Tibet is a place in the world that almost every traveler wants to go once in a life time. Located in one of the most remote and harshest places on the globe in the Himalayas. From the lush valleys of Kham to the harsh Changtang plateau of Amdo (Qinghai) Tibet has lots to offer. If your idea of a vacation is seeing ancient temples or monasteries, horseback riding in remote valleys or drinking yak butter tea with nomads this will be a truly amazing place to you.
Tibet is spread across regions of China, Nepal, Bhutan and India. Tibetans have occupied a vast region. Being mainly nomadic, their population would roam over different areas of Central Asia coming under the control of different governments depending on the distance from Lhasa.
The two main areas of historic Tibet, in terms of greatest population of Tibetans and geography, are the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Ethnic Tibet.The key difference between traveling in the TAR and Ethnic Tibet is that the TAR requires a fair amount of planning, paperwork, money, and permits, which are not easy to get. On the other hand most of Ethnic Tibet is similar to traveling in remote areas of China.
In addition, going among the different Tibetan areas can be difficult, due to government restrictions on the TAR which make them separate travel destinations. Everything written in this section concerns what the areas have in common.
Tibetan Areas in China
Tibetan Autonomous Region is the political center of Tibet and home to some of the most important religious sights for Tibetan Buddhism.
Ethnic Tibet is heavily Tibetan areas in Chinese Provinces.
Tibetan Areas in India
Dharamsala is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and current home to Tenzin Gyatso.
Ladakh is an area in India that has been heavily influenced by Tibetan culture and is sometimes called little Tibet.
Sikkim is an area in India that was settled by Tibetan kings and nomads in the 17th century. Today it is a mix of Tibetan and Nepalis
Mount Everest The highest mountain of all, the Mount Everest is on every climber's list to do.
Mount Kailash is one of the holiest mountains in the world! Since it is a holy mountain for Buddhist, Hindu, thousands of pilgrims make the journey every year to this remote mountain on the edge of the world. The Hindus consider Mount Kailash to be the home of Lord Shiva.Getting to Mount Kailash is very difficult and expensive, as it requires arranging a tour from Lhasa with a Land Rover.
The Tibetan plateau is one of the severe areas of the world when it comes to geography and weather. The average altitude is over 3962 meters (13,000 feet) and covered with mountain ranges with most mountains easily over 5,000 meters. During winter there are deadly snow and ice storms, with temperatures rising above freezing point. The summers are not much better. Intense sunshine and afternoon thunderstorms combine with melting snow to make most rivers flood.
All of these factors added together make for stunning beauty, blue skies and clear lakes, which is what makes Tibet and Tibetans so unique in the world. The plateau is littered with countless crystal clear fresh water and salt water lakes, on whose shores yaks graze on rough grass and nomads cook dinner outside their black felt tent homes with a small solar panel on the roof. Springing from the plateau are mountains at every turn in the path with stunning glaciers and cliff faces that no person has ever been till date. Little monasteries hang to the sides of cliffs or sit in valleys were monks and nuns do their daily rituals.
Religion in Tibet is Buddhism. One thing that makes Tibetan Buddhism so unique among the different Buddhism is the heavy influence of Bon, which is the traditional Tibetan shamanistic belief.There are also several smaller schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Mongolians and several other groups practice different forms of Tibetan Buddhism across north central Asia.
Lamas are bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are people that have reached enlightenment but have refused to go to the next spiritual plane, therefore being reborn until all life on Earth has been enlightened. Traditionally Lamas were responsible for religious and political control of the lives of all Tibetans. The monasteries that the Lama belonged to owned all the yaks and controlled every aspect of the lives of the nomads or farmers in that region.
Kora is the pilgrim circuit around monasteries, temples, lakes, mountains or anything holy in Tibet. Many pilgrims take their kora very seriously so just stay out of their way and be respectful if you plan to take a photo.
Tibetan New Year Losar is the main festival for most Tibetans and lasts 15 days.
During the summer most Tibetan areas have local horse racing festivals that are usually a week long and traditional Bon holidays.
Tibetan is an amazing place in the world except for its cuisine. When you live at the top of the world there are not many options for what you can eat.
Yak Butter Tea is one of the most intense experiences of Tibet.Extremely rich and high in calories. Made from yak butter, a little tea, some water and sugar or salt, once you have a sip you will never forget it.
Momos are the traditional Tibetan dumpling.Although sometimes the yak momos can be very chewy and make your jaw tired.
Tsampa is the convenience and snack food for most working class Tibetans. A trip to Tibet cannot be complete unless you have some tsampa. Tsampa is made by mixing roasted barley flour, tea, yak butter and sugar into a bowl.
Chhaang or Chang is the traditional alcoholic drink of Tibet. Made from barley it loosely resembles beer but not really. It is also believed that the famous Yeti raids villages to drink Chang. You will most likely find this drink if your attending a festival or in very remote Tibet.
Animals Domesticated here are Yaks. Yaks are the main domesticated animal in Tibet and stand about a meter high. Although about half the size of the wild version these longhaired, long horned and smelly animals can live in some of the coldest and driest places in the world. Yak wool is used by Tibetans to make everything from clothing to tents. And yak milk, being much richer then cows milk, is used to make some of the main stables of the Tibetan diet, which include butter, cheese and yogurt. Another function of yaks is to transport belongings and people.
There are several wild animals in Tibet but other then birds most of them are in such remote areas they can be difficult to see. Some of the more interesting animals are snow leopards, Tibetan antelopes, Himalayan marmots and wild yaks that are twice the size of domesticated yaks.
The high altitude and intense sunshine can cause serious problems for many travelers. It is recommended to wear sun screen at all times with a full brim hat and sun glasses. Also remember because of the high altitude it is very easy to get dehydrated, so drink plenty of water.