The Potala Palace: A historic site in red and white

Cultural experiences don’t get much more spectacular than a trip to Tibet. There’s a great deal of intrigue surrounding this autonomous region of China, which makes it a compelling destination for travellers looking for a personalised Tibet holiday with a difference. One of the most iconic sites is the Potala Palace, a historic wonder you won’t want to miss.

Introducing the Potala Palace

The Potala Palace is officially the world’s highest ancient palace. Standing tall at 3,500 metres above sea level, it dominates the skyline, towering over the town of Lhasa some 300 feet below. The palace was constructed in 1645 to serve as the centre of the Tibetan government under the Dalai Lama. The palace is symbolic of the importance of Buddhism to the people of Tibet and it has been a destination for pilgrims for centuries.

The look of the palace is distinctive and unique with striking red and white components, which pierce the blue sky and provide a beguiling contrast to the surrounding grey rock of the mountainous landscapes of Lhasa. When touring the palace, which functions as the winter home for the Dalai Lama, it’s best to take two separate routes.

Exploring the Potala Palace

The Red Palace occupies the highest position and it houses the burial monuments, known as stupa, to former Dalai Lamas. The highlight of the tour is perhaps the mausoleum of the fifth Dalai Lama, which boasts five storeys and opulent decoration featuring an overlay made from precious metals and jewels.

The White Palace takes longer to explore and it is packed with fascinating artefacts, incredible decorative designs and a seemingly never-ending series of rooms. This part of the palace contains the ceremonial hall, which is home to the Dalai Lama. Most of the private rooms are located on the top floor. As you journey through the palace, you’ll come across almost 700 murals, as well as thousands of painted scrolls, sculptures and beautiful ornaments made from porcelain, jade, gold and silver.

Making the most of your visit

During peak season (in the summer months), the palace can get very busy and it’s best to book in advance or arrive early to avoid wasting time queueing. A guided tour is well worth considering, as an experienced guide will be able to tell you everything you could ever wish to know about the palace, its history and its significance to the Tibetan people.