Potala Palace – A Photo Tour
The Potala Palace, considered to be the greatest monumental structure in Tibet, sits at the center of Lhasa. Of course, before visiting Potala you will have to get to Tibet. Travel to Tibet takes a bit of planning – perhaps more than some places your’ve gone. You’ll need a Chinese Visa as well as a Tibet Travel Permit. See my article on Travel To Tibet for the details. And you should also plan to deal with the altitude. Lasha Tibet sits at an elevation of 3,490 meters / 11,450 feet. Altitude sickness can kick in around 8,000 feet so it would pay to get in shape. Check my article on High Altitude Travel for how to plan and prepare.
Buddhism in Tibet is based on the Mahayan school of Buddhism which was brought to Tibet from India in the 7th century. In Lasha, Tibet you are quite literally surrounded by Buddhism. Everywhere you walk or look you will see temples, monasteries, monks, prayer wheels, and pilgrims. The Potala Palace is the most obvious and striking symbol of Buddhism in the city.
Upon arrival in Lhasaa you will have no problem whatsoever locating the Potala Palace. It dominates the Lhasa landscape. A grand thirteen story structure of white and red, it is perched atop the highest point in Lhasa – Marpo Hill. Initial construction began in 631 with other buildings being added and merged over the years until today it is an almost overwhelming building consisting of over one thousand rooms. In the past it was the center of Tibet’s spiritual and political power and served as the residence of Tibet’s chief monk and leader, the Dalai Lama. As a result of conflict with China, the Dali Lama escaped to India in 1959. Today, the Potala Palace remains as a museum, a location for major religious ceremonies and a symbol of Tibetan Buddhism
The Potala Palace rises above everything in Lhasa, Tibet. The palace is made up of two main sections. The White Section was built in 1645 and the Red Section was added in 1693. If you want to visit – put on your climbin’ shoes! From street level everything is up and up and up!
It pays to be in shape. Climbing all those stairs in the oxygen-starved atmosphere of Lhasa, Tibet (elevation 11,975 feet) is quite a workout!
The mountain air is cool and the sun is strong at this elevation. A light jacket and sun screen can be handy. Pace yourself during the climb.
You won’t be alone on your climb to the Potala Palace. It’s a pleasant climb and the views are great. You might as well enjoy those views because it is really best to take occasional breaks on the climb.
Finally you arrive at the summit in a small square called the Eastern Courtyard of the White Palace. Time to relax and try and find your breath. The rather unassuming main entrance to the palace lies ahead – three steep stairways which are almost ladders. The center stair is reserved for use only by the Dali Lama.
The final climb into Potala Palace – up a steep stair. There is a security check. Note that the center stair is roped off and unused.
Potala Palace has a very colorful presentation.
These windows have quite a view.
The view from the top of Potala Palace looking to the South. The large open area with the monument on the left side is People’s Park.
The interior of the palace is dark with narrow passageways and oh so many rooms. The air is thin but full of incense. Walls and alcoves are filled with icons, statues, and images from ages past. Photography is not allowed inside the palace.
It goes without saying that a visit to Potala Palace is a “must do” when in Lhasa, Tibet. But it does involve a great deal of climbing. I suggest you get in shape before your trip to Tibet and then give your body some time to acclimatize to the high altitude before visiting the palace. Pace your climb and enjoy the views. Once at the top be sure to take your time and enjoy fully the experience of this very special place. When your visit to the palace is over there is one piece of good news – your journey home will all be downhill!
Journey wisely ………… And Enjoy the Adventure!
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