Tibet offers fabulous monasteries, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet.
The Tibetan People
Whatever your interests, your lasting memories of Tibet are likely to be of the bottle of Lhasa Beer you shared in a Lhasa teahouse, the yak-butter tea offered by a monk in a remote monastery or the picnic enjoyed with a herding family on the shores of a remote lake. Always ready with a smile, and with great tolerance and openness of heart despite decades of political turmoil and hardship, it is the people that truly make travelling in Tibet such a profound joy.
The Roof of the World
Tibet’s other big draw is the elemental beauty of the highest plateau on earth. Geography here is on a humbling scale and every view is lit with spectacular mountain light. Your trip will take you past glittering turquoise lakes, across huge plains dotted with yaks and nomads’ tents, and over high passes draped with colourful prayer flags. Hike past the ruins of remote hermitages, stare open-mouthed at the north face of Everest or make an epic overland trip along some of the world’s wildest roads. The scope for adventure is limited only by your ability to get permits.
Politics & Permits
There’s no getting away from politics here. Whether you see Tibet as an oppressed, occupied nation or an underdeveloped province of China, the normal rules of Chinese travel simply don’t apply. Government travel restrictions require foreign travellers to pre-arrange a tour with a guide and transportation for their time in Tibet, making independent travel off-limits. On the plus side, new airports, boutique hotels and paved roads offer a level of comfort unheard of just a few years ago, so if the rigours of Tibet travel have deterred you in the past, now might be the time to reconsider.
A Higher Plain
For many people, the highlights of Tibet will be of a spiritual nature: magnificent monasteries, prayer halls of chanting monks, and remote cliffside retreats. Tibet’s pilgrims – from local grandmothers murmuring mantras in temples heavy with the aroma of juniper incense and yak butter to hard-core visitors walking or prostrating themselves around Mt Kailash – are an essential part of this appeal. Tibet has a level of devotion and faith that seems to belong to an earlier, almost medieval age. It’s fascinating, inspiring and endlessly photogenic.