1. SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL TIBET
It covers about one-fourth of the total area of Tibet and has lots of things to offer. This area is also known as the hub of Tibetan Civilization since all the major tourist attraction of Tibet and major cities are located in this region.
Lhasa (3,650m, CAPITAL)
It is situated on the north bank of the Kyichu River and center of Lama Theology. It is the residence of the Dalai Lama (the god king), is the earthly representation of the celestial Palace of Avaloketeswora, the Buddha of infinite compassion whose incarnation in the human form is believed to be the Dalai Lama. As Tibet's political, religious and cultural centre it is a city truly blessed by the gods, where life is unhurried, its people jovial and yet remaining staunchly independent
While in Lhasa you can visit the following Places: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Market, Norbulingka Summer Palace, Drepung (the largest Monastery In Tibet), Sera Monastery (The Second largest monastery in Tibet). The other places worth visiting in Lhasa are Ganden Monastery (70 Kms), Tibetan Medical Institute, Tshurpu Monastery, Nunnery, Nechung Temple.
Potala Palace: Potala Palace, located on the red hill, was built in 640 A.D. during the reign of Songtsen Gompo. The original Potala Palace was destroyed in the 9th century but was rebuilt in the 17th century during the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama. It is best viewed from outside, where one can observe the different aspects & moods of its sophisticated design. The architectural wonder stands 117m high, has 13 stories and over 1,000 rooms. The most poignant areas are the roof terraces housing the Dalai Lama's residences, the large courtyard & the spectacular multi-storied interior atriums that extend upwards to the roof terraces. It is replete with ancient artifacts; the sacred statue of Arya Lokeshwara, ornate burial Chortens of the Dalai Lamas, galleries and chapels noted for their murals, the intricate three-dimensional Mandala & much more.
Norbulinka Park: Norbulinka means "the jeweled garden" is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. This large complex of small palaces like Gesang Palace, Jianse Palace and Daktanmiju lies within a walled garden that covers 360,000 sq. mts. The whole garden consists of two main parts - Norbulinkha at the western area & Jianselingka at the eastern area. It has fascinating murals in excellent condition, superb Mandalas & frescoes.
Jokhang Temple: Jokhang temple was built in 647 A.D and is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. It houses the sitting statue of Sakyamuni, when he was 12 years old. From dawn till dusk, one can see an astounding display of chanting, prostrating pilgrims circumambulating the temple. Hundreds of faces, ornaments, clothes & colors swirl round in a gigantic whirlpool of religious fervor.
Sera Monastery: Sera means hail stone in Tibetan language. Set at the foot of the Wudu hill to the north of Lhasa city, Sera comprises of a great sutra chanting hall, a college and 32 sections that covers 114,964 sq. mts. Founded by Jamchenchupje in 1419, Sera was famous for its fighting monks, who spent years perfecting the martial arts.
Drepung Monastery: It is located at the foot of the West Valley Mountain (Gyephel-Ou-Tse) about 10 kms from Lhasa. Drepung Monastery was built by Jamyang-Choje Tashi-Phiden in 1416 AD. Drepung is one of the six largest monasteries of the Gelupa sect & comprises of six main temples: Ganden Palace, Tsochen, Ngakpa, Losaling, Gomang & Dyeyang. The main relics in these temples are image of Maitreya, Yamantaka, Mitrukpa, Sutrakangyur with golden letters, Thankas, Silk scrolls (which are very precious & are rarely seen in the world), various gilded statures, Buddhist scriptures & countless other cultural relics. There are monastic colleges for the study of Philosophy & one for the practice of Tantric Buddhism. The monastery covers an area of over 20, 000 sq. mts.
Shigatse is most famous for its Tashilumpo Monastery - the seats of the Panchen Lama, who is regarded as the reincarnation of the Buddha of Endless Enlightenment. Items of interest inside this monastery built in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama are: the relics of Sakyamuni, the Hall of Maitreya & a mind-boggling collection of Thankas, frescoes & statues. There is a bustling 'free' market at the foot of the ruins of the Shigatse Fortress, where one can buy local handicrafts, embedded with coral & turquoise, Tibetan draggers, Chinese porcelain & yak butter.
Tashilumpo Monastery : Founded by the first Dalai Lama, Gedun Drupa in 1447 is one of the four "Yellow hat Sect" monasteries of Tibetan Buddhists. The monastery comprises of congregation hall from 5th to 9th century Panchen Lama's stupa and chapels, the golden stupa of 10th century and the big Maitreya statue of the Buddha in gold & copper alloy. It occupies an area of 300,000 sq. mts.
Gyantse is a small agricultural town famous for its woolen carpets & the Phalkor Chorten. Amongst the Lamasery & the fort, this unique structure built in 1414 AD consists of five stories representing the five steps to enlightenment, topped by thirteen rings, which symbolize the stages of advancement towards Buddhahood. There are 108 halls inside, each with frescoes & Buddha shrines, the frescoes showing a strong Indian influence. Before 1959 traders coming from Kalimpong & Gangtok used to enter Tibet through Yandong and then to Gyantse, en route to Lhasa.
Samye Monastery : Established in the mid 8th century and covering an area of 25,000 sq. mts, Samye Monastery is located in Zhang county on the northern bank of the Yarlung Zhangpo river. The three-storey building was built in Han, Tibetan & Indian styles. It was the first formal monastery in Tibet.
Khumbum Chorten: This stupa was one of the eight Buddhist stupas known as Tashi Multi stupa that stood 42m high & was said to have 108 cells containing venerable mural paintings & holy images amounting to 1,00,000 pieces of art. The Chorten is located in Gyantse.
Situated at the altitude of 3560 m, its major attraction of this small town are Gonpari Mountain, Yambulakhang (the first palace built in Tibet) Chandrok , Thombs of Tibetan Kings ( 38 kms south of Tsedang), Samye ( the first monastery built in Tibet ) and mindroling ( the study centre of Buddhist Philosophy).
Xegar is a new Chinese commune built at the foot of the ruins of Xegar Dzong and is 7 km from the main highway. With a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, its importance lies in the fact that it is the center of this large and remote country and also a base from where expeditions to Mt. Everest & other peaks are launched from the Chinese side.
(2,350m) Zhangmu, better known by its Tibetan name Khasa, is a small settlement clinging to a hillside 10kms inland from the Friendship Bridge across the Bhotekoshi river which serves as the border with Nepal. After the closure of the China/India border from Gangtok, Zhangmu has become the major trading post between Tibet & Nepal. The hills around Zhangmu are heavily wooded with innumerable waterfalls in the summer & frozen 'icicles' during the winter.
2. WESTERN TIBET OR NGARI REGION
This is the other important region for tourist attraction. Situated at the altitude of average 4500m. The major attractions of this region are
Mt. Kailash (6714m)
Revered by four religion this is the most scared mountain for Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Bons. It is also the source of four largest rivers in Asia.
Lake Manasarovar (4,700m)
60kms below the Mt. Kailash and Situated at the altitude of 4588m this scared lake is as important as Mt. Kailash.
Tsaparang and Toiling
Also known as the Guge Kingdom it was built in 9th century while in Mt. Kailash region you should not miss these areas as these areas are covered with the ruin of old Guge kingdom and monasteries. The best period to make this tour is May through October.
3. NORTHEN TIBET REGION
Covering most of grassland of Tibet the major attractions of this region are: Horse Racing Festival which takes place during May and June, and Lake Namtso. etc.
Yandrok Lake, Pasang Tsho Lake (In Nyingchi) Forest Park, Tagla Mountain, Sangpo Bairuk Monastery and Bugyu temple are worth visiting in this region.