Tibet Autonomous Region –
Imagine a place where you feel as if you could touch the clouds, where people feed their dead to the birds through sky burial, where religion is a way of life and where majestic mountains make you feel very humble. Welcome to Tibet!
Tibet and the Chinese occupation
Tibet (officially called TAR- Tibet Autonomous Region) is a true beauty that is sadly losing its original charm faster and faster. It used to be cut off from the world, which made it very authentic and pure. Since the Chinese occupation (1950-51), it has become less of a hidden gem.
A railway connecting China with Tibet makes it easy accessible. Not only more tourists are visiting, also Chinese people are settling down. Which means a shift in culture.
True Tibet still trickles through
To me however, Tibet is still a gem. Mainly because of the unforgettable nature, its original culture – which still trickles through – and beautiful and friendly people. Despite of its sad history, it is certainly a place worth seeing. If you book your trip at a Tibetan agency, you will support the local community.
Tibet is known as ’the roof of the world’. The average height of the plateau is 4200 meter. You will immediately notice this. Altitude sickness is not a nice feeling and it can also be dangerous for your health. It is caused by a lack of oxygen at altitudes above 2000-2500 meter. Your body needs time to adjust to a different type of environment. Do yourself a favour: take your time acclimatizing.
Acclimatize in China
A good place to start is Xining, located at 2300 meters. This Chinese city is situated at the beginning of the Tibetan plateau. Lots of Tibetan people live in this area which means you can already get a taste of the Tibetan culture. Take at least 3 days to relax.
Acclimatize in Tibet
Stay in Lhasa a few days – there is enough to see and experience – to get used to the altitude of about 3600 meters before you go into the country and experience even higher altitudes.
Don’t rush getting into Tibet by flying into Lhasa and/or not taking enough time to acclimatize. Go to Lhasa by train. This is the best way to avoid getting sick from the altitude, because it is a slow way of ascending. And in this case, slow is better! The journey from Xining, one of the places where you can hop on the train to Lhasa, is about 24 hours. It takes you over 5000 meters several times during the night. Don’t worry about the altitude while you’re in the train: if you have problems breathing, ask the staff for oxygen.
You can also check the article How to book your trip to Tibet.