Central Tibet Attractions

Central Tibet attractions are as diverse as they are spectacular; both historic and epic. All travelers should come with more than one camera battery and an abundance of memory cards, plus a back-up hard drive. Must-see attractions can generally be divided into scenic and cultural categories.

Scenic Attractions

Central Tibet is renowned as home to the Himalaya mountain range. The highest mountains in the world live there, including Mt. Everest (8,848m). A two day drive from Lhasa can take you to base camp at the foot of Everest’s North Face. Three days drive can take you to far western Tibet and to the most well-known holy mountain in Asia, Mt. Kailash, where you have the option of a three day trek around its base. A day trip from Lhasa can take you to the emerald waters of Yamdrok Lake, a holy lake for Tibetans, and cross the mighty waters of the Yarlung Tsampo that flow across Tibet before plummeting through the Himalayas to India. North of Lhasa sits Namtso Lake, a highland oasis that supports the surrounding nomadic communities and their herds of yak and sheep. Summer paints everything green in Tibet, while winter creates the deepest azure blue skies to be viewed anywhere on the planet.

Cultural Attractions

Lhasa alone hosts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Norbulingka). For those interested in the religious aspects of Tibet, there are a number of monasteries and temples with their corresponding history. Enjoy watching the monks dramatically debate their religious philosophy at Sera Monastery. Visit the biggest monastery in the Gelugpa sect on a mountain ridge outside Lhasa – Ganden Monastery – and take in the view of the farms in the valley below. Simply admire Samye Monastery, the oldest Buddhist training institute in Tibet, and revel in the history that it has accumulated since the 8th century. Marvel at the sheer scale of the kitchen found at Drepung Monastery that at one time fed a population of up to 10,000 monks! There are diverse cultural attractions to interest every traveler to Central Tibet.

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Yamdrok Yumtso (Yamdrok Lake)

Yamdrok Lake Tibet

Yamdrok, Yamdroktso (ཡར་འབྲོག་གཡུ་མཚོ།  ), or Yamdrok Yumtso, is a breathtaking lake lying between the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and the town of Gyantse. Yamdrok Lake is viewable along the old Friendship Highway that links Tibet with Nepal, and is a favorite route for those heading to Everest Base Camp. Sitting at an altitude of 4,441 meters above sea level, the lake is 130 …

Norbulingka Summer Palace

Norbulingka 2.0

Located on the western edge of Lhasa at the bank of River Kyichu and just a kilometer from the famous Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace (ནོར་བུ་གླིང་ག) offers the best landscapes in the region. Spread over an area of 360,000 square meters, Norbulingka features the summer palaces of the Dalai Lamas with 374 rooms, and the largest, most beautiful, and well-preserved gardens …

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple 2.0

Standing four stories tall, spread over an area of about 25,000 square meters in the heart of Lhasa, the UNESCO World Heritage Jokhang Temple (ཇོ་ཁང་།) with its golden roof is an esoteric blend of local Tibetan elements with Nepalese, Chinese, and Indian influences. The spinning of prayer wheels, murmur of mantras, and humble prostrations of devout pilgrims all year long …

Chomolungma (Mt. Everest)

Mt. Evereset by day.

Also known as Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ། )in Tibetan, (珠穆朗玛峰 in Chinese), the mere mention of the name “Everest” already evokes enough pictures in our imaginations: ice axes, climbing ropes, avalanches, sherpas, basecamps and lots and lots of snow. The tallest point from sea level on planet earth (8,848m) is assisted to its dizzying heights by the craggy edge of the vaulted Tibetan …

Namtso Lake

Woman overlooking Namtso.

Located in Central Tibet, on the south side of Namtso Lake (གནམ་མཚོ།), travellers will find a lakeside tourist town selling souvenirs, hot sweet milk tea, selfies with yaks, and very basic accommodations. The route from the 109 highway will lead travellers straight to this town located at the base of the Tashi Dor peninsula. Peak season at Namtso Lake exhibits …

Potala Palace

Potala Palace, Lhasa.

Located in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, one can find the famous Potala Palace(  ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ། ). As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this remarkable set of buildings is visited by thousands of tourists daily. “Potala” itself comes from the Hindi name of a mountain in Southern India, while in Sanskrit it means, “The Abode of the Buddha.” Construction of the palace …

Peiku Tso

Salt line on the shore of Peiku Tso

Imagine you are a flea on the head of a king with a crown of peaks all around you. The stretch of road on the way to Peiku Tso is something like that. The king’s forehead is facing south with the crown jewel set upon the tallest point – Shisapangma – the 8,013 meter point that is the highest mountain …

Drepung Monastery

drepung Monastery Tibet

Historically, the most significant monastery in Tibetan Buddhism, Drepung Monastery(འབྲས་སྤུངས་དགོན་པ།) used to be the seat of political and religious power in Tibet (before the Potala Palace was built). This significance came in part due to its location just outside of Lhasa, and in part due to it being the primary seat of the Gelugpa sect. The Gelugpa sect practices celibacy, …

Samye Monastery

Samye Monastery

History of Samye Monastery Two hours drive southeast of Lhasa sits Samye Monastery(བསམ་ཡས་དགོན་པ།) – the oldest Buddhist training institution in Tibet, established in the lifetime of Padmasambhava in the eight century. The temple monastery compound is enclosed by a circular brick wall. It is said that from above, the circular wall and its contents resemble a Mandala – a Hindu and …

Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery Hillside Tibet

Located 50 km northeast of Lhasa, Ganden Monastery (དགའ་ལྡན་དགོན་པ།)is a relatively quick trip outside of Lhasa for visitors who wish to see the monastery, and enjoy the beautiful view of the valley below. Ganden Monastery is the biggest of the Gelugpa Monasteries, and was the first founded in the sect. Tsongkhapa was the founder of the Gelugpa sect (also known …

Kang Rinpoche (Mt. Kailash)

Mt Kailash

Mt. Kailash (Kang Rinpoche/གངས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ) in Western Tibet (TAR) is one of the most venerated religious sites in the world. Four separate religions consider the mountain holy, so it is no surprise that it is pilgrimaged by thousands each year. Conceivably, that number would most likely be greater if it weren’t so difficult to obtain permits to the area. Kailash is …

Sera Monastery

Sera monastery

Sera Monastery (སེ་ར་དགོན་པ།) is one of the most beautiful monastery compounds you will see in Tibet, and one of Lhasa’s several great religious institutes. Built on the gentle slope of a mountain overlooking Lhasa, its white stone roads and walkways feel almost Mediterranean. The roads are lined with beautiful trees and the debating courtyard looks like a private garden for …