Tourists were first permitted to visit the TAR in the 1980s. While the main attraction is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, there are many other popular tourist destinations including Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery.
Travelers, especially those from European countries and the United States are very interested in the unique culture and religion in Tibet. So, what to see in Tibet while having a Tibet travel puzzles many people who are planning to have a Tibet travel.
As we all know, Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north of the Himalayas, and the home to the indigenous Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft), it is the highest region on Earth and referred to as the “Roof of the World”.
Religion is extremely important to the Tibetan people and has a strong influence over all aspects of lives. Bön is the ancient traditional religion of Tibet, but following the introduction of Tantric Buddhism into Tibet this became eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in Tibet but also in Nepal, parts of India. The Mongolians also believe in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions (the suffix pa is comparable to “er” in English):
Gelug(pa), Way of Virtue, also known casually as Yellow Hat, whose spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal, the Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Kagyu(pa), Oral Lineage. This contains one major subsect and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. There are further eight minor sub-sects, all of which trace their root to Pagtru Kagyu. Among the eight sub-sects the most notable of are the Drikung Kagyu and the Drukpa Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an eleventh century mystic.
Nyingma(pa), The Ancient Ones. This is the oldest, the original order founded by Padmasambhava.
Sakya(pa), Grey Earth, headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya Pandita 1182–1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This school very much represents the scholarly tradition.
With the quick spreading of Tibetan Buddhism, many monasteries had been built in all over Tibet region. Drepung Monastery, Ganden Monastery, Jokhang Monastery, Lamaling Monastery, Mindroling Monastery, Sakya Monastery, Sera Monastery, Shalu Monastery, and Tashilhunpo Monastery are all very famous and worthy of visiting.
The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India in 1959. The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 m. thick, and 5 m. (more than 16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen stories of buildings – containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues – soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the “Red Hill”, rising more than 300 m (about 1,000 ft) in total above the valley floor. Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the “Three Protectors of Tibet.” Chokpori, just to the south of the Potala, is the soul-mountain (bla-ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjushri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Chenresig or Avalokiteshvara.
There are also many famous mountains and lakes in Tibet. Mt. Everest, also called Qomolangma in Tibetan, is the highest mountain on Earth, as measured by the height of its summit above sea level, which is 8,848 metres (29,029 ft). Mount Kailash is a peak in the Gangdisê Mountains which is part of the Himalayas in Tibet is considered as a sacred place in four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bön faith. In Hindu religion, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarowar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet. There have been no recorded attempts to climb Mount Kailash; it is considered off limits to climbers in deference to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. It is the most significant peak in the world that has not seen any known climbing attempts.
In Tibet we can find thousands of lakes, or tso in Tibetan. Among them, there are three Holy Lakes, namely Basum Tso, Yumdrok Tso and Nam Tso. Besides, As per Hindu mythology Lake Manasarovar is the abode of purity and one who touches the earth of Mansarovara will go to the paradise of Brahma. One who drinks the water from the lake will go to the heaven of Lord Shiva. He will be cleansed of his sins committed over a hundred lifetimes. Like Mount Kailash, Lake Mansarovar is a place of pilgrimage, attracting religious people from India, Tibet and the neighboring countries. Bathing in the Manasasarovar and drinking its water is believed to cleanse all sins.