How to Plan a Tibet Tour
Wanna tour Tibet, yet still have a vague idea of what to start for preparation. Tibet Vista’s travel gurus share with you the easy-to-follow guide to plan your upcoming Tibet tour.
Where to go
With Lhasa as the its capital city, Tibet covers a walloping area of 1,228,400 square km, the second largest region in China. A great number of holy Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples and lofty mountains and sacred lakes, etc are evenly scattered in 7 prefectures. (i.e. Lhasa, Shigatse, Ngari, Shannan, Nagqu, Nyingchi, Chamdo)
However, most of the classic attractions of Tibet travel can be found from Lhasa to Shigatse Prefecture. Given the varied interests and days to stay in Tibet and frequency of Tibet tour, Tibet Vista recommends the following Tibet travel destinations and routes for you.
First time travelers to Tibet with a short stay in Tibet (around 4-5 days):
Undoubtedly, Lhasa tour would be the focus of your Tibet travel. The historic Lhasa city (3650m), a live reminder of past and modern prosperity of Tibetan Buddhism and secular culture, is center of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage and your first window to Tibetan Buddhism culture and unique Tibetans’ life on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Must-visit attractions in Lhasa involve:
Potala Palace (winter palace of former Dalai Lama)
Jokhang Temple (Spiritual heart of Lhasa city)
Barkhor Street ( bustling pilgrimage road, peppered with fervent pilgrims and souvenir shops)
“Great Three” Gelugpa Monasteries:
Drepung Monastery (the biggest Gelugpa monastery in Tibet)
Sera monastery (dramatic monk debate in the afternoon)
Ganden Monastery (with the most beautiful view of Lhasa Valley)
Namtso Lake (Heavenly Lake, biggest saline lake in Tibet, one of top three sacred lakes in Tibet)
Travel tips: Other than the big names mentioned above, the following places are also fun to explore:
Chagpori Hill (best place to photograph Potala Palace with Thousand Buddha engraving)
Drak Yerpa Hermitage (sacred ancient meditation cave on the façade of cliff)
First time travelers with around 8-9 days’ stay in Tibet:
Travelling from Lhasa to Shigatse and finally to Everest Base Camp (5200m) is the best Tibet travel route you can get for most of the highlights of Tibet tour are centered in and between these two places.
Must-visit attractions after leaving Lhasa are as follows:
Yamdrok Lake ( Turquoise Lake, one of top three sacred lakes in Tibet)
Krola Glacier ( one of top three land glaciers in Tibet)
Pelcho Monastery (Buddhist complex with Sakyapa, Kadampa and Gelugpa sects in Gyantse)
Kumbum Stupa ( Gorgeous stupa with Han, Nepali and Tibetan architectural styles inside Pelcho Monastery)
Gyantse Fortress/Dezong ( magnificent building with a commanding view of Gyantse city)
Tashilhunpo Monastery (Founded by the First Dalai Lama, one of the Six Big Monasteries of Gelugpa in Tibet)
Sakya Monastery (seat of Sakya sect with Mongolian architectural style)
Gawu La Pass (5198m) (best places to view top 5 highest mountains along majestic Himalayas)
Rongbuk Monastery (5150m) (world’s highest Tibetan monastery)
Everest Base Camp (5200m) ( closest place to enjoy the entire north face and summit of Mt. Everest)
Recommended Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Tour
Frequenter of Tibet with enough budget and 15-18 days to stay in Tibet:
If you are fairly familiar with attractions in central and southern of Tibet, then western Tibet( Ngari Prefecture) , which features divine pilgrimage route and ancient Tibetan civilization and rarely-seen wildlife in boundless wilderness, is the right destination for you, esp. Hindus, and people with different religious beliefs and animal lovers.
Must-visit attractions in Ngari:
Lake Manasarovar (World’s highest fresh water lake; one of top three sacred lakes in Tibet)
Mt. Kailash (one of the most renowned sacred mountains in Asia; follow ultimate 3-day pilgrimage route around it)
Zanda Clay Forest (Sublime view of geographical wonder)
Ruins of Ancient Guge Kingdom (Explore mysterious ancient Tibetan civilization)
Tholing Monastery (Oldest monastery in Ngari)
Pangong Tso Lake (Highest long-necked crane habitat)
Travel Tips: If budget and time is permitted, you may also have a big loop tour around Ngari region where you will venture into animal kingdom with little human presence.
For source of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet culture, Shannan Prefecture is where you should be. Tsedang is universally known as the as "the cradle of Tibetan Civilization", largely due to its fertile land at the middle and lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo River.
Travel Tips: Tsedang is not far away from Lhasa (around 200km)
Must-visit attractions in Shannan:
Samye Monastery (the first monastery in Tibet)
Yungbulakhang Palace (the first royal palace in Tibet)
Yamdrok Lake ( stunning turquoise lake, one of top three sacred lakes in Tibet)
Yarlung Tsangpo Valley (cradle of Tibetan civilization, picturesque natural scenery)
Chim-puk Hermitage (famous meditation place of Tibetan Buddhism, mostly are nuns)
For tourists who find it difficult to acclimatize to high altitude, Nyingchi (with around 3000m, the lowest altitude and abundant pristine forest in Tibet) is the perfect choice for you and you can enjoy the idyllic landscape and pastoral scene there. In fact, Nyingchi enjoys great popularity among Asian tourists such as Singaporeans, Malaysians, etc.
Must-visit attractions in Nyingchi:
Peach Blossom Valley (massive rosy peach trees, better come from mid-March to mid-April for annual Peach Blossom Festival)
Midui Glacier (one of top 6 glaciers in China)
Namcha Barwa Mountain ( highest snow-capped mountain in Nyingchi)
Basumtso Lake (Sacred lake of Nyingma Sect)
Lulang Forest (the natural oxygen bar and lush pristine forest)
Nyang River (Enchanting scenery, longest tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River)
Best Time to Go
As a common practice, Tibet tour is open to international tourists from early April and till late Feb next year. Overall, April to October is the best time to visit Tibet in most of its regions.
If the travel budget or cost is your major concern, travelling to Tibet in winter season (from from Nov to mid-Feb) is a wise decision. The strong sunlight due to the high altitude makes Lhasa a cozy place to stay in winter (average temperature is around 7℃-9℃ in Lhasa). Besides, tourists can enjoy more discounts in terms of entrance fee of attractions, accommodation, flight or train ticket, etc. And what awaits you are less crowded attractions, more Tibetan pilgrims and a series of grand Tibetan festival such Losar.
Travel tips: whenever you travel in Tibet, do pay special attention to dramatic temperature change between day and night.
The best time to visit Everest Base Camp(5200m) would be from Apirl to May and Setp. to Nov.
If you want to experience the distinct folk culture and customs, do come to Tibet during its diverse festivals. In fact, the best way to experience Tibetan culture is to take part in the celebrations of Tibetan people. Tibetan people celebrate many interesting festivals each year. Some Tibetan festivals are also popular among tourists like Tibetan New Year falling on February 8, 2016, Saga Dawa Festival falling on June 2, 2016, Shoton Festival falling on sep.1 2016, etc. Our Tibet Tour Calendar2016-2017 might be helpful for you when you are planning a Tibet tour 2016.
Travel tips: the exact date of each Tibetan festival may vary a couple of days. Do consultant your travel consultant.
Travel Documents for Tibet Tour
Tibet Visa (also known as Tibet Travel Permit) must be the first thing you need to deal with when planning Tibet tour. As the national policy states that any individual foreign tourist can't enter and travel in Tibet until he is granted the Tibet Travel Permit, for which Tibet Vista can help you get it and mail to you shortly before you enter the Tibet.
Alien’s Travel Permit is also needed when you prefer to travel to Everest Base Camp in Shigatse or some part of Shannan Prefecture, etc.
How to Go
So far, the most viable way to travel to Tibet is by Qinghai-Tibet Railway and domestic flights after international tourists land in China. Before that, getting the Tibet Visa is a must. Please check in-depth guide to how to get to Tibet.
Travel Tips: To minimize the possible symptoms of altitude sickness, it’s highly advisable to take train in and fly out. During high season of Tibet Tour (July--August; a week before and after traditional Chinese Spring Festival), using both flight and train to Lhasa is a great option when the demand of tickets exceeds the supply. Let’s say, tourists can fly from Beijing to Xining and later take Xining- Lhasa train to Tibet.
Easy Tips to Avoid Altitude Sickness
With an average altitude of above 4000m, Tibet is indisputably the “roof of the world”. To most of international tourists, Lhasa (3658m) is the first stop in Tibet and most of new-arrived will have some mild symptoms of altitude sickness, such as shortness of breath, feeling unsteady, and headache, etc.However, there is no need to panic and normally the above symptoms will disappear as your body acclimatizes to high altitude after a couple of days. Find out how avoid altitude sickness in Tibet in detail.
FAQs of Tibet Tour
As a pioneer of Tibet tourism for international tourists since 1984, Tibet Vista has summarized all the frequently asked questions concerning literally all the aspects of Tibet. Hopefully, you will find your answers through other tourists’ questions. Check the most comprehensive FAQs of Tibet tour in detail.
According to our ten years’ experience in organizing Tibet tours, many tourists are willing to join in a tour group so as to cut down the tour cost. But the difficulty lies in finding proper travel mates and getting Tibet permit. Tibet Vista will help you find travel partners and get Tibet permit because we have a large amount of tourists from different countries and travelling to different places of Tibet.