4 Days Lhasa and its Surroundings Winter Birding Tour


Traveling to Lhasa, one of the most popular areas for birdwatching in Tibet, is an amazing trip that combines the amazing attractions of the Tibetan capital with the wonders of discovering the unique birds of the plateau at first hand, as the migratory birds and indigenous birds inhabit the plateau in winter.

This outstanding 4-day bird watching tour in and around Lhasa takes you to the biggest attractions of the capital, including the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, two of the main monasteries of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, and the awesome Barkhor Street. For the birdwatching part of the trip, you will head to some of the best sites in Lhasa Prefecture, like Lhasa River, Lhünzhub County for the black-necked cranes and the Shugsheb Nunnery, one of the best sites for bird watching to the south of the capital.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lhasa (3650m)

Receive the auspicious White Hada and Tibet Travel Guide from your local Tibetan guide;
Get a glimpse of Potala Palace and holy Lhasa city;

Tashi Delek! Welcome to Lhasa, the modern utopia as well as the spiritual heart of Tibet; Your hospitable Tibetan guide and friendly drivers have already been expecting you at the designated places at the Lhasa Gonggar Airport or Lhasa Railway Station.

As you receive our auspicious white Hada, simply leave everything to our staff to take care of and enjoy the scenic ride to your hotel in Lhasa City. Our helpful Tibetan guide will help you check in and inform you of the travel plan for the next day. Then you can have a good rest at the hotel, ready for tomorrow’s exciting tour.

Meal: No Meal is included today

Accommodation: Lhasa Yak Hotel (3 star), Cang-Gyan Lhasa Hotel (4 star), upgrade available when needed.

Insider Tips: For new-comers to Tibet, you should never rush to visit the attractions downtown, as your body needs time to get acclimatized to the high altitude of the Tibetan Plateau. Mild headaches, dizziness, and rapid pulse are pretty common signs of minor altitude sickness, and will disappear in a couple of days. If there is anything you need, please feel free to reach out to your Tibetan guide. Please pay special attention to sun protection when staying out in the sun in the wilderness in Tibet, as sunburn is a real possibility, even at this altitude.

Day 2: Lhasa Tour: Potala Palace, Zongjiao Lukang Park, And Norbulingka Palace

Explore the White House and Red House in Potala Palace;
Enjoy the bird’s eye view of Lhasa city from Potala;
Visit the sandalwood statue of Sakyamuni in Potala
Join the kora around Potala
Enjoy bird watching at Zongjiao Lukang Park, Norbulingka
Take photos in traditional Tibetan clothes in Norbulingka

The day starts with a trip to the amazing Potala Palace, sitting high on the Red Hill above the city, where you will be able to explore both the Red palace and the White palace of this iconic monument to Tibetan architecture. The view from the palace looking out over the city and the distant Lhasa River is one of the best in the world. The Palace is also the home of the famous Sandalwood Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, a gilded wooden statue thought to have come from Nepal in the 7th century.

After coming back down from the palace, we will take a pleasant stroll around the kore route that encircles the foot of the Potala Palace hill. Then it is on to the Zongjiao Lukang Park for the first bird watching session of the trip. It’s also a favorite place for locals to get their daily exercise, the park becomes the home of thousands of black-headed gulls and plenty of Ruddy Shelducks, Bar Headed Geese, etc. from November to around the middle of March every year, and the scene of the gulls hunting for food or just lazing on the waters of the small lakes with the Potala behind is an amazing shot.

If you are so inclined, the Norbulingka is one of the favored tourist spots for having your photo taken in traditional Tibetan clothes. Local photographers with a wide range of Tibetan outfits can take your picture in front of the palace or in the park, with the Potala Palace in the background as a momentous souvenir of your trip. You may also take a leisurely stroll and find lively birds in the woods inside the Norbulingka.

Meal: breakfast

Accommodation: Lhasa Yak Hotel (3 star), Cang-Gyan Lhasa Hotel (4 star), upgrade available when needed.

Insider Tips: While exploring the Potala Palace and the Norbulingka Palace, as well as any other monasteries and temples in Tibet, it is wise to consider some of the Tibetan traditions. Always walk clockwise around Buddhist sites, never let the soles of the feet face other people or statues and shrines, and always respect the monks of the monasteries, never touching their heads or taking photos without permission. When birding, it is advisable to move slowly and do not wear flapping and colorful clothing, as it can scare them off. And you should never feed the birds.

Day 3: Lhasa Tour: Jokhang Temple and Birding at Lhünzhub County, Lhasa River and Shugsheb Nunnery

Witness famous Barkhor Kora in the morning
Explore the life-size statue of Sakyamuni in Jokhang
Birding at Lhünzhub County (esp. black-necked cranes, etc.) and Lhasa River
Explore Shongse (also known as Shuksip or Shugsheb) Nunnery and enjoy bird watching and overview of Lhasa Valley

In the morning, we will take on the famous kora route around the Jokhang Temple, which follows the five roads of Barkhor Street around the temple. One of the most popular pilgrimages in the region, the route is walked clockwise, and there are prayer wheels for those that are performing the kora around the temple. Inside, you can visit the life-size statue of Buddha Sakyamuni at the age of 12, one of the oldest gilded statues of Buddha in the world, brought to Tibet in the 7th century and believed to have been blessed by Buddha himself.

After departing from the Sacred Jokhang Temple, we will head out of the city to Lhünzhub County, to the northeast of the city on the banks of the Lhasa River. One of the most popular places in Tibet for the migratory black-necked cranes, a rare and endangered species of crane that winters on the marshes and rivers of the area, this is a great place to view and study these unique birds in their natural habitats. The driver will also bring us a pleasant drive along the Lhasa River, where you will have a brief stop to enjoy the Lhasa valley while photographing the birds nearby.

Our next stop is the off-the-beaten-path Shugsheb Nunnery, which lies around 65 kilometers to the south of Lhasa, is the largest nunnery in Tibet, and is a great place for birdwatching. A 45-minute hike from the road up to the nunnery, with its cave and shrine, this unique nunnery has amazing views down over the valley and is home to a huge number of indigenous birds, such as beautiful Tibetan Eared Pheasants, Tibetan snow cocks and pink Himalayan Rosefinches, etc. After spending the afternoon at the nunnery, we will drive back to the capital.

Meal: breakfast

Accommodation: Lhasa Yak Hotel (3 star), Cang-Gyan Lhasa Hotel (4 star), upgrade available when needed.

Insider Tips: When birdwatching at Lhünzhub County, it is wise to wear dull neutral colors, or camouflage if you have it, so that the birds are not scared off by bright colored clothing. Remaining hidden and out of earshot of the cranes is very important, as this is their nesting ground, and they can be easily scared off their nests with eggs in them. Feeding of the birds to entice them is not permitted, and you should try to stay as quiet as possible. A zoom lens is best for these shots, as you get a better view from a distance.

When touring around the Jokhang temple, please remember to respect this most sacred of temples in Tibet. Jokhang is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, and is a place of reverence for Tibetans. Please do not touch or take photos inside the temple, and you will need to take off your shoes when you enter, so thick socks can be useful when it is cold. And please turn off all cellphones, the temple is a place of peace and tranquility to allow monks and other Buddhists to pray.

Day 4: Depart from Lhasa

Your guide will transfer you to the airport or train station for the next onward flight or journey.

Meal: Breakfast

Service Guide


Service Included:

  • Tibet travel permit and all other necessary permits to Tibet;
  • All entrance ticket fees for all tourist sites listed in the itinerary;
  • Personal knowledgeable English-speaking Tibetan local tour guide;
  • Personal comfortable, clean and safe vehicle with reliable Tibetan local driver; vehicle ranging from 4WD land cruiser to minibus depending on your group size;
  • All lodging listed in the itinerary; it’s your decision about the accommodation class: luxury 5-star international hotel, comfortable 4-star hotel, economic 3-star hotel or budget hostel, guesthouse or tent. Please tell us your accommodation preference when submitting the enquiry; we will arrange the best-value hotels for you.
  • Domestic flight/train tickets listed in the itinerary;
  • All meals listed in the above itinerary;
  • Tourist accident/casualty insurance;
  • First aid kit;

Service Excluded:

  • International flight to and out of China;
  • Chinese visa (Note: we could help you with the Chinese visa application, like providing the invitation letter, presenting the hotel or domestic flight reservation copies, etc that you may need. )
  • Domestic flight/train not listed in the itinerary. (We can provide you the domestic flight/train ticket booking service at the BEST discount price; please contact us our travel experts for the details.)
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary; usually it costs about USD3-15 per person for one meal in TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region).
  • Tips and gratitude to tour guide and driver;
  • Personal expenses, like laundry, phone call, snacks, soft drinks (please do the best to avoid the alcoholic beverages during your Tibet trip), optional tour activities, etc.