Tibet Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Tibet is one of the most remotely located countries in the world and definately an off the beaten track destination for adventure travelers. Get information, tips, itineraries and inspiration for visiting Tibet.
Things to Do, Travel Ideas & Holidays in Tibet
Find activities, experiences, travel packages, backpacking ideas, eco & adventure holidays in Tibet.
Tibet Travel Guide
Get essential travel information, ideas and inspiration for visiting Tibet.
- Capital: Lhasa
- Currency: Chinese Renminbi (¥) (CNY)
- Country Size: 1,228,400 km2
- Population: 3,002,000 (approx)
- Language: Official: Tibetan, Mandarin
Top Reasons to Visit Tibet
- Discover one of the most spectacular countries in the world
- Some of the most friendly people in the world
- Incredible sights
- Untouched by globalisation
- Authentic experience
Travelling & Backpacking in Tibet
Tibet is a country steeped in Buddhist beliefs with the Dalai Lama the country's spiritual leader. In 1949 Mao Zedong and his Communist movement took control of China and he had high aspirations for Tibet. In October of 1949 Chinese forces entered Tibet with the aim of liberating the country, at first everything was peaceful with Chinese politicians promising local people of a better future ahead but after encountering issues winning hearts and minds they soon changed tack with a more aggressive and oppressive approach.
In the past decade the Chinese government have built a high speed rail link into Lhasa and are offering incentives for Chinese people to move to Tibet - this is seen as a way of reducing the number of ethnic Tibetans and making the country more Chinese. In present day Lhasa, Chinese ethnic groups are more commonly found over local Tibetans. Due the the Chinese government ruling Tibet with an iron fist this country is now a fairly neutralized and tourism is restricted. Thousands of Tibetans have now left the country in search of more peaceful surroundings - many live in Dharamasala in Northern India.
Around 3 million people visit Tibet every year with most of these being Chinese tourists. This is a difficult destination to visit for independent travelers as there is a lot of bureaucracy and red tape but there are travel agenices in Asia and also international companies offering the chance for internationals to explore Tibet.
Best Places to Visit in Tibet
These are some of the top tourist attractions in Tibet:
- Draksum-tso Lake
- Drepung Monastery
- Everest Base Camp
- Lalung La Pass
- Lhodrak Sekhar Guthok
- Lulang Forest
- Jokhang Temple (Tsuglakhang)
- Mount Kailash
- Nam-tso Lake
- Potala Palace
- Samye Monastery
- Sakya Monastery
- Yamdrok Lake
- Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon
View our Asia travel guide.
Book a Tour to Tibet
We highly recommend booking a tour in advance, you can search international and local tour operators on our website and enquire today. Because of the size of Tibet and the rugged terrain journeys can be long and sometimes you will need a good level of health and fitness to join certain trips.
Usually you will travel in a small group in a specially designed overland vehicle and there will be lots of adventures and activities to take part in including hiking - some of the mountains in Tibet are over 15000 feet! There are a wide range of adventure treks, hikes and cycling tours available to book all year round. Get inspired to book a tour to Tibet today.
All tour guides have lots of experience and will be able to provide information and history behind the places you visit, before departing you will need to check latest safety and visa information as sometimes borders are shut to tourists. You can search our featured tours today but please note due to visa restrictions from the Chinese government sometimes departures are not able to leave on selected dates.
Popular Places to Visit
Most tours visit the capital, Lhasa which sits high in the wilderness of the Tibetan mountains, the Potala Palace, the Qinghai Lake (Khökh nuur), The Kunlun Mountains, Qiangtang Prairie, Nakqu-Lhasa Highland, Jokhang Temple, Yanmdrok lake, the Brahmaputra grand canyon and the Yanmdrok Lake.
The capital city - Lhasa is incredible and located in a spectacular setting high in the mountains. The main tourist attraction is the Potala Palace which is a world recognised building and you will get lots of time for pictures and sightseeing. The Potala Palace first was finished in the 7th century and is a special symbol of this country.
Apart from temples you can expect breathtaking scenery and nature in Tibet will leave you spellbound and on one of our small group holidays you will be able to experience the highlights of the country. Tibet is waiting to be explored, there are quient charms and friendly local people dressed in traditional clothing and also tasty cuisine.
Top Reasons to Book
- Get an experienced guide
- See the best places
- Go off the beaten track to see locations difficult to reach
- Eat at the best local restaurants
- Enjoy a stress free experience
- Get an authentic local experience
Tibet Tours for Solo Travellers
Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-39 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
Tibet Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
- Accommodation: Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location.
- Group Sizes: Typical group sizes are around 10-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator.
- Transport: On most tours you will travel overland in a private small tour van.
How to Book
Are you ready to see the very best of Africa? Search our featured trips above or contact us for specific advice.
Tibet Tour Reviews
If you have ever joined a tour and would like to review or share your experience please contact us.
How to Volunteer in Tibet
Looking to volunteer in Asia? Arranging an volunteer program in Tibet can be challenging, this is a destination for the adventurous but if you are successful, this will be one of the most fulfilling times of your life. China only issues limited visas per year and sometimes stops internationals entering the country without reason. Some people take the risk of either catching the train from Beijing, or crossing the border illegally without a visa - we do not recommend this as if you get caught the consequences can be bad. You will need to check to see if you are eligible for a visa.
When searching for terms like "Volunteering in Tibet" into search engines it can bring you lots of results but many of these are misleading and you will need to check authenticity, most opportunities are located with exiles in neighboring countries rather than offering placements directly in Tibet. In Tibet most local organisations lack infrastructure, funding and staff numbers and so if you turn up and offer to work for free not many places will reject your offer. You might need to do this discreetly though and don't expect a long term fixed placement.
Location of Projects
There are programs usually outside the capital Lhasa and more rural parts of the country. Due to the Chinese presence in Lhasa, finding volunteer work here can be really difficult because no organisations wants to risk attraction attention by the Chinese authorities so you might need to go off the beaten track. If you are looking for a more structured experience you might want to search programs in Ladakh, Dharamsala, Sikkim - located in the Himalayas close to the border with Tibet. The key to volunteering in Tibet is to be independent, you might even need to take the risk and go to Tibet and search out opportunities by yourself. This will involve you visiting places like Lhasa and asking around / visiting institutions to see if they need help. You could also choose to volunteer in nearby destinations working with Tibetan refugees.
Volunteer in Lhasa
Lhasa is according to legend, the Land of the Gods and the City of Sunshine. The capital city of Tibet sits high at an altitude of 3,700 meters above sea level and is Tibet's political, economic, cultural and religious center. Tibetan Buddhism is the major religious influence in the city. It is rich in ancient Tibetan culture and tradition. The Potala Palace, referred to as the Roof of the World dominates the city's architecture and is the most famous landmark.
Tibet was once ruled by the Dalai Lama and as a volunteer here you will find lots of ancient monasteries, temples, hermitages and nunneries around the city. Pilgrims come from all over Tibet like to congregate in the Barkhor street area before attending services in the Tibetan temples. The whole place could be a movie set with the colorful costumes of the monks and locals, it certainly is a destination worth visiting. No volunteering experience in Tibet would be complete without experiencing Lhasa.
How You Can Help
Community Volunteer Programs in Tibet
Tibet has a population of around 6 million people and because of turbulence / no real industry is located here, many people live in poverty and poor conditions. You will be overwhelmed by the kindness of the Tibetan people you encounter - if there was ever a country, or people which need assistance it is Tibet. There are various schools, orphanages and community development programs which offer projects to internationals, one of these is the Lhasa Jatson Chumig Welfare Special School which is an NGO caring for disadvantaged children located on the outskirts of Lhasa.
Volunteer at an Orphanage in Tibet
Some community organisations and orphanages in the country are specifically set up with the aim of helping local children, most are funded by donations and run of shoe string budgets but are able to directly help sick, abandoned and poor members of society.
Educational & Teaching Volunteer Programs in Tibet
Tibet is country steeped in history, religion and also political issues - you will learn a great deal about the country and people when teaching here. Tibetan students will be very open and interested in you, they might ask your opinions on the Dalai Lama and the state of Tibet or just ask questions about your country and past. Sometimes you might get to lead or assist classes, help students with their English, practice speaking fluency or lead creative arts, crafts, music or sports projects.
Volunteer with Animals & Conservation in Tibet
An idea you might not have thought about but is very creative is to just head to the tourist areas specially where treks and tours start and just clean litter. Many people just dump rubbish along the route which blights the environment but you can play a little role in helping by just picking rubbish up.
What to Consider Before Applying
You should always ask yourself questions before choosing Tibet, sometimes the restrictions and problems can prevent you from helping. It is a very safe destination but you also need to obey local rules and laws - getting on the wrong side of local Chinese authorities can be terryfing. No material stating 'Free Tibet' is allowed and even talking about this can cause problems. You might also want to think about the isolated nature of this destination makes normal every day things like browsing the internet difficult. You might want to buy a local phrase book to get by especially if you are travelling solo not on an organised trip.
Health & Safety
Tibet is one of the highest countries in the world, many places are over 10,000m and altitude sickness affects many travellers. Be on the look out for symptoms which include being lethargic, headaches, not feeling hungry and difficulty sleeping. Take time, at least a few days to adapt and don't jump into an adventure mountain climb on your first day - this is a bad idea! There are no specific vaccinations needed for entering the country but you might want to consider Polio and Typhoid. Be sure to buy travel insurance and check the policy to see if you will be covered in Tibet in case anything major goes wrong.
How to Apply
You can search our featured organisations today or contact us for advice.