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The Dalai Lama fled to India over 45 years ago, yet Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, remains the most sacred and most significant city in the province. Now a museum, the Dalai Lama's former residence - the magnificent Potala Palace - framed by the snow-capped Himalayas remains the most recognized and most monumental building in all of Tibet.

Despite ongoing political controversies raised by the exiled Dalai Lama and a growing concern over the province's shifting population demographics, Lhasa's draw remains unquestionably compelling.

Although Tibet is bordered on three sides by snow-capped mountain ranges, the "Roof of the World" is not all mountains; huge stretches of high desert, endless grasslands and deep river valleys occupy its territory. At its extreme eastern border, three of Asia's great rivers course within a mere fifty miles of one another: the Saliween, the Mekong and the Yangtze. Still, it's understandably the mountain vistas that visitors remember most!

Most foreign travelers to Lhasa now arrive by air, but that may quickly change. Newly-completed in July, 2007 is a direct rail link from Xinging, called the "Qinghai-Tibet Railway" - a 695-mile journey aboard the world's highest and steepest train. The route's elevation requires the provision of oxygen for the train's passengers!
Lhasa's attractions include:

  • Potala Palace: Without question, Lhasa's most recognized attraction is the Potala Palace. Actually two palaces - the White Palace and the Red Palace - the exisiting structure dates from the 17th century, although an earlier palace dates to 631 AD. As the former residence of 14 Dalai Lamas (the last of whom fled to India in 1959), the palace is now a museum. A 1980's total renovation - completed using traditional construction materials and methods - has fully restored this landmark palace to original glory. The views of and from the palace are equally spectacular. Within the Potala Palace are bejeweled "throne" rooms, ornate murals and priceless monuments, or stupas, one of which is gilded with over 6,000 pounds of gold! The palace is still used for important religious ceremonies and high-profile political events.
  • Jokhang Temple: The 1,300-year-old Jokhang Temple is Tibet's holiest shrine. For centuries it was the spiritual retreat for the Dalai Lamas and it's here, outside the walls of this temple, where pilgrims spin prayer wheels as they perform one of three Tibetan koras, or sacred circuits.

  • The Barkhor: "Capitalizing" on visitors and dutiful monks who travel to the Jokhang Temple, the Barkhor is essentially a crowded, colorful and highly photogenic neighborhood of shops, hawkers, teahouses and market stalls.

  • Sera Monastery: The open-air "debating courtyard" at the Sera Monastery is required viewing for any Lhasa visitor. Here, Tibetan monks debate Buddhist teachings punctuated with highly-ritualized, often loud gestures, such as hand clapping and foot stomping. The monastery caters to three colleges - all visited by Tibetan monks during their sacred circuits.

  • Drepung Monastery: In Tibetan, literally, "Rice heap," the Drepung Monastery is on the sacred circuit (kora) of Buddhist devotees. At its peak over 10,000 monks studied here, making it the world's largest; today that number has shrunk to fewer than 1,000. From a distance away the off-white monastery looks like a heap of rice, hence it's name.
Featured Hotels - Essential & Adventure Series: (subject to change)
  • Jardin Secret Hotel
    No. 60 West Jinzhu Road
    Lhasa, Tibet, 850015 China
    Tel: (86) (891) 6936 666
    Fax: (86) (891) 6937 537
    4-Star - 270 rooms
    For a link to the Jardin Secret Hotel site click here.


  • Tibet Hotel
    No. 64 Beijing Middle Road
    Lhasa, Tibet, 850015 China
    Tel: (86) (891) 6834 966
    Fax: (86) (891) 6823 506
    4-Star - 270 rooms
    For a link to a Tibet Hotel site click here.

Featured Hotel - Luxury Series: (subject to change)

  • Brahmaputra Grand Hotel
    Section B, Yangcheng Plaza, Gongutang Road
    Lhasa, Tibet, 850000 China
    Tel: (86) (891) 6309 9999
    Fax: (86) (891) 6309 999
    4-Star - 187 rooms
    For a link to the Brahmaputra Grand Hotel site click here.


Lhasa is featured
on the following tours:
  •Essential China + Tibet
  •Train to Tibet Tour
  •Everest Explorer Tour
  •The "Grand 14" Tour
  •The "Grand 19" Tour
Tibet Train trivia:
...Did you know?
Operating at altitudes up to 16,000 feet, the new Qinghai- Tibet railway:
  • Enriches breathing air by pumping oxygen into each rail car
  • Uses pressure cookers to cook the rice for the dining car restaurant
  • Travels for much of its length on bridges built atop permafrost
  • Cools track supports where they touch ground to ensure a frozen track bed
  • Installed ultra-violet filters on window glass to reduce the sun’s glare
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