1. Explore the Potala Palace
The magnificent Potala Palace, once the seat of the Tibetan government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas, is Lhasa's cardinal landmark. Your first sight of its towering, fortress-like walls is a moment you'll remember for years. An architectural wonder even by modern standards, the palace rises 13 storeys from 130m-high Marpo Ri (Red Hill) and contains more than 1000 rooms. Pilgrims and tourists alike shuffle open-mouthed through the three storeys, past the dozens of magnificent chapels, golden stupas and prayer halls.
The Potala Palace is a symbol of Tibet. The majestic white and red building complex, set against grey/green mountains and blue sky, is an iconic image of the Roof of the World. It is a huge treasure house of materials and articles from Tibetan history, religion, culture, and art. The palace is widely known for its precious sculptures, Buddha statues, murals, antiques, and religious jewelry housed within. It is the must-see attraction that is included in almost all Tibet tour itineraries. The number of travelers to the palace is limited each day to protect the building complex. Visiting time for the Potala is limited to one hour per tour group.
2. See the Pilgrims at Jokhang Temple
The 1300-year-old Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet: the continuous waves of awestruck pilgrims prostrating themselves outside are a testament to its timeless allure. The central golden Buddha image here is the most revered in all of Tibet.
Jokhang Temple is the most sacred temple for Tibetan People. Pilgrims travel from all over Tibet to their spiritual focal point. They prostrate themselves in front of the temple and circle around the temple clockwise. No Tibet tour is complete without visiting Jokhang Temple. The temple with Potala Palace is the most classic attraction in Lhasa.
3. Watch Monks Debate at Sera Monastery
Sera Monastery was one of Lhasa’s two great Gelugpa monasteries, second only to Drepung. Its once-huge population of around 5000 monks has now been reduced by 90% and building repairs are still continuing. Nevertheless, the monastery is worth a visit, particularly in the morning, when the chapels are at their most active, but also between 3 pm and 5 pm (not Sunday), when debating is usually held in the monastery’s debating courtyard. Chapels start to close at 3pm, so it makes sense to see the monastery chapels before heading to the debating.
Watching monks debate scriptures at Sera Monastery is a highlight considered not-to-be-missed by many travelers. The monks in their traditional red robes gather at the monastery courtyard each afternoon. During a debate, they may jump or make many other interesting gestures. It is really interesting to watch. Note that the monk debates don't take place on Sundays.
4. Visit Samye Monastery
About 170km southeast of Lhasa, on the north bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River) is Samye Monastery, the first monastery in Tibet. Founded in 775 by King Trisong Detsen, Samye is famed not just for its pivotal history but for its unique mandala design: the Main Hall, known as Ütse, represents Mt Meru, the centre of the universe, while the outer temples represent the oceans, continents, subcontinents and other features of the Buddhist cosmology. Inside the monastery there are numerous frescos, sculptures, and prayer wheels. The monastery is set in a valley surrounded by barren mountains and sand dunes. The scenery around is austerely striking.
5. Gaze at the Beauty of Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake, one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet, with the other two being Namtso Lake and Lake Manasarovar. It is the largest inland lake on the northern foot of Himalayas with a surface altitude of 4,441 meters. Yamdrok is reputed for its beautiful and charming scenery of the pure lake, snow mountains, islands, vast pastures. Yamdrok Lake will take your breath away with its stunning scenery. On clear days it is a fabulous shade of deep turquoise. On the lakeside, there are Tibetan villages and fields of yaks. It is a refreshing experience to see a lake after the cultural experiences of Lhasa. The lake is 2 hours' drive from Lhasa, on the way from Lhasa to Shigatse.
6. Set Foot on the Everest Base Camp
Mount Everest is many travelers’ dream. Although Mount Everest is attractive, and to see it closely is every traveler's dream, the trip is not suitable for the faint-hearted. Everest Base Camp (5150m) was first used by the 1924 British Everest expedition. Tourists aren't allowed to visit the expedition tents a few hundred metres away, but sometimes (if it's open) you can clamber up the small hill festooned with prayer flags for great views of the star attraction. Most people have their photo taken at the ‘Mt Qomolangma Base Camp’ marker, which indicates that you are at 5200m above sea level.
7. Appreciate Tibetan Architecture at Tashilhunpo Monastery
One of the few monasteries in Tibet to weather the stormy seas of the Cultural Revolution, Tashilhunpo remains relatively unscathed. It is a pleasure to explore the cobbled lanes twisting around its aged buildings. Covering 70,000 sq metres, the monastery is now the largest functioning religious institution in Tibet – home to around 950 monks – and one of its great monastic sights. The huge golden statue of the Future Buddha is the largest gilded statue in the world.