Sightseeing in Tibet, China
Tibet refers to the autonomous region of Tibet as an administrative unit of the People’s Republic of China on the one hand, and the extensive highlands in Central Asia on the other. The autonomous region, founded in 1965, is located in the south of the Tibetan highlands and covers around half of the Tibetan cultural area with 1.2 million square kilometers. Tibet, as the name for the highlands, on the other hand, includes most of the Himalayan mountains in its extreme south as well as eastern Tibetan-Chinese marginal chains and numerous other mountains. Which results in an average altitude of 4,500 m and why Tibet is one of the highest regions in the world and is called the “roof of the world”. When traveling to Tibet, the landscape is mostly desert-like, as the Himalayas shield the region from the Indian monsoons to the south. Come in addition, that due to the high location the temperatures are relatively low. In the northern half, in the western part as well as in the center, the annual average temperature is even less than 0 ° C – which is why these areas are largely uninhabited. Mild the south-eastern area, in which Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse are located … and thus the culturally worth seeing places of the imposing high mountain region. It shows that Tibet’s culture is more than colorful prayer flags, the majestic palace of the Dalai Lama or the technical achievement that represents the Lhasa Railway as the highest railway line in the world. As the center of Tibetan Buddhism, Tibet has magnificent temples and impressive monasteries. And whoever visits the original Gyantse compared to Lhasa.
The Potala Palace – the most famous building in Tibet
In the center of Tibet’s capital Lhasa rises on the 130 meter high “Red Mountain” with the Potala Palace, the largest building in the city. The building, which looks particularly impressive with its golden roofs, was from 1642 to 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama was the 14th Dalai Lama went into exile, the official residence of the Dalai Lamas and the seat of government.Today, the Potala, also known as the Winter Palace, together with the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama, built around 1780, and the Jokhang Temple are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
An interesting story
The construction of the Potala began on the foundations of a former fortress under the 5th Dalai Lama. With hard labor, without essential technical aids, the palace seemed to grow out of the rock. When the 5th Dalai Lama died, his death was kept secret for several years in order to continue to use his veneration among the subjects and so not to endanger the continuation of the building. In 1922, the 13th Dalai Lama commissioned a comprehensive renovation of the Potala and added two floors to it. The name of the Potala Palace, which consists of the lower White Palace and the Red Palace above, is derived from the holy mountain Pattala in India and means “pure land”.
Visit to the Potala
When traveling or study trips, a visit to the Potala Palace is one of the highlights of a stay in Lhasa. The 13-storey building complex takes up a floor area of 350 x 300 meters. Inside there are 999 rooms, as the number 9 is considered a lucky number. Only the White Palace, which served as the seat of government and also houses the audience hall, is accessible to visitors, with a tight time limit. In the upper Red Palace were the ceremonial and prayer rooms as well as the private rooms of the last Dalai Lama and the stupas of his predecessors. Particularly impressive is the stupa built for the 5th Dalai Lama, which stretches over three floors and appears splendidly gilded.
It is located in the western Transhimalayas in the area of Tibet and dominates the entire area with its crystal-shaped, year-round snow-capped summit. The fact that newer sources indicate its height as 6638 instead of the previously assumed 6714 meters does not detract from his majesty, because the Kailash, also called “Throne of the Gods”, is a holy mountain. For religious reasons, entering it is absolutely taboo, something that even passionate mountaineers like Reinhold Messner respect to this day.
The four largest rivers in South Asia, including the Indus and Brahmaputra, have their source in the area around the Kailash.
Sanctuary and pilgrimage site
A trip around Kailash is considered the most important pilgrimage for four religions: Hindus and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, the ancient Tibetan Bon and the ancient Indian Jain religions should come here at least once in their lives. A pilgrimage to Mount Kailash is just as important to them as the pilgrimage to Mecca is to Muslims. The pilgrimage route, which runs over 53 kilometers at an altitude between 4600 and 5799 meters, is the most difficult and dangerous in the world. The circumnavigation of the holy mountain is called “Kora” and takes 3 to 4 days. It symbolizes a complete rotation of the wheel of life (from birth to death) and, according to Tibetan belief, is supposed to free from all present sins.
Western foreigners have only been allowed to circumnavigate the Kailash since 1985. Individual travelers are not allowed, however, local agencies put together groups of travelers or pilgrims. The route begins in Darchen, a village on the south side of the mountain that has little to offer other than a sheep market and Chinese barracks. The Saga Dawa festival, which celebrates the Buddha’s enlightenment, also takes place here in May, the high season for pilgrims.
The journey to Kailash alone is breathtaking: from the airport in Lhasa, an off-road vehicle takes five days to drive 1200 kilometers west on gravel roads, with several 5000-meter passes to be crossed.
Caravans sway slowly through the rugged mountains, struggle up the steep slopes and finally cross the Nathula pass at an altitude of 4,345 meters. For centuries the Silk Road ran through the Himalayas. At Nathu La it connected the kingdom of Sikkim with its neighbor China on its southern route. Today Nathu La forms a border crossing between Chinese Tibet and the former kingdom that is now part of India. Crossing the border was forbidden until 2006, but is now allowed again.
Tradition and trade on the most beautiful mountain road in the world
About 450 km from Lhasa, the Nathu La not only serves as a commercial route for trade between the two state giants. The magnificent landscape and its inhabitants invite you to take a study trip. Experiencing Tibetan and Indian culture, getting to know people and their traditions makes the trip an unforgettable experience. At the border post there is a war memorial and posts of the Chinese and Indian armies. The feeling of standing at the crossroads between two gigantic realms is impressive.
Panorama on top of the world
Those who have successfully mastered the ascent to the pass will be appropriately rewarded for their efforts. In good weather, the view sweeps far over the slopes of the Himalayas, the Gnathang Valley and the deep blue Tsomgo Lake at the foot of the pass. The summit of Mount Chomolhari towers over everything. The road over to Sikkim is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world. The journey along the old trade routes offers numerous opportunities for fantastic photos of the mountain panorama.