The center of the Tibetan Buddhist world for over a millennium, Lhasa (‘Place of the Gods’) remains largely a city of our mystical imagination. Although much altered from the early travel accounts of the Austrian mountaineer, Heinrich Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet), your first view of the red and white Potala Palace will raise goose bumps. The Palace soaring above the city and the whitewashed old Tibetan quarter still preserves a bit of traditional Tibet. Much of the rest of Lhasa today is quite a modern city. It is here in the Jokhang temple , however, with its other-worldly mix of flickering butter lamps, wafting incense smoke, prostrating pilgrims, and the encircling Barkhor pilgrim circuit, that most visitors first fall in love with Tibet. These days the booming boulevards of the modern city threaten to overwhelm the winding alleyways and backstreet temples of the old town, but it is in the latter that you should focus your time. If possible, budget a week to acclimatize, see the sights and roam the fascinating back streets before heading off on a grand overland adventure.
Shangri-La Hotel offers you a comfortable stay by the road to the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa. Just a 15 minute walk away from old Lhasa, this large, modern hotel is charmingly set against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas.
Experience the otherworldly life of Tibetan monks! The Drepung and Sera Monasteries are two of the three great universities to follow the Gelug or Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism that the Dalai Lama belongs to. Many believe the Drepung Monastery to be named after a famous Indian Stupa where the Buddha taught the Kalachakra Tantra. Admire historical relics, Buddhist scriptures and beautiful stone art and paintings around this monastery. The Drepung was home to the early Dalai Lamas until the 17th century when the fifth Dalai Lama built the new Potala Palace. On your trip back, visit a traditional Tibetan home and share a delicious meal of the region’s ubiquitous meat-filled dumplings. After lunch, head to one of Tibet’s best-preserved monasteries – the Sera Monastery. A much later addition in the 15th century, the Sera was rebuilt by the Chinese government after the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. It now serves as a functional monastery famous for heated debates on Buddhist philosophy among resident monks! (Full Day, Private Activity & Transfers; Meal included: Tibetan dumplings; Fitness Level: Easy; Please bring comfortable walking shoes)