Tibet is absolutely one of the most beautiful places in Asia I’ve traveled to and have had the privilege to blog about. Hands down, it should be included on every traveler’s bucket list.
Located at an average elevation of 16,000 feet, it is a mysterious and dream destination. Between its incredible monastery sights, mind-blowing high-altitude treks, stunning scenery of the world’s highest mountains and mysterious religious culture, how could it not?
There are literally a plethora of opportunities to explore and discover. But where should one start? After all, during my 9-day tour through Tibet, we discovered many places that were almost too much to handle!
So without further ado, here are the top 10 places that you must visit in Tibet!
Mount Everest Base Camp
Everyone who visits Tibet will have to make time for the Mt. Everest Base Camp expedition. Why? Because it is the highest and one of the most famous mountains in the world, that’s why!
Experience the mountaineering challenge and enjoy the unobstructed, jaw-dropping views from Rongbuk Monastery or from a tent at the Base Camp. The local Tibetan Shepard’s cook delicious meals containing yak, rice, and a select few local vegetables. This is certainly something you don’t want to miss out on…even if you are just stargazing at night!
Then, once you have a good nights sleep, get ready for the next day’s sunrise bright and early to photograph the majestic Everest. It’s an experience and lifetime adventure in one of the world’s most magical places.
The Potala Palace
A trip to Tibet is not complete without a visit to the Potala Palace, enlisted as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites which equally served as the Dalai Lama’s former residence. Sitting atop a mountain at over 12,000 feet, it is definitely a highlight of your tour.
You will find there are buildings with thirteen stories, containing over 1,000 rooms. It’s truly an architectural wonder with its various statues, stupas, murals and artifacts; you will find so much history and culture to be absorbed.
However, if you are not used to it, be aware of the extremely high altitude. It’s a good idea to take it at a slow and steady pace or arrive at the Potala Palace the day before your visit to adjust to the high elevations. Also to be noted: Photography is not permitted inside the majority of the Palace so try to store the spectacular views away in your memory.
Jokhang Temple is another UNESCO World Heritage site listed as a Spiritual Center for Buddhists in Tibet. It was built around 642 AD by King Songtsan Gampo.
You can feel and see the history when you walk from room to room, easily immersing yourself in Tibetan culture. Outside, you can sit and watch pilgrims prostrate themselves on the ground while saying their prayers. Don’t forget to reach the top of the temple. The views from here are incredible and there is also an impressive view of the Potala Palace overlooking downtown Lhasa.
Barkhor is a circuit around the Jokhang Temple located in downtown Lhasa. Here you will also find many pilgrims prostrating themselves on the ground, devotees walking around with their spinning prayer wheels and murmuring mantras in their mouths to maintain peace and prosperity in humanity.
The circuit is lined with stalls on both sides that sell all sorts of items such as prayer wheels, Thangkas, metal wares, ornaments, jewelry, traditional Tibetan clothes, boots and other religious items etc. If you loose interest of the many local shops, then be sure to swing by a true Tibetan restaurant.
Just take note that many of the “locally owned” restaurants are run by local Tibetans, but owned by the Chinese. If you can, find one that owned & operated by the Tibetan people.
If you have the time to travel outside of Lhasa, then you won’t regret taking a trip to Namtso Lake; the heavenly lake. It is the second largest saltwater lake in Tibet and located high in the mountains. The view on the road to the lake is breathtaking and once you enter the lake area, it is usually covered with snow.
This would be the perfect day excursion if you’re looking for time to be with yourself and with nature. Best times to visit are easy during the sunrise/sunset hours but if you can manage to camp overnight, the emerald-green water glittering under the night sky of a million stars is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life!
The mystical Yamdrok lake is one of the 3 largest sacred lakes in Tibet. The scenery is simply gorgeous so be sure to take your time to savor the whole stunning views.
The best view is from a distance at the top of a high mountain pass. Here you can see the turquoise color of the lake as well as local people with animals for you to take your picture with. Keep some cash handy as they are usually quite the stickler for being paid for the opportunity.
Tashilunpo, the seat of Panchen Lama, was founded by the First Dalai Lama in 1447. This monastery is stunning for its architecture, tranquility and welcoming monks.
Upon my visit, I noticed the main buildings are topped in gold and housed the tombs of Panchen Lamas and a 22.4-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha; the world’s largest copper Buddhist statue rivaling the size of the Giant Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho in Bangkok. It’s a great place to take pictures. Inside is a bit costly but outside the monasteries are very beautiful and makes you feel as if you stepped back in time.
Samye Monastery was built during the Reigns of the Trisong Detsen in the 8th Century. You can watch the prayer session where the monks are chanting, ringing cymbals, drumming and blowing their deep-sounding long horns, which is very special and rarely seen in Tibet.
It’s worthwhile to visit the historical, religious heritage in different periods of Tibet.
Ruins of Guge Kingdom
The ruins of Guge is an ancient kingdom in western Tibet that was originally founded in the 10th century. Later, just like the ancient Mayan civilization, it disappeared leaving us with some of the most amazing architecture, ancient paintings and the mysterious Guge Silver Eye amongst many other things.
What happened to such a strong kingdom? Perhaps you can take a visit and explore the mystery for yourself!
The Sichuan – Tibet Highway
The road linking Sichuan and Tibet is an incredible drive that will take you through winding roads, mountain peaks and breathtaking views of ancient farmlands as well as the villages and its people who still cultivate them.
It’s a good day trip that will take you anywhere between 6-8 hours to complete as well as an entire memory cards worth of pictures you’ll remember for years to come!
Which beautiful Tibetan site would you most like to visit most while traveling in Tibet?