The four (literal) highlights of Tibet

High in the Himalayas lies peace-loving Tibet, the roof of the world. This is not just any trip and few travelers have gone before you. Tibet is a trip to religious monasteries, spectacular nature, the Potala Palace (where the Dalai Lama used to stay) and, of course, a trip to the mother of earth: the Mount Everest. Lisanne took this unique trip and shares her top four with us.

Written by Lisanne Sas

Important to know:

Most travelers travel straight from Kathmandu (1,350 meters) or Chengdu (500 meters) to Lhasa (3,650 meters), so you climb tremendously in altitude in a short time. Half of the travelers suffer (in a mild form) from altitude: headaches, loss of appetite and/or fatigue. It is therefore important to take it easy for the first few days, not actually planning anything and acclimatizing. Don’t really do anything until the second day in Lhasa. Staying in Lhasa for three nights first is not a crazy idea, that way you can get used to the altitude for a while before continuing your ascent. Do not drink alcohol during your trip, but do drink three to five liters of water a day. Sounds like a lot? You’ll find yourself drinking those gallons away in no time.

tibet as a vegetarian

#1 Start in Lhasa (altitude 3,650 meters)

Start your journey in one of the most religious cities in the world: Lhasa. The Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet and Tibetans. Pilgrims from all over the country, and beyond, come to the temple on foot. They travel hundreds of miles, kneeling and stretching. Around the Jokhang is Barkhor; a kind of bazaar with stores, but for the pilgrims a sacred circuit where they walk around the Jokhang praying.

Another highlight and not to be missed is the Potala Palace, a huge complex that flaunts on a hill and can be admired from afar. Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it has been open to tourists since he lives in exile in India. Tickets must be reserved in advance with your guide or you won’t get in. The Sera Monastery is just outside Lhasa, where budding Tibetan monks are apprenticing. Be sure to be here at 3:30 in the afternoon, because you will witness the afternoon debating session. Clapping sees monks in groups and this is a ritual you don’t see anywhere else in the world.

#2 Mountain Lake Yamdrok Tso (elevation pass 4,795 meters) and Gyantse (elevation 3,980 meters)

The drive from Lhasa to Gyantse is already special and is also your first introduction to the spectacular nature of Tibet. You will see monasteries set against rolling mountain slopes, nomads roaming with yaks, and pass the azure Yamdrok-Tso. A huge high-altitude lake, which is also one of Tibet’s four sacred lakes. Gyantse used to be an important trading post on the route between India, Bhutan, Tibet and China. In the old part of town you have the Pelkor Chobe Monastery and the Kumbum Stupa, the latter known for its 100,000 Buddha statues.

#3 Hike to Mount Everest Base Camp (5,200 meters)

Another huge, actually literal highlight, of Tibet is, of course, Mount Everest. Called “Qomolangma” in Tibetan, it is the world’s highest mountain at 8848 meters. A spirited option, since you are at high altitude, is to hike to Everest Base Camp (rather than take the shuttle bus). It’s a hike of about 2 hours (and back again), but this way you get to experience for a while what climbers also experience who go to the top. By the way, you are not allowed to go further than Mount Everest Base Camp, but from here you have an amazing view of the mighty mountain! I myself got goosebumps seeing this huge giant.

#4 Shigatse (elevation 3,650 meters)

With about forty thousand inhabitants, Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet. Here you will find the main monastery of the Gelukpa order and where some 600 Tibetan monks still live. You can wander here for hours from space to space, but also don’t skip the mountain against which the monastery is built. You walk the kora, the pilgrim path with flying prayer flags and mills where pilgrims mutter mantras and keep the mills moving.

How to travel.

If you do not have Chinese nationality, then it is not possible to backpack in Tibet. You are required to travel with a guide and driver and book everything in advance. You will also find along the way that you regularly pass checkpoints and have to show your permits. You must also have these permits in order before your trip.

More Tibet >

Want to know what vegetarian food is like in Tibet? And how to let people know in Tibetan that you prefer not to eat meat or fish? Then check out Lisanne’s other blog about Tibet. Do you prefer organized travel? Then check out

Need more inspiration? Also check out Mongolia, Kazakhstan or China >

Lisanne was working at Ricksja Travel while writing the blog, here you can also use building blocks to create your own individual Tibet trip. Check out this site.

Lisanne loves to travel, but also wants to show that if you are a vegetarian, you can also see the world just fine. Okay, sometimes it takes some searching or you end up in confusing situations, but that’s also the beauty of traveling right? She likes to share her tips and experiences. Furthermore, she is a huge fan of her backpack. ‘Just seeing him makes me want to pack up and go on a trip …’.

p.s. this blog is not sponsored.