Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas at an altitude of 4,000 m, Tibet’s splendid isolation, its distinct culture and religion all add to the mystery of this enchanting land. Out the front door of your Tibet hotel awaits the vast country and still wild areas that are part of the magnificent natural splendor of Tibet that is incomparable. No other place offers such amazing views of some of the world’s highest mountains with soaring snow covered peaks that you will visit on your Tibet tour. Scenes of tranquil turquoise lakes and rivers with crystalline waters flowing down from the heights take your breath away.
Visiting Tibet is an honour. Those who are able to experience this magestic country hold memories that few will ever know.
There are so many things to see and do in Tibet. Aside from visiting fabulous monasteries, richly decorated ancient temples and palaces that stand tall and proud and inspire awe and amazement among millions of pilgrims and visitors touring Tibet, the experience of a Mount Everest Adventure is not to be missed. Other things that make your tour of Tibet unique are the images of prayer flags flapping in the wind, brightly robed Buddhist monks, big furry yaks and all other exotic sights, sounds and smells of Tibet stay etched in the memory of most visitors to the ‘Roof of the World’.
‘Land of the Snows’, another epithet for Tibet, is, however, not an appropriate one as snow fall occurs only a few times a year. One of the highlights of Tibet is that much of the year it is bright and sunny; days in particular are warm and the skies clear and blue. Conditions are great for high-altitude tours in Tibet such as trekking, hiking, mountain biking and a few other adventure sports. Acclimatisation is important (drink lots of water) as altitude sickness is a real possibility here and can mess up your trip.
A number of colorful, traditional Tibet festivals such as Losar (New Year festival), Saga Dawa (held in May/June near Mt. Kailash), and Shoton (held in August accompanied by song and dances) among others, entertain visitors throughout the year. A stroll through the traditional markets and streets shopping for souvenirs and gifts and engaging with the friendly locals can be a lot of fun and highly entertaining. A few bars and restaurants in Lhasa offer a bit of nightlife too.
Lhasa - Capital of Tibet
Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region is located on the north bank of Lhasa River, a sub branch of Yarlung Tsangpu River. Standing at 3,648m above sea level, it gets 3021 hours of sunshine annually and thus also named "Sunlit City". "Lhasa" means "Holy Land" in Tibetan language. Since Songtsan Ganpu, one of Tibetan Kings established his capital here in 7th century, Lhasa has then acted as the center of Tibet politics, economy, culture, transport and religion. It is definite that we should not miss Lhasa and the main attractions there listed below in our travelling in Tibet.
Potala Palace is the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art and a symbol of Tibetan people's wisdom and power. It is located on the western part of Lhasa City. In 641, Songtsan Ganpu decided to build this grand palace for his wife – Princess Wencheng of Tang dynasty. However, it was later destroyed by some lightening strike and warfare in Landama's reign. Only in 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama rebuilt it. And then The Thirteenth Dalai Lama expanded it to today's scale - more than 117 meters high and 360 meters wide. Standing on the top of Mt. Putup , Potala Palace looms over the entire Lhasa city. In 1994, it was added to the list of world cultural heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Located in the center of the old Lhasa city, Jokhang Temple is the first monastery for most pilgrims to visit as it is widely recognized as the spiritual center of Tibetan Buddhism. The temple was built in 647. Every day you would see many pilgrims who trek a long distance from other places of Tibet here worshiping Buddhis by prostrating to body's length. Around the temple is the famous Barkhor Street where you can get a close touch with local Tibetan people .
Drepunp Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet. At its peak time, there were more than 10,000 monks. The monastery was founded in 15th century at 5km to the western suburb of Lhasa, and once served as the living palace of Dalai Lama before reconstruction of Potala Palace. Here you can find great murals, Buddhist scriptures and crafts, and also have a glimse of the Tibetan monks' daily life. It is usually suggested to visit in the early morning time.
Ganden Monastery is the first Gelupga monastery in Tibet (Gelupga is Pachen Lama and Dalai Lama's order). It was founded in 1409 in Taktse County, about 60 kilometers east of Lhasa. There are extremely delicate murals and sculptures. In 1961, it was listed as one of historical relics subject to state protection by the State Council.
Tsedang - Cradle of Tibetan Civilization
Samye Monastery was built in 761 and is the first formal monastery that establishes triratna in Tibet. Combining Chinese, Tibetan and Indian architecture style, the structure reflects the ideal universe of Buddhism. There are many valuable and unique murals which hardly can be found anywhere else. Usually we will take a ferry to visit it crossing the Yarlung Tsangpu River. Trekking from Gandan Monastery to Samye Monastery is a very popular trekking / hiking tour in Tibet.
Built in 7th century, Trandruk Monastery is the first Buddhist chapel in Tibet. It houses a precious pearl Thangka brought here by Princess Wencheng. This Thangka is inlaid of thousands of pearls and hundreds of other gems. Located 5 kilometers south of Tsedang, the monastery is on the road leading to Yumbu Lakhang, the first palace in Tibet. So when the time permits, we usually arrange the visit to Trandruk Monastery and Yumbu Lakhang on the same day.
Gyantse - A Historic Town of Tibet
Yamdrok Yumtso Lake
Yamdrok Yumtso Lake is one of holy lakes in Tibet lying about 100 kilometers southwest of Lhasa. It is 4441 meters above sea level. We usually drop a visit here on the way from Lhasa to Gyantse. There are many islands providing homes to wild ducks and geese. It is also called the "Fish Store of Tibet".
At the foot of Dzong Hill nearby Gyantse, Pelkhor Monastery is a very special monastery in Tibet. There are monks from Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Kahdampa order living harmoniously together although they quarreled and fought. It is famous for the superb Kumbu Stupa built in 1412 and completed about ten years later. In the stupa, there are 108 gates and 77 chapels. It is a stunning archetecure wonder of Tibet.
Shigatse - the Second Largest City in Tibet
Lying 2 kilometers west of Shigatse City, Tashilumpo Monastery is the foremost attraction there. Standing at the slope of Mt. Niser in terraced rows, the monastery offers a grand and majestic view. The largest sitting brass statue of Maitreya in the world is here in one of its chapels.
Sakaya Monastery is also called the "Second Dunhuang" as it stores numerous valuable art pieces. In addition to lots of statues of Buddha, there are tens of thousands of sutras written in gold powder. So it is also known as the greatest religious library in Tibet. 130 kilometers southwest of Shigatse, the monastery is divided into two parts by the Drum River. However the northern monastery was left with nothing but ruins from which you can still see what a splendid history it ever had. The southern monastery is in good condition. In 1961, the State Council cited it as one of the cultural relic units subject to state protection.
Standing at 8,848.13 meters above sea level, Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on earth. It is also called "Mt. Qomolangma" in Tibetan language. The eternal snow at the peak, massive glaciers and seracs make it such a natural splendor that every year, many mountaineers and tourists from all over the world come here to get a life-long experience with it.
Ngari – Southwestern Tibet
"Gang Rimpoche" in Tibetan language, Mt. Kailash is the sacred mountain in Buddhism, Hinduism and the local Bon faith. It is believed that circumambulation around it can wash away one's sin. The Kailash kora usually takes 3 days to complete. In the year of horse in Tibetan calendar, many pilgrims come here to conduct circumambulation as they believe that at this time, one round will equal to 13 rounds in other normal years.
Lying in front of Mt. Kailash at 4,588 meters above sea level, Lake Manasarova is one of the highest freshwater lake in the world and a holy lake for Buddhism, Hinduism and the local Bon as well. People who come to conduct circumambulation around the sacred mountain usually will not miss visiting this lake as they believe the holy water in it can cure all kinds of diseases. The nearby Lake Rakshastal (La'nga Tso) connecting underground with the holy lake is however a saltwater lake and called "Ghost Lake". Though also beautiful in scenery, people may fell weird while standing at the bank due to its strange name.
Guge Kingdom Relics
Guge Kindom was founded around tenth century by a descendant of King Lang Darma who fled from Lhasa after the collapse of Tubo Kingdom. It played an important role in the second renascence in Tibet and survived for about 700 years before disappearing mysteriously in the 17th century. The ruins lie on a hill near a river and cover 180,000 square meters. At the hill top are the palaces while the monasteries on the hill side and cave dwellings for common people at the foot of the hill. Murals, sculptures and stone inscriptions were found in the surviving structures. They are of great artistic and aesthetic value, especially the murals which are comparable with that of Mogao Caves and probably the only traces of the once glorious kingdom. After visiting here, you may feel hard to imagine how such a grand castle was built and existed for so many years in the remote Nagri area. Guge Kingdom left too many mysteries to us…
Nagqu - Northern Tibet
Located at 4,718 meters above sea level, Namtso is the highest saltwater lake in the world and the second largest lake in China. In Tibetan language, Namtso means "Heaven Lake". It is another holy lake in Tibet. Beside the lake is the snow-capped Mt. Nyianchentanglha. The beautiful beach is a natural pasture for Tibetan nomad.
Chamdo - Northeastern Tibet
Chambaling Monastery is located in Chamdo Town. It was founded by one of Tsong Khapa's disciples in 1444. There are hundreds of statues of Buddha, thousands of square meters of murals and magnificent Thangka, representing the greatest local Kham art.
Zezhol Monastery lies at the foot of Zezhol Hill, 37 kilometers away from Dingqen County. It is one of the few largest Bon monasteries existing in Tibet. Bon, an indigenous religion once dominant in Tibet, retreated to untraversed regions after its failure in religious contest with Buddhism. As an important Bon center, Zezhol Monastery maintains the most complete Bon religious rituals, particularly the naked group dancing.
Nyingchi - Eastern Tibet
Lying 90 kilometers west of Gongbogyamda County, Basumtso Lake is a stunning highland lake. It is a notable holy lake of Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Budhism. Reflecting the picturesque snow-capped peaks around, it offers a "Swiss Alps" like scenery. In 1997, Basumtso Lake was listed by World Tourism Organization as a world tourist site.