Lhasa and around
Lhasa (3,650m) is the capital city, focal point and spiritual heart of Tibet Autonomous Region. To enter Lhasa, most of the travelers will choose to take a train journey via Qinghai-Tibet Railway. While some of them will choose to take a direct flight from one of the main cities of mainland China or Kathmandu, Nepal to save time. Furthermore, there could be another option is that taking an overland tour to Lhasa via Qinghai-Tibet Highway from Xi’ning, Sichuan-Tibet highway from Chengdu, Xinjiang-Tibet Highway from Kashgar, or Sino-Tibet Highway from Kathmandu, Nepal. Based on the current Tibet policy, overseas travelers should book a tour with a licensed guide and Tibet permits pre-arranged before entering Lhasa. In Lhasa, overseas travelers are able to take a taxi or private vehicle to visit attractions in Lhasa city with a guide's accompany, while for the attractions out of Lhasa city, it is required to take a private vehicle with driver and guide.
Normally, tourists tend to spend about 2-3 days exploring the highlights in Lhasa city, including the World Heritage Sites of the Potala Palace, Norbulingka Summer Palace, Jokhang temple and Pilgrimage circuit Barkhor, two of the great three Gelugpa Monasteries Drepung and Sera lying on the edge of the city. Usually, to acclimatize the altitude, it is highly recommended to put the visit to Potala Palace (admission: CN¥200/May to October; CN¥100/November to April), Jokhang temple (admission: CN¥85) and Pilgrimage circuit Barkhor into the same day, another day to visit Drepung Monastery in the morning and enjoy the famous monks debating at Sera Monastery between 3pm and 4pm. If time permits, pay a visit to the summer palace Norbulingka (admission: CN¥60), if you prefer a leisure tour, you may visit it the next day.
If the travelers have an extra 1 day and travel with their kids or seniors, we would recommend a day drive tour to the turquoise Yamdrok Lake (admission: CN¥60) or Ganden Monastery (admission: CN¥50). Both the visit to Yamdrok Lake and Ganden Monastery will provide you more opportunities to see the natural landscape of Tibet High Plateaus. Yamdrok Lake (4,441m) is one of the 3 holy lakes in Tibet (the other 2 are Namtso Lake and Manasarovar Lake). Crossing Kampala pass(4,794m) and reaching Yamdrok Lake, descend to the bank of Yamdrok Tso Lake and hike from Nangartse county to Samding to enjoy an excellent view of the Dumo plain, which should take about 1-2 hours. The day tour to Ganden Monastery, 60 km eastwards Lhasa, is well-balanced with cultural and natural activities. It is one of the "great three" Gelugpa university monasteries of Tibet, it is highly recommended to hike along its Kora to enjoy the extremely fabulous view of Kichu valley.
For those wanting to explore Tibet deeper and sufficient in time, experience its rural nomadic lifestyles and traditions from a different angle, they can have a 4-day clockwise loop tour in central Tibet covering the attractions including spiritual Tsurphu Monastery (admission: CN¥40), the head monastery of Kagyu Sect housing over 370 monks, natural Yangpachen hot-spring (admission: CN¥180 including hot spring), stunning Namtso Lake (4718m, admission: CN¥120, eco-sightseeing bus: CN¥110), one of the 3 holy lakes in Tibet, religious Reting Monastery (admission: CN¥30), one of the 6 largest Buddhist Monasteries in Tibet surrounded by remarkable juniper woods, atmospheric Drigung Ti Monastery (admission: CN¥45), the head monastery of the Drigongpa school of the Kagyupa order and the most famous sky burial site in central Tibet, Tidrum Nunnery (admission: CN¥25) where you can have medicinal hot-spring, and fantastic Ganden Monastery.
Closer to Lhasa, there is a town called Tsedang, which is the cradle of Tibetan Civilization. The mild weather and fertile land at Yarlung Tsangpo Valleys created the great Tibet dynasty. Nowadays we can still find Tibet's first monastery - Samye Monastery (admission: CN¥45), Tibet's first building - Yumbulagang Palace (admission: CN¥60), some old monasteries such as Trandruk (admission: CN¥70) and Mindroling (admission: CN¥25) and the Tombs of the Tibetan kings-Chongye Burial Mounds (admission: CN¥40). It always takes about 2-3 days to explore the Tsedang area. After the visit to Samye Monastery, some hiking lovers will choose a day hiking to Chim-Puk Hermitage (4300m, admission: CN¥20), located north-east of Samye monastery and requiring about a 40 minutes’ drive. It is an ideal place for short hiking which is embraced by lush hills on three sides and facing the broad Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley with beautiful scenery. You can spend 4-6 hours hiking there based on your health condition. The visit to this area, not only the basic Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit is required, but also the Alien’s Travel Permit is needed as well and this permit is usually done in Tsedang city with guide’s assistance.
Lhasa and around, except for Namtso Lake, is suitable to travel there all year round, however, the best time to travel there is from April to October which attracts the most travelers of the year, whereas a visit there in the wintertime is a good choice too due to its fewer crowds and cheapest tour cost. A kind reminder is that it is not recommended to visit Namtso Lake in winter as the way to Namtso Lake, especially, at the highest pass en route - Nagena Pass (5,190m), can be easily blocked by the heavy snow.