Sichuan – Tibet Highway
Starting from Chengdu and ending in Lhasa, Sichuan-Tibet Highway is the most precipitous highway in China. It is the most popular self-driving route to Tibet among Chinese travelers. As a part of China National Highway 318, on the way, it passes Ya’an and Kangding. Crossing more than a dozen mountains over 4,000 meters, high mountain passes, dozens of famous rivers, primeval forests, and passing numerous lakes, villages, and monasteries. It divides into south line and north line at Xinduqiao, offering different sceneries.
Routes of Sichuan-Tibet Highway
South Line of Sichuan-Tibet Highway
With a total length of 2146 km, the south line starts from Chengdu and arrives at Lhasa via Ya’an, Luding, Kangding, Dongerluo, Litang, Batang, Mangkang, Zogang, Banda, Basu, Bowo, Nyingchi, Bayi, Gongbujiangda, Mozhugongka, Dazhi, which is also a part of 318 National Road (Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport-Tibet). It was formally opened in 1958 that is a golden route for travelers and photographers to enter Tibet by overland. The highest crossing point along the route is Litang county, which stands at 4,700 meters above sea level.
North Line of Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Big North Line: With a total length of 2412 km, it starts from Chengdu and separates from south line at Xinduqiao, via Qianning, Daofu, Luhuo, Ganzi, Dege, Jiangda, Chamdo to Bangda and then meets with south line again leading to Lhasa.
Small North Line: It separate from G318 at Xinduqiao, goes to Chamdo and southwards to Bangda, and arrives in Lhasa via Basu and Ranwu. The whole route is about 2,413 kilometers.
The roads are mostly tarred and only in some mountain areas, there are poor dirty roads. After passing Baqing, asphalt road are available.
Scenery along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway
The tunnel is 8,596 meters long and was dug through Mount Erlang in Sichuan Province. It is amazing to see the weather changes at the two side of Erlangshan Tunnel. Round the Erlangshan Tunnel, there are many famous attractions including Gongga Mountain, Moxi Ancient Town, Luding Steel Bridge and Hailuogou. Visitors can also go to these scenic spots to appreciate beautiful views of western Sichuan.
Zheduoshan is a traditional Chinese and Tibetan separation lines, Called Kangba first pass. With an altitude of 4290 meters above sea level, it is a geographic dividing line. In the west, it is Qinghai Tibet Plateau and in the east it is the mountain area of Sichuan. You can see Gongga mountain in the distance from the Zheduoshan.
Renowned as “the paradise of photographers”, Xinduqiao offers seasonal stunning views, especially in the autumn. It is a picturesque small Tibetan town and famous for its plateau pasture scenery. It is located 437km west to chengdu and 83km west of Kangding, at the separating point of the North and South Sichuan-Tibet highway, with Ganze in the northwest and Litang in the west.
Siguniang Mountain is revered by the local Tibetans as a divine mountain. According to legend, there were four beautiful girls who in order to protect their beloved giant pandas, fought bravely with fierce demons and eventually became four beautiful and straight peaks, namely Siguniang Mountain (in Chinese, guniang means girl).
There are all together 72 curves on the highway of Nujiang River part. This part is considered to be one of the most challenging part of Sichuan-Tibet Highway.
Located in the southeast of Tibet, Nyingchi owns the biggest elevation gap in the world with the lowest elevation of only 900m and the highest elevation of 7,782m (altitude of Namjagbarwa Peak). Literally meaning the Throne of Sun, Nyingchi is renowned as the “East Swizerland” and “Jiangnan of Tibet”, blessed with beautiful lakes, deep gorges, immense forests, azalea-filled meadows etc.
Tips for Traveling Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Accommodation: There are a good selection of hotels, hostels, and lodges well kept and clear with reasonable price along the Route that cater to foreign and local travelers.
Food: Food in most places along the highway is a mix of Sichuan dishes and Tibetan cuisine. You can also find some pasta, pizza, etc. Moreover, taking some package food with you is also a good choice.
Best time to Travel: The best time to enter Tibet from Sichuan-Tibet Highway is May, Mid-August to October. From May to August is the rain season of western China.