Like a treasure trove or something out of Aladdin’s cave, Barkhor Street is an ancient road that circles the square that houses Jokhang Temple. Most significant as a thoroughfare for pilgrims on their way to the temple, Barkhor Street is also home to the Tromzikhang market, host to a wide variety of vendors selling everything from prayer wheels to yak butter to tea kettles.
According to local history, when Songtsen Gampo built Jokhang Temple, its grand scale immediately began to attract millions of pilgrims from the area. So many walked around the temple that they wore a path, which came to be the original Barkhor Street. Today, visitors can see pilgrims walking clockwise around the temple, holding prayer wheels. Many of these pilgrims have come from the outer regions of Tibet, walking for days, weeks or months to reach the temple. Some move only by bowing, crossing just a few feet during each prostration. A visit to Barkhor Street is an immersion in Tibetan culture, a multi-colored and fascinating glimpse into the wide diversity of people who inhabit this land.
Barkhor Street is open to everyone, but it’s a fairly narrow area. Walk in a clockwise direction to go with the flow of pilgrims. The streets and alley around the street can be confusing, so try to leave before dark. Bargaining is acceptable; don’t be afraid to haggle with the vendors.