The centre of the Tibetan Buddhist world for over a millennium, Lhasa (literally the 'Place of the Gods') remains largely a city of wonders.
Dawa TseringTibet Travel Specialist
Visit the phenomenal Potala Palace. Once the winter residence of the Dalai Lama, this architectural wonder is now a museum and treasure trove of Tibetan history, housing magnificent pearls, jewels and antiques.
Make a pilgrimage to the Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest temple and host to thousands of devout Tibetan pilgrims from all over Tibet and China. Walk a clockwise kora, or religious path, around the periphery of the temple, and admire the Jowo Rimpoche, a giant, solid-gold statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. Have a private blessing with one of the senior monks and, if you wish, chat with him about his life and beliefs.
Explore the vibrant street market of Barkhor Square, where you can haggle with local vendors for goods such as prayer flags, block prints of the holy scriptures, jewelry, and Tibetan boots and incense. Watch as devout Tibetans circle the streets around you, going about their holy pilgrimages.
See Drepung, another 15th-century monastery – and once the largest monastic institution in the world. Here, you can participate in debate sessions and prayer incantations, or sample yak-butter tea with tsampa, or roast barley. Be sure to visit the Maitreya, a two-story statue of the future Buddha, said to reappear in the world at a later point.
Visit Sera, a 15th-century monastery that was once home to 5,000 monks of the Gelugpa sect, for an interesting glimpse into Tibetan Buddhism. The temple is famous for its lively debate sessions, held every afternoon, over the finer points of Buddhist philosophy.
Explore Norbulingka, a park founded in 1755 by the seventh Dalai Lama and home to the summer residence of the Lama lineage. Take a private tour of the Summer Palace, whose meditation chamber and bedroom remain in the exact same condition as 1959, when the present Dalai Lama fled to India.
Located just outside of Lhasa, TVP is a non-profit, non-political organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development while preserving the rich cultural heritage of Tibet. Most of their projects are small-scale initiatives that work directly with Tibetan villagers and with local government. Meet with a representative from the foundation to learn about their projects, and if you wish, discuss ways in which you can help.