What is Tibet Known For? Why Tibet is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip?
Tibet. What comes to your mind when you first hear the word? In most of us the word alone conjures images of monks, meditations, mountain peaks with ice rolling over, blue skies, red robes and maybe, the divine Shangri-La. But in reality, Tibet is much more than that. This paradise, known as the Roof of the World, is the highest place in heaven, with an average elevation of 4900 m. This enigmatic, yet striking abode in a plateau north of the Himalayas, has been a longed spot for many outsiders. Ever since the start of the 20th century, this massive, serene land has attracted numerous tourists with its royal scenery and unique religious culture. The authenticity in the air of Tibet has proven to provide peace and fulfillment to visitors from different parts of the world.
The unique climate and topography in Tibet
The region attracts all kinds of tourists. Why? Because of its varied culture and never-fading beauty. The weather is never the same in Tibet. Different seasons bring out the different faces of this enigma, thereby making it an ideal spot for a vacation for you regardless of whether you adore mild temperatures and endless sunshine or shivering snow and blurred isolated surroundings. The place hosts different kinds of festivals all throughout the year. So, whether you want something unequivocally religious, with the disciples following monks towards sacred lakes and monasteries or some food festival hosting the tradition delicious Tibetan cuisines and the popular butter tea, you will always find a reason to convince you to be here.
When is the ideal time for Tibet tour?
You must be wondering about the best features of the land we have been talking about. Let’s talk about some of them. The stunning alpine scenery of Tibet captivates everyone. Floras and faunas find homes in their realm of happiness, where Mother Nature rewrites her definition of beauty, eternal peace and mountainous glory. However, living in the harsh weather conditions in Tibet should not be taken lightly. Some seasons are best for travel, usually in between April and October, while others, during winter especially, tourists can experience the most intense Buddhist atmosphere. Since winter is the off-season of Tibet tour, not only can you enjoy cheaper hotels and attraction ticket fare but also the ideal flight and train tickets and many tourism promotional events, plus diverse religious and cultural festivals. Also, Tibet is characterized by high altitudes. Motion sickness, acute mountain sickness and altitude illness are likely to arise in between the treks and tours if you do not take enough time to acclimatize with the extreme altitudes once you land in Tibet.
Best time to travel Tibet
Top7 regions in Tibet
Lhasa—capital of Tibet
Let’s talk about the typical Tibetan climate in 7 of the major tourist attraction spots of Tibet. Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, is a unique and spiritual city in a snow plateau. This marvelous place, characterized by the world renowned Potala Palace, Barkhor shopping center, Chakpori Hill and the three great monasteries of Tibet, is known as the City of Sunlight. The region enjoys a mild climate free of toxic cold winters and intolerably hot summers. The annual temperature here is around 8 degrees celsius, though the temperature keeps varies between day and night. Therefore, we might say every season, especially the rainy season between June and September, is ideal for travelling to Lhasa. Moreover, you will be able to get a taste of all kinds of food, including Tibetan, Sichuan, Nepalese and Western cuisines in restaurants while your stay in Lhasa. One important advice for you is that, stay calm and comfortable during your trip. Take an immediate good rest as soon as you arrive in Lhasa. This is important for high-altitude acclimatization.
Shigatse—home to the world’s summit
Another major region in Tibet is Shigaste, located along the Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway. Widely known as Xigatse, this gorgeous Tibetan abode is a hub of the road network among Lhasa, Nepal and western Tibet. What attracts tourists in this area are unique natural sites and grand monasteries including the Mount Everest, Rongbuk Glacier, Palkor Chode Monastery, Jonang Kumbum and Pala Manor. Given the enormous network of monasteries, this area is a destination for numerous pious pilgrims every year. Given its high elevation, the climate here is quite turbulent, with a temperature range from -25 degrees centigrade to 23 degrees centigrade. 6.3 degree centigrade has been found as the average temperature in this region.
The months between November and following March are usually accompanied by low temperature while June and July bring the rainy season in Shigatse. Thus, only a short period, between April and June, is considered as the best travel time to Shigatse. One important information- If you are planning to visit Mt. Everest, Sakya Monastery, and Rongbuk Monastery, you have to apply for a separate travel permit as these picturesque spots are listed as closed areas in Tibet.
Ngari--- Ultimate pilgrimage destination in Tibet
Ngari prefecture in north-western Tibet, known as the roof of the roof of the world for it is situated at an elevation of 4,500 meters above sea level, is the junction for the Himalayas, the Gangdise, the Kunlun Mountains and Karakorum Mountains meet. This area is dotted with beautiful lakes and rivers, great mountains and glaciers, vast grasslands, spectacular snow mountains, as well as pastures and clay forests. If you are an aficionado of renowned natural and historical sites like the ruins of Guge Kingdom, Toling Temple, the holy Mt. Kailash and the sacred Lake Manasarovar, this is your ideal spot of vacation. Ngari relishes a mild summer with an average temperature from 9 to 22 degrees centigrade and 27.6 degrees centigrade as the highest on record.
Holy Mt. Kailash
But, winters are tremendously cold, with the lowest temperature on record being -44.6 degrees centigrade. Rainy days in Ngari often occur from July to the early September, which inevitably make transportation extremely troublesome. Therefore, the best time for travelling to Ngari is from May to the early July or from September to October. A good observation is that although in August the temperature in the day may surpass 20 degrees centigrade, at night it may plunge to below zero. Sun block, sun glasses as well as warm clothing are necessary, invariably for a journey to the areas with an altitude over 5,000m.
Nyingchi—“Swiss-Alps” of eastern Tibet
Nyingtri is characterised by huge well-preserved forests with many prehistoric and rare trees. This "Switzerland of Tibet", is a dream destination for not only nature enthusiasts but also adventure lovers and daredevils. Places you are advised to visit if you make up your mind to be here are - Lunang Forest, 2500-year-old Cypress trees, Kaqen Glaciers, Namcha Barwa Mountain, Zayu Natual Reserves, YiGong National Geological Parks, Buchu Monastery, Lamaling Temple, Galang Palace Ruins and Folk Culture Village. Nyingchi stands at a relatively high altitude with a comparatively low temperature. It is quite dry and windy in spring and winter.
In general, the travelling season of Nyingchi starts from April to October, but May Day Holiday is the peak tourism time in China, so if you are a foreign traveller, you might want to avoid it. Also, remember that temperature has a sharp difference between day and night in Nyingchi. You are highly advised to carry long sleeves, sweater, jackets, sunglasses, sun cap, sun blocking cream, lip cream, Aspirin, medicine for cold and digestion etc. The best tourist season is from April until October.
Nagqu—largest settlement of Tibetan Nomads
Nagqu, generally called as Changtang, attracts tourists for activities and sites like Nagqu Horse Racing, Xiangxiong Kingdom, Siling-Tso, etc. Nagqu has an annual average temperature of -0.9°C to -3.3°C. From November to March, it is cold and dry. The area is exposed to violent sandstorm. From May to September, Nagqu is relatively warm and enjoys good weather. It is also the best time for visiting Nagqu. The vast Changtang prairie and exciting Nagqu horseracing festival, Nomadic culture and customs are some of the best features for visiting Nagqu prefecture.
Nagqu horseracing festival
Lhokha—cradle of Tibetan civilization
Lhokha celebrates a moderate dry climate and distinctive four seasons. Its highest temperature, a little more than 20 degrees centigrade, lasts from June to August with the lowest temperature dropping to 10 degrees centigrade below zero in December and January. Therefore, the best travel time for tourists is from June to August. You can wear the same amount of clothes as you do in Lhasa as the temperature is almost the same as that in Lhasa. However, the temperature between day and night varies greatly around 10 degrees centigrade, sometimes even reaching to over 20 degrees centigrade.
The fertile land and enchanting Yarlung Tsangpo River help to breed the rich Tibetan culture in Lhokha. You can visit the first Tibetan monastery and first palace in Tibet. The stunning Yamdrok lake also flows peaceful in this region.
Chamdo—Center of Khamba Culture
Chamdo, located in eatern Tibet, is the ground for Khamba culture. Its byzantine topography and delightful landscapes, like snow-capped mountains, fast-running rivers, thundering waterfalls, and dense forests attract innumerable visitors every year. Besides there are magnificent ancient monasteries, buildings, steles, villages and workshops. Just list a few of the famous spots in Chamdo to name can be: Chambaling Monastery, Karma Temple, Riwoche Monastery, Tsedrug Temple, Carnot Ruins and Rawok Lake.
In general, Chamdo has a warm and humid summer whereas a windy and dry winter and spring. The best time to visit this place is between April and May, or September and October. Summer begins with green grass and blossoming wild flowers on the highland. In late fall, you will see a magnificent picture of the multi-coloured, splendid scenery, blue sky and clean water. In other times, the motor road may be interrupted by the rain and heavy snowfall.
Distinct Buddhist Culture in Tibet
As discussed above, Tibet is the kingdom of beautiful and spiritual Buddhism. The renowned monasteries, religious festivals, Tibetan Buddhism have been known to attract tourists from all over the world. A Tibet tour is incomplete without a visit to the most sacred temple of Tibetan people, the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, where pilgrims from all over Tiber gather. They prostrate themselves in front of the temple and circle around it clockwise.
Besides, the three main monasteries are a must visit for all tourists who want to get the authentic touch of Tibetan Buddhism. They are Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Drepund Monastery. Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world, is connected to Shigatse City and Lhasa by a road, so it is easy to get to those two beautiful cities from this location. Visitors who decide to climb the Mt. Everest can also stay here at night. If you are in Tibet, you will not want to miss a pilgrimage to another beauty of this paradise- the Mt. Kailash. The main peak of the Gandise Mountains, Mount Kailash is the most noteworthy holy mountain in Asian history. With 4 distinct sides, the gigantic pyramid has a round cap covered in eternal snow and ice. Standing far above surrounding mountains, Mount Kailash is just like a majestic ruler of Nature. The mountain commands great reverence from Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon religion and Jainism.
Holy Lakes in Tibet
Tibet is also noted for the holy lakes in this region. You might want to follow the monks or priests or visit alone to some of these wonderful water bodies to become a part of their spiritual beauty. Manasarover, the mother of all the holy lakes, likes in Ngari, 2000 km from Lhasa, is revered by Tibetans for its water that is believed to wash away all the evil from the world. Your list should also include Lake Namtso, Basum Lake and Tangra Yumco if you want to make your journey to Tibet spiritually fulfilling.
Inextricably intertwined religious and secular life
Tibetan culture and identity are prominently linked to Tibetan Buddhism. Religious exercise and Buddhist ideologies are a part of daily life for most Tibetans. Monks and nuns play a significant role in their communities, providing guidance and education. They are often very active in protecting and promoting Tibet's environment, language and culture. Tibet, today, is rich in tradition and some Tibetans, particularly nomads, have lifestyles that have changed little over generations. It is also a modern country with many urban Tibetans living busy city lives.
Communications are very important to Tibetans and the use of mobile phones and the internet is extensive, including in some of the most remote parts of Tibet. Tibetans are extremely hospitable to their visitors. Tibetan people have not only managed to survived in the high altitudes of the Tibetan plateau, but have thrived. They have created a unique culture all their own. Tibetans living in the grasslands live in large tents, which allow them to be able to move to greener pastures for their livestock. Their tents are beautiful and appear simple, but they are quite complex. People who live a less nomadic lifestyle live in wooden houses that are covered with Buddhist carvings. Every square inch of their houses are decorated with bright colors, and visitors are always welcome.
As you make a journey through Tibet, a vivid picture of Tibetan customs and local life unfold before your eyes. When visiting Tibetans’ family, you will how important the wooden bowls, Tsampa, yak butter tea, gutu and sweet tea are in Tibetans’ daily life and how great Himalayas, sacred Namtso lake and alpine pasture play a part in shaping distinct nomadic customs. From the grandest celebrations, Tibetan New Year (or Losar) festival to numerous religious and secular festivals like Shoton Featival, Saga Saga Dawa Festival, Tashilhunpo Thangka Festival, Yushu Horse Racing Festival, you name it, they will definitely deepen your understanding of Tibetan culture and history and refresh your impression of real Tibet. Tibetans consider festivals as an integral part of their life and almost everyone participates in the festivities.
Exciting, isn't it? Tibet is full of many such wonders and if, like me, you cannot wait for many such mysteries to unfold before your eyes, plan up your tour now! You will love it here.