Tibet boasts the world’s highest mountain-Mount Everest, the highest river-Yarlong Tsangpo River, the highest lake-Namtso Lake, the “Sunlight City”-Lhasa. The beautiful plateau scenery, folk customs and Buddhism heritage here attract visitors form all over the world. Here, we list the top 10 must see attractions in Tibet, so that you take it for reference and budget your Tibet tour.
No.1 Potala Palace，Lhasa
Originally built by King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, Potala Palace
is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa
. The awe-inspiring Potala Palace, perched high above much of Lhasa, is the landmark of the city.
Destroyed by lightning and war, Patala Palace had been rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645 and since then, it has become the seat of Dalai Lamas and also the political center of Tibet
. The 13th Dalai Lama extended Potala Palace to the present size-117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, covering an area of more than 130,000 square meters. Mainly comprised by the White Palace, the administrative building, and the Red Palace, religious building, Potala Palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated constructions, devotional atmosphere and splendid artworks.
The stone-and-wood-structured Potala Palace consists of the White Palace and Red Palace. The White Palace, comprising halls, temples and courtyards, serves as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. The Red Palace includes various chambers for worshipping Buddha and chambers housing the eight stupa that contain the remains of fifth through thirteenth Dalai Lama. All the stupas are covered with gold foil. The most magnificent stupa belongs to the fifth Dalai Lama. It is 14.85 meters tall and inlaid with pearl and jade. The palace also collected a large number of sculptures, murals, scripture and other valuable cultural relics.
There are also many other constructions in Potala Palace which include: the school of Buddhist Logic, the Seminary, the printing house, gardens, courtyards and even the Jail. For more than 300 years, Potala Palace has treasured many culture relics such as murals, stupas, statues, tangkas, and rare sutras. Potala Palace is indeed a must see in Lhasa.
No.2 Mt. Everest, Shigatse
, or Mt. Qomolangma, meaning "Goddess" in Tibetan is the highest mountain on earth with an altitude of 8, 848.13 meters. Mt. Qomolangma known to the western world as Mt. Everest stands at the south of Tingri County in southern Tibet
, at the border of the central Himalayas between China and Nepal, capped with accumulated eternal snow. Its snow peak sends out silver radiance year after year. Its waist is hidden in the clouds. The optimum weather to visit Mt. Everest is from April to June, a golden period for mountaineers. Each year, a great number of brave robust mountaineers come from all over the world to visit and climb Mt. Everest, hope to fulfill a life-long dream by climbing onto and looking over from the world's highest peak.
Mount Everest is in fact a part of the Himalaya Mountain. The Himalaya Mountain is situated near the border with Tibet. Mt Everest got its name after the person (Sir George Everest) that first tried to locate the exact position of the peak. Until then, it was named simply “Peak XV”. You should know that there are four available camps, situated at heights of 6,100m, 6,500m, 7,400m and 8,000m and of course the summit, at 8850m. Here, at the summit, you can expect temperatures of minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you have luck the temperature can reach also minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit. But the real problem for the climbers is not the low temperature, but the reduced level of oxygen of the air, because of the high altitude. The climbers need to go through a process called acclimatization. They have a camp at the base of the mount. They climb for some hundred feet and then they go down again, to rest. The idea is to get used better and safer with the low level of oxygen and then get fresh oxygen. And also every time they go down again, they have the chance to get some proper sleep and eat food.
It is importing that climbers know there are many dangers that can affect them. At the summit the oxygen level is so low that it is believed that it is only 1 per 3 of the level near the sea. The wind is also very powerful, striking with almost 118 miles/hour. This powerful wind is locally called the “Jet Stream” and many times he is the one that don’t allow the climbers to reach the summit.
No.3 Jokhang Temple, Lhasa
Located at the center of the old Lhasa
, Jokhang Temple
is the spiritual center of Tibet
. Built in 647 by Songtsen Gampo, it has a history of more than 1,300 years. The temple is the fine product of Han, Tibetan and Nepalese architecture techniques. Visitors will be treated to the sight of various exotic and sacred sculptures. Jokhang Temple also houses many invaluable cultural relics. Every year, the Great Prayer Festival is held here. The temple was called the Tsulag Khang or 'House of Wisdom' but it is now known as the Jokhang which means the 'House of the Lord'.
Jokhang Temple has remained a key center of Buddhist pilgrimage for centuries. It was sacked several times by the Mongols, but the building survived. In the past several centuries the temple complex was expanded and now covers an area of about 25,000 sq. meters. There is a walled enclosure in front of the Jokhang which contains some willows called the Jowo Utra ('Hair of the Jowo') and a doring or inscribed pillar erected by the Chinese in 1793 during a smallpox epidemic. It records the Sino-Tibetan treaty of 822 concluded by King Ralpacan and includes 'China and Tibet's vow of eternal peace and mutual respect of the borders of their independent states' as well as advice on hygiene measures to prevent smallpox.
The Jokhang Temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism
. There are also famous statues of Chenresig, Padmasambhava and King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (niece of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.
For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. Along with the Potala Palace, it is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace'.
No.4 Namtso Lake, Nagqu
is located in Nagqu
Prefecture, about 260km from Lhasa and 60km from Damxung County. Namtso Lake means 'the holy lake' in the Tibetan language.
With over 30km from north to south and over 70km from east to west, Namtso Lake covers a total area of more than 1,900 square kilometers, being the second largest salt lake in China. At an elevation of 4,718 meters, it is also the highest altitude salt lake in the world, the furthest depth being more than 33m.
The water in Namtso Lake for the most part arises from rains, melted ice and snow of Mt. Nyenchen Tonglha and the inflow of crooks and streams, hence the lake is very clear and limpid. With the lake surface assuming sky blue, the lake and the sky seem to be one and undivided, which may make visitors feel themselves in a fairy land if they have a stroll by the lake.
It was said that in the late 12th century, Buddhist hierarchs including the founder of Tibetan Buddhism
once practiced the essence of Esoteric Buddhism on Namtso Lake, which was believed to be the origin of worshipping the holy Namtso Lake in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep. According to the Buddhist followers, when the Tibetan Year of the Sheep comes, Buddha and Bodhisattva will hold Buddhist rites on Namtso Lake. If a follower of Buddhism comes to walk and patter around the lake only once in this year, he will be much more blessed than he does so for ten thousand times in other years. So in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep, numerous Buddhist monks and believers trudge all the way from other places to Namtso Lake, feeling satisfied, comfortable and happy after taking ritual walks around the lake only once. This activity, lasting for as long as several months, usually reaches its climax on April 15 in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep, when the Buddhist followers come and go in large numbers.
No.5 Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Nyingchi
Yarlung Zangbo River
, the world highest river, turns south suddenly in Mainling County and cuts the Himalayas Mountain into two sections. Then the river runs through a narrow passage between the two 7,000-meter high peaks of Namjagbarwa and Jialabailei, forming the deepest, narrowest and longest canyon in the world- the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon
which stretches 496 km long and averages over 5,000 m deep. The diversified climatic zones distributed vertically in the canyon determine its vertical distribution of diversified vegetation and numerous wild animals. Nearly 5,000 species of vegetation have already been found here.
The diversified climatic zones distributed vertically in the Yarlung Zangbo River Grand Canyon determined its vertical distribution of diversified vegetation and numerous wild animals. Nearly 5,000 species of vegetation have already been found here. Embracing all representative animals of the south and north as well the Grand Canyon has won the reputation as Natural arboretum, natural zoo, Plant Gene Bank and so on, a typical 'Xishuangbanna in Tibet'.
At the deepest of the Yarlung Zangbo River Grand Canyon, Menba and Luoba people live their primitive life on the purified land on the earth.
No.6 The Ruins of Guge Kingdom, Ngari
The Ruins of Guge Kingdom
is in today Zhada County, Ngari
Prefecture. Guge is said to be the highest ancient kingdom located on the ridge of Tibet. More than 1,000 years ago, a powerful kingdom with a splendid civilization was born in Ngari. It is the highest ancient kingdom located on the ridge of Tibet. Now the ruins cover an area of 200,000 square meters. The buildings follow the hill to the top in a rigid layout and an imposing manner. The 11-storey castle is more than 300-meter high including houses, caves, pagodas, blockhouses, defense works and tunnels.
There are a total number of 1,416 surviving pieces of architecture, including 879 caves, 445 houses, 60 blockhouses, 28 pagodas, and four tunnels, which lead in all directions inside the architectural group of the Ruins of Guge Kingdom. At the outer ring there are walls made of loess, which are decorated with many figures of Buddha, scriptures and incantations in Tibetan, and Sanskrit engraved on large cobbles. The houses within the ruins have wooden structures and level roofs.
The larger works of architecture include the Red Temple, the White Temple, the king palace and the meeting hall. The White Temple and the Red Temple are about the same size, covering 300 square meters. Within the temple there are 36 square pillars. The pillars and the ceiling are covered with colored drawings of patterns and figures of Buddha, and all the walls are covered with frescoes of different subjects.
The only path from the base of the hill to the palace halls on the hilltop is a man-made tunnel. The upper part of the Guge Castle holds the Winter Hall and Summer Hall, where the royal family lived. They are empty now. Only the frescos and wooden engravings in Tancheng Hall are well preserved. Guge colored paintings, frescos and sculptures are rich works of a high artistic level and immense research value.
No.7 Tashilhunpo Monastery, Shigatse
Founded by the First Dalai Lama in 1447, Tashilhunpo Monastery
is one of the six big monasteries in Tibet. It is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second ranking person in the Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, after the Dalai Lama. The monastery houses the tombs of Panchen Lamas and a 22.4-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha. Tashilhunpo remains popular among the Tibetans, as they carry on coming here on pilgrimage.
Standing on the entrance of Tashilhunpo, you can see the grand buildings with golden roofs and white walls. The remarkable Tangka wall which is nine-floor high, displays the images of Buddha on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May every year following the Tibetan Lunar Calendar.
Besides the grand palace and gigantic statues, the Tashilhunpo also treasures characteristic wall paintings. Because of the variety of shapes, resplendent colors and exquisite painting, the murals are considered to be another masterpiece of Buddhist art. Rare sutras, tangka, china and glass service of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are also invaluable asserts found in the monastery. These are good relics for researching the history and society of Tibet.
No.8 Barkhor Street, Lhasa
, a circular street at the center of Lhasa, is the oldest street in a very traditional city of Tibet. It is a place where Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts assemble and a place to which a visit must be paid. Barkhor is the road that pilgrims tramped out around Jokhang Temple
through centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night. Most of Lhasa's floating population is comprised of these pilgrims. The pilgrim walk outside four columns on which colorful scripture streamers are hung, a custom began in the Tubo period as a way to show respect.
Barkhor Street is a famous commercial and commodity-distributing center in Lhasa, consisting of more than 120 handicrafts shops and more than 200 stalls. It is a good choice that should never be missed by tourists coming to Lhasa, for you can buy anything Tibet-related, from sacks of incense, chunks of yak butter to monk outfits. Barkhor is the road that pilgrims tramped out around Jokhang Temple through centuries. When walking along Barkhor Street, you should move in the clockwise direction.
No.9 Yangpachen, Lhasa
Yangpachen is a town approximately 87km (54 miles) north-west of Lhasa, halfway to Damxung. The town lies in an upland lush green valley surrounded by the tents of nomads with grazing yak and sheep populating the hillside.
The area is famous for the Yangpachen hot springs, which have been harnessed to produce much of the electricity for the capital Lhasa. It was said that long time ago, before the sky and the earth was separated, the whole world was in total darkness. People living at the foot of Mt. Nyainqentanglha were suffering. One day, a golden phoenix flied to the area, determined to create brightness by sacrificing itself. It threw one of its bright eyes onto the ground. A fairy caught the eye, and then a bright lamp arose in the air. Snow capped peaks of Mt. Nyainqentanglha appeared; grassland like huge carpet emerged; happiness came into Tibetan people. However, a greedy man near Yangpachen coveted the lamp. He took a witch man's idea to sharpen his hatred into an arrow to shoot the lamp. The lamp was broken then, the pieces of the lamp dropped onto the ground, turning into hot springs and burned the man to his end. People said that the hot springs were the fairy's tears.
There is a thermoelectric power plant on the edge of the Yangpachen hot springs field covering 20–30 square kilometers. The thermoelectric power plant was established in 1976, and the first development of geothermal power in the whole of China.
No.10 Yamdrok Lake, Shannan
is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 miles) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end. Around 90km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northwest. According to local mythology, Yamdrok Lake is the transformation of a goddess.
Yamdrok Lake has a power station that was completed and dedicated in 1996 near the small village of Pai-Ti at the lake western end. This power station is the largest in Tibet.
The lake with an area of 621 square kilometers and the unknown depth is fan-shaped, spreading to the South but narrowing up to the North. The mountainous lake has a dozen of islands, the largest of which is about 3,000 square kilometer. The lake freezes up in winter. Like mountains, lakes are considered sacrosanct by the Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers.
There are shoals of fish living in Yamdrok Yumtso Lake, which are commercially exploited by local population. From April to October, fish caught from this lake are sold at markets in Lhasa. Besides, the lake's islands serve as rich pasture land to local herdmen.