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POTALA PALACE

UNESCO World Heritage site Potala Palace in Lhasa
Potala Palace in Lhasa, UNESCO World Heritage site

KEY FACTS

Altitude: 3,700 meters/ 12,100 ft
Potala Palace is the highest palace in the world
First use: King Songtsen Gampo meditated in cave in the 7th century
Winter Palace of the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century
UNESCO World Heritage Site

ABOUT POTALA PALACE

The Potala Palace is probably the most well-known attraction in all Tibet. The images are featured in guidebooks and even 50 Yuan bills. It is included in the  UNESCO World Heritage List along with the Jokhang Temple. The distinct architecture and unique atmosphere combined with ancient artifacts displayed inside impress its visitors.

To enjoy the spectacular view of the Potala, we recommend going up the Chak Pori hill in front of it. After taking photos of the palace, come down and walk towards the main gate of the city. You can join Tibetans walking around Potala Palace in a clockwise direction, spinning prayer wheels to send thousands of prayers.

HISTORY OF POTALA PALACE

Potala Palace, UNESCO World Heritage in Lhasa, Tibet

Potala Palace was built on the 130 meters high Marpo Ri hill. From the hill, you can get a great view of the entire city of Lhasa. According to the old legends, there are several sacred caves in the hill, where Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chenresig) lived. That’s why King Songtsen Gampo used the caves for his meditation retreats in the 7th century.  It also explains the origin of the name “Potala”, which, according to some theories, derives from Tibetan title for Avalokiteshvara’s Pure Land, named “Potala”. Later, the king decided to build a palace on Marpo Ri. This palace later became a foundation of the Potala Palace.

In the 17th century, the fifth Dalai Lama decided to move the seat of his Gelugpa sect to the Marpo Ri hill from Drepung Monastery.

White Palace in the Potala Palace

Work began first on the White Palace, or Kharpo Podrang, in 1645, and the fifth Dalai Lama moved there from Drepung Monastery shortly after. It is unknown who initiated the work on the Red Palace, or Marpo Podrang. The fifth Dalai Lama died in 1682 and his death was concealed until the completion of the Red Palace 12 years later. His death was not announced until he was put to rest in the newly completed Red Palace.

Stairs leading up to Potala Palace entrance

Since The Fifth Dalai Lama first moved to Potala, it became the main residence for all the Dalai Lamas. At the same time, it became the seat of the Tibetan government, religious school, and an important pilgrimage destination, since it contained tombs of the previous Dalai Lamas.

In the 17th century, the Seventh Dalai Lama founded the Summer Palace in the Norbulingka Park. All successive Dalai Lamas used Potala Palace as their winter residence and spent summers in Norbulingka. Nowadays, Norbulingka or Jewel Park is also included in UNESCO list.

The Thirteen Dalai Lama renovated the Potala Palace, adding some rooms to the White Palace and a number of chapels to the Red Palace.

The Potala was not seriously damaged during the cultural revolution in 1959. Some believe, that several Chinese troops protected it. Consequently, most of the chapels and artifacts remained well preserved.

VISITING POTALA PALACE

Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet. View from across the street.
Group Tour Visiting Potala Palace

We will make a reservation to visit the Palace for you. The reservation time depends on availability and we will organize the day based on this time. Due to a large number of visitors, the time that we can spend inside the palace can be limited.
TIP: if you wish to spend more time exploring Potala Palace, you can arrive in late fall or winter. During the season with fewer tourists, visiting time is usually not limited.

The visit starts by entering the Palace from the East Gate where we spend some time taking close up photos of the Palace.

After that, we will climb up the stairs to enter the White Palace. The White Palace or Potrang Karpo served as living quarters of Dalai Lama and we can see the rooms where Dalai Lamas lived and studied. We visit Phakpa Lhakhang and Choegyal drupuk chapels.

Later we will proceed to the roof of the Palace to enter the Red Palace. The Red Palace or  Potrang Marpo includes religious chapels. We will see tomb stupas of Dalai Lamas, 3-d mandalas built with precious stones and metals, Assembly Hall, meditation cave and Compassion Buddha chapel.

Finally, we will exit at the west side of the Palace and walk down the stairs on the backside of the Potala. From the top of the hill, you can enjoy splendid views of Lhasa and surrounding mountains.

EXPERIENCE TIBET LIKE A LOCAL TIBETAN

Walk the kora, holy circuit around the Potala Palace. Join pilgrims that circumambulating the Palace and see the oldest historical part of Lhasa.

PLACES TO VISIT NEARBY

POPULAR LHASA TOURS

Potala Palace seen from the Chak Pori Hill in Lhasa Tibet
4 DAYS LHASA TOUR
Monk on the way to the New Palace in Norbulingka
5 DAYS LHASA SIGHTSEEING
Ganden Monastery near Lhasa, Tibet
5 DAYS LHASA SURROUNDINGS
Yamdrok Lake
5 DAYS LHASA AND NATURAL WONDERS
Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse, Tibet
6 DAYS TIBET HIGHLIGHTS

Jokhang Temple, view from the Barkhor Square in Lhasa, Tibet
LHASA DAY TOURS

SUGGESTED GROUP TOURS

Mount Everest and Rongbuk monastery in Tibet

8 DAYS LHASA TO EVEREST TOUR

A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok lake and Karola glaciers.

Both group and private tours are available

Stupas of The Dira Puk Monastery by the Kailash Mountain in Tibet

15 DAYS MOUNT KAILASH TOUR

One of our most popular group tours, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to Mount Kailash for a three-day trekking around this sacred mountain. During this tour, we visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa, Mount Everest, Lake Manasarovar, Mount Kailash, and much more.

Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal

7 DAYS LHASA TO NEPAL TOUR

This tour starts in Lhasa. We will stay there for 2 days to explore the capital and acclimatize. After that we will head to the center of attraction in Himalayas – Mount Everest. We will spend a night by the highest mountain on a planet and continue driving through majestic mountain ranges, alongside rivers and waterfalls to the border between Tibet and Nepal.

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