The eastern flank of Tibet is adjacent to Sichuan Province; hence, from Sichuan, you can readily access Tibet via the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, a portion of the G318 National Trunk Highway (from Shanghai to Zhangmu). This highway is divided into two distinct parts, namely, the Sichuan Northern Overland Road to Tibet and the Sichuan Southern Overland Road to Tibet. The southern route is almost 2,149 kilometers long; while the northern route, which is slightly longer than the southern route, is around 2,293 kilometers long.
Sichuan-Tibet Highway and Tibet’s Economic Development
The Sichuan-Tibet Highway which was inaugurated on December 25, 1954 connects Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. This highway plays a critical role in the promotion of the economic development of Eastern Tibet, and as such it is a vital cog for Eastern Tibet’s progress. Moreover, if you are coming from Sichuan and other southern provinces of China, this road would surely be one of your best options to reach Tibet.
Should You Take the Northern Route or Southern Route?
If you are coming from Chengdu, Sichuan, you would be immediately confronted with this question: “Which route would you take: the southern route or the northern route?” Let me give you an overview of what you are going to see along each of these routes; afterwards, you can readily decide which route is best for you.
- The Scenic Views along the Northern Route
The northern route passes through the cities of Yingxiu, Danba, Bamei, Garze, Dege, Qamdo, Nagqu, and Yangbajing. Along this route, you would see fantastic sceneries, majestic snowcapped mountains, mystical lakes and rivers, and ancient monasteries and temples. Moreover, the northern route can be conveniently divided into six distinct portions alongside the sceneries and significant sites you could visit in each portion. These six portions are as follows:
- The Chengdu-to-Danba Portion (Duijang Dam, Qingcheng Mountain, Wolong National Nature Reserve, Mount Siguniang)
- The Danba-to-Bamei Portion (Danba Ancient Block Towers, Jiaju Tibetan Villages, Huiyan Monastery)
- The Bamei-to-Garze Portion (Gelugpa-school Nyitso Monastery, Garze, and Den monasteries)
- Garze-to-Dege Portion (Yulong La-tso, Bakong Scripture Printing Press and Monastery)
- The Dege-to-Chamdo Portion (Wala Monastery, Jampaling Monastery)
- Chamdo-to-Lhasa Portion (Natso Lake, Yangbajing Hotsprings)
Like Watching a Blockbuster Movie!
Traversing the northern route is like watching how a blockbuster movie unfolds. The Chengdu Danba Portion, for example, offers a good view of the Duijang Dam and the Qingcheng Mountains which are both “Cultural Heritage Sites.” Additionally, you’ll get to visit along the way the Wolong National Nature Reserve which holds the famous Panda Research Center.
Further up the road, you will see the famous “Danba Ancient Block Towers” and other significant ancient monasteries. Additionally, you will get to see the famed Yulong La-tso, Natso Lake and Yangbajing Hot Springs.
- The Scenic Views and Significant Sites of Southern Route
The Sichuan-Tibet southern route is almost 2,149 km and traverses vast landscapes, littered with majestic peaks, rivers, and cascading ravines with the Tibetan Plateau as their backdrop. If you’re not in a hurry, you can cover this route within fifteen days. This southern route passes through various cities like those of Kangding, Litang, Markam, Zogang, Ranwu, and Nyingchi. This southern route can likewise be divided into six distinct portions, namely:
- Chengdu to Kangding Portion (Riding Mountain, Magecuo Lake, Hailuoguo)
- Xingduqiao Bridge to Litang Portion (Lilang Town, Maoya Grasslands, Pucuogou Natural Ecological Reserve)
- Markam to Zogang Portion (Zogang County)
- Zogang to Ranwu Portion (Bangda Prairie, Ranwu Lank)
- Ranwu to Nyingchi Portion (Midui Glaciers, Duodong Temple, Lulang Forest)
- Nyingchi to Lhasa (Nyang River, Mila Basum Lake, Mountain Pass, Lhasa)
The initial part of the route is the Chengdu-to-Kangding portion. Along this portion, you can have a stopover at Ya’an, located at the upper part of the Yangtze River. From thereon, you will see the awesome Riding Mountain and the Mugecuo Lake, surrounded by hot springs, forest, and snow-capped peaks. Not far from Kangding is Hailuogou, popular for its Khampa culture, primeval forest, and snowcapped mountains. Along the Xinduquio-to-Litang portion, you can visit the Juli Monastery. It is good to note likewise that Litang is popular for its horse-racing festival held annually from August first to seven. Hence, August would thus be the most opportune time to drop by Litang.
West of Litang is the Maoya Grassland, hemmed by mountains. This grassland, together with the Tibetan Buddhist Mountains and the Genie Mountains should be in your bucket list of places to stop over. You can also drop by the Pucuogou Natural Ecological Reserve. This ecological reserve is pockmarked with hot springs and awesome nooks. Afterwards, you will traverse the Markam-to-Zogang portion, where you will see Zogang County in Chamdo Prefecture. This road portion offers scenic views of vibrant rivers and forested mountains.
The Zogang-to-Ranwu portion is up ahead with its famous Bangda Prairie. Located here is the Chamdo Bangda Airport, the world’s highest airport at 4,334 meters above sea level. Soon after, you will pass by the Ranwu Town, where you will find the famous Ranwu Lake.
The Ranwu-to-Nyingchi is the next portion that you must traverse. Along the way, you will behold the marvelous Midui Glaciers. You can also visit the Duodong Temple in Bomi County and take a jaunt at the Gangxiang Nature Reserve and Lulang Forest.
The last section of this road trip includes that of the Nyingchi-to-Lhasa portion. In this portion, you can visit Bayi, an industrial town, and drive by the Nyang River. Further along this portion, you will see the Basum Lake near Gongbujiangda, and somewhere up this route, you will traverse the Mila Mountain Pass at 5,000 meters above sea level.
It would be advantageous if you avail of travel tour agency to Tibet if you are desirous of visiting Tibet from Chengdu. The travel agency can greatly facilitate your tour via the southern or northern routes. If you are looking for a Travel Tour Agency, you can easily contact us via email or phone, and we will gladly facilitate your tour of Tibet.