Tibet has an average altitude of roughly 4,380 meters(14,370 feet) above sea level. The lowest elevation city in Tibet is Nyingchi in its southeast, at around 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level, while its highest area is Ngari in west Tibet, with an average elevation of 4,500 meters (14,763feet).
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What is High Altitude?
Air at higher altitudes is colder, less dense, and less rich in oxygen molecules. Every 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) ascended leads to an average temperature drop of about 6°C (11°F) and 10% oxygen density.
The higher the altitude, the more difficult it is to breathe sufficient oxygen. We can categorize high altitudes as follows.
High Altitude: 2,700–3,500 m (8,900–11,500ft)
Generally speaking, 50–75% of people have some minor health issues when they reach 2,700 meters (8,858 ft) above sea level. Symptoms of this altitude sickness typically begin 6–48 hours after reaching high altitude areas.
Very High Altitude: 3,500–5,500 m (11,500–8,000ft)
All humans experience reduced function in these altitudes, though acclimatization is possible by most given enough time. Severe altitude sickness is a risk and precautions should be taken.
Extremely High Altitude: Over 5,500 m (18,000 ft)
No humans live continuously at these elevations, where the lack of oxygen is not possible to acclimate to fully. Generally, only extremely fit mountaineers ascend to these altitudes.
Altitudes of Major Tibet Cities and Towns
|Altitude of city/town|
|Lhasa||3,650 m||Nagri||4,500 m|
|11,975 ft||14,764 ft|
|Gyantse||4,000 m||Burang||3,700 m|
|13,123 ft||12,139 ft|
|Shigatse||3,800 m||Nyingchi||3,100 m|
|12,467 ft||10,171 ft|
|Tsetang||3,580 m||Chamdo||3,200 m|
|11,745 ft||10,500 ft|
|Dingri||4,300 m||Pome||2,750 m|
|14,108 ft||9,022 ft|
|Zhangmu Port||2,800 m||Amdo||4,800 m|
|9,186 ft||15,748 ft|
Altitude of Major Tibet Attractions
|Altitude of attraction|
|Potala Palace||3,750 m||Ranwu Lake||3,800 m|
|12,300 ft||12,467 ft|
|Lake Yamdrok||4,500 m||Samye Monastery||3,556 m|
|14,764 ft||11,667 ft|
|Tashilunpo Monastery||4,800 m||Yumbulagang Palace||3,700 m|
|15,748 ft||12,139 ft|
|Rongbuk Monastery||5,100 m||Lake Namtso||4,700 m|
|16,732 ft||15,420 ft|
|Mt. Everest Base Camp||5,200 m||Mount Kailash||6,638 m|
|17,060 ft||21,778 ft|
|Sakya Monastery||4,300 m||Lake Manasarovar||4,556 m|
|14,108 ft||14,947 ft|
Is Tibet Dangerous Due to Its High Altitudes?
The answer is that it is to some, especially without precautions.
Altitude sickness is characterized by hypoxia (lack of oxygen), a condition that causes headaches, tiredness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and in extreme cases, if not treated, death.
When people are exposed to high altitude for several days or weeks, their bodies begin acclimation to the low-oxygen environment.
Although altitude sickness will usually occur when you first arrive at a high altitude in Tibet, the symptoms will gradually disappear after 3 to 7 days of acclimatization.
Therefore, we usually suggest our customers spend 3 days in Lhasa city to travel around and adapt to the high altitude before traveling to higher places.
Don't be scared of altitude sickness. Most people are ok with adequate preparation and wise responses.
How to Prevent Altitude Sickness in Tibet?
1. Physical Examination
If you have any reason to doubt your fitness, you should have a physical examination before you enter Tibet. People with serious heart disease should not go to Tibet, and people with lighter heart/lung troubles, etc. must follow their doctor's advice.
2. Make Good Preparations
Take regular exercise and try to keep healthy and avoid catching a cold before entering Tibet. Even slight illness can make altitude sickness much worse.
Please don't forget to prepare medicine to alleviate altitude sickness symptoms, such as Ibuprofen for headaches, Dexamethasone for breathing problems, or Acetazolamide (e.g. Diamox) for a range of symptoms.
3. Acclimate Gradually
Stay for one or two days in lower altitude places in Tibet, such as Lhasa, to help your body adapt to the altitude.
4. Ask for Your Guide's Help
Do forget to ask your guide's help! If your medicine runs out during your trip, your tour guide can usually help you get some more.
If you feel uncomfortable, your tour guide can take you to nearby medical services. Our vehicles usually carry oxygen cylinders.
Hassle-Free Tour with China Highlights
China Highlights can help arrange your Tibet tour, Tibet permits, and group visa from Nepal. You need to provide your passport to apply for a group visa, and Tibet permits, at least 15 days before departure.
We could also create your own individual journey. Contact our experienced travel consultants.
Also, we are confident that we can customize a tour for you to include a true Tibetan flavor, even if you can't get to Tibet for some reason (for example the current pandemic restrictions).