Lhasa Highlights Tour – Traveler
One of the easiest and shortest tours of Tibet is the amazing tour of the Tibet Lhasa tour, which allows you to make the most of this stunning city for those that have just a short time to visit Tibet. This outstanding yet simple trip takes you to the most spectacular sights of the holy city of Lhasa, from the ancient and sacred Jokhang Temple to the monasteries of Drepung and Sera. Learn more about the practices of Tibetan Buddhism in this beautiful city, known as the “City of Sunshine”, explore the winding cobbled streets and alleys of the Old Town, and walk with the devout Tibetan pilgrims that come to the city every day to pray at the sacred ancient statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha.
Lhasa is a city that has stood for more than 1,300 years, and has been the capital of Tibet since the time of the 33rd King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, in the 7th century. Lying on the northern bank of the Lhasa River, also known as the Kyi Chu, Lhasa is also the center of the Buddhist culture in Tibet, and means, literally, the “Place of the Gods” in Tibetan. The traditional whitewashed houses of the Lhasa old quarter continue to preserve the very essence of traditional Tibetan life.
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A classic four-day tour actually includes the days when you arrive and leave, so it is advisable to arrange your travel to arrive as early in the day as possible and depart as late as possible, to make the most of your time here. The Lhasa attractions are also part of longer tours that head off to places like Mount Everest and Lake Namtso, and are used to allow travelers time to acclimatize while seeing the sights.
The first day of the tour is the day you arrive, and when you land at Lhasa Gonggar International Airport or your train pulls in at the Lhasa Railway Station across the river, your guide and driver for the tour will be there to meet you. Once you have all your luggage, it will be loaded into the vehicle and take you to the city to your hotel. It is advisable to rest as much as possible, as altitude sickness is likely to hit after an hour or so.
Your second day on the plateau is spent touring around the major highlights of the city, including the sacred Jokhang Temple and the outstanding Barkhor Street in the morning, and the delights of the Sera Monastery for the amazing monastic debates in the afternoon. Lunch will be taken in one of the delightful restaurants in Lhasa Old Town, where you will be able to experience the tasty Tibetan dishes on offer, and enjoy the Tibetan teahouse culture with real Tibetan sweet tea or yak butter tea. It is normal to feel a headache and a little nausea or dizziness on your first full day in Lhasa, due to the increase altitude, while your body adjusts.
On your third day, you should feel a little better from acclimatizing to the increased altitude, which means it is time for the climb up the Red Hill to the amazing Potala Palace. In the afternoon, you will take a trip to the outskirts of town to visit the Drepung Monastery, one of the main monasteries of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism.
The fourth day of the tour is the last day in Lhasa, and once you are ready, your guide and driver will transfer you to the airport or train station for your journey out of Lhasa and Tibet. If you have time in the morning before your departure, you can always revisit Barkhor Street to do some last-minute souvenir shopping before you go.
The most sacred temple in Tibet and the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism, the Jokhang Temple lies in the center of the Old Quarter of the city, and is the focal point for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that journey to the city every year to pray in front of its gates. Built in 641 AD by the 33rd king of Tibet to house an ancient statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was brought to Tibet by his Chinese wife Princess Wencheng, the temple has stood as a testament to the devout faith of the Tibetan people for more than 1,300 years.
The route of the ritual kora around the Jokhang Temple for the pilgrims, Barkhor Street is also the most popular shopping street in Lhasa. The main central market area of the city, the streets are lined with shops and stalls selling almost anything you can imagine, from hand-held prayer wheels to traditional Tibetan handicrafts.
Once the center of governance in the days of the Dalai Lama’s rule over Tibet, this amazing red and white palace sits on the top of Marpo Ri, the red Hill, overlooking the city below. Built on the site of an ancient 7th-century fortress, the palace was the center of Tibetan government in the 16th century, until the building of the Norbulingka Palace in the mid-17th century. Now, the palace is the winter palace of the Dalai Lama and the iconic landmark of Lhasa.
Located a few kilometers to the north of the city center of Lhasa, the Sera Monastery is one of the major university monasteries of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. Founded in 1419 by one of the disciples of the Buddhist master, Je Tsongkhapa, the monastery has around 600 monks and trainee monks in residence. The most spectacular aspect of the monastery is the afternoon debating in the courtyard, which is open to visitors. The debates feature young monks debating with their teachers on the ideas, philosophies, and scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism and feature expansive hand gestures.
Located at the foot of Mount Gambo Utse, around 5km outside Lhasa to the west, the Drepung Monastery is another great university monastery of the Gelug School, and is the most important of all the Gelug Monasteries. A huge and expansive monastery that once held more than 7,000 monks, the monastery is the Mother Temple to the line of Dalai Lamas in Tibet. The grand construction of the monastery is said to have given the impression of a heap of rice when seen from afar, hence the name, which translates to “Collecting Rice”.
The great thing about taking a Tibet tour is the fact that the cost that you pay for the tour actually includes almost everything that you will need to pay for, so you need a lot less in terms of spending money. This four-day tour of Lhasa includes the entrance tickets to all four of the major attractions (it does not cost anything to walk around Barkhor Street!), as well as bottled water, private transportation around the city, hotel accommodation for all three nights, and the cost of the guide and driver for the tour.