With the world’s largest Tibetan population, Lhasa naturally has a Tibetan style. If you’re intrigued by Tibetan culture and architecture, the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple Monastery, and Luobulin Fortress are three places you can’t afford to miss. Their names have been known around the globe for ages, with the Potala Palace receiving status as a World Heritage Site in 1994, and the other two following suit in 2001.
The Potala Palace. Photo: cchmi.com
1) The Potala Palace 拉萨布达拉宫 View In Map
Located at the top of Marpo Ri (the “Red Hill”) in the central Lhasa River valley at 3,700 meters above sea level, this impressive structure was home to the administrative, religious and political leaders of Tibet. The administrative center for Tibetan Buddhism and dynastic leaders of times past, it is also a must-see stop for tourists in the region.
The gargantuan Potala Palace, carved into the face of the mountain, is made up of the White and Red Palaces along with various other structures which span across a total of over 360,000 square metres. The main building is over 370 meters long, 13 stories tall, and reaches a height of 117 metres. Being famous around the world as a masterpiece of Tibetan palace architecture, it is also known as the “glowing pearl on the roof of the world.”
“Potala” is Sanskrit for “bodhisattva” and originally referred to the island home of bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Potala Palace was built under Tibet’s Tubo kingdom during the reign of Songtsen Gambo (in the 7th century AD). At the time, it was called the “Red Mountain Palace.” When later on the Tubo regime fell out of power, the building fell into disrepair. In the 17th century, the fifth Dalai Lama renamed the palace as the “Potala Palace.” From then on it has been a Tibetan political and religious centre.
When visiting the Potala Palace, make sure to take a look at all the main attractions: the White Palace, the Red Palace, the surrounding architecture, the frescoes inside the palaces, pagodas and statues as well as the collections of rare artifacts and manuscripts.
1) Flammable and explosive devices (including oxygen cylinders and lighters) are forbidden in the Potala Palace. Travelers carrying oxygen to counteract the effects of altitude sickness should be prepared to go without it during the visit.
2) Cell phone use is also forbidden (effective once you’ve passed the ticket counter and entered the white palace). Please make arrangements beforehand to avoid any inconveniences during the tour. You’re also not allowed to wear sunglasses or hats. No photography is allowed. Loud talking, smoking, and touching the artifacts are not permitted.
3) The Potala Palace only admits 30 people every half hour. Please take note of the visitation time written on your ticket to avoid missing your allotted time.
4) Visits to the Potala Palace are limited to one hour, beginning the moment you step into the White Palace. Inside, staff members will hurry you along your trip, and generally visits take less than one hour.
During peak season you need to come one day in advance with your identity card or passport and pick up a reservation card. The next day, return 20 minutes before the time specified on the card and buy a ticket at the main entrance (the South gate). Ticket sales are limited to 2,300 per day.
Add: 35 Beijing Zhong Lu, Lhasa
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-17:00
Getting there: Take a cab from Houshan to the top of the Potala Palace (Cab fee around 10 RMB), then follow the palace as you walk down.
Peak season (May 1-Oct. 31), 200 RMB per person;
Jokhang Temple Monastery. Photo: baidu.com
2) Jokhang Temple Monastery 大昭寺 View In Map
Jokhang Temple Monastery is located in Lhasa’s city centre, conveniently next to the Barkhor street. The Monastery is in no way second to the Potala Palace, and is also one of the most popular attractions for tourists in the Tibetan region. Construction on the Monastery began in 601 AD. It has had many names, including “Resha” and “Luoxie,” but in the ninth century its name was changed to “Jokhang Temple Monastery” which means “Palace of Classic Books.” This is the oldest wooden architectural structure in Tibet crafted in Han-Tibetan Tang style.
The main building is the four-story-tall Scripture Hall. Some of the architectural components are Han style, but the column crowns and the decorative eaves are distinctively Tibetan. In the first floor of the Scripture Hall you’ll find the golden statue of Sakyamuni that was brought to Tibet by the Tang Dynasty princess Wencheng. The second floor is home to statues of Sontzen Gampo, Princess Wencheng and Princess Chizun. The third floor is a large courtyard, and also serves as the roof and skylight of the first floor. Four golden pillars can be found on the fourth floor. Frescoes depicting themes from Buddhism, historical figures and folk legends cover the inside and outside of the Buddhist chapels and the surrounding hallways, which altogether cover over 2,600 square meters. Inside, you’ll find many well-preserved artifacts, including the “Tang-Tubo Alliance Monument” erected in front of the Monastery.
On July 1, the Jokhang Temple Monastery begins limiting tourists’ visitation hours. 08:00-11:30 is mainly reserved for Buddhist groups and does not accept groups over ten people; tourists can visit from 11:30-17:30. Once inside, groups’ visitation time is limited to one hour (20 minutes for the Thousand Buddha Corridor, 10 minutes for the inside of the Central Palace, 20 minutes for taking pictures at Jinding (Golden Spire).
Add: Barkhor Street (Bajiao Jie), Chengguan District, Lhasa
Price: Multiple entry ticket, 85 RMB (the ticket is valid for several days)
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-18:00
Getting there: walk there from the city centre, take a bus to the Zang Hospital (藏医院) stop, or take a pedicab there for 4 RMB
Norbulingka Fortress. Photo: 17u.cn
3) Norbulingka Fortress 罗布林卡 View In Map
Norbulingka Fortress is often called the Summer Palace of Lhasa. Located in Lhasa’s western suburbs about two kilometers down the Lhasa River from the Potala Palace, this was once the summer retreat for the Dalai Lamas. The Fortress was constructed during the reign of the seventh Dalai Lama in the mid 18th century, and was used for settling political affairs as well as conducting religious ceremonies.
The entire fortress takes up about 46 hectares and has over 370 rooms, which have led to its nickname “Courtyards within courtyards.” This is a site for pilgrimages, leisurely strolls, and the appreciation of Tibetan palace architecture. Norbulingka is Tibetan for “Precious Garden.” No wonder! The fortress garden is home to over 100 plant types with native vegetation common to Lhasa as well as more rare varieties plucked straight from the foothills of the Himalayas and flowers from all over the country and around the world. This collection has earned it the nickname “Botanical Garden of the Tibetan Plateau .”
Norbulingka Fortress is made up of the Kesang Podrang, Gold Podrang, Damu Mingjiu Podrang as well as a few other palaces. Each palace can be further divided into three main sections: the palace area, the palace front yard and the forest area. Each palace was constructed according to a meticulous plan, with an even division of wood and stone materials and is very distinctly Tibetan. The walls of the main hall are covered with delicate frescoes. You’ll also find large collections of artifacts and manuscripts inside the Norbulingka Fortress.
Please note: During the Yogurt Festival (Aug. 23-29), besides enjoying delicious Tibetan yogurt, another popular pastime is watching Tibetan opera, which can be enjoyed free of charge during the festival.
Add: 21 Luobulinka Lu, Lhasa
Opening hours: 09:30-18:00
Price: entrance ticket, 60 RMB per person; garden ticket, 10 RMB; Big Gate, 3 RMB; each hall, 7 RMB
Getting there: take bus No. 111 to the Daqu Dianhua Jiaoyuguan stop, and then walk to the Fortress.
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Keywords: Top Lhasa destinations where to go in Lhasa top Lhasa attractions Lhasa tourist attractions
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