Located deep within the confines of the world’s tallest mountains, Tibet offers spectacular vistas, crystal-clear mountain lakes, and spiritual awakening. For years it was known as a forbidden paradise, and wild rumors circulated in the west about the hidden treasures to be found there. After a long and tragic invasion by the Chinese, Tibet was finally opened up to the world in 1980. Tibet has changed drastically since then. Modern resorts and restaurants have become common, and there are often more tourists than locals to be found. Nevertheless, Tibet is still one of the most remarkable and dramatic places on earth. Here are five spots you won’t want to miss:
Tour the monasteries
Spiritual journeys to Tibet are common. There is a peace and thoughtfulness here that seems to come easy. Perhaps the mountains bring Tibet closer to god. Tibet is famous world-wide for its cliff-hugging, lonely monasteries. Legend has it that Yumbulagang was the first palace, maybe even the first building, to be constructed in Tibet. It became a monastery during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. It was damaged during the Chinese invasion, but has since been rebuilt. The Ki Monastery has been around for at least a thousand years. Like many Tibetan monasteries, it is located on top of a mountain. This monastery has also been heavily damaged and rebuilt. There are hundreds of others worth visiting, all with their own charms, stunning architecture, and dramatic views.
Trek into the mountains
Depending on the weather and your comfort level with physical activity, a trek into the mountains can get you into the heart of Tibetan culture and scenery. From rugged mountainous trails, to easy, day-long jaunts on wooded paths, there is something for everyone here.
The Monkey Cave
The sacred monkey cave is located at the top of the Gangpo Ri Mountain. A day-long, challenging hike will take you through some of Tibet’s most amazing landscapes. The “monkey” is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Ancient paintings alongside the monkey are fascinating cultural artifacts demonstrating the spiritual significance of the cave and mountain itself.
The Potala Palace, located in Lhasa is not to be missed. Lhasa itself is a cultural center in Tibet and full of exciting experiences, shopping, and dining. The Potala Palace has been home to the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century. It is a massive building, housing many cultural artifacts from Tibet’s tumultuous history.
This clear mountain lake is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. Manasarovar, like many places found in this region has deep spiritual significance. It is often the destination of pilgrimages made by Buddhists, who bathe in the frigid water to wash away their sins. The scenery here is spectacular and the atmosphere peaceful, despite the popularity of the lake and surrounding mountains. Although Lake Manasarovar and the surrounding mountains are located in a remote corner of Tibet, they are not to be missed.
The people in Tibet are welcoming and friendly, the scenery is breathtaking, and the history fascinating. A visit to Tibet is truly a life-changing experience.