Visiting Tibet in winter is an enriching activity practiced by a growing number of travelers. The world’s highest plateau is particularly tranquil during this season when it comes to tourist crowds. But, if you are up to some bustle, local religious festival celebrations will give you plenty of opportunities for that.
Tibet in winter is an extraordinary destination for photographers. Sun shines daily, the air is clear, and imposing snow-capped mountain peaks are visible. If you are a budget traveler, you can spare enough for an additional tour when visiting Tibet in winter. Travelers that don’t like waiting in lines at attractions should also find this season inviting. Maybe you like to sit by a fireplace come winter. However, rest assured that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get warmed in Tibet. Unlike what most people think, you will find the weather in Tibet somewhere between moderately cold and mild in winter.
Are these reasons compelling enough for you to leave the comfort of your easy chair for some time? If so, read on to learn seven tips for a comfortable and unforgettable Tibet winter tour.
1. Bring layered clothes
The Land of Snows isn’t a place where you are likely to catch a cold in winter. For instance, you have a bigger chance to earn a clogged nose in Beijing while catching a train or a plane to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. However, this doesn’t mean that you should pack swimsuits and flip flops for a trip. Not unless you travel to Tibet via some exotic tropical island.
Low temperatures aren’t that big an issue as temperature fluctuations are. Since we’ve brought up Lhasa, let’s take it as a good example. In January, which is the coldest winter month in Tibet, air temperatures typically fluctuate between 7˚C/45˚F to -10˚C/14˚F.
What you should be aware of is that temperatures around the afternoon tend to be about 10˚C/18˚F higher than in the morning. Hence, pack layered clothing while preparing for a Tibet winter tour.
So, layers comprising a T-shirt, thermal shirt, fleece, and a jacket would suffice. If you plan to travel countrywide, add a heavy down coat. However, don’t find yourself surprised if you need to take it off before the sun starts to descend.
2. Prepare the right medicine
No one likes to catch a cold, that’s pretty sure. However, setting off on a Tibet winter tour with a cold is much more uncomfortable than usual. Therefore, postpone your trip if you notice signs indicating this disease.
Altitude sickness is the first reason you would want to suspend the tour in such a state. Because of low oxygen levels due to the elevation, the altitude sickness symptoms would be worse if you are having a cold. Not to mention that you would need a long time to heal.
Moreover, the lack of oxygen can convert cold into something more serious, such as bronchitis. Also, you would be unlikely to receive an efficient medical treatment if you happen to be somewhere remote.
For comfort, catching a cold when you are in Tibet is nowhere near as bad. By that time, you would likely spend some time on the plateau, your body would develop resistance, and you would heal quicker.
Before heading to the Land of Snows, visit your doctor for a medical examination. Let them know where you travel and bring prescribed medicaments for a cold and altitude sickness.
Finally, avoid showering during the first few days of your stay, especially at night. Otherwise, low nighttime temperatures may render you susceptible to a cold.
3. Pack special winter equipment
Since we have sorted the essentials out, let’s take a look at what else you should bring. Sunglasses will be of particular interest to you. Tibet’s vastness is snowy this time of year, and the sun shines persistently.
Thus, sunglasses will allow you to admire the scenery without risking suffering from snow blindness. Accordingly, bring a hat with a wide rim to protect your head and ears from sunburns. When the temperature drops, you will find gloves handy, as well.
Given that you will probably traverse vast areas, you could do with warm refreshment now and then. Therefore, a vacuum flask that keeps tea, coffee, or water hot should be a welcome addition to your gear.
Finally, don’t forget a sleeping bag if you like to camp under the stars. Make sure to secure a bag that will make you feel comfortable and dry when air temperatures drop below the freezing point.
4. Secure skincare cosmetics
From time to time, you may experience strong wind during your Tibet Winter Tour. The wind can make you believe that it is colder than it is. In combination with the sunlight, strong gusts tend to damage your lips and skin.
So, you should have lip balm at hand when exploring Tibet in winter, especially if you unconsciously wet your lips. We could say pretty much the same for the sunscreen. Maybe you won’t feel the heat of the sun because of the wind, but keep applying the sunscreen nevertheless.
Also, bring a quality skin lotion to have the second line of defense, just in case. While you are here, ask Tibetan ladies about the skin-care tips. Once they reveal how they take care of their skin, you will consider them top experts in this field in the world.
5. Check the accessibility to attractions
Snow shouldn’t cause you trouble most of the time. Still, confirm the expected accessibility to attractions along the itinerary with your tour operator. Snow usually falls from November to April in the Land of Snows. Still, there are periods when the snow cover fails to form.
Even if it does, most attractions throughout Tibet, such as scenic lakes and mountain peaks, typically remain accessible. There may be a few exceptions to this unwritten rule.
Namtso Lake, the highest saltwater lake in the world, tends to be one of them. It takes an intense snowfall for the lake to become inaccessible, though. Maybe you would think of visiting the Everest Base Camp as an exception, too. However, popular EBC is accessible most or all of the time, as are other top Tibetan attractions.
6. Enjoy winter festivals in Tibet
Winter is when some of the most outstanding festivals in Tibet take place. Tibetan New Year (Losar), Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp, and Palden Lhamo are some events you should attend.
Local celebrations don’t occur on the exact day but depend on the Tibetan Calendar. Thus, you need to confirm the month and the day when the festival you wish to attend happens.
For that, consult your travel agent and ask for help for adjusting the itinerary and settling all other tour formalities.
Losar is the celebration that goes on for two weeks. During this period, you will enjoy performances based on local culture and beliefs.
You will remember Palden Lhamo thanks to descriptive costumes and generous donations. The Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival features butter lamps illuminating the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
7. Experience winter tour special additions
You don’t have to wait for the midday to take the coat off to warm yourself. To do that, schedule a visit to the hot spring. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be difficult since you can find them all over Tibet. Some of them, like Dezong and Yangbachen, are at a driving distance from Lhasa. If you find yourself yearning for a hot bath near Shigatse, Lhatse Hot Spring is close by.
During the winter tour of Tibet, you may spot rare and interesting wildlife. Have a camera at hand at all times for the appearance of black-necked cranes.
You will find Yak a strange-looking cattle if you aren’t a Tibetan. The locals rely a lot on this “hairy” mammal, which is indispensable as a transport option, fur provider, and source of food. Also, you may come across a herd of Tibetan antelopes as you explore the countryside.
To have an entertaining and comfortable Tibet winter tour, sticking to the above-mentioned tips is essential. While contemplating a trip to the Land of Snows, consider the following facts, too:
• If you plan a Tibet-Nepal road trip, note that Gong Thang Lamo Pass, which sits at the 5,300 meters altitude, easily gets snowed.
• Trekkers should consider arriving before or after winter to be able to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.
• Travelers not very fond of winds should avoid coming in February.