Surrounded by jagged mountains and steeped in mysticism, Buddhism continues to define Lhasa's culture. Busy markets, sweet incense and flowing yellow robes all greet you as you take your first step into the city.
After spending hours gazing out of your airplane window at snow peaked mountains, the clouds finally open up to reveal a vast plain surrounded by mountains. It's as if you have arrived in another world of clouds, mountains and color. Lhasa is the heart of this Buddhist land hidden away amongst the mightiest mountain range in this world, the Himalayas.
In Lhasa you'll find religion blended into every aspect of life – the city is the spiritual anchor of Tibet. Lhasa literally means "holy land" and it's a well-deserved name. With many holy sites, Lhasa is an important place of pilgrimage for people from all over Tibet who stream into the city from far-flung villages. They're easily identifiable with their prayer flags and prayer wheels; the signs of devotion abound throughout the land.
It's easy to forget that you're already at an altitude of 3,650m as you look at the towering mountains that surround Lhasa, but that's why Tibet is also known as the "rooftop of the world." The 93kmtrip from the airport to the city follows the winding path of the scenic Lhasa River, families work in fields of barley and yellow canolo flowers as young monks walk along the roadside. Vivid colors are set against the mountains, surrounded by ever changing clouds and the deep blue sky.
Lhasa itself is a noisy vibrant city, a mixture of old and modern. The city has an eclectic mix of people, Tibetans with their colorful clothes, Sichuan migrants with their spicy cuisine, as well as explorers, mountaineers and tourists from all over the world. There's a saying describing Tibetans, "that if a Tibetan can talk, he can sing; if he can walk, he can dance." This aptly describes their lively and vibrant culture.
Over 1,300 years old, Lhasa dates back to the 7th century AD when the colorful Tibetan figure, Songtsen Gampo, built his palace in Lhasa. In 1642, the 5th Dalai Lama also made Lhasa his capital and rebuilt the architectural wonder, the Potala Palace, on top of the ruins of Songtsen's old abode.
Wherever you are in Lhasa, you're always surrounded by colorful people, striking natural scenery, humbling mountains, flowing rivers and fields of green, gold and yellow. Although some of the main temples can be busy, just turn the corner or wander off for a few minutes and you'll quickly find yourself in a picturesque rural Tibetan scene out of a postcard.
Lhasa Memorable Experiences
Spending a day taking photos of people in the Lhasa market–all the various peoples and goods makes for a collage of colors.
Watching dawn from the mountain above the Drepung Temple.
Looking out at the starlit sky and silhouetted mountains from the top of one of the open roof top restaurants in Lhasa.