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Lhasa (ལྷ་ས་)

According to beliefs, Lhasa is a sacred and mysterious place that will heal everyone, purify their soul and make them find faith. With these thoughts, many visit it with the simple goal of worshiping and asking for the best. However, this city has much more to offer. For lovers of art and culture, visiting the red and white buildings of the Potala Palace that was built in the time of the Tibetan Empire and its treasures can be one of the best ideas. For those who love lively environments, walk through the oldest streets of Barkhor and experience the Palden Lhamo Festival performances can be the best of the best. And, of course, it is always good to have a relaxing time following the Tibetan customs, having a night walk in the Lukhang Zongjiao Park or watching the infinite starry sky above our heads.

Spring +

Summer is the most recommended season to go to Lhasa, and this is due to several reasons. Mainly, the weather in this season is super nice and warm. In addition, it is one of the times when the oxygen content in the air is highest, so there is a high chance of avoiding dizziness and discomfort in the body due to the altitude.

The rains in summer may be a little more abundant than at other times of the year, but they do not prevent you from visiting the surroundings and enjoying Tibetan culture. In addition, it should be noted that this way, the humidity makes our skin not very dry and it is not so hot either. It is the time when the trees are super lush and the landscape is beautiful.

It is certainly the best time of the year to visit Lhasa by day and feel the Tibetan culture and traditions in the temples, the Potala Palace, the local streets, etc.

Autumn +

In autumn, the trees of Lhasa will be dyed gold giving it a totally different and even more “sacred” color. There is little rain in this season, making it more suitable for hiking outdoors. It is a season in which there are not many visitors, which gives a touch of tranquility and relaxation to the Tibetan capital. Also, it is when traditional Tibetan festivals such as Palden Lamo or Selabenqing are held, when the best wishes, peace and prosperity are asked. Thus, it is the perfect time to enjoy an environment totally bathed in local culture and beliefs, a destination in its 100% natural state.

How to get +

Travelers with foreign nationality must be accompanied by a local tour guide as a requirement, since freely visiting any place in Tibet is prohibited. In part, this is due to the danger that altitude can cause, possibilities of loss in disabled areas or even the appearance of wild animals. Therefore, the tourist agency will be the one in charge of transporting and choosing the most convenient method of transport for its clients.

For those tourists with Chinese nationality who can travel freely, there are usually these options:

By plane:  Lhasa has its own airport, named Lhasa Gonggar Airport. Most flights to Tibet stop here, so direct flights to the capital are quite plentiful.

By train: Lhasa has a train station where visitors come from many parts of China. However, normally the trips are not usually direct, but with stops at stations such as Lanzhou or Xining, and with later transfer to Lhasa.

By car with chofer: for those visiting other parts of Tibet, it is more convenient to go by rented car. However, it is better to be accompanied by a local driver, as roads are very hilly and it is very difficult to go through them, and there are even areas with no signal and disabled. The price per day per vehicle is ¥1200-1500, including a driver (slightly more expensive compared to other destinations).

Travel tips +

Permits:

You must have a travel permit for Tibet in case you are a visitor of non-Chinese nationality. Only local travel agencies in Tibet can issue this permit.

In case of being a foreigner, it is mandatory to travel accompanied by a group guided by a tour guide from the travel agency, as it is not allowed to circulate freely in Tibet.

 

What to carry:

Medication: to combat dizziness, colds or headaches. We recommend you to start taking Chinese medicine such as Rhodiola rosea (红景天) and Panax quinuefolius (西洋参) 14 days before traveling to avoid reactions due to altitude.

Oxygen bottles: to be used only when necessary, as the process of getting used to the altitude is very important. It is not good to start the tour and immediately use bottles of oxygen.

 

It is better to go to Lhasa in summer (June-September), when the landscapes are more beautiful and it is the best temperature of the whole year, around 21ºC. In addition, it is the time when there is the highest concentration of oxygen, because the trees are very lush, which can really make things much easier.

 

In the first 2-3 days of travel (from when you arrive) it is better not to shower, since it is very easy to have a cold and increase the reaction due to the altitude.

Gastronomy +

Chaang liquor (青稞酒): it is a type of wine made with barley from the Tibetan plateau, with a type of raw material typical of Qinghai-Tibet. It has a yellow-orange color, a good sweet and sour taste, and is low in alcohol. It is used to celebrate parties, receive family and friends, at weddings, etc.

Tibetan noodles (藏面): plateau noodles have a different flavor than what we normally eat in plains areas. For those who are trying it for the first time, they may feel that the taste inside is raw, but actually that is one of its characteristics. It is made with wheat flour and is eaten both as a main dish and as a snack.

Tsampa (糌粑): for Tibetans, tsampa is the transcription of noodles, but with a shorter and thicker shape. It is a typical and main dish they eat every day, usually mixed with butter tea (酥油茶). In addition, sugar and Chhaang (青稞) are usually added to increase the flavor and make it yummier.

Tibetan yogurt: the yak milk (a typical animal species of Tibet) that has been squeezed less than 30 minutes ago is put in a container and cooked. Then, it is waited for the temperature to drop to 40ºC and it is mixed with the yogurt that was left fermenting the day before. Afterwards, the mix is ​​left sealed to dry under the sun. The result is a lumpy, pasty white yogurt, with a pure, sour taste and extremely nutritious. It may be a bit too sour for first-time tasters, however you can add sugar which, even if it doesn’t dissolve completely, can balance out the flavor a bit.

Butter Tea: Combined primarily with tsampa, it works to ward off the cold, keep your mind fresh, and quench your thirst. This type of drink is processed with ghee and strong tea. To prepare it, the brick tea (砖茶) is boiled with yak butter and a little salt. Then, it is put into an elongated wooden barrel and beaten to emulsify, although other methods exist today as well. The taste is a bit salty, but at the same time creamy, smooth and delicious.

Accommodation +

Only for those who can travel freely (otherwise, it would be prepared by the travel agency):

The St. Regis Lhasa Resort: it is an establishment that presents a contemporary local design and was built with wood, with beautiful views.

Address: 22 Jiangsu Road, Chengguan District, 850000 Lhasa, Tíbet.

Estimated price per night of stay: 860-1500¥

Reservations are available via Booking.

Contact: 0891-630-5845.

 

House of Shambhala: it is a Tibetan style accommodation, where you will live like in a local’s home.

Address: Nº7 Jiri Second Alley, Beijing East Road, Chengguan District, 850000 Lhasa, Tíbet.

Estimated price per night of stay: 300-400¥.

You can make the reservation on intermediaries like Booking.

Contact: 0891-632-6695.

Useful contacts +

Lhasa People’s Hospital: 0891-632-3302.

Public Security: 110.

Tourist complaints: 0891-632-4691.

Lhasa Gonggar Airport customer service: 0891-618-2220.

Tibet tourist transfers: 0891-682-4469.