China – Nepal Friendship Highway

Basic Information about China – Nepal Friendship Highway

Being one of the best overland journeys on the planet, the Friendship Highway is an 800-kilometre (500 mi) scenic route connecting the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, with the Chinese/Nepalese border at the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge between Zhangmu and Kodari. It includes the westernmost part of China National Highway 318 (Shanghai-Zhangmu) and crosses three passes over 5,000m before dropping to 1,750m at the border. The Friendship Highway also extends into Nepal, where it follows the Araniko highway for another 115 kilometers to Kathmandu.

Earthquake Influence

The earthquakes in 2015 in the region which destroyed parts of the highway and bridge caused the close of the highway and massive evacuations in the area. By 2016 there were some repairs but trading on the route was not restored to pre-quake levels. A new one recently opened for tourists a little way north at Gyirong Port and Rasuwagadhi. 

Route of the Nepal Friendship Highway

From Lhasa, the Friendship Highway follows the Kyi Chu river for about 60 km up to the confluence with the Yarlung Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra) at Chushul. The main route continues along the Yarlung valley up to Shigatse, Tibet’s second-largest city and formerly the home of the Panchen Lamas. A subsidiary branch crosses the Yarlung Tsangpo at Chushul and crosses the 4,800m high Gampa La, passes along turquoise Yamdrok Yutso lake before crossing the 5,045m high Karo La at the foot of Noijin Kangsang, and following downstream the Nyang Chu valley through Gyantse up to Shigatse.

From Shigatse, continuing west parallel to the Yarlung Tsangpo valley, the road passes Lhatse and forks just beyond at Chapu, where China National Highway 219 continues west and upriver, finally crossing the Brahmaputra/Indus divide near sacred Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, then on to Ali in Gar County.

From Chapu near Lhatse, the Friendship Highway maintains the Hwy 318 route number and turns southwest and crosses the main Brahmaputra-Ganges divide at Gyatso La (5,260m), the highest pass on the road. Descending 1,000 meters onto alluvial plains of the Bum-Chu, also known as the Arun river in Nepal, the highway passes near Shelkar (New Tingri) then through Old Tingri, both gateways to Rongbuk Monastery and the north side of Mount Everest.

Continuing southwest, the highway climbs over Lalung La (5,050m/16,570′) and crosses shortly after the Tong La (also known as Thong La, Yakri Shung La or Yakrushong La) (5,150m/16,900′), which marks the water divide between the Bum-Chu / Arun and the (Matsang Tsangpo / Sun Kosi) rivers. The Friendship Highway then descends along the Matsang Tsangpo through Nyalam, then more steeply through a canyon to Zhangmu. The road ends at the Friendship Bridge on the China-Nepal border at a mere 1,750m/5,740′ elevation. The continuation of the road between the border town of Kodari to Kathmandu is named Arniko Rajmarg.

Scenery along the Nepal Friendship Highway

Scenery along the highway features important cultural monuments, the upper valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River, vast grasslands and meadows, and mountain vistas including five of the world’s highest peaks: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma as well as partially unexplored and unclimbed peaks east of Tong La reaching 7,367 meters at Labuche Kang.

Lake Yamdrok

Yamdrok Lake (also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Yamzho Yumco is a freshwater lake in Tibet, it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 mi) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake has an outlet stream at its far western end and means turquoise in English due to its color.


At Gyantse county you can visit the spectacular Pelkor Monastery, with the Gyantse Kumbum in its grounds, and the massive hilltop fort of Gyantse Dzong, which dominates the local skyline. Pelkor Monastery is the destination for many pilgrims who travel to the area during Losar, the Tibetan New Year, which is one of the best times to visit Gyantse.


Bordering Nepal, Bhutan and India, Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet, which is known as the seat of Penchen Lama and ‘the fertile manor’. With a long history of more than 600 years, Shigatse was once the educational and political center of Tsang Area. The main attraction of Shigatse is the beautiful Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, which was built in 1447.

Mount Qomolangma

As the highest peak in the world, Qomolangma stands at the altitude of  8844.43 meters(2005), whihc is the dream of mountaineering enthusiasts.

Rongbuk Monastery

Rongbuk monastery lies near the base of the north side of Mount Everest(珠穆朗玛峰) at 4,980 metres (16,340 feet) above sea level, at the end of the Dzakar Chu valley(春丕河谷). It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma(宁玛派) sect in Basum Township(巴松) and is claimed to be the highest monastery in the world.