Things to do in Tibet


Visit Lhasa’s monasteries & palaces

At 3,490m, Lhasa is one of the highest cities on earth – but this has not deterred its inhabitants from constructing some of the world’s most astounding religious buildings here. The most famous of all is Potala Palace, the stunning former residence of the Dalai Lamas since the 7th century. Sat atop a hill in the middle of the city, this red and while palace dominates the landscape and its rammed earth walls contain over 1,000 rooms.
5km west of Lhasa, Drepung Monastery is the largest in Tibet; in its heyday it housed some 10,000 monks. Drepung was founded in 1416 and its name means “collecting rice” – a reference to the appearance of this sprawling white building from afar. There are grand entrances, colourful hallways, statues of Buddha and impressive woodcarvings. The second largest monastery in Tibet is Sera, built in 1419. Covering over 11 hectares, Sera lies in Lhasa’s northern suburbs and contains many statues, scriptures written in gold, and beautiful murals. You can join the monks’ debates from 3pm each Monday-Friday, in which they discuss Buddhist doctrines in order to reach deeper understanding. You might not comprehend a word – but the traditional spectacle is enlightening in itself. As if that wasn’t enough, Lhasa is also home to Norbulingka – the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, and Jolkhang – Tibet’s oldest and most sacred temple.

Marvel at Everest’s might

Tibet’s Everest Base Camp approaches the mountain from its north slope, and, unlike its Nepalese equivalent, this route is usually carried out in a vehicle – making it much more accessible, despite its 5,150m altitude. You’ll have sweeping views of Mount Everest from base camp, as well as from the nearby Rongbuk Monastery, founded in 1902. Rongbuk’s monks and nuns, and the meditation caves punctuating the surrounding cliff faces, somehow make this incredible encounter even more spiritual and stirring.
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Trek the Himalayas

Nepal is not the be all and end all when it comes to Himalayan hikes; Tibet offers some extraordinary routes well beyond the reach – or even the imagination – of most trekkers. While this once forbidden nation is gradually luring more tourists, few make it beyond Lhasa and a few key monasteries – but trekking holidays ensure you explore far beyond. Trek around the base of Mount Kailash (6,741m), sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains, and take in the extraordinary views of this prominent peak, which overlooks two lakes. If you have four weeks to spare, you can trek from Lhasa to Kashgar, an incredibly remote desert oasis on Tibet’s high plateau.
Many routes across Tibet are not so remote, of course – they are still used by pilgrims trekking to ancient monasteries tucked into Himalayan valleys and atop rocky peaks. Multi-day walks through beautiful scenery, staying at tiny herders’ camps and close to traditional villages, as you walk beside local pilgrims and monks, will bring you up close to Tibet’s magnificent landscapes and to the deep spirituality of its people, despite decades of oppression.

Combine countries

Two weeks in the Himalayas is enough to cross borders, exploring these three neighbouring countries: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, with shared cultures but very different backgrounds, politics and beliefs. Buddhist rituals, extraordinary palaces, temples and monasteries, “Gross National Happiness”, struggles for freedom and a constant backdrop of snowcapped peaks ensure that this type of holiday will be as enlightening as it is memorable.
Alternatively, take the train to Lhasa from Beijing, with a 32-hour stretch from Xi’an on the highest railway in the world – the “sky train” – introducing you to some of the Earth’s most dramatic landscapes outside your window. It’s also a great way to acclimatise gently!
Photo credits: [Visit Lhasa's monasteries & palaces: tommy@chau] [Marvel at Everest's might: Thomas Fuhrmann] [Trek the Himalayas: Greg Walters] [Combine with Nepal & Bhutan or China: Kyle Taylor]

Written by: Polly Humphris & Vicki Brown
Tibet tour, Lhasa and Lake Namtso

Tibet tour, Lhasa and Lake Namtso

Surrealistic beauty of Mount Everest and Namtso Lake

From US $1210 10 Days ex flights
Bejing to Lhasa tour, by train

Bejing to Lhasa tour, by train

Beijing to Lhasa on the famous sky train

From £1296 13 Days ex flights
Tibet cultural tours

Tibet cultural tours

Experience life styles of Tibetan people

From £1175 14 Days ex flights
Lhasa to Mount Kailash tour, Tibet

Lhasa to Mount Kailash tour, Tibet

3 days pilgrimage kora around Mount Kailash

From £1550 15 Days ex flights
Lhasa small group tour in Tibet

Lhasa small group tour in Tibet

Visit World Heritage Sites in Lhasa City at short 4 days

From US $460 4 Days ex flights
Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour

Kathmandu to Lhasa overland tour

Overland trip from Kathmandu to Tibet with Mount Everest

From £742 9 Days ex flights
Lhasa to Everest Base Camp tour, small group

Lhasa to Everest Base Camp tour, small group

Enjoy the panoramic view of fabulous Himalaya Mountain Range

From US $860 8 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Will De Freitas]
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