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Tibet Profile: Major travel routes

Tibet Plateau is the main body of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, consisting of high mountains, great rivers, prairie and gorges. Tibet is famous for its imposing scenery and mysterious Customs in the world. It has a long history, beautiful mountains and rivers, unique minority customs and attractive scenery. As soon as you step onto this strange and mysterious land and follow the tracks of pilgrims to review its ancient history, you will be immediately attracted by the magnificent Potala palace, the brilliant Tibetan culture, the wonderful mountains and rivers, the unique and mysterious customs of the highland and the snow-clad peaks.

Southern Tibet

Gonggar Airport is where most people who take planes enter or leave Tibet. From the Gonggar Airport, one can trek along the rivers eastward to visit the Yarlung River Scenic Region, the Samyai Scenic Region and the Sacred Lake Region. Or you can go westward and pass by the Yamzhog Yumcog Lake and Gyangze to visit Shigatse before turning towards Lhasa. For most tourists, Lhasa is always the first destination once they arrive in Tibet. From the Gonggar Airport to Lhasa, the broad asphalt road takes only 1.5 hours' drive. The Quxu Bridge between Gonggar Airport and Lhasa is a transportation pivot point. To its south, the road leads one from Kamba La Mountain Pass to the Yamzhog Yumcog Lake, Gyangze and Yadong. This used to be the main road to Shigatse and other places. To the north of the Quxu Bridge, the road to the left runs to Shigatse, Zhangmu and Ngari, while the road to the right leads directly to Lhasa.

Quxu, Zetang, Qonggyai, Gonggar and Nagarze are important stops for travelers. From Zetang to Zanang, there are many ferry sites along the Yarlung Zangbo River where one can take ferryboats or small boats made of yak skin.

A very popular travel route starting from Gonggar Airport can lead the sojourner to the Yarlung Valley along the Yarlung Zangbo River, then pass by Qusum, Sangri, Gyacha, Mainling and Nyingchi. At Milha Mountain, which separates the Nyang and Lhasa rivers, one can follow the Lhasa River down to Lhasa. Apart from this route, another circular route goes from Lhasa to Maizhokunggar, Nyingchi, Mainling, Gyacha and Zetang before returning to Lhasa.

Southwestern Tibet

If you wish to reach Shigatse from Lhasa or Zetang, there are two routes, which will separate from the Quxu Bridge. The southern route passes by Kamba La Mountain Pass, Yamzhog Yumcog Lake, Nagarze, Karub La and Gyangze, at which point one can either turn south to reach Yadong by way of Kangmar, or turn north to Shigatse by way of Bainang. The northern route follows the China-Nepal Road and goes west along the Yarlung Zangbo River. Before arriving at Shigatse, one can either visit Dagzhuka or Rinbung and Gyangze. Comparing with each other, the northern route follows asphalt road, which is shorter, in good and reliable condition, with no giant mountains to climb and full of breathtaking sights along the Yarlung Zangbo River. On the other hand, the southern route goes along pebbled road, yet the natural and cultural scenery is much more diversified.

There are still many other routes to Shigatse. For instance, one can visit Nepal first, then enter Tibet via Zhangmu. Passing by Nyalam, one can go to the Qomolangma region or Shigatse. If you start from Sikkim, you can enter Tibet at Yadong and go to Gyangze, where you can go further to Sharman or Lhasa or Shigatse. From Ngari, there are roads to Lhaze and Shigatse. Taking the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, you can drop by the Yangbajain region, and at Nyemo County you can take the China-Nepal Road to reach Shigatse. Gyangze, Shigatse and Lhaze are major pivots for travelers heading for Shigatse.

Western Tibet

There is no regular bus to Ngari. Most tourists will go with travel agencies or in their own vehicles. Only a few would find partners to ride bicycles there. It's highly recommended that you find experienced explorers or local guides before you go head on into the remote region where the road condition is really unpredictable, and you have to rely on yourself for gas supply, repairing vehicles, security guarantee and daily food. Along the way, you will have to sleep in tents or other facilities, as the chance is scarce to find any suitable shelter.

There are two routes from Lhasa to Ngari. One passes on Shigatse and Lhaze. In recent years, the Tibet Autonomous Region has developed the "western circular route" which goes from Lhasa to Shigatse, Lhaze, Saga, Zhongba, Burang, Gar, Shiquanhe, Ge'gyai, Gerze, Choqen, Lhaze, Shigatse and finally coming back to Lhasa. This road branches at the west- ern part of Ngamring. The southern branch crosses Saga, Zhongba, Mapam Yumco, Gandise Mountain and reaches Shiquanhe. With the name Lhaze-Burang Road, it is full of pebbles and muddy passages. The northern branch which is longer but with better condition goes to Shiquanhe via Choqen. There is yet another route which mainly follows the Qinghai-Tibet Highway and reaches Shiquanhe after stopping by Bango, Nyima, Gerze and Ge'gyai. This route is traditionally known as "Hei-A Highway," which refers to Nagqu and Ngari. There are two major entrances at the Qinghai-Tibet Highway: the Amdo County and a spot 40 kilometers to the north of Nagqu Town.

Xinjiang-Tibet Highway is the only passage where people travel between Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Ngari of Tibet.

Shiquanhe Town is the most important transportation pivot of Ngari where the Xinjiang-Tibet, Lhaze-Burang and Hei-A roads meet.

Merchants, pilgrims and tourists from South Asia often enter Ngari via Burang or the dozens of mountain passes.

Southeastern Tibet

Bayi, Bangda and Qamdo are the major stops for travelling along southeastern Tibet.

From Lhasa to Bayi, one will pass by the Basum Co, Bayi Town, Serkyim La and Burqug Lamaling Scenic Region. This route is good for leisurely recreation and scientific exploration. From Bayi, one can go south to visit Mainling, Nang, Gyacha, Qusum and Sharman. Then you can visit Zetang before going to the Gonggar Airport or heading back to Lhasa. Starting from Bayi Town, the eastern route will lead you to Bomi, Tongmai, Baxoi, Ra'og and Bangda. At the town of Bangda, going north, you'll soon find yourself at Qamdo, Jomda, then Dege of Sichuan and Yushu of Qinghai; going east, you can trek along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway directly to Chengdu, or reaching Aba via Luhuo and Daofu; going south, you'll reach Zogang and Mangkang, where you can either head for Yunnan Province along the Yunnan-Tibet Highway into Deqen, Lijiang, Dali and Kunming, or go to Chengdu of Sichuan Province. Another choice is to take a plane at Bangda Airport to Lhasa or Chengdu.

Qamdo is the converging point of the Sichuan-Tibet, Hei-Chang and Qing-Kang highways. It leads to Nagqu in the west, Ganzi in the east and Bangda in the south.

The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is a kaleidoscope of natural and cultural views. But the road is often blocked in rainy season with landslide or flooding, which will force the travelers to change their plans often.

Northern Tibet

In northern Tibet, the roads of Qinghai-Tibet, Hei-A and Hei-Chang provide the necessary transportation convenience. Yangbajain, Nagqu and Amdo are the main communication hubs.

With a total length of 745 kilometers, the Hei-Chang Highway starts from the town of Nagqu (old name Heihe) and passes by Biru, Sog, Bagen, Denggen, Rewoqe before reaching the town of Qamdo. Limited by infrastructure, many attractive tourism spots along the road still need development.

The Hei-A Highway begins from the town of Nagqu or the Amdo County and ends at Shiquanhe. It crosses the western part of Changtang and major towns in this area are located nearby this communication vein. At a distance of 100 kilometers, Amdo and Ziri are the two major entrances. The part of the Qinghai-Tibet Highway to Bango Co always runs between 4,500 to 4,830 meters above sea level. With broad and flat land, vehicles can pick their own way freely and leave complicated tracks. Both roads converge at Bango Co and then extend westward.

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