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A Tibet Travel Blog (Hard Realities & Wonders)

I honestly don’t know where to start with Tibet. We’ve just spent 8 incredible days travelling through Tibet from Kathmandu and those 8 days were some of the most mesmerising of our last 6 years of full-time travel. I now need to create a Tibet travel blog to record our memories before they fade and to give you the low-down on this beautiful and inspiring place.  Our content on Tibet travel starts here, I need to unpack my mind on these pages and explain what Tibet does to you.

Visiting Tibet the Potala Palace Lhasa
Visiting the Potala Palace in Lhasa, not knowing what to expect. What we saw inside was mind blowing and stirred up so many strong emotions.

Tibet Travel Blog

I’ll start today with an overview because every place we visited in Tibet, every experience, deserves its own post. Our journey from Kathmandu, to the Chinese border, and onward to Lhasa was immense. So few people visit, I want you all to know about Tibet but I need to tread carefully. You can do more research for yourselves. Maybe, like me, you’ve been fascinated by Tibet for a long time, watched the films and read the books but not been fortunate enough to see this place first-hand. I want to show you the pictures. All of the places we mention here will have full blog posts in time. This is just a first taste of Tibet.

Is it Safe to Visit Tibet?

We felt very safe in Tibet from the moment we crossed the border. In my opinion it is safe to visit Tibet and we took children with us. The roads were all in very good condition and almost free from traffic. There is heavy police and army presence, both visible and disguised. You will pass through check points and metal detectors often. The journey to Tibet, by road, was hair-raising, but once you’re on Chinese roads everything changes.

Tibet Travel Video

We have Tibet travel videos on our posts about Lhasa and the monks debating at Sera Monastery. There is no video on this page as yet because some people find them annoying, but do try to find those. See our Tibet tag at the bottom of the page.

Visiting Tibet
Visiting Tibet. Another beautiful lake and an off-the-bus photo op. It was cold but the sun was strong and hot. You’ll want to take plenty of warm layers if you travel in winter as we did. We came well equipped with our Everest trekking gear. See the sunglasses we use here.

Kathmandu to Tibet Journey

Our 8 day journey to Lhasa started in Kathmandu with a 7 hour jeep ride to the Chinese border.

It’s a tough trip on almost non-existent roads. You bounce and shake through villages and mountain passes in low-quality jeeps. 7 tourists and a driver crammed into a too-small vehicle with little comfort or safety.

I always say that the worse it gets the better the stories, but I wasn’t happy with safety on this ride at all, particularly not for my children. We’d been in Nepal almost 3 months and taken plenty of long-distance bus rides so  I’m not being precious here.

This jeep wasn’t good, the booking agent lied to us and Nepali roads are challenging. In general, I’d prefer to take a bus in Nepal.

Of course, the scenery was stunning and the experience was a memorable one. This is real travel, it’s not always easy but it’s always worth it.

Crossing The Border into China

Crossing the border into China was fairly straightforward. A huge modern border control complex marked the entry into another world. Goodbye Nepal, hello China.

From here on in our bus was spacious and comfortable, the highways were good and the landscape changed completely. We met our Tibetan guide, our faultless escort for the next 8 days filled us in on Tibetan customs while keeping well away from politics.

The first stop was just 45 minutes from the border. A comfortable modern Tibetan styled hotel. The next morning we set off into Tibet proper, passing the tree line, travelling up onto and into the Tibetan Plateau.

Altitude and High Passes

Here’s the thing, it’s not a plateau at all. It’s not flat. We crossed multiple high passes over 4 and 5,000 m. The altitude in Tibet is extreme and you need to be ready for that.

Tibet. The Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan Plateau isn’t flat. A dry, barren moonscape in parts. A cold desert. Also a fertile plain. The barley fields were brown in winter but in summer they must be green.

Altitude is an issue if you’re thinking of visiting Tibet. I can talk more about that elsewhere, but for us and the other family on this tour of Tibet, it wasn’t too much of a problem.

We had all just completed high altitude treks with the kids, Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit, along with spending extended time in Kathmandu (which is at 1300 m) so we did OK. Others suffered more.

Some days saw us spending up to 9 hours per day driving. It sounds a  lot and it is, but it was enjoyable.

The landscape, traditional villages, animals, lakes and people kept me staring out of the window. Likewise the changes brought in by the Chinese development were there to see.

Kids and Tibet Travel

The children, there were 3 with us, between 9 and 14 years old, slept comfortably in reclining seats or read and played games as we drove for long days over high passes.

There was some travel sickness and a couple of major tummy upsets caused by giardia. Toilet stops were off-the-scale bad. You’ve never seen bad public toilets until you’ve seen those in Tibet (China generally also) and my son wasn’t happy to use them. It was a problem.

In some places, the Potala Palace for instance, the public toilets were OK, but mostly, no.

Yes, you can take kids to Tibet and mostly the three kids with us enjoyed it. It was fascinating, there’s so much to see, all of it new. The attention the kids received was overwhelming at times but they didn’t have the same emotional response to what they saw as we adults. Food and accommodation were absolutely fine for kids, be aware of altitude, tummy problems, cold, and bad toilets.

Food on The Tibet Trip

Breakfast was included in the price of our trip. Some hotels were very good, 2 were very bad. Breakfast was eggs and bread or some variation on that theme. It wasn’t great, but it was OK.

We made lunch stops as a group and in the evening we were free to eat where we pleased, choosing between Nepali, Indian, Chinese and Tibetan dishes on most menus.

We ate well with all 3 kids developing a liking for yak. Yak is much nicer than buff, if you were wondering.

There were several vegetarians on the bus and we found food easily, Indian and Nepali food is usually great for vegetarians. We now have a full post on food in Tibet.

If you’re vegan and committed to sticking to your principals while travelling like this, you’ll struggle. There is most certainly a language barrier in Tibet and I really don’t like your chances of explaining a vegan diet in Chinese or Tibetan, maybe you’d need to get something printed in both languages to carry with you. Likewise if you have any allergies or intolerances. I react badly to MSG, we did come across this additive several times.

Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiff at Lake Gondruk giving Chef a friendly lick. These are cross breeds, pure Tibetan Mastiffs, we were told, are even bigger and aggressive. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I wondered from this photo if these dogs had had their teeth removed. If that’s the case we wouldn’t have been involved. I hope not.

Highlights of The Tibet Trip

Every day we stopped at view points. Most days we visited places of interest. Yamdrok Lake is the most incredible colour. A stunning spot with furry tourist trap touches and popular for wedding photos. See Chef’s two new friends above.

One of the highlights of this part of the journey was the Panchen Lama’s monastery, the Tashi Lhumpo monastey at  Shigatse. Obviously this is a real political hot potato. It’s not something we could discuss publicly in Tibet and not something I’m going to discuss here.

The monastery was breathtaking and this, on day 2, was when we all felt we were really in Tibet.


We finally arrived in Lhasa late on day 5. Our hotel in Old Lhasa was filthy and that day was hard.

My son was sick, I was tired and hungry and couldn’t face going out to eat. My husband ( we call him Chef, because he is) went out to find food and struggled so that night we went without. That was the low point of the trip, but the next day was a massive high.

Day 6 saw us spending the morning at the Potala Palace. It was incredibly emotional and that’s all I’m going to say right now.

We walked in the park surrounded by Tibetan people in traditional dress from every corner of the region before heading into Old Lhasa for a delicious lunch at Lhasa Kitchen. Our afternoon stop was the  Jokhang Temple, one of the most sacred places in Tibet and a short stroll from the restaurant.

Jokhang Temple Old Lhasa
Old Lhasa and the Jokhang Temple by night. A Tibetan Buddhist makes her kora. A kora on foot around the Jokhang takes about 15 minutes. Many Tibetans prostrate themselves in their circumambulation, seeking to purify their bodies after some misdeed. You will see hundreds walking, maybe thousands, dozens doing what the woman above is doing.

We were lucky enough to be there for a festival. Again, this experience was so intense that I can’t even start to describe it here. That blog post will come soon.

We enjoyed another delicious dinner with the other travelling family, then off to bed, ready for the next huge day.

Day 7, our last day in Tibet and we were given a choice, did we want to visit the Summer Palace or another monastery? The group unanimously decided to visit the Summer Palace and we were so glad we picked this place.

Sera Monastery Tibet Monks Ceremony
At the Sera Monastery just outside Lhasa we were lucky to catch this ceremony. The monks were chanting to help ghosts go to the sky. I can tell you more about this and publish the video soon.

Debating Monks

Our afternoon took us to the Sera Monastery where monks sharpen their debating skills in a public forum. This is the stuff of dreams. I never thought I’d ever see this with my own eyes.

Debating Tibetan Monks Sera Monastery Tibet
Debating Monks at Sera Monastery. Debating Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is an important part of the monks’ education and in time they will have to pass exams in debate to progress. We were able to sit and observe as maybe 100 monks animatedly battled with words.

Our tour ended with a final celebratory yak sizzler for the kids and a walk around Old Lhasa- it’s so beautiful at night.  As always local people stared, smiled and welcomed us. All the attention was pretty overwhelming for our little blond girl so if you’re taking small cute kids, be ready for that.

The next morning we had to leave. None of us wanting to go. Blue skies gave us perfect views of Everest and the whole of the Himalayan range as we flew back to Kathmandu. The plane was good, Lhasa airport was modern, this return flight is easy.

Want to Learn More About Tibet?

Here are a few classic books and movies that you could take a look at if you haven’t already. It feels as if you’re on the set of Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun at times. I would strongly suggest reading up on Tibet’s history, religion, and culture before you go. No books of this kind are allowed in Tibet and you will be searched, watched, and listened to at all times.

What it's like to visit Tibet

That’s all for now from our Tibet trip but I have so much more to tell about our experiences during this visit. We hope you stick around to see more of Tibet travel, Everest, and the Himalayas. Sign up to follow. Our Lhasa post and Sera monastery post (debating monks with video) are published below. along with Tibetan food. Don’t forget to save to Pinterest! Thanks for reading.

Rhino in Sauraha Chitwan National Park Nepal
Chitwan National Park Nepal
High Altitude Passes in Tibet
Altitude in Tibet. High Passes and Diamox

Say Vera

Friday 12th of June 2020

Wow, what a great blog and beautiful pictures.

I reflect my trip to Tibet two years ago. Great read

I went with a local Tibetan travel agency. They are a small Tibetan company in Lhasa providing us the best services ever. Tibetans are very honest, always smile, compassion and I want to visit there again in the future.

Tibetan travel agency in Tibet

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

thank you for sharing your experiences of traveling in Tibet.

Sonam Gyatso

Sunday 3rd of May 2020

It is a piece of beautiful and useful information for future travelers. Who makes a plan a trip to Tibet. I read everything from beginning to end, and I like your blog very much and hope you will write an article for our company. We are an unfortunate tour company that never chance to arrange your memorable tour in Tibet. Nonetheless, we are so excited to connect with you.

I Hope, You will reply to our comments. Thanks and good luck


Sunday 16th of June 2019

Sorry but I cannot disagree more about the "toilets in China are generally really bad" part. Yes in remote areas like Tibet it might be the case, but in all the major cities they offer the same kind of toilets like the other countries. The facilities in those major cities are definitely not worse than the Western countries.

Alyson Long

Monday 17th of June 2019

OK, agreed, most modern places they're good, as they are anywhere. But China is one of very few countries where we've had to use communal toilets and open trenches in the ground. The only other place I've seen that is Cuba. The modern public toilet blocks even, newly built by China, can still be door-less and have trenches flowing through in Tibet. Have you not seen those in other parts of China ? My husband had to use a public toilet in Beijing that was a trench in the floor with squatting arrangements. That was a very old one. It's pretty unusual!


Thursday 16th of May 2019

love the post on EBC and the scary video of the rope bridge. Had been contemplating this one myself but thinking twice now ... that's a good thing! Cheers for a great, honest, informative, post.

Alyson Long

Thursday 16th of May 2019

Thank you Emmydee! But I have a huge fear of heights, don't worry because I worry, most people breeze accross, bounce up and down and take selfies. They are NUTS!