The 'Friendship Highway' is a superbly scenic route which connects Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, with the Nepal border. In reality, only the officially named part of the journey stops at Nepal, while the route itself continues south as far as Kathmandu, and north beyond Lhasa to Shanghai. The Nepal end was wrecked during the 2015 earthquake, and although a new route has been opened, the loose rocky landscape can still make for hair-raising driving! Within Tibet, the surface is well maintained, and the highway is Tibet's most travelled road, by locals and visitors. An offshoot of the route also passes close by the sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet.
As you'd expect from one of the world's highest roads, the scenery is extraordinary. Highlights include horizon-spanning views of Mt Everest and the Himalayas, along with several spectacular mountain passes, including Khamba La (4,852m) and Karo La (5,010m), and the sacred Yamdrok Tsao lake, which lies at 4,447 metres above sea level. From Karo La you can see the Karo La glacier, along with the snow-covered Mount Nojin Kangtsang.
These particular highlights feature on day 8 of our Tibetan Discovery itinerary, as you travel from Lhasa to Gyantse, with its massive hillfort and impressive stupa within the Pelkor monastery. After a few more bends in the road you reach Shigatse, whose beautiful monastery is the traditional summer seat of the Panchen Lamas, and once housed 4,000 monks.
The route turns south at Lhatse, where the only real attraction is a handful of restaurants, making it a handy place to stop for lunch! If you're heading to Everest Base Camp, you'll be taking a considerable detour off the Friendship Highway, but it's more than worth it! The scenery doesn't stop being extraordinary, and you'll travel via Rongbuk Monastery, the world's highest at 5,000m, and the spot where you'll get your very first unobstructed view of Everest's iconic northern face.