Top 10 Things to Do in Lhasa

As the biggest city on the Tibetan plateau reputed as “roof of the world”, Lhasa is characterized with plateau landscapes including snow mountains, deep valleys, peaceful rivers and clear lakes. Moreover, the place has long been dwelled by Tibetans, whose culture and customs are unique and making the city full of ethnic atmosphere. Then what to do in Lhasa? The top 10 things to do in Lhasa include the Potala Place, Barkhor Street, Yamdrok Yumtso Lake, Tibet Musuem, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monestary, Namtso Lake, Norbulingka, Mila Pass, and Lhasa River.

Potala Palace is the symbol and landmark of Lhasa as well as Tibet and a sacred place for Buddhist pilgrims across the world. Over 200m (660ft) high, this hillside palace was built in the early 7th century when Tibetan King married Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) . It mainly consists of two parts, Red Palace and White Palace. The former is where religious rites are held, while the latter is the monks' living quarters. As you could imagine, the white and red Potala is very impressive, especially against the blue sky and distant snow mountains. The interior decoration is also gorgeous, and tourists can admire Buddhist statues, murals, Thangkas, jade wares, enamels and other eye-opening collections.

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Barkhor Street is the one-stop place to learn Tibetan customs, and the “Holy Circumambulation” is a very common Lhasa thing to do here. Basically, Buddhists, dressed in robe and holding prayer wheel, would walk along this street clockwise and repeatedly, in order to show their piety and pray for blessings. If interested, you can join them. It generally takes 10-15 minutes to finish one circumambulation. In addition, flanked with all sorts of stores, Barkhor Street is the most prosperous place in Lhasa. Tourists may buy Tibetan clothes, accessories, and some Indian or Nepalese handicrafts. After sightseeing and shopping, tourists can find a restaurant and try traditional Lhasa food.
Yamdrok Yumtso, 70km (43mi) southwest of Lhasa, is one of the three largest holy lakes in Tibet. Tourists will be surprised by the waterscape at the first sight, for it shows different shades of blue as the sunlight changes. No wonder local people compare it to a sapphire amid undulating mountains. What is more, various water birds, flying or resting, bring vitality to this peaceful lake. If you want to enjoy the beauty of Yamdrok Yumtso to the full, you’d better go there on a sunny day.
Tibet Museum helps tourists to learn Tibetan Buddhism, customs and history in a simple and comprehensive way. Precious exhibits include the Buddha statues of different shapes and materials, scriptures written with gold or silver dust, golden seal issued by imperial government, and special instruments used during religious sites etc. Moreover, stoneware, pottery, and handicraft etc. let people catch a glimpse of Tibet’s evolution from prehistoric times to now. Actually, it is recommended that tourists visit this museum first, for it provides background knowledge for the other Lhasa activities.
As the Buddhist pilgrimage destination, Jokhang Temple enjoys equal status with the Potala Palace. According to religious tradition, tourists are supposed to visit this temple clockwise, and one may roll pray wheelers as local people do to bring good luck. The most valuable thing inside is the statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni. Mural and Thangka are also eye-openers. Then, one may go to the third floor to see the golden temple roof, or enjoy the clear view of Potala Palace in a distance.

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With white houses and red halls nestling upon the hill, Drepung Monastery is another holy Buddhism temple tourists cannot miss. Every afternoon, watching scripture debate is probably the most interesting thing to do in Lhasa. Even though overseas tourists have no idea about what is being discussed, they will be impressed by the monk’s impassioned tone and gesture. In addition, Drepung Monastery is most thriving during the Shoton Festival every late June in the Tibetan calendar. At that time, tourists can enjoy the Buddha Unfolding Ceremony and Tibetan opera performances.
Namtso Lake is the highest saltwater lake in the world. The scene of its azure water reflecting the white-capped mountains looks so peaceful that Tibetan people consider it a blessing of nature. After you enjoy the waterscape, you may take a walk on the prairie alongside. Cute animals such as hare or marmot could surprise you at any time. What is more, the best time to come here is from Jun. to Sep., as the lake could be frozen for the rest of the year.

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Norbulingka is considered the “Summer Palace in Lhasa” with some different features from other Tibetan style scenic spots, hence recommended as a top thing to do in Lhasa. One of its features lies in the combination of Tibetan and traditional Chinese architectural styles. On the one hand, tourists could see the bold color match of golden roof and red or white wall, which is typical Tibetan style. On the other, one may feel a secluded vibe when wandering through delicate traditional Chinese style pavilions and corridors. Rare fauna and flora are another highlight of Norbulingka. Along the way, pines, cypresses and blooming flowers will please your eyes, making you forget you are on te high plateau. At the zoo, one may see snow leopards, black bears, lions, and so on. Of course, various treasures in the main area are also eye-opening.

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Mila Pass

Mila Pass is located at the boundary of Lhasa and Nyingchi. Due to the altitude of 5,013m (16,447ft), the scenery on its two side is in a striking contrast. The west side features desolate beauty, while the east is covered with lush vegetation. What is more, reckoned as a divine place by local people, Mila Pass is decorated with colorful prayer flags, and the waving flags in the wind are really worth taking picture. Speaking of which, the landmark stone and the yak statue alongside are the perfect place to take souvenir photos.
If you ask local people what to do in Lhasa, many of them may recommend you to visit the Lhasa River. Indeed, this peaceful river reminds people of a blue ribbon meandering through mountains, and the waterscape looks much better against the sunset. Moreover, tourists can not only admire the river but have full fun with it. Swimming, fishing, picnicking and camping are all allowed here. Nearby restaurants also bring much convenience for tourists. 

Further Reading:
Best Time to Visit Lhasa

Top 10 Things to Do in Tibet

- Last modified on Mar. 08, 2021 -
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