14 Things to Do In Lhasa during Tibet Tour: The First 9 are Must-Do Activities
As one of the most famous holy cities in the world, Lhasa, at the roof of the world, has ranked among the top tourist destinations in Tibet. Pilgrims, backpackers, and tourists swarm into the city each year.
If you're planning a trip to Lhasa, don't miss these 14 things to do in this enchanting city (at least the first 9 should be tried). From exploring ancient wonders to embracing local customs, Lhasa's charm will leave you spellbound. Get ready to create wonderful memories now!
1. (Must-Do) Climb the Majestic Potala Palace
Potala Palace, the landmark of Lhasa, is always the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about a trip to Tibet. Standing at the top of the Red Hill, the majestic Palace is the center of Lhasa city, watching the changes of this holy city year by year.
Taking a photo while climbing the long stairs to the Potala Palace
It was the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama since 1649. Now it is a museum and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No Lhasa tour would be complete without a visit to the Potala. It is not only a journey to trace back the history of Lhasa, Tibet by seeing those ancient Tibetan frescoes, Buddha statues, etc. but also a chance to enjoy a great view of Lhasa city from the top of the mountain at the center of the holy city.
There are no elevators in the entire palace complex, so please wear light shoes to climb up over 350 steps. Moreover, it is suggested to slow down when you climb the Potala Palace to avoid altitude sickness from strenuous exercise.
Please notice that photography is not allowed inside the palace hall, and the number of visitors per day is limited to 2,300.
2. (Must-Do) Reach the Golden Roof of Jokhang Temple
The Jokhang Temple, the most significant monastery in Tibet, has an important influence on the layout of ancient Lhasa city. It can be said that only with the Jokhang Temple could there be Lhasa city. The houses of local Tibetans in ancient Lhasa town were distributed with the Jokhang Temple as the center.
For many Tibetan pilgrims who live outside Lhasa, it is a lifelong pursuit to go to the Jokhang Temple to worship the 12-year-old gilded bronze statue of Shakyamuni, which was brought by Princess Wencheng as her dowry when she married Tubo King Songtsen Gampo.
When you visit the Jokhang Temple, don’t miss the chance to climb to the roof of the temple. Not only can you get a closer view of the gleaming rooftop sculptures and ornaments, but you can also have a better cause to overlook the devout pilgrims in the square in front of the temple. At the same time, you can also enjoy a great distant view of the Potala Palace.
Our clients explored the holy Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
When sunning in the plaza in front of Jokhang Temple, you will see many pilgrims prostrating in front of the Jokhang Temple and might be moved by the view and the devoutness of these pilgrims.
Please notice that the Jokhang Temple is open for pilgrims only in the morning. The opening hour for tourists is from 11:00 to 18:30.
3. (Must-Do) Do the Barkhor Kora with the Local Pilgrims
The 1000 meters long Barkhor Street is a circular street that surrounds the Jokhang Temple. Composed of Barkhor East Street, Barkhor West Street, Barkhor South Street, Barkhor North Street, and 35 backstreets and alleys, it represents the traditional look of the ancient city of Lhasa and the lifestyle of Tibetans.
For tourists, Barkhor Street is a good place to taste Tibetan food and buy Tibetan souvenirs. However, for local Tibetans, it is also a sacred road.
You can walk the Barkhor Kora with local pilgrims along Barkhor Street.
Barkhor Kora is one of the most sacred circuits for Tibetan pilgrims. The devout Tibetan pilgrims walk clockwise around the Jokhang Temple along Barkhor Street. Some of them also prostrate themselves while murmuring Buddhist mantras.
Seeing both modern tourists and traditional local pilgrims on this 1300-year-old street is a very special experience.
Don't just shop in Barkhor Street. Try to follow a few parts of the Kora with the local pilgrims!
4. (Must-Do) Witness Monks Debating at Sera Monastery
In Sera Monastery, one of the three best monasteries in Tibet, you can see the monks debating in the afternoon.
The monk debate is a kind of discussion of Buddhist knowledge for monks to learn. Both sides of a debate employ various gestures to increase the intensity of the debate. They may be eager to urge their opponent to answer a question as quickly as possible or pull beads as a way to take the power of the Buddha to defeat their opponent.
From Monday to Saturday, there is a monk debate held at the debate courtyard of Sera Monastery every afternoon.
Watching monk debating in Sera Monastery is one of the highlights of your Lhasa tour.
When watching the monk debate in the Sera Monastery, please keep quiet and don't enter the debating area or interrupt their debate.
With permission, you can take photos of the monks in the debate, but this will cost extra.
5. (Must-Do) Admire the Panoramic View of Lhasa City from Drepung Monastery
Drepung Monastery, the largest monastery in Tibet, is also one of the top three monasteries of the Gelugpa sect in Tibet.
Drepung Monastery is best known for the massive size of its temples and the very important Buddha display ceremony at the Shoton Festival.
Capturing a panoramic view of Lhasa city from Drepung Monastery
During the annual Shoton Festival, the Buddha unfolding in Drepung Monastery marks the start of the festival. In the early morning, a giant Thangka of Buddha is unveiled on the hillside behind the monastery. Thousands of local pilgrims, as well as tourists from all over the world, come to see it.
In fact, besides these well-known highlights of Drepung Monastery, there is also one more thing you can’t miss when you visit the monastery.
Located on Gambo Utse Mountain, Drepung Monastery faces the Lhasa River and the valley. From here, you can overlook the entire Lhasa city and see the holy city from a different perspective.
6. (Must-Do) Enjoy a Leisure Afternoon in a Local Tibetan Teahouse
Drinking butter tea is a regular part of Tibetan life. Before work, a Tibetan will typically down several bowlfuls of this beverage.
There are many teahouses in Lhasa offering authentic and delicious butter tea. The most popular Teahouses in Lhasa include CangGusi Sweet Tea House, Guang Ming Sweet Tea House, and Luo Qu Sweet Tea House.
Enjoying a cup of sweet tea like locals at a Tibetan Tea House in Lhasa
In a local Tibetan teahouse, you can share a bottle of butter tea with your travel fellows, and taste some other traditional snacks and food in Tibet, such as Tibetan noodles.
Surrounded by local Tibetans, you will enjoy the real life of the locals. Come to be a part of them.
7. (Must-Do) Immerse Yourself in the Vibrant Nightlife in Lhasa
The nightlife in Lhasa is more colorful than you expected.
The must-see Princess Wencheng Musical Show provides a great opportunity for you to learn about the history and culture of ancient Tibet and China. Set against the backdrop of the real Potala Palace, this large-scale outdoor live-action performance offers a unique experience of traditional Tibetan and Chinese culture, including songs and dances.
Enjoying beer at a local bar in Lhasa
If just watching the musical show isn’t enough to satisfy your nightlife cravings, there are also many Langma Halls (Tibetan night clubs) where you can enjoy a more authentic Tibetan-style nightlife as the locals do. These halls host live shows featuring local bands, singers, and dancers, along with authentic Tibetan beers.
Moreover, Lhasa has cafés and bars open at night, providing a more modern nightlife experience.
When you go out for nightlife in Lhasa, don’t forget to head to Potala Palace Square to appreciate the charming night view of the Potala Palace.
8. (Must-Do) Experience Linka in Norbulingka Palace
Linka is a Tibetan term used for picnics, which is a group activity where Tibetans gather with their family and friends to enjoy a picnic in a local park.
Never miss the opportunity to experience Linka with locals.
Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, is one of the popular parks where local Tibetans often have Linka, especially during the Shoton Festival.
Having Linka with family and friends is an important part of the Shoton Festival. During the festival, local Tibetans gather at Norbulingka, share snacks and yogurt, and enjoy Tibetan opera performances. Participating in Linka with the locals offers you a great opportunity to experience the local way of life.
But don't worry. If you visit Lhasa at another time, not during the festivals, you can still enjoy Linka with your group members and Travel guide in the park. Linka is a way of life in Tibet, not limited to festivals.
9. (Must-Do) Dress in Traditional Tibetan Clothing
The most direct way to embrace Tibetan culture is by dressing in their traditional clothes.
The men's version of the Chupa is usually looser, and when the belt is fastened, the upper part will have a rolled-up section like a pocket to hold things. Generally, Tibetan men wear a white or solid-colored shirt under the Chupa, along with pants and leather boots.
The foreign couple was trying on traditional Tibetan clothes in Lhasa.
The women's version of the Chupa is cut more snugly and is available with or without sleeves. Women's clothes are more brightly colored, and married Tibetan women often wear traditional handmade aprons.
In addition to traditional clothing, unique Tibetan accessories are also essential. Both men and women in Tibet love to wear a variety of accessories, such as gold, silver, and gemstone beads.
At Lhasa, we offer a complete Tibetan clothing service, from costume matching to professional photography, so you can tour Lhasa in traditional Tibetan clothes and capture your best moments in Tibet.
10. (Optional) Take a Scenic Kora around Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery, the leading among the six major Gelugpa monasteries, was personally founded by Master Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa school.
Perched on the mountainside, Ganden Monastery offers a majestic sight. The temple's murals and sculptures boast exquisite craftsmanship, while its vast collection of cultural relics adds to its significance.
Kora around Ganden Monastery
For nature enthusiasts, the kora route around Ganden Monastery unveils breathtaking scenic views, encompassing the beauty of the surrounding mountains. This seemingly remote location is a trekker's paradise, allowing you to escape the crowds and urban landscape of Lhasa.
Traveling from Lhasa to Ganden Monastery is hassle-free, as your guide and driver are familiar with the route. You can join the classic Lhasa to Ganden Monastery tour for an unforgettable experience in the heart of Tibet's natural wonders.
11. (Optional) Discover the Rich Heritage of Tibet in the Tibet Museum
The Tibet Museum is situated across the street from the eastern side of Norbulingka Road in Lhasa city. It is a modern museum with a vast collection of precious artifacts, showcasing the splendid culture and rich history of the Tibetan people.
The Tibet Museum is also a good place to visit in Lhasa.
The museum has three floors: the first floor houses a tourist souvenir shop, the second floor exhibits Tibet's history, and the third floor displays special exhibitions of Thangkas, flora and fauna, jade, and other items.
The museum provides audio guides that visitors can rent for free at the entrance. Inside the exhibition halls, visitors can listen to explanations about the exhibits in Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and English.
For the preservation of the artifacts, photography is not allowed inside the exhibition halls; please abide by this rule.
12. (Optional) Meditate in the Tranquil Drak Yerpa Monastery
Drak Yerpa Monastery is one of the four major hermitages of Tibetan Buddhism, belonging to the Nyingma Sect, located on the cliffs of Lari Ningbu Mountain, 20 kilometers northeast of Lhasa. It was founded in the 7th century and has a history of 1500 years.
Over the years, it has undergone several expansions, forming the unique Drak Yerpa Monastery tightly nestled in the crevices of the cliffs. Its most distinctive feature is the integration of caves and temples.
Tourists are meditating on the grassland beside the Drak Yerpa Monastery.
In stark contrast to the mountains around with only a shallow layer of grass on their surface, Drak Yerpa is filled with the spirit of nature. The pine and cypress trees on the mountain stand tall and lush green, while clear springs and streams flow below.
In spring and summer, the mountain is adorned with colorful flowers, and various birds sing harmoniously. The Drak Yerpa Monastery is concealed amidst the cliffs, presenting a picturesque view.
13. (Optional) Watch Rare Birds in Lhasa during Winter
Lhasa is a winter haven for various rare birds on the plateau. From November to March of the following year, numerous birds, including black-necked cranes and bar-headed geese, migrate from northern Tibet to the Lhasa River basin for wintering.
Lhasa is a winter haven for various rare birds on the plateau.
The vast waters, extensive vegetation, and abundant wetland resources act as a magnet, drawing these birds to overwinter here, creating a unique "bird paradise" in Lhasa.
Linzhou County, Zongjiao Lukang Park, Lhasa River, and Lalu Wetlands National Nature Preserve are the top four bird-watching spots in Lhasa. If you visit Lhasa during deep winter, consider joining one of our bird-watching tours to witness these beautiful and treasured creatures and enjoy a unique experience.
14. (Optional) Enjoy Panoramic Views of Lhasa City and the Potala Palace from Nanshan Park
Situated just south of the Potala Palace, Nanshan Park has become increasingly popular among both local Tibetans and tourists. This lush and verdant mountain provides the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll in downtown Lhasa.
Capturing the panoramic views of the Potala Palace from Nanshan Park
From here, you can savor the breathtaking panoramic views of Lhasa city and the magnificent Potala Palace. Also, many photographers and shutterbugs have captured awe-inspiring images of the Potala Palace beautifully reflected in the lake.
Lhasa is often the first stop for travelers exploring Tibet, and you may already be familiar with its majestic Potala Palace, sacred Jokhang Temple, and other attractions. Our comprehensive guide featuring the top 14 things to do in Lhasa, as mentioned above, will undoubtedly facilitate your Tibet tour.
Whether you seek classic landmarks, or wish to immerse yourself in local culture and customs, you'll find plenty of options for sightseeing in this city. If you still have any questions about your Lhasa tour, don't hesitate to contact us. We are delighted to assist you.
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