic 5% discount on any of our trips in any other region.
We are always looking for good photos of the regions which we travel through. If you have some that you would like to send us, we would love to have a look.
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