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Tibet

Lhasa . . . . . . . . . . . . . 882
The Friendship
Highway . . . . . . . . . . . 893
Western Tibet . . . . . . 899
Best Places to Eat
Snowland Restaurant
(p 887 )
Third Eye Restaurant
(p 896 )
Friendship Snowland
Restaurant (p 893 )
Best Places to
Stay
Nomads tents at Everest
Base Camp (p 898 )
Yabshi Phunkhang
(p 886 )
Kyichu Hotel (p 886 )
Why Go?
Though never exactly a Shangri La, Tibet has nonetheless
held the imagination of Western spiritual seekers, adven-
turers and intrepid travellers for centuries. Double the size
of France, and home to a mere three million people, the
roof of the world promises incredible high-altitude scen-
ery, awe-inspiring monastic cities, epic road trips and a
beautiful, unique Himalayan culture that has endured a
half-century of assault and hardship.
Extremely popular with Chinese travellers and with
one of the fastest growth rates in China, much of Tibet is
changing fast, with new paved roads, airports and a rail-
way spur planned for the coming years. The magic of old
Tibet is still there, you just to have to work a bit harder to
nd it these days.
When to Go
March This
politically sensi-
tive month brings
permit problems;
avoid.
MaySeptember
High season:
warm weather,
some rain in July/
August, and good
trekking.
April & mid-
October
November A
good time to visit,
with fewer crowds
and warm days.
0
4/100
12/300
8/200
F D N O S A J J M A M J
Lhasa
C/F Temp
-40/-40
-20/-4
-30/-22
0/32
-10/14
20/68
10/50
40/104
30/86
Rainfall inches/mm
Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
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History
Recorded Tibetan history began in the 7th
century AD, when the Tibetan armies be-
gan to assemble a great empire. Under King
Songtsen Gampo, the Tibetans occupied
Nepal and collected tribute from parts of
Ynnn. Shortly afterwards the Tibetan
armies moved north and took control of
the Silk Road and the great trade centre of
Kashgar, even sacking the imperial Chinese
city of Chngn (present-day Xn).
Tibetan expansion came to an abrupt
halt in 842 with the assassination of anti-
Buddhist King Langdarma; the region
subsequently broke into independent
feuding principalities. The increasing
inuence of Buddhism ensured that the
Tibetan armies would never again leave
their high plateau.
By the 7th century, Buddhism had spread
through Tibet, though it had taken on a
unique form, as it adopted many of the ritu-
als of Bn (the indigenous pre-Buddhist be-
lief system of Tibet). The combination of a
traditional animistic religion with the eso-
teric practices of Indian tantric Buddhism
proved a very potent spiritual formula for
the Tibetans.
From the 13th century, power politics
began to play an increasing role in religion.
In 1641, the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat order)
used the support of Mongol troops to crush
the Sakyapa, their rivals. It was also dur-
ing this time of partisan struggle that the
Gelugpa leader adopted the title of Dalai
Lama (Ocean of Wisdom), given to him by
the Mongols. From here on out, religion and
politics in Tibet became inextricably en-
twined and both were presided over by the
Dalai Lama.
With the fall of the Qing dynasty in
1911, Tibet entered a period of de facto in-
dependence that was to last until 1950. In
this year a resurgent communist China in-
vaded Tibet, claiming it was liberating over
one million Tibetans from feudal serfdom
and bringing it back into the fold of the
motherland.
Increasing popular unrest to Chinese
occupation resulted in a full-blown revolt
in 1959, which was crushed by the Peoples
Liberation Army (PLA). Amid popular ru-
mours (likely true) of a Chinese plot to
kidnap him, the Dalai Lama ed to India.
He was followed by an exodus of 80,000 of
Tibets best and brightest, who now repre-
sent the Tibetan government-in-exile from
Dharamsala, India.
The Dalai Lama, who has referred to
Chinas policies on migration as cultural
genocide, is resigned to pushing for au-
tonomy rather than independence, though
even that concession has borne little fruit.
The Chinese for their part seem to be wait-
ing for him to die, positioning themselves
to control the future politics of reincarna-
tion. The Dalai Lamas tireless insistence on
a non-violent solution to the Tibet problem
led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1989, but although global sympathy on
the part of the Western world for the plight
of the Tibetan people remains high, talk of
Tibetan independence seems consigned to
history.
The Chinese are truly ba ed by what
they perceive as the continuing ingrati-
tude of the Tibetans. They claim that Tibet
pre-1950 was a place of abject poverty and
feudal exploitation. China brought roads,
schools, hospitals, airports, factories and
rising incomes.
Many Tibetans, however, cannot forgive
the destruction of their culture and heri-
tage, the restrictions on religious expres-
sion, the continued heavy military/police
presence, economic exploitation and their
obvious second-class status within their
own land. The riots and protests in Lhasa
in the spring of 2008 (the 49th anniversary
of the 1959 uprising) brought this simmer-
ing dissatisfaction out into the open. Pro-
tests that started when monks in Lhasa
began both commemorating the 1959 up-
rising and also demonstrating against the
current detention of fellow monks soon
escalated into demonstrations and vio-
lence after reports of the arrests and beat-
PRICE INDICATORS
The following price indicators are
used in this chapter:
Sleeping
$ less than Y130
$$ Y130 to Y400
$$$ more than Y400
Eating
$ less than Y30
$$ Y30 to Y80
$$$ more than Y80
881


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ings of protesting monks. Lhasa erupted
into full-scale riots and protests spread to
other Tibetan areas in Gns, Schun and
Qnghi provinces. The Chinese response
to the protests was predictable: arrest, im-
prisonment and an increased police pres-
ence in many monasteries. Armed riot
police continue to occupy street corners in
Lhasas old town.
As immigration and breakneck moderni-
sation continue, the government is gam-
bling that economic advances will diuse
the Tibetans religious and political aspi-
rations. Its a policy that is working in the
rest of China. It remains to be seen whether
Tibetans will be so easily bought.
Climate
Most of Tibet is a high-altitude desert pla-
teau at more than 4000m and many passes
exceed 5000m. Days in summer (June to
September) are warm, sunny and dry, and
you can expect some rainfall in southern
Tibet in the evenings, but temperatures
drop quickly after dark. Sunlight is very
strong at these altitudes, so bring plenty of
high-factor sunscreen and lip balm.
Language
Most urban Tibetans speak Mandarin in
addition to Tibetan. Even in the country-
side you can get by with basic Mandarin
in most restaurants and hotels, since they
are normally run by Mandarin-speaking
Han or Hui Chinese. That said, Tibetans
are extremely pleased when foreign visi-
tors at least greet them in Tibetan, so its
well worth learning a few phrases. In Lha-
sa and Shigatse, it is easy to get by with
English at the more popular restaurants
and hotels.
8
Getting There & Away
NEPAL ROUTE The 865km road connecting
Lhasa with Kathmandu is known as the Friend-
ship Highway (see p 893 ). The main means of
transport for foreigners is a rented vehicle.
When travelling from Nepal to Lhasa, foreign-
ers generally arrange transport and permits
through agencies in Kathmandu. Be careful with
whom you organise your trip the vast majority
of complaints about Tibet that we receive have
been about budget trips from Kathmandu. The
most common option is a seven-day overland
budget tour, which run two or three times a week
and cost from US$350, plus visa fees and return
ight costs (around US$400). There are also
y-in, y-out options.
Regardless of what the agency says, you will
probably end up in a bus with travellers with
other companies. Accommodation en route
is pretty simple. Most agencies advertising in
Thamel are agents only; they dont actually run
the trips. The better agencies in Kathmandu
include the following:
Ecotrek (%01-4423207; www.ecotrek.com.np,
www.ecotreknepl.com; Thamel)
Explore Nepal Richa Tours & Travel (%01-
4423064; www.explorenepalricha.com; 2nd fl,
Namche Bazaar Bldg, Tri Devi Marg, Thamel)
Green Hill Tours (%01-4700803; www.
greenhill-tours.com; Thamel)
Royal Mount Trekking (%01-4241452; www.
royaltibet.com; Durbar Marg)
Tashi Delek Nepal Treks & Expeditions
(%01-4410746; www.tashidelektreks.com.np;
Thamel)

Whatever you do, when coming from Nepal do
not underestimate the sudden rise in elevation;
altitude sickness is very common. It is especially
not recommended to visit Everest Base Camp
within a few days of leaving Kathmandu.
Heading to Nepal, you will arrange a 4WD trip
as part of your Tibet tour.
The Nepalese Consulate-General (,
); Nbr Lngshgun; Map p 884 ; %0891-
681 5744; www.nepalembassy.org.cn; 13
Luobulingka Beilu; h10am-12.30pm Mon-Fri)
in Lhasa issues visas in 24 hours. The current
fee for a 15-/30-/90-day visa is Y175/280/700.
Bring a visa photo. Its also possible to obtain
visas at Kodari, the Nepalese border town (see
p 900 ).
QNGHI ROUTE Now that the railway con-
nects Lhasa with Qnghi, there is no reason
to suer the long ride on the sleeper bus from
Golmud. Bear in mind that it is much harder to
get train tickets to Lhasa than from Lhasa, so
ying in and taking a train out makes sense see
p 890 for details.
OTHER ROUTES Between Lhasa and Schun,
Ynnn and Xnjing provinces are some of the
wildest, highest and most remote routes in the
world. Its generally possible to enter and leave
Tibet via these routes if you are travelling with
an organised tour and have the proper permits.
In 2010, permits were impossible to obtain for
overland routes through eastern Tibet, but these
should reopen soon.
If you try to sneak in, note that the authorities
sometimes come down very heavily on travellers
and the drivers giving them a lift. At the very
least be aware that you are putting anyone who
gives you a ride at risk of being ned and losing a
driving licence.
882
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8
Getting Around
These days almost all foreigners travel around
Tibet in a rented 4WD. Public buses outside
Lhasa are o limits to foreigners, and bus sta-
tions generally wont sell you a ticket.
As for cycling its possible, but currently ex-
pensive, as you still need a guide and transport,
even if youre not travelling in it! Cyclists in Tibet
have died from road accidents, hypothermia and
pneumonia. Tibet is not the place to learn the
ins and outs of long-distance cycling do your
training elsewhere. For experienced cyclists,
the LhasaKathmandu trip is one of the worlds
great rides. Check out Tibet Overland: A Route
and Planning Guide for Mountain Bikers and
Other Overlanders by Kym McConnell, and www.
tibetoverland.com.
Lhasa }
%0891 / POP 400,000 / ELEV 3650M
Lhasa is the traditional political and spirit-
ual centre of the Tibetan world. Despite
rampant Chinese-led modernisation Tibets
premodern and sacred heritage survives in
the form of the grand Potala Palace (for-
mer seat of the Dalai Lama), the ancient
Jokhang Temple (Tibets rst and most
holy), the great monastic centres of Sera,
Drepung and Ganden, and the citys count-
less other smaller temples, hermitages,
caves, sacred rocks, pilgrim paths, and
prayer-ag-bedecked hilltops.
TIBET TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Troubled Tibet is essentially part of China, yet in many ways separate from it. Travel
regulations here dier markedly from the rest of the nation; tourists currently need to
arrange a tour in order to visit any place in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).
Travel regulations are in constant ux in Tibet and travel infrastructure is changing at
a rapid rate. Be sure to check current regulations with travel companies and check the
designated Tibet branch of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree (http://thorntreelonelyplanet.
com).
Travellers to Tibet face much tighter restrictions than in other parts of China. Author-
ities would say this is for tourists protection, though it has more to do with foreigners
tendency to sympathise with the Tibetan cause and bear witness to political tensions.
Recent restrictions forbid foreigners from visiting a Tibetan home or staying overnight
in a monastery.
At the time of research:
Foreign travellers need a Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit to get into Tibet and
an Alien Travel Permit (and other permits) to travel outside Lhasa.
To get these permits you need to pre-book an itinerary, a guide for your entire stay
and transport for outside Lhasa with an agency, before travelling to Tibet.
You can be a group of any size (including a group of one) but youll find 4WD rates
cheapest if you travel in a group of three or four.
To get on a plane or train to Lhasa you need to show your TTB permit. For the plane
you need the original, so your agency will courier that to you at an address in China
(normally a hostel). A printout/copy is currently acceptable for the train.
You dont need to book transport for your time in Lhasa but you do need to visit the
main monasteries with a guide.
For travel outside Lhasa you will need to pre-arrange transport hire (normally a
4WD). You cannot travel outside Lhasa independently and cannot take public trans-
port. In case this changes, we have included basic information on public transport.
Most agencies charge around Y600 for permits, Y250 per day for a guide and any-
where from US$80 to US$150 per day for 4WD hire (not per person). Many agencies
let you book your own accommodation.
Travel from Nepal to Tibet brings its own complications, since foreigners can only
travel on a group visa (a separate piece of paper), which is only valid from two to three
weeks and is almost impossible to extend. If you already have a Chinese visa in your
passport it will be cancelled. Group visas cost US$58 and take 10 days, or you can
pay US$118 for express service. US citizens pay a surcharge. See p 890 .
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In Lhasa, the colour, humour and reli-
gious devotion of the immensely likeable
Tibetan people is as much of a highlight as
the big sights. This is also one of Asias best
people-watching towns, and the old town is
one of the most fascinating to explore.
Lhasa is a pretty comfortable travellers
destination these days. There are dozens
of good budget and midrange hotels and
no shortage of excellent inexpensive res-
taurants. English is not widely spoken, but
youll have no trouble in the more popular
hotels, restaurants, cafes and travel agen-
cies. Lhasa is also currently the only place
in Tibet where you have a certain freedom
to explore without your guide, plus its
cheaper than the rest of Tibet because you
dont need to hire transport.
Lhasa divides clearly into a sprawling
Chinese section to the west and a much
smaller but innitely more interesting Ti-
betan old town in the east, centred on the
wonderful Barkhor area. The latter has the
best food and accommodation and is easily
the best place to be based.
1
Sights
In addition to the main sights listed here,
Lhasas old town is worth exploring for its
backstreet temples, craft shops and inter-
esting Muslim neighbourhood.

The companies listed here can arrange tours and permits for Tibet and are used to deal-
ing with individual travellers.
Lhasa
Tibet F.I.T. Travel (%634 9239; www.tibetfit.com; lhakpa88@yahoo.com; 2nd fl, Snowl-
and Hotel, 4 Zangyiyuan Lu) Contact Lhakpa Tsering.
Namchen Tours (www.shangrilatours.com) Based at Barkhor Namchen House,
p 887 , in Lhasas old town.
China International Travel Service (CITS; ]][|1; Zhnggu Guj
Lxngsh; %691 2080; tibetanintibet@yahoo.cn; Zangyiyuan Lu) Contact Tenzin.
Shigatse Travels (%633 0489; www.shigatsetravels.com; Yak Hotel, 100 Beijing Donglu)
Higher-end tours.
Snow Lion Tours (%134 3932 9243; www.snowliontours.com; 1 Danjielin Lu) Contact
Wangden Tsering, with a branch in Xnng and an office in Bijng.
Spinn Caf (%136 5952 3997; www.cafespinn.com; 135 Beijing Donglu) Contact Kong/
Pazu.
Other Cities in China
Leo Hostel (,j; Gungjyun Fndin; Map p 48 ; %10-8660 8923; www.leohostel
.com; 52 Dazhalan Xijie, Qinmn, Bijng)
Tibetan Connections (%135 1973 7734; www.tibetanconnections.com; 16th fl, Bldg No
5, International Village Apartments, 2-32 Jiancai Xiang) Recommended.
Sims Cozy Travel (%028-8335 5322, 133 9819 5552; www.gogosc.com; Sims Cozy
Guest House, Chngd) Popular agency and hostel (p 709 ) in Chngd.
Wind Horse Adventure Tours (%971-613 1358; www.windhorseadventuretours.com;
19 Nan Dajie, Xnng) Contact Tashi Phuntsok.

For overland trips from Ynnn, consult companies such as Khampa Caravan (j]
]|}|1; Kngb Shngdo Tnxin Lxngsh; www.khampacaravan.com), p 677 and
Haiwei Trails (www.haiweitrails.com), p 677 , in Zhngdin, and China Minority Travel
(www.china-travel.nl) in Dl, p 659 .
See also our Itineraries chapter for a permit-free alternative way to see Tibetan lands.
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Barkhor PILGRIM CIRCUIT
( ; /|; Bku; Map p 888 ) Its impossi-
ble not to be swept up in the wondrous tide
of humanity that is the Barkhor, a kora (pil-
grim circuit) that winds clockwise around
the periphery of the Jokhang Temple. Youll
swear it possesses some spiritual centrifu-
gal force, as every time you approach within
50m, you somehow get sucked right in and
gladly wind up making the whole circuit
again! Spiritual souvenirs and pilgrim ac-
cessories line the entire circuit, with stalls
selling prayer ags, amulets, turquoise
jewellery, Tibetan boots, cowboy hats, yak
butter and juniper incense. Its the perfect
place to start your explorations of Lhasa,
and the last spot youll want to see before
you bid the city farewell.
The crowd of pilgrims is captivating.
Braided-haired Khambas from eastern Tibet
swagger in huge chubas (cloaks) with or-
nate daggers; and Amdowa nomads from
the northeast wear ragged sheepskins or,
for women, incredibly ornate braids and
coral headpieces.
Jokhang Temple TEMPLE
(

; ,l; Dzho S; Map p 888 ; admis-
sion Y85; hinner chapels 8am-12.30pm) The
1300-year-old Jokhang Temple is the spirit-
ual heart of Tibet: the continuous waves of
awestruck pilgrims prostrating themselves
outside are testament to its timeless allure.
The Jokhang was originally built to
house an image of Buddha brought to Tibet
by King Songtsen Gampos Nepalese
wife. However, another image, the Jowa
Sakyamuni, was later moved here by the
kings other wife (the Chinese Princess
Wencheng), and it is this image that gives
the Jokhang both its name and spiritual po-
tency: Jokhang means chapel of the Jowo
and the central golden Buddha here is the
most revered in all of Tibet.
The two-storeyed Jokhang is best visit-
ed in the morning, though the crowds of
yak-butter-spooning pilgrims can be thick.
Access is possible in the afternoon through
a side entrance but the interior chapels are
often shut and there are no pilgrims.
Potala Palace PALACE
(

; ; Bdl Gng; Map p 884 ; ad-


mission Y100; h9.30am-3pm before 1 May, 9am-
3.30pm after 1 May, interior chapels close 4.30pm)
The magnicent Potala Palace, once the seat
of the Tibetan government and the winter
residence of the Dalai Lamas, is Lhasas car-
dinal landmark. Your rst sight of its tower-
ing, fortress-like walls is a moment youll
remember for a long time.
An architectural wonder even by mod-
ern standards, the palace rises 13 storeys
from 130m-high Marpo Ri (Red Hill) and
contains more than a thousand rooms.
Pilgrims and tourists alike shu e down
through the three storeys, trying to take in
the magnicent chapels and prayer halls.
The rst recorded use of the site dates
from the 7th century AD, when King Songt-
sen Gampo built a palace here. Construc-
tion of the present structure began during
the reign of the fth Dalai Lama in 1645
and took divisions of labourers and arti-
sans more than 50 years to complete. It is
impressive enough to have caused Zhou
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Lhasa R
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Lhalu Wetland
Zang Gyab
Lukhang Park
Potala
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Luobulingka Nanlu
(Norbulingka
South Rd)
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Barkhor
Tibet
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Norbulingka
Potala Palace
See Barkhor
Area Map (p888)
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Enlai to send his own troops to protect it
from the Red Guards during the Cultural
Revolution.
The layout of the Potala Palace includes
the rooftop White Palace (the eastern
part of the building), used for the living
quarters of the Dalai Lama, and the central
Red Palace, used for religious functions.
The most stunning chapels of the Red
Palace house the jewel-bedecked golden
chrten (Tibetan stupa) tombs of several
previous Dalai Lamas. The apartments
of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas, in the
White Palace, oer a more personal insight
into life in the palace. Grand aesthetics and
history aside, however, one cant help no-
ticing that today it is essentially an empty
shell, notably missing its main occupant,
the Dalai Lama, and a cavernous memorial
to what once was.
Visiting the Potala
Tickets for the Potala are limited. The day
before you wish to visit, take your passport
and head to the far southwest exit (yes, exit)
and look for the ticket booth just inside
the gate. After showing your passport you
will receive a free ticket voucher with a time
stamped on it.
The next day, be at the south entrance
30 minutes before the time on the voucher
(tour groups use the southeast entrance).
After a security check, follow the other visit-
ors to the stairs up into the palace. Halfway
up youll pass the actual ticket booth. Note
that if you arrive later than the time on your
voucher (or if you forget your voucher) you
can be refused a ticket. Photography isnt
allowed inside the chapels.
Norbulingka SUMMER PALACE
(

; [; Lublnk; Minzu Lu;
Map p 884 ; admission Y60; h9am-6.30pm)
About 3km west of the Potala Palace is
the Norbulingka, the former summer
residence of the Dalai Lama. The pleasant
park contains several palaces and chapels,
the highlight of which is the New Summer
Palace (Takten Migy Podrang), built by
the current (14th) Dalai Lama, but its not
really worth the entry fee.

F
Tibet Museum MUSEUM

(

; j]|); Xzng B-
wgun; Map p 884 ; Minzu Nanlu; h9am-6.30pm)
This museum has some interesting dis-
plays, if you can lter out the Chinese pro-
paganda. Starting with the prehistory of
Tibet, the multiple halls cover everything
from weapons and musical instruments, to
folk handicrafts and ne ancient thangkas
(Tibetan sacred art). Look for the 18th-
century golden urn (exhibit No 310) used by
the Chinese to recognise their version of
the Panchen Lama. A useful handheld au-
dio self-touring device is available for Y20.
2
Activities
Raft Tibet RAFTING, HORSE RIDING
(Map p 888 ; %136 3890 0332; www.wind
horsetibet.com; Zangyiyuan Lu) Tibet Wind
Horse Adventure oers half-/one-/two-day
(Y600/760/1520) rafting trips between June
and October, as well as day trips on horse-
back (Y760).
z
Festivals & Events
Tibetan festivals are held according to the
Tibetan lunar calendar, which usually lags
at least a month behind the Wests Grego-
rian calendar. The following is a brief selec-
tion of Lhasas major festivals.
Losar Festival
Taking place in the rst week of the rst
lunar month (February), there are perfor-
mances of Tibetan opera, prayer ceremonies
at the Jokhang and Nechung Monastery,
and the streets are thronged with Tibetans
dressed in their nest.
Saga Dawa
The 15th day (full moon) of the fourth lunar
month (May/June) sees huge numbers of pil-
grims walking the Lingkhor pilgrim circuit.
Lhasa
Top Sights
Barkhor.................................................D2
Norbulingka..........................................A2
Potala Palace .......................................C2
Tibet Museum......................................A2
Sights
1 Norbulingka Ticket Office...................A2
2 Potala South Entrance........................C2
3 Potala Ticket Booth.............................C2
Information
4 Nepali Consulate-General...................A2
Transport
5 CAAC & Buses to Airport....................C2
6 City Train Ticket Office .......................B2
7 Western (Main) Bus Station...............A2
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Worship of the Buddha
During the second week of the fth lunar
month (June), the parks of Lhasa, in par-
ticular the Norbulingka, are crowded with
picnickers.
Drepung Festival
The 30th day of the sixth lunar month
(July) is celebrated with the hanging at
dawn of a huge thangka at Drepung Mon-
astery. Lamas and monks perform opera in
the main courtyard.
Shtun Festival
The rst week of the seventh lunar month
(August) sees the unveiling of a giant thang-
ka at Drepung Monastery, then moves
down to Sera and down to the Norbulingka
for performances of lhamo (Tibetan opera)
and some epic picnics.
Palden Lhamo
The 15th day of the 10th lunar month (be-
ing November) has a procession around the
Barkhor circuit bearing Palden Lhamo, pro-
tective deity of the Jokhang Temple.
Tsongkhapa Festival
Much respect is shown to Tsongkhapa, the
founder of the Gelugpa order, on the anni-
versary of his death on the 25th of the 10th
lunar month (December). Check for proces-
sions and monk dances at the monasteries
at Ganden, Sera and Drepung.
4
Sleeping
Backpacker hotels listed here have (lower-
end) midrange rooms that are decent for
a small budget-traveller splurge. Several
more top-end hotels are planned to open in
Lhasa over the coming years.
Yak Hotel HOTEL $$
(|); Y Bngun; Map p 888 ; %630 0008; 100
Beijing Donglu; dm Y30-40, d with bathroom Y450-
650, VIP r Y880, discounts of 30-50%; ai)
Once a backpacker favourite, the Yak is
still one of Lhasas most popular hotels, but
its now rmly midrange. Best bets are the
Tibetan-style back-block rooms (Y600), the
larger but noisier deluxe rooms overlooking
the street (Y650), or the plush VIP rooms
(gubnlu), all discounted to between Y380
and Y450. Reservations are recommended.

o
Kyichu Hotel HOTEL $$
(,,j; Jq Fndin; Map p 888 ;
%633 1541; www.kyichuhotel.com; 149/18 Beijing
Donglu; standard/deluxe r Y280/320; aWi)
The recently renovated Kyichu is a well-run
place thats popular with repeat travellers
to Tibet. Rooms are pleasant, with Tibet-
an carpets, but the real selling points are
the excellent service and peaceful garden
courtyard (with wi- and espresso coee).
Ask for a garden-view room at the back, as
these are the quietest. Reservations are rec-
ommended. Credit cards accepted.
Rama Kharpo HOTEL $
(})j|); Rm Gb Bngun; Map p 888 ;
%634 6963; www.lhasabarkhor.com; 5 Ongto
Shingka Lam; dm/r Y25/150; W) This easily
missed place is hidden deep in the old town
near the Muslim quarter. Both dorm and en
suite rooms are comfortable and the dark
but pleasant cafe is a great meeting place,
serving beer, breakfasts and simple food.

o
Yabshi Phunkhang BOUTIQUE $$$
(j; Yox Pngkng; Map p 888 ;
%632 8885; www.yabshiphunkhang.com; Beijing
Donglu; deluxe r/ste Y1000/1800, discounts of up
to 60%;aW) Architectural integrity is rare
in Lhasa these days, which makes the four-
year restoration of this mid-19th-century
mansion all the more impressive. The col-
lection of 21 large, well-equipped rooms
linked by lovely courtyards and sitting areas
is both stylish and very Tibetan. Its a great
romantic top-end choice.
Dhood Gu Hotel HOTEL $$
(|); Dng Bngun; Map p 888 ; %632
2555; www.dhodguhotel.com; 19 Shasarsu Lu;
LHASAS PILGRIM CIRCUITS
Lhasas four main koras (pilgrim
circuits) are well worth walking, espe-
cially during the Saga Dawa festival,
when the distinction between tourist
and pilgrim can become very ne. Re-
member always to proceed clockwise.
Nangkhor Encircles the inner
precincts of the Jokhang.
Barkhor Traces the outskirts of the
Jokhang.
Lingkhor You can join the 8km-
long circuit anywhere, but the most
interesting section is from the south-
eastern old town to the Potala Palace.
Potala Kora (Tsekhor) An almost
continuous circuit of prayer wheels,
chrtens (Tibetan stupas), rock
paintings and chapels encircles the
Potala Palace.
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,]j,j19_; s/d/ste incl breakfast
Y280/300/520;i) Sta are a little cool at
this three-star Nepalese-run hotel, but the
old-quarter location and ornate Tibetan-
style decor are great. Head to the rooftop
bar if your room lacks a view.
House of Shambhala BOUTIQUE $$$
(]]; Xingbl F; Map p 888 ; %632 6533;
www.shambhalaserai.com; 7 Jiri Erxiang;
7_; d incl breakfast Y675-1015; i) It can take
a bit of hunting to locate Lhasas rst bou-
tique hotel, but once you see the mustard-
coloured exterior, and impressive wooden
doors, youll know youre there. The hotels
10 rooms sport a funky Tibetan design,
with liberal use of wood, stone, silk, and an-
tique furnishings. From the fabulous roof-
top terrace the views over the old quarter
can really take you back in time. A 17-room
annexe, the Shambhala Palace, is hidden
deeper in the old town.
Barkhor Namchen House GUESTHOUSE $
(/|); Bku Lngqin Jitng
Lgun; Map p 888 ; %679 0125; www.tibetnam
chen.com; dm Y25, s Y60-70, d Y70; i) This
small backstreet Tibetan-style guesthouse
is a good budget choice. The old-town loca-
tion is near perfect, the sta are friendly,
and the Asian-style bathrooms and com-
munal hot showers are superclean. Rooms
are fairly small and some have limited
natural light (ask for an upper-oor room),
but you can head to the good rooftop res-
taurant for ne views.
Gorkha Hotel HOTEL $$
(,|,j; Gurk Fndin; Map p 888 ; %627
1992; tibetgorkha7@hotmail.com; 45 Linkuo Nan-
lu; [|[45_; tr without bathroom per bed
Y50-80, r/ste Y280/300;i) This atmospheric
Nepali-Tibetan venture housed the Nepali
consulate in the 1950s and still boasts tra-
ditional architecture. Rooms vary, so look
at a few (the suites are perfect for families).
Its in the south of the old town, near sev-
eral lovely old temples.
Snowland Hotel HOTEL $
(|); Xuy Bngun; Map p 888 ; %632
3687; snowlandhotel@gmail.com; 4 Zangyiyuan
Lu/Mentsikhang Lam; j[|4_[; dm/d
Y20/60, d standard/deluxe with bathroom
Y100/150; i) Dont bother with the budget
rooms in this old-timer, but do take a look
at the slightly beaten-up en suite rooms; the
deluxe rooms are some of the best value in
town. The location next to Barkhor Sq is
perfect. Check the water pressure and mat-
tresses before committing.
5
Eating
The staple diet in Tibet is tsampa (porridge
of roasted barley our) and b cha (yak-
butter tea). Tibetans mix the two in their
hands to create doughlike balls. Momos
(dumplings lled with vegetables or yak
meat) and thugpa (noodles with meat) are
also local comfort food. Variations include
thanthuk (fried noodle squares) as well as
shemdre (rice, potato and yak-meat curry).
Lhasa is lled with restaurants serving
a range of excellent Nepalese, Chinese, Ti-
betan and Western dishes. Unless noted
otherwise, the places listed here are open
for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tashi I WESTERN $
(Map p 888 ; cnr Zangyiyuan Lu & Beijing Don-
glu; dishes Y10-25; h8am-10pm; E) This old
standard feels like a slice of old Tibet and
is a mellow place to hang out. Try the bobi
(chapatti-like unleavened bread), which
comes with seasoned cream cheese and
fried vegetables or meat.

o
New Mandala Restaurant NEPALI $$
(],;; Xnmnzhi Cntng; Map
p 888 ; Zangyiyuan Lu; dishes Y20-35; E) Excel-
lent views over the Barkhor. The Nepali set
meals are excellent and its a great place to
people watch over a cold beer. The menu is
the standard mix of Western, Nepali and
Chinese food.
Snowland Restaurant WESTERN $$
(;; Xuy Cntng; Map p 888 ; Zangy-
iyuan Lu; dishes Y25-40; h8am-10pm; E) At-
tached to the Snowland Hotel, this well-run
restaurant serves a mix of excellent Conti-
nental and Nepali food in very civilised sur-
roundings. The Indian dishes are particu-
larly good and the cakes (discounted after
9pm) are easily the best in town. Try the
gourmet-quality yak cheese.
UNDER PRESSURE
If you y into Lhasa, take care when
reopening things such as tubes of
sunscreen or even jars of Coee-mate
from a local shop, as the change in
pressure can cause messy explosions
of volcanic proportions.
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Woeser Zedroe Tibetan Restaurant
TIBETAN $
(|;j); Gungmng Zzhu Zng cn-
gun; Map p 888 ; Zangyiyuan Lu; mains Y6-28;
hlunch & dinner; E) This is where visiting
and local Tibetans come to ll up after a
visit to the Jokhang. Add some pleasant
traditional seating and a perfect location
to the Tibetan vibe and its a logical lunch
stop. The momos are recommended, espe-
cially the fried yak meat or cheese varieties.
Pentoc Tibetan Restaurant TIBETAN $
(Map p 888 ; dishes Y10-15; E) For something
more authentically Tibetan, charming
English-speaking Pentoc runs this local
teahouse restaurant after working in Tashi
I for many years. Its a good place to try
homemade Tibetan standards, such as mo-
mos, thugpa, shemdre (rice, potato and yak
meat), plus butter tea, chang (barley beer)
and even dal bhat (lentils and rice). Its
20m down an alleyway o Beijing Donglu,
on the left.
Nam-tso Restaurant WESTERN $
(Map p 888 ; 8 Beijing Donglu; mains Y20-30, set
breakfasts Y27; E) Alfresco dining under
the Tibetan stars is possible on the roof-
top of the Banak Shol hotel. And the siz-
zlers, yak burgers and Western breakfasts
served here are worth every kui.
Dunya Restaurant WESTERN $$
(Map p 888 ; %633 3374; www.dunyarestaurant.
com; 100 Beijing Donglu; dishes Y30-65;E)
With its classy decor, wide-ranging dishes
and interesting specials, this foreign-run
eatery is popular with travellers who
need something reassuringly familiar.
6
Drinking
Tibetans consume large quantities of chang
(a tangy alcoholic drink derived from fer-
mented barley) and b cha. The other major
beverage is cha ngamo (sweet milky tea).
Hole-in-the-wall Tibetan teahouses can be
found all over the old town.
Ani Sangkhung Nunnery Teahouse
TEAHOUSE
(Map p 888 ; 29 Linkuo Nanlu; tea Y2-8; h8am-
5pm) If youre exploring the old town and
need a break, make a beeline for this bust-
ling teahouse in the courtyard of Lhasas
most important (and most politically ac-
tive) nunnery. The nuns do a great job and
the location is superb.
Summit Caf CAFE
(||j; Dngfng Kfidin; Map p 888 ;
coffees Y15-25; h7.30am-11pm; iWE) Off
Zangyiyuan Lu, the courtyard of the
Shangbala Hotel is the place to head for
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MUSLIM
QUARTER
Barkhor
Square
Tromsikhang
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Beijing Donglu (Beijing East R
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Buses to
Ganden
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Monasteries
Minibuses 301 & 302
to Drepung
Monastery
Banak
Shol
Hotel
Kirey
Hotel
Bike
Rental
Thaizand
Bicycle
Tours
Ticket Office for Bus
to Ganden Monastery
Darchen
Pole
Main City
Mosque
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Lhasas best espresso hit. Theres cosy
seating, wi-fi, excellent coffee and great
deserts.
Dunya Bar BAR
(Map p 888 ; www.dunyarestaurant.com; 100 Bei-
jing Donglu; bottled beers Y15; hnoon-midnight;
E) This classy bar above the restaurant
of the same name has a nice balcony and
screens major sports events.
7
Shopping
Whether its prayer wheels, thangkas, sun-
hats or imported muesli, you shouldnt have
a problem nding it in Lhasa. The Barkhor
circuit is especially good for buying sou-
venirs. Most of this stu is mass-produced
in Nepal. Haggle, haggle, haggle.
Lhasa Villages Handicrafts HANDICRAFTS
(Map p 888 ; %633 0898; www.tibetcraft.com;
11 Chaktsal Ganglu; h10am-7pm) A wander
through the Tibetan old town leads to this
excellent shop established to bolster local
handicrafts in the face of rising Nepali and
Chinese imports. Quality and prices are top
end, and you can watch local craftspeople
at work in the courtyard. The shop (former-
ly known as Dropenling) is a little tricky to
nd, but as you get nearer youll see signs
pointing the way. Ask about the two-hour
walking tours of old-town craft workshops.
Outlook Outdoor Equipment OUTDOOR GEAR
(Kn Fngyn Binhun Yunjng; Map p 888 ;
%634 5589; 11 Beijing Donglu) The best of
many local shops selling Chinese-made
Gore-Tex jackets, fleeces, sleeping bags,
stoves, tents and mats, and it also rents
out equipment.

8
Information
Internet Access
The most popular internet cafes (|; wngb;
per hr Y3-5) are at the Yak and Snowland hotels.
If you have a laptop, the Summit Caf and Rama
Kharpo and Yabshi Phunkhang hotels oer free
wi-.
Medical Services
Military Hospital (jl[|; Xzng
Jnq Zngyyun; %625 3120; Niangre Beilu)
Near the Sera Monastery.
Money
Bank of China (]||; Zhnggu Ynhng;
Map p 884 ; Linkuo Xilu; h9am-1pm & 3.30-
6.30pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am-4pm Sat & Sun)
Offers credit-card advances, bank transfers
and foreign exchange, plus a 24-hour ATM.
Bank of China (branch) (]||; Zhnggu
Ynhng; Map p 888 ; Beijing Donglu; h10am-
4.30pm Mon-Fri, 11am-3.30pm Sat & Sun) The
most conveniently located bank changes cash
and travellers cheques, and has an ATM. Its
between the Banak Shol and Kirey hotels.
China Construction Bank ATM (]||
|; Zhnggu Jinsh Ynhng; Map p 888 ;
Barkhor Area
Top Sights Eating
Barkhor Kora.......................................... C2 12 Dunya Restaurant .................................. B1
Jokhang Temple.................................... B2 13 Nam-tso Restaurant .............................. D1
Lingkhor Kora ........................................ A3 14 New Mandala Restaurant......................A2
15 Pentoc Tibetan Restaurant ................... B1
Activities, Courses & Tours 16 Snowland Restaurant ............................B2
1 Raft Tibet (Tibet Wind Horse 17 Tashi I...................................................... B1
Adventure) .......................................... A2 18 Woeser Zedroe Tibetan
Restaurant ...........................................A2
Sleeping
2 Barkhor Namchen House ..................... C2 Drinking
3 Dhood Gu Hotel ...................................... B1 19 Ani Sangkhung Nunnery
4 Gorkha Hotel .......................................... B3 Teahouse .............................................C3
5 House of Shambhala..............................C1 Dunya Bar ...................................... (see 12)
6 Kyichu Hotel............................................ A1 20 Summit Caf...........................................A2
7 Rama Kharpo......................................... D3
8 Shambhala Palace................................. D2 Shopping
9 Snowland Hotel...................................... B2 21 Lhasa Villages Handicrafts....................D3
10 Yabshi Phunkhang.................................. B1 22 Outlook Outdoor
11 Yak Hotel .................................................B1 Equipment ........................................... C1
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Zangyiyuan Lu) Conveniently located 24-hour
ATM next to the Snowland Hotel.
Post
China Post (]]]; Zhnggu Yuzhng;
Map p 884 ; Beijing Donglu; h9am-8pm Mon-
Sat, 10am-6pm Sun) Buy stamps from the
counter in the far-left corner. Its east of the
Potala Palace.
Public Security Bureau
Lhasa City PSB (}),); Ls Sh
Gngnj; Map p 884 ; %624 8154; 17 Linkuo
Beilu; h9am-12.30pm & 3.30-6pm Mon-Fri)
Visa extensions of up to a week are given, but
only a day or two before your visa expires and
only if you are on a tour. Other offices are not
interested in seeing you.
Telephone
Several private phone booths on Zangyiyuan
Lu and Beijing Donglu oer cheap international
calls. Look for the Telephone Supermarket (]
[,]); Guj Gnghu Chosh) signs.
Travel Agencies
See the boxed text, p 883 for a list of agencies in
Lhasa that can arrange your tour and TTB (Tibet
Tourism Bureau) permit.

8
Getting There & Away
Air
Its generally possible to buy ights to Lhasa
online on sites such as www.expedia.com, www.
ctrip.com and www.elong.net. If buying in per-
son, you will need to show your TTB permit; Air
China wont sell you a ticket without a permit.
Leaving Lhasa is a lot simpler, as tickets can
be purchased (and changed) without hassle
from the Civil Aviation Administration of
China (CAAC; ][; Zhnggu Mnhng;
Map p 884 ; %633 3446; 1 Niangre Lu; h9am-
6.30pm). Flight connections continue to all
major destinations in China and even Hong
Kong. Note that tickets are often discounted by
up to 30%.
Flights to/from Lhasa include the following
destinations:
Ali Y2500, two weekly
Bijng (via Chngd) Y2520, seven weekly
Chngd Y1590, 60 to 70 weekly
Chngqng Y1720, seven weekly
Gungzhu (via Chngqng) Y2590, two weekly
Kathmandu Y2970 (US$379 from Kathmandu),
three to four weekly
Knmng (via Zhngdin), Y2050, seven weekly
Shnghi Pdng (via Xn), Y2850, two
weekly
Xn Y1740, four weekly
Zhngdin Y1470, seven weekly (summer only)
Bus
Tickets for the sleeper buses from Lhasa to
Golmud (Y220, 24 hours) can be bought at the
long-distance bus station (Map p 884 ). Most
sane people will take the train or y out.
Destinations around Tibet are a little trickier,
as foreigners are currently not allowed to travel
by public transport. Should this change, there
are buses from the long-distance station to
Shigatse, Gyantse and beyond.
Train
The QnghiTibet Railway has been the
worlds highest train ride since starting opera-
tions in 2006. With the line topping the 5072m
Tanggu-la Pass, and with 80% of the Golmud to
Lhasa stretch being over 4000m, the railway is
one impressive piece of engineering. Its 160km
of bridges and elevated track were built over
permafrost, so sections of cooling pipes had
to be inserted in places to help keep the boggy
ground frozen in summer. The cost? A cool
US$4.1 billion, and with planned extensions
to Shigatse currently under construction, this
gure is set to grow.
The Chinese are rightfully swollen with pride
over this engineering marvel, while the Tibetans
arent quite so sure. The railway will bring cheap-
er (Chinese-made) goods and greater economic
growth, but it will also increase Han migration,
delivering one million passengers to Lhasa every
year. What the line does best is staple Tibet ever
more rmly to the rest of China.
At the time of writing, foreign travellers
needed a copy of their TTB permit in order to
buy a train ticket and board the train to Lhasa.
On board all passengers have access to piped-in
oxygen through a special socket located next
to each seat or berth. Additional oxygen is also
pumped into compartments between Golmud
and Lhasa, although the cabins are not actually
pressurised.
Soft-sleeper berths come with individual
TVs, and speakers in each cabin make periodic
travel announcements in Chinese and English
about the train, its construction and sights
along the way. Other than these additions,
the trains are similar to most others in China,
though schedules are at least designed so as to
let you take in the best scenery during daylight
hours.
You can buy train tickets up to 10 days in ad-
vance at the Lhasa train station ticket o ce
(h7am-10pm), at the train station on the south-
west edge of town, or the more centrally located
city ticket o ce (,^|; Huchpio
Dishuch; Map p 884 ; Deji Beilu; h9-11.30am
& 1-5pm). Trains to Lhasa arrive in the evening;
trains from Lhasa depart between 7.30am and
1.30pm.
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A luxury joint-venture train, the Tangula
Express, is planned but currently on hold. If it
happens, you can expect glass observation cars,
dining by Kempinski, luxury cabins with showers
and a tari of around US$1000 a day.
Trains to Lhasa, and fares (hard seat/hard
sleeper/soft sleeper; sleeper fares are for lower
berths):
From Bijng West (T27), Y389/813/1262, 48
hours, one daily (9.30pm)
From Chngd (T22/23), Y331/712/1104, 48
hours, one daily (6.18pm)
From Chngqng (T222/3), Y355/754/1168,
48 hours, one every other day (7.20pm)
From Gungzhu (T264/5), Y451/923/1530,
58 hours, one every other day (1.07pm)
From Lnzhu (K917), Y242/552/854, 30
hours, one every other day (4.45pm)
From Shnghi (T164/5), Y406/845/1314, 52
hours, one every other day (4.11pm)
From Xnng (K917), Y226/523/810, 27 hours,
one daily (4.45pm)

8
Getting Around
To/From the Airport
Gongkar airport is 65km from Lhasa. Most tour-
ists are picked up by their guide as part of their
tour.
Airport buses (Y25, 75 minutes) leave up to 10
times a day between 7.30am and 1.30pm from
the courtyard in front of the CAAC building.
Tickets are sold on the bus, so show up early
to guarantee a seat. Buses greet all incoming
ights.
A taxi to the airport costs between Y150 and
Y200.
Bicycle
A good option for getting around Lhasa once you
have acclimatised is to hire a bike. There are a
couple of bike-rental places opposite the Banak
Shol hotel, or you can hire quality mountain bikes
from Thaizand Bicycle Tours (Map p 888 ; %691
0898; thaizand@hotmail.com; Kirey Hotel, 105
Beijing Donglu) for Y40 to Y80 per day, with a
helmet and pads.
Minibus
Privately run minibuses (Y2) travel frequently
between Beijing Donglu and western Lhasa.
Taxi
Taxis charge a standard fare of Y10 to anywhere
within the city. Few Chinese drivers know the
Tibetan names for even the major sites. Bicycle-
rickshaws should charge around Y5 for short
trips but require endless haggling.
Around Lhasa
DREPUNG MONASTERY )
A preternaturally spiritual 1-hour-long
kora around this 15th-century monastery
(Zhbng S; admission Y50; h9.30am-5.30pm),
8km west of Lhasa, is among the highlights
of a trip to Tibet. Along with Sera and Gan-
den Monasteries, Drepung functioned as
one of the three pillars of the Tibetan state
and this one was purportedly the largest
monastery in the world, with around 7000
resident monks at its peak. Drepung means
rice heap, a reference to the white buildings
dotting the hillside.
The kings of Tsang and the Mongols sav-
aged the place regularly, though, oddly, the
Red Guards pretty much left it alone during
the Cultural Revolution. With concerted re-
building, this monastic village once again
resembles its proud former self and around
600 monks reside here. At lunchtime you
can see the novices bringing in buckets
of tsampa and yak-butter tea. In the af-
ternoons you can often see Tibetan-style
religious debating (lots of hand slapping
and gesticulating). The best way to visit the
monastery is to follow the pilgrim groups
or the yellow signs.
Nearby Nechung Monastery (admission
Y10; h8.30am-5pm), a 10-minute walk down-
hill, was once the home of the Tibetan state
oracle and is worth a visit.
Minibus Nos 301, 302 and 303 (Y2) run
from Beijing Donglu to the foot of the Dre-
pung hill, from where a coach (Y1) runs up
to the monastery. A taxi from the Barkhor
area is Y30. There is a Y10 to Y20 charge per
chapel for photography.
SERA MONASTERY

j
About 5km north of Lhasa, this monastery
(Sl S; admission Y55; h9am-5pm) was found-
ed in 1419 by a disciple of Tsongkhapa and
was, along with Drepung Monastery, one of
Lhasas two great Gelugpa monasteries.
About 600 monks are now in residence,
well down from an original population of
around 5000. The half-dozen main col-
leges feature spectacular prayer halls and
chapels. Equally interesting is the monk
debating that takes place from 3.30pm to
5pm in a garden next to the assembly hall in
the centre of the monastery. As at Drepung,
theres a ne hour-long kora path around
the exterior of the monastery.
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Minibus 503 (Y2) runs to Sera from Du-
osenge Lu, or its a 30-minute bicycle ride
from central Lhasa. There is a Y15 to Y30
fee per chapel for photography, and its
Y850 for video.
From Sera Monastery its possible to take
a taxi or walk northwest for another hour to
little-visited Pabonka Monastery. Built in
the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo,
this is one of the most ancient Buddhist
sites in the Lhasa region.
GANDEN MONASTERY

|)
About 40km east of Lhasa, this monas-
tery (Gndn S; admission Y45; hdawn-dusk),
founded in 1417 by Tsongkhapa, was the rst
Gelugpa monastery. Still the orders heart
and soul, its the one out-of-Lhasa sight to
choose if your time is limited. Two koras of-
fer astounding views over the braided Kyi-
chu Valley and youll probably meet more
pilgrims here than anywhere else.
Some 400 monks have returned and ex-
tensive reconstruction has been under way
for some time now, alongside a strong po-
lice presence. There is a Y20 fee per chapel
for photography; Y1500 for video.
Pilgrim buses leave for Ganden Monas-
tery (Y25 return) between 6am and 7am
from Barkhor Sq, returning around 1.30pm.
Tourists can sometimes take the bus if their
guide accompanies them; otherwise 4WD
hire costs around Y400.
NAM-TSO

,Z)
The waters of sacred Nam-tso (Nmcu;
adult Y120), the second-largest salt lake in
China, are an almost transcendent tur-
quoise blue and shimmer in the rareed
air of 4730m. Geographically part of the
Changtang Plateau, the lake is bordered to
the north by the Tangl Shn range and
to the southeast by 7111m Nyenchen Tan-
glha peak.
The scenery is breathtaking but so is
the altitude: 1100m higher than Lhasa. Do
not rush here but instead count on a week
in Lhasa at the minimum to avoid acute
mountain sickness (AMS); see p 1013 .
Most travellers head for Tashi Do Mon-
astery in the southeastern corner of the
lake. There are some ne walks in the
area, as well as a short but pilgrim-packed
kora. Half a dozen charmless metal guest-
houses (dm Y30-50, r Y120-160) oer food
and accommodation around the monastery
between April and October, though the site
is starting to seriously suer from overvisi-
tation. Bedding is provided but nights here
can be very cold.
Nam-tso is 195km north of Lhasa, a four-
hour paved drive over the high (5190m)
Largen-la. Even if independent travel re-
turns, there is no public transport to the
lake.
VISITING MONASTERIES & TEMPLES
Most monasteries and temples extend a warm welcome to foreign guests, and in re-
mote areas will often oer a place to stay for the night, depending on government travel
restrictions. Please maintain this good faith by observing the following courtesies:
Always circumambulate monasteries, chapels and other religious objects clock-
wise, thus keeping shrines and chrtens (Tibetan stupas) to your right.
Dont touch or remove anything on an altar and dont take prayer flags or mani
(prayer) stones.
Dont take photos during a prayer meeting. At other times always ask permis-
sion to take a photo, especially when using a flash. The larger monasteries charge
photography fees, though some monks will allow you to take a quick photo for free.
If they wont, theres no point getting angry you dont know what pressures they
may be under.
Dont wear shorts or short skirts in a monastery, and take your hat off when you
go into a chapel.
Dont smoke in a monastery.
If you have a guide, try to ensure that he or she is Tibetan, as Chinese guides
invariably know little about Tibetan Buddhism or monastery history.
Be aware that women are generally not allowed in protector chapels (gnkhang).
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SAMYE MONASTERY

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About 170km southeast of Lhasa, on the
north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brah-
maputra) River is Samye Monastery
(Sngy S; admission Y40; h8am-5.30pm),
the rst monastery in Tibet. Founded in
AD 775 by King Trisong Detsen, Samye is
famed not just for its pivotal history, but its
unique mandala design: the main hall, or
tse, represents Mt Meru, the centre of the
universe, while the outer temples represent
the oceans, continents, subcontinents and
other features of the Buddhist cosmology.
Simple accommodation is available at
the Monastery Guesthouse (%0891-783
6666; dm Y50, d with bathroom Y150), outside
the monastery walls and with the best
doubles in town. The monastery restaurant
serves mediocre momos with lots of local
atmosphere. The Friendship Snowland
Restaurant (%136-1893 2819; meals Y14-40;
h8am-midnight), outside the east gate, serves
better Chinese and Tibetan dishes, banana
pancakes and milky tea. Dorm rooms (Y30)
with real mattresses (not foam) are available
upstairs. There are several other decent ac-
commodation options nearby, including the
friendly Dawa Guesthouse (]);
Dw Jitng Lgun; %799 5171; dm Y30).
If you are heading to Everest Base Camp
or the Nepal border, a visit here will only
add one day to your itinerary. If the rules
on independent travel relax, you may be able
to catch the daily pilgrim minibus in the
morning from Barkhor Sq in Lhasa.
You may have to detour briey to the near-
by town of Tsetang (;`; Zdng) for your
guide to pick up a required travel permit.
The Friendship Highway
The 865km route between Kathmandu and
Lhasa, known as the Friendship Highway,
oers without a doubt one of the worlds
great overland routes. At times sublime,
at times unnerving, at times nauseating
(the highest point is the Gyatso-la Pass at
5100m), its the yellow-brick road of Tibet,
leading to some of the most magical destina-
tions on the plateau.
For the sake of simplicity, weve includ-
ed the side route from Lhasa to Shigatse
via Yamdrok-tso and Gyantse under the
Friendship Highway heading. This is the
route most travellers take between the two
towns and its by far the more scenic and
attraction-packed.
YAMDROK-TSO


)
On the direct road between Gyantse and
Lhasa, youll probably catch your rst sight
of coiling Yamdrok-tso (Yngzhu Yngcu;
4488m) from the summit of the Kamba-la
pass (4794m). The lake lies several hundred
metres below the road, and in clear weather
is a fabulous shade of deep turquoise. Far in
the northwest distance is the huge massif of
Mt Nojin Kangtsang (7191m).
The small town of Nangartse along the
way has some basic accommodation and
several restaurants but most people over-
night in Gyantse. A 20-minute drive or a
two-hour walk from Nangartse brings you
to Samding Monastery (admission Y20), a
charming place with scenic views of the
surrounding area and lake.
GANDEN TO SAMYE TREK
One of the most popular but not the easiest treks in Tibet is the four- to ve-day
hike from Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery, an 80km wilderness walk connect-
ing two of Tibets most important monasteries. It begins less than 50km from Lhasa
and takes you over the high passes of the Shuga-la (5250m) and Chitu-la (5100m).
Along the way are subalpine lakes, dwarf forests and meadows, all at high altitude, so
it shouldnt be underestimated.
Obviously, know before you go: this means the land and the capabilities of your
mind and body. The situation for getting permits for trekking is the same as for normal
travel in Tibet (see boxed text, p 883 ). Some agencies will let you arrange your own ad
hoc trek (ie horse hire and food), as long as you take a guide and arrange transport
to and from the trailheads; others require a fully supported trek. Tibet Wind Horse
Adventure (%0891-683 3009; www.windhorsetibet.com; Zangyiyuan Lu, Lhasa) is one of
the most professional trekking agencies in Lhasa, though its not the cheapest. For
further details, see the trekking chapter of Lonely Planets Tibet guide.
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From Nangartse to Gyantse you cross the
4960m Karo-la, site of the highest battle
in British imperial history in 19031904,
where glaciers spill o the side peaks beside
a popular viewpoint.
GYANTSE


%0892 / ELEV 3980M
The traditional town of Gyantse (Jingz)
is famed for its monumental nine-tiered
chrten, long considered one of Tibets
archi tectural wonders. Historically, the
town was at the centre of a thriving trans-
Himalayan wood and wool trade, and Gyan-
tse carpets were considered the best in Ti-
bet. These days, Gyantse remains one of the
least Chinese-inuenced settlements, and
wandering the backstreets aords a rare
picture of traditional urban Tibetan life.
1Sights & Activities
In the fourth lunar month (early June to
mid-July) the town hosts a great horse-
racing and archery festival.
Pelkhor Chde Monastery MONASTERY
()); Bijs; admission Y40; h9am-6pm,
some chapels closed 1-3pm) The high red-
walled compound of this monastery,
founded in 1418, once encircled 15 monas-
teries from three dierent orders of Tibetan
Buddhism. The surviving assembly hall
(straight ahead as you enter the compound)
is worth a lingering visit for the ne murals,
statues and butter-lamp-lit atmosphere.
Just beside the assembly hall is the Gyan-
tse Kumbum.
Gyantse Dzong FORT
(Old Fort; %817 2116; admission Y40; h8.30am-
8.30pm) Gyantse Dzong towers above
Gyantse on a nlike outcrop, and has
outstanding views of the Pelkhor Chde
Monastery and surrounding valley. The
fort was taken by the British in 1904 dur-
ing their invasion of Tibet. Entry is via
the gate north of the main intersection, or
drive up from the back side.
4Sleeping
Gyantse is a popular stop for 4WD tours
and has a decent range of accommodation
and food along northsouth Yingxiong
Nanlu.
Jinzng Hotel HOTEL $$
(j,j; Jinzng Fndin; Yingxiong Nanlu;
![; %817 3720; tr per bed Y50, d Y180-200)
Long a popular place with 4WD groups,
the smallish but modern rooms come with
bathroom and 24-hour hot water. Prices
start high but are open to negotiation. The
2nd-oor restaurant is a decent option for
breakfast or a cup of tea. The manager fea-
tured in the recent BBC documentary A
Year in Tibet.
Zngshn Hotel HOTEL $$
(_,j; Zngshn Fndin; %817 5555; 1
Weiguo Lu; d incl breakfast Y520, discounts of
50-70%; i) With 24-hour hot water, clean
Western-style rooms and discounted rates
of Y140 to Y160 a room, this is a solid-value
midrange option. A top-oor restaurant
(dishes Y15 to Y40) oers almost 360-
degree views of Gyantse.
Wutse Hotel HOTEL $$
(_,j; Wz Fndin; %817 2909; Yingxiong
Nanlu) This popular place was undergoing
renovations at the time of research but is
worth a look.
5 Eating
Yak Restaurant WESTERN, TIBETAN $$
(|;; Y Mish Cntng; Yingxiong Nanlu;
mains Y15-35; h7am-11pm; E) The Yak oers
backpacker treats such as French toast
(Y15), pizza, yak burgers, sizzlers (dishes
served on a hot, sizzling plate) and Western
breakfasts. The owner prides herself on her
French cuisine, so have a go at the yak-liver
pat or yak bourguignon.
Tashi Restaurant INDIAN, WESTERN $$
(];; Zhx Cntng; Yingxiong Nanlu; mains
Y15-40; h7.30am-11pm; E) This Nepali-run
place (a branch of Tashi in Shigatse) whips
up tasty and lling Indian fare. It also has
the usual range of Western breakfasts, Ital-
ian and Chinese food. The decor is Tibetan
but the Indian movies and Nepali music
give it a subcontinental vibe.
GYANTSE KUMBUM
The one unmissable sight in Gyantse,
the spectacular Gyantse Kumbum
(literally 100,000 Images Stupa) is
the largest chrten (Tibetan stupa)
in Tibet. A pilgrim path spirals up the
inside of the monumental nine-tiered
structure, built in the 15th century by
a local prince, passing 108 chapels,
each lled with masterful original
murals. Bring a torch (ashlight) if you
want to examine them in detail.
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Gyantse Kitchen
TIBETAN, INTERNATIONAL $$
([[; Jingz Chfng; Shanghai Zhonglu;
dishes Y15-40; h7am-midnight; E) This local fa-
vourite serves Western, Tibetan and Indian
food, plus unique fusion dishes such as yak
pizza. The friendly owner, who may join you
for a drink, donates a portion of his income
to support poor families in Gyantse.
8
Getting There & Away
Most people visit Gyantse as part of a trip to the
Nepal border, Mt Everest, or out west to Mt Kai-
lash. Should the permit situation change, there
are plenty of minibuses (1 hours) and taxis
(one hour) for the 90km trip between Shigatse
and Gyantse.
SHIGATSE


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%0892 / POP 80,000 / ELEV 3840M
Shigatse (Rkz) is the second-largest city
in Tibet, and like Lhasa has two distinct
faces: a Tibetan one and a Chinese one.
The Tibetan section, running northeast of
the high-walled Tashilhunpo Monastery, is
lled with whitewashed compounds, dusty
alleys and prayer-wheel-spinning pilgrims.
The Chinese section is thoroughly mod-
ern and is where youll nd most restau-
rants and hotels and other life-support
systems.
History
As the traditional capital of the central
Tsang region, Shigatse was long a rival
with Lhasa for political control of the coun-
try. The Tsang kings and later governors
exercised their power from the imposing
heights of the (recently rebuilt) Shigatse
Dzong. Since the time of the Mongol spon-
sorship of the Gelugpa order, Shigatse has
been the seat of the Panchen Lamas, the
second-highest-ranking lamas in Tibet.
Their centre was and remains the Tashil-
hunpo Monastery.
1Sights
Tashilhunpo Monastery MONASTERY

(

;

]j;
Zhshlnb S;
admission Y55; h9am-7pm summer, 10am-noon
& 3.30-6pm winter) The seat of the Panchen
Lama and one of Tibetan cultures six
great Gelugpa institutions (along with
Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries in
Lhasa; as well as Kumbum and Labrang
in Qnghi and Gns provinces, respec-
tively). Built in 1447 by a nephew of Tsong-
khapa, the monastery is the size of a small
village, and lends itself to a half-day or
more of exploration and discovery.
In addition to the mesmerising statue of
Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha (at nearly 27m
high its the largest gilded statue in the
world) in the Temple of the Maitreya, the
monastery is famed for the opulent tombs
of the fourth and 10th Panchen Lamas.
The former saw 85kg of gold and masses
of jewels used in its construction. Despite
the spectacle, some travellers dont like the
atmosphere at Tashilhunpo, conjecturing
that some of the monks are in cahoots with
the authorities.
A delightful hour-long kora starts at
the southwest corner of the outer wall and
quickly heads into the hills for open views
over the monastery and city. The Potala-like
structure to the east is the rebuilt Shigatse
Dzong (fortress). Its currently empty but a
museum/gallery is planned.
4Sleeping
Shigatse has a good range of hotels, most
oering rooms with private bathroom
(with hot shower).
Gang Gyan Shigatse Orchard Hotel
HOTEL $$
(|||); Rkz Gngjin Bngun;
%882 0777; 77 Zhufeng Lu; tr without bathroom
Y188, d with bathroom Y368, discounts of 60%)
Right next to the traditional-carpet factory
and just 100m from Tashilhunpo Monas-
tery, the location here cant be beat. Rooms
are large and comfortably furnished. The
shared bathrooms are clean but the shower
water supply is iy, a problem the rooms
with private bathrooms dont share.
Tenzin Hotel HOTEL $$
(]|); Dnzng Bngan; %882 2018; 8
Bangjiakong Lu; )[8_; dm Y40, d/tr with-
out bathroom Y180/120, d with bathroom Y220,
discounts of 30%) This place has long been
popular with both 4WD tours and budget
travellers. Its a bit noisy on the lower oors
but the clean rooms, old-town location and
views from the roof more than make up for
this. The shared bathrooms usually have
24-hour hot water. The restaurant (dishes
Y15 to Y35) serves up pretty tasty Tibetan,
Chinese and Nepalese fare when the chef is
in residence.
5Eating
There are dozens of Chinese restaurants
around town, and a number of Tibetan
places along Qingdao Lu.
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Songtsen Tibetan Restaurant
INTERNATIONAL $$
(|j;; Sngzn Xzng Cntng; Bux-
ing Jie; dishes Y20-40; h8am-10pm;E) This
popular Western-style place does hearty
breakfasts. It has a great location on the
pedestrian-only street, oering views of the
pilgrims ambling past as you dine on good
Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan or Western fare.
Third Eye Restaurant NEPALI $$
(Zhufeng Lu; dishes Y10-30; h7.30am-
10.30pm;E) Theres a great ambience
inside this Nepali-run place, with monks
sipping butter tea under thangkas, as
travellers tuck into spicy Indian dishes.
Gongkar Tibetan Restaurant TIBETAN $
()||j;; Gngg Shn Miwi
Zngcntng; Xueqiang Lu; dishes Y10-20;E)
This popular local hang-out features the
standard momos and noodle dishes, in
addition to some easy-to-resist dishes
such as yak-tongue soup.
7 Shopping
The Tibetan market in front of the Tenzin
Hotel is a good place to pick up souvenirs
such as prayer wheels, rosaries and thang-
kas. There are also dozens of souvenir and
craft shops along Qingdao Lu. Bargain hard.
Tibet Gang Gyen Carpet Factory CARPETS
(j|j; Xzng Gngjin Dtn Chng;
www.tibetgang-gyencarpet.com; 9 Zhufeng Lu;
h9am-1pm & 3-7pm) This TibetanFrench
joint venture hires and trains impoverished
women to weave high-quality 100% Tibetan
wool carpets. You can watch carpets being
made on the premises and the factory will
ship internationally. The entrance is just east
of the Gang Gyan Shigatse Orchard Hotel.
8
Information
The cheapest places to make calls are the many
private telephone booths around town.
Bank of China (]||; Zhnggu Ynhng;
Shanghai Zhonglu; h9am-6.30pm Mon-Fri,
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Monastery
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Drlma Ri
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OLD TOWN
Main Bus
Station
Minibuses &
Taxis to Lhasa
Tibet-Shigatse
Regional People's
Hospital
Ticket
Booth
Tashilhunpo
Monastery
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Shigatse # e
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10am-5pm Sat & Sun) Changes travellers
cheques and cash and gives credit-card ad-
vances. Theres a 24-hour ATM outside.
China Post (]]]; Zhnggu Yuzhng; cnr
Shandong Lu & Zhufeng Lu; h9am-6.30pm)
China Telecom (]]; Zhnggu Dinxn;
Zhufeng Lu; h9am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 9.30am-
6.30pm Sat & Sun) Phone calls and fax service,
with an internet cafe (| wngb) above.
Public Security Bureau (PSB; ,);
Gngnj; Qingdao Lu; h9.30am-12.30pm &
3.30-6.30pm Mon-Fri) Group travellers headed
to Western Tibet may have to wait for their
guide to pick up a travel permit here.
Tin L Internet Bar (;|; Tinl
Wngb; Shandong Lu; per hr Y5; h24hr) Good
connection speeds and window seats for those
who need a little fresh air.
8
Getting There & Around
Currently all foreigners have to prearrange
transport as part of their tour. If this changes,
minibuses (six to seven hours) and shared taxis
(ve hours) leave for Lhasa from a stand on
Qingdao Lu on the eastern side of Shigatse.
Minivans and taxis to Gyantse run when full from
outside the main bus station and there are also
buses to Saga, Sakya, Lhatse and various other
points down the Friendship Highway.
A taxi anywhere in Shigatse costs Y10.
Shigatses Peace Airport, 50km east of the
city, is due to open in 2011.
SAKYA }
%0892 / ELEV 4280M
In the 13th century, the monastic town of
Sakya (Sji) emerged as an important
centre of scholarship. With Mongol military
support, the Sakya lamas became rulers of
all Tibet. Their rule was short-lived, but
Sakya remained a powerful municipality.
Even today the local colouring of build-
ings ash grey with red and white vertical
stripes symbolises both the Rigsum Gon-
po (the trinity of Bodhisattvas) and Sakya
authority.
1 Sights
Sakya Monastery MONASTERY
(admission Y45; h9am-6pm) The southern
section of the Sakya Monastery, built in
1268, is a massive fortresslike compound,
with high defensive walls. Inside, the
dimly lit assembly hall exudes a sanctity
few others can rival. The northern section
of the monastery, on the other side of the
Trum-chu (Trum River) has been mostly
reduced to picturesque ruins, though res-
toration work is ongoing and its worth
some exploration.
4Sleeping & Eating
Manasarovar Sakya Hotel HOTEL $$
(}|); Shnh Sji Bngun; %824
2222; Gesang Zhonglu; dm Y20-30, d/tr
Y280/380, discounts of 20-30%) There is a mix
of rooms in this rambling hotel; the ones
that overlook the road are probably best.
The thick walls keep the place cold and
dark but rooms are comfortable enough
and some have en suite hot showers. The
eight-bed dorm rooms are OK; one includes
a bathroom. There are superb views from
the hotels rooftop and good Western dishes
in the rather charmless restaurant.
Sakya Lowa Family Hotel GUESTHOUSE $
(},); Sji Zhn Lw Jitng
Lgun; %824 2156; Baogang Beilu; per person
Y50) The Lowa is a family-run guesthouse
with basic but clean rooms. Walls are
brightly painted and accented with trad-
itional motifs, but there are no showers. Its
east of the Manasarovar Sakya Hotel.
Sakya Monastery Restaurant
TIBETAN FOOD $
(};; Sji S Cntng; dishes Y7-15)
This restaurant is owned by the monas-
tery and serves up fried rice, thugpa and
steaming glasses of cha ngamo.
Shigatse
Top Sights
Tashilhunpo Monastery......................B3
Sights
1 Chrten ................................................A3
2 Festival Thangka Wall .........................A2
3 Mani Lhakhang .................................... C1
4 Mosque.................................................C2
5 Shigatse Dzong.................................... B1
Sleeping
6 Gang Gyan Shigatse Orchard
Hotel ..................................................B3
7 Tenzin Hotel ......................................... C1
Eating
8 Gongkar Tibetan Restaurant..............C2
9 Songtsen Tibetan Restaurant ............B3
Tenzin Restaurant ........................(see 7)
10 Third Eye Restaurant ..........................B3
Shopping
11 Tibet Gang Gyen Carpet Factory .......B3
12 Tibetan Market .................................... C1
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Getting There & Away
Sakya is 25km o the Friendship Highway. Most
people stay overnight at Sakya en route to the
Everest region. There is one daily minibus be-
tween Shigatse and Sakya.
RONGPHU MONASTERY
& EVEREST BASE CAMP

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Before heading to the Nepal border, or as part
of a ve-day excursion from Lhasa, many
travellers make the diversion to iconic Ever-
est Base Camp (EBC; 5150m). The clear vis-
tas (if you are lucky) up a glacial valley to the
sheer North Face are far superior to anything
youll see in Nepal. Everest is known locally
as Chomolungma (sometimes spelt Qomol-
angma), or as Zhfng in Chinese.
Private vehicles can drive on a gravel
road to Rongphu Monastery (the high-
est in the world), and then proceed just a
few kilometres more to a small collection
of nomad tents set near a China Post kiosk
(the highest post o ce in the world). From
here its a one-hour walk or shuttle-bus ride
(Y25) up a winding dirt road to EBC.
Food and lodging are pretty limited up
here (though the mobile phone reception is
great!). The Monastery Guesthouse (dm
Y40, tw per bed Y80) at Rongphu was under
renovation in 2010. The ugly two-star hotel
nearby is laughably overpriced. The most
popular option is to stay in the nomad
tents (per person Y40) and these actually
oer the warmest and most comfortable
bedding: those yak-dung stoves put out a
fantastic amount of heat! Even so, a sleep-
ing bag is an excellent idea. Simple meals
and even canned beer are available inside
all the tents. Keep your belongings locked
in your vehicle. Because EBC is a prime tar-
get for political protests, the Chinese army
maintains a strong presence up here.
EBC is about 90km o the Friendship
Highway on a dirt road over the 5050m
Pang-la. Before you set o youll need to
stop in Baber (Bib; )), or New Tingri;
4250m) or Old Tingri if coming from Ne-
pal to pay the Qomolangma National Park
entrance fee of Y400 per vehicle, plus Y180
per passenger. Clarify with your agency
whether you are expected to pay for both
your vehicle and your guide.
If you need to spend the night in Baber
the Kangjong Hotel (|); Xuy
Bngun; %139 8992 3995; d without/with bath-
room Y100/220) is one of several good op-
tions. The attached Tibetan-style restau-
rant (dishes Y10-15) serves tasty hot meals
and is a cosy place to kick back with a ther-
mos of sweet tea. The hotel is in the middle
of town at the crossroads to Shegar.
TINGRI TO ZHNGM


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The huddle of mudbrick buildings that
comprises the old village of Tingri (Dngr;
4250m) has recently expanded about a kilo-
metre down the Friendship Highway. The
views of the towering Himalayan peaks of
Mt Everest (8848m) and Cho Oyu (8153m)
across the sweeping plain make up for the
ramshackle feel.
Ruins on the hill overlooking Tingri are
all that remain of the Tingri Dzong. This
fort was destroyed in a late-18th-century
Nepalese invasion. Many more ruins on the
plains between Shegar and Tingri shared
the same history.
There are several Tibetan guesthouses
and restaurants on the main highway, in-
cluding the Tingri Snowland Hotel (
,j; Dngr Xuy Fndin; %152 0802 7313;
s/d Y60/70) in the far west of the strip, which
has great views. Rooms are basic but bright
and clean and there are hot showers (Y10).
From Tingri down to Zhngm on the
Nepal border is an easy half-days drive of
just under 200km. If you are coming the
other way you should break the trip into
two days to aid acclimatisation. The high-
est point along the paved road is the Tong-
la pass (4950m), 95km from Tingri.
The one-street town of Nyalam (Nilm)
is about 30km from the Nepal border and
a usual overnight spot for 4WD trips from
Nepal. There are several decent hotels, in-
cluding the new Shishapangma Guest-
house (||_); Xxibngm Lgun;
%0892-8277 2191; dm/tr Y40/200) located at
the very edge of town, at the top of the hill
on the Zhngm side.
After Nyalam, the road drops like a stone
into a lush, deep misty gorge lined with
spectacular waterfalls, many of which are
hundreds of metres high. You can feel the
air getting thicker as you descend towards
the subcontinent.
ZHNGM

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%0892 / ELEV 2250M
The frenetic border town of Zhngm
(Khasa in Nepalese, Dram in Tibetan)
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hangs from the slopes above the tortuous
nal kilometres of the Friendship Highway.
The smells of curry and incense oat in the
air, and the babbling sound of fast-owing
streams cuts through the tra c noise. After
time on the high plateau, its either a feast
for the senses, or an unwelcome assault on
the meditative mood youve been cultivat-
ing for the past weeks.
4Sleeping & Eating
Sherpa Hotel HOTEL $$
(];j; Xirb Jidin; %874 2098; d/
tr without bathroom Y80/120, d with bathroom
Y200) The pink-painted rooms are clean (if
a little small) at this friendly hotel and hot
water is available most of the time. The two
bars at street level can be noisy but the back
rooms remain fairly quiet. The rooms that
face the valley aord spectacular views.
The restaurant food is some of the best in
town (dishes Y15 to Y40).
Zhngm Bngun HOTEL $$$
(Z|); %874 2221; d/tr Y480/580, deluxe
r Y680, discounts of 15%) The modern rooms
in this government-run hotel are luxurious
by Tibetan standards, and the back rooms
have great mountain views, but its over-
priced and the management is a bit snooty.
Base Camp Restaurant INTERNATIONAL FOOD $$
(,7;; Dbnyng Cntng; Ground , Gang
Gyen Hotel; dishes Y20-45; h9am-midnight; E)
Looking a little like a Western sports bar
(except with oxygen tanks and climbing
gear instead of footballs and jerseys), this
popular establishment serves a full range
of Nepali, Chinese, Tibetan and Western
mains, including steaks and breakfast
foods. The curries are thick and delicious.
8
Information
The Bank of China (]||; Zhnggu Yn-
hng; h9.30am-1.30pm & 3.30-6.30pm Mon-
Fri, 11am-2pm Sat & Sun), up the hill, will change
cash and travellers cheques into yun, and also
yun into US dollars, euros or UK pounds if you
have an exchange receipt (ie the receipt you get
when you change foreign currency into yun). It
doesnt deal in Nepalese rupees; for those go to
the moneychangers that operate openly in front
of the Zhngm Hotel.
Western Tibet
Tibets far wild west, known in Tibetan as
Ngari, has few permanent settlers, but is
nevertheless a lodestone to a billion pilgrims
from three major religions (Buddhism, Hin-
duism and Jainism). They are drawn to the
twin spiritual power places of Mt Kailash
and Lake Manasarovar, two of the most
legendary and far-ung destinations in the
world.
Ngari is a blunt, expansive realm of salt
lakes, Martian-style deserts, grassy steppes
and towering snowcapped mountains. Its a
mesmerising landscape, but also intensely
remote: a few tents and herd of yaks may be
all the signs of human existence one comes
across in half a days drive. Its a week-long,
dusty, bumpy drive to Kailash but then,
perhaps some journeys shouldnt be too
easy.
Warm clothes are essential on any trip to
the region, even in summer, and a sleeping
bag is recommended. The three-day kora
around Mt Kailash can be done without a
tent but bringing one will give you added
exibility and comfort. Accommodation
along the way ranges from basic guest-
houses to chilly hotel rooms. Few have at-
tached bathrooms but most towns have
at least one public bathhouse. Most towns
now have well-stocked supermarkets, inter-
net cafes and Chinese restaurants, though
its still worth bringing along a few treats,
such as peanuts, chocolate bars and dehy-
drated food from home.
The only places to change money in
Ngari are banks in Ali, and its much easier
to change US dollars as cash rather than
travellers cheques. Its best just to bring
what you expect to spend in renminbi.
When to Go
May, June and from mid-September to
early October are probably the best times
for travel in the region. During the sum-
mer months of July and August rains can
temporarily wash out roads. The Drlma-
la pass on the Mt Kailash kora is usually
blocked with snow from late October or
early November until early April. The fes-
tival of Saga Dawa (see p 885 ) during May
or June brings hundreds of pilgrims and
tourists to the mountain.
Permits
Youll need a stful of permits to visit
Ngari: a TTB permit, Alien Travel Permit,
military permit, foreign aairs permit etc.
The travel agency that organises your 4WD
trip will arrange these but will need a week,
preferably two, to do so.
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Getting There & Away
Four- wheel-drive trips to Mt Kailash require
around 14 days if just taking the southern route,
or 21 days for a loop combining both the north-
ern and southern routes. Add on three days to
explore the Guge Kingdom at Tsaparang. One
good option is to exit at Zhngm, detouring
from Saga to the Friendship Highway via the lake
of Peiku-tso.
There is bus service along the northern route
from Lhasa to Ali and on to Ychng in Xnjing
but foreigners are not permitted to take these.
SOUTHERN ROUTE
From Lhasa there are two routes to Ngari,
the southern being the quicker option if
youre headed straight for Mt Kailash. Both
routes follow the paved Friendship Highway
as far as the town of Lhatse (; Lz),
where there are several hotels, including
the Lhatse Tibetan Farmers Hotel (
([); Lz Nngmi Lgun; %832 2333; d
without/with bathroom Y35/130), which also
features a cosy Tibet-style restaurant.
After Lhatse, both routes continue on a
mostly paved road to the hamlet of Raga.
After this the routes split, with the south-
ern one heading directly northwest towards
Darchen. There are simple guesthouses
(dm Y30) in Raga but most groups continue
60km to the larger military town of Saga
(}; Sg), which has internet cafes and
hot public showers. The Saga Hotel (}
|); Sg Bngun; %0892-820 2888; d/tr with
bathroom Y420/360; ai) is right at the town
crossroads and has hot showers and West-
ern bathrooms. Tibetan guesthouses such
as the cosy Bo Tie The Clan Hotel (Bodo
Dronkhang; ]]); Bzh Jiz Lgun;
dm Y30 per bed) are a 10-minute walk (800m)
north of the centre.
Once the current road upgrading has n-
ished you will be able to reach Darchen in
one long day (490km) from Saga but until
then most groups split the bouncy, scenic
ride into two days. This also helps with the
acclimatisation process. After Lhatse you
never drop below 4000m.
In grubby Paryang (; Pyng),
the Shishapangma Hotel (||_|);
Xxibngm Bngun; dm/d per bed Y40/100) is
popular with Indian pilgrims. The central
Tashi Hotel (]); Zhx Lgun; dm Y30)
is a smaller, simpler Tibetan-style place.
From Paryang to Darchen is 245km.
NORTHERN ROUTE
The northern route splits from the south-
ern at the little hamlet of Raga, heading
almost due north. From here its 3 days
to Ali and then another day to Darchen, but
the reward for the extra mileage is pass-
ing through some of the most epic scenery
on the planet. There are vast grasslands,
massive turquoise salt lakes, dry-as-bones
badlands, and mountain ranges coloured
purple, red and green. Small herds of wild
asses and Tibetan antelope are often spot-
ted near the road, as are yak and sheep and
their nomad herders.
After Raga, its a full days drive (235km)
to Tsochen (|{; Cuqn), via spectacu-
lar Tagyel-tso. The Friendship Feria Hotel
(j|); Yuy Bngun; %0897-261 2308; d/
tr/q without bathroom Y120/150/200) is at the
beginning of town on the left, before the
petrol station. Rooms are clean and theres
BORDER CROSSING: GETTING TO NEPAL
After lling in an exit and health form at Chinese immigration (h9.30am-6.30pm,
sometimes closed 1.30-3.30pm) in Zhngm, access to Nepal is via the Friendship
Bridge and Kodari, around 8km below Zhngm. Your 4WD should take you the dis-
tance, or cars and trucks oer rides across this stretch of no mans land for Y10.
At Nepali immigration (h8.30am-4pm) in Kodari, you can get a visa for the same
price as in Lhasa (US$25/40/100 for a 15-/30-/90-day visa, or the equivalent in ru-
pees, plus one passport photo), though it is sensible to get one beforehand in Lhasa just
to be safe; see p 890 for details. Note that Nepal is 2 hours behind Chinese time.
There are four daily buses to Kathmandu (Rs 240 to Rs 280, 4 hours) the
1.30pm is express or take a bus to Barabise (Rs 65, three hours) and change. The
easier option is to share a private vehicle with other travellers. Drivers will be outside
immigration waiting to haggle. A ride to Kathmandu (four to ve hours) costs Rs 3000
per car (Rs 800 per seat) but youll struggle to nd a driver after 5pm.
For further information, head to shop.lonelyplanet.com to purchase a download-
able PDF of the Kathmandu chapter from Lonely Planets Nepal guide.
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plenty of hot and cold water in drums, with
outside pit toilets. The town has electricity
between 7pm and 1am. You will have to reg-
ister at the local PSB o ce.
After Tsochen its a shorter days drive
to Gertse ([; Giz), a dull town, where
most 4WD groups stay in the Xnqxing
Zhodisu (](||]; r without bath-
room Y120), with spacious rooms for one
to four people, all at the same price. There
are plenty of good Schun and Muslim
restaurants on the main strip and a couple
of public showers (],; lny; showers
Y10). On the southern outskirts is a long
strip of photogenic whitewashed chrtens
and prayer ags that draws pilgrims in the
evening.
After Gertse the next stop is Gegye (
; Gj), a midsized army town where the
best place to stay is the Shul Bngun (
]|); %0897-263 2146; cnr Yanhu Lu & Hebei
Lu; r Y100), with clean rooms and shared in-
door squat toilets.
ALI

From Gegye to Ali (l), the largest town in


Ngari, its only a few hours drive along the
infant Indus River, but most groups spend
the night in Ali to freshen up after many days
without showers, and stock up on supplies.
The Agricultural Bank of China (]
(||; Zhnggu Nngy Ynhng; h10am-
7pm Mon-Fri), near the army post, west of
the roundabout, will change US dollars,
euros and UK pounds (cash only) and has
an ATM. Gsng Wngchng (|,;
Shiquanhe Zhonglu; per hr Y10; h24hr) east of
the roundabout, oers internet access.
Half a kilometre east of the tra c circle,
the decent Shnh Bngun (|);
%136-3897 7982; s/d without bathroom Y50/80,
s/d with bathroom Y150/140) is a good rst
choice, owned by the Yak Hotel in Lhasa. The
Heng Yuan Guesthouse (jj|); Hngyun
Bngun; %282 8288; s/d with bathroom Y120/140,
tr without bathroom Y150) on the main round-
about has decent rooms in the main building
(avoid the back courtyard rooms) but chaotic
management. The PSB usually prevents for-
eigners from staying in the cheaper hotels.
For a taste of Central Asia, head to the
popular Uighur restaurant (ashkhana in
Turkic), 100m north of the main round-
about, for great nan bread, suoman (fried
noodle squares) and mutton kebabs.
Alis Kunsha airport opened in 2010,
about 50km south of the city, with two or
three weekly ights to Lhasa (Y2400) and
on to Chngd.
MT KAILASH


|,
Known in Tibetan as Kang Rinpoche, or
Precious Jewel of Snow, the hulking pyra-
midal shaped Mt Kailash (Gng Rnbzhi
Fng; 6714m) seldom needs to be pointed
out to travellers: it just dominates the land-
scape. For Buddhists, Kailash is the abode
of Demchok, a wrathful manifestation of
Sakyamuni. For Hindus it is the domain of
Shiva, the Destroyer and Transformer.
Its not hard to see why Kailash became
associated long ago with the myth of a great
mountain, the navel of the world. A little
more surprising is that this mountain was
said to be the source of the four major rivers
of Asia: and most astonishing that the leg-
ends are more or less true. The drainage sys-
tem around Kailash and Lake Manasarovar
is in fact the source of the Karnali (a major
tributary of the Ganges), the Brahmaputra,
ALTITUDE SICKNESS
Altitude sickness (or acute mountain sickness, AMS) is no joke and it is quite com-
mon to discover that the nice travellers you met on the way into Lhasa have left the
next day, sick as a dog (or worse) from the change in altitude. While medicines such
as Diamox can certainly help (see p 1013 ), its best to avoid shocking your system, by
rising in altitude gradually.
The train allows for slightly better acclimatisation than the ight but most people
experience only minor symptoms (headaches, breathlessness) when ying in to
Lhasa (3600m), as long as they take things easy for their rst couple of days. The key
is to ascend gradually, preferably less than 500m per day. Spend up to a week in and
around Lhasa before heading to higher elevations like Nam-tso or Western Tibet and
dont even think about heading straight to Everest Base Camp (5150m) from Kath-
mandu (1300m), even if you stay overnight in Nyalam (3750m) en route.
If you are really concerned about AMS, spend some time at higher elevations in
western Schun or Nepal before travelling to Lhasa.
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Indus and Sutlej Rivers. A visit to Kailash
puts you squarely in one of the geographical
and spiritual centres of the world.
2 Activities
Many pilgrims are often happy enough just to
gaze at the southern face of Kailash (scarred
in such a way that it resembles a swastika
a Buddhist and Hindu symbol of spiritual
strength). But for Tibetans and most foreign
travellers the purpose of coming here is to
complete a kora around the mountain.
The kora begins in grubby Darchen (,
|; Trqn; 4560m), and takes (on aver-
age) three days to complete (though most
Tibetans do it in one long 15-hour day).
The kora is not a climb to the top, but a
walk around the central peak. The highest
point is the 5630m Drlma-la pass, though
no point is below 4600m.
The rst day is a 20km walk (six to
seven hours) from Darchen to Dira-puk
Monastery. The ascent is minimal, which
allows you to take your time and enjoy the
otherworldly landscape of the Lha-chu
river valley. The second day is the hardest,
as it involves the ascent to the Drlma-la
pass, the steep descent down the pass to
the Lham-chu Khir river valley, and hike
to the Zutul-puk Monastery. Expect to take
eight hours or more to complete this 18km
stretch. The nal day is a relatively simple
14km (three hours) walk back to Darchen.
Any reasonably t and acclimatised per-
son should be able to complete the three-
day walk, but come prepared with warm
and waterproof clothing and equipment.
Local guides and porters are available in
Darchen for Y120 a day. Larger groups often
hire yaks to carry their supplies.
Travellers must register with the Public
Security Bureau (PSB; ,); Gngnj) in
Darchen and pay Y200 for a joint Kailash
and Manasarovar entry fee.
4Sleeping & Eating
At the end of each days walk there is accom-
modation (Y40 to Y60) at the local monas-
teries or in a nearby guesthouse, though its
advisable to carry a tent if walking during
July and August or the popular Saga Dawa
festival. Instant noodles, tea and beer are
available at nomad tents along the way, but
bring hot drinks and snacks with you.
Most travellers spend a night in Darchen
before and after the kora. Guesthouses oer
basic accommodation (no running water,
outdoor pit toilets). There are a couple of
supermarkets and a public shower; internet
might be available by the time you read this.
Pilgrim Hotel GUESTHOUSE
(|); Choshng Bngun; %0897-298
0833; dm Y60; i) Donates part of its prof-
its to local monasteries.
Lhasa Holyland Guesthouse GUESTHOUSE
(}jj); Ls Shngd Kngsng
Lgun; %139-8907 0818; dm Y60-70) Houses
the local PSB office.
Darchen Aid the Poor Programme Hotel
TIBETAN FOOD
(,][||); Trqng Lmn Fpn
Bngun; mains Y10-25) This cosy Tibetan-
style restaurant is our favourite place to
eat; also has decent rooms.
LAKE MANASAROVAR


),!)
After their kora, most travellers head to
Lake Manasarovar (Mpng Xingcu), or
Mapham Yum-tso (Victorious Lake) in Tibet-
an, to rest and gaze across the sapphire-blue
waters at a perfect snowcapped mountain
backdrop. The lake is the most venerated in
Tibet, and has its own ve-day kora.
Picturesque Chiu village, sight of the
Chiu Monastery, overlooks the northwest-
ern shore of the lake, and here youll nd a
half-dozen identical friendly guesthouses
(dm Y50), some right down at the waters
edge. Basic meals are available.
THE LOST KINGDOM OF
GUGE
One worthwhile detour from either Ali
or Darchen is to the surreal ruins of the
Guge Kingdom at Tsaparang (admis-
sion Y200). The ruins, which seem to
grow like a honeycomb out of the bar-
ren hills, were once the centre of one
of Tibets most prosperous kingdoms.
The tunnels and caves are great fun to
explore and the chapels oer superb
examples of Kashmiri-inuenced
mural art. A trip here will add three
days to your itinerary, but is worth it
to see some outstanding scenery and
one of Asias little-known wonders.
From either Ali or Darchen its a
days drive to Zanda (]; Zhd),
the nearest town to Tsaparang (18km
away), and home to spectacular
Thling Monastery.
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