Autumn in Tibet – The Best Time for Touring the Plateau
As one of the more popular locations in Southeast Asia, tourism in Tibet sees hundreds of thousands of tourists coming to the region throughout the year. And for the best in grand scenery and lush landscapes, autumn is one of the best times to visit Tibet. Autumn in Tibet is part of the Golden Season, which lasts until the early part of winter. As one of the most beautiful times of year on the high Tibetan plateau, autumn is a time when the landscapes change from verdant green to red and orange and gold, and when the weather is at its best throughout the year. For the best in tours of Tibet, autumn is the ideal time to go.
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Temperature and Climate of Autumn in Tibet
Autumn in Tibet generally runs from September to November and is one of the best seasons when it comes to the weather and climate on the plateau. While summer is warmer, there is a higher chance of rain, which dies off in September, and leaves the plateau region drier and better for long-distance travel. In general, the weather in autumn is mild across the region, with only the most remote areas seeing colder weather towards the start of winter.
In Lhasa, the temperatures are mild, and sometimes even warm, ranging from as high as 20°C in September to around 11°C in November. As you move further west, the temperatures do drop a little, with Shigatse’s average temperatures ranging from 19°C to around 10°C, while in the area around Mount Everest, you can expect to see a higher drop, down to about 12°C in September and as low as 7°C in November. If you are planning a trip to Mount Kailash, in Ngari Prefecture, then you can expect temperatures during the day to range from 15°C in September to as low as 1°C by November. And in the far east of Tibet, in Nyingchi, you will find warmer temperatures in autumn in Tibet, ranging from 20°C down to 13°C.
Why is Autumn the Best Time for Touring?
One of the main reasons autumn is a popular tourist time in Tibet is the beauty of the region, as the scenery changes throughout the season. As summer ends and autumn starts, the landscape is lush and green from the last of the monsoon rains, and as the season progresses, the changes in the colors are vibrant and varied. Leaves on the trees turn to red and gold, and as they fall from the trees they leave a carpet of colors on the ground in the many forested areas of the region. A wide variety of colorful autumn blooms can also be seen across the grasslands, seeding the ground ready for the following year, after the cold of winter. One of the most prolific blooms on the plateau grasslands is the edelweiss plant, which grows wild across the hills and plains of Tibet, its white flowers starkly contrasting the lush green of the grass.
Autumn in Tibet is also the time of the harvest festivals, and there are a good number of religious and cultural events that are well worth seeing. The beginning of September sees the celebrated Bathing Festival in Tibet, where the people carry out a bathing ritual in the streams and lakes of the region. Tibetan legends tell of a plague that swept the land, which was countered by the Buddhist deities pouring holy water into the rivers and lakes, curing the people who bathed in them. Then you have the famed Ongkor Festival, held in the farming areas of the plateau to pray for a good harvest. Filled with singing and dancing, the festival also features a kind of “kora” procession around the fields, and “Ongkor” actually means “surrounding the fields”.
While it can be the best time to travel to Tibet, it must be noted that the first week of October is known as the Golden Week in China, coinciding with the National Day holiday, which is a popular time for people to travel in the country. Tibet can see hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists during this period, and it is advisable to either book very early if you want to travel at this time or avoid it if you are not fond of very crowded attractions.
Why Trek in Tibet in Autumn?
Autumn is also renowned for being one of the best times for trekking on the plateau, and with the pleasant weather and dry climate, with clear blue skies, it is often the preferred time to trek, as the region is more beautiful than ever with the varying colors. Milder climates are better for trekking than the heat of summer, and the many treks across the region, including the famous Mount Everest trek and the awesome trek around the Mount Kailash kora route, are extremely popular. And with some fewer tourists making the trip to Tibet as the season continues, you are guaranteed to have a less-crowded time on the plateau’s many trekking trails.
Best Season for Photography
While there is no time in Tibet when photography is not excellent, with stunning landscapes and scenery throughout the year, autumn is often classed as the best time to shoot in Tibet by many professional photographers. The variety of colors that are constantly changing across the plateau make for some of the best shots, and the autumn season is the best time to photograph the very alpine areas of Nyingchi in Southeast Tibet. From the heights of Mount Namche Barwa to the depths of the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, the largest and deepest canyon in the world, there is no better time to shoot the amazing landscapes of the famous “Swiss Alps of Tibet”.
You can also find the best photos of the rest of the region’s amazing lakes and mountains in autumn, with the warmer autumn sunshine complementing the natural landscapes. The stunningly beautiful turquoise lakes backed by high green-sloped mountains capped with a dusting of white snow are one of the best scenes you can find on this spectacular land on the roof of the world.
No matter what your reason for coming to Tibet, you will find all the things you need in the autumn season. From sightseeing in good pleasant weather and trekking at the most optimum time of year to getting great photos and traveling through the most colorful scenery on the plateau. There can be no doubt that, for any traveler to the plateau, there is something to please everyone in the autumn months.