Lhasa is the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and it serves as the center of Tibetan politics, economy, culture and religion. It is located on the North Bank of the Lhasa River, which is a tributary of the Yar-long Tsangpo.
The capital dates back more than 1,300 years. It was founded in 633 A.D. under the leadership of King Songtsen Gampo. The area of the city covers 32 square kms and the population is over 310,000.
In Tibetan, Lhasa means “The land of the Gods“, or “Holy Place”.
how to get to Lhasa
modern day Lhasa
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Lhasa stands at 3,650 m /12,000 ft above sea-level. At that elevation is usually takes a few days to fully adjust to the lower oxygen level.
Lhasa enjoys delightful weather, throughout all seasons. It has 3,000 hours of sunshine annually-hence its popular name“The Sunshine City”. The temperatures very greatly between night and day, but remain fairly uniform during the year. Winters are neither severely cold, nor summers unbearably hot. The average annual rainfall is only 230-570mm, and at least 2/3rds of the year are frost-free. The best time to visit Lhasa is from March to October. Details»
How to get to Lhasa
By air. The Lhasa Gonggar airport is 62 km/ 39 miles outside of the city. It is one of the highest airports in the world surrounded by mountains reaching over 6,000 m/ 20,000 ft. There are many domestic flights connecting Tibet with all major Chinese cities. International flight connect Lhasa with Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. These domestic and international flights offer safe, fast and efficient services.
By train. There is a train station in Lhasa, connecting it to cities in China and Tibetan cities, such as Shigatse.
By land. There are many recently-built roads and highways connecting Lhasa with Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang and Nepal.
More details: how to get to Tibet»
Modern day Lhasa
The oldest historical part of Lhasa – Old Town is well preserved with many buildings dating back to 18th/ 19th centuries and some temples dating back to 7th and 8th centuries. Even newly built buildings are designed to fit well in the overall look of the city. Their architecture resembles traditional Tibetan style and they are no more than 4-5 floors high not to block the view on the golden roofs of the most important temples: Jokhang and Ramoche.
The hotels in the Old Town include all modern day amenities. You can stay in the 18th century old building and still enjoy your hot shower in the morning. Hotels and Amenities»
The restaurants offer a variety of different cuisines, ranging from traditional Tibetan to Indian, Nepalese and Western. More on the restaurant options: Where to eat.
You can find stores selling both traditional Tibetan handicrafts, as well as all necessary clothing and equipment for your trip. Food is available in small stores everywhere throughout Lhasa and in large supermarkets. Shopping Guide»
Lhasa is becoming a thriving and prosperous city, with growing amount of successful new businesses. These include a hydro-electric power station, leather fanning plants, thermal power station, cement works, an agriculture machinery plant, machine repair plant, food industry, a film dubbing studio, building industries, vehicle repair shops, grain and oil processing factories, hotels and guest houses for tourists and so on.
Cultural, educational and modern sanitation services and facilities are also being developed. As well as the Tibet University, Polytechnic schools, Hospitals, and cultural Organisations have also opened. Lhasa is expanding and developing rapidly-not least in terms of tourism. In the following chapters we will look at the most popular tourist attractions.
Lhasa is a beautiful city. It’s people are hospitable and entertaining. Tourists are welcomed from every country to one of the highest cities in the world.
The Potala Palace is probably the most well-known attraction in all Tibet. The images are featured in guidebooks and even 50 Yuan bills. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The distinct architecture and unique atmosphere combined with ancient artifacts displayed inside impress its visitors.
To enjoy the spectacular view of the Potala, we recommend going up the hill in front of it. After taking photos of the palace, come down and walk towards the main gate of the city. You can join Tibetans walking around Potala Palace in a clockwise direction, spinning prayer wheels to send thousands of prayers.
Work began first on the White Palace, or Kharpo Podrang, in 1645, and the fifth Dalai Lama moved there from Drepung Monastery three years later. It is unknown who initiated the work on the Red Palace, or Marpo Podrang, The fifth Dalai Lama died in 1682 and his death was concealed until the completion of the Red Palace 12 years later. His death was not announced until he was put to rest in the newly completed Red Palace.
There is some scholarly debate concerning the Potala’s name. The most common explanation is that it derives from the Tibetan name for Chenresig’s pure land, or paradise, also known as Potala.
Since its construction, the Potala has been the home of each of the successive Dalai Lamas, although since construction of the Norbulingka summer palace in the late 18th century, it served as a winter residence only.
It was also the seat of the Tibetan government, and with chapels, schools, jails and even tombs for the Dalai Lamas, it was virtually a self-contained world.
The Potala was shelled briefly during the popular uprising in 1959 but the damage was not extensive. It was spared again during the Cultural Revolution, reportedly at the insistence of Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, who is said to have deployed his own troops to protect it. The Palace was reopened to the public in 1980 and final touches to the US $ 4 million renovations were completed in 1995.
Chak Pori: the View point of Potala Palace
Want to take iconic photos of the Palace as seen in guidebooks? Go up the hill to get an unobstructed view and take great photos of the Potala Palace and the main gate of the city.
Hint: our guides will take you there before or after visiting the Palace.
Park around Potala Palace
Walk in the park behind the Potala Palace.
Spend some quite moments in the shade of trees.
If you visit it in the evening, you will see the Potala Palace beautifully lit up and its reflection in the lakes both in the front of it and in the lake behind the Palace.
Cross the small arch bridge to visit the small Lugang Temple and enjoy its wall paintings telling some old stories (similar to modern day comic books). The temple is truly a hidden gem. It is located on a small peaceful island with lots of trees. Temple is well cared for and offers opportunities for taking nice photos. Good for 30 minutes to 1 hour visit.
Visit the small Nunnery: the small yellow building to the right from the entrance to the Potala Palace.
Eat like local Tibetans
Visit one the tea shops with the view on Potala. You can visit the Shol-kunkyi teahouse located to the right from the view point and go up to the second floor to enjoy your meal with a great view!
Want to get even closer? There is a local tea house located to the right from Potala Palace where you can get affordable meal and enjoy the view.
The Jokhang temple is one of the most important religious sites in Tibet since its housing the statue from the time when Shakyamuni Buddha lived.
The Ramoche Temple was constructed at the same time to house another Buddha image, Jowo Sakya-muni（Sakya Thukpa ) brought to Tibet by his Chinese wife Princess Wencheng.
It is thought that after the death of Songtsen Gampo, Jowo Sakyamuni was moved from Ramoche for its protection and hidden in the Jokhang by Princess Wencheng. The image has remained in the Jokhang ever since ( Jokhang, or Jowokhang, means’chapel of the Jowo ), and it is the most revered Buddha image in all of Tibet.
Over the centuries, the Jokhang has undergone many renovations, but the basic layout is ancient and differs from that of many other Tibetan religious structures. One crucial difference is the building’s east-west orientation, said to face towards Nepal to honour Princess Bhrikuti. A few interior carved pillars and entrance arches remain from the original 7th-century work of Newari artisans brought from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal to work on the construction.
In the early days of the Cultural Revolution, desecrated much of the in- terior of the Jokhang and it is claimed that a section was utilized as a pigsty. Since 1980 the Jokhang has been restored, and without the aid of an expert eye you will see few signs of the misfortunes that have befallen the temple in recent years.
Walk around the temple with pilgrims, monks and local Tibetans
Temples on Bakhor
Visit small monasteries or temples on the Bakhor street: list of temples
Photo of Sera
Sera monastery is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Lhasa.
Walk around the monastery.
Many Tibetans walk around the monastery and you can join them not only to experience the local culture, but also to see some interesting views. The small kora around the monastery will take approximately 30 minutes.
Visit local tea shop
The tea shop inside the monastery is run by monks and many locals gather there to get a cup of delicious sweet tea or to have lunch.
Photo of Drepung
Drepung monastery was once the residence of the Dalai Lamas, before the construction of Potala Palace was completed.
Drepung Monastery was once one of the world’s largest monasteries. The word Drepung literally translates as “rice heap, a reference to the huge numbers of white monastic buildings that once piled up on the hillside. It suffered through the ages with assaults by the kings of Tsang and the Mongols, but was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution and there is still much of interest intact. Rebuilding and resettlement continue at a pace unmatched elsewhere in Tibet and the site once again resembles a small village, with around 600 monks resident out of a pre-Liberation total of around 7000.
Drepung was founded in 1416 by a charis- matic monk and disciple of Tsongkhapa called Jamyang Choje. Within just a year of completion the monastery had attracted a population of some 2000 monks.
In 1530 the second Dalai Lama established the Ganden Palace, the palace that was home to the Dalai Lamas until the fifth built the Potala. It was from here that the early Dalai Lamas exercised their political as well as religious control over central Tibet, and the second, third and fourth Da- lai Lamas are all entombed here.
Visit Protectors chapel
At the bottom of the hill you can see the protectors chapel. It is very popular among Tibetans.
Ani Tsamkhong Nunnery
Visit the Ani Tsamkhong Nunnery. The largest nunnery in Lhasa and the most active one. First, you will enter a large court yard with many beautiful flowers. Dont miss the cave hidden in the back. The meditation cave have been there from the 7th century.
Thousand Buddhas rock carvings