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Tibet

Main attractions

Mount Kailash - Buddhist sacred site, Tibet
Mount Kailash - sacred site of Buddhists and earlier cultures / Heringf, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Currently Tibet is included in China and Wondermondo is reviewing the country in the present-day borders of Tibet Autonomous region.

Few countries in the world are as shrouded in myths and legends as Tibet is. This is land with mountainous (highest mountains in the world!), rugged and harsh terrain - and lots of unspoilt nature. All this scenery is dotted with thousands of historical landmarks - megaliths, cliff art, abandoned and existing towns and cities, thousands of rock-cut chambers and passages, monasteries. The history of Tibet to a large extent still is a mystery and promises exciting discoveries in future.

Highlights of Tibet are:

  • Buddhist and Bön monasteries. The numerous monasteries of Tibet are the keepers and developers of the traditions in this country, here are stored old writings and artwork. Mysterious is the Bön tradition - a relict of the distant past and extinct cultures of Tibet.
  • Archaeological heritage. Although later - Tibetan and Chinese cultures - have partly erased the earlier heritage, in Tibet still are found hundreds of monuments created by earlier cultures, such as Zhang Zhung or Guge.
  • Natural landmarks. Country has huge number of interesting landmarks but the most impressive is the landscape, image of Tibet as a whole. Nowhere else in the world one will see such a "sea of mountains" with thousands of lucid lakes and deepest canyons in the world.

Natural landmarks

Geothermal fields, hot springs

  • Dagejia geysers (Dagyel Chuja, Tagejia, Tagajia, Dagajia) - Shigatse. Possibly one of largest geyser fields in the world, reported to have some 100 geysers. Dagejia Geyser spouts up to 20 m high and is the largest geyser in Tibet.
  • Peting Chuja and Naisum Chuja. Some of most mysterious and less known geyser fields in the world, located in hard to access valley of La Chu (Laha) River. It is considered that here are some 14 active geysers. Naisum Chuja at the end of the 19th century had two geysers spouting up to 18 m high. During the harsh Tibetan winter the water freezes, forming weird ice towers.
  • Tirthapura Hot Springs - Ngari. Hot springs with white travertine terraces in the upper reaches of Sutlej River, in the land of ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom. Pilgrimage site.

Waterfalls

  • Hidden Falls - Nyingchi, Tsangpo Gorge. This very powerful fall is around 30 metres high and is located in one of the last explored areas on Earth. It was discovered only in the late 1990s. Upstreams are located Rainbow Falls, which are some 20 m high.
  • Ka Ding Falls (Tian Fo Falls) - Nyingchi. Approximately 200 m tall, powerful and almost vertical waterfall.
Mount Everest from Tibet
Mount Everest from Tibet / Joe Hastings, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Baji Cypress (King Cypress) - Nyingchi. Largest known giant cypress (Cupressus gigantea W. C. Cheng & L.K. Fu), height roughly 46 - 56 m, diameter 4.46 - 5.8 m, approximately 2,600 years old (not testified). Tree grows in a relict stand of cypresses, many trees here are enormous.
  • Lhamo La-tso - Lhasa. The most sacred lake in Tibet, a place where senior monks go to assist in the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas. Lake is located in 5,300 m altitude and is often visited by pilgrims who want to see their future in the skull-shaped mirror of this lake.
  • Mount Everest - Shigatse and Nepal, Sagarmatha. Earth's highest mountain, 8,848 m high.
  • Orba Co islands - Ngari. Islands in this lake are the highest located islands in the world, located at 5,209 m height.
  • Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon - Nyingchi. Possibly the deepest canyon in the world, up to 6,009 m deep. Average depth - 2,268 m. Contains unique, nearly undisturbed ecosystem with different height zones - from subtropical to Arctic.
  • Zabuye Lake - Shigatse. Hypersaline soda lake with sediments of a mineral zabuyelite which is named after this lake. Zabuyelite - lithium carbonate - is used for mining of lithium. Zabuye Lake is one of most important sources of lithium in the world.

Man made landmarks

Rock-cut architecture

  • Caves of Garuda Valley - Ngari. Rock-cut caves in the canyon of upper Sutlej, part of them form Kyunglung (see below). Entrance in some caves is in vertical cliff up to 400 m above the river. Caves most likely were created by the ancient Zhang Zhung civilization and may form a part of the legendary Shambala.
  • Donggar (Dungkar) and Piyang Buddhist Caves - Ngari. Group of artificial caves with very valuable frescoes (Donggar) which are some 1,100 years old. Colourful drawings mostly show heavenly girls. In Piyang above the village rises a hill with more than one thousand rock cut caves.
Ruins of Tsaparang - capital of the Kingdom of Guge, Tibet
Ruins of Tsaparang - capital of the Kingdom of Guge / yuen yan, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Abandoned settlements, fotresses

  • Black Rock - Ngari. Ruins of abandoned, ancient village with more than 10 ruined houses - shrines. Largest is the Founders House: exceptionally well preserved stone building with stele inside. Two other ancient villages nearby are Crystal Rock and Red Rock.
  • Chugtso Dropo - Nagchu. Ruins of ancient fortress, built by Zhang Zhung (Shangshung) civilization before the 6th century AD. Located on peninsula of Lake Dangra.
  • Kyunglung - Ngari. Ruins of the fortress - capital of the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom (civilization) which ruled Tibet before Buddhism, before the 6th century AD. Part of the structures is made in the cliffs as a maze of caves. It is possible that this was rather a ceremonial capital and not a settlement.
  • Tsaparang - Ngari. Ruins of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Guge. The town basically consists of huge mountain with a fortress - summer palace on it. The mountain is crisscrossed by artificial passages and caves. According to legends the town was established sometimes around 838 - 841 AD, most of constructions are from the 11th century.
Gyantse Dzong, Tibet
Gyantse Dzong / Göran Höglund, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Palaces, fortresses

  • Gyantse Dzong - Shigatse. One of the best preserved historical fortresses in Tibet. Present walls were built in 1268, palace - in 1365. Walls are adorned with murals from the 14th century.
  • Norbulingka - Lhasa. Palace and park fo Dalai Lamas, constructed in the second half of the 18th century. Unique monument of Tibetan culture. Especially impressive is the park and gardens.
  • Potala Palace - Lhasa. A monument of world importance, this is the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. The first palace was built here in 637, while the current palace was built in 1645 at 13 floors and 117 metres high. It contains 1000 rooms and numerous monuments of art and knowledge, although most of them have been lost since the Chinese invasion.
  • Yumbulagang (Yungbulakang Palace) - Shannan. Impressive mountaintop palace, according to the legends - the oldest building in Tibet (the 2nd century BC) and the residence of the first king of Tibet - Nyatri Tsenpo.
Drigung Monastery, Tibet
Dance of monks in Drigung Monastery / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Buddhist and Bön monasteries

  • Buchu Monastery - Nyingchi. Very old Buddhist monastery, built in the 7th century as one of the legendary "demoness-subduing" temples according to geomantic theory. Monastery has golden roof which is visible from far away.
  • Drepung Monastery - Lhasa. Reported by some to have been the largest monastery in world, in the first half of the 20th century it had up to 10,000 monks. It was founded in 1416 and had high standards of education. It was partly destroyed by Chinese in 1951.
  • Drigung Monastery - Tibet, Lhasa prefecture. A keeper of ancient Tibetan traditions, this monastery was founded in 1179 and emphasizes sky burials, tantric meditation, Phowa.
  • Ganden Monastery - Tibet. The first monastery of Tibetan Geluk order, it was founded in 1409. In the early 20th century it had around 6,000 monks. It was demolished in 1959 and 1966 by the Chinese, partly reconstructed afterwards.
  • Jokhang - Lhasa. Buddhist monastery, built sometimes around 642 AD. One of the most sacred sites for Tibetans, contains numerous revered metal sculptures hidden from the eyes of casual visitors.
  • Menri Monastery - Shigatse. Once the most influential Bön monasteries, established in 1405. Destroyed during Cultural Revolution, currently under reconstruction. Bön is oldest spiritual tradition in Tibet preceding Buddhism.
  • Nechung Chok - Lhasa. The seat of the State Oracle of Tibet, who consulted Dalai Lama. The monastery once had up to 1,000 monks.
  • Palchor Monastery (Palcho Monastery) - Shigatse. An impressive monastery complex with the large Gyantse Kumbum (a multi-storied aggregate of 108 chapels). The main temple was built in 1418 - 1428. It has an impressive fortification wall around the monastery.
  • Rongbuk Monastery and Mount Everest, Tibet
    Rongbuk Monastery and Mount Everest / Göran Höglund, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
    Rongbuk Monastery - Shigatse. The highest monastery in the world, located at 4,980 m height with a fine view on Mount Everest. Founded in 1902.
  • Sakya Monastery - Shigatse. This is a large monastery, founded in 1073, and a leader in Tibet in the 13th century. It has medieval Mongolian architecture and contains very important artworks and a library with 84 000 scrolls.
  • Samye Monastery - Shannan. The first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, it was founded around 775 - 779 AD. The original buildings are not preserved and the monastery was rebuilt several times.
  • Sera Monastery - Lhasa. Founded in 1419, this was one of three great Gelukpa Buddhism monasteries and housed more than 5,000 monks in 1959. Today there are just a few.
  • Shalu Monastery - Shigatsu. A comparatively small but important monastery, it was founded in 1040. It was ancient centre of education, esoteric studies and psychic training, and is renowned for its painted murals.
  • Tashilhunpo Monastery - Shigatse. An important monastery, founded in 1447, that had up to 4,000 monks. It has numerous important art works.
  • Tholing Monastery - Ngari. Very old monastery, the oldest structure here is constructed in 997 AD. Contains beautiful frescoes in the characteristic style of Guge Kingdom. Nearby are located rock-cut caves - Buddhist temples.
  • Tradruk Temple - Shannan. One of the first (possibly - the first) geomantic temples in Tibet, built before the 8th century AD. Geomantic temples were a group of 12 temples built in special places to provide protection to Tibet. Tradruk has many valuable works of art.
  • Tsangdain Monastery - Nagqu. Large monastery, similar to Potala Palace. Constructed in 1667, rich with frescoes, old scriptures and other values.

Monuments, stelae

  • Lhasa Zhol Pillar - Lhasa. Thin, tall stone pillar, erected sometimes around 764 AD. Pillar is covered with writings - possibly the oldest example of Tibetan script. Writing tells about the local history in the 8th century. Since the 1993 it is almost totally hidden behind a high wall.
  • Shinje Melong - Shannan. A polished stone next to the walls of Chokorgyel Monastery. According to legends horoscopes can be read in this stone, it is used also in rainmaking ceremonies.
Old Lhasa and Potala Palace, Tibet
Old Lhasa and Potala Palace / joaquin uy, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Mount Kailash (Tise) - Nyingchi. Visually very impressive mountain, 6638 metres high. Sacred site for many of the religions of Asia, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. It is off limits to people due to its religious signficance. Pilgrims walk around the mountain in a 52 km long trek.
  • Old Lhasa - Lhasa. Historical quartals of Lhasa city with narrow streets, public squares, many historically and culturally important buildings. Most authentic is Barkhor - a maze of streets and squares encircling the Jokhang Temple, popular route for pilgrims.
  • Rutog Rock Art - Shigatse. Some of the best examples of prehistoric stone art in Tibet. Drawings are found on several rocks around Pangongcuo Lake. Some of the best ones are the rock panels of Risum Rimodong and Lorinaka. Drawings are diverse, they show social life: hunting, religious rituals, farming. Rock art includes examples of the Xiangxiong writing.
  • Valley of the Kings - Shannan. 3.85 million m² large tumulus, many kings of Tibet are buried here. Especially interesting is the tomb of King Songtsan Gampo which has underground chambers filled with precious items.

List of described attractions by prefectures

Tibet is divided into 6 prefectures and one prefecture-level city. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Chamdo
Lhasa
Nagqu
Ngari
Nyingchi
ArrowBaji CypressTrees
Shannan
Shigatse

Map of Tibet

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