For many travelers, Tibet is the ultimate destination. Inaccessible for years, the Himalayan Kingdom is today open to visitors. Gyantse’s Kumbum is a world treasure, adorned with 15th century Newari murals. Shigatse is the seat of the Panchen Lama; it draws pilgrims from all over the country. Tsedong, just outside Lhasa, makes an ideal introduction to the country and its monastic traditions. Lhasa is the pilgrims’ and travelers’ final destination, with bustling markets, sacred temples, and ornate palaces. The massive monastic cities of Sera and Drepung, outside of Lhasa, are open and are being rebuilt after the destruction of the Cultural Revolution and years of neglect.
These are some of our favorite things to do in Tibet. Discuss incorporating some of these ideas into your own travel itinerary.
Visit the Potala Palace, the residence of the Dalai Lama, and the Jokhang Temple, considered the spiritual center of Tibet… see the Norbulingkha, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas…visit Drepung monastery, one of the largest in Tibet, and Sera monastery, founded in 1419… enjoy a day excursions to Ganden and Tsurphu monasteries…visit Tsedong, where the first known building still in existence in Tibet lies…travel over the passes of Kampa La (15,840 feet) and Karo La (16,500 feet) along the turquoise blue Yamdrok Lake…visit the small town of Gyantse on the Nyang River and continue to Shigatse, stopping en route at the Shalu Monastery…in Shigatse, visit Tashilhunpo Monastery to watch pilgrims offering hunks of oil into tub-like butter lamps…travel over the Himalayas to Kathmandu…visit Sakya Monastery… pass through Xegar, whose “Shining Crystal Monastery” once housed 400 monks…drive across the Tibetan Plateau to Zhangmu…take a side trip to Everest Base Camp.
When To Visit
Lhasa is special any time of the year, however some visitors might think to time their journey here to coincide with either the Tibetan New Year Festival (Feb./Mar.) or the Shoton Festival (late Aug.). Tibetan New Year takes place in February or March; the exact dates depend on the lunar calendar. It is not particularly cold during this period, the day time temperature rising to about 60°F. At this time, foreign and Chinese tourists are few, whilst many Tibetans come from far afield to auspiciously herald the New Year at Lhasa’s temples and monasteries. The Shoton festival usually takes place in mid to late August, the precise days determined by the lunar calendar. This is also known as the Opera festival, with singing and acrobatics taking place all over town, but most especially in the grounds of the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace, known as the Norbalinka.
There are health risks to traveling to high altitude. Travelers should consult their physicians for more information.