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Itineraries for Your Trip to Lhasa

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3 Days in Lhasa for First Timers

Curated by Elen TurnerElen is a writer and editor based in the small city of Nelson, on New Zealand's South Island. Her work focuses on travel, arts, culture, and the humanities. When not working, she likes to explore one of the three national parks on her doorstep.

With three days in Lhasa, you can see top attractions like the iconic Potala Palace at a leisurely pace—which is a good thing, as the fascinating city is perched high at 11,990 feet (3,655 meters). Listen to your body and give yourself time to get used to the conditions. Here are some ideas for your itinerary.

Day 1

Take it easy on your first day in Lhasa, and visit a couple of monasteries on the outskirts of the city. In the morning, head to the Drepung Monastery, the largest in Tibet and once home to up to 10,000 monks. Look for the colorful paintings on the cliffs above the monastery. In the afternoon, make your way to the Sera Monastery to watch young monks debate Buddhist philosophy in the courtyard—they shout and clap dramatically when their opponent gets something wrong.

Day 2

In the heart of Lhasa’s old town area, the golden-roofed Jhokang is the holiest temple in Tibet. You’ll likely see crowds of Tibetans prostrating themselves in prayer in Barkhor Square, in front of the temple. Inside, marvel at the beautiful statues and mandalas, then go up to the rooftop and take in sweeping views of the city. In the afternoon, browse the old-town markets for souvenirs and handicrafts.

Day 3

Learn about the history and culture of Tibet at one of the most important places in the region—the former home of the Dalai Lamas. Many travelers to Lhasa are in a hurry to see the Potala Palace; however, it’s best to visit after you’ve been in town for a couple of days and your body has begun adjusting to the altitude. Getting into the palace requires climbing a lot of steps, but the exertion is worth it for the views from the top. Inside, the prayer halls, monks’ chambers, and meditation rooms are dark, atmospheric, and extensive. If you have time, return to the palace at night, when it’s lit up.

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