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 white 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 Jokhang – Tibet’s oldest and most sacred temple.
Our Tibet Holidays
The Tibetan approach to the world's highest mountain gives you the chance to gaze in wonder at its astoundingly beautiful north face, sure to leave you speechless
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.
Trek the HimalayasNepal 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 take you through beautiful scenery, staying at tiny herders’ camps and close to traditional villages. And walking beside local pilgrims and monks, will bring you up close not only to Tibet’s magnificent landscapes, but also to the deep spirituality of its people, despite decades of oppression.
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The kingdom of Bhutan, the Hindu traditions of Nepal and once-forbidden landscapes of Tibet offer quite different perspectives of Himalayan life
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!
More about Tibet
See the world from a higher perspective as you delve into our Tibet travel guide.
Best time to visit Tibet is from May to October, but don’t discount winter in Lhasa.
Click on our interactive Tibet map and highlights to decide where to go.
There's much more to Lhasa than simply somewhere to acclimatise before moving on.
The Dalai Lama is synonymous with Tibet and its struggles..
Up there at the roof of the world, Tibet is one of the great destinations for a trekking holiday.
Learn about the different ways of getting to Base Camp North and Rongbuk Monastery.
The reason why you should see Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan together is very clear.
Our Asia experts offer up their top Tibet travel advice, plus tips from our reviews.
Responsible tourism in Tibet is a tricky issue – starting with “should I even go?” .