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Tibet Travel Guide

Tibet, isolated on the remote Himalayan Plateau, is every traveler’s dream. It draws millions of travelers each year to explore its old Tibetan culture, and pure, untouched scenery.

Tibet's Location

Tibet is the southwest frontier of China, the larger southern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is directly south of Xinjiang and Qinghai, west of Sichuan, northwest of Yunnan in China; and borders Burma, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir on the south and west.

Tibet's Topography

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the largest and highest plateau in the world. Thus it is known as the roof of the world. It is regarded as the third pole, as its remoteness and harsh climate rival the Arctic and Antarctic.

Tibet mountains Mount Everest, Tibet

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau generally slopes from the northwest to the southeast, with a complex and varied terrain of mountains, valleys, glaciers, lakes, steppe and tundra. 

It supports a wide variety of herbs, flowers, and rare animals in a wide variety of climate zones ranging from high-altitude polar to tropical, desert to wet. The natural scenery varies with altitude and (in the summer) can provide "four seasons' beauty on one mountain in one day;.

The landscape can be divided into four areas: the Himalayas, Southern Tibet Valley, North Tibet Plateau, and East Tibet Canyons.

The Himalayan Mountains are in the south of Tibet, an east–west mountain range with an average altitude of about 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). Mt. Everest is located in Tingri County, Shigatse Prefecture, on the border of Nepal. 

At 8,844 meters (29,017 feet) it has the highest point on the earth's surface. The Himalayas are covered by ice and snow all year round above 5,700 meters (19,000 feet). Read more on Tibet's altitude

Highlights of Tibet

Tibet’s Cultural Heritage

The Potala Palace The Potala Palace, Tibet

There are so many Buddhist buildings in Tibet due to Tibetans’ strong culture of faith. The oldest and most popular ones include Jokhang Temple, the Potala Palace, Sera Monastery, and Samye Monastery.

The Fantastic Natural Scenery

See turquoise, crystal-like lakes, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and grasslands.

The Tibetan People

Walk through Lhasa’s streets or take a cup of tea at a local tea house to see and meet these hardy and devout, traditionally feudal people. See Tibetan Festival Dates.

How to Tour Tibet?

Usually it takes about 5 working days to apply for the permits, so the earliest dates you are suggested to entry Tibet are from:

  • April 5th by train (Use permit scans we send you.)
  • April 10th by flight (Extra time is needed for mail delivery, because original permits must be checked.)

Three Popular Ways to Enter Tibet

lhasa Scenery along Qinghai-Tibet Railway

The Xining to Lhasa and Chongqing to Lhasa train trips are very popular. Tickets are very hard to buy especially in peak season from May to October.

Train trips from other cities are not recommended as it is quite a long journey (around 40 hours).

There are direct flights from China’s major cities to Lhasa, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Chongqing. However, the most frequent and reliable flights to Tibet are from Chengdu. 

So Chengdu is the best gateway city for Tibet. 

Other way is to enter Tibet from Nepal. To take this trip, you need to obtain a China visa and Tibet permit in Nepal. China Highlights can help our customers to obtain a China visa and Tibet permit in Nepal.

Good news! The overland border crossing between Tibet and Nepal has reopened!

After over 2 years of being closed, since the 2015 earthquake, the overland route between Tibet and Nepal has reopened to travelers. You can travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu via road now!

Your Time in Tibet

Most travelers only stay in Lhasa, capital of Tibet. The most important reason is the altitude is relatively low, 3,700 meters above sea level, which is among the lowest areas in the region. The fitness requirement for sightseeing in Lhasa is low and facilities are good.

sera monastery Monks debating in Sera Monastery

Four days is enough to cover the highlights of Lhasa. The variety of attractions in Lhasa is quite limited, almost all religious/historic sites. If you want to dig deeper into local culture, ask your guide to take you to a local tea house and take a cup of tea among the locals. 

Lhasa’s nearby lakes: If you want to explore the austere beauty of the region, go to Lake Namtso or Lake Yamdrok. One day is enough to have a trip from Lhasa to either, but the altitude for both trips is significantly higher: 4,500 meters for Lake Yamdrok, and about 5,000 meters for Lake Namco. Guard against altitude sickness if making the trip. 

Another popular travel route is combining Lhasa and Shigatse. This is a scenic trip including Yamdrok Lake and grasslands, snow-capped mountains, gorges and glaciers. You need to top a mountain pass of 5,300 meters on the way. The trip can be extended to Mt. Everest Base Camp (3 more days needed) or ever Nepal. 

Preparing to Go…

Lake Namtso Lake Yamdrok

The most suitable time to visit Tibet is from May to October. The weather is uncomfortably cold to dangerously frigid otherwise. Read details on Tibet weather

Be prepared for altitude sickness. If you are not sure you can cope with the high altitude, limit your sightseeing to Lhasa.

Tibet is a politically sensitive region, which may be close to foreign travelers at times. Book as soon as possible if notified it is open; otherwise you may have to wait a long time for the next reopening.

Travelers need to go through a travel agent like China Highlights to get a Tibet Entry Permit. Tourists are permitted to book their own accommodation and flight/train tickets, however tours of Tibet must be organized by and accompanied by an authorized travel agency.

Read our Tibet Facts to learn more information on Tibet. 

Top Sights in Tibet

Potala Palace
Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, TibetMount Everest Sera MonasteryYamdrok Lake is too beautiful to be real
Tibet Travel Map

Top Tibet Tours more»

4-Day Lhasa Highlights Tour

  • Visit the most spectacular sites in Lhasa, Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Jokhang Temple.

8-day Tibet Mount Everest Tour

  • Experience the fantastic scenery of Mt. Everest and visit monasteries. Get an insight into Tibetan life.