There are some places on earth that are truly spectacular. Tibet is one such place, which has been a mystery for travelers for centuries. Tibet, a birth land of Asia’s largest rivers, is the Land of Snow, of holy and pristine lakes that has been aptly termed as the Roof of the World.
1. Tibet, an independent country till 1959, was forcefully occupied by China and now is an important province of the dragon country.
At a mean elevation of about 4,500 meters above sea level, Tibet is referred to as Roof of the World and is the highest plateau on the planet.
2. Fresh water for over a billion people comes from Tibet.
Six of Asia’s biggest rivers originate from Tibet. The Mekong, Brahmaputra, Indus, Yangtze, Salween and Hwang Ho River together support the largest number of people on earth.
3. Tibet is actually called the Third Pole of the world.
Holding the largest amount of fresh water reserves locked in snowfields and glaciers after Arctic and Antarctic, Tibet is called the planet’s Third Pole.
4. Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, marks the border between Nepal and Tibet.
5. Tibet is China’s largest province but is the least populated. Most Tibetans are traditional farmers or herders.
6. Traveling to Tibet solo is not allowed; call your friends and family and move in a group!
You just cannot buy an airline ticket to Lhasa. You will essentially require a Tibet Travel permit and a Chinese Visa too.
7. Patola Palace, a wonder at Tibet’s capital Lahsa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The massive building complex on a spur of the Red Mountain dates back to the year 637. It is aptly nicknamed as the ‘Palace of Art’.
8. For a Tibetan, paying obeisance at Jokhang Temple in Barkhor Square, Lahsa is a life fulfilled.
No other temple is more supreme for a Tibetan Buddhist than this one. A Chinese Tang Dynasty and Indian Vihara fusion architectural style leaves visitors speechless.
9. Lake Namtso, meaning Heaven Lake, is a place where the heavens truly touch earth.
It is the second largest saltwater lake in China and one of the most beautiful places on earth. A legend has us believe that Namtso was a daughter of God Indra, who holds an aquarium in her right hand and a mirror in the other.
10. Yamdrok Lake was formed when glacial rocks and mud blocked the flow of a river, a million years ago.
A geographical marvel, Yamdrok Lake (Jade lake) is one of Tibet’s holiest lakes.
11. Samding Monastery, on the bank of Yamdrok Lake, is the only one in Tibet that is headed by a woman.
12. Not many know that Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world.
Though it surpasses the Grand Canyon or any other canyon on earth, this geographical wonder has hardly been explored.
13. Yangbajing, a small town in Tibet, is the highest place on earth with a hot spring.
The sight of boiling geysers trying to touch the sky, and the suffusion of the cold and hot water makes Yangbajing an amazing natural wonder.
14. Norbulingka was the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama.
Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama lives in exile at Dharamshala, India. This beautiful palace, a legacy of Tibet’s disturbed history, is spread over 36 hectares and has 374 rooms.
15. The Tashilhunpo Monastery can accommodate 2,000 monks.
Dating back to the year 1447, Tashilhunpo is one of the four major Gelugpa Monasteries in Tibet. Thousands of monks gather to chant mantras before a 26.2-meter-high statue of Maitreya Buddha at this monastery.
16. Lulang Forest of Tibet is one of the most beautiful plateau forests on earth.
Known as Dragon King Valley, this forest is rich in pine trees, dragon spruce and high bushes.
17. Tibetan beliefs say a dragon lives in each lake, rocks have spirits, and circling of mountains (Parkrama) washes sins for attaining Nirvana.
Tibetans are humble and religious people. It takes very little to make them happy.
18. Tibetans call Mount Kailash ‘Kangrinboqê’ (Gangrenboqi).
Mount Kailash in central Tibet marks a unique convergence of faiths as the mountain is held sacred by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. This Mecca for pilgrims continues to be an insurmountable peak since ages. There is snow all year round and the clouds give it a fascinating pyramid like shape right at the peak.
19. Lake Mansarovar (mah-pung-yong-tswaw for Tibetans) is the highest freshwater lake in the world.
This jewel of a lake forms the catchment for the rivers of Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra and Karnali. A pilgrimage around the lake with a bath in it, is one of the most sacred rituals for a Tibetan. To cover this 60 kms wide lake, it takes a minimum of four to five days.
20. Basum Lake in eastern Tibet is the largest freshwater lake.
This lake is considered the most scared one by Nyingma Tibetan Buddhists, one of four major schools of Buddhism on the plateau.
21. Raksas Tal (Devil Lake), in close proximity of sweet Lake Mansarovar, is a salt water lake.
The two lakes together have given birth to legends about gods and the devil having a common linkage. The two lakes are interlinked with the same waterway, but one is sweet and clear, the other is salty and undrinkable.
22. Tibetans hold sky burials for their deceased.
23. Buttered tea, which the world is gaga over, is a Tibetan beverage.
The Tibetans had learnt about the benefits of adding fat to tea many centuries ago.