The Tibetan Plateau is the birthplace of the vital waterways that have allowed Asia to flourish over the past couple of thousand of years. The Mekong, Yellow, Yangtze, Salween and Brahmaputra Rivers all begin on the Tibetan plateau before flowing out through Asia, giving birth to a number of ‘cradles of civilization’. It is not hard to see the strategic importance of this region.
Tibet’s highest elevation, Mount Everest’s peak, is shared by China and Nepal. The average elevation of the plateau is around 4,500 metres (14,760 ft.) above sea level. Over thousands of years, the plateau has gradually shaped the genetic and physiological evolution of the people living there, giving them greater lung capacity and a naturally enhanced breathing speed compared with those whose forebears lived closer to sea level. Visitors should therefore prepare accordingly and check with a doctor for relevant supplements and exercises to help them adjust to these high altitudes.
Living on this high plateau has also had a profound effect on the indigenous people’s culture. Subject to much interest and imagination, the Tibetan culture is often viewed as mysterious, remote and ancient. Many visitors also make a special note of the deep blue sky (or its clarity at night) and the literally breath-taking landscapes. This all combines to create an otherworldly sensation.
Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is the launch pad for your Tibetan adventure. Here you will find the iconic Potala Palace, the first thing many travellers think of when they think of Tibet. Its location, at the highest point of Lhasa, and its impressive size make it appear impenetrable. Tours must be booked in advance and there is a strict time schedule for the duration of any given visit. Please respect the guide’s timing too as they are subject to disciplinary measures for overstaying.
There are plenty of sites outside the city too, such as the Drepung Monastery, the largest of all Tibetan monasteries and one of the great Gelukpa universities. Norbulingka, not too far from Drepung Monastery, was the summer residence of the Dalai Lamas. Beautiful ponds and colourful alpine flowers surround this sumptuous palace.
Due to the political climate in Tibet there are a number of rules in place concerning group size and itinerary. Such rules must be followed. Please also be aware that sometimes the region will be closed to foreign tourists without notice.