The Best Time to Visit Tibet
The best time of year to be in Tibet is from April to the beginning of November. Central Tibet, including Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse and Tsedang, generally has very mild weather from April to November, though July and August can be rainy. October and November often bring some dazzlingly clear weather and daytime temperatures can be quite comfortable in Tibet’s lower altitudes. The coldest months are from December to February, but the low altitude valleys of Tibet (around Lhasa, Shigatse and Tsedang) see very little snow. Spring does not really begin until April, though March can have warm sunny days.
Main Features of Tibet’s Climate
- Strong sunshine
- Cold and dry
- Large day/night temperature difference
Tibet’s high altitude results in:
- Thin air
- Less oxygen content
- Lower boiling point
Four Seasons of Tibet
The climate is not as harsh as many people imagine. Tibet has a dry, cold climate with an average annual temperature ranging from -12° to 9°, depending on the region. Temperatures in the mountains and plateaus are especially cold, and strong winds are common year round. The river valleys experience a more moderate climate. Lhasa and central Tibet have an average temperature of 0° in December and an average of 17° in June. The temperature can range widely on any given day. On a typical summer day, the temperature can rise from 3° before sunrise to 27° by midday. In general, temperatures in Tibet drop suddenly after sunset.
The rainy season runs from late May or June to September or October, with most of it falling in July and August. The best time to travel to Tibet therefore is April and May, or September and October – either side of the peak of the summer rains and the winter snow.
High season in Tibet runs from April to October. Travelling at the beginning of this season allows you to enjoy snow outside of Lhasa without too much disruption. Towards the end, autumn foliage colours the landscapes and harvest festivals are held in October.
Winter in Tibet certainly has its charms, with snowy scenes and lower prices proving a draw for many. But in December, January and February, the mountains and trekking routes are inaccessible, and many roads may be blocked as well. You can still visit Lhasa in winter. Days will be dry and bright but cold – with wind chill making it feel even chillier. Nights plummet below freezing from November to February.
The ice melts and the weather warms during spring, opening up blocked remote roads and making travel outside Lhasa more pleasant. Tibet reopens to tourism in early April (as it is usually closed to visitors in March for Tibetan New Year). Book a Tibet tour before the summer tourist crowds arrive.
The weather is warm to cool and summer is the busiest travel season of the year in Tibet. There air has a higher oxygen content than in other season. Sometimes it will shower at night or for about an hour in the afternoon in mid July to late August, so rain is not a big issue even in the rainy season. Train tickets to Lhasa are difficult to get in summer.
- Things to do: Summer is the time to travel to the various attractions in the remoter regions, and enjoy the high altitude sites when the mountain passes are snow free. It is also the time to hike.
- Activities: Tibetans hold their outdoor market fairs and encampments, festivals, and sports contests when the grasslands are at their lushest. Festivals of note include the Ganden Thangka Festival, the Shoton Festival, and the Nagqu Horse Racing Festival.
Also a busy travel season in Tibet, the weather is clear and cool in fall. It’s a good time to hike and trek in Tibet, and it’s also a good time to shoot photos of mountain peaks, due to less cloud.
Tibet is usually closed to foreign travelers in February and March for 5 or 6 weeks. Tibet Entry Permits are normally not issued for February and March. Some roads are closed due to the heavy snow. Except for the coldness, it’s a good time to travel to lower altitude places like Lhasa, as hotels and travel agencies may offer discounts during winter, and tourists are far fewer than in summer and fall.
Some Festivals in Tibet
Everyone wants to squeeze the best part of their holiday. If you happen to visit Tibet during its grand celebration of traditional festivals, you will closely witness how local Tibetans make traditional soup Guthuk, dispel evil spirits and visit their relatives and friends during Losar, Tibetan New Year. Besides, you can join Tibetan pilgrims at night to enjoy the massive butter lamps being lit on Jokhang Temple and rooftop of houses during Butter Lamp Festival. All the date of festivals are in Tibet Calendar.
- There are plenty of festivals in Tibet, one of the biggest being Losar – or Tibetan New Year. This takes place in either February or March, and is celebrated for 15 days – with the first three being the most important. However, the Chinese government periodically restricts the issue of visas during Losar – so do check if they are available before planning your trip at this time.
- Butter Lamp Festival
Butter Lamp Festival in Tibet is the last climax of the New Year Festival and the celebration of Monlam Prayer Festival. Lamas and artisans make butter sculptures of different figures, flowers, birds and animals and display them on the shelves at Jokhang Monastery, which are lit by lanterns as night falls. Some people even make the lanterns with a series of stories telling the ancient legends of Tibet.
- Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival honors the life of Buddha.Saga means “the fourth” and Dawa refers to “month” in Tibetan. This festival is celebrated for whole month and is one of the most significant festivals celebrated in Tibet.
- Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival, which literally means “yogurt banquet festival,” is one of the most important festivals for Tibetans. It dates back to the 11th century when it began as a religious ceremony for local residents to offer yogurt to monks finishing their meditation retreats.
- Nagchu Horse Racing Festival
There are many Horse Racing Festivals in Tibet, but the most magnificent festival is in Nagqu, which is the most beautiful scenery on the northern Tibet grassland in summer. Located some 320 kilometers northeast of Lhasa, it takes you about six hours to drive to Nagchu. You should arrange three days to ensure the quality of your photography.
Useful Tips for you when you travel to Tibet
- All Tibet tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. It normally takes 2–3 days to confirm hotel bookings, and about a further 10 days for the Tibet Tourism Bureau to issue the Tibet Entry Permit.
- Tibet Travel Permit: This permit is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau and is required for all international travelers heading for Tibet. You need to apply for this permit one month prior to your arrival in Tibet as this permit takes some time to get ready and you need to produce the original copy of this permit at the Airport before you board the flight.
- Tibet is usually closed for most of February and March for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year. So we suggest you to plan a Tibet tour from April 10th onwards to be on the safe side.
- Oxygen levels are much lower in Tibet, so most people get altitude sickness. Cardiovascular conditions are exacerbated, so for the best experience, seek health advice before going and acclimate before exertion or going higher than Lhasa. Clothes:
- Bring Lip cream, Comfortable walking shoes, Altitude sickness medicine, Motion sickness medicine, Anti-diarrhea medicine when you travel to Tibet.
- Don’t miss the must-see attractions: The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Lake Yamdrok, Mt. Everest.