Planning a mediocre travel tour is an easy job but planning a satisfying tour is what makes our job so challenging and specialized. Not only will we trek through some difficult terrain, but we’ll also have to be flexible and adapt to every single person’s capabilities. These factors and more, must be considered when planning any trip,especially when traveling in a harsh environment such as Tibet’s. To make this trip as enjoyable as possible, we have added some important planning tips from our experts and visitors alike. These tips come from accumulated experience and thoughtful comments and our intention is to be able to assist you in the best possible way for your upcoming trip.
Figure out what season to travel
Tibet’s geography is very diverse, creating a unique environment. Tibet’s climate is severely dry with little humidity and strong winds often whip through the barren landscape. During the summer months, it is almost unbearably hot while in the winter, it is quite the opposite. It is always the travelers’ choice of when to visit Tibet but the most popular months are between April and November.
April to June is the starting season for Tibetan tourism and during these months, the weather is mild. There is considerable road access and you may be greeted by blue skies every day of your visit. The famous Himalayan mountain range is also very visible, making this an ideal time to explore the many high peaks. Mid July to August is the monsoon season but if you’re mostly interested in exploring the culture, this is a wonderful time to visit. This is because many popular rituals (Shoton Festival, Chokor Duchen) and cultural folk festivals (Harvest Festival, Horse Races) take place during these months. July and August are also popular times to visit due to the lush landscape and budding native flowers.
August to November, the weather is warm. The weather and clear skies make these months perfect for trekking. Some regional festivals also take place during this time.
December to March are the harshest months in Tibet. this is especially the case in the north. Icy winds freeze over the land and passes are often blocked with snow. Nevertheless, do not let this discourage you from traveling during this time. The light during this period has a very soft, and wonderful quality to it and in central Tibet, near Lhasa, the days are surprisingly warm. It is only at night when temperatures really drop and you will be wanting to stay in a warm hotel. These are the months when most Tibetan nomads and villagers choose to make their religious pilgrimages so Lhasa and hence, holy places are always crowded with locals. For this reason, these months have grown in tourism.
Based on your interests, it is very important to pick the right season for which you would prefer to travel. Many people would like to spend most of their time trekking through the Himalayan range so Spring or Fall would be the best times to do that. Some people would like to see many festivals so the Summer months would be ideal for those individuals. And still some, with a more adventurous spirit, would enjoy braving the cold during the Winter months.
Determine for how long and where you would like to travel in Tibet
The Tibetan plateau is as large as Western Europe and has about as many wonderful sites to see as well. One may wish to travel the whole plateau in a single trip but unfortunately this is just not possible. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a plan of where to visit and what to see. Tibet itself is conveniently divided into seven geographical regions: Lhasa(the capital city), Central Tibet (Kyichu Valley), Southern Tibet, Western Tibet(the lower and upper reaches of the Brahmaputra river and its lateral valleys), Northern Tibet (Jangthang Plateau); Far-Western Tibet(Ngari), Eastern Tibet(Kham); and Far-East Tibet (Amdo), but there are certain parts of Tibet that travelers are prohibited to visit.
If you are looking for a mainly cultural experience, Lhasa, Central Tibet, Southern Tibet or Western Tibet may be the right areas for you. Visitors interested in trekking may find the mighty peaks of the Himalayas enthralling but it would be wise to choose a guide to lead these activities.
In the Northern and Far-Western regions of Tibet, the nomadic culture is prominent. There are also many other attractive features in this landscape such as many beautiful lakes and the mystical Mt. Kailash. You may even be able to explore ruins dating back to the Guge Kingdom and follow in the footsteps of local pilgrims. To explore Northern Tibet, it is recommended that you take at least 15 days to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and mystery of this region.
The Eastern and Far-Eastern regions of Tibet are brewing with well preserved local culture and tradition. Due to the fact that many of the monasteries are scattered within a large region, it is recommended that you take at least 15 days to truly immerse yourself in this rich experience.
It is often said that the choice of times to visit and places to visit can make any trip either a fulfilling one or a miserable one. Everyone has different interests so it is important to travel according to those interests. At Explore Tibet, it is our job to design a trip with your needs and wants in mind. So please, send us an email letting us know when you would like to go and what you would like to see or experience. We love listening to what our clients have to say and making these trips as enriching as possible.
Communicating with your folks at Home:
As much as you want to get away from things like computers and enjoy your trip in Tibet, finding ways to stay in touch with family and friends back home are essential. Most cities like Lhasa and Shigatse have internet cafes where you can send and receive emails before leaving for remote areas. You can make phone calls from public telephones (VOI) that cost as little as 10-cents per minute. If you need to be able to receive more frequent phone calls, purchasing a local SIM card for your unlocked phone (or you can buy a basic phone in China for ~ 500 rmb) would be the best option. Surprisingly, cell phones have decent reception in most major towns and even in some surrounding villages of Lhasa. The Chinese cell phone companies (mainly China Telcom and China Mobile) keep installing more cell phone towers. Alternately, you may want to send family members the phone number of your tour guide where you can receive phone calls. Remind callers of information sensorship in China and be careful about what you say or send.