Potala Palace

Lhasa, China

For some it is the allure of seeing a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for others, it is the holiness of Potala Palace in Buddhism that brings them out all the way to Lhasa, Tibet. Whatever your motivations, it is undeniably a place that will make you gape in wonder. Built on a grand scale with more than a staggering 1,000 rooms spanning the 13 story’s mammoth structure, this place would take days to explore. However, due to its protected status, visitors are allowed in only a few important rooms for a limited period of time (an hour in peak season).

The palace may seem like it is built in isolation on the top of a mountain. In reality, it is quite close to downtown Lhasa. Therefore access is convenient through public buses (go for Baita or Lazhong bus stop) and taxis. Though there is no really extreme weather in Lhasa, but if you want to check out the Everest as well, better aim for May-October. The plus side of visiting in the off season (November-April) is that you can visit the Palace for 2 hours and it costs RMB100 as opposed to RMB200 during peak season. Be mindful of what you bring along (airport level security checks), dress respectfully and carry a light shrug (chilly inside even in summer). Good physical fitness will come in handy when ascending the steps to the Palace!
Tickets/day are limited but you can book online. However, be careful in case of change of plans because in case of no show without notice, you will get blacklisted for a week.

And when you are finally up the steps, at the doorstep of the splendid Potala Palace, you will understand why it is considered a must-see of Tibetan tourism. The high-rise architecture is decorated with intricate detailing, which is a true representation of Tibet’s culture. The palace is basically split into two sides: the building in the middle is the Red Palace, housing libraries, chapels and worship halls and the White Palace built around it, where the Dalai Lama carried out duties of state and had his living quarters. While visiting, you will only be allowed to go in a certain direction and will come across elaborate tapestry like Tangkas, murals telling stories of important Buddhist events, statues of different Buddhas and stupas of past Dalai Lamas. The latter are crafted from pure gold, precious stones and materials and are truly a sight to appreciate the way these leaders are revered. On top of these Stupas, is the Golden Roof Group, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the Palace, as well as Lhasa city.

Though it is such a magnificent building, photography is not permitted inside. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get amazing shots of the Palace exterior. Some of the best places for photographing are from the top of Jokhang Temple, Chakpori Hill and Zongjiao Lukang park, which is at the back of the palace and can be seen reflected in the park’s lake.

Other Attractions In Lhasa