2011/10/09

Lhasa Travel Guide

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Lhasa 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.

Differing from the inland cities and other places in Tibet, Lhasa is unique with an allure all of its own. 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 in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.

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 (Lhasa River) in a mountain-fringed valley. This ancient sprawling city, settled 1,300 years ago, covers 30,000 square kilometers (11,583 square miles), with a population of 400,000, of which 87 percent are Tibetans. The urban population is 180,000.

Potala Palace
Generally the period from March to October is the best time to visit Tibet. Since Lhasa 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 in Tibet, 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 traveling anywhere in Tibet.

Currently there are three options for travel to Tibet, by plane, by road and by train.

1. Taking the plane is a comfortable and timesaving option, but offers little time for you to acclimatise to the altitude; this may cause sickness.
2. Taking the bus along one of five highways that have been opened-up for tourists' 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 tourist have swarmed into Tibet via the great Tibet train.'

One word of warning: although there is a gradually increasing tourism industry in Lhasa, it is a city with many difficulties yet to be overcome due to its unique location and geography. Please bear in mind that traveling in Lhasa, as well as in Tibet on the whole, is more challenging than in any other part of China.

Sera Monastery
Jokhang Temple

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