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Places to Visit

Lhasa:

Situated at an altitude of 11,850 ft on the north bank of Kyichu river, it is a religious, cultural and economic center of Tibet. The city covers an area of 27,335 sq. km. with a population of 400,000. Topographically the area is not even because the northern part of Lhasa is higher than the southern part. The middle southern part is flat. An average annual temperature of Lhasa is 8.5 degree Celsius and annual precipitation is 454 mm. There are many historic sites of tourist interest in the city proper and its suburbs which include the Potala Palace, Drepung and Sera Monasteries, Norbulingka, the Jokhang Temple, the circular Barkhor Street.

Potala Palace:

Located on the hill top, it was built in 640 A.D. during the reign of Songtsen Gampo. The palace is a centre of spiritual pilgrimage and Tibetan architecture. The fifth Dalai Lama, Gyelwa Ngapa began the construction of the present Potala Palace in 1645 and was completed in 1648. This 13 storied palace with thousand rooms rising over 117 m served as the headquarters of the former church state of Tibet and was home to successive Dalai Lamas who used it as their winter Palace. The Palace contains invaluable murals,stupas, carvings, sculptures, cultural relics, thankas, scrolled texts and ancient chinaware. Most fascinating aspect of the Potala Palace are the Buddhist statues of various sizes made of copper, gold or silver, which are unique and exquisite in shape, excellent in craftsmanship, and lifelike. Some of them have a height of several meters, and some, only a few inches. There are at least over 200 thousand statues in it. Mounting the top of the Potala Palace, one can have a bird's eye view of the distant surrounding mountains with rivers flowing through, and the ancient Lhasa City.

Drepung Monastery:

Situated about 8 km west of Lhasa city, it was founded in 1416 by one of the disciples of Tsong Khapa. The first Dalai Lama, Gedun Drup, studied at Drepung monastery under Tsong khapa. Gedun Drup later went on to set up Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse. The second through the fifth Dalai Lama lived at Drepung and were the throne holders of the monastery. The tombs of the second to fourth Dalai Lama's are still found at Drepung. But the fifth Dalai Lama, moved to the Potala Palace. In the past few years Drepung has remained one of the most politically influential monasteries in Tibet until the Chinese took over Tibet in 1950.It was the largest and richest of the three major yellow sect monasteries in those days. Still now we can visit the most revered statue of the 8-year old Maitreya Buddha which is 15m tall and designed by Tsongkapa.This statue is housed in the northwest section of the building.

Sera Monastery:

Located 3 km north of Lhasa, this monastery belongs to Gelugpa sect and was founded in 1419 A.D. by Jamchen Choeje, a disciple of Tsong Kapa. Sera were a monastic university which was smaller than Drepung but similar in its layout of buildings. There are four main temples with numerous chapels dedicated to Tsong Khapa,Sakyamuni, Dharmapala, Amitabha, Yamadhaka and other deities. One of the temples constructed with 108 pillars has an imposing statue of Maitreya Buddha.

Norbulingka:

It is a large complex of small palaces and chapels served as the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas, built at various periods from 1750. It lies about 4 km west of the Potala Palace. The colorful garden is a favorite picnic spot and during the Shoton Festival Tibetan dances and opera are performed here.

Jokhang Temple:

It is the spiritual, religious and geographical center of Lhasa. Situated in the heart of old Lhasa, the original Jokhang was built by the emperor Songten Gampo in the 7th century. Jokhang has many chapels which hold the statues of Jowo Shakyamuni, Amithabha Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, Avalokiteswara, Padmashambhawa and Tsongkapa.Visit Barkhor Lhasa inner pilgrim circuit shaped roughly like an octagon which round the Jokhang lined with markets, shops, and stalls. The Jokhang Temple holds an extremely important position among the Tibetan monasteries, as all the grand religious rites are performed here. Tens of thousands of lamas from various parts of Tibet gather in the Temple to worship Buddha and recite sutra.

Barkhor Street:

The market of Barkhor circles the Jokhang Temple. This market is the heart of Old Lhasa � a fascinating venue of people and activities with narrow streets, whitewashed stone homes and windows framed in black and brightly painted wood work. Bustling flee market is the place to buy souvenirs, Tibetan handicrafts and antiques. When one strolls around Barkhor Street, there is a strict rule to be observed. That is one has to circumnavigate the Jokhang Monastery in a clockwise direction. Each rotation is equivalent to reciting a mantra, which brings with it longevity and an auspicious re-birth.

Ganden Monastery:

Located 47 km east of Lhasa on Wangbur mountain at an altitude of 3800 m, this monastery belongs to Gelungpa's sect and one of the oldest after Drepung and Sera Monasteries. It was the site where Tsong Khapa first meditated in order to choose a place for the main monastery. Now it is one of the great Gelukpa university monasteries in Tibet. The three main sights of Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the golden tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the Ngam Cho Khang Chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught his students.

Tsedang:

Situated 170 km southeast of Lhasa in the Yarlung Valley,along the bank of the Tsangpo River, it was the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Tsedang is the capital town of Shannan prefecture as well as the third largest town in Tibet. It is a major tourist destination for its mild climate and rich natural resources. It is also regarded as the birth place of the first Tibetans who were said to be the offspring of a monkey and a demoness. So, Tsedang literally means "Monkey's Playground".

Gyantse:

It is a small agricultural town situated at an altitude of 3950 m and 254 km southwest of Lhasa. It is the fourth largest city in Tibet and is popular for its woolen carpets and the Palkhor Chode Monastery which was built in 1427. Besides Parkhor Chode Monastery there is another site worth visiting, that is, Kumbum Stupa. It is designed in classic stupa or pagoda style. This amazing architectural structure is 35 m in height, octagonal in shape, has a 9 storey terraced exterior, 108 chapels and superb murals (wall paintings). It is raised over 4 symmetrical floors plus 2nd upper floors and is capped with a gold dome. The 4th floor contains 108 chapels which the pilgrims can visit from bottom to top in a clockwise fashion.

Namtso Lake:

Lake Namtso is located about 260 km from Lhasa city. With over 30 km from north to south and over 70 km from east to west, Lake Namtso covers a total area of more than 1900 sq. km with 35 m deep. The lake is the second largest salt lake in China and the world's highest-altitude salt lake at 4718 m. Summer is the best time to visit the lake side when the cattle graze on the extensive grasslands and many migratory birds arrive from the south to lay eggs, hatch and raise the broods on islets and lakeshore. Fish leap out of the water, revealing their silvery scales and herders leisurely fill the valleys with their lovely echoing songs while grazing the horses, yaks and sheep.

Xigatse:

It is known for its Tashilhunpo monastery- the seat of the Panchen Lama, who is regarded as the reincarnation of the Buddha of endless enlightenment. This monastery was built in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and the this palce is also popular for a bustling 'free' market at the foot of the ruins of the Xigatse fortress where one can buy local handicrafts embedded with coral and turquoise, Tibetan daggers, Chinese porcelain and yak butter.

Zhangmu:

Better known by a Tibetan name, Khasa, it is a small settlement located at an altitude of 2300 m clinging to a hillside 10 km inland from the friendship bridge across the Bhote Koshi river. It is a major trading town built along a winding road that is lined with private homes, shops, restaurants and government offices between Tibet-Nepal border. The hills around Zhangmu are heavily wooded with innumerable waterfalls in the summer and frozen 'icicles' during the winter. The subtropical climate endows the small town with warm, humid weather and beautiful scenery throughout the year. 

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