Tibet

The Roof of the World

On the highest and largest plateau in the world, at an average altitude of more than 4,000 meters, locked between the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas, lies mysterious Tibet that for centuries has inspired the imagination of explorers, traders, imperialists and dreamers from the West. While Tibet has suffered from the Cultural Revolution for long, today once again magic and spirituality have found a way into the region. Pilgrims flock the juniper incense filled temples, while chanting mantras, swinging prayer wheels. Monasteries across Tibet have been restored as well as limited religious freedom.

Tucked away in the rain-shadow of the Himalayas at very high altitude, Tibet is a cold, arid land. While the climate of the windswept Chang Tang plateau supports little except grasses, plant life in the river valleys and south and southeast is relatively rich with rhododendrons, conifers, birches and many animal species roaming the forests. High mountains, including the Mount Everest on the border with Nepal, incredibly deep canyons, and a multitude of lakes and rivers define the country’s geography. The sources of major Asian rivers, such as the Yangtze, Mekong and Ganges are all within its borders. Mount Kailash, a holy pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists, is near the sources of the Indus and Brahmaputra rivers, and is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Tibet can be divided into a lake and a river region. Most Tibetans in the lake region live a nomadic life, while river Tibetans make a living in agriculture.

Apart from ethnic Tibetans, other ethnic groups have their home in Tibet, such as Lisu, Mongols, Nu, and Pumi, which have migrated far beyond the country’s borders. The traditional Tibetan culture, though diluted by immigration, is part of daily life, and has had a strong influence on neighbouring countries. Tibet is a highly spiritual country, religion is extremely important to the Tibetans, with a variety of festivals being celebrated throughout the year. Festive events, performed to worship Buddha and family deities, are manifested by prayers and special offerings, chanting, horse races, archery and dances, picnics, and the creation of beautiful, colourful mandalas.

Tibet is one of the most remarkable places to visit in Asia, a different world. With its great spirituality and grand scenery, to the traveller it will leave a lasting impression.

What To See & Do

  • Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama’s former residence, with more than 1,000 rooms

  • Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest temple in Lhasa

  • North Face base camp of Mount Everest

  • Trekking in the Himalayas

When To Go

Tibet is an arid, cold land and its climate is highly subject to its high altitude and location. Because the country lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, it receives only very limited annual precipitation; nine months of the year it is dry. Due to its high altitude, temperatures are generally low and can be extremely cold in winter, and solar radiation high.

Seasonal and slight regional weather variations exist. Winters (November to March) are very cold, with the average January temperature being -2°C and sometimes dropping to an extreme -20°C in the capital Lhasa. Summers, from May to September, have warm days, with temperatures up to 30°C, strong sunshine, and cool nights. Yet at the higher altitudes of Tibet, summer days can be chilly as well. Spring and autumn are the most unpredictable seasons, with sometimes four seasons occurring in a single day and the possibility of snowfall.

Northern and western Tibet are at higher altitude than the rest of the region and thus generally colder. Eastern Tibet is affected by the monsoon from mid-July to the end of September.

Spring, early summer and late autumn are probably the best times to visit Tibet, avoiding the coldest months and with the possibility of participating in various festive events.

Sample Itineraries

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