remote abode of the Dalai Lamas, object of devout pilgrimage and heart
and soul of Tibet, is still a city of wonders, despite the large-scale
encroachments of modern Chinese influence. Your first hint that Lhasa
is close is the Potala, a vast white-and-ochre fortress soaring over
one of the world’s highest cities. It’s a sight that has heralded the
marvels of the Holy City to travellers for close to four centuries and
it still raises goose bumps.
While the Potala dominates the skyline, the Jokhang, some 2km to the
east, is the real spiritual heart of the city. An otherworldly mix of
flickering butter lamps, wafting incense and prostrating pilgrims, the
Jokhang is the most sacred and alive of Tibet’s temples. It is here
and the encircling Barkhor pilgrim circuit that most visitors first
fall in love with Tibet.
The old Tibetan quarter makes up a small area of Lhasa these days. The
modern city is a Chinese boom town, where a new train line has fuelled
massive growth in tourism, alongside new hotels, shops and
supermarkets. The face of Lhasa is changing daily, with buildings
rising and falling like the Shanghai stock market.
From outside China, it
is only possible from Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa. Tickets can be purchased abroad, but you can also get to
Nepal or China and then book from there.
railway was completed in July 2006 and is expected to bring in
hoards of Chinese tourists.
Lhasa is connected by
road to many nearby cities in Tibet. Many travelers book overland
tours via the Friendship Highway that runs from Kathmandu to Lhasa
(920 kms). It takes 3-5 days with stops at sights along the way.
World-renowned Tibet lies on
a snow plateau. The effect of which means a glorious sun set against a
dark blue sky, floating white clouds and desolate mountains has earned
Lhasa the nickname 'the City of Sunlight'.
On the way from the Gongkar Airport to Lhasa, you will see a simple
but attractive temple north of the highway. A little east of the
temple is a giant carved Buddha, Nietang Buddha. The Buddha is
a big draw for visitors before they enter the downtown.
Surely every traveler must visit the Potala Palace during their
visit. This palace is sacred in Tibetan people's hearts. Before
entering the palace you must show your identification card or passport
(in the case of foreign visitors).
Another must-see attraction is the Jokhang Temple. It is
surrounded by Barkhor Street in the center of Lhasa. Being the
spiritual center of the holy land, the temple is richly decorated with
Tibetan features. It is where visitors can go to get a real taste of
Sera Monastery is situated in the north of the city. The
highlight of the Monastery is lamas debating on Buddhist Doctrine. The
debating is held from 15:30 to 16:30 every day except Saturday and
Drepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet and lies in
the west of Lhasa. The Unveiling Ceremony of the giant Thangka of the
Buddha is held in Drepung Monastery on the first day of the annually
held Shoton Festival.
Ganden Monastery is also located in the west of Lhasa. Some
buses on Jokhang Temple Square go to this monastery; they start at
07:00 every morning and return at 14:00. The journey takes about two
hours in total and the round trip.
hh - heritage hotel ; ph -
palace hotel ; bh - boutique hotel ; gh - guest house ; hs - home stay