Top 4 reasons to visit Tibet

 

Helen Wang's picture

I have helped thousands of international travelers come to Tibet. There was always a reason for them to visit this marvelous land. Some are interested in the Tibetan culture and people, while other are seeking for the exotic landscape. Here are my top 4 reason why you should have Tibet tour.

1 - Ancient Culture

For many travelers, Tibet is the most spiritual place they will ever find in the entire world in their lifetime. Locked away in its mountain ranges of the Himalaya for thousands of years, this mysterious Buddhist kingdom has developed a unique society with its own cultures and religions.

People regard Tibet as the last holy land on Earth. I totally agree with that. Its forbiddenness and isolation has helped seal the mysterious cultures of Tibet. 

Tibet is so vast (equals to 2.5 France!). When you are having an in-depth trip in Tibet, you will witness several groups in different regions of Tibet. Each living very different life but share a deep faith in Buddhism. 

Lhasa is the best place to start your culture tour in Tibet. I called it a city of wonders when I first saw the Potala Palace dominates the skyline. Local Tibetans, pilgrims, and travelers from all over the world gather here, making it as the most bustling place in Tibet.

Lhasa Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple - The Spiritual Center in Tibet

The Jokhang Temple located in the heart of the city is the true spiritual heart of Lhasa. An otherworldly mix of butter lamps, wafting incense and prostrating pilgrims, the Jokhang is the most sacred of Tibet's Temples. It is here and the encircling Barkhor that most visitors first fall in love with Tibet.

Located in central Tibet, the verdant Yarlung Tsangpo valley is the soul of Tibet. The Tibetans trace the very birth of their nation to this region. Today you still can visit the very first monastery (Samye Monastery) and the first palace (Yumbulagang) here.

Drive towards north from Lhasa, you will meet another groups of Tibetan, the nomads. They live in their spider-like brown or black yak-hair tents and live off the land.

Tibetan nomads might be the most hospitable you will meet in the world. They will invite you to visit their tents and ask you to taste their tsampa, yak butter and dried yak cheese.

My Favourite Tibetan Cultural Experiences

Any one of them can be an ample reason for you to come to Tibet.

  • The low murmur of Tibetan chanting, warm glow of butter lamps and the smell of incense.

  • Following a kora (I will explain it below) with a band of devoted pilgrims.

  • Overnight in a small monastery such as Mindroling or Drigung Til. 

  • Repeatedly wandering the Barkhor, different every time.

  • A glass of sweet milk tea in a crowded Tibetan teahouse, after a long day of hiking.

Festivals in Tibet

Sending people to Tibet brings me a greate sense of professional satisfaction. It gives you the chance to participate into the celebrations with the locals. 

The Mount Kailash on Saga Dawa festival in April / May attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. I encourage you to come to this place, where you will will hang up your own prayer flags together with other thousands of multi colored flags. Then the 3 days Kora around the Mount Kailash will be a remarkable experience to purify your spirit. You will follow the route of crowds of pilgrims to show your respect to the holy mountain. 

Buddha Unfolding Ceremony at Shoton Festival
People Displaying the Giant Buddha Thangka at Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival is the liveliest festival of summer. You really need an early breakfast to occupy a good position at Drepung Monastery as thousands of people in this early morning will crowd here to watch the unfolding of the giant thanka.

To Buddhists, this holy ceremony is a purification of the sprit and the soul. The following Tibetan Opera and Yak race show at Norbulingka Palace are also "can't miss" activities during Shoton Festival.

Summer horse-racing festivals are an ancient tradition on the grasslands of Amdo and Kham. Herdsmen, on their horsebacks, in colorful dresses, carrying tents and local products, pour into Nagqu. Soon they form a city of tents. Various exciting programs are held, such as horse racing, yak racing, archery, horsemanship and commodity fair. Do you want to ride a horse and have a competition with these locals?

The Sky Burial Custom in Tibet

Being as the most mysterious funeral custom in the world, Sky Burial is the most widespread way for Tibetans to deal with the dead.

 

Briefly speaking, sky burial is simply the disposition of a corpse to be devoured by vultures. It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis, which are are the Tibetan equivalent of angels. They will take the soul into the heavens.

 

Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life.

 

Be warned that sky burials are funeral service and, naturally Tibetans are often very unhappy about camera-toting travelers heading up to sky-burial sites. If nobody invited you, please respect and don't go. 

 

Read more about Tibetan wedding and Tibetan funeral customs.

2 - Exotic Scenery

When meeting with the the warm Tibetan people, you must be curious what makes their culture so unique. The answer is the alpine landscape that can only be captured in Tibet.

As a vast land of the world's highest plateaus towering mountain peaks, Tibet has long captivated the imagination of the travelers from all over the world.

Himalaya Mountain range and the high altitude of this land has prevented Tibet from being polluted by the modern development. Your trip here will be both spiritual and awe-inspiring as you pass glittering mountain, turquoise lakes and over high passes draped with prayer flags. 

South Tibet

Mount Everest

It is the most visited region in Tibet. Millions of travelers coming here to capture the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, soaring to a height of some 8,844 m. (29,029 ft.).

The Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway is the most popular route for the Tibet overland tour lovers. The scenery is astonishing as you drive in the place with numerous snow capped mountains as a breathtaking backdrop.

With the higher western end of this area being dry and freezing, the eastern region is temperate, humid and densely forested. It is also the best place to explore the Tibetan culture. The Yarlung Tsangpo River winds its way through this region leaving a fertile agricultural area of lakes, basins and river valleys along its course, making it as the most popular trekking destination in Tibet. Why not plan a Tibet trekking here?

North Tibet

Tibet Namtso Lake
Namtso Lake

The world's highest railway, Qinghai-Tibet Railway travels through this region and finally arrive at Lhasa. So when you choose to enter Tibet by train, the splendid Kunlun Montains in this region will be your first impression of Tibet.

Namtso Lake, is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet. It is the most popular destination on the vast plateaus in the north of Tibet. Here you will witness the deep blue lake is fringed by prayers flags-draped hills, craggy cliffs and nesting migratory birds, all framed by a horizon of 7,000 m. peaks. (22,966 ft.)

When having an overland trip to the north, you will also have a chance to meet some nomads. They might be the warmest people you have ever met. 

East Tibet

Tibet Nyingchi Sightseeing
Nyingchi Area
This least visited region is famous for its Swiss like scenery. If offers you a great photography chance and a splendid overland experience.  

Higher in the north and lower in the south, the mountain and canyon area in the eastern part of Tibet presents a wide diversity of fauna and flora. You will capture a unique combination of snow-capped peaks and verdant hillside forests.

Every year in Spring is the best season to come here as you will capture the peach blossom covers most areas of this region. 

Natural Highlights:

In Tibet, almost everywhere offers superb scenery. Some top destinations to start you off.

  • Mount Everest Base Camp: Views of the north face from Pongphu Monastery are simply unsurpassed.

  • Namtso: This holy lake offers a very different landscape, which is framed by the jagged white peaks of the Nyenchen Tanglha range.

  • Rawok-tso: Fringed by both sandy beaches and snowy peaks, Rawok-tso is possibly the prettiest lake in Tibet. 

3 - Mysterious Religions 

A basic understanding of Tibetan Buddhism is essential to geting beneath the skin of things in Tibet. Buddhism's value and goals permeate almost everything Tibetan.

Exploring the monasteries and temples of Tibet and mixing with its people, yet knowing nothing of Buddhism, is like visiting the Vatican and knowing nothing of Roman Catholicism.

When you choose a Tibet private tour, the local guide is the best person for you to learn all the things you want to know about this world's most mysterious religion. They are raised in Tibet and all have a strong faith in their religion and cultures. We only use local guide to ensure you will first hand learn the Tibetan Buddhism 

Pilgrimage in Tibet

Monks Swinging Prayer Wheel
An Old Monk Swinging the Prayer Wheel

Most of Tibetans have a strong belief in their religion. So pilgrimage is a level of particular importance in Tibet. Pilgrims believe that walking clockwise around a sacred place (also called "kora") is a way to accumulate their merit.

To most Tibetans their natural landscape is imbued with a series of sacred visions and holy places: mountains can be perceived as mandala image, rock assume spiritual dimensions and the earth is imbued with healing powers. 

Believe in Tibetan Buddhism or not, it should always be a not-to-miss experience for you to have a kora with the locals. An easy-to-reach route is the Backhor Circuit around Jokhang Temple in Lhasa city. Other popular routes include a 3-day kora around the holy mountain Kailash.

The Symbols and Motifs of Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism has a large number of talismans and ornaments that serve sacred purposes.

  • The Wheel of Life: Often found decorating temples in Tibet, the Wheel depicts the cycle of suffering and rebirth. It hangs from the mouth of the lord of death, who oversees the drama unfolding within its circuit.
  • Prayer Wheel: This decorated, hollow metal tude on a rod accommodates a roll of paper upon which is written a mantra or invocation. The turning of the wheel is a substitute for the recitation of the mantra.
  • Prayer Flag: Similar to the prayer wheel, the mantra on the Prayer Flag is carred aloft by the wind. Every year during the Saga Dawa Festival, you are able to in the celebration by hanging up your own prayer flags together with other thousands of multi colored flags at Mount Kailash.
  • Phur-bu: This ritual dagger was formerly used for human sacrifice. It is symbolically employed to exorcise evil spirits. The blade is three-sided, and the handle generaly sports the head of a deity or some other fierce design.
  • Kapala: A cup made from a human skull, the Kapala is often used in ceremonies to offer food and drink resembling flesh and blood to deities.

4 - Convenient Transportation

Tibet is no longer hard to reach as you imagine!

Huge improvements in Tibet's transport infrastructure over the last few years have removed much of the discomfort of getting onto this high plateau.

For international travelers, there are 2 options for you to choose to get into Tibet: by air or by train.

There are flight connections to Lhasa from half a dozen Chinese cities. Most travelers choose Chengdu as the starting city as it will be faster for you to apply for a Tibet Permit in Chengdu.

Qinghai -Tibet Railway, Do Not Miss It!

In fact, I strongly recommend you to choose to ride a train to get into Tibet.

There is no doubt the Qinghai-Tibet train line is an engineering marvel. Topping out at 5,072 m. (16,640 ft.) it is the world's highest railway. The scenery along the route is impressive. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the journey for antelope, fox, wild asses and the occasional impressed-looking nomad.

Friendship Highway

Tibet Overland Tour
Drive along the Friendship Highway in Tibet

The 865 km. (537 mi.) stretch of road between Kathmandu in Nepal and Lhasa is known as one of the most spectacular in the world.

From Kathmand at 1,300 m. (4,265 ft.), the road makes a steep switchback ascent to the Tsang area of Tibet at over 4,000 m. (13,123 ft.). En route you can stop at the Everest, Shigatse and Yamdrok tso.

This highway is very well traveled nowadays and is a pleasant journey, except for one big problem: the Chinese government will not let individual foreign travelers enter Tibet without an arranged tour. So you need to look for a local travel agency to arrange this overland trip for you.

For centuries Tibet has long held on on western mind because of its marvelous landscapes and unique cultures. I know from my years' experience you will find your own reason to travel to Tibet.

Why Not Plan Your Trip to Tibet Now?

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