Even if you do not have a lot of time this short trip will show you the highlights of Lhasa and a glimpse of the surrounding countryside. Explore the major historic, cultural and religious landmarks and immerse yourself in the busy, narrow alleys of old Lhasa. A great extension to any China or Nepal tour.
Today is arrival day and no activities are planned. You will be met by a local guide on arrival at Lhasa airport or train station and transferred to your hotel. They will have all the documents for your smooth check-in and will discuss all the logistics of the trip with you and answer any questions.
To facilitate your choice of arrival by air or train from any city in China or from Kathmandu the transfer cost is not included in the trip price. This will be calculated and added once your arrival plans are confirmed.
Acclimatization day in Lhasa
You are already at 3658 m and most people can feel the effects of the lower oxygen content of the air. In order to acclimatize today is easy and relaxed. We recommend you walk around the market and Barkhor areas, enjoying the atmosphere. The Barkhor is the pilgrim circumambulation route around the Jokhang and a fascinating part of traditional Lhasa. Wander slowly, drink plenty of water, join locals in a tea house and take an afternoon rest in the hotel when the sun is at its most intense. Remember you are not allowed to enter any temples or monasteries without your guide.
Lhasa sightseeing: Visit Drepung & Nechung, Norbulinka and Sera Monastery
A full day’s sightseeing in Lhasa beginning at Drepung. This was Tibet’s largest monastic university; once housing more than 7000 monks, and home to the Dalai Lamas prior to the construction of the Potala. The main assembly hall here is magnificent and the kitchens vast.
Nearby Nechung was the home of the state oracle prior to 1959. Neither the Tibetan government nor the Dalai Lamas would make any major decision without consulting the oracle who would go into a trance (often dancing) in order to divine the answer.
The summer palace of the Dalai Lamas, Norbulingka (or Treasure Garden) is a quiet and beautiful manor house in the western part of Lhasa. It proudly boasts a great display of high-altitude flora and is a popular summer picnic ground. Of the palaces here, that of the 14th Dalai Lama is most interesting, its murals depicting events in Tibetan history and his personal quarters show his fascination with Western inventions.
Sera is another huge and famous monastic university, built on the hillside north of the city in the C15th. Pilgrims flock to the shrine of the tantric deity Hayagriva, the remover of obstacles. Close by is the debating courtyard where every afternoon the monks test their knowledge of Buddhist philosophy in a spectacular way.
Lhasa sightseeing: Walking tour visiting Potala, Jokhang and Barkhor
Today visit Lhasa’s old city centre on foot. This will include the Potala and the Jokhang Temple, the most important of Lhasa’s monuments, for both Tibetans and tourists.
The Potala Palace, seat of the Dalai Lamas for centuries, is the most well-known landmark of Tibet. In its present form it was built by the Great 5th Dalai Lama in the C17th. After climbing its impressive stairway, you will see audience halls and the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas, some exceptional relics, stupas, three dimensional mandalas, numerous statues and the meditation cave of Songtsen Gampo which is part of the original C7th structure. It gained World Heritage status in 1994.
The Jokhang Temple, founded in 642 by Tibet’s first Buddhist king with the help of his Chinese and Nepali wives, is the most sacred in Tibet. It is the centre of the mandala that is the Tibetan landscape and houses the sacred Buddha statue, the Jowo Buddha; hence Jo (Jowo Buddha) khang (chapel). Many Tibetans still use its original name Tsuglakhang, which means ‘House of Sciences’ (religious sciences of astrology, divination and geomancy). Although parts of the temple have been rebuilt and restored over time, many original elements remain; the wooden beams and rafters have been shown by carbon dating to be original, and the Newari door frames and columns date from the 7th and 8th centuries. From the rooftop you get a stunning view of the main square and the Potala. Join locals on the Barkhor, shopping, dining, spinning prayer wheels and gossiping.
Visit Lhasa surrounds including Pabongka and Ganden monasteries
The complex of buildings and caves generally known as Pabongka are amongst the oldest and most sacred sites in Lhasa. The hermitage dates from the C7th, originally build by Songsten Gampo as a castle. Further up the hill is his meditation chamber, the Palden Lhamo cave. A nearby yellow brick building is where one of his ministers composed the Tibetan alphabet after years of travelling and learning in India. There is also a sky-burial site nearby.
Ganden Monastery was founded in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, who was also the founder of the Gelukpa tradition. Ganden means ‘joyous’, and it is the name of the paradise of the future Buddha, Maitreya. The monastery’s construction, high above the Kyichu Valley, is amazing and offers stupendous views. Badly damaged during the cultural revolution, many buildings have been reconstructed and it is again an active monastery and pilgrimage site. Join locals on the circumambulation path which offers views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Departure from Lhasa
Today is your last day in Lhasa. Depending upon your departure time you may manage to fit in some last-minute shopping before your transfer to the airport or station.