Best time to visit Tibet

Updated: 10th June 2019

Potala Palace in Lhasa - Best time to visit Tibet
Visit Lhasa when the temperatures are warmer and the skies clear

Seasons and Weather

Central Tibet is generally mild from April to November, making it the best time to visit. Due to the high altitude it is rarely scorching, but the sun’s rays are very strong and it's wise to carry sunscreen with you whenever you visit. From December to February/March it becomes very cold and temperatures regularly drop below freezing. Travel during these months is not advisable as the roads are often blocked with snow and most travel services close for the season. The authorities may also restrict entry to Tibet during these months. Tibet does not have a typical monsoon season, but May to September are the months with the highest rainfall, which mostly occurs in the evenings.

The prime trekking season in Tibet takes place in the autumn months of September to October when the skies are clear and visibility at its best. It's a great time for photography whether trekking or visiting Tibet's different towns and monasteries. The summer months of June to August are Tibet's prime tourist season with outdoor markets popping up around the cities and sporting contests held in the grasslands.

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Climate | Lhasa


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C-10-7-21599971-5-9
Temp Max °C791216192423222117139
Rainfall (mm)01385256412289661330

Upcoming events

To help plan your visit to Tibet, here's an overview of some of the larger festivals and events taking place over the next year:

2019:

August 30th - September 5th - Shoton Festival (Lhasa)

2020:

February 25th-27th - Tibetan New Year (nationwide)
February TBC - Butter Lamp Festival (Lhasa)
June 5th - Saga Dawa (nationwide)
July TBC - Tashi Lhunpo Thangka Display Festival (Shigatse)
July TBC - Gyantse Horse Racing Festival (Gyantse)

Butter lamps - Best time to visit Tibet
Plan your trip to Tibet in time for the Butter Lamp festival

Festivals and Events in Tibet

Deeply Buddhist and steeped in tradition and culture, Tibet is a mysterious country that sits on the roof of the world. Its inhabitants still follow staunchly religious lifestyles and its festivals are all about worshipping, commemorating and giving thanks to the gods, and in particular Buddha. Yet, they are not the sombre events you might imagine and typically encompass colourful performances, singing, dancing and music.

What happens on Tibetan New Year?

The Tibetan New Year, also known as Losar, is the most important celebration of the year for the people of Tibet. The entire festival technically lasts 15 days but it is the first three that are the most important. The first two days of festivities are the last two days of the old year and consist of cleaning the house and preparing food. On the third day, people dress in new clothes, exchange gifts and feast together whilst worshipping the gods, singing and dancing.

What is the Butter Lamp Festival?

Just as the name suggests, this festival revolves around the lighting of butter lamps and is traditionally a time for commemorating the victory of Buddha in a debate that took place in India around 2,500 years ago. Tibetans usually spend the day at their local temple, where there will be dozens of coloured butter sculptures of Buddha and various animals. Once the sun sets, thousands of lamps are lit to represent the light of Buddha.

What is Saga Dawa?

Considered the holiest of festivals in the Tibetan calendar, Saga Dawa is a celebration of the life of Buddha. On his deathbed, he urged his followers not to mourn him but instead to commemorate him by continuing his teachings and striving to be kind and compassionate. This day is one of devout worship as the old prayer flagpole is taken down and replaced with a new one, upon which will be hung hundreds of coloured prayer flags.

What is the Gyantse Horse Race Festival?

This annual event is a showcase of talent and includes more than just horse racing. Wrestling, archery, track and field and ball games are also important parts of this athletic event. Accompanying the sports is Tibetan opera, music, dancing and all kinds of other festivities, making it one of the most exciting and traveller-accessible festivals of the year. There is also usually a market and plenty of vendors selling traditional Tibetan food.

What is the Tashi Lhunpo Thangka Display Festival?

Every year, the citizens of Shigatse and beyond gather at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to witness the unveiling of three great Buddha thangkas. A thangka is a Buddhist painting on cotton or silk that has a strong religious significance and is often displayed on special occasions, such as festivals. There are a number of these festivals in Tibet but the one which takes place at Tashi Lhunpo is one of the most impressive as this was once the seat of the Panchen Lama.

What is the Shoton Festival?

By far and away the most popular event of the year, the Shoton Festival is the best showcase of Tibetan culture and is a great way for travellers to learn more about this curious country. Generally, the festival is split into three main events, the first of which is the great Buddha display – this marks the beginning of the Shoton festival. The next events consist of Tibetan opera and a horsemanship exhibition, usually accompanied by yak racing.

Want to know more about Tibet? Check out our latest blog posts

See Also

For further help planning your visit to Tibet take a look at our handy Travel Guide resources:

Best Places to Visit - what to see and where to go in Tibet
Tourist Visas - strict regulations apply so make sure you know before you go
Top Travel Tips - useful info on money, health, food and shopping in Tibet