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Weather: In February, temperatures drop well below freezing at night in almost all of Tibet. However, except for the thin air, the climate in the biggest cities in the valleys is actually more pleasant than in much of northern Europe and northern America because it snows little, and it is dry and sunny. Snow sometimes hampers driving to attractions outside Lhasa in the north and west.
Most tourists arrive in Lhasa, and it is in one of the lowest elevation Tibetan valleys that most tourists go to. During a sunny the day, it may feel nicely cool. The average nightly low is -6 °C (21 °F), and the average daily high is 9 °C (48 °F). The 3,600 meter (12,000 feet) elevation and the 8 hours of sunshine a day makes it feel pleasant when in the sunshine. Only 1 mm of snowfall falls on 1 day of the month usually. Lhasa weather and forecast>>
Clothing: It is good to dress in layers for the temperature swings as you travel and the nightly temperature drop. We suggest a coat, trousers, and long underwear. The UV radiation is intense, so wear a sun hat and sunglasses. Many hotels and restaurants don't have central heating, so you might need your coat inside. Wear a heavier clothing and gloves in the higher areas.
Altitude Sickness: Oxygen levels are about 30% lower in Tibet. Many health issues are exacerbated, and most people get altitude sickness. Seek health advice before going, and acclimate before exertion or going higher than Lhasa. Tibet health tips>>
Tibet travel: The special seasonal cultural highlights of February are often the Tibetan new year festivities that last for two weeks. The Ngari prefecture (Kailash area) in far western Tibet and the Nagchu prefecture north of Lhasa are extremely cold in the winter and are probably best visited at other times. Vehicular travel eastwards to Tsetang is sometimes difficult due to frozen roads. Travel along the Friendship Highway southwards is generally fine and makes for good winter sightseeing.
Shigatse (3,900 meters): Shigatse is the second largest city. It is about six hours west of Lhasa. The highlights in Shigatse include Tashilhunpo Monastery. In February, the average high temperature is 8 °C (46 °F), and the average nightly low is -10 °C (14 °F). The higher altitude makes it slightly colder than Lhasa.
Tashilhunpo Monastery: This big ancient monastery in Shigatse was founded in 1447. It sits against a rugged grey high mountain at the edge of town. Photographers can get beautiful photographs of it against a blue and white sky. It was a town for 5,000 monks.
The Losar holidays are a colorful week of activities that begin the Monlan Festival that end on the night of the full moon with the Butterlamp Festival. Tibetans enjoy traditional dramas, feasts, picnics, and traditional sports such as horse racing and wrestling.
This is their most important religious holiday season, and it falls in February a little less than two out of three years depending on their calendar. Tibetans celebrate their new year holidays at the temples and in the towns. Their new year day is usually within three days of the Chinese New Year, but in some years, it is weeks off it.
Chinese New Year is the biggest national holiday. It falls in February about 2/3 of the years. Chinese traditionally close their shops and businesses and take a several day vacation starting from the evening of Chinese New Year's eve. You can enjoy the holiday food.
February is part of Tibet’s low travel season. There are good reasons to visit Tibet in February. You can see the cultural activities with a more authentic atmosphere. The cold and the desire to be home to visit during the Chinese New Year keeps most Chinese travelers away. Even during the Chinese New Year vacation week, there is only a small increase of Chinese tourism.
Tibetan drokpas (nomads) and mountain dwellers come down to shelter in cities in the winter, and Tibetans head for their temples to worship. 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 by our experience.
If you are planning a Tibet tour, please see our popular Tibet tours below for inspiration: