Lhasa Travel Guide

Lhasa Travel Guide

Tibet Lhasa Map
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Lhasa Facts

Chinese Name: 拉萨 (lā sà)
Population: 950,000
Area: 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles)
Location: in the south-central of Tibet, southwest China
Administrative Division: 3 districts (Chengguan, Tuilong Deqing, Dazi), 6 counties (Linzhou, Dangxiong, Nimu, Qushui, Mozhu Gongka)
Area Code: 0891
Zip Code: 850000
GDP (2019): CNY 61.788 billion (USD 8.956 billion)
Nationalities: Tibetan, Han, Hui

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Holy Land of the Tibetan Buddhist World

As the beautiful capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Lhasa is situated in the south-central part of the region, on the North bank of the Kyichu River in a mountain-fringed valley. In the Tibetan language, Lhasa means the Holy Land or the Buddha Land. The grandeur of the red-and-white Potala Palace may leave you the first impression of the city. For a long time, countless believers set out from their hometown and kowtowed to Lhasa for a pilgrimage. If you imagine that Lhasa is an original ecological world, then it may give you different expectations. There are also high-rise business districts and busy streets full of banks, shopping malls and restaurants.  

Lhasa is an important world tourist destination, featuring grand snow peaks and glaciers, tranquil grassland scenery, beautiful plateau lakes, changeable geothermal clouds and lush wetlands. There are many historic sites as well. More than 200 temples scattered in the city, such as the Jokhang Temple and Sera Monastery. In recent years, more and more tourists have made their way here on foot, by bike and by car to appreciate its beauty and Tibetan customs.

In the Tibetan language, Lhasa means the Holy Land or the Buddha Land. It is the center of Tibet's politics, economy and culture. The city has also been appointed as one of the 24 historical and cultural cities of China. The splendor and grandeur of the Potala Palace remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.

Sera Monastery
Sera Monastery
Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple

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Recommended Tour Itineraries

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Currently there are three options to reach this mysterious high land, by plane, by road and by train.

1. Taking plane is comfortable and time saving , but offers little time for you to acclimatise to the altitude; this may cause sickness. Lhasa Gonggar Airport, about 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) south of downtown area, has 40 more flights to/from major domestic cities including Beijing, Chamdo, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dazhou, Diqing, Fuzhou, Golmud, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Kangding, Kunming, Lanzhou etc.

2. Taking the bus along one of five highways that have been opened-up for visitors' use. This will take longer but will enable you to see the amazing scenery en route. Furthermore, taking extra time allows for a more gradual acclimatization to the altitude.

3. Taking the train, is a fabulous new option, giving the opportunity to see hitherto unseen mountain scenery. With the operation of Tibet Railway from July 1st, 2006, more and more visitors have swarmed into the land via train.

Generally the period from March to October is the best time to pay a visit. Since the city is located at such a high altitude it is wise to be prepared before starting your journey. Generally speaking, due to the large temperature differences during any given day, warm clothes should be taken to keep away the cold. However, because it also receives a great deal of sunshine, sunglasses, suntan oil, and a sun hat are indispensable items if you're going anywhere in the area. 

 Best Time to Visit Lhasa

 Local Highlights: It is rightly one of the most featured and dreamt-about cities in the world. This is not only because of its  high altitude at 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) which  means remoteness and limited accessibility, but also because of its over 1,000 years' cultural and spiritual history which leaves an impressive heritage that has helped to create the romantic and mysterious Tibetan religion.

Potala Palace
Potala Palace

 Physical Features: Different from the inland cities and other places in that high land, this area is unique with an allure all of its own.

 One word of warning: although there is a gradually increasing tourism industry here, it is a city with many difficulties yet to be overcome due to its unique location and geography. Please bear in mind that a visit to this area is more challenging than in any other part of China. Despite this more and more people from every corner of the world are being attracted towards this vibrant city with its mysterious culture. Its unique scenery, long history, exotic culture, mystical religion and spectacular monuments will ensure your stay is unforgettable.

 Further Reading:

 10 Best China Honeymoon Destinations for Couples

- Last updated on May. 26, 2023 by Catherine He -
Questions & Answers on Lhasa Travel
Asked by Clarence W. Moore from USA | May. 22, 2019 13:37Reply
As U.S. citizens, may we take the train to & from Lhasa with 5 days there, as a couple?
We are senior citizens and train buffs, desiring a day to adapt to the height, plus 4 days to see the important tourist attractions. We would not object to hiring a guide. Is there a way to visit the Potala Palace without climbing the steps? Are 2-person coupe sleeping compartments available on the trains?
Answers (1)
Answered by Lisa from FINLAND | May. 22, 2019 18:37

You can take trains. However, for foreigners who want to travel to Tibet, it is only allowed to travel in tour group through a local travel agency. They will apply for a permission from Chinese government for you and you can not travel by yourself.
Asked by Tan Hui Yi from SINGAPORE | May. 01, 2016 08:50Reply
Application of Tibetan entry permit
Hello, I researched and realised that it is recommended to apply for the Tibet entry permit 30 days before the intended date of travel. I am planning on travelling around 23 - 29 of June, I am wondering if the application still possible ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Wendy from ICELAND | May. 02, 2016 02:45

You must refer to the Tibet travel permit, right? You can turn to a authorized travel agency like Travel China Guide to help you to get the permit. You also should join a tour for touring that area. Now time is still enough got the application, don’t worry.
Asked by Mavis from SINGAPORE | Apr. 22, 2016 17:32Reply
Can I tour Tibet on my own as a FIT (free individual traveller) free & easy?
I heard that only China-Chinese and HK-Chinese are allowed to do that, non-Chinese nationals are not allowed. I am from Singapore.
Answers (2)
Answered by Leo from AUSTRALIA | Apr. 22, 2016 21:35

I'm afraid no. Foreign travelers have to join a tour group to enter that region.
Answered by Patrick from CANADA | Aug. 31, 2016 20:43

You may need the permit for foreigners to enter tibet which is issued by Chinese public security department and Chinese tourist agency. You can enter tibet individually in case of having the permit
Asked by Ivanka from BULGARIA | Feb. 11, 2016 20:03Reply
Travel permit for Tibet: Do foreign tourists still need a tourist guide to visit there?
Answers (2)
Answered by Cathy from AUSTRALIA | Feb. 16, 2016 00:08

Yes, until nowadays, you have to join a tour through a travel agency and get the Travel Permit for Tibet. BTW, TravelChinaGuide is a trustworthy agency. They will provide whole travel plan and professional tour guide for you. If interested, their contact information is traveltravelchinaguide.com. :)
Answered by Kron from GERMANY | Apr. 04, 2016 03:12

If you enter Tibet, you must join a package tour.

This can be done in your country of origin or when you arrive in China. This is mandatory and the Chinese government WILL NOT negate from this policy. No one (in this case you- the foreigner) just rock up to Tibet unannounced. Everything is meticulously planned right down to the smallest detail. If you do decide to join a packaged tour- international tour groups will arrived well before winter. Domestic tours have the option of commencing the tour any time of the year even in the dead of winter. If your tour only commences and finishes in Lhasa (and do not leave the city zone), this is the cheapest option as your tour guide can schedule free and easy option for you and you can board and disembark any public transportation without fuss.

You do not have this luxury once your schedule is outside of Lasa.

If you find this too restrictive, Qinghai, Ningxia, Yunan and Sichuan have Tibetan cities where the majority of the population is Tibetan. These cities have authentic Tibetan culture which is not watered down for foreign consumption. Secondly, all these cities do not need you to have a special permit.

If you want to experience Tibet without the health complications and still wish to experience the high altitude Qinghai and Shangri-La in Yunnan province can meet that criteria. Once again you do not need a special Tibetan entry permit.
Asked by Basant Chalise from NEPAL | Dec. 15, 2015 08:56Reply
We are planning to visit lhasa from 19 dec to 26 dec. How is the weather at present? Basant Chalise
Answers (1)
Answered by Emma from GERMANY | Dec. 16, 2015 00:00

The weather forecast shows that temperature may range from 15 F to 45 F. The temperature difference of day and night will be large. And it will be chilly cold. You need to prepare winter clothes, such as down jackets, sweaters, long johns, pants and boots.
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