advertisement

473km (293 miles) SW of Shigatse. Altitude: 1,900m (6,232 ft.)

The Friendship Highway drops 1,400m (4,600 ft.) during the treacherous 38km (24 miles) of road between Nyalam and Zhangmu. The arid Tibetan plateau gives way to lush greenery, waterfalls, and deliciously damp air and, as border towns go it's really rather pleasant. Nepalis complain about the cold, but you'll be shedding layers if you've arrived from Lhasa. A tiny collection of wooden houses before the border opened in 1980, Zhangmu is now one of the wealthiest towns in Tibet, due to licit and illicit trade in gold, clothing, and footwear. Zhangmu stretches for several miles through a series of switchbacks toward the border. Buildings are referred to in this section as though you are facing downhill.