Lhasa is the capital of the Tibet autonomous region in China. Situated in a valley next to the beautiful Lhasa river, this place may not be that easy to reach (you can’t just go there without a permit if you’re not a Chinese national, so you need to take care of this first and foremost) so there’s gonna be a bit of a challenge reaching it, but once you get there, you will immediately realize that your trip had all been worth it.
Meaning “land of the gods” and “holy land,” Lhasa is a mystical place where you’d feel as if you’re in a completely different time. Walking along striking temples, seeing people constantly spin prayer wheels, the mountains seemingly reaching the skies—all of these will be seen and felt when you’re in this side of the world. Interested in seeing this awe-inspiring place? Here’s a short Lhasa travel guide that can help you in planning for your visit.
The main attraction of Lhasa is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Potala, a winter palace of the Dalai Lama located at the Red Mountain. Standing more than 12,000 feet above sea level, this palace is one of the highest ancient palaces in the planet. This majestic structure has been around for more than a thousand years, and history has made it rich with the best of Tibetan culture.
Visitors used to be prohibited in visiting this place, but since the the 14th Dalai Lama left for India on 1959, the government has opened this for both Tibetan locals and visitors alike. Aside from the towering height and the amazing architecture, the things that will take your breath away here are the paintings, relics, and ancient books that tell the colorful culture of Tibet.
Jokhang Temple / Jokhang Monastery
Located in Lhasa‘s Barkhor Square, this temple is one of the most important and most sacred temples in Tibet. This temple was founded during King Songsten Gampo’s reign. Stories say that this grand structure was built for his two wives–Princess Wencheng from China and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. As dowries, these women brought two important Buddhist statues for the King, which were housed here. This temple is part of the UNESCO-recognized sites, under “Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace.”
The Three Great Temples: Drepung, Ganden, and Sera.
Drepung is one of Tibet’s most important monasteries. Back then, this huge place was home to around 10,000 monks–this monastery is known to be the place where many spititual leaders were educated. Today, around a thousand monks reside here.
The Sera Monastery, on the other hand, has produced more than a thousand monks. Today, only about a couple of hundred monks reside here, but during its height, there used to be around 5,000 of them. You could still find many monks studying here.
About a two-hour drive from Lhasa is the Ganden Monastery, one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. The trip alone to reach this place is already something special, with all the scenic landscapes and small villages, so you wouldn’t really feel exhaustion when you’re making your way up.