How to see and visit the wonders of Tibet


The ancient land on which Tibet sits has long been considered a land filled with mystery and intrigue, and this is how everything can be explored.

Tibet has been known as the roof of the world, and rightly so. It is an ancient land that has long intrigued Westerners. It is a place of wild beauty and mystical traditions that seem so distant from our history and our cultures. Tibet is the highest region on Earth and has an average elevation of some 14,000 feet or 4,380 meters. Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet or 8,848 meters forms the border with Nepal (don’t forget to visit the Mount Everest base camp). It covers an incredibly large area but has only a very small population. The largest city is Lhasa and this will likely be your base of operations during your stay.

Modern history of Tibet

Tibet became a de facto independent country from 1912 after the Xinhai Revolution and the collapse of the weak Qing Dynasty. After that, China sank into years of civil war split into a myriad of competing pieces led by various warlords. As the Nationalists began to consolidate their power, the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists began, and then it was the long and bloody war with Japan. After World War II, fighting between Communists and Nationalists resumed. During those years of acute Chinese instability, Tibet was de facto independent. It ended in 1951 when the Communists won and were able to once again exercise control. This is portrayed in the 1997 Brad Pitt film Seven years in Tibet.

Tibet: the facts

  • Autonomous region: From china
  • Population: 3 million
  • Capital and largest city: Lhasa
  • Currency: Chinese yuan

Today Tibet is an autonomous region of China and its main economy is subsistence agriculture – although tourism has flourished with many Chinese tourists flocking to explore this beautiful region. The Dalai Lama does not live in Tibet but lives in exile in neighboring India.

  • Fun fact: China exempts Tibet from taxes
  • Public expenses: Central government provides 90% of Tibet’s public spending

Related: 20 Amazing Places To See In China (That Isn’t The Great Wall)

Visit Tibet and permits

To get to Tibet, it is possible to take both domestic flights and a brand new high-speed train which just opened in July 2021.

There are a number of tours available for exploring Tibet. Westerners are not free to travel to Tibet on their own and need special permission and guided tours. One of the main travel agencies for Tibet is Trip to tibet which offers a full range of tours at reasonable prices.

8 days tour

  • Or: Lhasa to Everest Base Camp
  • Cut: Small group tour
  • Cost: From $ 840

7 day tour

  • Or: Lhasa to Kathmandu by land
  • Cut: Small group tour
  • Cost: From $ 960

15 days tour

  • Or: Kailash and Manasarovar
  • Cut: Small group tour
  • Cost: From $ 1,880
  • To note: Final Fantasy of a Pilgram and the Greatest Land Journey to Tibet

10 days tour

  • Or: Lhasa to Everest Base Camp and Namtso Lake
  • Cut: Small group tour
  • Cost: From $ 1,190

Tibetan tourism permit

To visit Tibet you need a special permit and more than just a Chinese tourist visa. To apply for a permit, you will need to book a guided tour of Tibet. You will need to provide your passport, itinerary and Chinese visa to the Lhasa office of the Tibet Tourism Bureau (other Tibet offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong are not open to foreigners). After that, you cannot apply directly but must apply through Tibetan travel agency. These agencies will assist you through the entire process, including guide services, hotel reservations, etc.

  • Time to obtain a Tibetan permit: About 8-9 working days
  • Closed to foreigners: Tibet is closed to foreigners from February to March

After all, this is said and done, you will need to show your Tibet Travel Permit when you board the train or plane. Once in Tibet, your Tibetan guide will keep your license and show it to the police etc.

In Tibet, you can explore and marvel at the rugged beauty of these stunning landscapes. It is full of fabulous monasteries, the tallest mountains in the world, exotic and island cultures, and great high altitude treks.

Related: 20 Thoughts Every Foreigner Has When Visiting China For The First Time

  • Fun fact: It is estimated that before the 1950s 10-20% of men were monks
  • Point: Beware of altitude sickness and consider taking medication for it

Religion in Tibet

Remember that in the past Tibet did not welcome tourists and preferred to live an island life, but now, of course, everything has changed.

Today, religion is very important in Tibet and has a strong influence on many aspects of people’s lives. The main religion is Tibetan Buddhism for which it is internationally known. But his native religion is Bön (it is still practiced in Tibet and by some Tibetan diasporas). Unfortunately, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, almost all of the monasteries in Tibet were destroyed and ransacked. Some of these monasteries have been rebuilt since the 1980s and monks have been allowed to return to monasteries and monastic education has resumed (see here for stunning images of temples across the world).

There are also Christians and Muslims in Tibet.

In short, Tibet probably isn’t a cheap tour, but it will be the trip of a lifetime and one that you will never forget.

Next: 10 Things You Can Only Do In China

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