Visit Tibet to Maximize Your China Holidays
Tibet is often referred to as “The Roof of the World,” and the beautiful region has earned this nickname for a good reason: the Tibetan Plateau exists over three miles above sea level, making it the world’s highest plateau, that for sure sets itself apart from most other holiday destinations in the world. The area is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges, which feature the two highest summits on the globe – K2, and Mount Everest. It is understood that around 50 million years ago, Eurasia began to collide with the Indian subcontinent. As the bigger landmass was slammed into, the crushing result of the two landmasses formed the plateau, and created the Karakoram and Himalaya ranges.
Many dream of visiting this glorious location of the globe, some to climb mountains and others just to enjoy the scenic beauty and the culture of Tibet. In order to plan a trip to Tibet, pay attention to the ever-changing tourist regulations put forth by China. As of the date this article was written, travel to Tibet is permitted to foreigners by the government of China with a Tibet Entry Permit.
Planning your trip to Tibet – make sure your paperwork is in order!
A Tibet Entry Permit will be required to grant access for tourists to travel into Tibet, and application for this permit should definitely be done a minimum of twenty days before your trip. If you’re traveling through a travel agency – which is the best way to travel into Tibet (and sometimes the only legal way, depending on the political conditions and current state of the entry regulations) they will help make sure all of the necessary documents and arrangements are in order for your Tibet Entry Permit. Ensuring that your paperwork is in order is very important. As of 2015 you are required to make your plans through a travel agency. Travel agencies will arrange your tour, which you can plan and detail, including booking of flights and accommodations.
There are four main permits required for a foreigner to travel to Tibet.
The Tibet Travel Permits are based on the region within Tibet that you want to travel to. The Chinese visa or Tibet Group visa and the Tibet Travel Permit are mandatory for all types of Tibet tours, and other two permits are only necessary if you plan on traveling to restricted areas like the Everest Base Camp, Mt.Kailash, Ranwu and several
- China visa or Tibet Group visa
A valid passport with a standard Chinese entry visa is mandatory for all foreign travelers. It’s actually best not to mention travel to Tibet when applying for the Chinese Visa, as they may refuse your Visa due to the politically sensitive nature of travel to Tibet.
- Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)
If you are planning on entering Tibet from Nepal, you must obtain your Tibet group visa from the Chinese embassy within Kathmandu. Whether you already have a Chinese visa or not, the Tibet group visa is mandatory for all tourists entering Tibet from Nepal.
- Alien’s Travel Permit (ATP/also called PSB permit) and…
- Military permit
Alien Travel Permits/PSB and Military Permits are only necessary for travelers going through sensitive areas or a border region of Tibet; these trips include the Mt. Kailash trip, Sichuan-Tibet Overland Tour, Tibet-Kashigar Overland Tour and several others – consult with your travel agency about the areas you wish to explore, and you will be made aware of which permits you will need to obtain in order to see these areas of Tibet.
What time of year is the best time to travel to Tibet?
Ideally, the best time to travel to Tibet is mid spring to late autumn. In 2015, Tibet was closed to tourists for the majority of February and March, due to the politically sensitive time of the Tibetan New Year, and one can expect a similar closure to tourism during this season for the years to come. It is suggested to plan from April 15th on, with consideration to the time it takes to apply for your necessary permits. The earlier you can plan for when the tourism season is open, the better, as summer becomes more crowded with travelers visiting the region.
A variety of festivals take place during Tibet’s summer, so the crowds are well justified! There are thangka unrollings – the unfurling of Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton and silk – horse races along the Tibet grasslands, and many other important Tibetan Buddhist events. The summer weather is warmer and the oxygen content in the air is higher, making summer the peak travel season for Tibet.
Good hiking and camping weather make autumn a great time to travel around Tibet during the months of September and October.
Harsh weather conditions in the winter months make winter a difficult time to visit Tibet. November can be a good time to travel to Tibet if you want to avoid the tourists and take advantage of the cheaper hotel prices before it gets too cold to enjoy much of the region.
Traveling into Tibet by plane – the best way to get into the region
It is recommended that a plane is the best way to get into Tibet, as it offers you the opportunity to acclimate within your accommodations one you get there rather than along the way on the train, where sleep isn’t always possible or comfortable. Sleep is necessary to avoid high altitude sickness, as is good health. Even a slight cold can make for some unpleasant high altitude sickness, so keep yourself in good health in the weeks leading up to your trip to
As of 2015 there exists only one international flight into Lhasa, Tibet, which is from Kathmandu, Nepal. The remaining flights are from different cities in mainland China. There are only three flights coming in from Kathmandu to Lhasa per week, and they are operated by Air China. As mentioned, there are more flights from mainland China to Lhasa, but all foreign passengers are required to have the Tibet Travel Permit in order to board their flight to Lhasa. Foreign passengers can organize flights to Lhasa or other cities in Tibet only through a travel agency. Foreigners are also not allowed to carry their original document of their Tibet Travel Permit TTP – only the tour guide will be allowed to hold it.
Interesting things to see and do when you’ve reached Tibet!
- The Potala Palace
Location: Central Lhasa, 2 km north of the Lhasa river, 5 km south of Sera Monastery, 3 km east of Norbulingka, and 2 km west of Jokhang Temple.
The world’s highest ancient palace! The wondrous physical structure and the importance of the Potala Palace in Tibetan history make it one of the wonders of the world. The basic structure of the Potala Palace is made up of two parts: the Red Palace and the White Palace. The stunning murals inside the palace are not just a beautiful sight to see, but they are also important in telling the history of Tibet. The Potala Palace was constructed as the center of Tibetan government by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645.
- Jokhang Temple
Location: Central Lhasa, 2 km (1.5 miles) east of the Potala Palace, in the middle of the Barkhor Street circuit.
Jockhang means “House of Buddha,” and the Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet, and the holiest of destinations for Buddhist pilgrims within Tibet. You will be able to see pilgrims kowtowing before the Jokhang Temple as they have for centuries. Come to see the life-sized Buddha statue! Inside the central hall is the Jokhang Temple’s oldest and most precious item – a sitting statue of Sakyamuni as a 12 year old. This brilliant statue, gilded and adorned with many elaborately set jewels was carried to Tibet by Princess Wen Cheng from her Chang’an home in 700 A.D. It is known as being the Tibetan people’s most sacred statue.
- Monk Debates at Sera Monastery
Location: 6 km (4 mi) north of Jokhang Temple, about a 20 minute drive
Sera Monastery is one of the six main Gelukpa or Yellow Hat monasteries, and the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Every day, except for Sunday, at 3pm, there will be a debating session at the Debate Courtyard on Buddhist doctrines among the monks of Sera Monastery. The daily debating takes place on open grounds, and is required in order to learn sutras and scriptures. Monks will slap their hands together in a loud manner, and gesture to another monk to debate or argue. Visitors are able to witness these daily debates, but it is expected for them to keep quiet. As this daily event attracts many tourists, visitors are recommended to arrive before 3pm because the grounds can become very crowded. Visitors to the grounds are permitted to take photos in the monastery for a reasonable fee. When photos are taken of the monks, it is a form of respect to pay some money for the photo. Many visitors also travel to this region of Tibet to see the Thangka Unveiling at the Shoton Festival.
- Lake Yamdrok:
Location: Nangartse County, Shannan Prefecture
You’ll be able to see the sun shining down on this glorious turquoise lake when you take the S307 from Lhasa to Gyantse. Photography, bird watching and hiking are among the many activities you can take part in when visiting the scenic Lake Yamdrok. Another attraction this Tibet lake has to offer is the Samding Monastery. The Samding Monastery is on the south shore of the body of water linked to the west of Lake Yamdrok, and is the place where the third highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism is believed to have been reincarnated for centuries. The current lama is female, and monks live in residence there.
- Mt. Everest
Location: Nepal/China border, Tingri, Shigatse, Tibet
Mount Everest is well known as being the highest mountain in the entire world at 8,844 meters or 29,016 ft above sea level, the north slope belonging to Tibet, China. Scores of mountaineers from around the world make expeditions to conquer Mount Everest each year, and many tourists venture to the foot of the mountain to take in the magnificence of the mountain. Eternally snow-capped above the 6,000 meter mark, it is considered the holy grail of mountain climbers, and a sacred place among the Tibetans and Nepalese. Besides acquiring a Tibet Entry Permit, an Alien’s Travel Permit is mandatory to travel to Mt. Everest. To visit Mount Everest, take a bus from Lhasa (a 10 hour ride) or train (a much more manageable 2 hours) to Shigatse. Most travelers to Mount Everest spend the night in Shigatse before their trip to the mountain, though Dingri which is 120 kilometers or 70 miles (a 3 hour ride) to the base camp. Shigatse offers a limited amount of hotels. You might consider camping a night at base camp once you reach there, as there are tent hostels at Everest Base Camp available April to November. Each tent hostel offers ten beds (it’s recommended to bring your own sleeping bag for warmth and cleanliness), an outdoor squat or chemical toilet, modest meals available and yak dung stoves. Alternative accommodations are available at Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse, located six kilometers north of Everest Base Camp, with over 100 beds and basic meals of noodles, rice and instant food that may seem costly due to the price of transporting it in from Lhasa. Bring oxygen and your own medicine to fight altitude sickness, as the majority of visitors to Everest Base Camp will experience some form of altitude sickness. Visiting the tallest mountain in the entire world makes it worth it to these travelers!
Visit the Asia destinations category to learn more about other tourism opportunities available in Asia!