5 Places to Visit in Tibet
Once an independent kingdom, Tibet has fallen under the rule of The Peopleâ€™s Republic of China during the 1950s. Despite numerous problems regarding the countryâ€™s autonomy and culture, this sacred land still has a lot to offer its visitors. Here are five destinations you have to check out while visiting Tibet:
One of the worldâ€™s most amazing architectural works, Potala Palace is the cream of Tibetan craftsmanship. Its construction began in the 7th century, after King Songtsen Gampo’s marriage, and it became a place for meditation. In the 17th century, the 5th Dalai Lama rebuilt it to its present size and since then it has become the Winter Palace of all the Dalai Lamas.
Build atop the Red Hill, Potala Palace rises 117 meters into the air, stretches 400 meters from east to west, 350 meters from north to south and contains over 1,000 rooms, 20,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. Itâ€™s built entirely out of stone and timber, on a copper foundation that makes it earthquake-proof and its upper-most levels are covered by golden roofs.
Drepung is the largest monastery in Tibet, and, at its peak, it was considered the largest monastery in the world. It was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelukpa School.
Drepung Monastery was one of the best schools of the Middle-Ages and during the 1930s it housed over 10,000 monks from all regions of Asia. After the Chinese invasion and the persecution that followed, many of them retreated to India where they started a new monastery. Now only a few hundred monks remain at Drepung, but its history makes it a popular attraction.
Known as the â€œnorthern highlandsâ€ or â€œno manâ€™s landâ€, Qiangtang Plains covers two thirds of Tibet. It might seem like a desolate land where no creature could survive, but this is where rare animals like the â€œplateau boatâ€ Yak and the endangered Tibetan antelope roam free.
Qiangtang is the perfect place to observe the simple but happy life of the Tibetan people. The herdsmen in the area spend their time working hard and singing traditional songs, while trying to survive in a very harsh environment.
Located in the center of Lhasa, Johkang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet, and all Buddhist pilgrims consider it the holiest destination in the country. It was built in the year 647 AD by architects from Tibet, Nepal and China and features elements from all three styles. Johkangâ€™s three-leafed roof offers a splendid view of Potala palace and many other beautiful parts of Lhasa.
Situated at 4,718 meters above sea-level, Namtso Lake is the highest salt lake in the world. Namtso is one of the three holy lakes of Tibet and its five uninhabited islands were used by pilgrims for meditation. They would cross the frozen waters of the lake at the end of winter, carrying food with them, and they would remain there until the following winter, with no means of reaching the mainland.
Namtso Lake is a sacred destination for Tibetan Buddhists and thousand of them gather here on the Tibetan New Year to pray and worship.