Lhasa is the spiritual and political capital of Tibet, as well as the region's largest city. It sits on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau on the banks of the Lhasa River at an altitude of 3,650 metres above sea level, and is one of the highly inhabited regions on earth. The city is surrounded by the Himalaya mountain range and steeped in over 1,300 years of history. Lhasa means “land of the gods” in Tibetan.
Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa is in the heart of the city, with many historical attractions, monasteries and scenic spots nearby. The hotel is within walking distance of the Potala and Norbulingka Palaces.
Benefits of Travelling to Lhasa in the Winter
During the winter, cheaper airfare and better hotel rates are available. Furthermore, during this time, no appointment is needed to reserve tickets to the Potala Palace, and there are no crowds at the city's popular sites.
Potala Palace was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, and contains the White and Red Palaces. The White Palace or Potrang Karpo comprises the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas, as well as offices, the seminary and printing house. The Red Palace or Potrang Marpo is devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer. The complex has an intricate layout of many different halls, chapels and libraries on different levels, as well as smaller galleries and winding passages.
Only 2000 visitors are allowed each day, so tickets must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.
Norbulingka, or The Jewelled Park, was the summer residence of the Dalai Lamas from the 1780s until the 14th Dalai Lama's exile from Tibet in 1959. Part of the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Norbulingka is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by the 7th Dalai Lama from 1755 and served as an administrative and religious centre. It is a unique example of Tibetan palace architecture, and covers an area of around 36 hectares. Norbulingka is on the west side of Lhasa, a short distance southwest of Potala.
The Jokhang Monastery, in Lhasa's Barkhor Square, is a sacred and important temple in Tibet. It blends Indian vihara, Chinese Tang Dynasty and Nepalese architectural styles. Jokhang was founded during the reign of King Songsten Gampo. According to legend, the temple was built for the monarch's two brides, Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. The wives are said to have brought important Buddhist statues and imagery from China and Nepal to Tibet as part of their dowries, which were kept in the monastery.
Ramoche Temple is a Buddhist monastery covering a total area of 4,000 square metres (almost one acre). It is a really important temple in Lhasa after Jokhang Monastery.
The Sera complex is divided into two sections by pathways. The eastern part contains the Tsokchen (Great Assembly Hall) and the Homdong Kangtsang (dwelling units), while the western part houses the three colleges of the Sera Je Tratsang, the Sera Me Tratsang and the Ngkapa Tratsang of Gelug (Lama Tsongkhapa) traditions. These were founded by Tsongkhapa as monastic universities that catered to monks from the ages of 8 to 70. The monastery belongs to the Gelukpa Order and is one of the largest in Lhasa.
Drepung Monastery, at the foot of Mount Gephel, is one of the Great Three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The other two are Ganden and Sera. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries and is located on the Gambo Utse mountain, five kilometres west of Lhasa.
Tsubu Monastery is the traditional seat of the Karmapa lamas in Gurum town, 70km from Lhasa. The monastery is about 4,300 metres above sea level. It was built in the middle of the Dowo Lung valley, on the north side of the river, with high mountains surrounding the 300 square-metre complex. The original walls of the main building were up to four metres thick. The monks' residences were on the eastern side.
Ganden Monastery or Ganden Namgyeling is one of the Great Three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet, located on Wangbur Mountain, Tagtse County, at an altitude of 4,300 metres. Ganden means "joyful" and is the Tibetan name for Tuṣita, the heaven where the bodhisattva Maitreya is believed to reside. Namgyal Ling means "victorious temple".
The Samye Monastery or Samye Gompa was built between 775 and 779 CE under the patronage of King Trisong Detsen. The monarch sought to revitalize Buddhism, which had declined since King Songtsen Gampo introduced it to Tibet in the 7th century. The monastery is in Dranang, Shannan Prefecture. Its design is supposedly modeled on Odantapuri monastery in Bihar, India. The 18th-century Puning Temple of Chengde, Hebei Province, was modeled after Samye Gompa.