Jokhang Temple is located in Barkhor Square. The beauty of this building comes from its mixture of different architectural styles, including Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese designs. The temple was built on a former lake, which, according to legend, was converted into land just to build the temple. It is home to one of only three statues of Sakyamuni, thus giving it even deeper spiritual meaning for Tibetan Buddhists. Many devotees will come here every year to make the pilgrimage around the temple.
In the streets surrounding the temple and inside it, you will find quite a mixture of people. Many Tibetan monks line the streets, and other devoted Buddhists from across Tibet and beyond are here to visit the site. Along with spiritually minded Tibetans, you will see tourists snapping pictures, and locals selling wares in the streets. The quiet hubbub of the city is inflected with a deep tone of spirituality, making this a truly unique site.
Sera Monastery, Lhasa
The Sera Monastery is the last of the three principal Yellow Sect monasteries built in Lhasa. The setting itself is very beautiful with cobbled alleyways, temples and colleges. The highlight of visiting Sera Monastery will be watching monks debating inside the shady courtyard behind the main temple. Every day, hundreds of red-robed monks assemble in small groups and practice their debating skills. Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, Sera Monastery is one of the great three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The original Sera Monastery was in Lhasa, about 5 km north of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Sera Monastery once housed more than 5,000 monks in 1959. Although badly damaged, it is still standing and has been largely repaired.
Another of Lhasa’s many monasteries, Ganden Monastery lies on Wangbur Mountain on the southern banks of the Lhasa River. Almost 50 kilometers from Lhasa city center, it is one of the earliest monasteries to be built in Tibet, constructed in the early years of the 15th century. Another of the Great Three monasteries of the Gelugpa School, it is one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, surrounded by the six ancient temples of Gelugpa.
This monastery’s name literally means “treasure garden,” or "jeweled park" and it certainly lives up to expectations. Norbulingka is home to Tibet’s largest man-made garden, and it truly is a treasure trove of beauty. Its enormous size came through several expansion projects which were instituted by a series of Dalai Lamas. Norbulingka is considered the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as several incarnations would come to Norbulingka every summer. The monastery is an ideal destination for those who appreciate the beauty of man-made creations alongside the wonders of the natural world.
Norbulingka also hosts performances, including a Tibetan Opera, making it the ideal cultural stop on a number of levels. Enjoy the bustle of activity that takes place during performances, but do not forget to appreciate the beauty of nature. Wandering through Norbulingka’s gardens provides the perfect place to commune with nature. It is ideal for relaxing and meditating, thus allowing you to get in touch with your spiritual side, whether you are a Buddhist or not.
Drigung Til Monastery
Founded in 1179, Drigung Til Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Tibet and has been the main seat of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism since it was constructed. Located in Maizhokunggar County, around 132 kilometers east-northeast of the Tibetan capital, the monastery is said to have the best sky-burial ceremony in Tibetan Buddhism. Sitting at an altitude of 4,465 meters above sea level, it is said that the bodies of the dead here will not fall down to the three bad regions after the ceremony.
While the idea of seeing a sky-burial may be to some people’s liking, viewing of the actual ceremony by visitors is forbidden, and the area where the sky burials take place is fenced off and surrounded by a multitude of prayer flags.