Tibet travel guide
Hidden high on the roof of the world, Tibet is a land of golden monasteries, spectacular mountain scenery and a deep spiritual heritage that lives as much in our imagination as it does in the remote Himalayas.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the complex political situation, with Tibet seen both as occupied territory and an integral part of China for the best part of a century depending on who you talk to. This contentious situation can affect your freedom of movement in the country, and so it’s wise to plan your itinerary and do your research well in advance.
Once you’ve crossed these barriers, however, an enthralling, unique realm awaits.
Many travellers will be drawn to Tibet by the spectacular Buddhist temples, ageless monasteries perched on cliff edges and robed monks chanting peacefully. With the amount of reverence and faith among Tibetans, Tibet truly feels like one of the most spiritual places on Earth.
Beyond the zen vibes, Tibet’s nature is also life-affirming. Stunning high-altitude scenery and huge blue salt lakes borne on high towards the heavens are the highlights, while epic journeys beckon. Try the world's highest railway trip, for example, or take the classic overland drive across the Himalayas to Kathmandu in Nepal.
A recurring highlight wherever you go is the Tibetan people, always quick with a smile, from visiting bands of pilgrims to nomads in their yak-hair tents. Be sure to try beer in a Lhasa teahouse, or to accept a monk’s offer of yak-butter tea. The Tibetans’ openness and warmth in the face of political oppression is remarkable.
Once the very definition of remote, arduous and forbidden travel, Tibet is now surprisingly well connected by road, plane and even rail links. Massive change is reshaping the politically troubled plateau but complicated travel restrictions make independent travel tricky, so do plan ahead.
1,228,400 sq km (474,288 sq miles).
3.3 million (2016).
2.7 per sq km.
People's Republic of China comprises 23 provinces (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province), five autonomous regions, two special administrative regions and four municipalities directly under central government.
Travellers to Tibet should check with tour operators or travel agents and monitor the international media and this travel advice for information relating to travel to Tibet.
Travellers should be aware that ongoing political and ethnic tensions can lead to the spontaneous eruption of unrest and violent protest in Tibet. While foreigners are not normally targeted during such unrest, travellers should remain alert to the possibility of being caught up in unexpected outbreaks of violence.
Travel to Tibet or the ethnic Tibetan provinces requires the permission of the Chinese authorities.