SHOPPING IN LHASA
When visiting Tibet, many travelers want to take a memory of the trip back home or get some souvenirs to give to their family and friends. Tibetan rich culture, the use of local materials, mysterious elements, and whimsical symbols, offers a wide variety of things that you can buy to bring back home.
While spending time in Lhasa, you can find many lovely Tibetan items that can fit any budget.
Below we summed up some suggestions on what to buy while you are in Lhasa and where to go for good quality authentic and reasonably priced souvenirs.
Please, note, we do not receive any commissions for referrals and only recommend places based on our clients’ past experience.
The Barkhor street circling around the 7th century Jokhang Temple is one of the main walking areas in Lhasa with hundreds of stores lining it. You can find everything, from magnets and postcards to Tibetan rugs and furniture and gold jewelry.
We strongly recommend walking the entire route around Barkhor street at least once. It is a great place to watch people, admire the variety of traditional Tibetan dresses, and meet pilgrims performing full-body prostrations in front of Jokhang. However, Barkhor street is not the best place for souvenir shopping. Items here are often overpriced and you can find similar quality items for much less if you walk away from the main touristy area.
SIDE STREETS OF OLD TOWN RADIATING FROM BARKHOR STREET
If you have extra time, walk away from Barkhor street and venture on narrow side alleys away from main crowds. Here, you will find many stores carrying everyday items as well as traditional Tibetan crafts and souvenirs. If you are looking for Tibetan statues, religious items, thangkas, jewelry, incense, or traditional clothes, you will find lots of options.
At the same time, walking on the streets you will find many small stores that offer lots of snacks, water, ice creams, and other goods.
The Barkhor supermarket is located on the North side of Beijing Road near the intersection with the Linkuo East road. This large building has hundreds of sellers offering a variety of items. You can find Tibetan rugs, traditional clothes, jewelry, religious items, Tibetan incense and so much more!
When shopping in Barkhor supermarket, remember to bargain.
There are many Tibetan sellers in the supermarket. Don’t worry if you cannot speak Tibetan, sellers will always show you the price on the calculator.
In the past our clients had great luck buying items from the lovely woman who can speak some English and has a choice of scarves, jewelry, and other traditional items. You can find her booth on the right side of the first floor or call her number: +86 177 8455 0160.
You can often see small stores inside the monasteries or temples selling religious items and sometimes books. Sometimes you can get lucky and see monastery specials, such as incense or Tibetan medicine made by the monks of the monastery.
Here are a few notable ones:
The Dropenling store in Lhasa is the only place selling ONLY authentic Tibetan locally made handicrafts. If you want to buy items from Tibetan artisans that are made of local materials, Dropenling is the perfect place for it. The store sells rugs, toys, handbags, jewelry, leather items, clothes, soaps, and a lot more.
On the second floor of the store, there is a display of the methods of producing some of these items. Their incredible team can give you more information and details about the production of the handicrafts and artisans who work on them.
To find a Dropenling store, walk to the Lhasa Mosque (to the East from Jokhang Temple), and from the Mosque, walk to the North, following Dropenling signs. If you are lost, call the store for directions: +86 0891-6360558.
NORBU THANGKA STORE
Thangkas are religious paintings, depicting Buddhas or other deities, mandalas, wheel of life, or other religious subjects. The most popular thangka subjects are Buddha, sometimes surrounded by other deities, The Wheel of Life, and various mandalas. Thangkas are always symmetrical and are executed following certain rules.
Tibetans use cotton canvas or sometimes silk to paint thangkas. Traditionally, only natural elements were used to produce dyes for thangkas. For more expensive thangkas, 24-carat gold is used for the gold elements of the painting. That’s why thangkas executed in the traditional way are not cheap, but very beautiful.
In Lhasa, there are many stores offering thangkas. One of them is Norbu located on Tengyal Ling street close to the intersection with Beijing road. Norbu is a thangka painting academy and store. When you enter it, you will see artists working on thangka paintings. You can buy one of the existing paintings or order a new one (it will, of course, take time to execute it).
When buying thangka in the stores in Lhasa, check carefully. Along with the real paintings, some stores offer cheaper thangkas that are just prints.
You can frame thangka as a regular painting or order a brocade, silk fabric that goes around the painting making a soft frame. It is usually easier to simply roll thangka and put it in a case to transport it back home.
Tromsikhang market is an outdoor market, located on the South side of Beijing road slightly to the East from the Yak hotel. We recommend going there for a cultural experience rather than shopping. It is famous because Tibetan sellers, mainly from the Kham region walk outside wearing heavy strands of large and sometimes old beads. It is a great place to see the hustle of the busy trade and incredible jewelry. However, it is best not to buy anything on the street, especially if you are not sure about the quality. Instead, you can buy some fruit or snacks from the local sellers.
TIMES SQUARE SHOPPING CENTER
Times Square supermarket is located on the North-East side of the intersection of Beijing and Duo Sen gee Road. On the basement level of it, you will find a large supermarket. You can buy fruit, vegetables, snacks, nuts, cookies, chocolates, yogurts and lots of other items there. If you are planning to travel outside of Lhasa, it can be a good stop for buying snacks. In addition, you can find some Tibetan specialties there, such as barley cookies and barley beer. On the other floors of the shopping center, there are various cafes and stores selling footwear, clothes, and other items.
Undoubtedly, most of the visitors come to Tibet to witness the lifestyle heavily influenced by Buddhism. In fact, almost all aspects of Tibetan life are guided by religion. Many forms of art, such as thangkas and statues depict Buddhist deities, the most impressive architectural structures in Tibet are monasteries, all important holidays are religious and the main traveling objective is to visit the holy places.
Obviously, Buddhism is flourishing in Tibet. At the same time, Tibetans raised valuing human life, love, and compassion, respect other religions. There is a Muslim quarter in Lhasa with two mosques.
Every evening there is an outdoor market outside of the Lhasa Mosque, where sellers offer mostly fruit and vegetables, as well as some fried snacks.