Situated in the southwestern border area of China in the southwest of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet is bordered by Xinjiang in the north, Sichuan in the east, Qinghai in the northeast, Yunnan in the southeast, and Myanmar, India, Bhutan and Nepal in the south and the west. With an area of over 1.2 million sq km, the Tibet Autonomous Region has a population of over 2.7 million, with the Tibetans as the predominant ethnic group.
Known as the “Roof of the World,” Tibet is a sacred land for numerous people in the world because of its beautiful natural scenery, colorful folk customs and strong religious atmosphere. Tibet has an average elevation of over 4,000 m, and more than 50 mountains in Tibet are over 7,000 m above sea level each. Of them, Mount Qomolangma on the Sino-Nepal frontier is 8,844.43 m above sea level, being the highest peak in the world. Covered with white snow all the year round, these high mountains look like a long silver snake in a distance, presenting unique and magnificent scenery. Tibet is, rich in water resources. The Ganges, Indus, Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers originate here. The snow-capped mountains and lakes add radiance and beauty with each other, the strong steeds gallop on the bast grasslands, the blue skies and white clouds seems to be touched with hand, and the special customs and lifestyle of the Tibetan people in the snowy region are very attractive to domestic and foreign tourists. Tibet enjoys a reputation of being the “land of songs and dances”; and the Tibetan people in colorful ethnic costumes love various kinds of sports, such as wrestling, throwing, tug-of-war, horse racing and archery. The bold and unconstrained characters of the Tibetan people will make tourists feel relaxing and happy. Tibet is also a world-renowned religious sacred land, which embraces many monasteries, such as the Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka, the Jokhang Monastery and the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Religious people from all over the world go to Tibet to pay homage to the sacred land in great sincerity.
After the operation of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the dream of visiting the “Roof of the World” has no longer been unattainable. Let’s to to Tibet to feel the sacred land with heart!
Lhasa means the holy land in the Tibetan language. On the northern bank of the Lhasa River, a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Lhasa is a famous ancient city with a history of over 1,300 years and an elevation of 3,650 m. Lhasa is known as the “Sunshine City” because its sunshine duration is more than 3,000 hours a year. As the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa is the political, economic and cultural center of the region. It embraces many historical sites and scenic spots in its urban areas and outskirts, such as the world-renowned Potala Palace and the Jokhang, Drepung, Sera and Gaindan monasteries.
Standing on the Red Hill in Beijing M. Road, Lhasa, the Potala Palace is the highest of its kind in the world. It was first built in the seventh century, and its 13-story main building, 117 m high, is composed of the Red and White palaces, with the red one in the middle. The main buildings in the palace consist of the Hall of Stupas of Dalai Lamas of the different historical periods and Buddhist halls. The White Palace is the residence of Dalai Lamas and the place for them to handle political affairs.
Transport: Lhasa has a small number of public buses, but about 1,500 registered taxis. The Potala Palace is situated in the center of Lhasa. It is suggested tourists haggle over the price before getting on a taxi.
n the Tibetan language , Norbu Lingka means the lovely garden, where Dalai Lamas once stayed to escape from the summer heat. First constructed in the 1740s, Norbu Lingka covers an area of 360,000 sq m. It was the place where the Seventh Dalai Lama once took bathes and recuperation. Later, it became the summer palace of Dalai Lamas.
Transport: No. 2 bus goes from the Tibetan Hospital to Norbu Lingka. Tourists may go from the city proper to the palace on foot or by tricycle.
As the best-preserved street in Lhasa, Barkor Street, also called Bajiao Street, surrounds the Jokhang Monastery, and features the religion, economy, culture, ethnic handicrafts and Tibetan customs and lifestyle. At night, Barkor Street is very enchanting. When night falls and the evening lights are lit, all the shops are still open for business. The melodious music accompanied by various sounds of the peddlers hawking their wares, and the tempting smell of different snacks will make visitors enjoy themselves so much as to forget to go home.
Located in the center of the ancient city of Lhasa, the Jokhang Monastery was constructed in the seventh century jointly by Songtsan Gambo, the Tang Princess Wencheng and Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti. Its four-story main building demonstrates a combination of the Han, Tibetan, Indian and Nepalese architectural styles, as well as a mandala world outlook of Buddhism. With the Hall of Amitayus Sutra as its center, the Jokhang Monastery symbolizes the nuclear of the universe.
Transpor:t Tourists may walk to the Jokhang Monastery or go there by minibus. Please get off at the Tibetan Medical Hospital.
Travel tips: Tourists can only visit the Jokhang Temple at the specified time. From 08:00 to 11:30, it is open to religious people and the tourist groups exceeding 10 people each are not allowed to enter; and from 11:30. to 17:30, it is open to tourists. The visit to the Jokhang Temple for tourist groups shall not exceed one hour (20 minutes for the 1,000-Buddha Corridor, 10 minutes for the Central Hall, and 20 minutes for tourists to take pictures of the exterior of the Golden Summit).
Nam Co, with an elevation of 4,718 m, is the highest salt water lake in the world. It covers an area of 1,940 sq km. Lying in the mountainous areas about 60 km northwest of the county town of Damxung, it is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet.
Transport: Tourists may charter a car in Lhasa to Nam Co. It will be an eight-hour drive.
Xigaze is a famous cultural city with a history of over 500 years. It has been the dwelling place of Bainqen Erdini Lamas of different historical periods, and a political and religious center of Tsang region. To the south of Xigaze stands Mt. Qomolangma, the highest mountain in the world.
Situated in Tingri County on the Sino-Nepalese border, Mt. Qomolangma is 8,844.43 m above sea level, the highest mountain in the world. In the area of 5,000 sq km around the mountain, there are four peaks with an elevation of over 8,000 m and 38 peaks with an elevation of over 7,000 m.
Located at the western end of Changge Mountain in Gyangze County, the Palkor Monastery was first built in 1414. Its 17 Dratsang (colleges) belon g to the three sects – Sagya, Kadam and Gelug, respectively. The Palkor Monastery features the combination of all religious sect. The Hall of Coqen in the monastery is in majestic splendor.
About 160 km west of Xigaze, the Sakya Monastery is composed of the South and North monasteries and contains a great number of Tibetan classics, such as Kangyur, Tengyur, pattra-leaf sutras and books on astronomy, geography, history, medicines and literature.
Lying at the foot of Nyima Mountain in the outskirts of Xigaze , the Tashilhunpo Monastery was built in 1447 under the supervision of the First Dalai Lama Gedun Zhuiba, one of the disciples of Zonggaba. Later it has servea as the dwelling place of Bainqen Lamas. The Tashilhunpo Monastery contains a 22.4-m-high gilded bronze statue of Qiangba Buddha, the tallest of its kind in the world.
Transport: Tourists may get there on foot or by tricycle.
Lhabu Gyikang Mountain
A boundary mountain between Hyalam and Tingri counties, Lhabu Gyikang Mountain consists of three peaks arranged in a row from east to west, each with an elevation of more than 7,000 m. Of them, the highest is 7,367 m above sea level. Around the mountain are icy peaks, slopes covered with ice and snow and forests of ice pagodas. It is fascinating that there are many alpine glacier lakes in Lhabu Gyikang Mountain, such as Lake Golangma on the northern slope.
On the southern bank of the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Shannan has a temperate climate, with an elevation of 3,600 m. The Yalong River Scenic and Historic Interest Zone in Shannan is one of the key national scenic and historic interest zones, in addition to some cultural sites, such as the Samyae Monastery and the Yombulagang Palace.
Yalong River Scenic and Historic Interest Zone
Situated in Shannan Prefecture, this scenic zone embraces fields, pasturelands, flood lands, valleys, snow-covered mountains, glaciers, the traces of ancient religion and culture, and the unique Tibetan customs and lifestyle, forming an ancient, unadorned and magnificent picture. The historical sites in the scenic zone include the Yombulagang Palace, the Samyae Monastery (the first monastery in Tibet), the Trandruk Temple (the oldest Buddhist hall in Tibet), and the tombs of the Tibetan Kings.
Situated in Nedong County, about eight km south of Zetang Town, the Yombulagang Palace is the first palace in Tibetan history. It was first built in the second century B.C. by Nyatri Tsenpo, the first king of Tibet.
The Yombulagang Palace holds the statues of the Buddhas of the past, present and future, and those of the Tibetan kings of the past ages, such as Nyatri Tsenpo, Lhatotori Tsenpo, King Chiribabjun, Songtsan Gambo and Trison Detsan.
On the northern bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River in Zhanang County, Shannan Prefecture, the monastery was built in 779 under the supervision of Padma-sambhava and Tibetan king Trison Detsen. It is the first monastery for the monks in Tibet. It houses many statues and murals as well as tablets marking the development of Buddhism. All these are valuable cultural relics.
Tombs of the Tibetan Kings
On Mure Mountain opposite to the county town of Qonggyai in Shannan Prefecture , this burial ground of the 29th-40th Tsangpos of the Tubo Regimeis the only group of the tombs of the Tibetan kings in Tibet, with a history of more than 1,300 years.
Lake Yamzho Yumco
In Nagarze County in Shannan Prefecture, it is one of the three sacred lakes in Tibet, with an elevation of 4,400 m, an area of 800 sq km and a depth of 30-40 m. A bird’s eye-view shows that the lake is like a large sapphire inlaid in the mountains, presenting picturesquescenery with crows and sheep on its bank and the water birds on the surface of the lake.
On the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River in Southeast Tibet, Nyingchi boasts a moist climate and picturesque natural scenery, with an elevation of 3,000 m. The unique natural scenery of Mount Namjagbarwa, the Yarlung Zangbo Canyon, Lake Basum Co, Zayu and Bome attract numerous Chinese and foreign tourists every year.
Zayu Nature Reserve
Situated in the southeast of the Tibetan Plateau at the junction of the Himalayas and the Hengduan Mountains, the Zayu Nature Reserve belongs to Zayu County, which is known as “South China in’ Tibet.” With a warm and moist climate, the nature reserve contains abundant species, and a comparatively complete forest ecological system on the southeastern corner of Tibet, aiming to protect ever-green broadleaf forests,「are animals and Yunnan pines in the subtropical zone. The nature reserve is home to some wild animals, such as otters , stone martens, gold-spotted leopards and red pandas.
The Yarlung Zangbo Canyon
Situated in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as the “Roof of the World,” the Yarlung Zangbo Canyon undulates 496.3 km long, with an average elevation of over 3,000 m, and the down-cutting erosion reaches 5,382 m. It is longer than the Colorado Canyon in the United States, the longest canyon in the world; and deeper.than the Colca Canyon in Peru, the deepest canyon in the world. The Yarlung Zangbo Canyon contains nine vertical natural zones, ranging from the alpine ice and snow zone to the tropical rain forests, so it is the place with the most complete alpine vertical natural zones in the world.
The Yarlung Zangbo River makes a big turn at the junction of the four counties N yingchi, Mianling, Medog and Borne. To the east of the turn stands Mount Namjagbarwa, 7,782 m high. In the valley lie the tropical rain forests, and above the snow line is a world of snow.
Situated in the north of Tibet, Nagqu is 338 km north of Lhasa, at the confluence of the three highways t he Qinghai-Tibet Highway, the northern section of the Sichuan Tibet Highway and the Heihe Highway. Nagqu has favorable transportation facil ies and unique landscapes. The ruins of the ancient Shang-Shung culture, the Bon monasteries and the herdsmen’s life on the plateau in Nagqu are very attractive to both Chinese and foreign tourists.
Extending 600 km, this mountain is the line of demarcation between the Yarlung Zangbo River and the Nujiang River and has 30-some peaks of more than 6,000 m high, of which four are over 7,000 m high.
In the area between the Kunlun, Tanggula and Gangdise-Nyainqentanglha mountains, the grassland takes two-thirds of the total area of Tibet. Its average elevation reaches more than 4,500 m. With unique scenery, Qangtang Grassland teems with 1,000 species of wildlife, of which some 40 species are under the protection of the state or the autonomous region.
Zhoima Canyon Natural Scenic Zone
In Gulu Township, 92 km south of Nagqu Town, Qangtang Grassland the Zhoima Canyon Natural Scenic Zone has an average elevation of 4,700 meters. It boasts good transportation facilities, a nice natural environment and beautiful mountains and lakes. The period from June to July is the best seasons to visit the scenic zone when the climate is warm and comfortable, and colorful flowers and green grasses can be seen everywhere.
Sites of the Shang-Shung Kingdom in Kyungzong
Legend has it that there are two sites of the Zhoima Canyon Shang-Shung Kingdom: one in Qunglong Yincheng (or present-day Zada County, Ngari Prefecture), and the other in Kyungzong , not far away from Nagqu to the Ombu Office, which backs on to the snow-covered Dargo Mountains, a sacred mountain of the Bon, and faces Tangra Yumco, a sacred lake in the west. The Shang-Shung Kingdom was once very influentialin Tibetan history, with a vast territory. In the eighth century, it was annexed by the Tubo regime . The ruins of the ancient architectural cover an area about one sq km, solemn and imposing.
In the west of Tibet, Ngari has an average elevation of more than 4,500 m, known as the “Roof of the Tibet.” With many lakes, Ngari is scarcely populated, but it is a paradise to wild yaks and Tibetan antelopes.
Ruins of the Guge Kingdom
The ruins of the Guge Kingdom are in Zhaburain, where the broken walls of the castle are combined with the natural earth forests in a perfect way. More than 400 houses and over 800 caves, which are built in line with the landform of the mountain, are scattered on the slope over 300 m high. As the capital of the ancient Guge Kingdom, it was the largest complex of architecture in Tibet, except for the Potala Palace, and the main architectural structures include the Red Temple, White Temple and Tancheng Hall.
Sacred Lake Mapam Yumco
As one of the three sacred lakes in Tibet and one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world, Mapam Yumco is 4,586 m above sea level and 77 m deep, with an area of 412 sq km. On the slope of the mountain by the lake stands the Jiniao Monastery, which is an ideal place to overlook the lake·.
Holy Kangrinboqe Peak
As the main peak of Gangdise Mountains, Kangrinboqe Peak is 6,638 m above sea level. Over 250 glaciers around the peak make it the sources of the Indus, Ganges and Yarlung Zangbo rivers.
Zanda Earthen Forest
Thanks to the synorogenic movement of the Himalayas, the bottom of the lake rose. Such earthen forests, which extend several dozens of km, were formed after the rock stratum had been weathered and washed by floodwater. Walking in the narrow valleys of the earthen forests, you will feel as if you were walking in the ruins of an ancient kingdom, old but magnificent.
Qamdo is a beautiful, vast and fertile land in the valleys of the Jinsha, Nujiang and Lancang rivers at the foot of Hengduan Mountains. It attracts tourists from home and abroad with its wonderful mountains, rivers, dense forests, ancient historical sites and simple local folklore. It is the China Shangri-La Ecological Tourist Zone jointly created by Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, and the “Ancient Tea and Horse Road” has made it well known both at home and abroad.
One of the largest monasteries in the U region, it was built by Xerb Songbo, a discipline of Zonggaba, leader of the Yellow Sect, in 1444. The monastery houses many statues of Buddha, murals and Thangkas, which are of a high value for appreciation. The holy dances performed at the Champalin Monastery are worth watching. At the Butter Flower Festival, the Tibetan people customarily perform the holy dances, such as “Guqing” Holy Dance when a large number of dancers wear ferocious masks, and do dancing with bold and unconstrained movements, and the battleaxe dance when dancers wear gorgeous costumes , and show ancient and unadorned movements.
As one of the three largest primeval cultural ruins of the Neolithic Age in Tibet, the Karub ruins have a history of about 4,000 years. Located in Karub Village, Jagka District 12 km southeast of the county town of Qamdo, the ruins cover an area of 10,000 sq m. Studies prove that they were once a large-scale primeval village.
Land of Painters
Garma Township is known as the land of painters, with a history of more than 800 years in painting Thangka pic ures and murals. The Gardeng Garzhub painting school, which is spread far and wide in Tibet, was created by the local painters.
Hongla Mountain Ecological Tourist Zone
A nature reserve under the protection of the Tibet Autonomous Regio n, it has an average elevation of 2,300-4,400 m. It is a habitat of rare Tibetan golden monkeys, which are in danger of extinction in the world. In the tourist zone, tourists can appreciate snow-capped mountains, forests, canyons, peaks, deep valleys, etc.
Chamoling Wild Deer Domestication Tourist Zone
This tourist zone includes such scenic spots as the Chagyima Grand Hall, Karmardo Pagoda Forest, Holy Mountain of Deqing Photrang, Yiri hot springs and highland pastures.
Recommended Tourist Itineraries
The six-day tour of Lhasa - Nam Co - Yangbajain terrestrial heat
Day 1: Get to Lhasa, and take a rest in the afternoon.
Day 2: Potala Palace — Jokhang Monastery — Barkor Street
Day 3: Drepung Monastery — Sera Monastery Norbu Lingka
Day 4: Lhasa — Nam Co
Day 5: Nam Co — Yangbajain terrestrial heat — Lhasa
Day 6: Leave Lhasa
The Red Valley Tour
(Lhasa — Lake Yamzho Yumco — Gyangze — Yadong)
Southern Line: Set out from Lhasa or Zetang, take the old road south of the Qushui Bridge, get to Gyangze via Kamba La, Lake Yamzho Yumco, Nagarze and Kanola. Then tourists may go to Yadong via Kangma or go to Xigaze via Bainang.
Northern Line: Set out from Lhasa or Zetang, take the trunk road of the transformed Sino Nepalese Highway, go westward along the Yarlung Zangbo River and reach Xigaze via Dag Chuka. (On the way, tourists will pass Rinbung and Gyangze.)
The Tour of Mt. Qomolangma
(Lhasa — Xigaze — Mt. Qomolangma — ZhamPort)
Set out from Lhasa or Xigaze, and go to Tingri, along the Sino-Nepalese Highway via Lhaze. Tourists may enter China from the Friendship Bridge and reach the destination via Zham and Nyalam. Usually tourists would put up for the night in Tingri, enter the Mt. Qomolangma Area on the following day and return on the same day.
Festivals and Celebrations
Tibetan New Year
Time: The first day of the first month by the Tibetan calendar (in February or March)
Venue: In the areas inhabited by the Tibetan people
What’s On: It is the most important festival of the Tibetan people. At dawn on the Tibetan New Year’s Day, the people in their holiday best hold Droso-chema with their hands, pay New Year calls and express their best wishes to their friends and relatives. In the following several days, the Tibetan people have some celebrations, such as singing and dancing, or having gatherings with their relatives for friends.
Gyangze Dama Festival
Time: From the 10th day to the 27th day of the fourth month by the Tibetan Calendar
What’s On: The Gyan gze Dama Fest ival , whic h originated Gyangze in 1408, is held to commemoraetthe sacrificial day of Pagba Sangbo, king of Gyangze in the Sagya Kingdom. During the festival, various kinds of activities are held, such as riding, shooting, Tibetan opera, singing, dancing and material exchanges.
Saga Dawa Festival
Time: The 15th day of the fourth month by the Tibetan calendar
Venue: Tibet Autonomous Region
What’s On: It is a festival for releasing living things. Legend has it that Sakyamuni was born, became a Buddha and passed away on the 15th day of the fourth month by the Tibetan calendar. On the day, people in their splendid attire go to the Dragon King Pool Park for rowing boats, singing songs and dancing or having a picnic or gathering in Lingka.
Time: The first day of the seventh month by the Tibetan calendar
What’s On: According to the Tibetan tradition, after lamas cultivated themselves in difficult conditions for a long time, their family members would welcome them home with creams, songs and dances. In the Tibetan language, Shoton means the “yogurt banquet.” After the 17th century, different Tibetan operas are performed at the Shoton Festiva,l and actors and actresses of Tibetan opera from all parts of the country gather at Norbu Lingka to participate in the performance competition, which lasts several days. During the festival, the ceremony for sunning the Buddha painting is also held at the Drepung Monastery.
On July 1, 2006, the world-renowned Qinghai Tibet Railway was inaugurated, and the most popular traffic means in the world was introduced to Tibet. The construction of the Qinghai Tibet Railway has fundamentally changed the conditions for Tibet to contact with other parts of the country. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway extends 1,956 km, passes the Kunlun Mountains, the Tuotuo River, the Tongtian River, the Tanggula Mountains, Yangbajain, Hoh Xii, the Origin of the Three Rivers, and the North Tibet Qangtang Nature Reserve and reaches Lhasa. In addition, the Nyingchi Airport (the third civil airport in Tibet) formally went into operation in early September 2006, providing more conveniences to Chinese and foreign tourists to Tibet.
In Tibet, tourists can buy unique Tibetan handicrafts and special local products. As Tibetan knife is forbidden on the airplane, tourists should take it into consideration.
Tibet has a plateau climate featuring a remarkable change vertically and a great temperature difference between the day and the night: The North Tibet Plateau is dry and cold, with low temperature, long sunshine time, strong radiation, less rainfalls and small density of air.
Tips for Tourists
Those who plan to enter Tibet are very concerned about altitude sickness. The higher the elevation is, the less the oxygen contents in the air will be. If people go up quickly, some of them will feel uncomfortable. For instance, some people, will feel sick when taking a trip by plane. The usual symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, dizziness, tiredness and insomnia. Tourists who suffer from heart disease and hypertension should take good care of themselves. If tourists pay enough attention to altitude sickness, they will overcome the sickness within three days usually.
Prevention Measures Against Mountain Sickness
1. Lack of oxygen is the main reason for mountain sickness. It is suggested that tourists bring some bottles of oxygen and oxygen-taking masks when entering Tibet.
2. Take some preventive medicines.
3. Drink more water and keep away from cigarettes and wine.
4. Take a rest for one day after arriving in Tibet, and arrange the trip according to your health.
How to Get the “Travel Permit for Entering Tibet”
Since July 1, 2007, all the tourism offices of the Tourism Administration of Tibet Autonomous Region in the hinterland have been abolished. Now all the a ff air s concerning the Travel Permit for Entering Tibet shall be handled by the Tourism Administration Department of the Tourism Administration of Tibet Autonomous Region free of charge. Meanwhile, the “Travel Permit for Entering Tibet” has been redesigned, and the anti-counterfeiting mark and the Chinese characters meaning “free handling of the procedures” are added to it. Please check the Tibet tourism administrative network for the detailed procedures: www.xzta.gov.cn