The magnificent Potala Palace dominates the city of Lhasa. It contains the winter quarters of the Dalai Lama, the jewel-encrusted gold and silver stupas of previous Dalai Lamas as well as numerous grand staterooms and many important chapels. There are many superb statues, mandalas, murals and thangkas to see within the chapels of this imposing palace. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was only built in the 17th century. The Jokhang is the spiritual heart of the city and its visit is a must when travelling to Tibet. It is surrounded by the Barkhor and pilgrims from all over Tibet come to complete a circumambulation of this famous and fascinating market. Here you can find everything from prayer flags to jewel-encrusted yak skulls and it is considered good luck to walk around the Barkhor before entering the Jokhang temple. The Jokhang is the holiest Gompa in Tibet. Shuffle among the pilgrims and enjoy the atmosphere of this amazing place, where the smell of thousands of butterlamps fills the air. The Jokhang, which was built in 647 AD by the great king Songsten Gampo, contains the serene and sacred statue of Jowo Sakyamuni, which is believed to be a likeness of the Buddha when he was 12 years old. The Sera monastery is one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet, renowned for its lively debating sessions in the courtyard in the afternoons. The monastery houses several hundred monks, who live and study within its whitewashed walls and golden roofs. Another monastery to see is the Dreprung, which was founded in the 14th century and with a population of around 10,000 monks it used to be the largest Gompa in the world. These days the figure has been reduced to several hundred but there is still much of interest to see here. Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, lies in a quiet and beautiful garden. One particular mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas. The rooms have remained as they were when the Dalai Lama left in 1959. Here you can also see where Heinrich Harrer ("Seven Years in Tibet") lived and taught English, as well as the cars which the Great 13th Dalai Lama imported to Tibet.
Tashilhunpo Monastery is one of the largest functioning Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls. It contains the world's largest brass statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is over 80 feet tall and has extremely delicate features. Tashilhunpo is also the traditional residence of the Panchen Lama, second only in religious importance to the Dalai Lama himself. We'll also visit the fascinating local market here, where you will need to bargain hard with the Tibetan stall keepers. GYANTSE In the town of Gyantse, we'll visit the Gyantse Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum. The Dzong is a fort dating back to the 14th century and the views of both Gyantse itself and the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley. It was here that the Tibetans bravely fought the British invasion by Colonel Younghusband in 1904, at the height of British colonial aspirations in Asia. The Mandala-shaped Kumbum is a large gold-domed stupa and its many small chapels house an impressive array of Tibetan Buddhist murals. The Kumbum is a veritable maze of dark rooms, ceremonial masks and paintings.
EVEREST BASE CAMP
The northern Everest Base Camp is one of the highlights for adventure travellers in Tibet and it provides stunning views of the Everest massif, as well as Makalu and Shishapangma. The spectacular Rongbuk glacier forms part of the amazing panorama you will be able to enjoy from your tent. Rongbuk monastery, which was founded in 1902 around a series of meditation caves which had been in use for over 400 years, is the last hint of civilization in this area. The lama here traditionally blesses all expeditions aiming for the summit of Mt. Everest. The trek to Advance Base Camp provides even more incredible views and a real sense of the awesome grandeur of this mountain. KAILASH Mount Kailash is 6,714m high and with its four sheer walls and snow capped peak it is an awe-inspiring sight. Shaped like a diamond it is venerated among peaks like an eight-pedalled lotus. It also has geographical significance as four great rivers flow from it: the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau. However, it is most famous for its religious significance; Kailash is an object of devout pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus, who believe it is the abode of the Gods.
LAKE MANSAROVAR Lake
Manasarovar is situated approximately 30km from Mt. Kailash and is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. This beautiful and sacred lake is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed that bathing in the holy (and cold) waters will cleanse one's sins. With views to Gurla Mandhata (7,728m) this is a place of serene beauty. On the northwest shore of the lake is the picturesque Chiu Monastery.
YARLUNG AND TSEDANG
Yarlung and Tsethang are known as the Valley of Tombs and the cradle of Tibetan civilization. The Tibetans believe they were born of a monkey and an ogress, and Tsethang is the home of the mysterious Monkey Cave. The old earth tombs of the great ancient Tibetan kings, including Songsten Gampo, scatter the plains in the highest royal graveyard in the world. You will also see small but charming temples containing statues of Songten Gampo, his wives and ministers. This area also boasts Tibet's oldest building, constructed in the 2nd century. Yambu Lakhang was built for the first Tibetan king Nyatri Tsenpo and is perched high in the mountains overlooking the plains. Once used as a summer palace by Songsten Gampo, it was converted to a monastery after he moved the capital to Lhasa. The Yarlung Tsedang Po canyon is the largest in the world, a magnificent gorge set amongst lush forests. This area is home to many rare and beautiful species of flora and fauna, including blue sheep, kiang (Tibetan donkey), and magnificent rhododendron forests.