Tibet Shoton Festival Tour

Highlights:

  • The Shoton Festival is the most important festival in Tibet. Originally, it was purely a religious festival but it has developed to have a much wider traditional meaning. This festival begins at Drepung Monastery to see Tangka (a unique type of Tibetan painting), and then shifts to Norbulinka for Tibetan opera. This tour gives a glimpse of Tibet’s traditions and colorful festival lifestyle.
  • On this tour you will see the best sights of Lhasa, the holiest city in Tibet. You will visit the Potala Palace, the seat of the Dali Lama, and the Jokhang Monastery, the spiritual center of the regi.
  • The “rooftop of the world” long inaccessible to foreign visitors, is now available for you to discover. Tibet, with its holy Buddhist shrines, impeccable natural scenery, and breath-taking mountains, is certainly one of the world’s most exciting travel destinations.

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 arrive in Lhasa

You will fly (or take the train), in to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. Lhasa is rightly one of the most featured and dreamt-about cities in the world. This is not only because of its remoteness, its high altitude at 3,650 meters (11,975 feet) means limited accessibility, but also because of its impressive heritage of over a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history that has helped to create the romantic and mysterious Tibetan religion.

Differing from the inland cities and other places in Tibet, Lhasa is unique with an allure all of its own. In the Tibetan language, Lhasa means the Holy Land or the Buddha Land. It is the center of Tibet's politics, economy and culture. The city has also been appointed as one of the 24 historical and cultural cities of China. The splendor and grandeur of the Potala Palace in Lhasa remains a world-famous symbol of the enigmatic power of politics and religion in this region.

Upon arrival you’ll be met by your local guide, and you’ll be driven to your hotel, where the rest of the evening can be spent at your own discretion. It is recommended you take it easy and pace yourself, on account of the large altitude change you ill be experiencing.

Day 2 Lhasa (B, L, D)

Today will be a full day of touring the best sights in Lhasa. After breakfast, we will go to the Potala Palace, which is the most renowned highlight of Lhasa. The world famous Potala Palace is located on Moburi (Red) Mountain, to the west of old Lhasa. It is a huge treasure house of materials and articles from Tibetan history, religion, culture and art. The palace is widely known for the precious sculptures, murals, scriptures, Buddha statues, murals, antiques, and religious jewelry housed within. They are of great cultural and artistic value. In 1994, the Potala Palace was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was originally built in the 640s, during the reign of King Songtsan Gampo of Tibet. The Potala has been a sacred place for hundreds of years. Thousands of pilgrims from Tibet, other parts of China and abroad come every year to pay homage. Their devotion is shown by the difficult journeys they have to make to reach “the City of the Gods".

Then it is off to the Jokhnag Temple, which is located in the center of old Lhasa city. Jokhang Monastery is the prime seat of the Gelugpa (Yellow) Branch of Tibetan Buddhism. It was originally built in 647 AD. It is said the site was chosen personally by the wife of King Songtsan Gampo, the Tang Princess Wen Cheng. The princess perceived Wutang, a lake in Lhasa, to be a “devil’s heart”, a source of evil, and had it filled in and the temple built on the site to counteract evil forces. It was built by craftsmen from Tibet, China and Nepal and thus features different architectural styles. Jokhang means "House of Buddha". Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.

A short walk from the Jokhang Temple is the Barkhor Bazaar. The Barkhor (pilgrims’ circuit) is found in the heart of Lhasa encircling the Jokhang Temple. It is the earliest remaining street in Lhasa. It bustles with activity and is always jam-packed with traders and hawkers. It is a "must" for souvenir-hunting tourists. Many people call the Barkhor "the window of Tibet" as it exhibits a typical Tibetan life. The old circumambulation circuit is always crowded with pilgrims from everywhere. Some are monks, and some are businessmen from Kham, a region encompassing East Tibet and part of Sichuan Province. Here you will find people from all over Tibet. You can experience different styles of dress and languages. Even the similar-looking clothes of the monks vary depending on the different branches of Buddhism they practice.

The rest of the night can be spent at your own lesisure.

Day 3 Lhasa and Shoton Festival (B, L)

Today is the day where you will get to experience this festival that is so very special to the Tibetan people. The Shoton Festival is one of the most popular traditional festivals in Tibet. It celebrates yogurt, the Tibetan monks who have ended their season of meditation, the watching of Tibetan dramatic operas, and Tibetan Buddhism. During the festival, there are celebrations in the streets, squares and monasteries in Lhasa. The main part of the celebration activities are centered on the western part of the city of Lhasa in Tibet on the grounds of the palace of the Dalai Lama that is called Norbulingka. that they started to build in 1755. The Norbulingka palace, park and garden area is the biggest garden in Tibet. The name means "Jeweled Park." The Norbulingka covers an area of around 36 hectares (89 acres), and is great grounds for the dancing, eating and entertainment of the festival.

In the morning, we will arrive at Drepung Monastery to watch the Tangka Show, where you will get to mingle with Tibetan pilgrims who have come from all over the region. Built in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the first of the three principle monasteries of the Gelugpa School of Buddhism. Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, Buddhism is the branch followed by most Tibetans, and the most influential figure in this faith is the Dalai Lama. Drepung Monastery used to be the living quarters of Dalai Lamas before the reconstruction of the Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama between 1645 and 1694.

In the afternoon, we’ll head to the Norbulingka Monastery for the celebrations there. The residents of Lhasa will gather in the park and celebrate by eating yoghurt and watching the operas. Professional and amateur Tibetan opera troupes annually gather in the Norbulingka and perform various Tibetan operas. Along with the Tibetan operas and other religious activities, you can also watch yak races, horse races and dancing.

Day 4 Lhasa-Naqju-Lhasa (B, L)

Today we’ll be driving a little outside the city to spend the day at beautiful Lake Namtso. Lake Namtso means “holy lake” in the Tibetan language. At an elevation of 4,718 meters, it is also the highest-altitude salt lake in the world. The lake is stunning with its azure water and surrounding snow capped peaks. There is a gravel road from Damxung to the lake. In the rainy season, the route can be quite difficult.

Nearby are the hot springs of Yangpachen, which is a nice choice for those who want to get a close look at the Tibetan herders (drokpa) and their semi-nomadic lifestyle.

We’ll the drive back to Lhasa for the evening.

Day 5 Lhasa-departure (B)

Following breakfast you will be taken to either the Lhasa airport or train station, where you will travel on to your next destination.