Tibet is renowned for its high mountains, stunning lakes, and awesome Buddhist monasteries with rich culture. It is also well known for the unique culture of the Tibetan people, where Tibetan Buddhism is a major part of their everyday lives. And for anyone planning a trip to Tibet to explore the amazing culture, there are some things that you should never miss experiencing whilst in Tibet.
Drink Sweet Tea in a Tibetan Teahouse
In Tibet, sweet milky tea is one of the most popular beverages you can find. Every Tibetan drinks tea and the teahouse culture of Tibet has become a major cultural experience. And these teahouses are much more than just somewhere to get a cup of tea. Along with the usual sweet Tibetan tea, the teahouse in Tibet is just as well known for the social aspects as well.
For a Tibetan, especially those in the capital, a visit to the teahouse is like visiting the coffee shops in the western world. Students come to chat and study, groups of younger people come in to play games of dice and chance, and the elderly gather to discuss family issues and other topics as they enjoy their sweet tea. You can even find Tibetan Buddhist monks and lamas enjoying tea in the teahouses, some even still meditating over their tea with prayer wheels in hand.
Walk the Kora around Barkhor Street with Pilgrims
For Tibetans, the kora is a ritual kind of pilgrimage and meditative practice around a sacred or holy site. These short pilgrimage journeys around holy sites are a ritual or ceremony to the gods and are an integral part of the life of all Tibetan Buddhists.
The literal meaning of the word kora comes from the Tibetan word, “skor ra”, which translates as meaning “circumambulation” or “revolution”. The practice of performing kora pilgrimage comes from the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet in the 7th century.
Each step taken on a kora walk is meant to move the pilgrim further along the path towards enlightenment, the aim of all living beings in Buddhism. By performing the kora with a passionate motivation, one can seek out wisdom in compassion and can purify the soul of negative feelings.
The most popular kora route in Tibet is the route around the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, which follows the roads of the famous Barkhor Street. Following one of the busiest streets in Lhasa, the ancient circuit around the temple is considered to be one of the most sacred kora circuits in Tibet.
The route of the kora covers around five kilometers in total, and you can see Tibetan pilgrims walking the kora daily, with many completing several circuits of the temple in one day. The route around the temple has prayer wheels at certain locations along Barkhor Street, for the pilgrims to spin and pray with as they walk.
Enjoy Folk Performances at a Nangma Hall
A Nangma Hall is a Tibetan dance hall, many of which can be found in different locations around Lhasa and across Tibet. These halls are the Tibetan equivalent of the disco or nightclub and are a popular place to spend an evening in Lhasa. The dance halls and nightclubs can be found all over Lhasa, and the name “Nangma” has even been used as the name of one of Tibet’s popular traditional local bands.
One of the traditional styles of music and dance in Tibet, Nangma is the more common type of show, while the classical Tibetan operas are normally only performed at festivals and events.
The traditional Nangma Halls in Tibet offers a great evening’s entertainment in a traditional Tibetan style, including folk dances, modern dancing, and even something good to eat. While some of the halls only offer performances, there are plenty that also allows you to get up and dance with your friends, in the form of circular line-dancing.
Learn New Skills at a Tibetan Cooking Class
Tibetan cuisine is specifically related to and influenced by the altitude and landscape of the plateau, as well as the traditions and practices of the people. Influenced by India and Nepal, Tibetan cuisine is known for its use of noodles, goat and yak meats, mutton, dumplings, and cheese, as well as including butter, yogurt, and lots of soups.
One of the best places to get good local ingredients is the famous Tromsikhang Market, where you can find most of the typical Tibetan specialties. We offer a one-day cooking course to help you learn about Tibetan cuisine and the different dishes, and you can learn how to make tsampa balls and momos, two of the most dexterous types of dishes in Tibet. You can also learn more about how the ingredients blend together to make delicious dishes from minimal content.
Watch the Epic “Princess Wencheng”
One of the best shows to hit Lhasa in the last decades, the Princess Wencheng stage show is a must-see for anyone visiting the Tibetan capital. Telling the story of the life of the “Chinese Wife” of the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, in the 7th century, this unique show gives an idea on the significance of the famous princess in both Tibetan Buddhism and the local Tibetan culture of today.
The drama play is held in the Princess Wencheng Theater, in the China Tibetan Culture and Tourist Creative Park in the Chengguan District of Lhasa, and is an outdoor theater show that is filled with dancing and music, lights, and stunning costumes.
Join the Pilgrimage for the Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Held on the 25th day of the 10th month in the Tibetan calendar, the Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival, also known as the Gaden Ngachen Chenmo Festival, is one of the most important festivals for Tibetan culture. The festival celebrates the life and death of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and is an extravaganza of butter lanterns and butter lamps that are lit across the city. The best place to be is on Barkhor Street, where you can join the pilgrims as they walk to kora around the Jokhang Temple, before seeing the amazing spectacle of lit lanterns and candles that line to rooftops and window sills of the city.