Tibet is on our list of Five Recommended China Tourist Destinations for 2014/2015. Our advice is still to apply early and have alternative plans.
A Tibet Entry Permit is required. If you travel with China Highlights we will make all necessary arrangements for the Entry Permit, though we can only 95% guaranteed it at politically normal times.
The only things that may inconvenience your Tibet plans then is a lack of train tickets or plane tickets at the peak times, the Alien Travel Permit for remote areas, or a doctor's assessment saying you should not go to high-altitude areas.
Tibet was closed again for most of February and March in 2014 for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year, including the time of the Monlam Prayer Festival and the Butter Lamp Festival. And we predict that it will be closed again at the same time in 2015.
Mid spring to late autumn is the ideal timeto travel Tibet.
Spring in Tibet is April and May. Tibet will normally be reopened from early April. It’s a good time to travel, before the summer tourist crowds arrive.
Tibet's summer time is a "sea of festivals", with thangka unrollings, horse races on the grasslands, and other significant Tibetan Buddhist events. The weather is warmer and the oxygen content is higher. Thus summer is the peak travel season for Tibet. See more on Tibetan Festivals and Tibet festival dates for 2014.
Autumn in Tibet is September and October. It’s also a busy travel time in Tibet as it has good weather for hiking and camping.
Winter is not a recommended time for visiting Tibet because of the harsh weather conditions. But November is an ideal time to travel to Tibet if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy cheaper hotel prices before it gets very cold.
You are suggested to fly to Tibet and leave by train. As train tickets to Tibet are always hard to get, flying to Tibet reduces the risk that your tour plans fail. Train tickets leaving Tibet are easier to buy, and after you've toured Tibet you can relax and see the beautiful scenery on the way out. A downside is that you miss the acclimatization time on the train, and will need to acclimate on arrival in Lhasa.
The reality is that there is still some difficulty in touring Tibet. Though it is easier in 2014/2015, flights/trains are limited, remoter parts of Tibet, like Shigatse, require an Alien Travel Permit, and altitude sickness may be an issue. Therefore it is worth considering our alternative tour options.
Provinces bordering Tibet (Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan) have many of the attractions Tibet does, without the access restrictions. The following places will be less-crowded, less high (less risk of altitude sickness), and less expensive.
Shangri-la in Yunnan may not have the Potala Palace, but it does have Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and Tibetan villages and people.
Ganzi's Dege Scripture Printing Lamasery near the Tibet border is a storehouse of Tibetan culture.
Tongren in Qinghai Province may not have monasteries as famous as Ganden or Tashilunpo, but it is the birthplace of Tibetan thangkas, and has some notable Buddhist temples/monasteries.
Sichuan Province may not have Mount Everest, but Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture does have Mount Gongga, the most easterly 7,000m+ peak in the world, and a beautiful scenic area in Hailuogou Forest Park, to appreciate it from.
Nine Village Valley (Jiuzhaigou) may not have Lake Namtso, but it's placid mountain lakes, and the rainbow-colored waters in its unspoiled valleys, are every bit as inspiring.
Characteristically Tibetan landscapes of Yunnan's Shangri-la include sacred snowy mountains, tranquil lakes, glaciers, and high-altitude valleys.
We are confident that we can tailor-make you a tour to include a true Tibetan flavor even if you can't get to Tibet for some reason. See ourmost popular Tibet tour for inspiration: Four-Day Essence Tour of Lhasa.
We also provide a no frills, basic Tibet access package: Tibet Entry Permit + Private Guide.