Tibet, the “Roof of the World,” is the highest region on the planet. The mysterious and exotic place for many visitors is located on a plateau north of the Himalayas. The exotic plateau is a paradise for those travelers who are in search of tranquil place with majestic scenery and mysterious religious culture. With remarkable natural beauty and cultural treasures, the exotic land has numerous things to explore. A visitor in Tibet in this spring at the one hand can roam around the architectural landmarks of Lhasa and on the other hand, he or she can go for exploring invaluable treasures of nature.
Foremost, the Potala Palace, which is considered to be a model of Tibetan architecture beseeches the attention of visitors to Lhasa. Located on the Red Hill in Lhasa, the palace covers more than 360,000 square meters and has 13 storeys. It was first constructed in 641, by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, in order to greet his bride. This structure was rebuilt in the 17th century by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Over the past three centuries, the palace has gradually become a place where the Dalai Lama lives and works and a place for preserving the remains of previous Dalai Lamas. This magnificent structure along with representing the superb Tibetan architecture also makes a special place in the heart of visitors to Tibet. Likewise, Jokhang Temple is another landmark of Lhasa that also falls in the category of pilgrimage destination to explore.
Jokhang Temple, located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa, is Tibet’s first Buddhist temple. The temple is also referred as the “House of the Buddha”. The temple occupies an unchallengeable position in Tibetan Buddhism. Built in 647 by Songtsen Gampo, Jokhang Temple is the oldest civil-structure building in Tibet that has a history of more than 1,300 years. It well mixed Tibetan, Tang-Dynasty, Nepalese and Indian style of architecture together, initiated a new space layout model for Tibetan monastery. As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lhasa, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace’. Thus, it is received as an ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan pilgrims. Like Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka Palace too is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was added as an extension to this Historic Ensemble in 2001.
The Norbulinka Palace, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, lies in a quiet and beautiful garden in a western suburb of Lhasa. It was constructed in the 1740s as a summer palace for the Dalai Lama and later served the whole governmental administration. The place boasts typical Tibetan palace architecture, as well as gentle streams, dense and lush forestry, birds and animals. Furthermore, the well preserved murals, superb mandalas and frescoes are fascinating sights not to miss. One particular mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas. The Dalai Lama was living here during his last days in Tibet. The rooms have remained as they were when the Dalai Lama left in 1959. Hence, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, the largest man-made garden in Tibet, is also an important place for visitors to roam around. Similarly, the Barkhor Street also attracts the huge crowds of local as well as foreign visitors in Lhasa.
If you are in Lhasa in this spring, do not forget to stroll around the Barkhor Street-Lhasa’s ancient street. The ancient street is a small neighborhood consisting of a public square surrounding the Jokhang Temple in the old area of Lhasa. The oldest street appeared about 1,300 years ago, right after Jokhang Temple was built in 647, attracting thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. The streets are filled with a religious atmosphere and show the original Lhasa. This site is also popular for souvenir shopping for a visitor to Lhasa. In the same way, Drepung Monastery around 10 kilometers to the west suburbs of Lhasa has also significant charm among the visitors to Lhasa.
Drepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet. It was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelukpa School. Together with the Ganden Monastery and the Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery is regarded as one of the “Three Great Monasteries” in Lhasa. The monastery was one of the best schools of the Middle-Ages and during the 1930s, it housed over 10,000 monks from all regions of Asia. After the Chinese invasion and the persecution that followed, many of them retreated to India, where they started a new monastery. Now only a few hundred monks remain at Drepung, but its history makes it a popular attraction. In addition to aforementioned temples and monasteries in Lhasa, Ramoche Temple is also a popular site where a visitor can go in this spring.
The Ramoche Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, is considered to be the most important religious shrine in Lhasa. Located in the north part of Lhasa, it is about 500 meters from the Jokhang Temple. It was built in the middle of the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) with a nickname of “Minor Jokhang Temple.” Apart from other attractions of Lhasa, a traveler can also go for visiting purposes at this Tibetan religious shrine in this spring. Furthermore, Ganden Monastery is also another Tibetan cultural site where one can go for traveling and exploring purposes in Tibet.
Built in 1409, Ganden Monastery, is one of the “great three” Gelukpa university monasteries in Tibet, together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery. Located at the top of Wangbur Mountain, the university monastery consists of over 50 structures and main halls include the Main Assembly Hall or Coqen Hall, Zhacangs, Khangtsens, and Myicuns. The monastery features the statues of the Maitreya Buddha and the master Tsong Khapa, the initiator of Gelugpa. Adding to this, it is also famous for preserving many rare and precious cultural relics of Tibet. Slightly contrast to above mentioned architectural, cultural and religious attraction of Tibet, a visitor to Tibet can also go inside the Tibet Museum to discover the vivid aspects of Tibet.
If one is curious to explore the Tibetan artifacts, then the Tibet Museum can become an incredible treasure. Located in Lhasa, the Tibet Museum is the first large and modern museum where one can see a permanent collection related to the cultural history of Tibet. Inaugurated 1999, the museum showcases more than 1,000 artifacts, including Tibetan art and architectural design. Along with the passionate visitors to Tibet, the museum is also resourceful for those people who are making an inquiry into cultural and historical avenues of Tibet. By contrast to cultural attractions, Namtso-the “Heavenly Lake” in the Himalayas too makes a strong appeal to the travelers in Tibet.
The Namtso Lake, one of the three holy lakes in Tibet, is perched near the Dangxiong County in the center of Tibet. Standing 4,710 meters above the sea level, it is the highest salt water lake in the world. Namtso is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the Nyainqêntanglha mountain range with pure, clean water which reflected the color of the sky. The local people named it “Nam” as in Tibetan language, Nam means “Sky”. There are 5 islands lying on the water, which is said that they are embodiments of gods. Above all, the heavenly lake is famous for its high altitude and imposing scenery among the travelers in Tibet. In sharp contrast to previous landmarks of Tibet, the “Roof of the World” has also famous for places like Yambajan where one can take bath in natural hot springs.
Located 90 kilometers northwest of Lhasa, Yambajan is famous for its wide range of hot springs, ranging from those with the highest temperatures in all of the country to boiling geysers. It sits in a basin at the foot of the Nyainqentanglha Mountains. In the early morning, the hot spring site is covered in a white and luminous vapor. The hot springs in Yambajan contain various minerals and are believed to be therapeutic. Therefore going beyond cultural insights, there are also places like Yambajan in Tibet, where one can enjoy nature.
Briefly, if one is preparing a trip to Tibet in this spring do not miss the cultural and natural attractions that are scattered within and beyond Lhasa. Tibet, the roof of the world, still resembles a utopia not only in the imagination of western travelers; it is in fact a paradise even to the Asian travelers. A traveler dreaming to make a trip to Tibet must know about Tibet’s fantastic places before heading to this pristine Himalayan paradise.