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Potala Palace: A Former Residence of Dalai Lamas

Potala Palace (Chinese name 布达拉宫) is an ancient palace located in Lhasa, Tibet, China. Once, Potala Palace was used for Dalai Lamas’ residence and government offices. Now, it is a World Cultural Heritage site and Tibet tourism landmark. Read on and you will find more Potala Palace facts.

Why Is Tibet Potala Palace Important?

Potala Palace interior
Potala Palace inside: Dalai Lamas’ residence and center of administration over 300 years

Religion And Politics Center

The Tibet Palace is located on Red Mountain (3,700 meters/12,139 feet) in Lhasa city. In the hearts of Buddhists, Red Mountain is like Mount Putuo where Guanyin Bodhisattva lives, so it is called Potala (Sanskrit: Putuo). Countless Potala visitors make pilgrim tours here every year.

Potala is known as Dalai Lamas’ palace. From 1645 to 1959, it was used for 10 Dalai Lamas’ winter residence and government offices, and thus once the center of politics and religion. The 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Dalai Lamas' holy stupas are worshipped in the palace. 8 Dalai Lamas' bodies are placed in the holy stupas.

Long History

Potala Palace was built in the 7th century by Songtsen Gampo (the 33rd king of the Tubo Empire) as a present to his bride. After damage, repair, and expansion for centuries, it became the scale of the Tibetan castle seen today. After 1959, the Chinese government took over and built it into a museum and opened it to tourists.

High Artistic Value

Potala Palace is a complex of palaces, castles, and monasteries with the highest elevation in the world. It is worth watching as an outstanding representative of Tibetan architecture. The palace is mainly divided into two parts, the White House and the Red Palace. The Potala’s walls are up to 5 meters thick. The main building is 117 meters/384 feet high, which is the tallest building in Lhasa city.

Its collections are extremely rich, including historical relics, Dalai Lamas’ holy stupas, Buddhist classics, and books on natural subjects. These cultural relics are of great value for studying Tibet's politics, economy, history, and culture.

How To Get To Potala Palace In Lhasa?

Lhasa city's tallest building
Potala is the tallest building in Lhasa city

The Potala Palace is located on central Beijing Road, just in the center of Lhasa city. There are over 10 other tourist attractions nearby, such as Norbulingka, Tibet Museum, Chakpori Hill and etc. Over 50 Lhasa restaurants are around Potala Palace.

No matter where you are, you can easily reach the Potala Palace.

From Lhasa Airport

  • Take the airport bus.

Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located 60 kilometers away from downtown. The airport bus takes 1.5 hours and the fare is 30 yuan. Get off the bus and walk to the Potala Palace for 5 minutes.

Tip: It is best not to go to the Potala Palace as soon as you arrive in Lhasa. Take a rest for a night.

  • Take a taxi.

The price is about CNY200. Show the driver a note "Please drive me to XX hotel".

Tip: When you pass the checkpoint on the road, you may need to get off the car to show your Tibet Travel Permit to the inspection workers.

From Railway Station

Lhasa railway station is 9 kilometers away from the Potala Palace. 25 minutes by taxi at CNY30.

From Jokhang Temple

The business circle of Jokhang Temple is 2 km east of the Potala Palace. It takes just 10 min by taxi and 20min for a walk.

From Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street is very close to the Jokhang temple, 25 mins for a walk to the Potala Palace.

From Norbulingka

Norbulingka is in the west, it takes 15 min by taxi and 25 min for a walk to the Potala Palace.

Travel Agency Vehicle

Great Tibet Tour provides transfer for clients from the airport and railway station to downtown, transport between the main attractions and hotels, and exclusive car service. As long as you need our help, please feel free to contact our trip consultant or our tour guide.

How To Visit Potala Palace?

Potala stairs
1080 steps of Potala lead to the 13 stories high palace top

All tourists must visit with a guided group organized by a Tibet travel agency. To enter the Potala Palace, you need to follow all Tibetan Buddhist taboos, such as not wearing a hat, not taking pictures in the palace, not stepping on the threshold, and so on. The visit time is 1 hour, so do not stay in the palace. After the visit, exit from the west gate of the Potala Palace and walk down the hillside to reach the main entrance of the Potala Palace.

Best Places to Take Photos

best place to take Potala phtotos
Panoramic view of Potala Palace and the mountain behind it.

Chakpori Hill

It is located on the southwest corner of the Potala Palace, only 600 meters away. Here is the best angle to shoot the Potala Palace, especially halfway up the hill.

Lu Puyansi

Lu Puyansi is next to Chakpori Hill, a small cave-like temple. The temple has a flat terrace, which is good for shooting the Potala Palace from this angle. The angle of view is farther away than Chakpori Hill, and it will be more frontal and three-dimensional. This is a very small spot, and there are very few visitors. Only some Tibetans go to offer incense, ghee, etc. and then take pictures by the way. The entrance fee is 20 yuan.

Potala Palace Square

This is a great place to shoot the night scene of Potala Palace. After eight o'clock in the evening, there will be landscape lighting. But during the off-season, the landscape lights are only partially on.

Artificial lake at the Potala Palace Square

There is a small pool at the Potala Palace Square, which is a good place to photograph the reflections in the water of the Potala Palace.


This park is just behind the Potala Palace. It is a great place to photograph the back and the reflections of the palace. The park is beautiful as well. No tickets are required!

Pabonka Hermitage

Pabonka is about 8 kilometers north of Potala Palace. It is located on a hillside. Opening hour is 09:00 – 17:00. Free for the charge.

Nanshan Park

It is located 2km away from the Potala Palace but just south of it. Here is the best location to photograph the Potala Palace and the majestic mountains behind it from a distance. Especially after the snow in winter, the mountains are covered by white ice and snow, and the red and white Potala Palace is particularly beautiful under the pure white background. It is also the best location to overlook the city of Lhasa. The only downside is that climbing the mountain is a bit panting! No admission fee.

Princess Wencheng Drama’s Outfield

It is on the south bank of the Lhasa River and looks north to the Potala Palace.

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