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Planning a Tibet Tour in 2020 — Suggestions and Ideas

monks debatingTibetan monks practicing Buddhism

Tibet is on our list of Five Recommended China Tourist Destinations for 2019/2020. Our advice is still to apply early and have alternative plans.

Tibet Entry Permit Required

A Tibet Entry Permit is required and you'd better apply for it at least 20 days before your trip.

If you travel with China Highlights, we will make all necessary arrangements for the Entry Permit, we can help you to get a Tibet Permit when Tibet is open to foreigners (during stable political conditions).

Tips for applying for Tibet permits successfully:

  • Send your passport and China visa copies at least 7 working days before departure to Tibet if you enter Tibet by train. The earlier the better.
  • If you are taking flights to Tibet, you are suggested to send passport and China visa copies at least 15 days before departure. Because original permits must be check when boarding, so extra time is needed for mail delivery.

Best Time to Go — Mid Spring to Late Autumn

Mid spring to late autumn is the ideal time to travel Tibet.

shoton festival Shoton Festival

Tibet is typically closed for most of February and March for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year. In 2019, Tibetan New Year was February 5th to 20th, so foreign travelers could visit Tibet from March.

In 2020, Tibetan New Year will be February 24th to March 9th. According to previous experience, Tibet will be closed for February and March 2020. We suggest you plan a Tibet tour from April 15th, 2020 considering the time needed to apply for the permits.

Spring in Tibet is April and May. Tibet will normally be reopened from early April. It’s a good time to travel, before the summer tourist crowds arrive.

Tibet's summertime is a "sea of festivals", with thangka unrolling, horse races on the grasslands, and other significant Tibetan Buddhist events. The weather is warmer, and the oxygen content is higher. Thus, summer is the peak travel season for Tibet.

Autumn in Tibet is September and October. It’s also a busy travel time in Tibet as it has good weather for hiking and camping.

Winter Travelling Suggestions

the potala palaceThe Potala Palace

If you travel Tibet in winter, you may meet harsh weather conditions. And tent hostels in Everest Base Camp will be closed. However, the hotel price, flight/train ticket price will be more reasonable. And you can avoid crowds in winter.

Note that Tibet will be closed during Tibetan New Year period, usually falls in February and March.

Should I Take a Train or Flight to Tibet?

No matter whether you take a plane or train to Tibet, it's hard to avoid high altitude sickness.

We Suggest You to Fly in Tibet

tibetYou can see prayer flags hanging everywhere in Tibet

We suggest you fly in, because, though the Qinghai-Tibet Railway gives you more time to acclimate, it goes much higher than Lhasa (5,072 m compared to 3,700 m), increasing the risk of symptoms.

Therefore, you may not have a good rest on the train, which can make your body tired and easily get sick when you get off. It would be better to acclimate in your hotel room and Lhasa than on a train.

What's more, it's much easier to book a Tibet flight than a train, due to the high demand for a limited number of train tickets. As train tickets to Tibet are always hard to get, flying to Tibet reduces the risk that your tour plans fail.

Map Guide for Planning a Tibet Tour

Here is a map guide to help you plan a Tibet trip. The suggested ways to enter Tibet are taking a flight or train from China or traveling from Kathmandu, Nepal by flight or by road. You may click/touch the map to see a high-resolution one.

Tibet map guide

Tips on Avoiding Altitude Sickness

highland

Usually you don’t feel uncomfortable when you just get off the plane at Lhasa. But you will feel headache after a few hours, especially at night. You should spend a couple of days in Lhasa to acclimate to the high altitude.

If you don’t feel well before you depart for Tibet, you are suggested to postpone your travel plans until your body recovers. Even a cold can make altitude sickness feel a lot worse.

Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t eat too much.
  • Don’t over-exert yourself (e.g. even walking for a long time).
  • Don’t take a very hot bath/shower on the first night (to avoid fainting).

Get more tips and suggestions about How to Deal with Altitude Sickness.

Most Recommended Tibet Tours

sera monastery Monk debating at Sera Monastery

Look at our most popular Tibet tours for inspiration:

We have more Tibet tours, or we could create your own individual journey. Also we are confident that we can customize you a tour to include a true Tibetan flavor, even if you can't get to Tibet for some reason.

Tibetan Alternatives — Don't Require Tibet Permits

songzanlin monastery Songzanlin Monastery at Shangri-La, Yunnan

The reality is that there is still some difficulty in touring Tibet. Flights/trains are limited, and altitude sickness may be an issue. Therefore, it is worth considering our alternative tour options.

Provinces bordering Tibet (Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan) have many of the attractions Tibet does, without the access restrictions. The following places will be less-crowded, less high (less risk of altitude sickness), and less expensive.

Tibetan Culture

Shangri-la in Yunnan may not have the Potala Palace, but it does have Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and Tibetan villages and people.

Ganzi's Dege Scripture Printing Lamasery near the Tibet border is a storehouse of Tibetan culture.

gongga mountainMount Gongga in Sichuan

Tongren in Qinghai Province may not have monasteries as famous as Ganden or Tashilunpo, but it is the birthplace of Tibetan thangkas, and has some notable Buddhist temples/monasteries.

Tibetan Landscapes

Sichuan Province may not have Mount Everest, but Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture does have Mount Gongga, the most easterly 7,000m+ peak in the world, and a beautiful scenic area in Hailuogou Forest Park, to appreciate it from.

Nine Village Valley (Jiuzhaigou) may not have Lake Namtso, but it's placid mountain lakes, and the rainbow-colored waters in its unspoiled valleys, are every bit as inspiring.

Characteristically Tibetan landscapes of Yunnan's Shangri-la include sacred snowy mountains, tranquil lakes, glaciers, and high-altitude valleys.

Lhasa Highlights Comfort Tour 4-day Explore Lhasa’s highlights with sufficient oxygen, and enjoy meticulous care and assistance. View more
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