By utilizing its unique natural and human cultural tourist resources, Tibet has formed four tourist areas with their special features: Lhasa area, Weat Tibet area, Southwest Tibet area and South Tibet area.
The Lhasa tourist area
It includes Lhasa, Yangbajain, Damxung, Gyangze, Zetang, Xigaze and Yamzhog Yumco Lake. Lhasa itself is more than Tibet’s political, economic, cultural and transportation center; it is the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Major tourist sites include the Jokhang Monastery, Ramoche Monastery, Potala palace, Barkor Street, Norbu Lingka Palace and the three major monasteries of Gandain, Zhaibung and Sera. The Jokhang Monastery, Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka Palace, and Gandain, Zhaibung and Sera monasteries are key cultural relics under State-level protection. The great Tibetan leader Songtsan Gambo built the first palace on the Red Hill, site of the Potala, in the 7th century. The palace runs 360 meters east to west and 140 meters north to south. The highest building atop the hill stands 117 meters high. Its layout is complex to say the least, but basically consists of multiple levels of abutting rectangular buildings.
Places of interest near Zetang include the Tombs of the TuboKings, Yombulhakang (site of the oldest building in Tibet), Chamzhub Monastery, Foreign visitors in a bar in Lhasa Samye Monastery (the first monastery built in Tibet), and the Qonggyai Zong mountain castle. This area is considered the cradle of Tibetan civilization. The Tombs of the Tubo Kings and the Samye Monastery are key cultural relics under State-level protection.
The West Tibet tourist area
It is Ngari Prefecture, the so-called “roof of the roof of the world.” The area draws visitors because of its great religious significance. The primitive local Tibetan religion – Ben Relition just originated here. Many tourists and pilgrims from Nepal and India come into Tibet through the Burang Port of entry to visit the area’s sacred mountains and lakes. In ancient times the kingdom of Shang-shung ruled here, followed in later years by a series of mutually independent kingdoms. The most splendid remains of this earlier era are castles of the Guge Kingdom, and Toding Monastery, both in Zada County. The former is a key cultural relic under State-level protection.
Mount Kangrinboqe, is located in Burang County. This strangely shaped, domed 6,656-meter-tall peak is snow -capped through the year. It is sacred to followers of’ many religions. Mapam Yumco Lake Lo the south, among the world’s highest-elevation freshwater lakes, is also sacred to believers of certain religious faiths.
The Southwest Tibet tourist area
It is a place for mountaineers. They are mainly Nepalese who come to Tibet through Zam entry/exit port to enjoy the mountain scenery or do some climbing. Beginning in 1980, China opened 21 mountain peaks to foreign tourists including Qomolangma and Xixabangma. In 1993 an additional 22 mountain peaks and climbing routes were opened to foreign tourists and mountain climbers. More than 70 groups from over 10 countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan have come to Tibet to explore the mountains.
Two routes are available to visit this area. One is the south route, passing the long existing road south to the Bridge of the Qu River, via Ganbala, Yamzhog Yumco Lake, Langqiazi, Karela to Gyangze County, then either going south via Kangmar County and Yadong County or going north via Bainang County and finally reaching Xigaze. The other is the north route, going west along the Yarlung Zangbo River, via Dazhuka (or following a longer route to pass Rinbung County and Gyangze County), and chen reaching Xigaze. At present, most visitors choose the north route.
Besides, there are many other routes leading to Xigaze depending on the different starting points, for example, the route from Nepal to Mount Qomolangma or Gyangze, from Sikkim to Gyangze, or from Ngari to Xigaze, etc. Gyangze County, Xigaze and Lhaze County are the key link places in the Xigaze prefecture, and are places that have relatively concentrated tourist sites.
The South Tibet tourist area
In southern Tibet, centered on Nyingchi, one can pass through the four seasons of the year in a single day. There are snow-capped mountains, dense primeval forests, surging rivers and azalea-covered mountainsides. This beautifuJ scenery is easy to enjoy given the pleasantly humid and mild climate.
Visitors normally go east on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway to reach this area. The elevation difference of this route is quite large and one can experience four seasons in just one day. It may snow with wild wind at the top of the mountain but be rather mild at the bottom. This route will pass by 14 big mountains and 10 rivers, and swamps, frozen soil areas, earthquake places, landslide areas, primitive forests and glaciers as well. Although the journey is quite tough and hard, the scenery is gorgeous. This route is wonderful for adventurers and photographers.
For those who want to explore beyond these single tourist areas, several new itineraries have been developed in recent years: the east ring route of Lhasa-Nyingchi-Shannan-Lhasa; the west ring route of Lhasa-Xigaze-Ngari-Xigaze; the route tracing the path Princess Wencheng followed on her way to Tibet. Specialty tours include exploration by automobile, hiking. and scientific investigation tours. Other special events include the Shoton (Soui’ Milk Drinking) Festival in Lhasa, the Changtang Horse Race Festival in the North Tibet Plateau and the Yarlung Culture and Arts Festival in Shannan.
July, August, and September are the best seasons in Tibet, not only for the mild climate, but also for the various cultural events with different ethnic features. In the Shoton Festival in Lhasa in August, Sour Milk Drinking feast will be served, in which visitors can not only appreciate the wonderfuJ Tibetan dramas from different places of Tibet, but also experience the annual Buddha Show Festival at che Zhaibung Monastery-one of the three major monasteries. In early August each year, the Changcang Horse Race Festival will be beld in Nagqu Prefecture, in which visitors can hail for the fierce herdsmen’s horse racing and at the same time experience their culture of clothes and food. Besides, Dama Festival is held in the late July and early August in the old town of Gyangze, in which Horse Racing and Archery Competition will be a great attraction. In rural areas in Tibet, Longing for Fruit Festival will be held in Autumn, in which all villagers will gather and sing and dance to express their longing for a bumper harvest. And the traditional Tibetan Bath Festival is in September and last about one week. This festival has a history of nearly 800 years. In October, some traditional Tibetan festivals begin in different places of Tibet.