Tibet is a historical region covering much of the Tibetan Plateau in Central Asia known as roof of the world and third pole of the globe. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa, Qiang, and Lhoba peoples and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han Chinese and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900m (16,000ft). Tibetan has the distinct culture and religion that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Along with rich history, Tibet has some of China’s most striking natural scenery, including vast grasslands, blue lakes and sky-high mountains. There are some places on earth that are truly spectacular. Tibet is one such place, which has been a mystery for travelers for centuries. Tibet, a birth land of Asia’s largest rivers, is the Land of Snow, of holy and pristine lakes that has been aptly termed as the Roof of the World.
- Foreign travel to Tibet used to be restricted.
Tourists were first permitted to visit Tibet in the 1980s. Since then, people have been traveling to Tibet to learn about Buddhism and see the purity of nature. The main tourist attractions are the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, Samye Monastery, and Mt. Everest. Some areas remain restricted to tourists. Tibet, an independent country till 1959, was forcefully occupied by China and now is an important province of the dragon country. At a mean elevation of about 4,500 meters above sea level, Tibet is referred to as Roof of the World and is the highest plateau on the planet. Traveling to Tibet solo is not allowed; call your friends and family and move in a group. You just cannot buy an airline ticket to Lhasa. You will essentially require a Tibet Travel permit and a Chinese Visa too.
- Tibet is considered one of the most secluded regions on earth.
Tibet is the least populated province in China, mostly due to its mountainous and harsh geographical features. The mountain ranges that surround Tibet create a barrier from the rest of the world, leaving some places in Tibet uninhabited. The mountains in Tibet average 22,960 feet high, earning the nickname “Roof of the World”. In Tibet, there are five mountains over 26,240 feet high, including the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. Tibet is a great playground for hikers. Also, frequent flights to Lhasa, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and several highways to Tibet have made Tibet easily accessible. Tibet is China’s largest province but is the least populated. Most Tibetans are traditional farmers or herders. Potala Palace, a wonder at Tibet’s capital Lhasa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive building complex on a spur of the Red Mountain dates back to the year 637. It is aptly nicknamed as the ‘Palace of Art’.
- Buddhism is the foundation of Tibet’s culture and everyday life.
In Tibet, Buddhism is not just a religious belief; it is a way of life. You can see the influence of Buddhism throughout this region. Tibetans view the environment as a place where humans and nature coexist, therefore most of their land is colorful and pure. There are a great number of sacred sites, such as monasteries, nunneries, and palaces, to explore while in Tibet.
- 47% of the world’s population depends on the flow of fresh water from Tibet.
The Tibetan plateau has the third largest store of water and ice in the world. Tibet is the source of many of Asia’s rivers. Tibet’s glaciers, rivers, forests, lakes, and wetlands provide key environmental resources to Asia. Fresh water for over a billion people comes from Tibet. Six of Asia’s biggest rivers originate from Tibet. The Mekong, Brahmaputra, Indus, Yangtze, Salween and Hwang Ho River together support the largest number of people on earth.
- Tibet is sometimes called the “Sea of Dances and Songs”.
Tibetans love music and dancing. Every night local people get in a circle around a fire and dance the night away. While visiting Tibet, you can participate in a nightly dance while sipping on one of their national drinks, salted butter tea or Tibetan chang. Chang is an alcoholic drink that is made of barley, rice or millet. Tibetans of all ages drink chang at funerals, dinners, and celebrations.
- Tibetan people believe Lake Yamdrok carries deep spiritual meaning.
Many pilgrims visit the lake prior to making important decisions; they believe the turquoise water of Lake Yamdrok carries deep spiritual meaning. Lake Yamdrok is one of the many beautiful places to visit in Tibet. Clear blue lakes, deep valleys and rivers, snow covered mountains, and green forests can all be found across the region.
- Lake Namtso, meaning Heaven Lake, is a place where the heavens truly touch earth.
It is the second largest saltwater lake in China and one of the most beautiful places on earth. A legend has us believe that Namtso was a daughter of God Indra, who holds an aquarium in her right hand and a mirror in the other.
- Tibetans call Mount Kailash ‘Kangrinboqê’ (Gangrenboqi).
Mount Kailash in central Tibet marks a unique convergence of faiths as the mountain is held sacred by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. This Mecca for pilgrims continues to be an insurmountable peak since ages. There is snow all year round and the clouds give it a fascinating pyramid like shape right at the peak.
- Lake Mansarovar (mah-pung-yong-tswaw for Tibetans) is the highest freshwater lake in the world.
This jewel of a lake forms the catchment for the rivers of Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra and Karnali. A pilgrimage around the lake with a bath in it, is one of the most sacred rituals for a Tibetan. To cover this 60 kms wide lake, it takes a minimum of four to five days.
- Basum Lake in eastern Tibet is the largest freshwater lake.
This lake is considered the most scared one by Nyingma Tibetan Buddhists, one of four major schools of Buddhism on the plateau.
- Rakas Tal (Devil Lake), in close proximity of sweet Lake Mansarovar, is a salt water lake.
The two lakes together have given birth to legends about gods and the devil having a common linkage. The two lakes are interlinked with the same waterway, but one is sweet and clear, the other is salty and undrinkable.