The Ultimate Guide on How to Visit Tibet in 2020
The Tibet Travel is a journey of a thousand miles, an adventure like no other. Tibet may be known as the greatest peaceful and religious center in the world, but its natural beauty also makes a wonderland for the adventurers.
The highest peak in the world, the mountain that had never been climbed before, a sacred clean lakes, are just a small piece that this majestic region have to offer to the travelers.
IMPORTANT: Due to recent Corona Virus (CoVid-19) outbreak in China, we highly recommend to postpone your visit to Tibet. For more information about traveling to China and Tibet, you can read on our blog.
If you wanted to know how to visit Tibet, it’s incredible Tibetan Plateau , you would need to learn more about it. There are some crucial things that every traveler should know before visiting Tibet. The purpose of this Tibet travel guide is to inform you on everything that you need to know before going to Tibet.
Here is a short summary of this Tibet Travel Guide, and everything you need to know about your travel to Tibet:
- A travel guide must accompany you. Choosing a travel agency, or a travel guide is a must since you can’t travel in Tibet alone. Also, you will need a private car and a driver that are arranged by the travel agency
- You will need several Travel Permits and a Chinese Tourist Visa if you want to Travel Tibet and all of the attractions. For your convenience, these can be taken care of by Travel Agencies
- It is important to know when is the best time to visit Tibet
- What you must pack for your travels in Tibet
- Options on How to travel to Tibet via China and get there safely!
- Tibet Tourist Map for your journey
- Travel Information about Altitude sickness and how to stay healthy during your Tibet Trip
- All of the popular attractions and things to do in Tibet
- Everything about Tibet Trekking, routes and destinations
- Guide to Accommodation in Tibet
- Guide to Food and Drink in Tibet
- Getting around in Tibet (travel information on transportation, currency, internet and shopping)
- Visiting Tibet during festivals
- What to DO and NOT to DO when you Travel in Tibet (Tibetan Taboos)
- Planning your trip with our Tibet Travel Checklist to make sure everything is ready.
Table of Contents
- A Small Tibet Introduction
- Visiting Tibet with a travel agency might be the best way to start
- Tibet Travel Permit and Chinese Visa
- What is the best time to visit Tibet?
- What to pack for your Tibet Travel
- How to get to Tibet and from China
- Tibet tourist Map
- Altitude sickness and how to stay healthy during your Tibet Trip
- What to visit in Tibet
- Tibet trekking
- Porter service is a must choice for any heavy traveler.
- Travel Guide to Accommodation in Tibet
- Tibet Travel Guide to Food and Drink in Tibet
- Tibet Travel Tips and Getting around in Tibet
- Visiting Tibet during Festivals
- Things to Do and Not to Do When Visiting Tibet
- Traveling to Tibet as an American
- Traveling to Tibet in 2020
- Download your Tibet travel checklist
Often referred as “Roof of the World”, Tibet is a must see destination for your next trip.
With some uniques in the air, with exceptional people, and breathtaking scenery, Tibet might be one of the few places in the world were you can find inner peace, tranquility and mind purification.
Tibet is a region situated in Tibetan Plateau on the northern side of the Himalayas. Traveling to Tibet is not an easy challenge, but once you get there, you will know that going through this magical land has paid off.
The average altitude is 5,000 m above sea level, and the highest elevation in Tibet is
world's highest mountain- Mount Everest with 8,848 m above sea level.
The capital and the most crucial city in Tibet is Lhasa, with an elevation of 3,650 m above sea level.
Visiting Tibet with an agency might be the best way to start
The most important thing that every traveler should know is that you can’t travel anywhere in Tibet solo. For backpackers who plan to visit Tibet alone, this can be bad news. A licensed travel or tour guide should accompany every traveler, need to have an organized travel route and transportation.
This means that you need to book your journey via a travel agency. We recommended choosing licensed Travel Agency or local tour operator to do your travel planning to Tibet and inside Tibet.
Permit and Chinese Visa
The most important document before entering Tibet is the Tibet Travel Permit. Without a Travel Permit, tourists cannot enter Tibet. It also must have the original document, not a copy.
Tibet Travel Permit is a document that is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. All foreign travelers, except for Macau and Hong Kong citizens, need to have this kind of Permit.
Journalists, diplomats, and individual professional media photographers need to apply through the diplomatic channels of their countries, or company they represent.
The Tibetan Travel permit has two pages. On the first page is the “permit” with the name of the registered travel agency that you have booked a trip with. Also, it contains the dates and organized itinerary.
On the second page are placed name, passport number, nationality, age, and profession of the traveler.
You cannot apply for a permit on your own. It is best for the tour operator to take care of this for you with the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Usually, the application is made by the travel agency that you are going to travel with.
Before applying for Tibet Travel Permit, you need to hold a Chinese Tourist Visa. There are two types of Chinese visa.
When you are planning to enter Tibet from mainland China, you will need to apply for the individual travel China Visa in your country. Our travel agency will send you a China Invitation Letter to help you with the visa application.
If you are planning to travel to Tibet via Nepal, you don’t need any Chinese Visa in advance. Our agency helps to apply for a Group China visa in the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu, and it would require a few days for them in Kathmandu before they enter Tibet.
After you have your Chinese visa, you will send these scanned documents to your travel agent, and they will apply for Tibet Travel Permit for your behalf.
The price for TTP usually is included in your tour price
Other Travel permits and their meanings
Depending on which attractions you plan to visit Tibet, you will need other Permits. Especially if you are visiting Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, you will need all types of Permits.
Keep in mind that the travelers can’t get any permit on their own, so that the tour operators or tour guide will apply for the Permits for all travelers in the group. The Travel Agency will apply for all of the permits in advance before the clients arrive in Lhasa.
Aliens’ Travel Permit
If you want to go in “unopened areas” such as Shigatse, Nyingchi, you will need Aliens’ Travel Permit. In fact, Lhasa is the only area that doesn’t require the Aliens’ Travel Permit.
If you are visiting Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, Mount Everest, Rongbuk Monastery, Sakya Monastery, and Pelkor Chode Monastery, you will need this type of Permit.
To visit the Samye and Trandruk Temples, you will also need the Aliens’ Travel Permit.
The Tibetan Local Public Security Bureau issued the Aliens' Travel Permit, and as I said before, you can’t get it by yourself.
Military Areas Permit
The Military Areas Permit is required for tourists to certain “sensitive” areas of Tibet that are under military control.
Travelers will need Military Permit for these areas:
Ngari - All areas, including Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar
Chamdo - All areas
Nyingchi - All areas including Basum Tso, Bomi, and Nyingchi City
The Military Affairs Office in Lhasa issues the Military Areas Permit and only takes 1-2 working days to process.
You will need Foreign Affairs Permit also for the eastern areas of Tibet, as well as Tholing and Tsaparang in western Tibet.
If you are traveling into Tibet overland via Nyingchi or expecting to go to the far reaches of western Tibet (excluding Mount Kailash), then your applications need to be requested at least 30 days in advance of your tour starting.
The Frontier Pass, also known as the Border Permit, is a required document for travel to areas of western Tibet that lie close to the border with Nepal. This is issued by the Foreign Affairs Office in Lhasa and must be applied for at least 15 days in advance of your tour, as it takes 1-2 weeks to process.
The Frontier Permit is required for visiting the areas such as Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, and Mount Everest. Frontier Pass will need those travelers that are crossing the border into Nepal at the end of their tour. Travelers are not permitted to exit the region without the Frontier Permit.
Many people imagine that the climate in Tibet is harsh and extreme cold, but it’s not like that.
Tibet has a dry, cold climate. The average annual temperature is ranging from -12° to 9°, depending on the region. Temperatures in the mountains and plateaus are mostly freezing, and strong winds are typical for all year round. The river valleys have a more moderate climate. Lhasa and central Tibet have an average temperature of 0° in December and an average of 17° in June. On a typical summer day, the temperature before sunrise can go up from 3° and 27° by midday. In general, after sunset, the temperatures in Tibet can drop very low.
In this guide, we will answer all the questions about the weather in Lhasa and the main attractions in Tibet.
Best time to visit Lhasa
Past decades Lhasa became a dream destination for travelers. Beautiful blue sky, amazing attractions are just a part of what Lhasa has to offer for visitors. The most common questions from travelers are about the weather in Lhasa and when is the best time for visiting this sacred city.
Lhasa weather in January
January isn’t the best month for visiting Lhasa, because this is the coldest month in the year with strong winds and low temperatures, and also significant variations between day and night temperatures. Average temperatures are from -8°C and 8°C.
Lhasa weather in February
It is still cold winter in Tibet in February. The weather is cold, and there is a possibility of snow this month. Low temperatures at night, but it can be pleasant during the day when the sun is still shining.
The average temperatures in February are between -5°C and 10°C.
Weather in Lhasa in March
Temperatures in March are gradually rising, and the ice slowly melts. So the off-season in Tibet is coming to an end. The night and day temperatures are still with significant variations. It can be a strong wind, but sunny days are pleasant.
The average temperatures in March are between -1°C and 13°C.
Lhasa’ s weather in April
The temperatures in April are rising and thus hints that spring is coming. However, due to the high altitude, it is still cold at night. This month it can be raining, and the wind still has its domination. The weather in April is very changeable, and there is the possibility of experiencing snow entrained in cold air.
The average temperatures in April in Lhasa are 3°C, the lowest, and 17°C the highest average measured.
Weather in Lhasa in May
The visiting season in Lhasa starts in May, but it is still shoulder season. If you want to travel to Tibet on a budget, May is your best option.
This is the month when spring invades nature, and the trees are thriving while the flowers are blossoming.
The weather in May in Lhasa is pleasant with plenty of sunshine and a bit of breeze.
The average temperatures are from 7°C to 21°C.
Lhasa’s weather in June
Lhasa weather in June is enjoyable, mostly with sunny days. If you visit Lhasa in June, you will be amazed by the clear deep blue sky. At the end of June, it might be rain, but mostly at night.
Тemperatures range from 11°C to 24°C.
Weather in Lhasa in July
The summer days in Lhasa are with powerful Ultraviolet rays, and it is very hot at noon. At night the temperatures can be lower, but not in a vast difference like is in winter. July is the month when the rainy season begins in Tibet. However, there is rainfall at night.
The average temperatures range between 11°C to 23°C.
Weather in Lhasa in August
August is a month of high season in Lhasa and also a rainy season. There are approximately 20 rainy days in August in Lhasa, but the rainfalls are like a shower. It could be raining for a few hours in the morning, afternoon, or evening, it won’t rain for the whole day. However, the weather is pleasant, even though it is raining early in the month, it is still the perfect month to visit Lhasa. It is neither too hot nor too cold.
The temperatures in August are between 11°C and 22°C.
Lhasa’s weather in September
September is an attractive month to visit Lhasa. The temperatures are a little low in comparison with temperatures in July and August. Autumn slowly begins. The scenery is colored in yellow and orange. It is a gorgeous view of the Plateau.
It is still high season in Lhasa, so there it can be crowded.
The average temperatures in September are: lowest is 9°C, and the highest is 21°C.
Weather in Lhasa in October
If you want to avoid the crowd in the peak season, you should visit Lhasa in October. The weather is colder, but it is still pleasant to visit the major attractions in and near Lhasa.
The average temperatures range between 3°C and 18°C.
Lhasa’s weather in November
November is bringing the winter in Lhasa. However, the daily temperatures are still present with great sunshine. The night temperatures are very low, and there is a significant difference between day and night temperatures.
The average temperatures in November are from -3°C to 13°C.
Weather in Lhasa in December
Surprisingly, the winter in Lhasa is not as scary as many imagine. There is no snow in Lhasa, but so there is too much sunlight to make the days pleasant for visiting.
December is a great month for visiting Lhasa for those who want to travel on a budget. It is a low season so that you can find a tour and accommodation even for half price compared with the prices in summer.
The average temperatures in December in Lhasa are from -7° C is the lowest, and 9°C is the average highest.
Summary: When is the best time to visit Lhasa?
The best time to travel in Tibet and visit Lhasa is from May to June and from September to the end of October. In July and August is the rainy season, but the oxygen is on its higher content. If you want to travel on a budget, you should book a tour during the shoulder or low season in Tibet.
What to pack?
It is an essential thing to know what to pack for your trip to Tibet. Because of the high altitude, and temperatures changing, you should pack all the necessary equipment. You don’t need to pack too much stuff, just only those most needed things. However, in your bags, you also need to pack medicine. And the most important thing is not to forget your Travel Permit and the passport.
We made a list of all those clothes that you should pack and wear while you travel Tibet and hope to make this packing easier for you.
Clothes and shoes
Even if you are traveling to Tibet in summer, you will need warm clothes, because of the difference in temperatures between day and night.
It's advisable to dress in layers that can be easily added or removed as temperatures vary greatly within a day in Tibet.
If you are visiting only Lhasa and nearby attractions, for a few days, you don’t need to pack different clothes than the standard ones you pack for travel. You just need to add warmer clothes. A windbreaker is advisable at any time of year.
This is the list of what should pack if your tour includes an overland Tibet trip.
- A down coat for those who are traveling to areas such as Everest Base Camp or Mt. Kailash
- Rain- gear is advisable to pack every traveler who is going to Tibet.
- T-shirts, both long and short sleeves
- 2 or 3 sweaters are enough
- Windproof pants: 3-4 water and windproof pants prepared in advance is no doubt the smartest choice.
- Underwear. Make sure that you are wearing comfortable underwear, especially if you are trekking. Your underwear should be woolen, not cotton.
- Woolen or polypropylene socks
- Comfortable hiking boots and shoes are required (you don’t need to wear hiking boots on overland journeys).
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
This is the list of personal hygiene and toiletry items that you should pack for your trip to Tibet.
- Sunscreen, with SPF 35 or higher, because of the high altitude the Ultraviolet rains are very high
- lip balm
- anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
- small hand-held mirror (optional)
- feminine products
- shaving products
- travel size shampoo and soap
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- wet wipes
- toilet paper (toilet paper not provided in many public toilets)
- band-aids and moleskin for blisters
Personal Accessories you must have for your trip:
These are the items that you should also pack, some of them are optional
- Sunglasses with UV protection are must,
- Small towel,
- A water bottle,
- One small bag for dirty clothes.
- iPod/iPad/Kindle or your smartphone for entertainment
- batteries for personal items (camera, flashlight, etc.)
- plenty of memory cards for your camera
- an extra copy of your passport and Chinese visa
- Snacks such as protein bars, chocolate, dried fruit or other snacks of your choice
- electric outlet adapters for Tibet
- Diamox to prevent altitude sickness,
- Aspirin, Diphenoxylate, and Prochlorperazine- medicine for cold, headache, stomachache, diarrhea, nausea, insect bite, etc.
- Tylenol or Advil for a headache,
- medicine if you are prone to motion sickness,
- antibiotic ointment for minor cuts or blisters.
First Aid Kit
Your First Aid Kit should include:
- Band-aids or other wound dressings,
- Bandaids for the occasional blister from long walks,
- Alcohol swabs,
- Hydrogen peroxide,
- Cotton swabs,
- Cotton bandages,
- Bandage tape,
- Ace bandage for the twisted ankle that might occur while hiking,
- Small scissors.
How to get to Tibet and from China
Getting to Tibet is not an easy task for the first timer. A highly recommendable option would be for a Tour Agency to take care of your trip in case your visiting Tibet from far away.
You can travel to Tibet from China or Nepal or its surrounding countries. If you have been wondering how to go to Tibet, in this section of this Travel Guide, we will explain traveling from China to Tibet. Assuming that you already got your Chinese visa and found a way to get to China.
Traveling to Lhasa by car from the city in China isn’t the fastest way to get to your point; it certainly is an extraordinary experience. Depending on which city you are starting your tour, you will need approximately 30 to 60 hours driving without calculating the time for stops.
If you want to start your journey from the north of China, you will drive among the famous Qinghai Tibet Highway. This is the shortest at just 1,956 kilometers from Xining to Lhasa. It is also the most famous, and it has the best road condition. The entire route would typically take around 35 hours of continuous driving.
In the northwest from Kashgar, you will drive among Xinjiang Tibet Highway, the most adventure road to Lhasa. You will need to cross over 2,755 kilometers and would take 60 hours continually driving.
Two highways run from southwest China to Lhasa:
Chengdu is the Sichuan Tibet Highway. The distance you should drive is 2,500 kilometers, and about 36 hours constantly driving.
From Kunming is the Yunnan Tibet Highway. This is the most exciting road from China to Lhasa. The distance that you’ll need to drive is around 2,225 kilometers. Traveling Tibet via this route takes typically approximately 44 hours to get to the final destination if you are driving continuously.
Traveling by train is the most suitable and cheapest way to get to Tibet. Qinghai - Tibet Railway is an engineering wonder on the highest plateau in the world and referred to as Tibet train tour, as it serves as the most popular means of transport to Tibet for international tourists.
You can begin your journey from major cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xi’an, etc., but the scenic train tour departs from Xining.
Traveling to Tibet by train is the most amazing experience that you can have on this trip. Although driving takes about 40 hours if you drive from Beijing, it will still pay off. You will witness beautiful landscapes and breathtaking views during this train tour.
The longest route is from Guangzhou, and it takes about 53 hours to get to Lhasa.
Another benefit that is very important when traveling to Tibet is that by train travel, you will have better acclimatization. Gradual climbing to Tibet will allow you to get used to high altitude slowly. And thus may reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.
The train to Tibet have three types of cabins: hard seats, hard sleeper cabins, and a soft sleeper cabin.
We do not recommend to take a hard seat, because traveling is so long that it isn’t entirely comfortable to seat all the way.
Hard sleepers cabin tickets are cheaper than soft sleepers cabin tickets, but if you don’t mind, reduced privacy can then consider traveling in this type of cabin.
This type of cabin has no door, and it has six berths.
Soft sleeper cabins are with four berths, and it has a much more comfortable space with 70 square feet in area.
Train Ticket prices
From Beijing to Lhasa will cost you $100USD for a hard sleeper cabin, and $160USD for a soft sleeper cabin.
From Xining to Lhasa, the price ticket is $70USD for a hard sleeper cabin and $110USD for a soft sleeper cabin.
From Lanzhou to Lhasa, the price is $73USD for a hard sleeper ticket and $115USD for a soft sleeper ticket.
From Shanghai to Lhasa, the ticket price is from $111USD for a hard sleeper cabin and $177USD for a soft sleeper cabin.
From Chengdu to Lhasa, you will need to pay $88USD for a hard sleeper cabin, and $140USD for a soft sleeper cabin.
From Guangzhou to Lhasa, the ticket price is from $121USD for a hard sleeper cabin and $206USD for a soft sleeper cabin.
Traveling to Tibet from mainland China by air is the fastest way to get to your destination on the plateau. But not always the best way. Flying time from any city in China to Lhasa is about 2 to 9 hours, depending on the city of your departure, but you will need more time to get acclimatization in Lhasa.
Sometimes traveling by plane is the only way to get in Lhasa, especially in the summer, when it is the peak season.
There are numerous flights to Tibet, from anywhere in China to Lhasa, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Kunming, and many others.
Flights to lhasa and Plane Ticket prices
If you are traveling from Beijing to Lhasa, you will need around 4 hours to get there, and also $400USD to $480USD for a one-way ticket.
From Shanghai to Lhasa, you will fly for about 6 hours, with one-stop, 9 hours total. And the ticket price is from $350USD to $500USD, depending on the period that you want to fly to Lhasa.
If you take a flight without stops from Chengdu to Lhasa, you will fly about 3 hours, and the prices are from $300USD.
From Guangzhou to Lhasa, the flights are one-stop, and you will get to Lhasa for about 6 hours if you choose the excellent air travel company. The ticket prices are from $400USD and up.
Tourist Map with attraction locations.
Below on this map you can see where the main attractions are located on the land of Tibet. These attractions are the most frequently chosen by tourists.
Altitude sickness and how to stay healthy during your trip
Altitude sickness is also known as mountain sickness, is an illness due to reducing the quantity of oxygen at above sea level altitudes, usually ranging about 4,800 ft or 1,500 m.
Altitude sickness usually occurs when people travel from lower altitudes to higher altitudes than 2,438 meters or higher. Depending upon the individual's health, altitude sickness may occur at considerably lower altitudes, even at 1,500 meters.
The average altitude of Tibet is 4,500 meters above sea level, and Lhasa lies on 3,656 meters above sea level. This altitude is the highest on the Planet, so you will probably get altitude sickness on your arrival in Lhasa.
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that traveling by train is the most convenient way to get in Lhasa, and this is one of the main reasons- altitude sickness. When you gradually rise to high altitude, as is the case with a train, then altitude sickness symptoms can be less and end more quickly.
The main symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, dizziness, decreased appetite, fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath during the effort, nausea.
How to stay healthy?
There are no need vaccinations for Tibet, but you will need to have a complete medical exam just for your prevention. If you choose to trek in Tibet, your heart condition must be on the highest level. If you have any severe illness or respiratory problems, you will not be allowed to travel to Tibet.
To prevent altitude sickness, you should take Diamox. Diamox does not cure altitude sickness, but it might reduce the symptoms of it.
If you have symptoms of altitude sickness, you need to rest, drink a lot of water, eat healthy food and carbs, do not rush, don't run, and the most vital thing is not to panic. The symptoms will pass for two or three days.
What to visit?
Tibet is a marvelous region with lots of natural beauty mixed with rich tradition and culture. No matter what type of tour you will choose for your trip to Tibet, you will have a fantastic experience. There is a long list of attractions that Tibet has to offer to tourists. We made a list of the primary tourists' attractions that every traveler should be visiting on their journey in Tibet. Also, you can take a look at this list of over 60 Tibet Tours, crafted by our professional travel advisors, suitable for any type of traveler.
Lhasa is a spiritual and the most important city in Tibet. It has an altitude of 3650 meters above sea level, which makes this city the highest in the world.
Most of Tibet tours begin from Lhasa. You will have two or three days to visit the major attractions in Lhasa, but also to have acclimatization. If your tour includes kora or trekking, you need to be very well acclimatized.
Attractions that you mustn't miss in Lhasa are:
Potala Palace is one of the best- known spiritual holy places in the world. Potala Palace has 1300 years of history. The building was built as a gesture of love by a Tibetan king Songtsen Gambo for his Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Later, it was the winter home for the Dalai Lama, and nowadays, it is a museum.
Potala Palace has more than a thousand rooms, enlarge a number of painted scrolls, over 650 murals, and thousands of beautiful statues made with jewels.
The Potala Palace was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1994.
The time provided in Potala Palace is limited. The visitors are allocated an hour inside the Potala Palace.
Note: You are not allowed to take photos inside Potala Palace.
When to visit the Potala Palace
Every period of the year is suitable for visiting the Potala Palace, but visiting the Potala Palace is best in summer.
Jokhang Temple is the holiest temple in Tibet and also has a long history of more than 1000 years. It is built in the Tubo Dynasty, and it is a mix of Chinese, Tibetan, and Nepalese architecture.
The location of Jokhang Temple is on Barkhor Street, central of the old town, and the area is the perfect place for walking and exploring local Tibetan culture.
Jokhang Temple was included on UNESCO's World Heritage list as part of the Potala Palace in 2000.
When to visit Jokhang Temple
Because of its location in the center of Lhasa, travelers can visit Jokhang Temple every period of the year. However, the best time to visit is summer, when it is the high season in Tibet.
In Tibetan language, Norbulingka means "Treasure Park." Its location is in the western suburb of Lhasa, at the bank of the Kyichu River. The garden covers an area of 360 000 square meters, and it is the biggest garden in Tibet. It also has 374 rooms inside.
Norbulingka consists of several palace complexes, such as the Kelsang Potrang, Tson Kyil Potrang, Golden Linka, and Takten Migyur Potrang. Each palace complex is divided into three sections: the palace section, the part in front of the palaces, and the woods.
When to visit Norbulingka
Summer is the right time to visit this amazing Tibetan garden.
Sera Monastery is located at the foot of Tipu Hill near Lhasa. It is one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet, along with Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery.
This beautiful monastery covers an area of 114 946 square meters.
What will you see in Sera Monastery?
In the halls, you can see scriptures written in gold powder, statues, scent cloth, and unique murals.
When to visit Sera Monastery
The best time to visit Sera Monastery is during the Shoton Festival, which often runs in August.
Don't miss to visit Drepung Monastery and Ganden Monastery while you are in Tibet. Both are majestic monasteries with a long and rich history.
The Holy Lakes
Tibet has many lakes on its plateau; many of them are sacred and very important to Tibetan Buddhism. The lakes in Tibet cover a total of 23,800 square kilometers, which is the largest number of lakes on the PlanetPlanet.
There are ten holy lakes in Tibet, but three of them are must-see attractions for tourists.
Visiting the Namtso Lake
Namtso Lake is also known as Heavenly Lake, and it is the largest lake in Tibet. It covers an area of 1,940 square kilometers, it is 70 kilometers long from west to east and 30 kilometers wide from south to north.
Namtso Lake is also the highest salt lake in the world at 4,718 meters above sea level.
When you visit the Namtso Lake, you will be amazed by the fantastic views of the surrounding mountains covered with snow, the marvelous turquoise water and stunning sunrise and sunset view.
When to visit the Namtso Lake
The most suitable time to visit Namtso Lake is the period from June to September. You can not go to the lake from December to March, the road is closed due to the heavy snowfalls.
A trip to the Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake in Tibetan means "green jade lake on the pasture." Tibetans believe that the lake can help Tibetans to find the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama.
It is the closest lake to Lhasa. It will take about 3 hours from Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake. And when you arrived at the shore, you will be fascinated by all those colors that surround the Yamdrok Lake. Dull grey and green mountains are a perfect combination for the astounding view, together with the turquoise water.
Best time to travel to Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake is open for tourists all year long. However, the best time to visit this beautiful holy lake is summer.
Journey to the Lake Manasarovar
Lake Manasarovar is another sacred lake in Tibet, essential to Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. Mansarovar Lake lies on a high elevation of 4,500 meters. It covers an area of 90 kilometers.
It has a special place for Tibetans because it is closest to Mt. Kailash. The mountain is the center of the universe revered by Tibetan Buddhists, Hinduists.
In addition to being fascinated by the beautiful scenery, you can ride horses by the lakeshore. You can also climb to Chiu Monastery and to have a stunning bird view of the lake.
When to visit Lake Manasarovar
The best time to visit Lake Manasarovar is from May to October.
If you have a chance, you should visit the other beautiful lakes in Tibet: Pangong Tso, Basumtso Lake, Tangra Yum Tso, Lhamo La-tso, Siling Tso, Rawok Lake, and Peikutso Lake.
Journey to Mount Kailash, the Most Sacred Mountain
Mount Kailash is the most sacred mountain in Tibet. It is located more than 1,200 kilometers from Lhasa, and it is a mountain that no one has climber since today. It is not the highest peak in the Himalaya region. It rices 6,714 meters; for comparison, Mount Everest is 8,848 meters above sea level.
If you want to have the most magical, majestic, and the most spiritual experience, you should take a tour to Mt.Kailash Kora together with the pilgrims.
Thousands of Buddhists and Hindus pilgrims walk a Kora of over 50 kilometers circuit around the Mt.Kailash.
The best periods to visit Mount Kailash
If you want to go on Kailash Kora best time for that is during the Saga Dawa Festival. This is one of the most important festivals in Tibetan Buddhism, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the great Buddha Sakyamuni.
The best time to trek around Mount Kailash is from April to early June, and from September to early October.
Avoid trekking around Mt. Kailash in summer when it is the rainy season, it is not impossible, but it is not the ideal time to do that. Also, it is not advisable to visit Mt.Kailash in March or November, the temperatures are low, and it is freezing at night.
In winter, the treks and passes are covered with snow, so it is dangerous to trek to Mt. Kailash.
Visiting Mount Everest Base Camp, a fantastic journey with stunning views
For the biggest adventurers, Mount Everest Base Camp is known as Mecca. Many of the travelers know EBC in Nepal, and not so many that EBC has a north side in Tibet with elevation of 5200 meters above sea level.
Both sides have the same name, but both sides offers a completely different experience.
Mt. Everest Base Camp is more than 600 kilometers southwest of Lhasa, about 11 hours of driving.
Most of the Everest Base Camp tour includes a visit to the amazing sites such as Yamdrok Lake, Sakya Monastery and Gyantse. A journey from Lhasa to EBC and back it takes around 8 days.
There is a new government regulation from January 2019 that the trip to EBC edns at Rongbuk Monastery. The reason for this new regulation is due to the fact that the EBC has accumulated a lot of garbage, is now working on clearing, and it is not known whether it will be reopened for visiting tourists.
However, there is an option if you want to go above this point. You will need to have either a trekking or climbing permit, and to get this type of permit you will have to pay a high amount of money, precisely $10,000 USD.
But the view from the Rongbuk Monastery is as beautiful as you are on the EBC.
Best time to visit Mount Everest Base Camp
Everest Base Camp has an altitude of 5200 meters, but it isn’t that cold as everyone imagines. At EBC, the only cold is the night when temperatures drop, while the days are sunny, and the weather is pleasant.
The best for an Everest Base Camp tour is from April to the end of May when the weather is not as cold as in winter, and also you will be able to see the peak very clear.
And the second-best period is from September to early October after the monsoon passes and before the harsh winter comes.
These two periods of the year are also excellent for trekking in Tibet.
Tibet is a popular trekking destination. To experience Tibet in depth, the best way to do that is trekking on the best routes.
But besides the beauties you will see on this journey, you will have cultural immersion as it is a physical challenge. Trekking in Tibet can open your eyes as well as your mind, a truly spiritualism.
There are plenty of trekking routes to choose. To choose the best trekking route for you, first you'll need to know how many days you want to trek. Second important thing is to know your physical strength. Near Lhasa are the shortest and the easiest treks.
Below are the most popular trekking routes in Tibet.
Trekking around Mt. Kailash
Mt.Kailash trek is also known as Mt.Kailash Kora. The trekking route is a circular trek around the sacred mountain.
The start is in the small town of Darchen, and the trail crosses through barren plains, moon-like valleys and alongside snow-capped mountain peaks. The trek usually includes around four-day journey around Mt. Kailash and Manasarovar Lake.
Best time for trekking Mount Kailash
The best time to visit Mount Kailash is between April and June, and from September and October. During July and August is the rainy season, it is not inaccessible, but it is not the most recommended time to go.
For the best experience, visit Mt. Kailash during the Saga Dawa Festival.
Avoid the winter months (December to March) for visiting Mt.Kailash.
Trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp
Trekking to Everest Region is quite popular, in fact is the second most popular trek in Tibet. Trekking route is the most of the time with elevation with over 4,300 meters, so this trekking route is quite difficult. However, because of the high altitude, you will have the most spectacular views of the north face of Mount Everest, but also of the other mountains around.
On the way to Everest region you will visit Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse and the trekking begins from Old Tingri.
Tingri trek to Everest Base Camp
Tingri to Everest Base Camp trek start from The Old Tingri, the small town located nearly 600 kilometers of Lhasa. The trek crossover traditional villages but most of the trek is wildness area.
There are good views of the mountains along the way, but the best views will be when you get near Rongphu Monastery.
The best thing of this trekking route is that you can camp at Rongphu Monastery, and have a stunning view to the sky at night, and have a marvelous view of the sunrise and sunset also.
Best time for trekking
The best months for trekking to Everest are from April through early June and again from late September to October.
During the peak high season from July through early October, the views of Everest are often not good in the middle of summer time. Don't expect clear views of the mountain in the summer, especially in July and August, because of the rainy season.
For the great adventurers if the Everest Base Camp is small step, they can go up to Everest Advanced Camp. The elevation at ABC is 6,400 meters, and it needs additional permit for climbing.
Another popular trekking routes:
The mysterious landscapes of the Himalayas make trekking routes very attractive to adventurers. There are so many trekking choices, you just have to choose the best one for you. The trekking routes around Mt. Kailash and to Everest Base Camp are the most famous among the travelers. But there are so many more interesting and unique treks also very popular for trekkers. Below are some of them:
Ganden to Samye Trek,
Tsurphu to Yangpachen Trek,
Gyama Valley Trek.
There are other trekking points in Tibet, such as Shalu to Nartang Trek, Lake Manasarovar Kora, Advanced Everest Camp, Nyenchen Tanglha Traverse, Kharta Valley Trek, Namtso Lake trekking, Motuo Trek.
Ganden to Samye Trek
The Ganden to Samye trekking route is the most popular. It is an amazing route beginning from Ganden Monastery, one of the famous Gelugpa Monasteries and ends in Samye Monastery.
The trekking route includes stunning scenic views and crossing the valleys you can have a beautiful view over green meadows.
The most suitable months to do this trekking route is from May to September.
Tsurphu to Yangpachen Trek
Tsurphu to Yangpachen is one of the shortest trek routes but full with scenic views, and one of the best treks in Tibet. The adventurers that are going on this route will have to trek 45 kilometers with the highest altitude of 5,400 meters at Lasar La Pass.
Starting from Tsurphu with elevation of 4,480 meters, the travelers will cross wide grasslands, tundra and valleys, on the route they will have the opportunity to take a rest at natural hot springs.
Gyama Valley Trek
The Gyama Valley trek is one of the popular moderate trekking routes in Tibet. It lies on the east slope of Mt.Everest, and together with Gyirong Valley, Ya Dong Valley and Zhangmu VAlley makes "Four Great Valleys" in Shigatse region.
Trekkers will have the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Mt. Everest, Mt.Makalu, glaciers, and snow leopard during this trekking route. The highest point on this trek is Shauwala Pass at 4,900 meters.
Best time to trek on this amazing route is in spring and in autumn. If you going in spring choose the months between April to June. And the autumn months best for trekking are September and early October.
Information for Trekker's and Tips
A trekking in Tibet requires good physical condition, well preparation and strong perseverance.
Due to the difficult accessibility of trekking trails, medical assistance may not be able to reach your location if something happens to you. But the settlements are also a long way from the tracks. It is therefore imperative that you carry medicines prescribed by your doctor. But also a first aid kit, and take an oxygen bottle for any case.
Travel Tibet With these Trekking clothes
Depending on which season you travel to Tibet, so will your clothes. But when you go trekking in Tibet, you have to wear the following clothes:
- Warm jacket
- A rainproof jacket
- Woolen shirts and thick sweaters
- A pair of lightweight trousers
- Thermal underwear
- 2-3 cotton T-shirts
- a woolen hat
- A pair of gloves
- A woolen socks
- And a woolen or polyester underwear.
You should pack walking boots or hiking shoes, and also a basic walking shoes.
Must have Trekking Equipment during your Tibet Trip
Among the clothes that you need to pack, this are the other things that you'll need if you are trek on some of the routes in Tibet.
- Sleeping bags,
- Sleeping mats,
- lightweight, quick-drying towel,
- gaiters (optional),
- warm hat,
- warm gloves,
- scarf (optional),
- Water filters and purifiers,
- 70 liter (or bigger) backpack,
- Dry bags,
- Trekking poles,
- Hydration system,
- Headlamps and torch,
- Swiss Army Knives.
If you book a tour with us, you will have all the necessary information of what precisely you should pack depending on your tour.
Porter service is a must choice for any heavy traveler.
Due to the high altitude and the difficulty of the tracks, it is best to rent a porter service. Many of the trekkers cannot reach their destination due to the weight of their luggage. Therefore it is most advisable to hand over your luggage to a porter service who will load it onto yaks or horses and bring it to you.
Guide to Accommodation
There is a variety of accommodations in Tibet, but none is luxurious. The travelers can choose from guesthouses, hostels, and hotels in Tibet. In Lhasa, there are hotels even with five stars rating, but still no luxury. The star classification in Tibet is different from the rest of the world. For example:
We can't compare a four-star hotel in Lhasa with the four-star hotel in Beijing. There is a massive difference in the amenities that both star rates hotels can offer.
The accommodation in Lhasa has basic amenities and facilities. There are no spa centers or pools in the hotels, but it has all the necessary things that one guest can ask for.
No one goes to Tibet to enjoy some luxury. Tibet is a simple country with an abundance of beauties worth visiting. Therefore, during your journey to Tibet, you will spend very little time in the hotel room.
However, whatever accommodation you choose for your Tibet travel, you will use it only for sleeping.
Accommodation during trekking
There are some options for lodging during trekking in Tibet, but none of them have even two stars rate of quality.
Usually, the accommodation during trekking in Tibet includes camping in tents, staying in local guest houses, or staying in the monastery guesthouses.
Guide to Food and Drink in Tibet
Tibetan cuisine consists mainly of barley, meat, and dairy products. Many of the tourists, mostly from eastern countries, are not amazed by the Tibetan food. Tibetan cuisines have many Chinese, Indian, and Nepal dishes. The tourists can also find vegetarian and eastern restaurants where they can eat their favorite meal.
Tibetan people want to eat Tsampa. They are eating tsampa every day. It is roasted flour, usually barley flour and sometimes also wheat flour, often mixed with the salty Tibetan butter tea.
Also, a favorite drink with tsampa is salted butter tea.
A popular snack in Tibet is also dried beef and mutton stripe. The locals are cutting the meat into long strips and hung to dry during the winter.
If you are not a vegetarian, you should try the Tibetan sausages. Tibetans love to eat any sausages, such as blood sausage meat sausage, flour sausage, and liver sausage.
Tibetan restaurants also serve various types of noodles and vegetarian dishes.
You should try momos as well. Momo is a type of steamed dumpling, which can be filled with different kinds of filling.
Favorite drink to the Tibetans is tea. They drink tea a lot, especially butter tea. It is beneficial for such weather conditions as Tibet.
Butter tea nourishes your lips, protects them from the sun's radiation, but also protects them from the wind, and does not allow your lips to crack.
Tibetan religious does not allow to drink alcohol, but it is not forbidden. So many Tibetans wants to relax by drinking beer.
Favorite alcoholic drink in Tibet is "qingke," which is a potent barley beer or wine.
You can find a canned beer in Lhasa, with the same name as the city.
Food and drink during trekking
There are not many places, such as restaurants, to eat during trekking in Tibet. Most of the local villages or towns are away from the trekking routes.
So, you will have to pack enough food and drinks on your trekking journey. You don't need to buy food from your country. You can find everything you'll need in the markets in Lhasa or Shigatse.
Always have with you bottles of water, but also bottles that will contain hot water.
Because you will cook by yourself during the trekking, it is your choice what ingredients to buy. However, we can arrange a chef to cook for you and the others in the group.
When you are in Tibet, you should know a little more information about the currency, shopping, and the internet in Tibet.
Your transportation around Tibet is already organized. As we said before, you will need a tour guide and driver. That means when you book a tour in a travel agency, their team will arrange everything necessary for your trip to Tibet. Tour packages to Tibet are the most convenient way of traveling through Tibet, since everything is ready for you.
As for the state of roads across Tibet, they are in a much better situation than in the past. Most of the roads are paved and passable. However, some areas can be inaccessible in winter or during the rainy season. But all that inconvenience is kept to a minimum, to give tourists a better experience in Tibet.
Tibet has the same currency as China-the Chinese Yuan (“CNY”), otherwise known as the RenMinBi (RMB).
Dollars are not accepted in the shops, so you must do an exchange only in the “Bank of China.”
In Tibet, there are three major Chinese Banks, but only Bank of China offers currency exchange services for foreing travelers.
Be aware that in Tibet, there are a limited number of ATMs, so it is better to exchange cash rather than using a credit card.
You will surely visit Barkhor Street, and you can’t miss buying some gifts and souvenirs from the shops. You can find there a craft which represents the long Tibetan culture and tradition, but also a traditional medicine such as Saffron.
If you want to have some unique and souvenir that has an essential role in Tibetan everyday lives, then the wooden bowl is the perfect souvenir for you.
In Tibet, every family has two sizes of bowls, the bigger one for the father and the smaller ones for the mother.
Wooden bowls in Tibet are hand craved and can be bought for a low cost.
The Tibetan DorJe is a religious object of significant significance. Symbolically, the DorJe describes the “thunderbolt of enlightenment,” the unexpected change of consciousness that allows the enlightened to separate themselves from their worldly belongings. In Tibetan Buddhism, the DorJe is used with a Bell, both of which are used in Buddhist ceremonies.
You can buy meaningful items on Barkhor Street. Also, Tibetans are proud of their handmade silver jewelry box, Eternal Knot, and Millettia bracelets. An incredible worth souvenir from Tibet is the Tibetan prayer wheel, known as “Mani.”
Most of the hotels and cafes in Lhasa offers free WiFI access. Nowadays, the internet is available even in Rongbuk Guesthouse, and EBC tends. The internet is an inferior speed, but still, you can have access. In fact, it is not even a standard WIFI like we are used to using in the cities; it is more like a device that can transform the phone signals into WIFi.
If you want to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you should have a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Many travelers can’t even log in to their Gmail account without a VPN.
Tibetan festivals are also a popular reason to visit Tibet. Because of the rich culture and tradition that Tibet has, many of the travelers decide to visit this amazing region during festivals. These are the three most important and most popular festivals in Tibet.
New Year Festival (Losar)
Tibetan New Year start with a celebration on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, that period corresponds to February and March.
The Tibetan celebration of Losar is 15 days, but the main ceremony is in the first three days.
Tibetans began with preparation from the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar with cleaning and decorating the houses, and they are preparing the traditional food.
During the celebration, Tibetans went to the local spring to perform a ritual of gratitude.
In 2020 Tibetan New Year will begin on February 24 in the Gregorian calendar.
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa is one of the most important festivals in Tibet. For the Tibetans is the month to make merit.
The festival is starting from the new moon of the fourth month, and it ends on the full moon next month. In the Gregorian calendar, those dates correspond in May or June.
Because the festival is on the best season for visiting Tibet, many travelers decide to go on Kora during this festival.
Many pilgrims from all over Tibet visit the most sacred sites during this month, such as Mt. Kailash. If you are not ready to do the trekking around Mt. Kailash, you can stay in Lhasa, and do the kora around Jokhang Temple.
In 2020 Saga Dawa Festival will begin on June 5, according to the Gregorian calendar.
Shoton festival starts on the last day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar, i.e., July 1 in the Tibetan calendar and that and matches with dates in August according to the Gregorian calendar.
Shoton festival lasts for a few days. The festival has three meanings, yogurt banquet, Buddha unfolding ceremony, and Tibetan opera festival.
The main celebration is in Drepung Monastery, where early in the morning, a giant Buddha painting is going to be displayed.
In 2020 Shoton festival will begin on August 19.
Other popular festivals in Tibet are: The Great Prayer Festival, The Butter Lamp Festival, Gyantse Horse-racing Festival, Nagqu Horse-racing Festival, Harvest Festival and The Bathing Festival.
Things to Do and Not to Do
It is important to know how to visit Tibet without offending the Tibetan Culture. Tibetans are unique people, and they have unique things that need to be respected by travelers. Once you are going to Tibet, you need to know what actions you must do and don't on your journey through this amazing region. Please read our Tibet travel advice carefully, and even write them down if needed.
What to do when visiting the Monasteries
- Do not take photos of statues of Buddha;
- Do not smoke;
- Don't touch the books of scriptures or Statues of deities;
- Wear appropriate clothes
- Walk clockwise around a monastery
- Be quiet in a monastery
Other don'ts and do you must remember during your journey
- Don't take photos of Tibetan people without permission;
- Don't clap your palms in public. Tibetans considered impolite.
- Don't spit in front of or behind others. It is also impolite.
- Don't touch the head of the Tibetan people, don't do that even on a child's head.
- Keep quiet at the top of the mountains. Tibetans believed that loud noise would bring heavy snow, storms, or hail.
- When the guest is offered a yak tea, the guest should receive the drink with both hands.
- Tibetans don't eat the meat of donkeys, horses, and dogs. Neither should the tourists in Tibet.
Visiting as an American
Many of the travelers have the same question: Can Americans go to Tibet? The answer is YES!
Everyone can visit Tibet if they possess a valid passport, Chinese visa, and Tibet Travel Permit. We can see one reason why can not American visit Tibet. Tibet is a very safe region;last decades, many Americans travel to Tibet. However, 95% of travelers that visiting Tibet are Chinese, and the other 5% are from all around the world.
You’ll need to know that every regulation applies to all travelers, even those who travel to Tibet from the US.
Tourist information for 2020
Tibet has made tremendous progress in the tourism industry since the 1980s. And in the last years, tourism in Tibet has become the most important and leading branch of industry.
Between 2006 and 2010, Tibet was visited by 21.25 million tourists. According to this article published in January 2019, Tibet welcomed more than 30 million tourists in 2018.
These numbers can show us that many travelers decide their vacation time to spend in Tibet and learn more about Tibetan culture and tradition.
The main impact on Tibet tourism has to open the highest railway station in the world- Qinghai Tibet Railway, or shortly Tibet Railway.
If you are planning to travel to Tibet in 2020, and you want to go by air, there is a new airline from Hong Kong to Lhasa from November 2019. This will be the second larger direct line from mainland China to Lhasa.
About the regulations and permits and close attractions, they continue to apply in 2020.
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