Lhasa, the traditional capital of Tibet and now capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, as well as the traditional seat of the Dalai Llama, literally means ‘place of the gods’. Once of the highest cities in the world at an elevation of 3,650 m (12,000 ft), the city rose to prominence more then 1,300 years ago when the original Jokhang Temple and the first Potala Palace were built in the seventh century. Three large Gelugpa monasteries – Ganden, Sera and Drepung – were built by Je Tsongkhapa and his disciples in the fifteenth century.
Lhasa is a mistical, mysterious and remote city with an impressive heritage and spiritual history that defines Tibetan culture. Surrounded by the majestic Himalayas, Lhasa is punctuated by the snaking Kyi Chu River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, which runs trough the city.
The massive Jokhang Temple, within which is Tibetan Buddism’s most sacred statue, the Jowo Shakyamuni, consists of three floors filled with chapels. There are three concentric paths, one within the complex and two outside it, around which pilgrims walk, although the outermost is now difficult because of the construction of a busy road.
Forming a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the temple and Norbulinkga (the Summer Palace) about 3 km (2 mi) away, is the vast museum, The 1,000-room fortress is gracefully perched above Mount Marpo Ri and was built in the seventeenth century under the fifth Dalai Llama. The inner section, the Red Palace, contains the temples and reliquary tombs of the Dalai Llamas. The White Palace served as the seat of government and the winter residence of the Dalai Llama until he was forced to flee after an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule in 1959.
What is it: The traditional capital of Tibet and the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, as well as the traditional seat of the Dalai Llama, it’s the highest city in the world.
Where is it: In the south of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, high in the Himalayas.
What is there to see: Stunning landscape and architecture including the breathtaking Potala Palace.
When should I go: March to October.
Also known as: ‘ The place of gods’.