About 4 km (2.5 mi) north of Lhasa lies Sera Monastery (Sèlā Sì, 色拉寺), one of the three great university monasteries dedicated to the Gelukpa, or "yellow hat," school of Buddhism. Although many of the monastery's nearby affiliated hermitages were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, Sera remains one of the oldest original structures important to Tibetan Buddhism. During weekdays starting from 3pm, you can witness the resident monks engage in the famously clamorous debates in which loud claps and shouts punctuate the..
Any trip to Lhasa will warrant a few visits to Barkhor (Bākuò Jiē, 八廓街; "Barkhor Street")—the religious heart and market center of the capital surrounding Jokhang Temple. The plaza itself was created and paved not too long ago by the Chinese, but its been an important site for Tibetans for far longer, with the circuit around the temple going back to the 7th century. In recent decades, the square has been a popular place for protests and demonstrations (though these are becoming rare and small due to strict surveillance), so..
Sitting well exposed to the glare of the sun, the summer experience at Potala Palace prompted the Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) to have Norbulingka built, a summer palace for Lhasa’s governing officials. Each year in spring, a grand procession took the current Dalai Lama and government officials from Potala Palace to Norbulingka. Translating to “Jewel Park,” Norbulingka was centered around a walled garden and the favorite residence of the current Dalai Lama who had the New Summer Palace addition constructed as his own..
Jokhang Temple (Dàzhāo Sì, 大昭寺) is the most important and sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and a key center of pilgrimage. The symbolic power of the site has made it one of the most politically sensitive spots within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Founded in 647 during the reign of Tibetan ruler Songstän Gampo, this temple was initially constructed to house the Jowo Sakyamuni, a sacred image of the 12-year old Buddha. Located in the temple's main hall, this is the most revered Buddha statue in Tibet. The four-storey..
To get to the Samye Monastery (Sāngyē Sì, 桑耶寺) from Lhasa, you'll have to take an early morning bus to the Samye Ferry (recommended) or Tsetang Bridge to get across the river. Most pilgrims and tourists hitchhike the 9 km (5.5 mi) from the crossing to the monastery. Despite this rather troublesome journey, most visitors to Samye are pleasantly surprised by this out-of-the way attraction. It is, after all, the oldest monastery in Tibet, built more than 1,200 years ago, and a symbol of Buddhism's triumph over Bön, the previous..
The Tashilhunpo Monastery was built in 1447 and was traditionally home to the Panchen Lama. It miraculously escaped much of the Cultural Revolution-era destruction, so it's a refreshing sight for reconstruction-sore eyes. Tashilhunpo is large enough to seem like a small walled town, and there's plenty to see. Highlights include massive collections of jewels and gold Buddha statues, the Assembly Hall and its colorful unfurled thangkas, and the shrines and thrones of each of the Panchen Lamas, many of whom are buried on..
For most of us, a trip to Mount Everest (Zhūmùlǎng Mǎfēng, 珠穆朗玛峰)—better called by its Tibetan name, Qomolangma—means a few tentative forays in the general direction of the world's highest peak, which towers 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) above sea level. There are two Everest Base Camps (EBC), one in Tibet and one in Nepal. If you're fit enough and have acclimated to the altitude, you might manage to make it to a higher camp, though this level of adventuring is only advised for those with serious..
Around 5 kilometers northeast of Nyingtri lies a delightful wood of wild peach trees, attracting many varieties of birds and other animals. Peach Blossom Gully is bordered by green mountains on three sides, with crystal clear creeks crisscrossing the magical wood. The annual Peach Blossom Festival takes place at the height of the trees's wild blooms. Locals prize the tree not just for its beauty, but also for the special medicinal properties of its peaches.
Yarlung Tsangpo River means "water running from the highest peak" in Tibetan. The world's highest river encircles a Tibetan peak at 7,787 meters above sea level, forming the largest canyon of the world. That canyon, the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, is a fascinating geological landmark as well as a diverse home for thousands of animals and plants. The immense canyon hosts dozens of huge waterfalls, enormous rock formations and astounding varieties of plant and wildlife. Totaling 504.6 kilometers, the unique U-shaped canyon stretches 56..
White Horse Mound, one of the most beautiful—and most mysterious—places in Tibet, holds sacred meaning for the Tibetans. Tucked away in Yalung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Medog (Motuo) has no public roads or clear access trails. Visitors reach Medog by helicopter or on foot. Two massive snow-covered mountains stand guard over the region and the sole mountain pass can only be traveled between July and October. Even summer brings dangerous rainstorms and mudslides. The difficult journey is well worth the effort, though—awestruck..
Perched on a massive rocky crag looming above Gyantse's Old Town, the 14th century citadel of Gyantse Dzong stands as a bittersweet reminder of Tibet's wrenching passage into the modern world. It also affords a dramatic view of the Old Town and the temple complex of Pelkor Chöde Monastery and the multi-tiered Gyantse Kumbum rising within its walls in addition to windows on several of the most dramatic—and tragic—periods in Tibetan history. Gyantse Dzong: A citadel of Tibetan heroes In a key..
One of Tibet's four major holy lakes, Yamdrok-tso (Yángzhuó Yōngcuò, 羊卓雍错湖), or "Yamdrok Lake," is located approximately 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Lhasa. Gyantse lies around 90 km (55 mi) to its west. At over 72 km (44 mi) long and at about 4,441 m (14,570 ft) above sea level, this gloriously vivid turquoise-blue apparition is surrounded by mountains and glows in the midday sun amidst the bleak landscape like an otherworldly gem. It's believed to be the earthly home of the Buddhist..