Where is Tibet and What To Do There?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Wondering where is Tibet? It is an autonomous region within China, located north of the Himalayas. Renowned as the Roof of the World, Tibet is a beautiful place everyone must visit at least once in their life. You will definitely love its centuries-old traditions, mystic surroundings, and pure natural beauty. It is a place that will let you forget the hustle and bustle of modern cities. You can trek high mountains, explore beautiful monasteries and get to know the local life of Tibetan people. 

Tourism is highly restricted here and you need to obtain a permit first. Also, you cannot travel to Tibet alone which means you should visit it via an agency and must be accompanied by a tour guide. Here’s a detailed guide about where is Tibet and what to do there!

Geography and Regions of Tibet

The geography of Tibet can be divided in three plateaus
The geography of Tibet can be divided in three plateaus.

As mentioned earlier, Tibet is an autonomous region located in the Southwest of China covering an area of 1.22 million square kilometers. The Tibetan Plateau is a vast, expansive area elevated at an altitude of above 4000 meters. It is therefore known as the Roof of the World or the Third Pole of Earth. Tibet is administered under one municipality which is Lhasa and six prefectures- Shigatse, Ngari, Shannan, Chamdo, Nagchu, and Nyingchi. The Tibet population amounts up to six million at present. 

In the past, Tibet was a powerful independent kingdom, and it became an independent state in the 20th century. However, at present, it is a region under the control of China, and the people of Tibet face numerous hardships due to this. The Tibet China conflict is a widely debated matter in the international arena today. 

We can divide Tibet in three geographical regions, which are the northern plateau, the outer plateau, and the southeastern plateau. The Tibet climate varies according to these regions. From May to September is the rain season and if you are traveling during this time, be prepared with proper clothing. The ideal time to visit Tibet is from October to April because the climate is favorable and the surrounding is stunning. 

Read more: Visit Tibet and Experience the Top of the World!

The Northern Plateaus also known as Chang Tang is the largest natural region in Tibet. The climatic condition of this region is really harsh, and only a small population resides here. In fact, some parts of the northern plateau are hardly visited by people as the weather is unbearable. 

On the other hand, the outer plateau has a milder temperature and a pleasant climate. Due to this, the majority of Tibet population lives here. Also, this area is rich in biodiversity, and many crops are grown in this area. Even during winter, you won’t find this region extremely cold.

The southern plateau is covered by forests for the most part and is a smaller region compared with the other two. It is inhabited by nomadic people enjoying the mild climate.

Places to Visit in Tibet 

Where is Tibet, you will visit many magnificent locations.
Where is Tibet, you will visit many magnificent locations.

If you are wondering where is Tibet in terms of culture and traditions, remember that Tibet is home to some of the oldest cultural and religious monuments in the world.

Read more: Where is Nepal and What to Do There?

There are so many places that you can visit to get an insight into Tibet’s rich history and traditional values.

The Potala Palace

One of the facts about Potala Palace is that it got its name after Mount Potalaka.

This iconic palace in Lhasa is the most famous monument in Tibet without a doubt. Known as the symbol of Tibet, Potala Palace boasts of magnificent architecture, rich Tibetan history, and culture. The entire structure consists of a 13-storeyed palace, a cluster of houses, towers, and chapels. The Potala Palace architecture is considered as one of the most beautiful architectural wonders by UNESCO. 

What’s really fascinating about this palace is its location which is on top of the Marpo Ri Hill. You will also come across splendid artworks and religious treasures here. So, don’t forget to visit this beautiful place perched on top of a mountain.

Sakya Monastery

Sakya Monastery and its amazing architectue.

Also known as Pel Sakya, this Buddhist monastery is another place you shouldn’t miss in Tibet. It is found in 1073 by Kun Konchog Gyibo and has a collection of over 40,000 books devoted to Buddhism and its rich culture. You will also find a large number of statues, murals, paintings, and stupas here. 

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is known as the spiritual center of Tibet.

Jokhang Temple is a 4-storeyed building complex situated in Lhasa and surrounded by the Barkhor Street. Known as the spiritual center of Tibet, its origin dates back to the 7th century. The temple’s architecture is a rich combination of Han, Tibetan, Indian, Nepalese and Mandala styles. 

Tourists can only visit during the afternoon hours since the morning is reserved for pilgrims. However, you can go there early morning and observe the rituals performed by pilgrims.

Lake Manasarovar

Manasarovar Lake is a beautiful sacred lake that is surrounded by Mount Kailash.

The Manasarovar Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Tibet and is considered sacred among locals. This mystic place is surrounded by Mount Kailash and is one of the highest freshwater lakes on earth. Manasarovar Lake mystery consists of many stories including the ancient religious belief that Nirvana can be attained here. Tibetan people and pilgrims also believe that bathing here can ward off evil spirits and bad luck. 

The journey to this lake is truly adventurous as you have to pass tough routes and endure harsh climatic conditions. The most revered trek is from India known as the Manasarovar Yatra among pilgrims.

Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery has a history of over 600 years and it's still a powerful religious and cultural site.

This is one of the holiest monasteries in Tibet and has served as the mother-monastery of Dalai Lama in the past. With a history over 600 years, Drepung Monastery remains as a powerful religious and a cultural site. It is located in the western suburb of Lhasa at the foot of the Mountain Gephel.

Some prominent buildings found here are the Main Assembly Hall, Four Dratsangs, and Ganden Podrang. You have to purchase a ticket worth 50RMB to enter the premises, and it is advisable to wear decent clothing and maintain proper decorum.

What to do in Tibet 

There is a wide variety of things to do in Tibet.
There is a wide variety of things to do in Tibet.

Besides visiting naturally beautiful places and important cultural sites, there are also other things you can do in Tibet. 

Trek high mountains

Tibet is home to many towering mountains and valleys and is an awesome place for trekking.

Tibet is known as the Roof of the World because of its high elevation of above 4000m. So, it is home to towering mountains and expansive valleys. If you are a person who loves trekking tough and challenging routes, you have come to the right place. There are both short and long treks which you can select according to your convenience. 

The Everest Base Camp Trek is renowned as the most popular and the highest trek in the world and attracts thousands of travelers annually. The Gyama Valley trek is also popular for the stunning views it offers for visitors. 

The best time to visit this valley is from April to June, and September to October. Other trek sites available here are Mount Kailash Trek, Shalu to Nartang Trek, and Mount Shishapangma Base Camp Trek.

Camping

Camping is a true way to experience the natural wonders of Tibet.

Want to spend a day or two surrounded by lush greenery and snow-capped mountains? Camping in an off-the-beaten-path will not only let you enjoy the beauty of Tibet but also will help you to relax peacefully. You can also camp beside a lake like Yamdrok Lake which is one of the most beautiful places in Tibet and enjoy the beautiful sunrise and sunset.  

However, it is always advisable to camp via a tour agency that will set up the required essentials for you including a permit.

Cycling in Tibet

Cycling is an unique way to explore Tibet.

Cycling in Tibet is a unique experience and a great way to explore the region. You will definitely be fascinated by the breathtaking surroundings you will come across as you travel through its natural wonders. 

But it is important to note that it is not an easy task as you have to pass difficult routes which can exhaust you in a while. Some travelers have spent up to 4 weeks cycling and claim it to be an awe-inspiring experience.

So, if you are up for the challenge, Tibet awaits you. Also, be prepared with basic essentials like water, warm clothing and remember to plan ahead. However, the regulations for travel still apply for cycling which means you cannot travel independently.

Get to know the locals

People of Tibet are very hospitable, and their smiles are priceless.

People in Tibet are known for their hospitality, and they treat visitors with the utmost respect. They are very amiable, eager to help and are optimistic. 

However, their living conditions aren’t very smooth, and they face severe oppression under the rule of China. You can learn a lot about Tibet, its culture, traditions, and even about the Tibet China conflict from them. 

The population in Tibet consists of Tibetans, Han Chinese, Luopa, Menpa, and some other groups. The traditional Tibetan clothing is the chuba which is a coat with long sleeves worn by both men and women.

Food in Tibet

Where is Tibet, you can enjoy in delicious and diverse cuisine.
Where is Tibet, you can enjoy in delicious and diverse cuisine.

Tibet food is as unique as its culture, and you should definitely try the variety of dishes available here. Sometimes, you can find them a bit too spicy especially if you aren't used to it. 

Read more: Dive Into the Tibetan Cuisine!

However, they are both delicious and nutritious. Here are some of the food items you must try when in Tibet.

Tsampa

Tsampa is a highly nutritious national food of Tibet.

Often known as the national food of Tibet, Tsampa is a very popular dish among locals. It is made out of barley flour and is consumed with salty butter tea. Usually, it is formed into small balls by mixing these two ingredients.

However, you will also find tsampa porridge which contains a few other additional ingredients. It is a highly nutritious, calorie-rich food that is consumed by everyone from nomads to monks. Also, Tsampa is also used during important festivals and will be tossed up in the air as an offering to god.

Tibetan Momo

Tibet has its own version of Momo!

Even though momo is a famous dish in many countries like India and Nepal, Tibetans have their own version of it. It is a dumpling which is steamed or fried before serving. In Tibet, it is made out of yak meat filling and is served with spicy sauce or dressing. 

But if you are a vegetarian, you can always go for moms stuffed with vegetable fillings like mushroom, cabbages, and onions. It is a very famous street food loved by both locals and foreigners alike, and you will find it tempting especially on a cold day.

Balep

There are different variants of Balep for every region of Tibet.

Another special food you will find here is the famous Tibetan bread known as Balep. There are many varieties of Balep because different regions have their own unique version. So, you will find Amdo balep, Sha balep, numtrak balep and Balep korkun which is the most popular one.  

It is made using a few simple ingredients like water, flour, and baking soda but other ingredients are also added to enhance the flavor or taste. It will be served with some curry made out of meat or vegetables. 

Chang

Chang is a popular alcoholic beverage in Tibet.

Chang is Tibet’s version of wine brewed out of barley, millet and rice grains. It is very popular and is served in almost all Tibetan festivals and other special ceremonies. 

This alcoholic beverage has a mild yet a sweet and sour taste that is very warming. It is usually consumed with meat and can warm you during cold weather times. Since it is very easy to make Chang, locals brew it themselves, and therefore it is readily available. 

Tibetan Yak Meat

Tibetan Yak meat is the most popular meat in Tibet and can be seasoned in many different ways.

Yak meat is the most famous meat variety in Tibet and is seasoned in many different ways. This protein-rich meat is eaten raw, cooked, boiled, stewed, roasted, steamed, dried and is also used as fillings in many dishes. It gives a slightly sweet flavor, and the meat itself is chewy but tender. 

You will definitely love the different yak meat dishes you find here. So, don’t hesitate to try this rice flavorsome meat when you are in Tibet! In addition to yak meat, you will also find yak milk, cheese, and butter throughout Tibet.

Where is Tibet and Why Should You Visit It?

Tibet is a unique region that is abundant with natural wonders and historical places. People in Tibet are highly devoted to their religion and culture. You will also be acquainted with unique Tibetan customs. Many people are reluctant to visit it because there are strict rules and regulations related to travel in Tibet. Tourism isn’t completely liberal here, and visitors are not allowed to visit certain sacred places. However, it is a worthy journey that will give you an amazing experience you will not forget. So now that you are aware where is Tibet, and its many treasures, don’t forget to include it in your travel list!

Raeesha Ikram freelance content writer for aSabbatical
Travelling isn’t a mere journey to different places. Instead, it’s an eye-opener revealing how beautifully diverse the world is.