Weather: Tibet’s severe winter is at its peak in January. The average temperature in January in Lhasa is -2 °C or 28 °F. It is quite windy. Roads to attractions outside Lhasa may be blocked because of heavy snow. The cold and the desire to return home to visit during the Chinese New Year keeps most Chinese travelers away.
Clothing: Bring a coat, hat, long johns, and gloves. Wearing layers is a good idea. Bring sunglasses to avoid the sun’s glare.
Things to do: The special seasonal highlight is the Tibetan New Year. It is the biggest holiday in Tibet. It usually falls between late December and February. Streets will be colorfully decorated for the event in the cities. The famous sights in Lhasa are also open, such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery, the Norbulinka, Drepung Monastery and Barkhor Square.
Travel outside Lhasa (elevation 3,490 meters (11,450 ft)) except along the Friendship Highway which will take you to Kathmandu, Shigatse (elevation 3,900 meters), and Gyantze (elevation 3,100 meters) is usually restricted. Travel along the highway is usually possible. It is wise to spend at least a few nights in Lhasa to acclimatize before heading to higher elevation places along the Friendship Highway.
Be aware: The Nagchu prefecture north of Lhasa and the Ngari prefecture (Kailash area) in far west Tibet are extremely cold in the winter and are probably best visited at other times.
Low Season: January is part of Tibet’s low travel season. Prices for rooms and tours are lower than normal, and the city is free of large crowds of tourists. Let us help you plan a personalized winter tour of Tibet.
For more ideas for China travel in January read where to travel in winter.