Everest Base Camp, Yamdrok Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery are not-to-be-missed destinations when planning an adventurous road trip through Tibet.
Guest Post by Ron Robbins
There is really no question as to whether or not someone who is given the chance to travel around the world would or would not take a road trip to Tibet————you would have to be downright senseless not to. The real question is where you should drive, and exactly what adventures you should be taking along the way.
Given the opportunity to tour the countryside and experience some of the major sites during my adventure in Tibet, it wasn’t easy picking out my favorite locations. But, all in all, if given the chance to travel back, these are the top 5 places I would choose to experience first!
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Everest Base Camp, Yamdrok Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery are not-to-be-missed destinations when planning an adventurous road trip through Tibet.
- 1 My Favorite Road Trip Adventures in Tibet
- 2 Tashilhunpo Monastery
- 3 Everest Base Camp
- 4 Sichuan to Tibet Highway
- 5 Barkhor Street
- 6 Yamdrok Lake
- 7 Map It!
- 8 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 9 Pin this Post!
- 10 Helpful Links
My Favorite Road Trip Adventures in Tibet
Founded back in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama, this breathtaking monastery was by far one of my favorites as I hopscotched from spot to spot across Tibet. The monks were extremely welcoming, the temples extraordinary, and the architecture made me feel as if I had stepped back to a much simpler time in life.
If you are given the chance to visit, be sure to see the tombs of the Panchen Lamas as well as the staggering 22.4 meter tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha. You will wither in comparison to its size and magnificence.
Everest Base Camp
Of all the places I have traveled to around the world, there is no better place to go stargazing than at the base of Mt. Everest. After all, there is really no other place to go that will get you an optimal amount of time at such an elevation. Try to spend a minimum of 2-3 days here, hiking during the day and stargazing late at night.
Be sure to bring plenty of layers because this side of Everest is much different than that of the Nepal side. Also, get ready to eat lots of yak as prepared by the local sherpas. Being the terrain is so desolate, they use dried-up yak manure as fuel to heat the fire that both cooks your food and keeps you warm at night. As you could imagine, things tend to have a very distinct aroma about them . . . .
Sichuan to Tibet Highway
It is common knowledge that the best experiences a person can get from traveling come from the most spontaneous of moments. This is especially true while traveling to Tibet, at least from my experience.
While awaiting the train to Lhasa, I met a local who decided to invite me along for a random road trip through Sichuan, a Southwestern province in China. With many surprises, lots of noodles, and very little to no English, the Sichuan to Tibet road trip turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, ranking up there with many of the best experiences I acquired while traveling in Tibet.
Circling Jokhang Temple in downtown Lhasa, Barkhor Street always has something going on with the local community. Tibetans from the outlying villages pilgrim here, devoting themselves to pay homage in return for ongoing prosperity and peace in the local community. It is common to see devotees walking a couple of laps around the temple, slowly spinning Tibetan prayer wheels in their hands while whispering traditional mantras that date back centuries.
If given the opportunity, take the time to hunt down a local restaurant that is owned by the people of Tibet (as opposed to those that are labeled “Tibetan food,” but are actually owned by the Chinese). The food is truly spectacular and, if invited for a drink afterwards, you could create some of the best memories anyone could have while traveling through Lhasa.
Tibetan legend has it that Yamdrok Lake was created when a goddess, Dorje Gegkyi Tso, transformed and created the Four Great Wrathful Lakes of Tibet. It is also said that this particular lake is one of the dwelling places for some of the local protective deities, giving it special spiritual powers of divination.
Although I have not foreseen the future myself, I can tell you from personal experience that the water is a more vibrant turquoise blue than that of the Caribbean Sea. While driving over the pass and arriving at Yamdrok Lake, I witnessed the weather alter from snow, to hail, to rain, and to the most beautiful crystal blue skies you have ever seen. Whether anyone believes this lake to host spiritual powers is up to them, however I must tell you that to visit Tibet without seeing the beauty of Yamdrok Lake would be a crime in itself!
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. If given the chance, would you take an adventure road trip around Tibet or elsewhere in Asia? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
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Hi Ron, really cool to read about your trip. I want to make a roadtrip with my wife and brother-in-law (they are both Chinese, me I am German) in next summer. But I am not so sure yet about the visa situation. I’ve read something that I have to follow an official travel group. Do you have any experience of this? If I understand right you travelled with some locals. Did you travel with them only on the way to Tibet or also in Tibet?
Wow! We’ve only road tripped in the US, Europe and Israel. I never thought it was possible to do that in Tibet. Is there actually a road that goes all the way to the Everest Base Camp? My husband is going to hike the trail in October with his brother. I had no idea there was a road taking you there.
What are the roads like? And where can you rent a car that can drive from Tibet into Nepal? Are there any issues with the border crossing? So many questions! I’m glad I found your blog – looks great and I’ll surely be back!
I would have never thought of, not sure why, of taking a road trip in Tibet. What fantastic adventures. Yamdrok Lake looks quite gorgeous. The many uses of yak eating and keeping warm by the poop would be an experience.
Haha it really is quite the experience Sara! 😉
So longing to viist the Everest camp – maybe one day! Thanks for great recommendations on what to do in Tibet!
Anytime Veronika – I hope you make it out there soon! 😀
So excited to get to Tibet at some stage – recently visited Qinghai which is quite close to the border, though didn’t have the time to make it across. Hopefully next time! Everest Base Camp is high on my list.
You’ll get there Meg! I traveled from Vietnam up to Xining (the very Eastern side of Qinghai). From there, it was a long train ride into Lhasa but well worth the wait!
Sounds like a great adventure. It would be great to see the Mt. Everest basecamp. I’m not going to do the climbing but it would be a great experience. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, EBC is a great experience. The climbing part is available, but it’s nice to know you can get there from the Tibetan side by car as well if you’re not up for the challenge. I’m hoping to go back and make the hike in from the Nepal side soon – we’ll see! 🙂
A road rip around Tibet looks absolutely amazing. A must for any bucket list for sure!
Thanks for your insights about a really undiscovered part of the world. But quick q – did you guys literally drive this entire route, stopping at all the spots? I was under the impression that Everest Base Camp absolutely cannot be driven to….:)
Hey Julie! Yes, myself and a group of other travelers hired a guide to drive us from Lhasa, across the backcountry roads, and to EBC. I wouldn’t recommend doing it yourself, it’d be extremely easy to get lost. But it certainly can be done from the Tibet side. As far as the Nepalese side goes, I’m pretty certain it’s hike-in, hike-out only. 🙂
What an experience!!
Love the way you detail the moments, the people and the “aroma” of Tibet… Such a unique and interesting country, thanks for sharing!!
Anytime Natalie, thank you for chiming in! 😀
So amazing! Bhutan is high on my list, and my husband really wants to see Tibet, so it sounds like a trip to the area is in order! 🙂
Tibet looks like an incredible country to road trip through! I guess I’ll be doing it one day (my partner wants to buy a Land Rover and navigate the globe) so I’ll have to keep these tips in mind – especially Yamdrok Lake, that place looks like a dream!
The entire trip was like a dream Hannah – be sure to let me know when your husband does this, I’d be happy to tag onto a leg or two of your trip! 😀
You made me chuckle with the line “distinct aroma” – haha! How fantastic that the local invited you to a random road trip that turned out to be one of your best experiences! I love spontaneous adventures like that and enjoyed reading about your trip to Tibet.
Thanks for giving me this peek into the wonders of Tibet. I would have loved to read about how hard or easy it is to go from one place to the next.
Thanks for chiming in Carol! It’s actually no as difficult as one would imagine to get around. I’d highly recommend getting a personal guide as to ensure you don’t get lost and they know all of the most scenic routes in the backcountry – other than that, it’s as easy as driving from place to place!
Do let me know if you plan to go anytime soon, I’ve got some good points of contact for some of the local tour guides. 🙂
Tibet is the Paradise for adventurous traveller.
Mt. Everest and Yamdrok Lake both are my bucket list destination in Tibet.
Hey Ron Thanks for sharing such useful information about Tibet 🙂
Anytime Shri – I hope you’ll get to make it there one day very soon. Between the sightseeing, culture, food, and wonderful people, it should certainly be on everyones bucket list! 😀
Thank you Ron 🙂
Yes, very soon I will touch the feet of mt everest.
This is my first time on this blog so thanks for this post! I’ve been dying to get my hiking shoes on and get out to Tibet (and Nepal) for quite some time now but am unable to do so at the moment. I’ve known about Sichuan to Tibet and remember people mentioning this during a trip I took out in Southwest China mainly Yunnan and Guilin.
Lhasa’s also been on my radar but I heard of instances where they do and instances where they don’t allow foreigners to visit. Did you have any issues with this?
Yamdrok Lake is a new one for me and it looks gorgeous, not sure I’d swim in it seeing as I’m sure it’s cold as heck!
You’ve got me wanderlusting and I’m hoping to get on a plane in the next year or two towards these places.
Thanks for the advice!
Hey Mark – thanks for chiming in! There were a few instances where some people were not allowed into Tibet, but I personally didn’t have any issues with this. I worked with a tour guide that took care of all the logistics for me so that I could enjoy my time there.
And yes, you must visit Yamdrok Lake! I would definitely NOT recommend swimming there – this is an extremely spiritual lake for the Tibetan people so swimming there could be a sign of disrespect. But keep that wanderlust going bud because I hope it’ll lead you to venture out that way during your travels! 😀