Popular Places to See in Tibet
Lhasa (3650 m)
Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet is cultural, political and economic centre of Tibet. It is the heart and soul of Tibet, the abode of the Dalai Lamas and an object of devout pilgrimage. The places of interest in Lhasa include the Potala palace, Norbulinka palace, Jokhang temple, Sera and Drepung monasteries etc. The Jokhang temple and Barkhor circumambulation circuit , full of pilgrims from all over Tibet ,innumerable shops and wayside peddlers selling everything from prayer flags to yak skulls is the most amazing of the experience of being in Tibet.
Potala dominates the Lhasa skyline from every corner. Originally there were buildings from 640 AD but the present Potala palace was built in 17th century by the fifth Dalai Lama. It has served as the residence of the Dalai Lamas .It is 117 m high, 13 storied and has 1000 rooms. Different sections of the palace houses a great wealth of cultural and art objects of Tibet. Many parts of the palace, now turned to a museum is open for the visitors.
Jokhang temple and Barkhor bazaar
About 2 km east of Potala and built in 647 AD, Jokhang is the holiest and the most active of the Buddhist temples in Tibet. Jokhang was built by the greatest of the Tibetan King Shrong Tsong Gompo to house the Buddha image brought from Nepal by his Nepalese wife Bhrikuti .Equally interesting is the Barkhor bazaar that circles Jokhang. The medieval atmosphere of push and shove of crowd, innumerable shops selling ritual objects, and the never ending pilgrims will take you to its spell. It is here that the heart of the Tibet throbs most.
Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, lies in a quiet and beautiful garden in the west part of Lhasa. The well preserved murals, superb mandalas and frescoes are fascinating sights not to miss.
One particular mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas. The Dalai Lama was living here during his last days in Tibet the rooms have remained as they were when the Dalai Lama left in 1959. Here you can also see the cars which the Great 13th Dalai Lama imported to Tibet.
About 8 km to the west of central Lhasa, Drepung was once Tibet's largest monastery, with a population of around 10,000 monks. Built in 1416 this is one of the important Gelukpa monasteries .It houses different colleges for the study of buddhist philosophy and the interesting sight is to see is the debating monks. The Ganden Palace also located in the Drepung complex, is where the Dalai Lamas used to live before the Potala was built. The Nearby Nechung monastery at a five minutes distance from here is also worth a visit.
Though not as big as Drepung it is another big and important Gelukpa monastery in Lhasa which has served as “university monastery “. It is about five km north of central Lhasa. Built in 1419 it was the home for 5000 monks in the days of its highest glory, though the number now is reduced to few hundreds. Like Drepung it houses different colleges to teach Buddhist Philosophy. In the debating courtyard you can see the monks debating from 3 to 4 pm.
Situated around 250 km south west of Lhasa via the new highway, Shigatse is the second largest city in Lhasa. It has long been an important trading town and administrative centre and the traditional capital of Tsang province .Mostly interesting here for tourists is the famous Tashilhunpo monastery and the traditional market.
Tashilhunpo Monastery is one of the largest functioning Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls. It contains the world's largest brass statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is over 80 feet tall and has extremely delicate features. Tashilhunpo is also the traditional residence of the Panchen Lama, second only in religious importance to the Dalai Lama himself.
Situated 254 km south-west of Lhasa, Gyantse is the least Chinese influenced towns in Tibet. Here, we’ll visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating back to the 14th century and the views of both Gyantse itself and the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley. It was here that the Tibetans bravely fought the British invasion by Colonel Young husband in 1904, at the height of British colonial aspirations in Asia. The Mandala-shaped Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals.
Everest Base Camp
The northern Everest Base Camp is one of the highlights for adventure travelers in Tibet and it provides stunning views of the Everest massif, as well as Makalu and Shishapangma. The spectacular Rongbuk glacier forms part of the amazing panorama you will be able to enjoy from your tent. Rongbuk monastery, which was founded in 1902 has a series of meditation caves which had been in use for over 400 years, is the last hint of civilization in this area. The lama here traditionally blesses all expeditions aiming for the summit of Mt. Everest. The trek to "Advance Base Camp" provides even more incredible views and a real sense of the awesome grandeur of MT Everest.
Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar
These two places are the remotest and yet popular tourist destinations in Tibet.
Mount Kailash is 6,714m high and with its four sheer walls and snowcapped peak it is an awe-inspiring sight. For Hindus it is the holiest of the holy place as the abode of Lord Shiva. It also has geographical significance as four great rivers flow from it: the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau to contribute to the Ganges in India. Kailash is an object of devout pilgrimage also for the Buddhists.
Lake Manasarovar is situated approximately 30km from Mt. Kailash and is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. This beautiful and sacred lake is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed that bathing in the holy waters will cleanse one's sins. With views to Gurla Mandhata (7,728m) on the backdrop, this is a place of serene beauty. On the northwest shore of the lake is the picturesque Chiu Monastery.
Situated at an altitude of 4720m Namtso Lake is a popular tourist destination in Tibet. It is a heavenly lake as one finds described in story books. The water is blue and crystal clear. In the skyline are beautiful White Mountains. The surrounding plain is dotted with yak herds and nomad camps making the scenery more intoxicating. This is the biggest lake in Tibet and highest salt water lake in the world. Summer is the best time to visit Namtso Lake. Never take a visit to Namtso Lake lightly, take proper care for acclimatization.