- Observe how monks live and practice debate at Sera Monastery
- Visit the Potala Palace, where the Dalai Lama has private quarters
- Soak up the Jokhang Temple's flickering butter lamps and wafting incense
- Sample Lhasa's dining scene with a myriad of Asian cuisines
|Day 1||Arrive in Lhasa||Lhasa|
|Day 2||Explore Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery & Barkhor Market||Lhasa|
|Day 3||Explore Potala Palace & Drepung Monastery||Lhasa|
|Day 4||Depart Lhasa|
Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa
Welcome to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet!
Upon landing at Gonggar Airport, you'll meet your Tibetan guide who will help you get through the terminal. From here, you'll take an hour-long drive by private vehicle through a newly constructed tunnel and along the riverside towards Lhasa. You'll then check in to the hotel with time to rest and relax after what has likely been a long journey.
Don't worry about missing anything: In the following days, you'll get to experience this Holy City, often considered the most spiritual capital on Earth, with your guide. Over the centuries, Buddhists have traveled through some of the most extreme, inhospitable, and yet beautiful landscapes to visit the area's spectacular temples, but for most westerners, the history behind Lhasa remains a mystery.
The city is full of simple surprises: Look for the Islamic mosque, outdoor pool tables, and young monks playing football. You'll likely be tempted to hit the streets with newfound energy, but it is recommended you lay low and spend the first day adjusting to Lhasa’s altitude of 11,995 feet (3,656 m).
Please note: The itinerary may adjust slightly depending on travel dates and hours of operation.
Day 2: Explore Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery & Barkhor Market
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll meet your guide who will brief you on the day’s itinerary, which will include tours of Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery, and Barkhor Market.
First on the list is Jokhang Temple, a seventh-century geometric structure at the heart of Lhasa—in fact, the most sacred temple in Tibet, often nicknamed 'Power Place' by locals. For a bit of history, Queen Bhrikuti, a Nepalese princess married to King Songtsen Gampo, founded Jokhang Temple as a place to hold all of the Buddhist sculptures she brought to Tibet. In recognition of the queen, the main gate of the temple faces west towards Nepal. Make sure to check out the chapels surrounding the exterior.
From here, you'll make your way to the Sera Monastery, just a few miles outside of town. This spiritual site was founded in 1419 and sits in a beautiful spot at the base of Mount Purbuchok. The monastery used to be an important center for learning and at one point housed nearly 6,000 monks, so you can imagine the size. Present day, Sera is home to approximately 550 monks.
Once you're inside, you'll want to see many places include Coqen Hall, (the main assembly hall), the three Zhacangs (Buddhist colleges) and the twenty-nine Khangtsens (monk dormitories). Perhaps the most intriguing feature on the tour is the enlarged image of Maitreya erected in 1419. You can also witness the practicing of debate among the monks, who pitch their knowledge against each other.
Last on the day's itinerary is a visit to Barkhor Market (Bazaar). This is the most popular square in town where you can find Tibetan handicraft items, Buddhist artifacts, carpets, and paintings—a fun way to end the day of sightseeing.
At the end of the day, your guide will escort you back to your hotel. Lhasa offers a variety of restaurants for both lunch and dinner—including Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian, and Sichuan cuisines, to name a few—so walk around and check out the vibrant dining scene.
Day 3: Explore Potala Palace & Drepung Monastery
This morning, after breakfast, you'll meet up with your guide for a personal tour of the Potala Palace, which dominates the city of Lhasa. This spectacular site contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama along with numerous grand state rooms and several important chapels. In fact, there has been a palace on this very site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace, which you'll see today, was constructed in the 17th century.
A visit to the Drepung Monastery after lunch will complete this truly awe-inspiring tour of Lhasa. Founded in the 14th century, the monastery was once the largest in the world, with a population of around 10,000 monks. Today, that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as the site was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
Day 4: Depart Lhasa
It's time to say goodbye to Lhasa! In the morning, you'll be transferred to the airport for your return flight home; better yet, connect to the next leg of your Asian adventure. Safe travels!