Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more

10 Interesting Facts About the Potala Palace

Written by Candice SongUpdated Dec. 10, 2020

The Potala Palace is the highest ancient palace in the world. Once an imperial palace, seat of government, and monastery, it's now a must visit place for Tibet tourists.

Find out more interesting facts below.

  • Chinese: 布达拉宫 Bùdálā Gōng /boo-daa-laa gong/ 'Potala Palace'
  • Location: Lhasa, Tibet

1. No building is allowed to be higher than the Potala Palace.

The Potala Palace is built 117 meters (384 feet) up a mountain, with impressive zig-zagging steps up to it.

When you wander around Lhasa city's buildings, you will find that nothing - no new apartment block, branded hotel, ancient old house, temple, or monastery - is higher than the top of the Potala Palace. This is as a mark of respect for the holy site.

2. The Palace was built as a present to the king's bride-to-be.

The palace was originally not as large as it is today. The original palace was built as a present from King Songtsan Gampo to his bride-to-be in 637 AD.

The original palace was destroyed during the ninth century, and the current one was built by the fifth Dalai Lama.

Recommended Tibet Tours:
Potala Palace Potala Palace is built 117 meters up the Red Hill

3. The palace was once deserted for more than 800 years.

The 33th king of Tubo (a Tibetan kingdom), Songstan Gampo moved his capital to Lhasa and started to build the Potala Palace in the seventh century. It became the main palace of the kingdom.

But early in the ninth century, after the Tubo kingdom's demise, the palace, and the whole city, was deserted. Other Tibetan regimes didn't have their capitals at Lhasa.

Contact us

4. The Potala was the residence of 10 Dalai Lamas over 317 years.

In 1642 , after the fifth Dalai Lama rebuilt the Potala Palace and finished the White Palace part, he moved his government to the palace.

From then on, the Potala Palace became the Dalai Lamas' residence, government offices, and an important place for religious activities.

However, after the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the palace has been more like a museum.

Recommended Tibet Tours:

5. The Potala Palace has 2 parts: the White Palace and the Red Palace.

The red and white palaces had different functions.

The White Palace was built earlier and functioned as offices of the Tibetan government, assembly halls, and the Dalai Lama's residence.

The Red Palace was used as a house of prayer by the Dalai Lama. It was dedicated to the study of Buddhism and the advancement of the religion.

Potala PalaceThe red and white palaces had different functions.

6. The Potala Palace houses 8 Dalai Lama's mummies.

Some Tibetan monasteries' stupas store whole monks' bodies. The stupas in the Potala Palace are actually Dalai Lamas' tombs.

There are eight holy stupas in the Potala Palace with bodies in: the 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Dalai Lamas' bodies.

The stupas in the palace are extremely luxuriously decorated with gold, silver, pearls, agate, coral, diamond, and other treasures.

Recommended Tibet Tours:

7. The 5th Dalai Lama's stupa is coated with more than 3,700 kg of gold!

The 5th Dalai Lama's stupa is the most luxurious, and most treasured one.

The stupa is 14.85 meters (48'8") high and overlaid with 3,721 kg (4.102 US tons) of gold.

There are more than 18,000 jewels decorating the stupa, including pearls, coral, amber, and agate.

 Stupas Stupas

8. Only 2,300 Potala Palace visitors are allowed per day.

To protect the palace, and make sure visitors can have a reasonably uncrowded tour of the palace, the Potala Palace management authority controls visitor numbers to 2,300 a day.

So book well in advance!

Contact us

9. The palace's wall is painted with milk!

Every year, just before the 22nd day of the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar, people will paint the palace's walls.

The "paint" for the walls is made of milk, sugar, honey, and some herbs, mixed with white lime.

Centuries ago, it took more than a month to finish the painting. Nowadays, it's done within 10 days.

Potala Palce's white wallThe palace's wall is painted with milk

10. The Potala's walls are up to 5 meters thick.

The thickest part of the palace walls is at the base: 5 meters (16 ft). The higher it goes, the thinner the walls are. The roof's parapet wall is up to 1 meter thick.

Find Out More Potala Facts in Person

There are many more interesting details and anecdotes about Tibet's holiest palace for you to discover. We choose from the best Lhasa guides so you get the most from your tour.

If you are interested in touring Tibet, we recommend our popular Tibet itineraries for inspiration:

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

Click to Sign up

Why China Highlights

Customize Your Tour

Customize Your Tour

  • Travel Advisors Rooted in China
  • Instant Response, No More Waits!
  • Direct Connections, Supreme Values
Maximize Your Flexibility

Maximize Your Flexibility

  • Your own personal guide and ride.
  • Explore at your own pace.
  • Unparalleled flexibility, impossible on a group tour.
Ensure Your Satisfaction

Ensure Your Satisfaction

  • The Top 20% nationwide guides at your service.
  • 20% more space on your group's transportation.
  • 24/7 emergency support.
Live Your China Story

Live Your China Story

  • Authentic local culture and lifestyles.
  • Understand the culture by living it.
  • Uncover fascinating histories and witness New China.
China Highlights logo
Trip Advisor rating Rated 5 out of 5 | 98.8% Excellence
China Highlights International
Travel Service Co., LTD
Featured on
China Highlights was featured on these medias.

Address: Building 6, Chuangyi Business Park, 70 Qilidian Road, Guilin, Guangxi, 541004, China