Following the breakfast on the second day of the Lhasa Tour, we will head towards Potala Palace, which is considered Lhasa’s signature landmark. Once the seat of the government of Tibet and the winter place of the Dalai Lamas, the 13-story palace is situated at the Red Hill about 130m-high from the ground. Built-in the 1600s, it is an architectural wonder even by modern standards.
You will get truly enthralled as you pass across the dozens of magnificent chapels, golden stupas and prayer halls. Before the construction of the current structure was started by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645, King Songsten Gampo built the Red and White palace on the site during the 7th century. The current landmark required 50 years to complete. The layout of the palace included the rooftop White Palace (eastern side), which serves as the living quarters of the Dalai Lama and the Red Palace (central side), which is used for religious functions.
The most mesmerizing part of the Red Palace is the golden chorten tombs of several previous Dalai Lamas, embellished with jewels. It also houses many rare cultural relics, including the gold hand-written Buddhist scriptures, valuable gifts from the Chinese emperors and a lot of precious antiques. Tickets for Potala Palace are limited, and your guide needs to book a time slot a few days before your trip. Note: Photography is prohibited inside the chapels.
The second sight to see is Norbulingka Palace, also known as the Summer Palace, which is located about 1 km west of the Potala Palace. The 7th Dalai Lama built the first summer palace in 1755 and every successor added his own building until the 14th Dalai Lama’s exile in 1959. Currently, the complex, which represents a unique representation of Tibetan palace architecture, contains a small zoo, a mansion and botanical gardens. The annual Sho Dun or “Yoghurt Festival” is held in the palace. It is considered the largest human-made garden in Tibet and is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next, we will explore the Tibet Museum, which is located in an L-shaped building located below the Potala on the corner of Norbulingka Road. Built-in 1999, it’s the first large and modern museum in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The is a collection of over 500,000 artefacts, including Buddha statues, pottery and jade, that are related to the cultural history of Tibet.