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Lhasa (3660m/12087ft)
Lhasa, which means "Land of the Gods", is the heart of Tibet. Over 1,300 years old, it sits in a valley alongside the Lhasa River. Around the Jokhang and the Barkhor. traditionally dressed Tibetans engage on a kora (a clockwise journey around the Jokhang, the major Buddhist shrine), often spinning prayer wheels. Monks clad in robes and yellow hats are seen amongst the brightly dressed Tibetans in garments that compliment their ruddy complexion.  The Western end of Lhasa is more Han in character (i.e. Han Chinese from the east of the country).

Sera Monastery
Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, Sera Monastery is one of the great three Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. It is one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet, where several hundred monks live and study within its whitewashed walls & golden roofs. The Sera Monastery is the last of the three principal Yellow Sect monasteries built in Lhasa. The setting itself is beautiful with cobbled alleyways, temples and colleges. The highlight of visiting Sera Monastery is watching monks debating inside the shady courtyard behind the main temple. Every day, hundreds of red-robed monks assemble in small groups and practice their debating skills.

Jokhang Temple

Situated in the centre of old Lhasa, the 1300 year old Jhokhang Temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet. The golden-roofed Jokhang Temple was built in commemoration of the marriage of Tang princess Wen Cheng to King Songsten Gampo (617-650, the 33rd king of Tibet), and houses a pure gold Buddha which was brought to Tibet by the princess. The Jokhang Temple had been restored and expanded many times from the Yuan dynasty to the Qing dynasty, until today's size.


The Barkor is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and the central market of Lhasa. It’s extremely interesting to sit in a café, observing the Barkhor and watching the pilgrims as they circumambulate the Jokhang Temple, stopping regularly to peruse the merchandise at the stalls lining the route.


It's said that in 647, the first Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo (617 - 650) built the Jokhang Temple. Due to its magnificence, it quickly attracted thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. As a result, a trodden path appeared which became known as Barkhor Street. Even today many pilgrims hold their prayer wheels whilst walking clockwise from dawn to dark. Some pilgrims progress body-lengths by body-lengths along the street on their elbows and knees. Many, including youngsters walk miles to get here to express their piety.


Potala Palace
Self guided tour of the Potala Palace which dominates the city of Lhasa. (our guide wasn’t qualified to take us around!). It was named after Mount Potala, an important mountain in Buddhist traditions. This spectacular building was the chief residence of the Dalai Lamas until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by Chinese authorities. It contains numerous grand state rooms and many important chapels. The main building is divided into 2 sections –the  Potrang Karpo ('White Palace') and the newer Potrang Marpo ('Red Palace') that was added between 1690 and 1694 and got its name from a hill on Cape Comorin at the southern tip of India.


There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century. The Palace buildings stand 13 stories high and contain over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. These tower 117m above Marpo Ri, which means "Red Hill", and more than 300m above the valley floor. Tradition says that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors of Tibet".

NorbulingKa means ‘Jewel Park’ and was established as the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas by the 7th Dalai Lama, Kalsang Gyatso in 1754. The area used to be wasteland with wild animals, weeds and scrub which the Seventh Dalai Lama liked and often visited, and, as a result, the Qing magistrate had a palace built. Years later, Kelsang Potrang was built by order of the Seventh Dalai Lama. Later it was used as the Summer Palace for successive Lamas, where they solved the political problems and held festive celebrations.


The Drepung Monastery was founded in the 14th century, and was once the largest in the world, with a population of around 10,000 monks. Now that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much of interest to see as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution. Located at the foot of Gambo Utse Mountain it is considered to be the most important monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism. The most well known feature of the monastery is its large white pagodas. The monastery's buildings are centered around them. Every year the Drepung Monastery unravels the largest Thangka in the world on the hill overlooking the monastery.


The monastery is composed of 4 Zhacangs, functioning as the sutra-learning places and the subordinate organization. Several courtyards in the dense forests on the grounds there are used for monks to debate on the sutras. The courtyards sites are always chosen near Zhacang and various trees are grown. After enduring the debating period in both Zhacang and the entire monastery, the winner will obtain the qualification to attend the test for the senior degree of Geshi.