Located in southwest China on a plateau nicknamed ‘the roof of the world’ the autonomous region of Tibet occupies almost thirteen percent of China’s land mass yet is the country’s least populated province.

Established in the seventh century and protected by the formidable Himalaya mountain range, the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Tibet only became truly accessible to overseas visitors in the late twentieth century.

In recent years, improved road, rail and air links have made it possible for greater numbers to experience this magical and unforgettable destination. Welcomed by the hospitable Tibetans, visitors discover a province steeped in history, tradition and culture and situated amid some of the world’s most astonishing landscapes.

A largely agreeable climate, a seemingly endless succession of historic and cultural attractions to enjoy, cities which effortlessly combine the ancient with the modern and a wealth of natural beauty have all contributed to Tibet’s growing popularity as a unique and unmissable destination for tourists visiting China.

Tibet’s seasons and the best time to visit

Tibet’s location on a plateau at high-altitude to the north-east of the Himalaya Mountain range provides a climate that is generally dry and variable between cold and mild depending upon the time of year. Despite an abundance of sunshine frost persists in most of Tibet between October and March and lakes at higher altitudes remain frozen. The majority of Tibet’s rainfall occurs during the rainy season which is at its height during July and August.

Tibet has four distinct seasons and can be visited year round. In spring (April to May) Tibet’s snow and ice begin to thaw as temperatures rise. Sunshine, mild weather and a lack of tourist crowds make this a good time to visit. Summer, from July to August, is the most popular time to experience Tibet. The weather is clear warm and sunny and rain showers are sporadic, often occurring at night. Summer conditions are great for exploring Tibet’s more remote and naturally beautiful areas, and many traditional Tibetan festivals are held throughout the season. In autumn (September and October) the weather turns slightly cooler, but bright clear days reveal Tibet’s stunning landscapes at their most photogenic. Winter, from November to March, can bring heavy snow which makes roads to remoter areas impassable.

Visitors wishing to experience Tibet’s best weather are recommended to visit in May or September.

Tibetan cuisine

Tibet’s unique cuisine evolved from the need for foods that could nourish a community living at high altitude but has also been influenced by Chinese and Indian gastronomy. Tibet’s staple crop is barley, which is ground into flour for a variety of breads. Rice and those fruits and vegetables which are suited to Tibet’s geography and climate accompany dishes of yak, goat or mutton. The yak also provides dairy produce including milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

Items of Tibetan cuisine that no visitor should miss include sha balep (‘meat bread’), which is  a small and delicious meat pie; shaptra – seasoned and stir-fried meat, usually pork, yak, beef or mutton; shamey momo, light, steamed vegetable dumplings traditionally filled with potato but also found with other filling such as mushroom or tofu and thenthuk (pronounced ‘ten-too-k’) which is a warming noodle soup featuring either meat or vegetables. Yak butter tea is the preferred everyday beverage in Tibet, although its salted flavour – an acquired taste! – is more reminiscent of a thin hot soup.

Tibet’s key attractions and activities

There are many compelling reasons to visit Tibet; not least for its proximity to the  magnificent Himalayas and the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest or for the profusion of ancient monasteries and temples scattered throughout the kingdom.

Few destinations are as enchanting and diverting as Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city. A breath-taking blend of cultures, historical treasures and the modern world, Lhasa’s highlights include the beautiful Potala Palace, residence of the Dalai Lama; the seventh-century Jokhang Temple built as a shrine to Buddha, several exquisite and historic monasteries, and Barkhor Street which is the city’s oldest street and leads through the wonderfully preserved and atmospheric heart of Old Lhasa.

123 kilometres northeast of Lhasa, Namtso Lake National Park is unparalleled in its tranquillity and natural beauty. The world’s highest saltwater lake at 4,718 meters above sea level spans an area of 1,920 square kilometres and is surrounded by the majestic  Nyainqêntanglha mountain range.

Situated close to the legendary Base Camp at the foot of Mount Everest, Rongbuk Monastery, built in 1899, is one of the highest monasteries on earth and enjoys an unforgettable location with some of the best views imaginable of the world’s most famous mountain.