Visiting Tibet is often on a traveller’s bucket list, especially for adventurous travellers. As a destination with one of the world’s highest altitude, Tibet may not be suitable for everyone. However, a visit to Tibet promises one of the most memorable travel experiences. Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, has developed in recent years. Amid inevitable changes that come with development, one of its significant structure remains constant. The Potala Palace is now a museum and important attraction in Lhasa.
Beautiful ancient architecture
Built in the 7th century, the Potala Palace was inscribed under the UNESCO world heritage list in 1994. Its amazing red and white structure comes with a long history. It once served as the winter palace for the 14th Dalai Lama, and it is now a key attraction in Tibet.
With a height of about 120 meters and elevation of 3,700 meters above sea level, visitors with medical condition may struggle ascending the stairs. Due to high altitude, you are highly encouraged to get acclimated to the environment before ascending the palace or consume medication to cope with the altitude. You should not attempt to visit the palace on your first day in Tibet. Unfortunately, it is common for visitors to descend or be carried down the palace half way through because they fainted on the steps. Every step up to the palace is a struggle, no matter how fit you are. Ascending 3 steps feels like 30 steps due to the altitude and might make you breathless. Try to stop whenever you are panting. Most visitors, even the fit young men, stop to rest every few steps. Once you reach the top, you shall gain great satisfaction and an amazing view of the surrounding.
Strict duration and no photography allowed
Every visitor in Tibet wants to visit the palace but to protect the structure, only 2000+ visitors are allowed to visit each day. It is confusing to how free and easy travelers could get tickets since they are snatched up quickly by large tour group. There is no official website available for you to buy your tickets too, so do consider joining a tour or engaging a local tour guide if you do not wish to be disappointed.
Due to the huge volume of visitors, you are only allowed to spend around 1 hour in this beautiful palace. Ascending the steps at such a slow pace will take up almost 30 minutes of your time so you are left with only 30 minutes inside the palace. Inside the palace, you will see the prayer area of the monks. The monks complete their prayers early in the morning so visitors might not see many monks by the time the palace is open to the public in the late morning as they are mostly out working on chores.You will also be introduced to a room of dalai lama from a distance where it was mentioned that he used that room to meet with guests. The coffins of the past Dalai Lamas are in various sizes depending on the age that they passed away and the possessions buried with them.
No photography is allowed inside the palace, if you are caught taking pictures, you will be asked to leave right away or they will ask you to delete all pictures on the spot. Nonetheless, you can still take pictures of the exterior; on the steps and the open compound before you enter the palace.
Best photography spot?
Since photography is prohibited, many will question where they can take pictures of this breath-taking palace. If you look online, you will notice how similar all the pictures are because visitors can only snap the exterior of the palace. Before you enter the palace, you have plenty of picture opportunities to capture the exterior of the amazing structure or picture of yourself with the palace at the background. It is a pity that photography is not allowed inside but hey, at least we get to go in!
Go with a local guide to understand the history of the palace
If you are interested to know the history of the palace, go with a local guide who would be able to share that with you even before you enter the premises. As time is limited inside the palace, the tour may feel rushed as you need to stick to the duration imposed by the palace. All exhibits, religious statues and coffins of the past Dalai Lamas are securely placed behind a barrier so you can only see them. Note that certain sections of the place are closed and access is limited to the main section. Having a local guide will help you to better understand and envision how the other palace used to look like as well as their purposes.
A grand palace that will never be forgotten
With a long history behind it, Potala Palace is one that would never be forgotten by many given its rich tibetan culture behind it. Those who ascend the palace will also remember the effort required for each step up to this grand structure which is worth every breath!
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