Tibet: the Land of Snows
Tibet is simply one of Asia’s most remarkable places, offering fabulous monasteries, high-altitude treks, stunning mountain views and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet.
For many people, the highlights of Tibet will be of a spiritual nature – magnificent monasteries, prayer halls of chanting monks and remote cliffside retreats. Tibet’s pilgrims are an essential part of this appeal, from the local grannies mumbling mantras and swinging their prayer wheels in temples heavy with the intoxicating aroma of juniper incense and yak butter, to the hard-core walking or even procrastinating around Mt Kailash. Tibet has a level of devotion and faith that seems to belong to an earlier age.
For travellers nonplussed by Tibet’s religious significance, the big draw is likely to be the elemental beauty of the highest plateau on earth. Geography here is on a humbling scale, from the world’s highest peaks to lakes that look like inland seas and every view is lit with spectacular mountain light. Your trip will take you past glittering turquoise lakes, across huge plains dotted with grazing yaks and nomad’s tents and over high passes draped with colourful prayer flags. The scope for adventure is limitless.
Top Reasons to Visit Tibet
There’s more to Tibet than just monasteries. Palaces, forts & temples represents a millennium of Tibetan history.
For many people, the highlights of Tibet will be of a spiritual nature – magnificent monasteries, prayer halls of chanting monks and remote cliffside retreats. Beyond Lhasa’s famous monastic cities there are hundreds of smaller, lesser-visited places, each holding their own treasures and the chance to share some time (and a bowl of yak-butter tea) with some local monks. Share these tracks with more local pilgrims than tour-group hordes.
Best palaces, temples & monasteries to visit:
TREKKING & HIKING
The trails around Tibet take hardy walkers into some timeless corners of this Himalayan region.
Trekking ‘the roof of the world’ is not easy. The altitude, weather and rugged terrain all present significant challenges. If you’re up to it, hiking past nomad tents to remote settlements will take you out of reach of China’s manic modernisation and into an older Tibet.
Best trekking & hiking trails:
For travellers nonplussed by Tibet’s religious significance, the big draw is likely to be the elemental beauty of the highest plateau on earth.
You just have to turn your head to get another outstanding view of Tibet. Whether it’s the rolling grasslands of the north, Mars-like deserts of the west, snowcapped Himalayan views to the south or the huge valleys and gigantic lakes of the centre, all of Tibet is blessed with amazing high-altitude colours.
Must-visit Tibetan landscapes:
Tibet abounds in cultural traditions not limited to Buddhism. Be a part of these cultural encounters and experience Tibet at a higher spiritual level.
Simple daily pleasures abound in Tibet. Whether it’s a spinning prayer wheels with a Tibetan granny, breathing in the heady fragrance of juniper incense in a medieval monastery or wondering at the devotion in a pilgrim’s prostrations, the following encounters help you see Tibet through Tibetan eyes.
Tibetan cultural experiences you can’t afford to miss:
Tibet’s koras (pilgrim routes) are the key to its soul. From 30m-long paths around a holy inner sanctum to month-long treks around a holy peak, koras are the ultimate fusion of the mind and the body, and the easiest way to meet Tibetans on their own terms.
All over Tibet you’ll see wizened old pilgrims twirling prayer wheels, rubbing sacred rocks and walking around temples, monasteries and sometimes even entire mountains. It’s a fantastic fusion of the spiritual and physical, and there are few better ways of spending an hour than joining a merry band of pilgrims on a monastery kora. En route you’ll pass rock paintings, sacred spots and probably be invited to an impromptu picnic.
Best pilgrim paths to explore:
Best Time to Visit Tibet
Most of Tibet is a high-altitude desert plateau at more than 4000m. The best time to visit is from May to September when the weather is warm and the hiking is good. Days in Summer (June to September) are warm, sunny and generally dry but temperatures drop quickly after dark. It’s always cool above 4000m and often freezing at night, though thanks to the Himalayan rain shadow there is surprisingly little snow in the ‘Land of Snows’. Sunlight is very strong at these altitudes, so bring plenty of high-factor sunscreen and lip balm.
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April and mid-October to November are also good times to visit with fewer crowds and warm days. However, avoid travelling to Tibet in March, a politically sensitive month which brings closures and permit problems.
Where is Tibet located?
Tibet is a region on the Tibetan Plateau in Eastern Asia. It is located in the southwest of China and is bordered by India, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan. It is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 feet).