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China Travel Guide

Explore Tibet

Explore Tibet 01 For many centuries, travelers of over the world have gone to Tibet, also known as "Roof of the World". However, it is today a subjugated colony of China. The panorama has a majesty and splendor that is fascinating, plenty of religious monuments. Tibetan people are welcoming and polite, but they don't forget that Tibet was before a proud and independent nation which is now dominated by a foreign power.

It is often difficult traveling to Tibet, despite of the official Chinese policy is to increase the number of tourists, and hence tourism earnings, in this place. Tourists must be patience with the daily bureaucratic irritations, which always seem overwhelming.

The remoteness of the ancient home of Dalai Lama has long motivated the imagination of the West, yet until the British invaded it in 1904, only a few of intrepid eccentrics, adventurers and missionaries had succeeded in getting close to Lhasa because of the Tibetan policy to exclude all influence from the outside world.

Since 1950 Tibet has become much more accessible with transport by plane from Chengdu and Kathmandu. Today's visitors sometimes think that nothing has changed in Tibet, but nowadays there is an important military and civilian Chinese presence, with modern apartments and factories together with the traditional Tibetan rural lifestyles and monasteries.

The huge Tibetan plateau, at an average height of 4500m, is surrounded on all sides by towering mountain ranges: the Himalaya separates Tibet from India, Nepal from Bhutan to the south, the Karakoram from Pakistan to the west and the Kunlun from Xinjiang to the north. To the east, separates Tibet from Sichuan and Yunnan, an extensive series of mountains that covers a thousand kilometres. The plateau is also the origin of the greatest rivers of Asia, such as: Yangtze, Mekong, Huang He and Salween rising in the east, and the Indus, Brahmaputra, Sutlej and some feeder rivers of the Ganges in the west close to Mount Kailash.

Tibetan Autonomous Region covers an immense area of 1.2 million square kilometers (in the past it was even bigger). The northern is a little inhabited area. It is a rocky desert averaging 4000m altitude, where winter temperatures can decrease to minus 44C.

South of this is the mountainous grazing land that cannot support settled agriculture, occupied by the wide-ranging nomadic people with their herds of sheep, yaks and goats. The southern valleys, located between this nomad area and the Himalaya along the southern border, are the most hospitable for human habitation.

Explore Tibet 02 For this reason, this is the most populated area and where travelers spend the majority of their time, mainly in the wide valley system of the Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra) and its effluents.

There has been a large Chinese migration into the region since 1950 and soon they will be more numerous than Tibetans. The situation is most obvious in the cities, where the greatest opportunities exist. The Chinese population is increasing all the time and they are becoming economically dominant too.

Tibet presents some of the most amazing landscapes in the world, with impressive high-altitude valleys, mountains, lakes and native people. In Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse you can find beauty monasteries and temples - the Jokhang, Tashilunpo and the Kumbum respectively - .The Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a permanent image of Tibet in the Western mind, but it is not the unique attraction of Lhasa. Indeed, there are many smaller sights in the city to keep anyone active for several days.

In the southern are the Yarlung and Chongye valleys, which have temples and ancient monuments like the antique walled monastery of Samye. The tourist walkway between Zhangmu on the Nepalese border and Lhasa is more known currently. It offers side-trips to the huge Mongolian-style monastery in Sakya and to Everest Base Camp.

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