Capital since the 7th century of what is now called the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa is situated in a remote, ethereal location. Indeed, the name ‘Lhasa’ means ‘Place of the Gods’. The city is the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama (now exiled in India), home to the Potala and Norbulingka palaces and in Tibetan Buddhism is regarded as the holiest centre in Tibet. At an altitude of approximately 3,650m, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. Lhasa’s drawcards are predominantly centred on Tibetan religious life.
The Potala Palace, the poignantly empty seat of the Dalai Lama, is the dominant landmark in Lhasa, towering 117 metres above the city on Marpo Hill. An immense building, the Potala is 13 storeys high, with walls some 3 metres thick. Containing over 1,000 rooms, myriad shrines and statues, it was first built on this site in the 7th century, though the current structure dates from 1645. It was home to successive Dalai Lamas and has been their winter home since the construction of the Summer Palace in the 18th century. The chapel of the fifth Dalai Lama contains a stupa gilded with around 3,000kg of gold.
Lhasa also proudly boasts the Norbulingka (Summer Palace), from where the current Dalai Lama escaped in 1959; Jokhang Temple, the foremost monastery in Tibet; Ramoche (sister temple to Jokhang); and the Tibet Museum where some 30,000 relics vie for attention. Barkhor, Lhasa’s liveliest neighbourhood, certainly warrants exploration with pilgrims, traders and their stalls, locals and tourists filling the cobbled streets.
To get you started with planning your holiday to Lhasa, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to China
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