Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region lies on the north bank of River Lhasa, at an altitude of 3,700 meters. It is the center of Tibet’s political, economic, cultural and religious activities. There are many historic sites and famous relics in the city proper and its suburbs, among which the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Gandan Monastery are world famous.
The imposing edifice of the Potala Palace, rising high above the city of Lhasa is the first impression that comes to many a travellers’ mind, when they think about Tibet. The palace, known as Potala Palace is located at the foot of Moburi (Red) Mountain, to the west of old Lhasa. Built in the 640s, during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo , the palace is widely known for the precious sculptures, murals, scriptures, Buddha statues, antiques, and religious jewelry. The 13-story palace stands 117 meters high, covers an area of 130,000 square meters and has over 1,000 rooms. The entire building is made of stone and wood, with walls averaging 3 meters thick. Potala Palace contains the White Palace and the Red Palace. The Dalai Lama used to live in the White Palace. In 1994, the Potala Palace was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Norbulingka served as Dalai Lama’s Summer retreat, so it is also known as Summer Palace. Norbulingka was built in 1755 and became the place where the successors of the seventh Dalai Lama dealt with affairs, held celebrations, rested and conducted religious activities. In mid-March every year, the Dalai Lama would move to Norbulingka from the Potala Palace(which served as a Winter retreat), and stay until the end of October, when he would return to the Potala Palace. The garden covers an area of 46 acres (19 hectares) and the palace has 370 rooms of different sizes.
Located in the center of old Lhasa city, Jokhang Temple is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) Branch of Tibetan Buddhism. It was originally built in 647 AD by craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal. Thus the temple features architectural styles of these three countries. Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. In the central hall is the Jokhang’s oldest and most precious object, a life-sized sitting statue of Sakyamuni when he was 12 years old.
The Barkhor (pilgrims’ circuit) Street lies in the heart of Lhasa encircling the Jokhang Temple. It is the oldest street in Lhasa and in front of Jokhang Temple. Tibetan houses line the streets, and the ground is paved with flagstones, preserving the ancient look. In the street, you can find souvenirs, and experience the mysterious “one step one bow” way to religion. It dates back to the foundation of the Jokhang and is an essential pilgrim route. Houses and small inns line the street. When shopping in the Barkhor streets, visitors should learn to bargain with the stall keepers. According to ancient customs, every day Tibetan stall keepers will offer discounts to the first and the last buyers. Another custom is that the stall keeper will tap money received on the goods as a way of inviting the God of Wealth.
Tibetan Medicine Institute: This institute was built in 1916 as the center of research for Tibetan Medicine. This serves as the traditional Tibetan hospital and a training center for Tibetan doctorsa. The institute is spread over 40,000 sq meters and is located at Yuthok Lu , just west of the Jokhang Temple.