The so called 'southern route' across western Tibet from Kashgar to Ali, passing Kailash and finally joining the Friendship highway is a great ride across a remote mountain scenery, if you are ready to cope with lots of washboard...
Since April 2008 it has become impossible to enter Tibet individually. That is when mainly the checkpoint have been reinforced with army personal. Because of that it is no more possible to enter without permit as it used to be for many years. This applies for the whole of the TAR
- From Kashgar to the Friendship highway it is about 2240km
- The main road crosses 12 passes of over 4000m and 12 of over 5000m hight. Highest en route is Qieshan La (5400m)
- Count with a minimum of about 32 days for cycling the route
Attention: this information can change very quickly.
As far Yengcheng it is a good road with lots of traffic and annoying truck drivers. After that about 90km are still paved and some more 60km around Kudie. The rest is a dirt road all the way to Ali. I found the the road in this part of the route to be quite ok. Bad it is mostly when it is flat ( not often happening...) like after Xaidulla and especially between Rutok and Ali.
After Ali there is more traffic. Lots of tourist Land Cruiser that often drive very ruthlessly. Washboard dominates the road between Ali and the Friendship highway mostly! Just after Ali there are some 80km of paved road.
Along the route there are truck stops or little villages at least every 100km. There you can always stay for the night, eat a noodle soup or buy something. The selection in the shops is often very limited with mainly noodle soups and biscuits. Things you don't want to miss (like chocolate, dried fruits) you should bring from Kahsgar with you. Places where you find shops with a good selection are Rutok, Ali, New Zongha and Saga.
This situation is constantly changing. Here is the situation as it was in 2005:
In Kudie there is a military checkpoint. Only visas are checked here. In Ali you best go to PSB yourself where you pay a fine of 300Y and get an ATP (Alien travel permit) for Ali, Guge and Kailash. There is another military checkpoint after Mayum La (only visas are checked here too). 1km east of Saga is the only checkpoint where permits are checked. But if you follow the 'normal route' you won't pass here.
The main route itself is already very spectacular and arduous. All side trips are pretty challenging but rewarding. Apart from the option I mention here there are countless other possibilities...
The Kailash kora is almost a must I you pass here. 2 to 3 day trekking. Taking your own tent is not necessary (simple accommodation available) but gives you the possibility to camp wherever you like.