Lhasa, Tibet, lies in the Khy-chu Valley, within the vast Tibetan plain, between ranges of the Himalayas. Because of its altitude, 3700 meters (over 11,000 ft), visitors must get acclimatized, so plan to spend at least several days here in order to be able to accomplish what could be done in a day or two at lower elevations. Lhasa was the home of the Dalai Lama, the head of the Buddhist religion, but, because of the invasion and subsequent takeover of the country by the Chinese, in 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee. Many of Tibet’s religious buildings and many of its people were destroyed during the reign of Chairman Mao, but hostilities and destruction have eased and a number of important Buddhist sites remain.
The most important and most impressive attraction in Lhasa is, without doubt, the Potala Palace, whose origins go back to the 7th century. It actually consists of two parts, the White Palace, which is the outer section of the complex, the former residence of the Dalai Lama and also the government headquarters, and the Red Palace, the inner, central section and also the spiritual area. The palace complex is now a museum and visitors have access to a number of its 1,000 or so rooms.
The most sacred structure in Tibet is the Jokhang, a complex of temples, residences, and other buildings which also date to the 600’s. It is in the center of the old city and still the focus of pilgrimages. Stroll the walkways of the complex, especially the Barkhor, admire the murals, and check out the chapels.
Other notable sights within the city are additional temples, such as Meru Nyingba, Norbulingka, and Ramoche, and also other religious sights, such as Ani Tsahamkung, a nunnery, and the Sera, Drepung, Ganden and Nechung Monasteries.