Known as "the roof of the world", Tibet was virtually impossible to visit until the 1980's, its relative isolation serving to preserve its spectacular scenery and rich cultural heritage. Lhasa is a truly fascinating city, its streets, temples, monasteries and palaces living repositories of traditional artistic, cultural and religious richness.
When travelling in Tibet responsible travel issues take on greater significance due to the isolation and relatively unspoilt nature of this country. This makes it especially important to respect cultural differences, minimise your impact on the communities you visit, and make a positive contributions to the areas that you travel through.
One highlight is undoubtedly the 17th century Potala Palace, with gigantic bejewelled Buddhas, thousands of wonderfully frescoed chapels, and vast numbers of treasures. Monasteries and monastic towns beyond the capital also exhibit centuries of artistic heritage, some showing a unique fusion of Mongol, Nepali and Chinese styles. Tibet's high plateaux, snow-covered in winter but supporting steppe and prairie vegetation in summer, are overlooked by the highest peaks of the Himalayas and there are fantastic views of mountains and glaciers, including the magnificence of Mount Everest.
Want to know more about Tibet holidays before you go?
Find out more about Tibet by reading these articles.
China’s plans to build a road to the Everest slopes to open the area up to tourism, despite fears that Everest is already overcrowded, has caused controversy around the world. Not only would a road put further pressure on the area’s unique wildlife and habitats (known for example for being the home of the endangered and elusive snow leopard) but it would also mean further repression for the local Tibetans. Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, now can be reached by train from Beijing and over 2 million Chinese visited in the past year alone. In fact Tibetans are now a minority in Lhasa as cheap rail fares encourage migrant workers and tourists. A local Tibetan guide said he felt that they were turning Tibet into 'Everestland' and by doing so hoping to obliterate the history of Tibet, and of China's occupation of Tibet – a plight which China has been trying to keep hidden from the rest of the world for 50 years now. The Tibetan guide told the Observer: "They are turning Tibet into Everestland, that way it's easier to forget the past and make us into a theme park." By turning Tibet into a theme park or 'Everestland', it would appear that China is trying to disconnect any associations of oppression which the notion of Tibet conjures up; thereby erasing its history and years of struggle for independence. Although China’s intentions are to increase tourism to the area, there are real concerns it will lose its magic, becoming just another gimmick on the mass tourism trail. Find out more in this Tibet article