The Barkhor (pilgrims' circuit) is found in the heart of Lhasa encircling Jokhang Temple. It dates back to the founding of Jokhang Temple and is an essential pilgrim route. The Barkhor circuit consists of East Street, West Street, North Street, and South Street. This street retains the ancient Lhasa look: Tibetan houses line the streets, and the ground is paved with flagstones.
In the past it was a designated a circumambulation circuit "a saint road" in the eyes of Tibetans. Now it's also a shopping center, and a touristy old district with colorful Tibetan features.
The Barkhor Street Circumambulation Road is the most important circumambulation road in the eyes of Tibetans. In the street you can experience the mysterious "one-step-one-bow" way to religion. The old circumambulation circuit is always crowded with pilgrims from everywhere.
There is a two-floor building with yellow walls called Makye Ame, mentioned in Tsangyang Gyatso's poem. It was in this small bar that Tsangyang Gyatso (Cangyang Jiacuo 仓央嘉措 /tsang-yang jyaa-tswor/) met the girl he loved. Tsangyang Gyatso was the Sixth Lama, and also a romantic poet. It mainly offers Nepalese food, Indian food, and Tibetan food. There are many small books to record every guest's feelings and messages. The roof of Makye Ame is a good place to overlook Barkhor Street.
As time went on shops and businesses set up in the Barkhor, and it slowly became a prosperous area. It is a must for souvenir-hunting tourists. Many people call the Barkhor "the window of Tibet" as it exhibits articles showing typical Tibetan life. All kinds of fantastic commodities show all aspects of Tibetan life, such as prayer wheels, bronze Buddhist statues, prayer beads, joss sticks, carpets, and thangkas. Commodities from nearby countries such as India, Nepal, and Burma can also be found there.
Clockwise: Pilgrims always circulate clockwise round Jokhang Temple, doing full-body prostrations or spinning the prayer wheels. Walking clockwise round Barkhor Street is a good way to experience the culture of Tibetan religion.
Bargain: If you want to buy souvenirs, do remember to bargain. It's reasonable to take a discount of 50%! Tibet produces many rare stones like turquoise. The real thing is very expensive, but more so elsewhere. When the shop keeper doesn't sell you an item at your price, pretend to turn and go away. You will probably be called back with a better offer.
Respect pilgrims: Don't take close-up shots of pilgrims or Tibetans without their permission. They consider it disrespectful, and may be offended, and ask for compensation!
If you are planning to travel to Tibet, see our popular Tibet tours for inspiration. Or contact us to tailor-make a Tibet tour according to your requirements. Our travel guide can give you some tips and help you bargain.