Lhasa is a unique tourist destination. It is the amazing capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the political, economic, cultural, transport and tourist centre of the Region. Situated on the north bank of the Kyichu River (Lhasa River), this Sunlight City, which is 3,658 meters (12,000 ft) above sea level, provides visitors with an entree to a splendid history of more than 1,300 years through its ancient palaces, temples and monasteries.
According to Tibetan history, King Songtsen Gampo established Lhasa as his capital after he unified Tibet. His vision for Lhasa resulted in the building of the Potala Palace
, the Jokhang Temple
, the Ramoche Monastery
and many other monasteries and palaces around the city.
In the centre of old Lhasa is the ancient circular Barkhor Street
, which surrounds the Jokhang Temple. The street was and still is a market with shops selling silks and furs and other artifacts. After the death of King Songtsen Gampo and his wives, the city's fortunes rose and fell frequently because of the struggles between Bon
Today it is a city where increasingly modern life coexists with holy Buddhism. This ancient city covers an area of about 30,000 square km (about 7,413,155 acres), with a total population of 474,500, of which 87% are Tibetans. Other nationalities, such as Han, Hui, Menba, Luoba, Sherpa, etc. also live harmoniously in the city. Most Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism , which even today is the source for many legends and mysteries in Tibet.
In addition to being the highest city in the world, Lhasa has marvelous natural scenery and a beautiful unspoiled landscape. Norbulingka, the former summer palace for Dalai Lamas, is now a park open to the public. Yangpachen, 87 kilometers (54 miles) north of the city, is renowned for its rich source of hot springs.
Although Lhasa has yet to develop into a metropolitan city, it has a unique charm and atmosphere and is a good place to live and travel. Walking in the ancient streets and experiencing the exotic customs and religion can relax one's exhausted spirit. Delicious food and drinks are available in night markets and, in Tibetan and western style restaurants. Spending a leisurely day on the big terrace of Barkhor Cafe in the sunshine with cups of coffee, you can see devoted pilgrims walking slowly around the Jokhang Temple not far away. Visitors will find that peace and harmony are the outstanding attributes of this ancient city. You will even find friends with similar interests from all over the world in the small hostel you lodge in. And, even while getting around the city in a pedicab or taxi, you will find that the ancient religious atmosphere, beautiful landscape and the simple hearted local people provide a very satisfying experience.