This post is Part Two of the Lhasa, Tibet, series and focuses on things to do in the city.
I was spoiled for choice on what attractions to visit in Lhasa. I therefore have selected the following highlights so that you do not miss out on the best attractions.
Read more for an in-depth guide on The Potala Palace, Norbulinka Summer Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkor Market, Tibetan Medicine Hospital and Sera Monastery.
This immense structure is the most recognised landmark in Lhasa. I found it amazing standing where the Dalai Lama stood many years ago before he fled to India.
The palace was the main residence of the 14th Dalai Lama before he fled to Dharamsala, India in 1959, during the Tibetan uprising. It also served as the seat of the Tibetan government.
Today it is a museum and pilgrimage sight. When visiting the Palace you can still witness Tibetans prostrating outside.
Potala Palace is built on red hill in the centre of Lhasa valley. It is composed of the white palace and the red palace.
The red palace is in the centre and contains the Dalai Lamas shrines; it is also dedicated to religious studies and Buddhist prayer. Office functions are carried out in the white palace and it is the area that houses the Dalai Lamas living quarters.
Be prepared for the climb up, as the altitude makes it a strenuous climb!
07:30 – 18:40 (May 1st to October 31st)
09:00 – 16:40 (November 1st to April 30th)
09:00 – 17:00 (ticket reservation time)
It’s worth noting that only a few thousand tickets are issued daily. Therefore visit the palaces’ ticket office before the day of your visit. The office will give you a number and a time to return the next day to purchase your ticket. Be sure to visit the ticket office even sooner to learn of any changes to the procedures.
Warning: No photography is allowed.
Norbulingka Summer Palace
I had a wonderful day visiting this palace. Visiting the “summer” palace during a snow storm made the visit even more interesting!
Norbulinka is a beautiful palace with stunning grounds, a pond and a zoo. The palace served as the summer residence for the 14th Dalai Lama before he fled to India. Walking through the palace you will view some really interesting areas such as the room that the Dalai Lama slept in and the actual bed that he slept on. You will also pass through his meditation room, bathroom and conference room!
The area is so serene and beautiful that I could completely understand why the Dalai Lama wanted to spend so much time here.
The palace is located a mile west of the Potala Palace and is open between 9am-12pm and then from 3pm to 4pm
Admission Fee is CNY 60
Jokhang is the most sacred temple in Lhasa, and is located in Barkhor square. This is a major area of pilgrimage and you can see pilgrims prostrating at the entrance and also circling the temple. The main attraction in the temple is the golden Buddha, followed by the gorgeous architecture of the temple.
In the afternoon you can even see monks debating on the second floor.
Once you have seen the temple go to the rooftop to get a wonderful view of Barkor square, Potala Palace and Lhasa City.
Opening Hours: 09:00 to 18:00
Admission Fee: CNY 85
Barkhor Street Market
The market fills the square and a series of narrow streets. You will find many stalls selling everything from meditation beads, Tibetan clothes, Yak wool sweaters and jewellery. One of the best things to buy are Thangkas. Thangkas are Tibetan silk paintings with embroidery that usually depicts a Buddhist scene. Bargaining with the vendors is largely practiced.
Take some time to see Barkhor square where you can see the pilgrims circling Jokhang temple. It is very moving seeing them walk around the temple with their prayer wheels. If you join them be sure to follow in a clockwise direction!
After sightseeing you can go to one of the rooftop restaurants and watch the activity of the square and market.
Tibetan Medicine Hospital
I found the Tibetan Medicine Hospital extremely interesting. The Tibetan Hospital is the centre of training, production, treatment and research of Tibetan medicine. It is infact the largest traditional Tibetan Medicine production centre in China.
The Hospital is located in Barkor square, west of Jokhang temple.
As you walk through the hospital you will see Thangkas hanging on the wall depicting surgical procedures, blood circulation and human anatomy. These are used as training materials. You can also take a look at the medical instruments that are in use. A highlight for me was talking to a Tibetan Doctor. He was able to diagnose a medical condition only by appearance, viewing the tongue and taking a pulse!
This is a major tourist attraction in Lhasa that is located a mile north of the city. Sera Monastery is a complex of structures with a main hall and three colleges. It is a well known area to view debating Lamas.
After entering a small garden I was greeted with a sea of red; a large number of monks in their maroon sarongs passionately debating. It’s fascinating to watch their physical gestures puncturing their every remark, and clapping after each question. It got quite heated at times! Debating is a large part of the learning process for the monks at Sera Monastery.
The Lamas usually start debating in the garden for an hour from 3pm on Monday to Friday.
The fee to enter is CNY 55.
Of course there is so much more to see and do in Lhasa, but by seeing the above attractions you have not missed out on the best.
Next post is the last in the Lhasa series, and offers tips and advice on visiting the city.