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Lhasa Travel Guide - How to Plan a Trip to Lhasa

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Feb. 8, 2021
  • Chinese name: 拉萨 Lāsà /lah-sah/
  • Location: Central Tibet, West China
  • Time Zone: UTC+8
  • Elevation: 3,650m (12,000 ft)
  • Click here for more Lhasa Facts

Lhasa, the capital and spiritual heart of Tibet in the west of China, sits at an altitude of 3,650 meters (12,000 ft) and has a history of over 13 centuries.

Its Tibetan name means "The Land of the Gods". With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, Lhasa is also famed as "The City of Sunshine".

The unique geography of Tibet attracts a lot of tourists to come and explore its stark serenity. Lhasa is the best choice to first stay to acclimate before you start to discover areas with a higher altitude.

Now, just read on to find what you can expect in this highland city and to get some useful travel advice.

The Highlights of Lhasa

There are many historic sites and famous relics in the city proper and its suburbs...

The Royal Palace and Garden

You will discover the history of the former Tibetan kings and Dalai Lamas by visiting the Potala Palace and the royal garden of Norbulingka.

Potala PalacePotala Palace on the Red Hill
  • The Potala Palace, Lhasa's "Whitehouse", was the residence of Dalai Lamas VI to XIV, and now it is a museum and World Heritage Site. Following the stairs to the top, you will discover stories of its former masters and precious treasures.
  • Norbulingka is Tibetan for 'Treasure Park'. It was the Dalai Lamas' summer palace. In the western suburbs of Lhasa, the park has splendid buildings and is full of trees and flowers. It is the biggest garden in Tibet.

Buddhist Temples and Monasteries in Lhasa

Discover the Tibetan Buddhism culture by observing and meeting the monks and believers in temples and monasteries. The architecture, Buddhist iconography, and countless artworks are wonderful examples of Tibetans' culture and art.

  • Jokhang Temple, the holy grail of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims, has a shining golden roof. A sitting statue of the 12-year-old Sakyamuni, brought in by a princess from central China 1,400 years ago, still sits there.
  • Sera Monastery is where visitors can watch Buddhist scripture debates among monks. From the hill behind Sera Monastery, you can have a bird' eye view of Lhasa and the Potala.
  • Drepung Monastery, the largest monastery in the world in terms of its scale, was the residence of Dalai Lamas II to V. It is the main place for celebrating "Shoton", the most important festival in Tibet.
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Streets in Lhasa

Most Tibetans have devoted Buddhists. After visiting the palaces and monasteries, the streets in Lhasa are the place to get closer to local people and see their way of life.

  • Barkhor Street, the ancient street around the Jokhang Temple, is circled clockwise as part of a pilgrimage dedicated to Sakyamuni. Here, you can have a rest in a tea house, have some local food, or buy souvenirs.
Barkhor StreetTibetans in Barkhor Street

Lhasa Travel Tips

The Best Time to Visit Lhasa

The best time to travel to Lhasa is from May to October, as it is warmer with more oxygen.

Even in summer, the temperature has large differences between day and night. Prepare enough clothes to keep yourself warm. Also, sunglasses, sun cream, and hats are necessary to prevent sunburn.

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About Altitude Sickness

Lhasa's high altitude may give you a headache or uncomfortable feelings. So, prepare well before departure and do not do over-exercise after you arrive. >>See more on How to deal with Altitude Sickness.

Travel Permit to Lhasa

To gain entry to Lhasa you'll need a Tibet Entry Permit with an approved Chinese travel agency, to travel outside Lhasa you may need further permits, and so on... >>See more on Important Tibet Travel Restrictions.

Be Respectful, Culturally Aware, and Well-Prepared

Did you know that when you visit temples and other religious sites, normally you should walk round clockwise to be respectful?

See more on >>See more on Tibet Travel Tips.

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Tibetan People is prayingTibetan People is Praying

History of Lhasa

In 641 AD, Songtsan Gampo, the leader of the Tubo tribe, had conquered the whole Tibetan region and established his Tubo Kingdom. He had wedded Princess Wencheng of the Imperial Tang Dynasty.

Under the suggestion of Princess Wencheng, a grand temple was built above a lake named Wotang. As the lake was filled up by earth carried by white goats, the temple was given the name Lhasa, meaning 'goat and earth' in Tibetan.

Later, this imposing grand temple became a symbol of the kingdom. People started to call its surrounding area Lhasa, and the temple is now known as Jokhang Temple.

As Lhasa became the focus of faith for the Tibetan population, it became the "Mecca" of Tibet, and Jokhang Temple its Kaaba.

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