Top reasons to travel Tibet in winter
"Can I go to Tibet in winter?"
"What is fun in Tibet in winter?"
"Is Tibet worth visiting in winter?"
We often get many questions like this, our answer is always: "Yes, yes, yes! Absolutely Yes!" Below are the top seven reasons to travel to Tibet in winter.
Winter belongs to the devout Tibetan pilgrims
There are the most rustic beliefs, the sweetest smiles, and the plainest material needs in Tibet. Whenever you go to Jokhang Temple, you can see Tibetans in shabby cotton-padded clothes kowtowing. Compared with summer, winter belongs to the Tibetan people as it's their leisure season, many Tibetans from all parts of Tibet area, including Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, and Sichuan Tibetan regions, make their long-way pilgrimages to Lhasa to worship the major monasteries and of course the holy Potala Palace. When you see the Tibetans holding a prayer wheel and chanting around the monasteries, you don’t need to talk to them, just follow them, to slowly calm down and get peace in your deep heart. People said that Tibet in summer is for tourists, while winter is the real Tibet for the local Tibetans.
Lowest tour costs through the whole year
Every year, the Tibet Tourism Bureau office releases the winter promotion (free of charge or 50% discount) for the AA-AAAAA attractions in the whole Tibet, including the famous Potala Palace. Besides, the other costs including the vehicle costs and accommodation fees are much cheaper than other seasons due to the rapidly decreased tourists. The airfare to Tibet is often with large discounts from the major cities like Chengdu, Beijing, Xi’an, and even Kathmandu. The train tickets, especially the 1st class soft sleepers are easier to obtain at a normal price, unlike the high seasons by adding the high commission fees.
In winter, the climate is dry with fewer clouds, but the sky is bluer. You have a better chance of seeing the true face of the snow mountains than in summer, which makes it the best time for photography of those beautiful snow mountains. There are more sunny days in winter than other seasons, especially in Lhasa, known as Sun City. The oxygen content is almost the same as the summer index.
Many plants and animals have entered the dormant period in winter, and the heavy snow has become the leading role. However, due to the influence of the Yarlung Zangbo River and the terrain, the Nyingchi area is like spring all year round, unlike other parts of Tibet, with not only snow but also green plants. This is probably the most tender side of Tibet in winter.
Compared with the peak season, there are fewer bustling crowds in Tibet's scenic spots and streets in winter, which allows the visitors to spend more time sightseeing at the major famous sites, which is impossible at the peak season. Travelers can enjoy the scenery, history, culture, and folk customs of Tibet with leisure and ease.
Plenty of sunshine
Tibet is located in a low-latitude area, here winter extends from November to March with sunshine always. The average daytime temperature in Lhasa, central Tibet area, and part of eastern Tibet range from 10 degrees Celsius to 18 degrees. Many people worry that Tibet will be frozen and snowy in winter, to block away visitors from many places and scenery. In fact, due to the lack of rain in Tibet in winter, the proportion of sunny days is as high as 90%. Therefore, compared with other seasons, it is easier to see the snow-capped mountains and beautiful frozen lakes in low temperatures. Lhasa has the title of "Sun City", where the sun is a frequent visitor. Its daytime temperature in winter can be as warm as 16°C like spring. You can enjoy the sunshine under the roots of the walls, on the stone benches of the square, or next to the big logs of the south gate square of Jokhang Temple.
Migratory birds watching
Every year in mid-November, a large group of birds such as black-necked cranes, spot-headed geese, and red ducks comes to Tibet for winter. The originally quiet lakes became lively again because of their arrival. In the urban area of Lhasa and many lakes and wetlands, there are more than 130 kinds of birds according to statistics.
Enjoy the Tibetan Festivals
The two major Tibetan festivals in winter are the Tibetan New Year (also called Losar) and the Butter Lamp Festival. Losar is the most important event/festival for Tibetan people, which makes your winter Tibet trip a strong atmosphere. During the Butter Lamp Festival, various colorful and intricately designed butter sculptures will be displayed at Barkhor street square. If your travel time happens to meet a certain festival, you can not only see the Buddha exhibition ceremony, Buddha worship, but also watch Tibetan opera performances, antiphonal competitions, and traditional Tibetan dances.
Useful tips for traveling Tibet in winter
- Although the daytime temperature in Tibet is about 15 degrees in winter, however, the temperature difference is very large at night, please be sure to keep yourself warm and bring more clothes.
- Most areas of Tibet like Lhasa, central Tibet, Mt. Everest, Nyingchi, and eastern Tibet are available to visit in winter, however, Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, and far west Ngari area are not on this list due to the heavy snowfalls.
- Please be aware that vehicles could get stuck if the snow is heavy. And the mountain pass road to Mount Everest Base Camp from Shigatse might be inaccessible due to the heavy snow. Please be patient and wait for the traffic to resume.
- Please do not expose your eyes in the sun for a long time or stare at the snow for a long time, it is easy to cause snow blindness.
- Enjoying hot springs at the "roof of the world" at an altitude of 4000 meters is definitely a unique experience. In addition to natural hot springs, the local Tibetan medical hot springs are also available, which can remove and treat many diseases according to the local legend.