Lhasa: Gateway to Tibet
For those looking to immerse themselves in a completely different experience, you could do a lot worse than take a trip to Lhasa. The capital of Tibet, Lhasa is the second most populated city on the Tibetan Plateau and is one of the highest cities ever at 3,490 meters. Located in the Himalayas, this city is full of ancient history; the Dalai Lama used to call Lhasa home.
The Dalai Lama lived in the Potala Palace before the 14th Dalai Lama ran off to India during the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. Now, the palace is a museum. With over 1,000 rooms and shrines and beautiful architecture from the 17th century, the Potala Palace is considered one of the wonders of Eastern Asia.
Not to be outdone is the Jokhang Temple, an ancient temple that features a famous statue of a young Buddha. Located in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the temple is visited by thousands of nomads during the winter in a touching pilgrimage. If you wish to be touched by the power of religion, visiting Jokhang Temple during the pilgrimage is as good as it gets. Do not forget to explore Barkhor Square as well, which features several shops and markets.
For those hoping to learn more about Tibet’s history, visit the Tibet Museum, the official museum of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Founded in 199, the first modern museum in Tibet is located directly below the Potala Palace and features approximately 1,000 artefacts.
Another interesting site is Norbulingka, a palace that the Dalai Lama treated as his summer home until the Dalai Lama’s exile. The palace was built in 1755 and is surrounded by a park and expansive zoo. It is good for both children to play and adults to learn about Tibet’s history.
Lastly, the Three Great Monasteries that lie on the outskirts of Lhasa are extremely popular attractions. The Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries were all built in the early 1400s, and are places of history and spirit. The Sera Monastery spans 28 acres and features festivals and lively debates, while the Drepung Monastery has an excellent collection of cultural relics. The Ganden Monastery was destroyed in 1959 after being attacked by Red Guard artillery, but has been partially rebuilt.
With plenty to do and see around the Lhasa area, be sure to make the trip to one of Tibet’s most exciting cities!