Located in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa is the capital city of Tibet and the center of its economy, culture, and tourism. As a well-developed city, Lhasa boasts the most advantageous conditions in terms of food, clothing, housing, and transportation. With a rich history and culture, Lhasa is also a world-renowned圣地 for Tibetan Buddhism.
Lhasa is both a ancient and modern city that not only preserves its unique and mysterious charm but also actively embraces diverse foreign cultures. Whether you're here for a quick glimpse or an in-depth exploration, Lhasa's strong ethnic vibe will hit you immediately. The city's crystal-clear skies and clouds that seem within reach are simply unforgettable.
One of the city's must-visit attractions is the Old Town of Lhasa, known as the "Eight Corridors" (Barkhor Street). This is where you'll find the city's most popular tourist destinations, including local eateries and shops selling traditional crafts.
Another must-visit is the Beijing East Road, which runs east-west through the heart of Lhasa. This busy thoroughfare is home to many of the city's most famous landmarks, including the Potala Palace and the Eight Corridors. It's also a popular gathering spot for backpackers from around the world.
Lastly, head to Xianzu Island, located in the middle of the Lhasa River in the southern part of the city. This island is famous for its family guesthouses and is a great place to stay if you want to experience Tibetan culture and lifestyle.
In conclusion, Lhasa is a city that combines tradition and modernity, offering visitors a unique blend of cultural experiences. From its rich history and beautiful scenery to its friendly people and delicious food, Lhasa is sure to leave a lasting impression on any traveler.
Tibetan New Year
Losar, meaning “new year” in Tibetan, is the most important festival in Tibet. Similar to Chinese New Year, Losar starts on the first day of the Tibetan calendar, usually falling in February or March. On New Year’s Eve, Tibetans perform rituals to dispel evil spirits and gather for a reunion dinner with dough balls symbolizing a rounded, complete year. At sunrise on New Year’s Day, families dress in new clothes, exchange gifts of roasted barley wine and “khatas” (ceremonial scarves), and wish each other a prosperous new year. Festivities last up to 15 days with activities centered around Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Pilgrims flock there to receive blessings, with crowds spilling into Barkhor Street. Monks work nonstop to keep the throngs moving to view the main Buddha statue, which is open all night. Joining pilgrims on their kora (circumambulation) allows immersion in the jubilant atmosphere of Losar. The mass devotion and rich traditions of Tibetan culture are on full display as locals celebrate their most important holiday.
Butter Lantern Festival
The Butter Sculpture Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month, coinciding with February or March on the Gregorian calendar. The festival was founded by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, when he made butter flower and lamp offerings to the Shakyamuni Buddha statue at Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The festival commemorates Shakyamuni's triumph over demonic obstacles, as well as his victory in great doctrinal debates. For the festival, monks and folk artists sculpt colorful butter flowers in various shapes and hang them on frames flanking Jokhang Temple. When the butter lamps are lit at dusk, Barkhor Street glows brilliantly. The illuminated display reflects Tibetans' devotion and brings the Buddha's blessings for the new year. Joining praying pilgrims during this dazzling spectacle offers an unforgettable experience of Tibetan spiritual traditions. The bright glow of butter flowers and lamps represents victory over ignorance and desire - an auspicious sign for the year ahead.
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival, held on the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month (May or June), is one of Lhasa's most distinctive spring celebrations. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni said to have occurred in this month. There is also a legend that it marks Princess Wencheng's arrival in Lhasa, so the festival honors her as well. Over time, it has evolved into a holiday for Tibetans to pray for a bountiful harvest and enjoy public festivities. On Saga Dawa, devotees circumambulate Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace while reciting mantras and prostrating. Locals turn out in force, joining pilgrims and beggars who line the ritual circuit. It is traditional for kind pilgrims to distribute alms; visitors who wish to take part can come prepared with small change. Additionally, Tibetan opera troupes and other performers stage open-air shows at Lhasa’s Dragon King Pond for public entertainment. Immersing in the spiritual rituals and cheerful revelry of Saga Dawa offers a taste of Tibetan culture and customs.
Wangguo Festival, held on the 4th day of the 6th Tibetan month (July or August), is a harvest festival reflecting Tibetans' hopes for an abundant crop yield. Celebrated just before the autumn harvest, locals dress up in colorful new clothes, wave victory banners, and construct "harvest towers" out of barley and wheat wrapped in ceremonial khata scarves. Accompanied by drums and songs wishing for bountiful yields, people circle around village headers in a symbolic ritual to petition the gods for a fruitful harvest. The festivities also include thrilling horse racing competitions. During Wangguo Festival, the fervent prayers for prosperity are palpable as Tibetans make offerings and hold vibrant rituals to ensure a successful harvest. Joining in the circles of chanting pilgrims and witnessing the expressive traditions offers visitors an authentic experience of Tibetan customs tied to the agricultural cycle.
Sour Milk Festival
Shoton Festival, also called "Yogurt Festival," "Tibetan Opera Festival," and "Unveiling Buddha Festival," is the grandest and most anticipated holiday in Tibet. Lasting around 7 days in Lhasa, highlights include the unveiling of the giant Thangka at Drepung Monastery, Tibetan opera performances, and picnicking at Linca (a popular park). The unveiling of the giant Thangka painting on the first morning draws huge crowds to Drepung before dawn. The entire unveiling takes only about 20 minutes and follows a precise schedule without ceremonies. As the artwork is fully revealed, pilgrims rush to offer khata scarves and coins that quickly pile up around the edges. Monks help overturn the edges so people can touch their heads and hands to the Thangka for blessings. Many locals picnic at Linca park afterwards. With huge crowds converging on Drepung, returning to Lhasa can be very difficult. A smaller Thangka unveiling also takes place at Sera Monastery in the afternoon. For the remainder of the festival, Tibetan opera dancers in colorful costumes and masks perform daily at Norbulingka Park. Shoton offers a stunning display of Tibetan culture and pilgrimage traditions.
The week-long Bathing Festival takes place in early July when locals believe the waters of the Lhasa River are imbued with special purifying powers under the astrological influence of Jupiter. Tibetans consider the river water holy during this period, with the ability to cleanse impurities, heal illness, and promote health and vitality. People of all ages immerse themselves in the river to bathe, wash clothing, and play. Locals bring barley wine, butter tea, and other foods to enjoy riverside while bathing, swimming, and socializing from early morning well into the night. During the peak when Jupiter is visible, huge crowds fill the riverbanks. The colorful scene of devotees immersed in rituals of purification provides a glimpse into a deep-rooted Tibetan tradition tied to spiritual beliefs about the sacred qualities of the river during this auspicious week.
Lhabab Duchen Festival commemorates the enlightenment of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. On this day, families light butter lamps on their rooftops and windowsills which remain lit day and night. People recite scriptures and songs praising Tsongkhapa to mark the occasion. The sea of flickering lights observed throughout Lhasa signifies the devotion and continuation of Gelug traditions. Joining locals in lighting a butter lamp or observing the illuminated city offers insight into this religious celebration honoring the influential Tibetan master. Lhabab Duchen is observed on the 25th day of the 10th Tibetan month, though the exact date in the Gregorian calendar varies slightly by location, usually falling in November or December.
Best Travel TimeThe peak tourist season in Tibet is roughly from May to October, with peaks in July and August, as well as in Lhasa. However, playing in Lhasa is not greatly affected by the season, so friends who do not have high temperature requirements can also choose a slightly cooler time to play.
Altitude sickness is a common concern when visiting high elevation destinations like Lhasa, Tibet. Symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea, fever, fatigue and more. While altitude sickness sounds daunting, it's not as bad as it seems for most people. The effects vary widely between individuals and a great deal of randomness is involved. For many, symptoms subside within 1-2 days, while weaker adjusters may take 3-7 days. Extensive preparation is not required, but a positive attitude and ample rest go a long way. Those with severe heart/lung conditions or high blood pressure should avoid high elevations altogether.
For added peace of mind, you can bring medications to relieve symptoms:
- Rhodiola rosea tablets help with fatigue and stamina.
- Gingko biloba aids breathing and oxygen circulation.
- Acetazolamide (Diamox) relieves headaches and quickens acclimatization.
- Ibuprofen reduces headaches and fever.
When you arrive:
- Avoid strenuous activity, running, or heavy lifting initially.
- Stay hydrated but avoid overeating, drinking, or smoking.
- Dress warmly and minimize bathing to conserve energy.
- Drink butter tea to help ease symptoms.
- Only use oxygen as a last resort to avoid dependence.
- Seek medical attention promptly for any persistent issues.
With rest and preparation, altitude sickness is manageable for Lhasa visitors. Descend immediately if severe symptoms arise. Overall, Lhasa can be enjoyed safely with proper acclimatization care.
Here are some tips on essential documents for traveling to Lhasa, Tibet:
- Bring your ID card at all times for potential checks.
- Student cards provide discounted entry to some attractions.
- A Tibet Travel Permit is not needed for Lhasa but required for border areas like Mount Kailash.
- Bring your passport if possible to avoid paperwork for permits. A passport also allows changing plans to Nepal without prior visa.
- Cash in RMB is widely accepted but US dollars and credit cards also useful.
- Print out hotel confirmations in case needed for checkpoints.
- Consider travel insurance for health/safety coverage.
While stringent at times, Lhasa's entry requirements ensure meaningful cultural exchange. With proper documents and respectful conduct, visitors will find Tibetans welcoming despite complex geopolitics. Accommodate checks and questioning with patience and positivity.
Lhasa is known as the "City of Sunlight" and has intense UV rays due to high elevation and thin air. Pack ample sun protection like high SPF lotion, lip balm, sunglasses and hats. The dry climate also necessitates moisturizers and hydrating skin care. Bring creams and serums to replenish moisture after long days out. Sheet masks can refresh skin and unwind in the evenings too.
Due to lower air pressure, partially used toiletries like shampoo and hair products should be emptied or bagged securely to avoid messy leakage. Consider bringing unopened products or buying after arrival instead. Lotion pumps and screw caps tend to pop open otherwise.
Focus on hydrating and soothing products for skin and hair care in Lhasa's harsh climate. Seek formulas with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, aloe vera and shea butter. Avoid alcohol-based toners and fragrances which can dry out skin further. A little preparation with skin-nourishing products makes for comfortable travel in Tibet's extreme conditions.
Photography is a highlight of traveling in Tibet, but proper preparation is key:
- Bring extra batteries, as cold temperatures drain them faster.
- Pack ample memory cards and storage space.
- A tripod yields sharper images in Tibet's winds.
- Recharging may be impossible outside Lhasa and major towns. Consider a portable charger.
- Ask permission before photographing locals, especially monks and women. Avoid causing offense.
- Keep small gifts on hand for photo subjects if possible.
- External temple shots may be fine, but interior photography is often prohibited. Respect those rules to avoid consequences.
- Some sites require payment for any photography. Abide by local guidelines.
- Refrain from photographing wildlife in reserves without clear permission, or you may face steep unauthorized fees.
With respect and proper preparation, incredible photographic opportunities await in Tibet. But care regarding permissions and cultural sensitivities is advised.
When bringing laptops and electronics to high elevations like Lhasa, proper care is advised:
- Conventional hard drives are not recommended above 12,000 feet (3,660 meters), though generally ok below that.
- Avoid using laptops when possible over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). The lower air pressure risks damaging drives and shortening their lifespan.
- SSD solid-state drives are not impacted by altitude. Consider bringing these for reliability.
- Allow devices to acclimatize to the altitude when possible before turning on.
- Carry your laptop in cabin baggage rather than checking it, to minimize pressure changes.
- Bring ziplock bags to keep electronics dry in the rainy season.
With some simple precautions, electronics can be used safely in Tibetan elevations. But when nearing 14,000 feet, refrain from overtaxing conventional hard drives to avoid permanent damage. Back up data regularly.
Lhasa is generally very safe, with a strong police presence everywhere. Visitors can stroll the streets late into the night. Both locals and monks are friendly towards tourists in this welcoming city. However, a few problematic characters to be aware of:
- Street beggars, often children, can be persistent though satisfied with just 1 mao. They may swarm together which is uncomfortable.
- Fake monks soliciting temple donations are not unheard of. While many collections are legitimate, some "monks" are scammers in disguise. They rarely harass tourists though.
- Men dressed as Uyghur Muslims lack the actual group's integrity. Reports of pushy sales tactics and outright scams have arisen. Even young kids participate in these schemes. Avoid them and watch your wallet closely.
Violent crime is rare in Lhasa. But petty theft does occur, especially pickpocketing in crowded spots. Carry cash/valuables in front pockets or a spare underlayer. Know emergency numbers and don't walk alone at night. With sound judgment, Lhasa makes for secure travel.
Medical treatmentHere is some advice on using electronics in Lhasa for an English travel website:Using Electronics in Lhasa's High Altitude Traveling with laptops and devices requires extra care in Lhasa's high elevation. General guidelines:- Conventional hard drives function up to around 10,000 ft (3,000 m), but use cautiously. - Avoid turning on laptops with HDDs above 13,000 ft (4,000 m) - the thin air risks damaging drives. - SSDs are unaffected by altitude. Other tips:- Carry power banks and charging cables - outlets may be scarce.- Keep devices warm - battery life and performance suffer in the cold. - Adjust sleep settings so devices don't waste power searching for connections.- Consider cloud storage over thumb drives - altitude can corrupt removable media.With proper precautions, your electronics can safely accompany you to amazing heights. Let us know if you need any other tips on handling devices in Lhasa!
Embassy and consulate
Getting a visa for Nepal from Lhasa:
The Consulate General of Nepal in Lhasa facilitates visas for overland travel between Tibet and Nepal.
Location: 13 Luobulinka Road, Lhasa City
Phone: 0891-6813965 / 6822881 / 6815744 / 6830609
Transport: Take bus #24 to Luobulinka North Gate Stop
Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-12:30pm
- Passport (6+ months validity) plus any old passports
- Two 2-inch passport photos
- Completed application form
- Visa fees: 15 days - ¥175, 1 month - ¥280, 3 months - ¥700
- Visas can be picked up the next afternoon after applying.
- Plan dates in advance, as Nepal extensions are pricey - $30 for 15 days, $60 for 30 days.
With some preparation, Nepal visas can be obtained straightforwardly in Lhasa before crossing overland to continue adventures.