"If you have time for but one
  province in China, Yunnan should
  be it.
- Lonely Planet


Volunteer in Kunming, Yunnan,
a city with year-round Spring weather. Trips to 26 cultures &
5 nearby countries.

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Tibet and Lhasa


The amazing thing about Yunnan is that in addition to bordering the tropics of Guangxi and Southeast Asia it also shares a border with Tibet, the so-called “roof of the world”.  In recent years, tourists have begun flocking to Tibet to satisfy their thirst for its mystical culture and Buddhist traditions.  While visiting Tibet requires tourists go through a permit process that is unnecessary when visiting all other regions of China, the number of fantastic sights in Tibet that can be seen nowhere else in the world make it worth the effort.

The capital of Tibet contains some of its most famed sites.  Unlike every other capital city in China, Lhasa is not covered in massive developments and skyscrapers projects.  Just as it has for centuries, one building stands above all other in Lhasa: the Potal Palace. The home of the Dalai Llama before he went to exile in India 50 years ago, the Potala Palace is the undisputed symbol of Tibet and one of the world’s most distinctive buildings.  Today the palace is a museum where you can view its wealth of relics, stupas and statues.  Many of these stupas and statues are made of solid gold and are studded with precious jewels.  Even the most prosperous royal houses of Europe don’t have crown jewels to compare with those on display in the Potala Palace

Only about a mile away in the center of Lhasa is Jokhang Temple.  While Potala may be the symbol of Tibet, it is Jokhang that is considered the most important religious site for Tibetan Buddhists.  Built over 1300 years ago, Jokhang is a multi-story complex housing important monks and holding daily prayer services both inside its walls and in front of its gates for pilgrims.  In addition to Buddhist pilgrims, Jokhang also attracts a lot of Lhasa’s tourists.  Due to this, the square around the temple known as “The Barkhor” is an expansive open air market selling every kind of souvenir imaginable.  In addition to the factory produced trinkets, you can also find some fantastic antiques if you look hard enough and get lucky.  The Barkhor is also one of the most fun places for some intense rounds of bargaining. 
There are many ways to get to Tibet.  One can fly to Lhasa from Kunming or Chengdu.  Additionally, you can take a 48 hour train across the Tibetan plateau from Lhasa.  A Tibet Entry Permit is a required for foreigners entering Tibet. However, it can easily be obtained in Kunming or Chengdu.  Additionally, a travel permit is required when you are planning to travel to areas far from Lhasa such as Mount Everest Bas Camp. You can obtain these permits upon arriving in Lhasa.

Namtso Lake 
In a high plateau just two hours north of Lhasa is Namtso Lake, the highest salt water lake in the world at an elevation of 15,500 feet. In addition to being at an incredibly high altitude, Namtso is also astoundingly beautiful.  The exceptionally clear water reflects the massive snow capped Himalayan peaks that surround the lake on all sides.  The lake’s size at nearly 760 square miles only adds to it beauty.  When you emerge at the edge of this lake you can’t help but feel like you are in an entirely different world.  It is no wonder that “namtso” means “heavenly” in Tibetan.

For Tibetan Buddhists, Namtso Lake is an important pilgrimage site that is surrounded by sacred caves and temples.  It is even common for pilgrims to make the multi-day journey around the lake to receive the blessing of the gods.  Tourists can come for the day or even stay in one of the many small lodges in a small village on the edge of the lake.  Staying overnight allows you to witness a sunrise and sunset unlike any other in the world.  Another fantastic thing about Namtso is that unlike many tourist sites in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, in can be accessed with the basic Lhasa permit that you get before arriving in Tibet. 

Namtso Lake can easily be accessed from Lhasa.  You can either take a bus or hire a driver to take you in a Jeep.



Impact Abroad provides International Volunteering & Community Service Opportunities
to people in the western world to help children in Yunnan, China

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