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Home >> China Travel City Guide >> Lhasa


Lhasa, or the "ground of the gods', has been the capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region since the 7th century when Sron-btsan Gam-po built his palace where the Potala now stands and attempted to unify the various clans in the area. This is the first stop for most visitors to Tibet and, although the journey here is not as exciting as it once was, a tip here is still an essential part of any visit to Tibet. Lhasa is famous for being one of the highest cities in the world, towering 3,600 meters above the banks of the Lhasa River, but what really knocks you out here is the full scale impact on your senses of the breathtaking beauty, unique landscape and the holy atmosphere of this religious center.

Most of the historical sights here date back to the 1600s when the magnificent Potala Palace was built. The Potala dominates the skyline but Jokhang is considered the spiritual center of the city and there are numerous other small active temples dotted about. Pilgrims still flock to Lhasa to see and experience the remaining enclaves of tradition. Despite the important religious and historical legacy of the city, Lhasa has changed a lot in the past 40 years than ever before. Although pilgrims still visit here, they are now joined and compete for space with western tourists and numerous Chinese.

The "renovating" and "modernizing" influence is fast changing the unique flavor that makes Tibet and Lhasa so special. Before the Han people moved in to the city in 1951, only about 20,000 people inhabited this small area. Today, there are some 160,000 inhabitants here, including many businessmen, here to utilize the modernization and development of Lhasa. In some aspects this is changing the face of Lhasa for the worse. For the adventurous travelers, however, this remains a city of intrigue and there is more than enough to hold you here for a few days. Modernization too, means that facilities are better in the capital city than they are elsewhere in the province. 80% of the population of Tibet lives in the countryside. Outside Lhasa is where the more authentic and traditional aspects of the region can be enjoyed and experienced.

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