Friendship Highway from China to Nepal is one of the best overland journeys on Earth

China-Nepal Highway is the name of a very scenic drive on the Tibetan Plateau. It’s regarded as one of the best overland journeys on Earth. The road tops out at 5,260 m (17,260 ft) above sea level.

Friendship Highway

How long is the Friendship Highway?

The road, also known as the Friendship Highway, is 753 km (467 miles) long running from the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, to the Chinese/Nepalese border between Zhangmu and Kodari. It's part of the China National Highway 318 (G318), the longest highway in the country. The road was opened in 1967, but Nepal closed the border to trade due to severe restrictions imposed by Beijing. At that time the road's sole purpose was militaristic. 

Is the Friendship Highway paved?

The road is totally paved. However, it is very bumpy and could be dangerous at some places. It is driveable by all kinds of vehicles. The earthquake of 2015 destroyed parts of the highway.

Is the Friendship Highway a mountain road?

The road runs over 4.000m for a long section and crosses three passes over 5,000 m (16,400 ft):
Gyatso La, at 5,260 m (17,260 ft) above sea level
Lalung La, at 5,050 m (16,570 ft) above sea level
Tong La (also known as Thong La, Yakri Shung La or Yakrushong La), at 5,150 m (16,900 ft) above sea level.

Is the Friendship Highway worth it?

The drive is very scenic and features stunning views. Some call the overland journey “epic,” “the experience of a lifetime,” and “wondrous”. The journey has some rather fascinating parts. Today it’s the most popular route travelers take in Tibet, with many interesting things to see. 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. Along the Friendship Highway, you can visit beautiful turquoise Yamdrok Lake that is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet, the Karuola Glaciers lying on the roadside, the Pelkor Chode Monastery with unique style taking in several sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the famed Tashilhunpoknown as the Panchen Lama's seat, the Sakya Monastery reputed as the "Second Dunhuang" for its magic murals.
Pic: Christopher Yin