Your Guide to Travelling to Tibet

What do you imagine when someone mentions Tibet?

Well, we know how the “Roof of the World” looks like in popular imagination. Seclusion. Peaceful yaks. Chanting monks in vermillion and saffron robes. A place that captures your senses. And then leaves you with new discoveries about you and the world itself. In fact, Tibet is much more than that. Yes, you’ll encounter everything found in pictures and videos online. But there are things no smartphone can capture.

An example of how Tibetan civilization honors the gods through temples.

Tibetan masks with various colors hanging on a door in Lhasa

Tibet is unique in its geography, culture, and biology. The history spans thousands of years back to the Neolithic. Throughout the vast times, Tibetans created a stunning civilization. You can’t find Tibet anywhere else on our planet. It’s there and waiting for you. If you have an adventurous spirit, then this is your next destination. Planning a trip consumes time. And some places need more effort than others. Tibet isn’t suitable for a spontaneous, book-a-day-before type of vacation.

You may wonder when is the best time to visit Tibet? Or how to book a perfect Tibet tour? Plus, what’s the deal with the Tibet permit? Don’t worry, we cover all the essentials!

In the following paragraphs, you’ll learn all you need to know about Tibet travel.

Just read on further:

Where is Tibet? – The “Roof of The World”

Tibet is a remote region on a plateau north of the Himalayan Mountains. The Tibet Autonomous Region stands in the westernmost part of China. The countries of Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal are in the South.

Did you know the average altitude is 4300 meters above sea level? For many of us, it’s the highest place we’ll ever visit in our lives.

Tibet and its plateau formed as a result of powerful geological forces. The Indian Subcontinent pushes into Asia. Currently, this creates the Himalayan Mountain Range. The range grows centimeter by centimeter every year.

Why is Tibet worth visiting?

You’ll have a kaleidoscope of memories.
The beautiful and haunting monk chants in the monasteries.
That hustle and bustle of the Barkhor Street Market.
Even just the idea that you step into a truly iconic region in the world.

The curiosity to see the land and its symbols might pull you here. But the locals’ open and warm hearts and their gracious smiles leave impressions for a lifetime. As a fascinating destination, Tibet is one the must-visit list of many travelers.

What is the best time to visit Tibet?

People mostly visit Tibet from March to May and September to October. The days tend to be warmer and sunny. There might be light showers in the afternoon, but generally, there’s not much rainfall.

Lhasa is a great destination all year round. Autumn means beautiful scenery of an endless color variety. Winter helps you avoid the influx of Chinese tourists seen by other seasons. And it doesn’t get as cold as you might imagine.

Springtime is another great time to visit Lhasa. The awakening of nature provides a captivating backdrop for your stay. What about the summertime? Lhasa allows you to escape the hot weather. It’s true that there’s more precipitation, though. Luckily, the rainfall often arrives at night.

But some of the Tibetan highlights do have distinct favorable times to visit. Hiking Mt. Kailash is best from May to July and September to October. Schedule Everest Base Camp trek between May and June. Visiting Ranwu Lake works best from April to May and September to October.

Have any questions about the best visiting times for any other Tibetan sights?
Feel free to message us now!

How to get to Tibet?

You may fly into Lhasa from anywhere in the world. Nowadays, even the most distant places aren’t more than three connections away. Any of the major Chinese cities do fine as your last stop before Tibet. Since Tibet is in China, you must pass through customs at any of the major hubs.

Are you already in China? Or have a bit more time? Taking a train from mainland China to Tibet is a special experience. The train from Beijing or Chengdu to Tibet moves on the highest train tracks in the world. This train route crosses through the Qinghai grasslands. The region contains plenty of wildlife.

Accommodation in Tibet

You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options in Lhasa. Depending on your budget, you can opt for a simple guesthouse or more upscale hotels. Keep in mind that the accommodation comfort level outside the major cities is basic. That said, in cities like Lhasa and Shigatse, you could expect the best hotels to easily reach four stars.

Western-style hotel rooms in Tibet
Western-style hotel rooms in Tibet.

Guesthouses

Tibet Guesthouse room with carpet
Room in a guesthouse decorated with a traditional carpet.

This is a distinct type of accommodation that’s usually family-owned. Everyone in the household contributes to keeping the place running. Often, these guesthouses are called teahouses as well.

So, what could you expect from the experience? Guesthouses typically have multiple beds in one room. There is a public bathroom outside. Some hotels in big cities, like Lhasa and Shigatse, have both standard Western-style rooms and multi-bed guesthouse style provided for the clients.

In Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse, you are able to pick between single beds, one double bed, or multiple beds in one room. Another aspect concerns remote areas. When you trek 2-3 days around Mount Kailash, for example, the guesthouse is a movable plank house. It’s better to take your sleeping bag for hygiene and keeping yourself warm.
In most guesthouses, you are able to order some basic food items. For example, some places cook fried rice, chowmein noodles, or Tibetan soup.

Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse
Multiple beds in Rongbuk Monastery Guesthouse.

Tenthouses

Are you planning to do some trekking? Expect plenty of nights spent in a tent. In many cases, the tents are large dome tents for backpacking. But when you do Everest Base Camp, you’ll probably get accustomed to wall tents. Generally, these wall tents have wooden frames. Compared to the dome tents, these structures have more space.

The porters set up the main tent as well. Usually, you’ll enjoy your meals in the main tent. And in the Everest Base Camp, you’ll encounter teashops and snack places set up in this type of tents.

What are the best tours in Tibet?

You can experience Tibet by participating in a variety of tours. In reality, there’s not a single best Tibet tour.

It’s all individual. The best option for you is to check what tours are available.

What’s that one place you couldn’t leave Tibet without seeing it first? Maybe you have a bucket list of Tibetan sights. Check which tours come closest to reaching your dream trip.

But, for starters, you should decide whether you want to partake in a group or private tour. Private tours allow for a more intimate and tailored experience in the region. But they come with an expensive price tag. Group tours allow cutting costs without skipping any important sights.

Small group tours provide the perfect balance. You won’t be in a group so big that you’ll not even learn all the peoples’ names. But you’ll neither pay the steep fees of a private tour.

Small group tours provide the perfect balance.

The next step is to pick the destination(s) and duration of your Tibet tour. There are many options to choose from.
Eight days in Everest Base Camp?
Or five days combining Lhasa and Yamdrok Lake?
Some travelers even book more than one tour and spend some time in Lhasa between the tours.

Trekking is very popular in Tibet. The terrain provides plenty of challenges while the surrounding scenery rewards the strenuous activity. There are less hikers in Tibet compared to the neighbouring Nepal. And that’s just great because you’ll have more personal space to admire the dramatic landscapes.

Things to do and places to see

Don’t trust anyone who says they have the complete list of things to do in Tibet. There’s too many to count. And some of the moments and experiences aren’t something you could plan ahead. It’s just the magic that happens when you travel.

But in the following list, you’ll find some of the best things to do in Tibet in our opinion. Check out our blog for further information on the particular sights, activities, and things to do in Tibet.

Some of the best things to do in Tibet include…

Stunning lakes in Tibet

Yes, there are numerous lakes to be visited in Tibet. You could even say that lakes are as sacred to the locals as monasteries and temples. When you walk along the shores of one of these lakes, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

Consider visiting Yamdrok Yumtso. This lake is a stop along the popular drive from Lhasa to Gyantse. The trip allows you to eventually reach Everest Base Camp. There are many wonderful monasteries on the way as well.

The other lake highlights include Namtso in central Tibet and Peiku Tso. The former proves to be spectacular when you are lucky enough to have white peaks in the background. But the latter gets a water reflection of mighty Mt. Shishapangma standing at a dizzying height of 8,013 meters.

The timeless classic: Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp (EBC North). This is the legendary destination in Tibet. You could pair EBC with a visit to the Rongbuk Monastery. We recommend doing an overnight stay. You’ll get up close and personal with the world’s tallest mountain. A beautiful experience of a lifetime to be savored!

Unforgettable Jokhang Temple

There are many temples and monasteries to visit in Tibet. You can find this particular sight in the heart of Lhasa City.

It’s a major pilgrimage center for all schools of Buddhism. The place was built in the 7th century. UNESCO designated it as one of the World Heritage Sites.

Jokhang Temple
One of the most spectacular sight-seeings in Lhasa - Jokhang Temple

Monasteries all over Tibet

There are visitors who come to Tibet only for the monasteries. Many stunning buildings await, but there are a few must-visit ones out there as well. Three Great Temples are made up of three monasteries: Ganden, Drepung, and Sera. Visit at least one of these!

And then there’s Rongbuk Monastery. Rongbuk is a very special place because it’s the highest monastery in the world. The place is made up of a working monastery, and then an older one maintained by a solitary Lama. Rongbuk is located near the Everest Base Camp.

Getting the Tibet Travel Permit

You need a special permit to visit Tibet. In most cases, a tour company can process all the permits for you. Still, let’s take a look at some useful tips concerning Tibet permits.

Tibet Permit Tip #1: Getting the permit

Taking a plane to Tibet? Hopping on a train? The particular mode of transport doesn’t matter. You need a Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit. You can only get this by using a guide along with a travel company for the duration of your trip.

Also, you need private transport for trips outside of Lhasa. Travel in Tibet without the supervision of a licensed guide isn’t possible.

Tibet entry permit
This is how Tibet Entry Permit looks like.

Tibet Permit Tip #2: Extra permits

You need a special permit to visit Tibet. In most cases, a tour company can process all the permits for you. Still, let’s take a look at some useful tips concerning Tibet permits.

Tibet Permit Tip #3: Timing for the permit

Tibet Permit

Timing is crucial when you plan your itinerary. Keep in mind that your tour company needs 14 days at minimum to arrange the permits and post you the TTB permit. Important reminder: you still require the permit if your flights are only within China.

Tibet Permit Tip #4: Extra permit for Kathmandu, Nepal

You could travel overland from Kathmandu (Nepal) as well. Doing this requires an extra permit. You might find that continuing your journey into China could become difficult after obtaining the extra permit.

Group visa for Tibet when coming from Nepal

What to prepare for Tibet?

Let’s take a quick look at the essential things you need to have for your Tibet trip. You’ll find a longer list of packing suggestions in our blog.

Travel documents

Sort out all your travel documents beforehand. You need to have Chinese Entry Visa. Additionally, you have to get a Tibet Travel Permit (TTP). Only a registered tour operator can help you with the latter.

Proper clothing for Tibet exploration

This is a very important aspect to consider when packing for your Tibet tour. The temperature can make a huge drop in the nighttime. When staying in simple guesthouses or tents, it’s better to prepare accordingly.

Clothing should be layered. Think of an onion when packing your clothes! Even outside the winter, weather can sometimes vary a lot during a single day. Also, the temperatures and the general atmosphere changes when you gain or lose altitude.

Mountain clothing
Travelling to Tibet requires a proper clothing for mountainous climate.

Electronics and adaptors

Electric Socket in China
Electric socket type in China and Tibet.

Take an adaptor because you may encounter three different types of plugs in Tibet. Take your camera or a smartphone with a good camera. There are plenty of amazing shots to be taken in this region.

Personal hygiene

Take all the personal hygiene products with you. These include shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Definitely take a hand sanitizer gel. This comes handy in places where you don’t have any chance to wash your hands. Also, it’s smart to have some extra toilet paper and wet wipes with you while traveling in Tibet.

The bottom line of travelling to Tibet

Travelling to the “roof of the world” is an incredible experience. You want to plan ahead because it’s not a book-and-go destination. Visitors need an official permit along with a local guide.

In this guide, we outlined all the basics you need to know when planning a trip to Tibet.

WhatsApp chat

When would you like to go?

You will receive an email with available departure times and custom advice about weather conditions and potential alternatives.