Lhasa - Tibet
Lhasa translates to ‘place of the gods’, and it certainly merits such a lofty name. Not just because at a soaring altitude of over 11,000 feet it is one of the highest cities in the world, but because it remains the religious centre for the Tibetan Buddhist religion. The mysterious Tibet certainly feels like a world apart from China, and its capital Lhasa remains so culturally significant due to the magnificent Potala Palace. The winter residence of the Dalai Lamas is a marvel of modern architecture despite its grand age. The Palace houses over a thousand rooms, packed full of Chapels and Prayer Halls. It is the 1300 year old Jokhang Temple, however, which serves as the spiritual home and main pilgrimage site of Tibet. It houses the most revered Golden Buddha in all Tibet. The Barkhor, a Kora or pilgrim circuit, circles around its periphery majestically and encapsulates just how significant the Palace, and indeed Lhasa itself, is to the Tibetan people.
Where is it?
Lhasa is the capital of the Autonomous Region of Tibet. It sits in the south of Tibet, in a flat river valley in the Himalaya Mountains, while Tibet itself forms the South-West bottom corner of China. Tibet sits atop the world’s largest and highest plateau, and its border with Nepal is home to the great Mount Everest.
What is it?
Lhasa is not just the administrative capital of Tibet; it is moreover the cultural and spiritual home of the inspiring and enigmatic Tibetan Buddhist religion. Its population is dominated by Tibetans, although there are a significant percentage of Han Chinese peoples, which hints at the eventful past involving Tibet and China.
Best time to visit?
March to June is the best time to visit Lhasa, as this avoids the summer rainy season which affects the plateau in July and August. Due to the severe altitude, a health check to make sure that you are able to adapt to the height of the plateau is advisable if at all concerned.
The Barkhor Street Market sits on the circular road which runs around the Jokhang Temple, and is the perfect place to bargain with Tibetan vendors for rare and beautiful handicrafts. The street itself is one of the most religious paths in Tibet and the Pilgrim’s Kora, in which pilgrims circle the Temple whilst turning prayer wheels in their hands, is the most inspiring religious sight in Lhasa.