Top 20 Tibet Travel Experiences
Tibet has become one of the most fascinating travel sites for the enthusiastic tourists owing to a number of provisions of enjoyment it is capable to provide. In Tibet, you can bask in the solemn beauty of the nature, especially in the utmost beauty that nature displays in this country. You can go for hiking owing to the fact that Tibet is surrounded by the trans-Himalayan range and the country itself is situated on the Qinghai - Tibet Plateau, the loftiest plateau of the world.If you want to indulge in the pilgrimage, Tibet will provide you enough provisions for that also.
Have a delightful trip in Tibet
It has one of the largest numbers of monasteries and the kora routes and also many pilgrimage sites. It is capable of making you soak in the festive spirits of the country, indulge you in the authentic Tibetan charm and delicacies and also will astonish you with the collection of outstanding handicrafts and antiques. Thus if you tour Tibet, you are bound to achieve the best lifetime experience. In this article, we will give you a detailed description of the top twenty activities in which you can indulge while you visit Tibet. It will thus help you to plan your tours and itineraries accordingly.
Top Twenty Crucial Experiences
Visiting Tibet once is not enough as every nook and corner of Tibet demands a visit from you. Thus while we list the following top twenty experiences, you will get to know why Tibet will propel you to visit her again and again. Moreover, when you will get a cursive view of the Tibetan culture and enigmatic traditions, you are bound to go back to Tibet to enjoy such customs and traditions. The top twenty experiences of Tibet are -
1. Three Day Mount Kailash Kora in Ngari
Mount Kailash, the holiest mountain in Asia, is considered to be a holy mountain amongst not only the Tibetans but also in many places of the world. Kora or the holy trek around the Mount Kailash is not only a popular culture but the kora route around mount Kailash is considered to be the most enigmatic, experience full and also one of the toughest. It is worshipped by more than a billion Buddhists and Hindus. A three Kailash Pilgrimage around the Mt. Kailash can erase the sins of a lifetime and bring an extra bonus to your tour.Pilgrims from all around the world involve in this kora around mount Kailash.
On the Way to Mount Kailash
The whole trek from Lhasa to Kailash might take about ten to fourteen days, trekking via Gyantse, Shigatse and other places and passing through numerous monasteries. But the kora itself takes three days to complete. Standing at an elevation of 6714m, the mount Kailash kora, demands walking around the charming holy mountain amongst snow and wilderness. Pilgrims usually start their journey as early as 3 am in the morning and the journey gets completed in 3pm, each day. Darchen is the starting point of the kora route and in the first day, the pilgrims usually cover about 20km of distance.
Enjoying at Mount Kailash
You will come across places like Chuku Monastery, Drirapuk Monastery, sites relevant for the Tibetan king Gesar of Ling. You will also witness the reverence of the innumerable pilgrims, prostrating before mount Kailash. You might have to trek through Shershong. You will come across small guesthouses and villages on your trekking route. You can sustain on the instant Tibetan noodles which are not only healthy but also delicious. Thus the overall kora route around mount Kailash is considered to be one of the best experiences of a person’s life. While you view the golden hue of rising sun on the snow clad summit of mount Kailash, you will automatically feel energetic and refreshed all the more.
2. Climb Potala Palace
Potala Palace, a world heritage site, is one of the grandest palaces located in the capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region, namely Lhasa. It is the first site to visit, and also a must-visit site for most travelers to Tibet. The palace was the Dalai Lamas’ residence for winter and spiritual and political central attraction. The palace almost resembles a fortress and it comprises of red palace and white palace. The roof tops are embellished in gold plates and the palace has now become the heart of Tibetan pilgrimage and also tourism site.
As the palace stands at an elevation of almost 12000 feet over the high altitude of Lhasa, climbing the palace is really a hard task. The stairs in the palace are zigzag in structure and therefore it is better not to make a hasty ascent. Try to take as much rest as possible and then climb through the stairs. Local people and also the pilgrims will find it easy to climb, but people belonging from other countries might take time. Therefore it is better to rest at the landings of each stair end and then continue to climb again. You can also have light snacks while climbing the stairs.
Climbing the Palace Staircase
After you finally climb the palace staircase, you will be able to get a grand view of the Lhasa valley downwards. To cherish the enigmatic history of Tibet, stroll through the long corridors. You can also visit the white palace and the red palace that contains many murals, scrolls and also library. There are tombs of the previous Dalai Lamas in the red palace also. The stairs which will help you to climb Potala Palace are very wide and the height between them are not that much steep. Thus climbing Potala Palace is itself an experience. After that bask in the history of the palace and witness the remarkable creativity of the Tibetans in the hanging murals, fabric painting, historical texts and the grand architecture of the palace itself.
3. Follow the Innor Kora in Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple, the holy center for Tibetan Buddhists, is also situated in Lhasa. It is one of the most famous temple, which is considered very holy and also a distinct kora or circumnavigation is followed around this temple. You can see queues of devout pilgrims shuffle up and down the stairways, pat medieval doorways and millennium-old murals. The kora around Jokhang temple mainly takes place through Barkhor street. Keeping the temple in the middle, the kora is taken through Barkhor street surrounding the temple.
The kora starts at earliest dawn and continues till dusk. The pilgrims believe that involving in kora around Jokhang temple will provide them with religious solvency and merit. While doing the kora, the pilgrims chant the Tibetan mantras and rotate the prayer wheels. The circumnavigation takes place in a clockwise direction. Thus, in the low light of the dawn, joining the kora and chanting the mantras while rotating the prayer wheel around Jokhang temple is considered to be one of the most precious experiences in Lhasa. This kora route, being one of the most popular you will find tremendous crowd while taking rounds around Jokhang temple.
4. Explore Everest at EBC
Trekking the path of Mount Everest is not only a breathtaking experience but also quite dangerous and famous. Once you reach the Everest base Camp, standing at an elevation of 5200m, you are bound to experience a thrill for being so close to the highest peak of the world. But the Everest base camp trek takes a lot of hard work and effort to get completed. Up till base camp, it is a long journey from Lhasa to Gyantse to Shigatse to Rongbuk monastery to Tingri and then finally to Base camp. Once you reach base camp, do spend a night here to view the different facades of the highest peak. Through tourists can view the world’s highest peak in Nepal, the best views of the Everest can only be seen in Tibet.
Explore Everest at EBC
You will get the view of sunrise, sunset and the starry night. Needless to say, you will be experiencing the best experience of your life. When you will watch the golden hue of the sunrise or the sunset on the snow clad peak of Everest, you will feel that paradise has descended into the earth. Witnessing starry nights while the looming Everest stands as a cautious guard on you, you will savor an altogether different feeling. This experience is the must have for you if you are planning to visit Tibet. Moreover, the whole trekking journey of the Everest, will make you tour half of the Tibet’s most precious horde of natural beauty. You will come across a number of beautiful regions in your trekking journey. From Everest base camp, you can also climb to the top of the peak, but that is really tough and is meant only for professional trekkers.
5. Visit First Tibetan Academy: Samye Monastery
Samye Monastery, the first Tibetan academy, is located in the foot of Mount Hepo Ri on the northern bank of Yarlung Tsanpo river. It is a heavily symbolic collection of chapels, chortens and shrines. The architecture of Samye monastery is the foremost thing that attracts tourists from all over the world. Many tourists also trek from Ganden to Samye monastery. Samye in Tibetan language means ‘unexpected and full of surprise’. Indeed being the first academic institution of Tibet, Samye hordes lots of surprising and attractive elements for the tourists. The architecture is the foremost of all. The Wuzi hall represents the centre of universe of Sumeru Mountain. There are two hall representing sun and moon.
There also four halls representing four oceans and along with it the twelve continents. There are red, green, black and white pagodas in the Samye monastery. The three floors of the monastery are constructed in Tibetan, Chinese and Indian style respectively. Expect for this mind boggling architecture, you can also witness the murals containing the history of the monastery and the Tibetan Buddhism. Also there are biographical records of the Paddasambhava Buddha, history of the monastery and other scriptures propagating Tibetan Buddhism. Debate amongst the monks and nuns are held in the evening in the vicinity of the monastery. You can also attend that for your enlightenment.
6. Experience the Ride on Qinghai-Tibet Railway
Visiting Tibet definitely demands a ride in the Tibet train or the Qinghai-Tibet railway. The world’s highest railway, is a man-made world wonder and a delightful way to Tibet. It is considered to be one of the best creations of the Tibetan engineers along with engineers from other parts of the world. Lots of hard works had been put to construct a railway at such a steep altitude. However definitely, the railway has made the connection between Tibet and other regions quite enjoyable. The train has not only sustained the threat of the huge altitude but it also provides utmost comfort to the passengers. It traverses through the greenery of the Tibet along with the best scenic views. Within the train there are three types of coaches, first class sleepers, second class sleepers and the general compartments.
The sleeping coaches, specially the first class coaches are extremely comfortable. The attendants are very helpful, security is very tight and the safety issues are unquestionable. There is a total food cabinet that contains a large variety of food and drinks. You will also get a dining cart that contains different varieties of food. They give three foods per day and it contains snow noodles, beef noodles, crassulaceae, vegetables like carrot and turnips and many other types of noodles. There is an elaborate system of oxygen and pressure maintenance within the train. In the soft berth sleepers you will get charging points also. Even within the compartments, you will get the boxes announcing the altitudes and the name of the stations it passes through.
7. Taste Butter Tea and Sweet Tea
Drinking Butter tea is considered to be one of the favorite pastimes to Tibetans. If you do not taste a cup of butter tea in Tibet, your Tibet tour cannot be perfect.The sweet tea and the butter tea are usually made of the butter made from the milk of the Tibetan yaks. The Tibetan butter tea is also known as Po cha in Tibet. It is made by adding salt, butter from the yak milk and the churned tea. The tea used for butter tea is smoky, potent brick tea. This brick tea is obtained from Pemagul in Tibet. The butter tea of Tibet has an acquired salty taste. It is extremely tasty and a bit thick. It is an integral part of Tibetan meal. It is usually made by boiling the water along with the tea. Then after boiling and straining the tea, the flame is switched off and then the salt and the butter are added.
The sweet tea from Tibet is not only an integral part of Tibetan meal but also a favourite pastime for the Tibetans. It is very easy to make and only takes a few minutes. The main ingredients of this recipe are sugar, black tea and powdered milk. It is made similar to the normal tea that people make at their homes. Both the types of tea are very tasty and refreshing, so visiting Tibet demands testing them at least once.
8. Tour Sera, Ganden and Drepung Monasteries
The Tibetan Buddhism is also known as Gelugpa sect of Buddhism that stresses more on the combined teachings of Buddha. Lhasa’s great religious institutions of Sera and Drepung are more than just monasteries – they are self-contained towns. The Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries are considered to be the seats of the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. It is said that this trio are the advent of this Buddhism. In these three monasteries, you will find innumerable scriptures about Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. Not only that there are valuable murals, wall painting, statues of buddhas in many different postures. Do not miss the afternoon debating at Sera.
Monks Debating at Sera Monastery
There is also a trek route specifically combining these three monasteries of Tibet that are considered to be the hearts of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Even the famous yoghurt festival or the Shoton festival takes place in the Drepung monastery and Sera monastery. In Ganden monastery you will witness the butter lamp festival. There are grand Thangkas about Buddhist teachings. Thus touring these three monasteries are a must, especially during the festivals like Shoton festivals. The Buddha painting unfold ceremony at Drepung during the annual Shoton Festival is the most memorable and impressive.
9. Join the Celebration of Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is the most important cultural festival of Tibet, occurring annually. Thousands of pilgrims would pour into Lhasa to visit the monasteries and make a ritual walk around the 8km Lingkhor path. It is the celebration of the day Sakyamuni was born and attended Nirvana or enlightenment. It occurs in the fifteenth day of the fourth month, according to the Tibetan calendar. The festival witnesses the bringing down of flag pole of Tarpoche and instilling it with the new prayer flags and hadas. It is a great opportunity for tourists to experience Tibetan people’s devoutness.
Saga Dawa Festival
During this festival, the local people visit Mount Kailash beforehand. And there is an annual biggest party at Mt. Kailash during the festival. During this festival, the tip of the flagpole is pointed towards the Gyangdrak monastery and while the people do that, the monks of that monastery perform special rituals and chant mantras. Music plays and trumpets and conch shells are blown to welcome the flag raising ceremony. Thus becoming a part of this happy and elaborate festival is a must do while visiting Tibet.
10. Visit Guge Kingdom in Ngari
Guge Kingdom relics in Ngari is one of the very famous tourist attraction spots of Tibet. It consists mainly of the ruins of the old summer palace. The ruins contain some 800 caves and 400 rooms along with secret paths, arm storerooms, pagodas, fortresses, granaries and different kinds of burial places. There are five temples located in the precincts of the ruins. These temples are known as White temple, Red temple, Samsara temple, imperial palace and the Assembly palace. The ruin covers a very large area of land.
Guge Kingdom Relics
The whole ruin shows the intricate construction of an entire kingdom with footpaths, residences, higher platforms signifying kings’ palaces and the secret tunnels to ensure the kingdom’s safety. The ruin not only hordes the elaborate picture of an entire kingdom but also contains many artifacts, murals, pictures of Sakyamuni and royal families. The temples are the storehouse of history of the kingdom and contain many different scriptures. The total ruin is just an epitome of the rich culture of Tibet. The ruins of Guge Kingdom leave us a mystery. Why did such a grand kingdom disappear overnight? Maybe you can find some clue and rise to fame overnight.
11. Why One Should Do Ganden Samye Trek
Ganden to Samye trek in Tibet is considered to be one of the most popular trek routes in Tibet. The classic 4-day trek between two famous monasteries takes you past herder’s camps, high alpine lakes, three passes over 5000m and one Guru Rinpoche hermitage. In the trekking route, much of the religious cultural sites and Buddhism sites are covered.
Ganden to Samye Trek
The path further covers wonderful and tranquil settings of sacred sites, lush alpines, meadows and Tibetan villages along with the herder’s camp. The trek involves an altitude change from 4180m of Ganden monastery to 3540m of Samye monastery.
Having a rest on Ganden to Samye Trek
The best time to trek is from mid-May to mid-October. In this trek, you will come across the various beauties of Tibet like the nomads, barren desert like lands near Samye monasteries and the yaks grazing in the alpine meadows. The trek therefore acquaints you not only with the raw beauties of Tibet but also with the two of the most important monasteries of Tibet namely Ganden and Samye monasteries.
12. Cycling from Lhasa to EBC
The cycling or the bike tour from Lhasa to EBC is considered to be one of the best experiences of a Tibet trip. The cycling takes a total of 19 days to complete. You have to take the Friendship Highway and pass through the Kamba La pass to Yamdrok Tso lake.
Cycling from Lhasa to EBC
Yamdrok Tso lake is the most beautiful lake in Tibet. The path follows some of the most beautiful locations like the Karo La pass and the then Gyantse Dzong, Tashilhunpo monastery and Gyantse Kumbum. While you will reach Gyatso-La, you will be encountering Mount Everest for the first time. Thereafter your journey will continue, being even tougher than the first cycling route.
Stopping and enjoying the Scenery
However to the cyclists, cycling through this route is like the best experience in their life. You will pass through Rongbuk valley and finally reach Mount Everest base camp. On the way, you will get rewarded by nature’s most exceptional creations like Mount Makalu, Mount Cho Oyu, Mount Shishapangma , Mount Lhotse and other such snow clad peaks while you pass through Gawula Pass.
13. Visit Tibetan Family and Join Their Farm Labor
Tibet trip will remain incomplete without some interactions with the Tibetan people, especially the Tibetan folk people and visiting their farm labors. In the remote Tibetan villages and other areas, especially among the Tibetan Sherpas or the shepherds,a lot of unique ways of farming like separating the land and rearing the cattles, making of crafts can be observed. Visiting the Tibetan families and staying with them, enjoying their farm labours is all together a different experience.
Join Locals Farm Labor
You will get close to the lifestyle of such people, their way of farming. Also you will see, how in the monsoons when the crops cannot be cultivated, they indulge in their free time in making handicrafts and chang or Tibetan wine from barley and rice, mainly the barley and wheat. Moreover you will also get to see how they rear yaks and other cattle.
14. Climbing Gyantse Kumbum
The giant chorten at Gyantse is unique in the Himalayas. Climbing Gyantse Kumbum is an ethereal experience in Tibet. It has a height of 32m, and a golden crown with white stripes. You will find many small chapels and many exquisite paintings within the stupa and it also contains one of the longest statues of Tsongkhapa. When you will enter the Kumbum or the stupa, you have to take a clockwise direction and climb up to the sixth floor by following the pilgrims chanting mantras.
As you spiral around and up the nail shell-shaped building, you pass dozens of alcoves full of serene painted Buddhas, bloodthirsty demons and unrivalled Tibetan art. On your way, you will come across numerous small chapels and many other artifacts, along with the paintings. The overall architecture of the place is bound to entice you all along. Finally you pop out onto the golden eaves, underneath all-seeing eyes, for fabulous views of Gyantse fort and ancient town.
15. Tour Ramoche in Lhasa
Ramoche Temple in Lhasa is another chief tourist attraction besides Potala Palace, Jokhang temple and Barkhor Street. This temple is also known as the sister of Jokhang temple owing to the fact that it was built in the same time. When you enter the temple, you will see the pilgrims prostrating and doing their prayers. You will come across many mask and puppets on the protector chapel. You will come across the deity, Dorje Yudronma.
In the inner temple, more such deities, in fearful poses are observed. Also you will find Akshobhya image that is decorated exquisitely. Then also there is a curtain of chain mail that is considered to be the lucky charm by the tourists and the pilgrims. Mostly pilgrims are indulged in the inner kora within the temple.
16. Adding Your Prayer Flags to the High Pass
Prayer flags are in vogue in Tibet. In Barkhor Street, you will get to buy a number of such flags. People even buy them and take them to your home. These prayer flags are written with Buddhist mantra and are very colourful.
Adding Your Prayer Flags to the Mount Kailash
Tying such flags are like wish granting methods in Tibet. People tie such flags in order to export their wishes to god directly. Near about almost all the religious sites, the flags are tied. Even in the high passes, the flags are tied as an act of showing reverence and wishing to god. Why not add your prayer flags to a high pass? They will bring you good luck.
17. Explore and Buy Souvenirs from Barkhor Street
Barkhor Street is considered to be the greatest market area where exotic products from all over Tibet are found. It is one of the biggest market areas in Tibet. You will find a number of exquisite products like the Tibetan masks, jewels, daggers, medicines and Tibetan rugs. However while buying such souvenirs; you have to bargain a lot.
Explore and Buy Souvenirs from Barkhor Street
Also while you buy Tibetan jewels like emerald and gold beads, carved with Tibetan mantras, make sure you buy it from some big authenticated shops and not from any street side vendors. The Barkhor Street is more than just a commercial street, but also a ritual circuit around the Jokhang Temple. When you are doing shopping on the street, you can join the centrifugal tide of Tibetans to do the ritual walk.
18. Join the Koras and Pilgrims in Tibet
When travelling in Tibet, you will see wizened old pilgrims twirling prayer wheels, rubbing sacred rocks and walking around temples, sacred mountains and lakes. Kora means nothing but the circumnavigation of a holy place or temple, often prostrating in the act of reverence. The kora is done while chanting mantras and circumnavigating the place. The kora usually occurs in places like Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar and Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake and in many such places. It involves a well planned itinerary of trekking.
Leave fond memories with friends at Namtso Lake
Each and every kora in Tibet has some new experience to gift to you. It involves a continuous walking from dawn to dusk. But the kora is a very charming experience. Joining the kora with the band of pilgrims, chanting the Tibetan mantras solemnly is considered to be a very good option once you visit Tibet.
19. Overland Tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu
Tibet also offers a number of beautiful road trips to the neighboring countries. One such famous overland trip is the bike tour or the car tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu. It is the most popular overland route in Tibet, with satisfying sense of journey and giant slice of adventure. The tour involves a seven day journey and is one of the best experiences of the Tibet overland trip.
Overland Tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu
On the way you will cover half of the tourist spots like Potala palace, Jokhang temple, Drepung monastery and Everest base camp. You will also witness the famous Yamdrok Tso lake and the famous Karo La pass. Also the lushful alpine sceneries are worth getting imprinted in the memory. The tour usually takes place through Gyirong port, the new Sino-Nepal border and you will get to see the Gyirong palace. Do not forget to carry your Tibet travel permit and alien travel permit which will be checked in the border.
Insiders’ Tip: Currently, Lhasa to Kathmandu overland tour is not available to international tourists since Gyirong Port is still being renovated. Taking flight between Lhasa and Kathmandu is the only way in.
20. Visit Top Three Alpine Lakes
Located at the roof of the world, Tibet is not short on spectacular, remote, turquoise alpine lakes. The top three alpine lakes of Tibet, namely Yamdrok Tso, Namtso and Manasarovar, are extraordinarily beautiful. The serene climate of the three lakes is bound to sweep you off the feet. All the three lakes are surrounded by snow clad mountain peaks that increases the beauty manifold.
Namtso lake is considered to be the second highest lake of Tibet and has turquoise blue water.It is very popular for its turquoise blue colour. The water seems to have a changing colour as the crystal clear water reflects all the changing colour of the sky.The Manasarovar lake is also huge and very beautiful, standing adjacent to Mount Kailash. Also the Yamdrok tso lake, which in Tibetan language means heavenly, indeed is the most beautiful lake of Tibet, exuding heavenly charm. These three lakes are considered to be holy by the Tibetan people. Not only that an elaborate kora route is followed around these three lakes. Thus, visiting these lakes is a must for tourists.