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Tibet (Xizang), the Roof of the World, remained unknown to the world until the beginning of the 20th century. The massive, snowy land has exerted an awesome draw on travelers and adventurers ever since. Its majestic scenery, mysterious and exotic religious culture, and wonderful people, reward every tourist with an indelible life long memory! Monasteries have been restored across the country, along with limited religious freedoms. A walk around Lhasa’s lively Barkhor pilgrimage circuit is proof enough that the efforts of the communist Chinese to build a brave new (roof of the) world have foundered on the remarkable and inspiring faith of the Tibetan people.
Alternate Name: Xizang
Capital City: Lhasa
Currency: Chinese Yuan Renminbi
Tibet (Xizang), the Roof of the World, remained unknown to the world until the beginning of the 20th century. The massive, snowy land has exerted an awesome draw on travelers and adventurers ever since. Its majestic scenery, mysterious and exotic religious culture, and wonderful people, reward every tourist with an indelible life long memory!
Tibet: the Land of Snows, the roof of the world. For centuries this mysterious Buddhist kingdom, locked away in its mountain fastness of the Himalaya, has exercised a unique hold on the imagination of the West. For explorers, imperialists and traders it was a forbidden land of treasure and riches. Dreamers on a spiritual quest have long whispered of a lost Shangri-la, steeped in magic and mystery. When the doors were finally flung open in the mid-1980s, Tibet lay in ruins. Between 1950 and 1970, the Chinese wrested control of the plateau, drove the Tibetans’ spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and some 100, 000 of Tibet’s finest into exile and systematically dismantled most of the Tibetan cultural and historical heritage, all in the name of revolution. For a while images of the Buddha were replaced by icons of Chairman Mao. Today, Tibetan pilgrims across the country are once again mumbling mantras and swinging their prayer wheels in temples that are heavy with the thick intoxicating aroma of juniper incense and yak butter. Monasteries have been restored across the country, along with limited religious freedoms. A walk around Lhasa’s lively Barkhor pilgrimage circuit is proof enough that the efforts of the communist Chinese to build a brave new (roof of the) world have foundered on the remarkable and inspiring faith of the Tibetan people.
For travellers, Tibet is without doubt one of the most remarkable places to visit in Asia. It offers fabulous monastery sights, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet. There's Gyantse, in the Nyang-chu Valley, famed for the largest chörten (stupa) in Tibet, and hiking in Yarlung Valley, widely considered the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Base yourself in Tsetang and marvel at the monkey cave in Gangpo Ri or walk the monastery kora (pilgrim path). Your trip will take you past glittering mountain turquoise lakes and over high passes draped with prayer flags. Find a quiet spot in a prayer hall full of chanting monks, hike past the ruins of remote hermitages or make an epic overland trip along some of the world’s wildest roads. The scope for adventure is limitless.
- The capital city of Tibet is Lhasa.
- Tibet is the highest region on Earth and is commonly referred to as the ‘Roof of the World.’
- The currency of Tibet is Chinese Yuan Renminbi.
- Though Tibetan is largely spoken in Tibet, the official language is Chinese.
- The staple food of Tibetan is Tsampa (roasted barley flour), while the National Drink is salted butter tea.
- The most famous animal belonging to Tibet is Yak, which provides manifold services.
- The world’s highest mountain Mt. Everest is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet.
- There are two world Heritage sites located in Tibet, Potala Palace and Norbuligka, which were the former residences of the Dalai Lama.
- Tibet has an agricultural economy, with most of the people being farmers and herders.
Tibetans share their region with Menpa, Luopa, Han Chinese, Hui, Sherpa, and a few Deng people. Tibetans are the main inhabitants on the plateau. Tibetans are optimistic and happy people.
Traditionally, farmers settled in small villages with barley as their main crop. The roaming nomads earned their living by herding yaks and sheep. Most Tibetans in cities made a living as craftsmen. However, nowadays more and more people are migrating into businesses.
The Tibetan language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan phylum. People in U, Tsang, Kham, and Chamdo speak different dialects.
Most Tibetans are devout Buddhists while a few believe in the old Bon. Islam and Catholicism also have a few followers in Lhasa and Yanjing respectively. Since China's Family Planning program is not carried out among Tibetan people, the Tibetan population keeps growing. According to the census conducted in 2000, there are 2,616,300 people in Tibet, with Tibetans totaling 2,411,100 or 92.2% of the current regional population. The census also revealed that the Tibetan's average lifespan has increased to 68 due to the improving standard of living and access to medical services. Illiteracy has decreased to 850,700.
Weather & Time to go
Tibet has similar seasons to China, though with lower temperatures due to the higher altitudes. Winters (November to March) are cold (the average temperature in January is -2°C) but there isn’t all that much snow. Summers (May to September) have warm days with strong sunshine and cool nights. At higher elevations (ie above 4000m) even summer days can be chilly. During spring and autumn you need to be prepared for four seasons in one day, including the possibility of snowfall.
There are some regional variations; northern and western Tibet are generally higher and colder. The monsoon affects parts of Tibet (particularly eastern Tibet) from mid-July to the end of September (July and August bring half of Tibet’s annual rainfall).
When to go
Climate is not such a major consideration when visiting Tibet as many people might imagine. For a place nicknamed ‘The Land of Snows’, there’s a surprising lack of snow. The boom in domestic tourism means that Lhasa swells with Chinese tourists in the summer and particularly in the week-long holidays around 1 May and 1 October. Finding accommodation can be trickier during these weeks, so try to have something nailed down by lunch time. Winter is very cold, many restaurants are shut and snow can close mountain passes, but some travellers swear by the winter months. There are few travellers about at this time and Lhasa is crowded with drokpas (nomads). The average temperature in January is -2°C.
Spring, early summer and late autumn are probably the best times to visit Tibet. March is a politically sensitive month in the country and there is occasional tightening of restrictions on travellers heading into Tibet at this time, but the weather’s pretty good. April brings reliable weather in eastern Tibet and discounts on accommodation and vehicle rental in Lhasa. Mt Everest is particularly clear during April and May.
From mid-July through to the end of September the monsoon starts to affect parts of Tibet. (The months of July and August bring half of Tibet’s annual rainfall.) Travel to western Tibet becomes slightly more difficult, the roads to the east are temporarily washed out and the Friendship Hwy sometimes becomes impassable on the Nepal side or on the border itself.
Trips to Mt Kailash can be undertaken from April to October, although September and October are considered the best months. October is also the best time to make a trip out to the east. Lhasa and its environs don’t get really cold until the end of November.
It’s worth trying to time your trip with one of Tibet’s festivals. New Year (Losar) in January or February is an excellent time to be in Lhasa, as is the Saga Dawa festival in April or May.