Top 5 Things to do in Tibet
1. Visit a Tibetan Monastery
For a unique glimpse into the world of Buddhism and how the ancient religion is kept alive today, you should visit a Tibetan monastery. Visiting a monastery is a three-fold experience. Firstly, most monasteries are on the outskirts of a city or town, on the edge of civilization, far away from the reach of modernity. Journeying to such a place of worship offers a beautiful scenic route, through the Tibetan countryside. For example, the Tashilhunpo Monastery, located at the foot of Drolmari Mountain, in the city of Shigatse, can be seen from miles away, due to its distinct golden tops. It is the Panchen Lama's seat. The Ganden Monastery in Lhasa, is another scenic treat, offering a breathtaking view of the Kyi Chu valley. Then there is the Rongbuk monastery, located at 5,800 meters above the sea level. It is the highest monastery in the world and is situated picturesquely at the base of Mount Qomolangma (Mount Everest).
Secondly, the way of life in a monastery is a lesson on self-discipline and living in the way of God. Witness the austere and disciplined way of life practiced by Tibetan monks. These monks are scholars in various arts and fields of knowledge as well as being well-versed in their religion. If you visit the Sera Monastery at Lhasa, you can watch the monks debate in the courtyard, over various Buddhist doctrines and practices. The monks will argue and debate either passively or by exhibiting traditional body language actions, such as hand-claps and acting their point out.
Thirdly, Tibetan monasteries are a study in Tibetan architecture at its finest. Each monastery offers distinct and enthralling examples of Tibetan design and craftsmanship. The Tashilhunpo Monastery has the world's largest Buddha statue, the Maitreya (Future Buddha), which is approximately 26.2 m tall and 11.5 m wide. The Trandruk Monastery has an image of Compassion Buddha rendered entirely out of pearls (at least 30,000) and other stones.
2. Visit a Local Architectural Attraction
Aside from monasteries, Tibet does have other architectural wonders, in the form of palaces, ruins, museums, gardens and temples. The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism and is visited by millions of pilgrims, being the holiest of all Buddhist sites in Tibet. It houses the Sakyamuni, the oldest known and most sacred statue of Buddha, made of gold and nearly 1,300 years old. Each part of this four story temple represents a facet of Tibetan Buddhism and history, from the treaty stone to its ornate golden roofs and beams.
One must visit the visually astounding Potala Palace in Lhasa. This is the former home of the Dalai Lama and is easily one of Tibet's most captivating constructions. It is a treasure house for Tibetan relics and artifacts, such as statues and sculptures, ancient jewelry and ornaments, murals and paintings, in short, cultural items of significance. The palace itself is an architectural gem. It has over 1000 rooms and is a 13-story building. It is divided into the Red Palace and the White Palace.
Other sites of attraction are:
- Yongbulakang Castle
- The Norbulingka Palace (the Summer Palace)
- Guge Kingdom
- The Ramoche Temple
- Tengye Ling
Tibet is one of the most beautiful and untouched places in the world. It is a country where a scenic tapestry of mountains, lakes or rivers and rolling earth are enveloped artistically by a vast endless sky. It is also a land yet untouched by the harshness of concrete and buildings and modernity. Grab at a chance to enjoy something so natural and simple. Take a tour of the natural countryside of Tibet, by visiting one of its many lakes and rivers. The deep blue waters, surrounded by miles of green pastures and valleys and enclosed by a hill or a mountain range, no picture can capture the beauty of such a landscape. Lake Namtso, the largest lake in Tibet, is one such spot. A more sacred and holy spot which is the highest freshwater lake in the world is Lake Manasarovar.
Another facet of the Tibetan landscape is the mountains and hills. Mt. Kailash is a very famous distinct peak with a great religious significance for Buddhism and Hinduism. Pilgrims take revolutions around the mountains to atone for their sins. Then you can visit Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. While climbing the mountain is a feat reserved for the best of mountain climbers, you can visit the base camp or view the mountain from the Rongbuk Monastery. A great way to enjoy the landscape is to take a train ride or tour. This allows you to view the lush and rich scenery and journey into the mountainside as well as enjoy the plains and flatlands.
4. Soak Up the Tibetan Culture
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Similarly no trip to Tibet is complete without experiencing the rich and unique culture and lifestyle of the Tibetan people. The best way to soak up culture is to indulge in the local cuisine. Enjoy exotic yet authentic Tibetan dishes like thukpa, different shaped noodles cooked with vegetables and meat in a thick soup or momos in all shapes and flavors. You should try dumplings made from zanba, a staple Tibetan flour, made from roasted qingke barley and yak butter. Other foods to enjoy include gyurma (blood sausage), balep and shemdre. Eat such foods in the traditional way using bamboo chopsticks. Beverages include yak butter tea, barley beer and rice wine. To really get the taste and feel of such food, visit a small tea-house or restaurant around town.
To gawk in awe and revel in Tibetan culture as well as carry out some shopping, you must visit Barkhor in Lhasa. This spot surrounds the Jokhang Temple, where spirituality and modern life combine and revolve around the temple in tandem. The monks of the temple make their rounds, amidst a bustling busy market with hawkers and cartsmen selling goods and the local populace idly window shopping or lounging around. For the tourist, there are souvenirs, keepsakes and Tibetan artifacts to buy. For the architect, check out the cobbled streets and traditional shop designs. For the spiritualist, circle around the square in a gesture of piety along with the monks. For a slice of Tibetan life, this corner of the city is a must-see.
5. Experience the Wilderness
Tibet is truly a land of the Great Outdoors, so get out your boots and backpack and get hiking. There are mountain trails and trekking trails and pathways to explore. For the experienced mountain climber, Tibet is full of tough and difficult peaks. But there are even mountain climbs for the less experienced and amateur climbers. If climbing is not your cup of tea, what about trekking? You can go exploring by foot or by yak or mule. There are deep valleys and lakes to explore or the base of various peaks to trek. There are even some locations in Tibet, where you can enjoy rafting and boating. Try to go on an exploration or hiking tour, if you wish to enjoy a Tibetan outdoors experience.
The list of things to do in Tibet is highly varied, with each site offering a unique experience and something new to learn. Whether you are visiting Tibet for pleasure, business or religious reasons, make your visit there an all-round adventure by opening your mind and heart.