Explore Lhasa and capture its top 7 must-see landmarks in the canvas of your life long memory. Lhasa, in Tibetan, means “The land of gods”. Lhasa houses most of the important monasteries and cultural treasures of Tibet. So, gear up for a typical Tibetan culture tour and savor the inimitable joys of your trip. There are numerous scenic spots among which, Potala Palace, Nobulingka, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ganden Monastery and Jokhang Temple are the most famous ones. Wipe away the mists of imagination and meet the real people of Lhasa – bargain for souvenirs in Barkhor Square, witness Buddhist monks debating on theology and meet reverent worshippers as they make pilgrimages to the holy sites of the Tibetan capital. A visit to Lhasa is not just a visit to the capital city of Tibet, but it also gives an opportunity to experience Tibetan culture, visit numerous heritage sites and watch daily lives of the Tibetans. The top 7 must see landmarks in Lhasa are shown here.
1. Jokhang Temple
One of top must see landmarks in Lhasa, occupies an unchallenged position in Tibetan Buddhism. Located at the centre of old Lhasa city, this majestic temple, forms the “heart” of ancient Lhasa. 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’. Together with Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street is another must visit site at the center of Lhasa. The street is the road that pilgrims tramped out around Jokhang Temple through centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night. It is a place where Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts assemble.
2. Potala Palace
A must see attraction in Lhasa, is a landmark of Tibet. The history of this awe-inspiring construction can be dated back to the 7th century, some 1,300 years ago that built by King Songtsen Gampo. With an area of over 360, 000 square meters, Potala Palace is a spectacular castle-like building complex of Lhasa, which is used to be the unification centre of political and religious of Tibet. With grand stele commemorating the architectural achievements of ancient Tibetans, the Potala Palace is truly a cultural treasure on the Tibetan Plateau. In December 1994, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Furthermore, the Potala Palace worked as the winter palace of the Dalai Lamas since the 7th century. The palace is famous for its grand buildings, complicated constructions, special atmosphere, splendid artworks, precious scriptures, murals, jewels and antiques.
3. Drepung Monastery
Another top must visit site in Lhasa, is the largest monastery in Tibet. It was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelukpa School. Drepung 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.
4. Tibet Museum
A must see site in Lhasa, is located in the southeast corner of Norbulingka. The museum houses a rich collection of prehistoric cultural relics including Buddha statues in different postures, imperial jade seals, gold albums, gifts granted by emperors, colorful Thangkas, and various printed Sanskrit and local scriptures. Visitors can also see variety of folk art such as unique local handicrafts, costumes, jewellery, and adornments made of gold, silver, and jade, as well as fine Chinese pottery. In addition to showing the civilization of Tibet, the museum is also an ideal location to hold cultural exchanges and seminars, to preserve cultural relics, and to encourage the archaeological study. The museum is not only a source of information for the locals, but also attracts an increasing number of people from overseas and educates them about Tibetan culture.
5. Sera Monastery
One of the three grand monasteries in Lhasa, is famous for its copper Buddhist Statue, Religious Painting and Buddhism Debating, etc. The whole construction mainly consists of the Coqen Hall, the Dratsang (place for studying) and the Kangcun (residence), etc. The Hayagriva Statue in Coqen Hall is the most popular attraction for tourists, but it has a special religious meaning for local followers. Besides, the intense Buddhist Debating is another spotlight of this monastery. Every day in the afternoon, monks with an intention of learning Buddhism come to the courtyard of this monastery and participate in Buddhist debate.
The summer palace of the Dalai Lama, lies in a quiet and beautiful garden in the west part of Lhasa. 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.
7. Ganden Monastery
One of the sacred monasteries of Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, the originator of the Gelugpa sect. Ganden consists of many temples and other buildings. It covers an enormous area, as building continued for generations. One building called Cuoqin Vihara has 108 pillars and is large enough to house 3500 monks. It contains the beautiful and skillfully carved bronze statues of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and Tsongkhapa. The monastery is listed as one of Tibet’s cultural relics. The Lhasa’s must see site is perched just short of the top of Mount Wanrigu or Wangbur, 30 km east of Lhasa, at an altitude of 4500m.