Places to Visit in Tibet
With a view to giving you a brief introduction to the major places where you pass by and sightseeing spots as mentioned in the itinerary, we have prepared a brief description of each spots as follows. We hope this description will be of a little assistance to you.
Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region is located between 29o 36'N and 19o 06' E at the north bank of Kyichu river, a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, at an altitude of 3650 meteres above sea level. Lhasa has a history of more than 1300 years and has been the center of politics, economy, culture and religi pung Monastery was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Choje, a disciple of Tsongkapa, the founder of Gelugpa Sect. The monastery, occupying an area of 250,000 square meters with a fixed number of 7,700 monks, is the largest monastery in Tibet. The monastery keeps many historical relics, Buddhist scriptures, arts, and crafts.
The Potala, one of the most famous architectural works of the world, sits on top of the Red Hill in Lhasa. In the 7th century, after the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo's married Princess Wencheng of the Tang Court, the Plalace was built to provide the Tibetan court with a place of worship and meditation. In the mid-17th century, it was re-built by the 5th Dalai Lama to its present size, and became the Winter Palace of the Dalai Lamas. The construction took fifty years from beginning to completion.
The Potala is divided into two sections, namely, the Red Palace and White Palace. The total height of the Potala is 117 meters spanning thirteen storeys. The length of the Palace from east to west is 400 meters and the breadth from south to north is 350 meters. The building was constructed of stone and timber with golden roofs. It is a majestic architectural masterpiece.
Norbulinka means "the jeweled garden" is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. This large complex of small palaces like Gesang Palace, Jianse Palace and Daktanmiju lies within a walled garden that covers 360,000 sq. mts. The whole garden consists of two main parts - Norbulinkha at the western area & Jianselingka at the eastern area. It has fascinating murals in excellent condition, superb Mandalas & frescoes.
Sera means hail stone in Tibetan language. Set at the foot of the Wudu hill to the north of Lhasa city, Sera comprises of a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections that covers 114,964 sq. mts. Founded by Jamchenchupje in 1419, Sera was famous for its fighting monks, who spent years perfecting the martial arts.
Jokhang temple was built in 647 A.D and is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. It houses the sitting statue of Sakyamuni, when he was 12 years old. From dawn till dusk, one can see an astounding display of chanting, prostrating pilgrims circumambulating the temple. Hundreds of faces, ornaments, clothes & colors swirl round in a gigantic whirlpool of religious fervor.
It is located at the foot of the West Valley Mountain (Gyephel-Ou-Tse) about 10 kms from Lhasa. Drepung Monastery was built by Jamyang-Choje Tashi-Phiden in 1416 AD. Drepung is one of the six largest monasteries of the Gelupa sect & comprises of six main temples: Ganden Palace, Tsochen, Ngakpa, Losaling, Gomang & Dyeyang. The main relics in these temples are image of Maitreya, Yamantaka, Mitrukpa, Sutrakangyur with golden letters, Thankas, Silk scrolls (which are very precious & are rarely seen in the world), various gilded statures, Buddhist scriptures & countless other cultural relics. There are monastic colleges for the study of Philosophy & one for the practice of Tantric Buddhism. The monastery covers an area of over 20,000 sq. mts.
In the trace of origins of Yarlung Valley, the Monkey Cave on Mt. Gongpori tells us that Yarlung is the origin of the Tibetans. The stone wares unearthed from Traduk & Yartu further confirm that the Yarlung is the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Over several thousands of years, Yarlung culture, as an important component of Tibetan culture, has had an impact on the history of Tibet & the country as a whole. The Yarlung people have created their own unique folk culture including marriage ceremonies, funeral arrangements, rites, clothing, food, tattoo & farming that depicts a full picture of the good nature of the people of the plateau.
The Yarlung River
The Yarlung River descends from the beautiful snow - capped Yarla Shangpo Mountain, irrigating the fertile land through which, it passes. The Yarlung people have lived generation after generation on this piece of land with glorious flowers in spring & sweet fruits in autumn.
Shigatse is most famous for its Tashilumpo Monastery - the seats of the Panchen Lama, who is regarded as the reincarnation of the Buddha of Endless Enlightenment. Items of interest inside this monastery built in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama are: the relics of Sakyamuni, the Hall of Maitreya & a mind-boggling collection of Thankas, frescoes & statues. There is a bustling 'free' market at the foot of the ruins of the Shigatse Fortress, where one can buy local handicrafts, embedded with coral & turquoise, Tibetan draggers, Chinese porcelain & yak butter.
Founded by the first Dalai Lama, Gedun Drupa in 1447 is one of the four "Yellow hat Sect" monasteries of Tibetan Buddhists. The monastery comprises of congregation hall from 5th to 9th century Panchen Lama's stupa and chapels, the golden stupa of 10th century and the big Maitreya statue of the Buddha in gold & copper alloy. It occupies an area of 300,000 sq. mts.
Gyantse is a small agricultural town famous for its woolen carpets & the Phalkor Chorten. Amongst the Lamasery & the fort, this unique structure built in 1414 AD consists of five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment, topped by thirteen rings, which symbolize the stages of advancement towards Buddhahood. There are 108 halls inside, each with frescoes & Buddha shrines, the frescoes showing a strong Indian influence. Before 1959 traders coming from Kalimpong & Gangtok used to enter Tibet through Yandong and then to Gyantse, en route to Lhasa.
Established in the mid 8th century and covering an area of 25,000 sq. mts, Samye Monastery is located in Zhang county on the northern bank of the Yarlung Zhangpo river. The three-storey building was built in Han, Tibetan & Indian styles. It was the first formal monastery in Tibet.
This stupa was one of the eight Buddhist stupas known as Tashi Multi stupa that stood 42m high & was said to have 108 cells containing venerable mural paintings & holy images amounting to 1,00,000 pieces of art. The Chorten is located in Gyantse.
Xegar is a new Chinese commune built at the foot of the ruins of Xegar Dzong and is 7 km from the main highway. With a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, its importance lies in the fact that it is the center of this large and remote country and also a base from where expeditions to Mt. Everest & other peaks are launched from the Chinese side.
Zhangmu, better known by its Tibetan name Khasa, is a small settlement clinging to a hillside 10kms inland from the Friendship Bridge across the Bhotekoshi river which serves as the border with Nepal. After the closure of the China/India border from Gangtok, Zhangmu has become the major trading post between Tibet & Nepal. The hills around Zhangmu are heavily wooded with innumerable waterfalls in the summer & frozen 'icicles' during the winter.
Mount Kailash & Mansarovar
Mt. Kailash claimed to be the apex of the Hindu religious axis is also one of the highest mountain in Tibet at 6,656m and the holy Lake Mansarovar at 4,700m lies closeby. Visitors can opt to make the trip by surface to Kailash either via Kodari on Nepal/Tibet border or on foot through remote west Nepal. The walk around Mt. Kailash takes around three days while two days are required for Lake Mansarovar. The best period to make this tour is May through October.