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Potala Palace extends visiting hours amid travel rush

 

The Potala Palace in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region has extended visiting hours by 3.5 hours amid this year's summer travel rush, the palace's administration said Tuesday.

Summer visiting hours will last from 7:30 a.m. to 6:40 p.m., compared with 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. in the slack season, said Khyungda, an administrative official with the Potala Palace.

The new schedule will last from May 1 to Oct. 31, although an apparent rise in the number of tourists to Tibet began only in July, he said.

The longer hours are not expected to result in a surge of tourists to the heritage site at any specific time, said Khyungda.

Starting on July 1, the administration has limited the number of daily visitors to 4,000 to minimize potential damage to the ancient lumber-and-dirt structure.

About 100 visitors are admitted to the Potala every 20 minutes in order to minimize crowding, the official said.

A ticket into the palace costs 200 yuan (31.32 U.S. dollars) during high season. Visitors are requested to make reservations a day in advance and tours are restricted to an hour.

The revamped schedule, however, will make it more convenient for visitors to arrange their Lhasa tours and reduce waiting time outside the Potala, said Khyungda.

"I made reservations yesterday and arrived at the Potala at 8 a.m.," said Jiang Xueqin, a tourist from neighboring Sichuan province.

She said she was able to finish the tour in the morning and visit other destinations in the afternoon, thanks to the new schedule.

The 1,300-year-old Potala Palace is perched on craggy hills in the heart of Tibet's capital of Lhasa. It was first built by Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the seventh century and was expanded during the 17th century by the Dalai Lama.

It was inscribed on the UNESCO's list of world cultural heritage sites in 1994.

This year, the palace will receive an estimated 1.3 million visitors, up from last year's 1.16 million, the Potala Palace administration said.