Places to Visit in Tibet

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From stupendous views of Everest to monasteries, temples and turquoise blue lakes, there are more places to visit in Tibet than just Lhasa itself.

Places to Visit in Tibet

The places to visit in Tibet are as exotic and magical as any in the world. For centuries Tibet has held the imagination of spiritual seekers, mountain adventurers and intrepid travellers.

For today’s travellers the “Roof of the World” continues to promise breathtaking high-altitude scenery, awe-inspiring monasteries, epic road trips and a unique Himalayan culture that remains vibrant after a half-century of assault and repression. As you travel around Tibet, meeting crimson-robed monks and wild-haired pilgrims, you’ll quickly find that the colour, humour and religious devotion of the immensely likeable Tibetan people is as much of a highlight as the big sights.

Best Places to Visit in Tibet

Nam-tso, Tibet

11. Ngan-tso & Rawok-tso

Tibet is not short on spectacular, remote, turquoise-blue lakes. Of these, none surpasses the crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches and snowcapped peaks of these twin lakes near Rawok. Stay overnight at a hotel on stilts above the lake and explore nearby glaciers during the day.

Pelkor Chode Monastery, Gyantse, Tibet

10. Gyantse Kumbum

Often called the “Heroic City”, it was originally capital of a 14th-century kingdom, and the remnants of its old Dzong, or fort watches over the town. Heavily bombarded during the British invasion in 1904, it is today a dramatic ruin with a small museum. The giant chorten (fort) is unique in the Himalayas. As you spiral around and up the snail shell-shaped building, you pass dozens of alcoves full of serene painted buddhas, bloodthirsty demons and unrivalled Tibetan art. Finally you pop out onto the golden eaves for fabulous views of Gyantse fort and old town.


9. Nam-tso

Just a few hours north of Lhasa, spectacular Nam-tso epitomises the dramatic but harsh scenery of northern Tibet. With its classic Tibetan scenery of azure water beneath snowcapped peaks and grasslands dotted with herds of yak, beautiful Nam-tso is the most popular overnight jeep trip from Lhasa. This deep blue lake is fringed by prayer flag-draped hills, craggy cliffs and nesting migratory birds, all framed by a horizon of 7000m peaks. It’s cold, increasingly developed and devastatingly beautiful.

Monks debating at Sera Monastery, Tibet

8. Sera & Drepung Monasteries, Lhasa

Lhasa’s great religious institutions of Sera and Drepung are more than just monasteries – they are self-contained towns. A web of whitewashed alleyways climbs past medieval kitchens, printing presses and colleges to reach giant prayer halls full of chanting, tea-sipping red-robed monks. Don’t miss the afternoon debating, an extravagant spectator sport of Buddhist dialectics and hand slapping.

Ganden to Samye Trek, Tibet

7. Ganden-Samye Trek

Tibet is one of those places you really should experience at the pace of one foot in front of the other. This classic four-day trek between two of Tibet’s best monasteries takes you past herders’ camps, high alpine lakes and a Guru Rinpoche hermitage, as well as over three 5000m-plus passes. Hire a horse for a wonderful wilderness trek.

Guge Kingdom, Tibet

6. Guge Kingdom, Western Tibet

The spectacular lost kingdom of Guge at Tsaparang is quite unlike anything you’ll see in central Tibet; it feels more like Ladakh than Lhasa. There comes a point when you are lowering yourself down a hidden sandstone staircase or crawling through an interconnected cave complex that you stop and think: ‘This is incredible’! What’s really amazing is that you’ll likely have the half-forgotten ruins to yourself. Rank this as one of Asia’s great travel secrets.

Samye Monastery, Tibet

5. Samye Monastery

With its ordered design, wealth of religious treasures, and stunning location, Samye makes a deep impression on visitors. Tibet’s first monastery is a heavily symbolic collection of chapels, chortens and shrines arranged around a medieval Tibetan-, Chinese- and Indian-style temple called the Utse. The 1200-year-old site is where Guru Rinpoche battled demons to introduce Buddhism to Tibet and where the future course of Tibetan Buddhism was sealed in a great debate. The location on the desert-like banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo is also superb.

Mt Everest, Tibet

4. View of Mt Everest

Don’t tell the Nepal Tourism Board, but Tibet has easily the best views of the world’s most famous mountain. While two-week-long trekking routes on the Nepal side offer up only occasional fleeting glimpses of the peak, the view of Mt Everest’s unobstructed north face framed in the prayer flags of Rongphu Monastery or from a tent at the Base Camp will stop you in your tracks.

Jokhang Temple, Tibet

3. Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

The constant bustle, gaudy paraphernalia of worship, flickering butter lamps, and wreaths of heady incence make the Jokhang Temple one of Tibet’s most memorable experiences. The atmosphere of hushed awe is what hits you first as you inch through the dark, medieval passageways of the Jokhang. Queues of wide-eyed pilgrims shuffle up and down the stairways, past medieval doorways and millennium-old murals, pausing briefly to top up the hundreds of butter lamps that flicker in the gloom. It’s the beating spiritual heart of Tibet. Welcome to the 14th century.

Mount Kailash, Tibet

2. Mt Kailash, Western Tibet

Worshipped by more than a billion Buddhists and Hindus, Asia’s most sacred mountain rises from the Barkha plain like a giant four-sided 6714m chorten. Throw in the stunning nearby Lake Manasarovar and a basin that forms the source of four of Asia’s greatest rivers, and who’s to say this place really isn’t the centre of the world? Travel here to one of the world’s most beautiful and remote corners brings an added bonus: the three-day pilgrim path around the mountain erases the sins of a lifetime.

Potala Palace, Tibet

1. Potala Palace

There are moments in travel that will stay long with you – and your first view of the iconic Potala Palace is one such moment. Built on Lhasa’s highest point, Marpo Hill, the Potala Palace is the greatest monumental structure in Tibet. Even surrounded by a sea of Chinese development, the towering, mysterious building dominates Lhasa; it’s simply hard to take your eyes off the thing. A visit to the former home of the Dalai Lamas is a spiralling descent past gold-tombed chapels, reception rooms and prayer halls into the bowels of a medieval castle. It’s nothing less than the concentrated spiritual and material wealth of a nation.

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