The Potala palace towers above the city of Lhasa as the national landmark that allures international visitors. The massive 13-storeyed building used to be the former abode for the Dalai lamas. It looks incredibly magnificent from a distance and could be viewed from various places around town. As the nation’s supreme relic, the palace dates back to the seventh century A.D.
Jokhang temple, Barkhore square and Samye
The Jokhang temple is the most sacred temple in Tibet. In the Tibetan language, it refers to “Buddha’s house” because the main statue is said to be made by Buddha Sakyamuni himself time. The Jokhang temple is the convergence of Tibet’s spiritual and secular life. Here you can meet all kinds of tribes from the Tibetan plateau. The surrounding market is called “Bakhore”. One of the most important religious paths, which also assembles people for shopping.
Few people know the difference between a temple and a monastery, a temple is a building used for the worship of God in which statues and scriptures are placed in. Commonly there isn’t any monk in it. A monastery is always large and there are always monks serving for it. The unique design of the Samye monastery originated from the Odantapuri Temple in Bihar, India, and mirrored the basic structure of the universe as described in Buddhist cosmology. It is built in the 8th century A.D. The founder of the monastery chose “7 examed men” from the royal families to be the initial monks to this monastery. The monastery is precious in terms of the history of Tibetan Culture and Art.
The Yarlung Valley is one of the lowest regions in the prefectures that are open for foreign tourists in Tibet. Most people arriving in Tibet suffer the first few days from altitude sickness, to a more or less degree. They develop symptoms such as headaches, difficulties with breathing. The best solution for those symptoms is going to a lower altitude area for acclimatization. Then, gradually, ascend to higher altitude for further activities. The Yarlung Valley is the ideal place for this.
At 3500m Tsedang is an important town in the Yarlung Valley, a famous cultural place with much to see for tourists. Tsedang is only 90km away from the airport in Tibet, at almost the same distance from the airport to Lhasa. The Yarlung Valley is a place where you can find many roots of the Tibetan people. It is the birthplace of the Tibetan nation and the cradle of Tibetan civilization. In Tibet, people believe that human beings were converted by a monkey. According to a widespread legend the event took place in Tsedang. Also, the national hero, Songtsan Gampo, who unified the whole of Tibet, originates from this place.
Mt. Kailash & Lake Manasarovar
The supreme pilgrim’s destination is Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and Tibetan animism. Located in the fast west of the Tibetan plateau 1,600km from Lhasa, Mt. Kailash is much older than the Himalayas. This mountain is believed to be the manifestation of Dachok, Tantric God, and lake Manasarovar is the manifestation of the god’s consort. You can visit and/or circumcise the entire mountain on a pilgrimage lasting from a few hours to multiple days.
This lake, some 2.000km away from Lhasa, is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake. It is a much-visited place by pilgrims from all over Tibet, Nepal, and India and offers spectacular views. This lake can very well be combined with a trip to Mt. Kailash.
Qomolungma (Mount Everest)
The highest mountain in the world with a height of 8848m. It is the ultimate destination for many intrepid travelers who want to visit this mountain at least once in their lifetime. Tibetan legends say the mountain is the manifestation of the 3rd among the 7 fairy sisters who’s in charge of wealth. The Tibetan name “Qomolangma” refers to the 3rd goddess in Tibetan.
This place is, among others, of great value to those with an interest in history and offers an insight into early Buddhist art. After the assassination of the anti-Buddhist King Langdharmar, one of the king’s sons, set up the Guge Kingdom west of Lake Manasarovar and Mt Kailash at Tsaparang. There, the revival of Tibetan Buddhism started again and was introduced back into Central Tibet. The ruins of the 1,200 years old the Guge Kingdom are about 287km from Mt. Kailash.
This prefecture is the lowest in height among the seven prefectures in Tibet. Nyingtri Prefecture is famed for its botany, located in the southeast of Tibet. The whole area is covered by a dense and evergreen virgin forest which is the 3rd largest in China. The climate is relatively humid and warm. Also, the world’s biggest cypress tree is found here, not far from the capital town name Bayi. In this region, the ancient Bon-religion is well preserved and is widely being practiced.
Gyangtse rose to prominence in the 15th century when a local chieftain name Raptan Kunsang, built Palco monastery and Gyangtse Dzong (fort) as his residence. It became particularly famous after the bloody 1904 battle fought by the Tibetans in resisting Younghusbands’s Expedition. Remnants of the battle and a hollow made by a cannonball can still be seen on the perimeter walls of the Dzong (fort). The Kumbum Pagoda in the palcho monastery is a spectacular work of architecture dating from the 15th century. Gyangtse is also famous for its home industries. Almost every household in the town busies itself with carpet weaving and tweed weaving of wool. The collectively owned carpet factory in Gyangtse has an employment of five hundred skilled workers, and weaving is done traditionally.
Shigatse did not rise to fame until after Gyangtse. In the 14th century Changchup Gyaltsen, who triumphed over the Sayka Dynasty, divided Tibet into thirteen “Dzongs” (counties) and the last of which he named Shiga-Samdup-Tse (the estate that fulfills one’s wishes), later abbreviated to Shigatse. The name symbolized Changchub Gyaltsen’s hope that his ambition of ruling over the whole of Tibet has been fulfilled. But Shigatse did not begin to flourish until the period of Karmapa’s twenty-years reign over Tibet in the early seventeenth century. Later the 5th Dalai lama in 1642 overtook the ruling power from the Shigatse rulers and took his coronation in Shigatse.