The lack of skyscrapers and the escape from urban pollution make the Tibetan Plateau one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Also known as the Himalayan Plateau, this vast region encompasses montane grassland, gorgeous mountain ranges, and countless cultural and religious infrastructure.
Most people may know the Tibetan Plateau as home to the Dalai Lama or for the many monasteries that house ancient Buddhist scriptures. But the Tibetan Plateau is much bigger than that. It stretches westward into Pakistan and eastward into central China. Not only does it encompass Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, but it also hosts a diverse range of species.
Where is the
As the highest and largest plateau in the world, the Tibetan Plateau is 2,500,000 sq km and stretches across four countries. There are many points of interest in this vast area.
When to Visit the Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau has the best weather and views during June. However, with blooming flower and browning leaves, Spring and Fall present a beauty of their own.
Tibetan Plateau: Jiuzhaigou National Park
Jiuzhaigou National Park is a gorgeous spot just hours away from Chengdu. It rests on the border of the Tibetan Plateau and shouldn’t be missed if you find yourself in the Province of Sichuan. The park stretches across 720.017 sq kms and has crystal clear water that can easily compete with the blue waters of Banff National Park in Canada, or the Calanques in the South of France.
A day spent at Jiuzhaigou will bring you face-to-face with nature’s mystic. Whether it be the mountain ranges in the background or the chirping birds nearby, the landscape will convince you to come back for more.
There are a number of scenic spots in the area, including Huanglong, a Sichuan 5A scenic spot that’s known for its colorful pools. Panda Sea, Nuorilang Waterfall, Fire Flower Lake, and Long Lake are also must-visits in Jiuzhaigou.
Tibetan Plateau: Langmusi Town
Margarita From The Wildlife Diaries
I discovered Langmusi completely by accident. Last October I was on the Tibetan Plateau looking for some rare wild cats, and for something to do during the day, we drove to Langmusi.
This magical little town is hidden in the mountains of the Tibetan Plateau, on the border between Sichuan and Gansu Provinces. In fact, the border runs right through the middle of town.
Remote and a little wild, Langmusi is inhibited by the Tibetans, Hui Muslims, and Han Chinese. It is the most mesmerizing mix of cultures and ethnicity.
Two large Tibetan monasteries set the tone for the town’s vibe. There are more burgundy-robed Tibetan monks on its steep streets than plain-clothed locals. Yet, in the center of town, an intricately-carved Hui Muslim mosque stands surrounded by a smattering of Muslim noodle shops.
Among all that, a large proportion of the lay population are Hun Chinese. And, at least to the bystander, they all appear to live in mutual acceptance, despite the shared general grim demeanor.
When you are in town, make sure to visit one of the Tibetan monasteries. Both are hundreds of years old and hauntingly spiritual. Supposedly, it was the conflict between the powerful Abbots of these two monasteries that resulted in instating a state boundary between them.
The monasteries sit on hilltops above the town and provide perfect views over the surrounding grassland, dotted with white nomad tents.
Tibetan Plateau: Labrang Monastery
Located in Xiahe County of Gannan District, Labrang Monastery is one of the major temples of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This magnificent space is a must-visit for those interested in Buddhism and Tibetan Monasteries.
A number of prayer halls coexist to create one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist schools, which is home to over 3,000 monks.
A walk between the various structures is a must. With countless Buddha statues and colorful architecture, numerous sculptures, and exquisite murals, Labrang Monastery is definitely worth a stopover if you find yourself on the Tibetan Plateau.
This monastery’s long corridor of prayer wheels is also very unique. Circling along the temple clockwise while touching the rotating wheels is said to bring good luck. A day should be spent in-and-around the dwelling before heading to the main temple, where monks begin collective chanting at 18:00 o’clock.
Tibetan Plateau: Sangke Grassland
Sangke Grassland is in close proximity to the beautiful Labrang Monastery.
With charming landscape and nomadic tents, Sangke’s beauty can be best experienced during the summer months, when the grass is green and the weather inviting. Local cuisine, horseback riding, and tent-living are all possible choices when you find yourself in Sangke.
If you’d like to spend a night on the grassland, do speak with a local who may be able to arrange homestay options. The prices should be negotiated beforehand, as with what’s included in the experience itself.
Tibetan Plateau: Qinghai Lake
Krasen From Journey Beyond the Horizon
China is known as a country with various kinds of nature- mountains, grasslands, rain forest, beaches, rivers, lakes and many other natural forms.
The largest lake in China is situated deep in the Tibetan Plateau, 3205 meters above the sea level. This is Qinghai Lake, and its name means “The Blue-green Sea”.
Qinghai Lake is located in Qinghai Province, west of its capital Xining, in the high northeastern areas of the Great Tibetan Plateau. It is surrounded by mountains and covered by endless grasslands. Three civilizations meet here at the lake- Tibetan, Han Chinese and Mongolian. It is a land of nomadic life, and you can see a lot of yaks, sheep, and horses led by their local herdsmen. All this, under a deep blue sky with white clouds, reflecting on the lake’s turquoise waters.
Qinghai Lake is surrounded by a circumferential road, and the best way to make a circle trip around it is by bike, for 2-3 days.
Take your bike and start riding. You will enjoy the endless yellow rape flower fields, one of Qinghai Lake’s symbols, along with the green grasslands with their herds. When you go to the western side of the lake, you can see Bird’s Island, which thousands of birds use as their home. You can also see the sand deserts at the lake’s northeastern side. All this can give you a really unforgettable experience.
Tibetan Plateau: Lhasa
Chris From Chris Travel Blog
The Tibetan Plateau is enormous and Lhasa; the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region is a place not to miss. Especially if you visit western China or as an add-on to a Yunnan itinerary. Lhasa is also called the roof of the world and is a unique place unlike any other.
The political debate aside, Lhasa does have a lot of history to explore. Tibetan culture is heavily integrated with Buddhism and its development. The main attraction in Lhasa is the Potala Palace, which is the former residence of the Dalai Lama and where many predecessors are currently buried. Other attractions in Lhasa are the Jokhang Temple, Drepung, and Sera Monastery. You will see pilgrims, monks debating and young scholars learning Buddhist texts.
Visiting Tibet isn’t impossible for non-Chinese residents. You’ll need a permit which is easily arranged through a tour operator in Tiber. Flights, hotels, and meals can be arranged individually, which is cheaper than through the tour agency. Most of the travels on the Tibetan Plateau, including its grassland and Lhasa, can be completed by yourself. However, places such as Potala Palace need to be visited with a local guide. Plan at least 3 full days for Lhasa alone or a day more if you need to get adjusted to the altitude, which is well over 3000 meters.
Most Tibetan monasteries will serve you free vegetarian meals. However, do try Yak meat, a delicacy, and raw sashimi meat, if you prefer other options. If you have more time you can do day trips to various holy lakes and other Tibetan monasteries. A guide and car are required for these trips as per regulation. Lhasa is a pleasant place and a great way to learn about local culture. Make sure to visit the beautiful city if you are embarking on a trip across the Tibetan Plateau.
Tibetan Plateau: Gyantse
James From Travel Collecting
Gyantse used to be the third city of Tibet but has remained the same while other cities have grown. This means it still has a nice relaxed village feel that makes it my favorite city on the Tibetan Plateau. You can visit Gyantse just to wander the streets and soak up the vibe, but it is also home to two major sights. Gyantse Dzong is an ancient fortress that dominates a rocky outcrop rising out of the middle of the city. The fortress dates from 1390 and helped the Tibetans resist British invasion for longer than expected in the early 1900s. There is a small museum there today.
The other major place to visit in Gyantse is the Palcho Monastery. It has the largest chorten/ stupa of any monastery in Tibet – the incredible multi-layered Kumbum (a group of multi-tiered temples). It’s a fascinating place to explore. The main temple is dark and the pungent smell of yak butter is omnipresent as candles burn constantly. If you are lucky, you may even witness the monks there making enormous mandalas on the floor out of brightly colored sand.
Currently, it is only possible to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region on an organized tour. Tours can be private, but you will need to be accompanied by a guide. The main gateway to Tibet is the capital city, Lhasa, and you will most likely fly or take a train there, then continue to Gyantse with your guide by jeep or minivan.
TIP: Tibet is well worth the effort it takes to get there, but the Tibetan Plateau is 4,500 meters above sea level, so you will most likely feel the effects of the altitude. Take it easy the first few days you are there.
Tips and Advice
- Most of the scenic spots in the Tibetan Plateau should be visited with a tour. For those traveling to Tibet, the trip must be organized by travel agencies with confirmed routes as per PRC policy. Foreigners are not allowed to travel alone in Tibet and must be accompanied by a licensed guide. Other areas might be difficult to access due to increased security & surveillance. Although you can visit say, Jiuzhaigou by yourself, it might be more difficult to get around than bigger cities in China.
- Some people might experience altitude sickness, do prepare yourself for symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, fatigue etc.
- You shouldn’t point your finger at statues or take photos inside temples.
- And have fun! The Tibetan Plateau is simply wonderful.