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Weather: In December, temperatures drop well below freezing in most of Tibet at night. During the day, it may feel nicely cool in Lhasa and even at such high places as Yamdrok Lake. It is dry and sunny.
Lhasa is where most tourists arrive, and it is also one of the lowest valleys that most tourists see. The average nightly low is -9 °C (15 °F), and the average daily high is 8 °C (45 °F). The 3,600 meter (12,000 feet) elevation and the 8 hours of sunshine a day makes it feel pleasant outside during the day. Check the Lhasa weather forecast>>
Clothing: For the temperature extremes as you travel and the nightly temperature drop, dress in layers with a coat, trousers, and a T-shirt. Though the UV radiation is relatively moderate, you can wear a sun hat and sunglasses for comfort. You might need a coat inside many hotels and restaurants because many don't have central heating. Take a heavier coat and gloves up to higher areas.
Altitude Sickness: Oxygen levels are much lower in Tibet. Cardiovascular conditions are exacerbated, and most people get altitude sickness. Seek health advice before going, and acclimate appropriately before exertion or going higher than Lhasa. Tibet health advice>>
During the winter, there are much fewer Chinese tourists. Tibetan drokpas (nomads) come for shelter in the winter, and mountain dwellers visit the valley cities such as Lhasa and Shigatse. Areas higher than Lhasa and Shigatse are extremely cold in the winter, especially when it is windy, and those places are best visited at other times.
Shigatse (3,900 meters): It is a good time to see the highlights in Shigatse. The average high temperature in Shigatse in the daytime is 7 °C (44 °F), and the average nightly low is -12 °C (10 °F). The city is seven hours from Everest.
Tashilhunpo Monastery: This big red brick monastery in Shigatse sits against a rugged high mountain that makes for beautiful photographs, with grey rocks and blue and white sky. It was once a town in itself for 5,000 monks. There are dorm rooms, temples, and assembly halls.
Mt. Everest Base Camp (5,200 meters): Though it might be too cold for extended excursions, you can still sightsee in December. The average daily high temperature is 4 °C (39 °F), and the average nightly low is -15 °C (5 °F). Though it is sunny, it is foggier and mistier so the sightseeing is less clear and the UV radiation is moderate. There is only 2 mm of precipitation in the whole month. The "tent city" near Mt. Everest Base Camp is closed in December. See our private Mount Everest tours.
Low season: December is part of Tibet’s low travel season. The cold and lack of public holidays keep the Chinese tourists away, so the city is free of large crowds of tourists. The people around you may be mainly Tibetan, so you'll have the opportunity for a more authentic Tibetan experience.
Another benefit of low season is that the prices for Lhasa hotel rooms, Shigatse hotel rooms and flight tickets are relatively low. Train tickets are also easier to get. Let us help you arrange these using our experience.
If you want to discover more about Tibet, it is advisable to have an experienced private tour guide. We can help you with that.
Here are our most popular Tibet itineraries for your inspiration: