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Tibet Travel Tips for Vegetarian Tourists to Tibet

October,27 2023 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

When planning a trip to Tibet, vegetarian tourists might wonder about the availability of vegetarian food. But in reality, Tibet offers a wide variety of delicious vegetarian choices.

Vegetarians can explore Tibet without worrying about their dining options, as many common dishes, like tofu and potatoes, are readily available, and there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants to cater to their preferences.

1. Vegetarian Restaurants are Easily Found in Tibet because Some Tibetan Buddhists are Vegetarians

In Tibet, there's no need for concern among vegetarians, as the region caters to their dietary preferences. Many Buddhists in Tibet, including pilgrims, opt for a vegetarian diet, and there is even a tradition of vegetarianism among older generations of Tibetan Buddhists. This makes vegetarianism an integral part of Tibetan culture, allowing vegetarian travelers to feel at ease and embraced by the local customs.

In cities like Lhasa, Shigatse, Nyingchi, and along the route to Mount Kailash in Ngari, vegetarian options are readily available in regular restaurants, and there are dedicated vegetarian restaurants that serve delectable vegetarian dishes.

Especially during the Mount Kailash tour, which hosts significant Hindu and Buddhist communities in Ngari, you'll find a prominent presence of vegetarian eateries.

Hence, finding vegetarian food in Tibet is not a challenge. For those who adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle, traveling to Tibet offers the opportunity to savor delicious vegetarian cuisine without worries.

2. Potatoes and Tibetan barley are Major foods for Vegetarians in Tibet

Vegetarians in Tibet primarily rely on potatoes and barley as their main sources of sustenance, constituting the core of Tibetan cuisine.

Tibet's potatoes are grown in the vast expanses along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, at altitudes around 3,800 meters. These potatoes are known for their generous size, thin skins, and delightful flavor, all while being rich in starch content. Potatoes cultivated at high altitudes possess a sweet and glutinous quality, boasting ample carbohydrates and starch, making them a fundamental dietary component for Tibetan vegetarians.

Tibetan fried potatoesThe Freshly fried Tibetan Potatoes served in a Tibetan Teahouse

Tibetan Barley, on the other hand, serves as the traditional staple for the local population. It is nutritionally dense, containing abundant starch, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and an array of essential nutrients, alongside various amino acids and dietary fiber. Tibetan barley stands as a wholesome dietary choice, offering essential nutritional elements for vegetarians.

Potatoes and barley form the foundation of Tibetan cuisine, offering vegetarians a rich source of nutrition and energy. You can enjoy a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes in local family-run restaurants and vegetarian eateries, all based on these key ingredients. Whether you're savoring potato dishes or relishing barley-based noodles, pastries, and more, there's a wide array of flavors to explore.

3. Varied Vegetarian Delights Await You in Tibet

In Lhasa, you can find almost every type of vegetable and fruit thanks to the widespread use of greenhouse farming techniques. From greens to tofu, Chinese cabbage to spinach, tomatoes to carrots, and even tropical fruits, Lhasa's local agricultural markets offer a wide variety of options for vegetarians.

Tibetan dumpling filling with vegetablesTibetan Dumpling Filling with Vegetables

Traditional Tibetan restaurants also serve a diverse range of vegetarian dishes, including potato-topped rice, fried potatoes, potato dumplings, potato curry, vegetable stew, vegetable dumplings, and more. These delicious vegetarian choices are readily available at Tibetan restaurants across Lhasa.

4. Exploring These Four Restaurant Options for Vegetarian Dining in Tibet

When it comes to vegetarian dining in Tibet, you're in luck! There are plenty of restaurants catering to vegetarians, ensuring you have a variety of options to choose from.

Here are four types of restaurants where you can enjoy vegetarian meals:

A. Traditional Tibetan Hot Pot Restaurants

No matter which Tibetan hot pot restaurant you visit, simply request a vegetarian hot pot, and you'll be served a steaming pot filled with delectable ingredients. These can include radishes, tofu skins, noodles, tomatoes, mushrooms, and vermicelli, all seasoned with the same spicy and sweet barley sauce used in traditional hot pots.

Tibetan vegetarian hot potTibetan Vegetarian Hot Pot Restaurant

B. Local Tibetan Teahouses

Local Tibetan teahouses offer a range of simple, delicious, and budget-friendly vegetarian choices, such as vegetarian noodles, potato curry rice, vegetarian buns, and dumplings. A plate of vegetarian buns, a pot of sweet tea, and some chili sauce make for a satisfying lunch in Tibet.

C. Traditional Tibetan Restaurants

In addition to dishes featuring yak and lamb, traditional Tibetan restaurants provide various vegetarian options, including vegetable rice, potato curry, grilled mushrooms, and vegetable pancakes.

If you're looking for innovative Tibetan vegetarian dishes, consider trying Lhasa Gang Gyab Coffee, which offers items like tsampa-roasted mushrooms, milk dregs buns, vegetarian meat patties, stir-fried barley, and Tibetan vegetable pizza, among others.

D. Upscale Vegetarian Restaurants

For those seeking a more refined dining experience, Lhasa has upscale vegetarian restaurants like Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, known for its exquisite vegetarian cuisine, and One World Tibetan Tea Hot Pot, specializing in Tibetan tea hot pot.

Keep in mind that dining at these upscale establishments may come at a higher cost compared to regular restaurants.

5. Finding Vegetarian Restaurants and Food in Tibet: Whether you're in Lhasa, Everest Base Camp, or Mount Kailash

Lhasa: Your Go-To Place for Vegetarian Delights in Tibet

Lhasa is the ultimate dining destination in Tibet, offering a wide array of vegetarian options with minimal hassle. Within the bustling tourist hub around Barkhor Street, you'll discover a plethora of vegetarian restaurants, including dedicated establishments and eateries serving up delicious vegetarian meal sets.

No matter your preference, savoring vegetarian cuisine in Lhasa is an effortless experience. Notable vegetarian eateries include Tibet Gongpeng Vegetarian Restaurant, Magi Ami Restaurant, Namaste Restaurant, and Qing Shui He Hua Vegetarian Restaurant.

Gongpeng RestaurantGongpeng Vegetarian Restaurant is one of the popular vegetarian restaurants in Lhasa.

Everest Base Camp: Limited Vegetarian Food Options

Embarking on an Everest Base Camp tour typically spans four days and three nights, with one night spent at Everest Base Camp and two nights in Shigatse. Breakfast and dinner are usually provided at your lodging, while lunch arrangements tend to be more spontaneous during travel.

Vegetarian travelers will encounter no significant challenges with dining in Shigatse; simply choose dishes that align with your taste preferences. As for Everest Base Camp, situated at a high-altitude location with limited cooking facilities, the food options are somewhat restricted. Nevertheless, you can still order vegetarian dishes such as vegetable stir-fry and noodle soup at the local restaurants.

Mount Kailash: Culinary Considerations

A journey to Mount Kailash often includes a visit to Everest Base Camp, resulting in a comprehensive round trip from Lhasa spanning approximately 10 days.

Along the epic overland route, you'll encounter numerous dining and accommodation options, with Sichuan and Tibetan cuisine taking center stage. Vegetarian travelers can delight in a selection of entirely plant-based dishes.

For those embarking on the physically demanding pilgrimage trek around Mount Kailash, maintaining a high level of fitness is essential. Along the trekking route, supply points offer functional beverages, instant noodles, and traditional Tibetan drinks. If necessary, you can enlist the services of a porter to transport your preferred vegetarian food and meal replacements.

6. Ordering Vegetarian Food in Our Tibet Small Group Tours

When you join one of our Tibet small group tours, the usual itinerary includes stays at star-rated hotels with breakfast provided. Lunch and dinner arrangements are flexible, allowing you to choose your dining venues.

Our Tibetan local tour guides will offer restaurant options, and for vegetarians, you can specify your dietary preferences, including avoiding ingredients like onions, garlic, or ginger. Your tour guide is there to assist you, so don't hesitate to communicate your preferences to avoid any misunderstandings or inconveniences.

We can arrange vegetarian restaurants for youWe can arrange vegetarian restaurants for you.

While lunch and dinner are self-arranged, we typically have designated lunch spots during the journey, often traditional Sichuan restaurants. These venues offer a diverse range of vegetarian dishes, including seasonal vegetables and tofu-based options.

7. Four Essential Considerations for Vegetarian Travelers in Tibet

A. Vegetarian Doesn't Always Mean Cheaper in Tibet

Due to Tibet's high-altitude location, most vegetables and fruits need to be transported long distances from places like Sichuan and Xinjiang, resulting in higher transportation and storage costs. Consequently, vegetarian dishes are often relatively expensive, especially in higher altitudes and remote areas.

B. More Vegetarian Options in Lhasa Compared to Other Regions in Tibet

Lhasa, with its well-developed transportation network, receives the majority of vegetables and fruits first. As Tibet's most popular tourist city, Lhasa offers a wide range of dietary options, including a diverse selection of vegetarian dishes.

Shopping fruit in Tibet marketShopping fruit in a Tibet market.

C. Communicate Special Dietary Needs in Advance.

For typical vegetarians, visiting Tibet usually poses no significant challenges as restaurants generally offer various vegetarian choices. However, if you have specific dietary requirements, such as a strict vegan diet, it's essential to communicate your needs when booking your tour. This allows your tour guide to arrange meals that align with your preferences.

Moreover, dining at Tibetan restaurants often involves sharing multiple dishes at a communal table, while noodle dishes, fried rice, and buffet-style meals are typically served as individual portions. If you have specific requests, such as consistent individual servings or a strictly vegetarian diet throughout your trip, please communicate these preferences with your travel advisor or guide in advance to accommodate your needs as much as possible.

D. Don’t Forget to Arrange Your Vegan Food on the Flight/Train to Tibet

Just a reminder, you need to arrange your own vegan food for the flight or train to Tibet.

Many flights to Tibet offer the vegan option. Just give them a call to ask for the vegetarian in-flight meal before you take off. Alternatively, you can pack some vegan snacks. Lightweight snacks like cut fruit or vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, vegan bars, chocolate, etc., are good choices.

For visitors who take a train to Tibet, we advise you to pack enough vegan snacks. Barrel instant noodles, self-heated bento, and bread can fill you up. Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, etc., are nice complements. You can also take some fruit. Grapefruit, oranges, or tangerines are good options as they help relieve carsickness and refresh the mind.

Dining on the train is possible as well. Tibetan trains offer three meals a day, and all are Chinese food. For breakfast, you can ask for vegetable-filling steamed buns, soy milk, pickles, and porridge. For lunch and dinner, there will be fresh cooked stir-fried dishes with a Sichuan flavor. You can order vegetarian food and don’t forget to ask for less spicy flavors.

Conclusion

Vegetarian travelers planning a Tibet tour can now enjoy their journey without concerns about finding suitable food options. With the flourishing tourism industry in Tibet, the quest for vegetarian dining has become much simpler.

Alongside dedicated vegetarian restaurants, numerous eateries throughout Tibet now offer a wide selection of entirely vegetarian dishes and food choices.

Additionally, the abundant supply of vegetables and fruits in Tibet enables travelers on guided tours to procure vegetarian ingredients in advance in Lhasa and bring them along on their travels.

Should you have any more questions regarding Tibetan cuisine or specific vegetarian inquiries for your Tibet trip, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are dedicated to offering you expert guidance and attentive service, ensuring your Tibet experience is seamless and enjoyable, and helping you create unforgettable memories in this extraordinary region!

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

With 20+ years of guide experience and tons of great reviews, Sonam Tenphel is one of the top-rated local Tibetan guides in our team. Polite, enthusiastic, and extremely attentive to every traveler’s needs, he is your best travel companion in Tibet and a walking dictionary of Tibetan culture and history.

Additionally, being a great photographer, Sonam helps you capture great Tibet travel moments and maximize your Tibet experiences like no other.

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