Tibet is nestled in the southwest corner of China and is the second largest province in the country.Tibet borders four other countries; India shares the longest border with Tibet across the northwest and portions of the south, Nepal to the south/southwest, Bhutan to the east of Nepal and Burma to the southeast.
Tibetan history is extensive, and equally impressive as it is complicated. In the 1950s, Tibet was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China and is currently known as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Travellers will need to obtain a valid visa for China, along with a travel permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB). This is handled through various tourism agencies and has become more flexible in recent years, allowing you to travel in smaller groups and with fellow travelers of different nationalities. The ‘official’ currency is the Chinese yuan.
The busiest months for travelers are from June-July, but the weather is inviting from May through October. After October, the weather can become too harsh and many lodges and restaurants will begin to close.
Tibet can be a ‘no go’ during national holidays, but you are able to travel to see some of the joyous festivals, such as the Birth of Buddha Festival at the end of May. Keep in mind that you may need an extra 2-3 days to acclimatize to the altitude.
As the local saying goes, “your eyes will be in heaven, but your body will be in hell.” Taking a train into Tibet can help your body slowly adjust to the change in altitude.
Lhasa is Tibet’s capital city and a great place to begin your journey.
Head to the center of old Lhasa and stroll through the holy streets of the Barkhor, which is where Tibet’s most sacred pilgrimage spots are located. Try some delicious, local foods such as tsampa, then start the hike up to the infamous Potala Palace and see the tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama.
From Lhasa you can make your way to the Tsang Province and witness the majestic, rural beauty of Tibet. From Gyantse to Shigatse, there are numerous must-see sites, such as Yamdrok Tso Lake, Pelkor Chode Monastery and the Tashilhunpo Monastery.
The daring travelers can navigate their way to the Mount Everest Base Camp. For those that prefer something more laid back, hop aboard the Lhasa Express, the world’s highest railway, and behold the many wonders along the “Roof of the World!”