Tibet is one of the most beautiful but inaccessible countries in the world. Perhaps that sums up its attraction: to travel far beyond the well-trodden tourist trail, to face the challenge of the high country of monumental snow covered peaks and glaciers, and the arid semi-desert of the Tibetan plateau in the shadow of the Himalayas. It is a land that seems to stand in defiance of any human attempts to conquer it.
Whether this is the mountaineer trying to leave his mark on its high summits and live to tell the tale, or the people who for centuries have inhabited its valleys and mountain slopes, building a unique culture that seems almost a part of nature itself, it is a land to be respected as a challenge worth facing. This is a land suffused by its ancient Buddhist culture, which offers for the traveler a spiritual as well as a physical journey that will change your view of the world forever.
Exotic cities, mysterious hidden valleys, isolated villages and monasteries, centuries old caravan trails and spectacular, unspoilt mountain ranges: this is a heady mix of experiences that are irresistible to the traveler looking for something different. Much of Tibet’s cultural heritage was destroyed following the Chinese invasion of 1951, and many Tibetans sought refuge in India, but since becoming an autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China, many of the monasteries have been lovingly and beautifully restored, and the Tibetans have kept their unique, ancient culture alive.
A highlight of any trip to Tibet would be a visit to the capital, Lhasa. Known as the ‘City of Sunlight’, its magnificent mountain setting on the banks of the Kyichu River and the grandeur of its historic architecture, including the Potala Palace, the Jokhang, Drepung and Sera temples, and the unique Yaowangshan cliff statues, make it well worth a couple of days exploring before traveling into the wilder parts of the country. Not to be missed: a kora or holy devotional circuit of Barkhor, the main street of the old town around the Jokhang Temple, which is the spiritual heart of the country.
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