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With its snow-capped peaks, elegant temples and remote monasteries, there is no place on earth quite like Tibet. To visit Tibet is on the bucket list of many travel-lovers — and for good reason. Historically, Tibet has a tumultuous past fighting for independence from China and although this might have kept tourists at bay, as a travel destination Tibet has since gone from a niche destination for mountain climbers to a popular backpacking spot.
Nestled in the Himalaya mountains, Tibet offers both epic landscapes and rich culture. It is considered the center of Buddhism and many people come in search of enlightenment or to learn more about the ancient practice. Whether you want to visit Tibet as part of your trip to China or you only want to go to Tibet, whether you want to get active and adventurous or wish to enjoy ancient attractions with a professional guide, in this article we’ve got you covered with our top 5 destinations to visit in Tibet and our recommended tours.
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1. Potala Palace
- Opening times: 09:30 am – 2:00 pm. Note that entrance is restricted to one hour.
This important Buddhist pilgrim destination is the highest palace in the world, located in Lhasa at almost 3700 meters above sea level. Built by a Tibetan king in 613 AD to celebrate his marriage, the palace later became a Buddhist monastery and the residence of the Dalai Lama. It is now a museum. The palace is filled with art and relics, such as scrolls, murals and statues, and also houses the tombs of eight Dalai Lamas. Potala Palace is one of the most famous attractions to see when you visit Tibet.
- When to go: Due to the high altitude, Lhasa is very cold in winter. Summer is a better time to visit, with peak tourist season from June – August.
2. Everest Base Camp, Tibet
The Tibetan Everest Base Camp lies at the foot of Mount Everest and offers stunning views of the world’s tallest mountain. The camp is located at 5,150 meters, so even though it’s at the foot of the mountain, it is still a high climb. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to make this trek, but it is important to realize the effect the altitude can have on you. As such, any trek to the base camp is best undertaken with an experienced guide or as part of a tour. In an organized tour, Sherpas will carry your luggage for you and experienced local guides will make sure you reach your destination safely. Trekking here in this remote and magical part of the world is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has you passing by awe-inspiring mountain scenery and culturally-rich Sherpa villages.
- When to go: Everest has two trekking seasons — one before and one after the monsoons. The best time to trek to Everest Base Camp is from February to May and September to December
3. Jokhang Temple
- Opening times: 8:00 am – 11:30 am for Buddhists and tour groups under ten people. 11:30 am – 17:30 pm for all tourists. Tour groups are not allowed to stay for more than one hour.
Jokhang Temple, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has an interesting legend about its origin. According to the legend, king Songsten Gampo threw a ring in the air to determine the site of the temple, but it landed in a lake. Miraculously a stupa rose from the lake upon which the lake was drained except for the pond in the middle of the temple. It is not as richly decorated as some Tibetan temples and monasteries but is still very lovely. The statues and prayer wheels are especially impressive, and it has a beautiful gilded roof. It is an interesting site to visit simply to experience the atmosphere of Buddhist pilgrims and worshippers.
- When to go: May – October, in the morning.
4. Lake Yamdrok
Lake Yamdrok is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is a freshwater lake, fed with melting snow from the surrounding mountains. The lake plays an important part in Buddhism as it is believed that it helps find the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama. As for location, the beautiful scenery and bright turquoise water make the lake a favourite spot for photography and hiking, and it should be noted that the famous Samding monastery sits on one of the hundred peninsulas of the lake. It is also an important habitat for wildlife, such as migratory birds and freshwater fish. You can hike around the lake on foot, where you are likely to have some stunning photo opportunities.
- When to go: Winters at Yamdrok Lake are extremely cold and dry, while summers are wet and cool. The best time to visit is from May – June, and September – November.
5. Mount Kailash
The sacred Mount Kailash, often referred to as the spiritual center of the world, is not just a holy site for Buddhists but also for Hindus and Jains. As such, it is a prominent pilgrimage site and a popular tourist attraction in Tibet. The pilgrim path around the mountain is 52-kilometer-long and can take several days to complete. The mountain has become a popular tourist attraction in Tibet because of the religious significance and beautiful landscape. In 2014, for example, hundreds of pilgrims gathered at Mount Kailash for a year-of-the-horse ritual ceremony.
- When to go: The best time to visit Mount Kailash is from April – June or September – October. This is when you’ll have the best weather and visibility.
This 12-day tour combines the majesty of China and the mystique of Tibet for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Start in Beijing and end in Lhasa. With your expert guide in tow, explore the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Potala Palace, Yamdrok Lake, and many more amazing sights. The tour includes accommodation and most meals.
On this five-day tour, professional guides will show you all that Lhasa has to offer. Discover the best of this mesmerizing city when sightseeing in Tibet. You’ll learn about the ancient Buddhist culture of Tibet and visit relics, temples, monasteries, and holy sites. And of course, you will be surrounded by the most majestic mountains in the world. The tour takes care of your accommodations, transport, entrance and visa fees, so that you can focus on enjoying your trip when you visit Tibet.
3. High road to Lhasa
If you are looking for a bit more adventure during your visit to Tibet, this is the tour for you. Starting and ending in Kathmandu, Nepal, the 13 days will lead you overland through Nepal and Tibet, all the way to Everest Base Camp. Revel in the beautiful landscapes and incredible views of the tallest mountain range in the world. Experience the rich cultures of Tibet and Nepal and learn more about ancient Buddhism. Of course, you will also see the tourist highlights and attractions of Kathmandu and Lhasa. All basics, such as accommodation, transportation, guides, medical kits, and most meals are included.
Experience the epic Himalayas and beautiful scenery of Nepal and Tibet on the road in this tour. In 8 days, you'll be driven from Kathmandu to Lhasa in a 4x4, passing some of the most scenic mountain passes and breathtaking landscapes. This tour combines the adventure of the great outdoors with sightseeing fantastic tourist attractions in Tibet, such as monasteries and palaces, with an English-speaking guide. Accommodation, breakfast, and transportation are all taken care of.
Whether you are a true Buddhist, a wannabe, or simply a curious traveller looking to explore one of the most remote and mysterious places on earth, Tibet should defintiley be on your list. It is surely one of the most exciting upcoming tourist destinations. Between the spectacular scenery and beautiful nature to majestic palaces and temples, Tibet is bound to steal your heart and spirit. Join one of our tours to make your Tibet visit unforgettable.