Tibet is located in China, precisely in the southwest region of China. Historical Tibet occupies a land size of 2.5 million square kilometers. Under the administration of China, Tibet is classified into five separate regions: the Tibet Autonomous Region (1.22 million square kilometers); Qinghai Province; Tianzu Tibetan Autonomous County and Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province; Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Mili Tibetan Autonomous County in Sichuan Province; and Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. The total population of Tibet is 6 million people, with 3.18 million living inside the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet is divided into Lhasa, the capital city, and six prefectures. These prefectures are Shigatse, Ngari, Shannan, Nagqu, Nyingchi and Chamdo. Ngari is the location of Mount Kailash, whereas Shigatse is the location of Mount Everest. Nyingchi is characterised by the pink, rosy peach blossoms that you can witness and enjoy if you visit Tibet in early April. The six prefectures are further divided into 72 counties. The majority population of Tibet is concentrated in the major cities, which are Lhasa, Shigatse and Nyingchi.
Altitude of Tibet
The altitude of Tibet averages at 4,000 meters above sea level. Lhasa, the capital city and tourist center of Tibet, is located at an elevation of 3,658 meters above sea level. Usually, for those looking to trek or hike to higher elevations like Mount Kailash and Mount Everest, it is recommended to acclimatise yourself in cities like Lhasa first to avoid altitude sickness. The highest prefecture is Ngari, located at an elevation of 4,500 meters above sea level. Nyingchi, in the east, is the lowest prefecture, at 3,000 meters above sea level. The highest point is at the peak of Mount Everest, at an elevation of 8844.43 meters, on the border that is shared with Nepal.
Landscape of Tibet
Tibet is located on the Tibetan plateau, raised at an average elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level. There are plateaus, valleys and mountains. The plateau area is surrounded by numerous mountains and basins. Many Tibetans are nomads who travel from place to place in search of rich grasses to feed their livestock. This very plateau area is the region that nomads use as their main pastry zone. Along the famous Himalayas, you can spot snow-capped mountains, lush forests and farmlands.
Rivers of Tibet
Tibet is known as the water tower of Asia. Located at the Tibetan plateau with numerous peaks reaching above 4,000 meters above sea level, Tibet stores and is source to a massive quantity of fresh water. It is the birthplace of some of Asia's longest rivers.
Major Tibetan rivers include Yarlung Tsangpo, also known as Brahmaputra in India; Machu, or Yellow River in China; Drichu, or Yangtse in China; Senge Khabab, or Indus in India; Phungchu, or Arun in India; Gyalmo Ngulchu, or Salween in Burma, as well as Zachu, also known as Mekong in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. On your visit to Tibet, you can enjoy whitewater rafting on one of these beautiful rivers.
Transportation in Tibet
The transportation system in Tibet has seen great improvements in the past decade. Major cities like Lhasa and Shigatse have well-paved roads. There are also good transportation routes that connect Tibet with the rest of China, mainly by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. This railway connects Xining in Qinghai Province to Lhasa. It spans up to a length of 1,956 kilometers.
You can also travel to and from Tibet by flight. The only direct international flight to Tibet available at this moment in time is the Lhasa-Kathmandu route. You can take this flight at Lhasa Gonggar Airport (LXA). This airport is the main airport of Tibet, located 60 kilometers from Lhasa at an elevation of 3,570 meters above sea level. If you are travelling from other parts of China, you can take domestic flights from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing and Kunming, among many others.
If you are travelling from Nepal to Tibet, you can either take the direct flight from Kathmandu, or drive on the Friendship Highway. Along this route, you can stop by to visit some of Tibet's famous landmarks, including Tashilhunpo Monastery, Sakya Monastery, Mount Everest and Yamdrok Lake. From other parts of China, you can choose from three major highways that can take you from Sichuan, Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces to Lhasa.
Weather and Temperature in Tibet
The common misconception about Tibet is that it is a region with an extremely harsh climate, but that is not true. Generally, the climate in Tibet is cold and dry. Annual temperature averages around -12°C to 9°C. In the mountains and plateaus, temperatures are significantly colder and usually accompanied by strong winds annually. If you are more comfortable with milder temperatures, you can visit the river valleys of Tibet instead, which are no less beautiful and worth-visiting than the mountains area.
In Lhasa and other parts of central Tibet, temperatures average at about 0°C and 17°C in December and June respectively. It is good to be prepared in terms of clothing because temperature can range widely throughout the day, and as such it is recommended to wear layers. The best time to visit Tibet is from April to early November. If you want to avoid heavy rains, it is best to not visit Tibet between July and August.
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