Lhasa Overview

Lhasa overview can help you have a more comprehensive understanding of Lhasa city from the basic information, geographical location, climate, culture, Tourism and so on.

Basic Information


Lhasa is located in southeast of Tibet autonomous region, north bank of Lhasa river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The city's administrative area spans 277 kilometers from east to west and 202 kilometers from north to south, with a total area of 29,518 square kilometers. Lhasa is located in the middle of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, with an altitude of 3,650 meters, making it one of the highest cities in the world. The terrain is high in the north and low in the south, and slopes from east to west. The south central part of Lhasa is the valley plain of the middle reaches of the Lhasa River, with a flat terrain.


Due to its unique geographic location and topography, Lhasa enjoys plateau temperate semi-arid climate. It features strong radiation, long hours of sunshine, great temperature difference during a day. Climate in Lhasa is generally divided into dry season and rainy season, with the precipitation mainly concentrated from June to September. The average annual sunshine hours of Lhasa are more than 3,000 hours, 1,800 hours more than Chengdu of sichuan province, and 1,100 hours more than Shanghai. Lhasa has the best sunshine hours among all Chinese cities, so it has the reputation of "Sunlight City". The highest temperature in history is 29.6°C, the lowest temperature is minus 16.5°C, and the annual average temperature is 7.4°C. 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Lhasa is from May to October, including the May Day and National Day holidays and the summer in Lhasa. In summer, Lhasa is featuring sufficient oxygen, appropriate humidity, beautiful natural scenery and comfortable human body feeling. During this period of time, although it rains a lot at night, in most of the time, you can see the blue sky, white clouds, and blooming flowers.

Administrative Divisions

By the end of 2017, Lhasa has jurisdiction over 3 municipal districts and 5 counties, namely,  Chengguan District(城关区), Doilungdeqen District(堆龙德庆区), Dagze District(达孜区), Lhunzhub County(林周县), Nyemo County(尼木县), Damxung County(当雄县), Quxu County(曲水县) and Maizhokunggar County(墨竹工卡县). Chengguan District is the seat of government of Lhasa City.

Lhasa Culture

The Potala Palace and Barkhor Street are located in the center of Lhasa urban area, north to Sera Monastery and west to Doilungdeqen District. Standing on top of the Potala Palace and overlooking Lhasa city, Lhasa is full of new buildings hidden in trees and prayer flags are flying around barkhor street. Lhasa is dotted with ethnic style of dwellings and streets, and is home to Tibetan people from all over the country, many of whom still wear traditional Tibetan costumes. It seems that prayer wheel and prayer beads never leave their hands, which is a clear indication that Buddhism has actually become a way of life.


There are many handicrafts with local characteristics and ethnic styles in Tibet, including various traditional Tibetan handicrafts like wooden bowls and bamboo bowls. Tourists can buy many goods in Tibet, the famous include thangkaTibetan knifeTibetan mask, Tibetan medicine and tonic, cordyceps sinensis, saffron, tricholoma matsutake and so on.


Currently, the main modes of transportation to Lhasa include plane, train, coach, road trip and even hitchhiking and hiking.

  • Flying to Lhasa is comfortable and time-saving, but you have little time to adapt to high altitude, which is likely to cause altitude sickness. Lhasa Gonggar Airport is the only one airport in Lhasa, it has flights to BeijingXianChengduChongqingShanghaiGuangzhouKunmingShangri-La, etc. The flights for some prefectures in Tibet is also available, such as NyingchiNgariand Qamdo.
  • Going to Lhasa by train is a great choice, giving you a chance to see the mountain view you haven't seen so far. Since July 1, 2006, with the opening of the Tibetan railway, more and more tourists have poured into Tibet through trains.
  • You can take long-distance bus to Lhasa along the highways that have been opened for visitors. It will take longer, but it will show you the amazing scenery on route. In addition, take extra time can help you gradually adapt to high altitude.


Lhasa has many historical sites, Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka are listed as world cultural heritage sites. The main tourist attractions include Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ramoche TempleTsurphu Monastery, Lhasa Mosque, Qugong Ruins(曲贡遗址), Tibet Museum, Chakpori Hill, etc. The main commercial areas include Barkhor Street, Yutuo Road Pedestrian Street, Lhasa Department Store, etc. There are many geothermal hot springs with economic value and medical benefits around. Qusang hot spring in Duilungdeqen district and Dezhong hot spring in Maizhokunggar County are well known in Tibetan areas.

Best Places to Visit

Potala Palace

As the landmark of Lhasa, Potala Palace can be regarded as the most imposing and magnificent palace at the highest altitude in the world, which is the most brilliant symbol of Tibetan culture.

Namtso Lake 

Namtso Lake is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet and the large lake at the highest altitude in the world. Namtso lake nourishes lush water grass, is a natural pasture which can graze. In early summer, flocks of wild ducks come to roost and breed. Wild yaks and many other wild animals are also often seen here.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is known as 'the eye of Tibet', it is the activity center for important Buddhist ceremony. The Jokhang temple was built in the seventh century at the peak of the Tubo dynasty. Jokhang temple is an eternal masterpiece of Tibetan religious architecture, integrating the architectural styles of Tang dynasty, Nepal and India.

Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street is the famous circumanbulation and commercial center in Lhasa, which has preserved the ancient city full of traditional outlook and lifestyle. The street was once a single pilgrimage road around Jokhang Temple. The Tibetans called it "Holy Road". Today, there are many featured shops, bars and restaurants on the street, attracting a lot of tourists. 

Sera Monastery

Sera monastery is one of the three top monasteries in Lhasa, and the most famous ceremony of debating Buddhist scriptures in Tibet is held here.

History of Lhasa

Early History

Located at the valley, 5 kilometers from the northern suburbs of Lhasa, with a history of 4000-5000 years ago, New Era Tribute Site is discovered more than 10,000 pieces of cultural relics and a large number of animal bones, which illustrates that there were human activities since the Neolithic Age.

Tibetan Empire

Before the 7th Century, the place was called "Womatang" and was only a grazing land administrated by a small Tibetan tribe. In 633, the great leader, Sontzen Gampo, unified the whole of the Tibetan Plateau and moved its political center from Southern mountain to Lhasa where he founded the powerful Tubo Kingdom and also built Jokhang and Ramoche Temples, as well as the grand Potala Palace. After the demise of Tibetan Empire, the Tibet region gets into a long-term war, Lhasa was not the capital.

Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties

In the 15th Century, Kadam revitalized. Tsongkhapa rebuilt Jokhang Temple and his disciples built Sera Monastery, Gandan Monastery and Drepung Monastery. Lhasa recovered as the religion center in Tibet. In Mid-17th Century, the Fifth Dalai unified Tibet region in support of Qing government, and established regime unified the state and the church, and renovated and expanded the Potala Palace. Lhasa’s center statue was further consolidated.

Modern and Contemporary

Tibet is liberated on May 23, 1951, which is the new chapter of Lhasa history.

The Tibet Autonomous Region was formally established on September 1, 1965. Lhasa is granted as the capital.

In 1982, Lhasa became one of 24 national historical and cultural cities,  announced by the State Council.

In 1995, the Potala Palace in Lhasa was officially listed in the "World Heritage List."  And the list of protected historic sites included the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka Palace.

On July 1, 2006, the Qinghai-Tibet railway from Golmud to Lhasa section was officially opened to traffic.

More History of Lhasa

Tibet Travel Permits for Lhasa Tour

Tibet Entry Permit issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau is required before visiting Lhasa and its nearby areas and attractions, such as Namtso Lake, Ganden Monastery. You must have the permit to board your flight or train to Tibet. To get the permit, you need book a Tibet tour with a Chinese travel agency, and send your passport and Chinese visa to travel agency about 30 days in advance, and then the travel agency will handle the Tibet travel permit for you(all Tibet permits can only be applied by travel agency). 


In 2016, the city's GDP reached 42.495 billion yuan, an increase of 10% over the previous year. The added value of the primary industry reached 1.512 billion yuan, up 5.2%; The added value of the secondary industry reached 16.280 billion yuan, up 10.8%; The added value of the tertiary industry reached 24.704 billion yuan, up 9.7%. The added value of the primary industry accounted for 3.6% of the GDP, 38.3% of the secondary industry, and 58.1% of the tertiary industry. The annual per capita GDP was 64,803 yuan, up 6.8% over the previous year.

Lhasa River

Lhasa River is the mother river of Lhasa City, originated in the southern foot of Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, flowing through NaquDamxungLhunzhubMaizhokunggarDagze, Chengguan, Doilungdeqen, to Quxu County, is a major tributary of the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River. The Lhasa River is 495 km long and covers an area of 31760 square kilometers. The maximum flow is 2830 cubic meters per second, the minimum flow is 20 cubic meters per second, and the annual flat area flow is 287 cubic meters per second. The altitude is 5500 meters from the source to 3580 meters at the mouth of the river. It is one of the highest rivers in the world. The amount of water varies with the temperature and precipitation. Most of the Lhasa River Basin is mountainous, with towering peaks and steep slope. The terrain of Lhasa river inclines from north to south, most of the tributaries on the right bank of Lhasa river basin originate from glaciers, and most of the left tributaries originate from lakes or swamps.