Dating back to the 7th century AD, following the unification of disparate tribes, Tibetan culture and its remote sense of mystery has given rise to an enigmatic spiritual reverence with Buddhism at the heart of its social and political life.

Tibet, along with Mongolia, was absorbed into China during the seventeenth century as part of the Qing Dynasty expansion and remained so until the demise of that dynasty in 1911 AD, and the birth of Republican China, when it acquired a brief period of independence, later shattered by the Communist takeover of China in 1950.

LHASA

The ancient centre of Tibet is Lhasa, home to its most iconic landmark and popular visitor attraction, the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Hertitage site, and former residence of the Dalai Lama, which stands majestically over the city.

Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet, China

Beneath the Potala, in the old centre, Jokhang Temple is the 1,300 year-old central temple of Tibetan spiritual life and is the focus of the Barkhor Pilgrim’s circuit, around which thousands of pilgrims daily throng. Outside the old town, modern Chinese buildings prevail, tempering the once wholly Tibetan atmosphere.

To the west of the Potala, Norbulinka is the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama, whilst outside Lhasa the 15th century monasteries of Sera and Drepung are a true vision of the ancient mountain culture.

SHIGATSE

Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse is likewise undergoing adaptation to the modern world, with new Chinese buildings surrounding the old city. The main attraction here is Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the great monastic sites in Tibet, which houses the famous 27 metre (88 feet) Gilded Buddha and the tombs of the 4th and 10th Panchen Lamas. 

RONGPHU MONASTERY

Better known in climbing circles as Rongbuk Monastery, Rongphu Monastery, at an elevation of 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) is one of the highest monasteries on earth, with fine views of the world’s highest mountain, and a historic stop on the way to Everest Base Camp for the north face routes up the mountain. 

Mount Everest, viewed from Rongbuk Monastery, Tibet, China

Close by is the world's highest Post Office, an enviable location from which to send a postcard. 

The northern route is best known for the iconic 1924 British expedition, which famously resulted in the deaths of pioneering Himalayan climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who many still speculate may have reached the summit. During the communist revolution, the north face was rendered out of bounds, and the first confirmed ascent in 1953 was via the southern Nepali route. 

The first official conquest of the north face was achieved by a Chinese expedition in 1960, a claim initially, and rather typically, disputed internationally, but later proved beyond dispute.

From the Monastery, an hour's high altitude trek brings you to the Everest Base Camp, to enjoy the stunning views of the mountain, known as Chomolungma in the Tibetan language.

Unlike the base camp on the Nepalese side of the mountain, from which an unobstructed view is impossible, from here you can view the whole north face of the mountain.

 

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