When you traveling to Tibet, you need to check the must-see attractions in Tibet. There are top 10 things to do in Tibet as follows.
1. Climb Up to the Mount Everest Base Camp
Elevated at a height of 8844.43 meters above sea level, Mount Everest, or Mount Qomolangma in Tibetan, is undoubtedly the highest mountain in the world. It is the number one reason that a lot of travellers from around the world want to visit Tibet in the first place. In Tibet, a hike up Mount Everest begins in Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. Here, you will climb up to Rongbuk Monastery, which, with its elevation of 5,000 meters above sea level, makes it the highest temple in the world. From there, you will continue your hike to Everest Base Camp (EBC). This base camp is elevated at a height of 5,200 meters. Here, you can take a photo at the Mount Qomolangma Base Camp marker.
From afar, Mount Everest is a magnificent view, but on the mountain itself, it is no less breathtaking. At night, you can get an astonishing view of the endless span of the night sky, adorned with countless bright stars. You can even witness some shooting stars and make a wish! If you want, you can also buy a postcard from the world's highest post office to get it delivered to your home.
On your trip to Mount Everest, it is important to ascend gradually. Remember to avoid rushing, slow and steady is always best. This is so that you can avoid altitude sickness, which you can get if you are not properly acclimatised to a certain elevation. In the case where you get altitude sickness, make sure to inform your tour guide immediately. Do not worry and stay calm. You can easily tackle altitude sickness by descending to lower elevations. Staying hydrated, getting enough rest and proper acclimatisation is key.
2. Visit Potala Palace
Potala Palace, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994, is a jaw-dropping sight. Its exterior is a famous and iconic symbol of Lhasa, with its red and white appearance that beautifully contrasts the sky and mountains around it. The palace is a fortress-like building that was once the winter residence of successive Dalai Lamas. The building is a masterpiece of architecture, standing at thirteen storeys and housing more than 1,000 rooms.
A visit to Potala Palace requires you to climb up the many stairs outside, and then from the inside, you tour the building from the top to the bottom where you exit on the ground floor. Potala Palace is a massive house of treasures that reflect Tibetan Buddhism history and culture. Here, you can see sculptures, gilded statues, murals, antiques, jewelry, intricate mandalas, chapels, prayer halls, thangkas, pagodas and funeral stupas. The private quarters of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas are located on the roof of the palace. Back in the day, the Dalai Lama would watch dance performances that were held in the courtyard beneath the hidden balconies of their private quarters.
Tourists visit Potala Palace to marvel at its sight, but many pilgrims visit it as a holy place. It is important to be respectful with regard to your outfit—no sunglasses, hats and skirts—and be mindful of other people. Note that no photographs are allowed in the halls.
3. Visit Jokhang Temple
1,300-year old Jokhang Temple is the most sacred temple in Tibet. It has been a World Heritage Site since 2000. It was built in the 7th century by 33rd Tibetan king and founder of the Tibetan Empire, Songtsen Gampo. In fact, the oldest part of the temple was built in the year 652. The last renovation was done in 1610 by the fifth Dalai Lama. The temple houses the life-size statue of 8-year-old Sakyamuni that was brought to the King by his Nepali queen Princess Bhrikuti Devi, as well as the statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni that was brought to the King by his Chinese queen Princess Wencheng. These are the most valuable of Jokhang Temple's many treasures.
Many pilgrims from Tibet and from all over the world visit Jokhang Temple to prostrate in front of the temple, and around it in a clockwise manner. You can view the interior of the temple, which is a set of rooms and courtyards containing prayer wheels that lead you to the holy shrine of Buddha. Additionally, you can also check out the mural of "Princess Wencheng entering Tibet" which is approximately a thousand meter long, as well as two thangkas from the Ming Dynasty.
4. Explore Barkhor Street
After you visit Jokhang Temple, you can stop by Barkhor Street, an ancient street that encircles the Temple. From the gate of Jokhang Temple, pilgrims and local Tibetan Buddhists circumnavigate the temple along Barkhor Street in a clockwise direction. They prostrate, pray, as well as hold and roll the prayer wheels. They can also get saddles, prayer flags, prayer wheels and yak meet from the stores that line Barkhor Street.
These stores not only sell religious and cultural goods, but also traditional goods that tourists can buy for souvenirs to bring home. Here, you can find a variety of Tibetan trinkets, including but not limited to brass ornaments like candlelight holders, jewelry and combs. They are very intricately decorated and you can bring them home with you as a memento. You can also respectfully experience holding the prayer wheels, and circumnavigate around Jokhang Temple in a clockwise direction. With regard to the stores and shops, you can try politely haggling and bargaining with the sellers over price on their goods.
5. Visit Tibet's Great Three Holy Lakes: Yamdrok Lake, Namtso, and Lake Manasarovar
Tibet is known as the water tower of Asia and is source to many of Asia's longest rivers. It is also house to holy lakes, the greatest and holiest of which are Yamdrok Lake, Namtso and Lake Manasarovar.
Yamdrok Lake is located on the southern edge of the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, whose snow water acts as a source to this lake. Tibetans regard Yamdrok Lake as the turquoise earring of a goddess. It is also the largest inland lake in the north of the Himalayas, elevated at a height of 4,441 meters above sea level. In daylight, the view of Yamdrok Lake is astonishing, with its turquoise water backdropped by snow-capped mountains whose peaks can reach over 7,000 meters above sea level. Around the lake, you can see Tibetan villages, along with yaks and Tibetan Mastiffs. Occasionally, you can even encounter migratory birds. If you are visiting at night, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the night sky dotted with stars.
Namtso in Tibetan means Heavenly Lake. The lake is 70 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide, making it the second largest salt lake in China. It is a spectacular lake with emerald water surrounded by mountains on the Tibetan plateau. Namtso is located at an elevation of 4,718 meters above sea level, but to reach the lake, you have to first drive on a pass that is 5,186 meters above sea level. It is important to watch out for potential altitude sickness by ascending gradually and keeping yourself hydrated. Here, you can not only enjoy the beautiful scenery, but also do a short kora.
Lake Manasarovar is located in Ngari, the ridge of the roof of the world. It is situated at an elevation of 4,583 meters above sea level, with a depth of 77 meters, a perimeter of roughly 90 kilometers, and an area of 412 square kilometers. The colour of the lake matches that of a sapphire. Tibetan Buddhists believe that bathing in the water of Lake Manasarovar can help drive off evil thoughts and sins. Drinking the water will help keep sickness away. Additionally, pilgrims circumnavigate around the lake for luck and happiness. If you are visiting in the summer, you will be able to see swans swimming about in the lake.
6. Visit Sera Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, and Samye Monastery
On your visit to Tibet, do not forget to visit the numerous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Some of the most well-known monasteries are Sera Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery and Samye Monastery.
Sera Monastery is located 5 kilometers north of Lhasa. It was founded in 1419 as one of the great Gelugpa monasteries. There used to be about 5,000 monks in residence, but currently there are about 600 monks. Every Monday to Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. in the afternoon, monks at Sera Monastery will go on a two-hour long debate about Buddhist doctrines, complete with exaggerated gestures. This takes place in the northern courtyard, in a garden near the assembly hall. There is also an hour-long kora around the exterior of the monastery. Additionally, you can visit the prayer halls and chapels, as well as view many art treasures, including sutras, thangkas, embroideries and murals.
Samye Monastery is the first monastery ever built in Tibet. It was founded in 775 by King Trisong Detsen. It is located on the north bank of Yarlung Tsangpo, also known as Brahmaputra River, in a valley surrounded by mountains and sand dunes. When visiting Samye Monastery, you can view many frescos, sculptures and prayer wheels. The monastery is also famous for its unique mandala design. For instance, Ütse, the main hall, represents Mount Meru, which is regarded as the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. The ground and first floors of Ütse is built in Tibetan style, the second floor in Chinese style, and the third floor in Khotanese style. Make sure you carry a flashlight with you for the less well-lit areas.
With an area of 70,000 square kilometers, Tashilhunpo Monastery is the largest functioning monastery in Tibet. It was founded in 1447 by Gedun Drupa, the first Dalai Lama. Today, it is the seat of successive Panchen Lamas and home to around 950 monks. On your visit, you can catch the monks carrying out Buddhist debate and scripture chanting. You can also view the ancient tombs of the fourth and tenth Panchen Lamas. Additionally, you can check out the Coqen Hall, Chapel of Jampa, four Great Dratsangs, 56 Sutra Halls, as well as 64 Kamcuns. Tashilhunpo Monastery is also house to the statue of the Maitreya Buddha, or the Future Buddha. It is the largest gilded statue in the world.
7. Do a Three-Day Kora Around Mount Kailash
Mount Kailash is the holiest mountain in Tibet, with many pilgrims from Tibet and all over the world visiting to do kora around it for three days, in order to wash away their sins. It is regarded as a holy mountain in Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon and Jainism. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is believed that Mount Kailash symbolises Dorje Pakmo.
The mountain is located in western Tibet and has four distinct sides, much like a pyramid with a round cap. It is elevated at a height of 6,656 meters above sea level. Mount Kailash is covered in eternal snow and ice at the peak, and is as such the birthplace to four major rivers in Asia. There is Shiquan, also known as Indus River; Maquan, the source of Yarlung Tsangpo; Xiangquan, also known as Sutlej; and Kongqu, the source of Ganges River. You can visit Mount Kailash and do a three-day kora to find peace in your heart.
8. Try Tibetan Cuisine
Tibetan cuisine is usually oily, sweet and crispy, made and eaten to help withstand low temperatures. Some of the most iconic ones that you must try on your visit to Tibet include the yak burger; zanba, which is a staple food made from highland barley; buttered tea; highland barley wine; and momo, which is a steamed dumpling filled with minced meat, garlic, ginger and coriander.
9. Travel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
Many tourists who visit Tibet start their Tibet journey on a train travelling along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It is a great way to gradually acclimatise yourself to the high elevations of the Tibetan plateau, while taking in the wonderful sceneries that border the railway. It is definitely worth it to take the train for around 22 to 55 hours, depending on which station you boarded the train from, instead of taking a plane that usually lasts less than five hours. The views get more and more spectacular the closer you get to Lhasa. You can even have a little stroll at Tanggula railway station, the highest train station in the world!
10. Meet the Locals
Last but not least, make sure you take some time off your packed itinerary to spend time with the locals. Local Tibetans are very friendly and welcoming. They appreciate your respectful visit to Tibet. In some cases, if you are travelling outside of Lhasa and meet local Tibetans or nomads with yaks, you can possibly be allowed to try riding the yak or take pictures with it.
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