How to Visit Lhasa?
- Last Updated: 2023-10-12
Located 3,700 meters above sea level, Lhasa, the City of Sunshine, is the spiritual home of Buddhists. The strong religious atmosphere, precious historical relics, and magnificent landscape are exciting and dizzying. It's a must-visit city when tourists plan a Tibet trip. But most of them have no idea of what's expected to see in Lhasa. Great Tibet Tour has compiled a Lhasa travel guide including the highlights of Lhasa, the best time to visit, get to and around Lhasa, etc.
The Highlights of Lhasa
Lhasa, an ancient city that dates back thousands of years ago, is a holy place for Buddhism. Below are some of the representative Buddhist sites in Lhasa, each one is a sacred place with a long history and a must-see attraction for you.
Potala Palace is the highest structure that integrates the palace, castle, and monastery in the world. Also, it’s the winter palace for Dalai Lamas from the seventh century. It is the landmark of Lhasa and even the most important symbol of Tibet. "Potala" is Sanskrit, also translated as "Putuo", originally referring to the residence of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Now is a holy place in the hearts of all pilgrims. The collection contains stupas, statues, murals, thangkas, scriptures, and classics, among which the most eye-catching are eight stupas of the Dalai Lamas since the fifth.
Jokhang Temple, where the statue of Shakyamuni at age 12 is enshrined, is the holiest place for Buddhists and pilgrims. On the square in front of the Jokhang Temple, there are many devout believers prostrating. When the early morning sun shines on the believers, they look like an angel. You can have a cup of butter tea here, bask in the sun and watch people piously kowtow, feeling the warmth and impressed. No wonder, many tourists who come to Lhasa are reluctant to leave.
Barkhor Street which surrounds Jokhang Temple is a pilgrimage road as well as an old-fashioned district with a strong flavor of Tibetan life. It is also the place with the largest daily passenger flow in Lhasa. There are numerous shops and more than a thousand mobile stalls. The houses facing the street are almost shops, selling all kinds of daily necessities such as prayer wheels of different sizes, Tibetan robes, Tibetan knives, and vivid and simple religious utensils. There are also various commodities that come from India and Nepal.
Drepung Monastery, the most important monastery in the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism and the largest temple in Tibet. It is named "Drepung" because of the white buildings covering the hillside and looking like a huge pile of rice from a distance. It is a great place to learn more about the splendid history and the precious teaching of Buddhism. Every year at the Shoton Festival, there's a Buddha thangka unfolding ceremony, displaying a giant Buddha thangka on the hillside, attracting a large number of believers and tourists to pray for blessings. The scene is very spectacular.
Sera Monastery, one of the top three monasteries in Lhasa, is a place where the eminent monks and Living Buddhas expound the texts of Buddhism from old times. The most famous debate in Tibet is held in the northern part of the temple.
Norbulingka was the summer residence and royal garden of the Dalai Lamas in the past. Some people call it "Lhasa's Summer Palace." The garden is very distinctive. It not only had the style of Tibetan culture but also combined the architectural technology of gardens in the Qing Dynasty. There is a “new palace” inside, with the architectural characteristics of a temple and the artistic style of a palace, which makes it elegant and unique.
There are as many as 100 kinds of plants in the garden, including rare flowers such as Tibetan hydrangea. It is called the Plateau Botanical Garden.
Drak Yerpa is one of the four major retreats in Tibet. It has a history of more than 1,500 years. There are still practitioners doing retreats inside caves around the temple. The temple here is connected with the rock as a whole, half of the building is embedded in the mountain, and the other half is protruding outside.
Although the circumambulation leading up to the temple on the mountain is steep and long, there are densely colored prayer flags along the way, which makes you experience the piety and hardship of practitioners even if you are not a believer.
How to Experience the Real-life of Tibet?
Besides all the excellent sites in Lhasa, most of the tourists also want to step into the real life of the locals to experience the unique culture of this holy land. Great Tibet Tour is a professional Tibet travel agency. Our tour guides are local Tibetans who can lead you to the best restaurants and the most popular sites to enjoy the time.
Do Kora with Tibetan Pilgrims
If you travel to Tibet, you should not miss a good chance to join the pilgrims and locals in their Buddhist practice of Kora. Kora is an activity for pilgrims who believe in Tibetan Buddhism to pray to the Buddha for blessing. They think Lhasa is the center of the world, so they circuit around the city of Lhasa. The core circumambulation in Lhasa city is Barkhor Street, which surrounds the entire Jokhang Temple. You can find the locals walking or prostrating in a clockwise direction along the street.
Eat Delicious Tibetan Food
Tibetan food is essentially distinctive in nature. These foods are made of mutton, yak, ghee, butter, momo, and noodles. Besides, Lhasa is famous for its soft drinks and beer. The foam settles pretty quickly but the carbonation keeps jumping, the honey malt and slightly spicy hops are sweet. It’s so delicious! In the evening, you can enjoy a taste of Tibetan butter tea or sweet tea and have an authentic Tibetan meal in Tibetan restaurants such as Snowland Restaurant, Makye Ame, Sun Tribe, GuangMing Gang Qiong Tian ChaGuan near Jokhang Temple. Recommend fried lamb chops, beef glutinous rice porridge, yogurt cake, Tibetan pancake, boiled mutton, butter tea, highland barley wine, etc. The average consumption is about 80 yuan per person. Do not overeat to increase the burden on your digestive system.
Have a Linka
"Linka" means garden in the Tibetan language. The so-called "Linka" means outing or picnic. It is a kind of leisure way that Tibetans like very much. July and August are the best time for Linka. You can go to Sangmu Village on the outskirts of Lhasa. The creeks, farmland, and houses here constitute a rural-style picture unique to Tibet. If you meet hospitable Tibetans, you might be able to visit their homes and the meals you can eat are the most authentic Tibetan food.
Ride a Bike along the Lhasa River
The Lhasa River is located to the south of Lhasa City. Compared with other places in Tibet, the scenery here is amazing, and it can give people a very comfortable feeling. In the hot sun and cool breeze, slowly ride a bicycle along the river in the afternoon, and in the evening you can watch the sunset by the river. This is the correct way to experience Lhasa.
Shopping at Barkhor Street
In Tibet, it’s certainly possible to find really interesting and reasonably priced antiques in Lhasa with some effort, some of the inexpensive mementos await you at Barkhor Street too. The Barkhor Street market is a must-see cultural scenery for tourism in Tibet. Many merchants and vendors offer a wide variety of local Tibetan arts, crafts, and tasty cuisines in this market. Many of the handicrafts displayed in the stalls are exquisitely made by Tibetans. You have the option to negotiate a lower price. Remember that you can buy it for at least half the initial price. Once they agree with the price you offer, you have to buy. Be smart before you bargain.
Best Time to Visit Lhasa
Generally speaking, the best time to travel to Lhasa is from May to October as the oxygen content is much higher in summer. Actually, Lhasa is a good place to visit all year round because the temperature is moderate throughout the year.
Spring in Lhasa: Lhasa's spring comes late. So if you come here in spring, you may feel it lacks a lively atmosphere. If you can catch up with the Saga Dawa Festival between the end of May and the beginning of June, it is another matter. At this time, almost all the people in Lhasa gathered on three circumambulations.
Summer in Lhasa: There are long sunshine hours, a mild climate, and no intense heat. The highest temperature of the year is in June. The rainfall is mainly concentrated in July, August and September, and most of them fall at night.
Autumn in Lhasa: Many people think that autumn is the most beautiful season in Lhasa. The autumnal scenery on the plateau on the road from the airport to Lhasa is fascinating.
Winter in Lhasa: Lhasa is known as the "City of Light". From November to January, you can come to Lhasa and enjoy the sunshine and hot springs on the plateau. You can see the snow-capped mountain surrounding this city at that time and feel the unspeakable romance of Lhasa.
Get to and Around Lhasa
Getting to Lhasa
There are two means of transportation to get to Lhasa, by train and by plane.
Getting to Lhasa by train takes 2-3 days but it is relatively cheap and on time, and you can appreciate the plateau scenery along with Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
Getting to Tibet by plane takes only a few hours. It is more flexible and comfortable. And you can have a bird’s-eye view of many snow-capped mountains, which are very spectacular.
Getting Around in Lhasa
As the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa has a complete public transportation system. You can take a Taxi(the starting price is 10 CNY/5km), tricycle(usually 10 CNY), chartered car(800 CNY per day), bicycle(15-60 per day), or public bus(1 CNY) in the city.
Where to Stay in Lhasa?
Lhasa accommodation has perfect equipment and is spread over the streets with a wide variety of options. You are recommended to choose accommodations close to famous tourist attractions, such as Barkhor Street, Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Temple, Norbulingka, etc. It is very convenient for sightseeing and shopping.
What to do in Lhasa is based on a comprehensive evaluation of tourists’ holiday time and travel routes. For first-time visitors to Tibet, at least 2 days should be reserved for sightseeing in Lhasa. At the same time, you can also relax and have enough time to dapt to the plateau environment.
Check out our most popular Lhasa tour packages here for inspiration, or drop us an email to customize your trip according to your preference.
The best restaurants in Lhasa include Lhasa Kitchen, Tibetan Family Kitchen, Makye Ame, Namaste Restaurant, Dunya Restaurant, Summit Cafe, etc.
Lhasa - Capital of Tibet
As the capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa offers a unique experience for all people who visit its majestic scenery and peaceful culture.
Check the detailed Lhasa travel maps including where is Lhasa, Lhasa tourist Map, Lhasa transportation map and more.
Lhasa Altitude: Main Attractions with Various Elevations
Lhasa is at an altitude of 3650 meters(11,975 ft), one of the highest cities in the world. Due to the high elevation, you should be aware of altitude sickness.
With sunny weather throughout the year and sparse rainfall, Lhasa belongs to a plateau temperate semi-arid monsoon climate. Check more dressing info!
Lhasa, the heart of Tibet, a tapestry of wonders and beauty, but how did this peaceful paradise came to be? Who lead to the creation of the land of the gods?
Lhasa Gonggar International Airport offers domestic flights from/to Chengdu, Xian, Beijing, Shanghai and Kathmandu. Check schedules, prices, FAQs, etc.
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