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Tibet is a high altitude plateau set amid tall mountain ranges. The mountain ranges catch the rainfall before it reaches the plateau, so most of Tibet, except for the southeast, is desert steppe, tundra, or permafrost. Most of Tibet experiences frost at least six months of the year, and the highest lakes have ice from October to March. The weather varies a lot from region to region.
Tibet's high altitude results in:
Lhasa (elevation 3,550 meters (11,600 ft)) is ideal for tourists to the region to acclimate in, because it is in a lower elevation valley in the warmer and wetter southeastern part of the region. The annual precipitation in Lhasa is relatively high for Tibet at 500 millimeters (20 inches), as the annual precipitation across the region averages around 200 millimeters (4 and 12 inches).
Due to the high evaluation, Tibet has a quite different seasons from other places with a longer winter.
The ice melts and the weather warms during spring, opening up blocked remote roads and making travel outside Lhasa more pleasant. Tibet reopens to tourism in early April (as it is usually closed to visitors in March for Tibetan New Year). Book a Tibet tour before the summer tourist crowds arrive.
The weather is warm to cool and summer is the busiest travel season of the year in Tibet. There air has a higher oxygen content than in other season. Sometimes it will shower at night or for about an hour in the afternoon in mid July to late August, so rain is not a big issue even in the rainy season. Train tickets to Lhasa are difficult to get in summer.
Also a busy travel season in Tibet, the weather is clear and cool in fall. It's a good time to hike and trek in Tibet, and it's also a good time to shoot photos of mountain peaks, due to less cloud.
Tibet is usually closed to foreign travelers in February and March for 5 or 6 weeks. Tibet Entry Permits are normally not issued for February and March. Some roads are closed due to the heavy snow. Except for the coldness, it's a good time to travel to lower altitude places like Lhasa, as hotels and travel agencies may offer discounts during winter, and tourists are far fewer than in summer and fall.
From May to October is the best time to travel in Tibet, when the weather is not very cold, averaging above 10°C. This is naturally the busiest travel time in Tibet, when people come for the warmer weather and higher oxygen content.
July and August is the rainy seasonin Tibet, though, apart from in the southeast, there is still not a lot of rain.
The best months for camping are May and September when it hardly rains at all.
If you plan to travel to Mt. Everest, travel in April, May, September, or October, when you are more likely to see the peak clearly. It is more likely to be hidden behind thick clouds the rest of the year.
Travelers who are interested in Tibetan festivals are recommended to visit Tibet in August when the Shoton Festival, Nagqu Horse Racing Festival, and Ganden Thangka Festival are held. But expect to see huge crowds during the festivals.
Late September to October is the best time to see autumnal colors in Tibet.
If you are planning a Tibet tour, please see our popular Tibet tours below for inspiration:
For more detailed information on what to expect each month weather-wise, and recommendations on what to do, see below.