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  • Lhasa 

 

Lhasa, the heart and soul of Tibet and an object of devout pilgrimage, is still a city of wonders. The Potala, a vast white and ochre fortress, dominates the Lhasa skyline. Once the seat of Tibetan government and the location of the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas, the Potala serves as a symbolic focus for Tibetan aspirations. Today though, it is the Jokhang temple, 2km to the east, which is the spiritual heart of the city. The medieval push and shove of crowds, the street performers, the stalls hawking everything from prayer flags to jewel-encrusted yak skulls, and the devout tapping their foreheads to the ground at every step is an exotic brew that few newcomers can resist. Among Tibet's other attractions are Shigatse, around 250km south-west of Lhasa and the seat of the Panchen Lama (the reincarnation of whom the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government are currently disputing), and Mt Kailash, a beautiful range of peaks.
   
  Sakya is 152km west of Shigatse and about 25km south of the main road. The huge brooding monastery here was Tibet's most powerful 700 years ago. The monastery probably contains the finest collection of Tibetan religious relics remaining in Tibet, although the monks may restrict you to viewing only a couple of halls. There's an unreliable bus from Shigatse, but most people arrange to see Sakya on their way to the Nepali border or the Everest Base Camp.
   
   

 

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  • Mt Everest   

    The Tibetan approach to Mt Everest or Qoomolangma (8848m) provides far better vistas of the world's highest peak than those on the Nepal side. Some 27,000 sq km around Everest's Tibetan face have been designated as the Qoomolangma Nature Preserve, aiming to protect the environment and the cultural traditions of the local people. For foreign travellers, the Everest Base Camp has become the most popular trekking
       
      destination in Tibet, but this does not mean that the region is exactly swarming with hikers. The two access points are Shegar and Tingri, along the Friendship Highway to Nepal, but be warned that neither trek is an easy three or four-day stroll. Take your time getting acclimatised and be prepared for a strenuous climb. If it all sounds too much, 4WD vehicles can lurch all the way to base camp along the Shegar track.
       
       


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  •   Gyantse 

      Gyantse, some 200km south-west of Lhasa, is one of the least Chinese-influenced towns in Tibet and is worth a visit for this reason alone. The Palkhor Monastery here was built in 1427 and is notable for its superb Kumbum (10,000 images) stupa. The Dzong (old fort) which towers above the village offers a fine view over the valley. Gyantse is a four hour bus ride from Shigatse.
       
       
       
       



     

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