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Planning a Tibet Tour in 2015/2016

Tibet is on our list of Five Recommended China Tourist Destinations for 2015/2016. Our advice is still to apply early and have alternative plans.

Jokhang Temple

Earthquake affects tourism: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday, 25th April 2015 caused severe loss of life and property. The Tibet/Nepal border at Zhangmu has been closed to tourists. Tibet Aliens' Permits for Mt. Everest Base Camp and Mt. Kailash are now being issued again (Updated: May 8th). Read more about the Nepal earthquake.

Mount Everest Base Camp is CLOSED again! For safety reasons, travelers are not allowed to EBC and the Mt. Kailash area. Things may change at any moment and we will update this information promptly. If you want to confirm your tour to these places, please contact us for the current situation. (Updated: May 12th, 2015)

Notice from Administration of Mount Everest Natural Scenic Area: For the earthquake relief work, Mount Everest (Tibet side) will continue to be closed for traveling until the end of June 2015. You are suggested to cancel or postpone your trip during this period. We apologize for any incontinence this has caused. (Updated: May 21th, 2015)

Tibet Entry Permit Policy

A Tibet Entry Permit is required and you'd better apply for it a least 20 days before your trip. If you travel with China Highlights we will make all necessary arrangements for the Entry Permit, we can 100% guarantee that you will obtain a Tibet Permit when Tibet is open to foreigners (during stable political conditions).

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.

When to Go

Mid spring to late autumn is the ideal time to travel Tibet.

Tibet was closed for most of February and March in 2015 for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year. And it is closed again at the same time in 2015. It will be reopen from April 1st. So we suggest you to plan a Tibet tour from April 15th considering the time of applying for the permits.

yandrok yumtso lake Lake Yamdrok

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 2015.

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.

See our winter special offer 4-Day Essential Lhasa Winter Tour: Travel to Tibet in winter and you will see more local pilgrims in the old city, even some nomad families with all their worldly possessions.

Should I Take a Train or Flight to Tibet?

travel tibet by train

No matter whether you take a plane or train to Tibet, it's hard to avoid high altitude sickness.

We suggest you to fly in, because, though the Qinghai-Tibet Railway gives you more time to acclimate, it actually goes much higher than Lhasa (5,072m compared to 3,700m), increasing the risk of symptoms. Therefore you may not have a good rest on the train, which can make your body tired and easily get sick when you get off. It would be better to acclimate in your hotel room and Lhasa than on a train.

What's more, it's much easier to book a Tibet flight than a train, due to the high-demand for a limited number of train tickets. As train tickets to Tibet are always hard to get, flying to Tibet reduces the risk that your tour plans fail.

Take a train out

We suggest you to take a train out for the beautiful highland scenery. From Tibet to Qinghai province, you can see glaciers, snow-capped mountains, grasslands, yaks, Tibetan antelope, and Qinghai Lake. The highest railway in the world is an attraction in itself.

Planning A Tibet Tour

Here is a map guide for you to plan a Tibet trip. You may click the map to see a high-resolution one.

plan a tibe tour

Altitude Sickness

Usually you don’t feel uncomfortable when you just get off the plane at Lhasa. However 95% of travelers get altitude sickness to some degree. Generally the healthier you are, the more comfortable you will be. You should spend a couple of days in Lhasa to acclimate to the high altitude.
If you don’t feel well before you depart for Tibet you are not suggested to go to Tibet. Even a cold can make altitude sickness feel a lot worse.

Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t eat too much.
  • Don’t over-exert yourself (e.g. even walking for a long time).
  • Don’t take a very hot bath/shower on the first night (to avoid fainting).

Tibetan Alternatives — like Tibet, but more offbeat

Songzanlin monasterySongzanlin Monastery

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 tou r 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.

Tibetan Culture

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.

Tibetan Landscapes

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.

Tour Tibet with China Highlights

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: Five-Day Essence Tour of Tibet.

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