Updated: April 2, 2019
A land enshrouded in spirituality, Tibet is home to distinct cultural traditions and astounding natural scenery, making it a top destination among intrepid travelers. The home of Tibetan Buddhism, this secluded region boasts a myriad of ancient customs, intricate architecture, and time-honored farming practices. Culturally and visually fascinating, Tibet is begging to be explored, now more than ever. So, without further ado, here are the 6 facts about Tibet that will help you in your discovery of the region and on your way to ultimate zen.
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1. Foreign travel to Tibet used to be restricted.
Tourists were first permitted to visit Tibet in the 1980s. In the fallout of a colorful history, Tibet remained closed off to foreign visitors right until the 80s, marking a turning point in Tibetan history. While Tibet does still close itself off during the Tibetan New Year (usually January-February), the region is open to visitors for the remainder of the year provided they are on an organized tour with a guide. As well as the initial permit to enter Tibet, those wishing to venture outside of Lhasa will need another permit. Before you start sweating, fear not, we can arrange all the necessary itineraries and permits, making your trip easy and stress-free.
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2. Tibet is considered one of the most secluded regions on earth.
Due to its mountainous and astounding geographical features, Tibet is the least populated province in China. With the mighty Himalayas a prominent feature in Tibet’s landscape, the average mountain of this region stands above 20,000ft tall, making Tibet one of the most secluded regions on earth. So what does this mean when it comes to actually traveling through Tibet? Well, expect long car journeys – we’re talking about an average of 4-5 hours per day. While many new roads have recently been built (reducing those sore bottoms), speed controls mean that, sadly, you won’t be getting anywhere any faster. That being said, Tibet is a breathtakingly beautiful region and many hours can be whiled away staring out at the vast expanses of mountains, lakes, and farmlands – the yak are our personal favorites!
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3. Buddhism is the foundation of Tibet’s culture and everyday life.
In Tibet, Buddhism is not just a religious belief but is ingrained into every facet of life. In the company of our knowledgeable guides, you’ll be able to gain a deeper appreciation for Tibetan Buddhism, witnessing ancient rituals and exploring sacred spaces. Get to the heart of this destination and culture by visiting an eclectic mix of attractions, from an old Tibetan pharmacy (where you will learn philosophy through medicine) to the grand Potala Palace.
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4. 47% of the world’s population depends on the flow of fresh water from Tibet.
Nicknamed the ‘third pole’, Tibet holds the third largest store of water and ice in the world after the Arctic and Antarctic. With a lake, river, or glacier at every turn, the immensity of this region’s water resources soon dawns on travelers, as well as the immensity of the region full stop. It doesn’t come as a great shock then, that six of Asia’s biggest rivers originate in Tibet, including the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Indus to name just a few.
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5. Tibetan influence isn’t only found in Tibet.
While Tibet is almost definitely on our recommended list, we know it’s not always possible to make the journey. Fortunately for our guests, Tibetan culture has found its way into every aspect of its neighboring provinces, from the architecture and language to its food and people. Yunnan is one of our favorite alternatives to Tibet, situated on the boundary of the Tibetan plateau and home to the Songzanlin Monastery (among countless others), showing off authentic Tibetan customs, gilded pillars and aromatic, incense-filled rooms. The western reaches of Sichuan also offer an alternative to Tibet, boasting picturesque scenery dotted with crystal-blue lakes and alpine forests. What’s more, it means no extra permits needed!
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6. It’s really high up.
Now, this may already seem pretty obvious, but Tibet really is really high up, with a challenging climate to match. Due to this, acclimatization is key! Our WildChina itineraries are built so that you can gradually acclimatize to the altitude. If you’ve decided to give climbing Mt. Everest a miss and heights aren’t really your thing, there are alternatives. With most luxury hotels proudly featuring oxygen bars, kick back and relax in the comfort of the hotel with a healthy dose of O2.
Appetites whetted? Get in touch now to discover more about this extraordinary destination and plan your customized travel experience.