Potala Palace, visit to the Dalái Lama temple (with map)


Access to the ancient "Forbidden City" of Lhasa immerses you fully in one of the most interesting tourist destinations in the world, that of spirituality, monasteries and monks that invite you to contemplate the true richness and history of Tibetan Buddhism ... AND so we have done today in the footsteps of the Dalái Lama, starting with the Potala Palace, that icon of all Tibet and maximum representation of Tibetan architecture since its construction in 1648 but also in another UNESCO World Heritage jewel as the former and summer residence of the great lamas, its summer residence in Norbulingka

Yesterday we distributed our visits what to see in Lhasa (with map) and we began seeing its most spiritual sacred center in Jokhang (1) to later approach Lingkhor (2), spend the afternoon in the Sera Monastery (3) and dusk in the old quarter of Barkhor (4). Today we will start the tour very early

5 Potala Palace, icon of Tibet

ALTITUDE 3,656 m I have no doubt that when we all think of Tibet that symbol comes to mind white and red buildings in front of the high snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas that emerge imposingly built in stone and wood on the red hill of the city of Lhasa. This is the Potala Palace,originally built by King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century and rebuilt in the seventeenth century by the V Dalai Lama. Today, after getting up at 8 and having breakfast, we have approached your access point with our tickets for 10'20 and finally we will visit it inside.

Currently the price of the Potala Palace is 200 CNY in high season (100 CNY in the low) and you have to have the tickets purchased in advance the previous day (or previous days) from 17'00. The Daily visits are restricted to 2300 distributed in 1600 for agencies and 700 for Chinese travelers who have come for free (foreigners do not have this option since we need permission and agency). It seems that since 2013 they could obtain online on the official website but as we can not do foreigners is not even translated into English as of the date of this article, we are not too worried because we have them included. With all this you get an access schedule that is the entry at the top (10'20 ours), so here we are, at 9'00 passing the baggage access controls and documentation that is not only that of the square, but there is a second interior (By the way, you can NOT access with water or lighters or matches).

Already at its base, you look at it from wherever you look, the tallest palace in the world is a unique Tibetan architectural example, with 117 meters high and 13 floors composed of the so-called Red Palace and the White Palace

It is important to know that today's visit is very different from the previous ones in one sense. Yesterday we saw history in life, sacred centers (especially Jokhang) that represent present, past and hopefully the future of the spiritual life of Tibetan and the city for centuries. Today, The Potala Palace (former residence of the successive Dalái Lama from the V as well as the summer residence that we will visit in the afternoon) is already history since the flight of the Dalái Lama to India. The bombings of 1959 and the Cultural Revolution were benevolent with him and it was reopened in 1980 as a museum. Here we go…

After a final ticket control point in what was the old town of Shöl where there was at the time a jail, government buildings and a printing press, we began an ascent that justifies because we have left this visit for a second day and not the day of arrival or yesterday, destined for acclimatization (Map based on TibetDiscovery)

Scholars say that the oxygen available in Lhasa is 68% of what I have in A Coruña at sea level. That capacity will drop below 50% if we reach the Everest Base Camp at 5,200 m in the next few days. Can you imagine what a climb like this is?

Several ramps that take your breath away anyone has about 15 minutes of ascent with the occasional stop, enlivened by the views. There was a time when Potala had a Lhasa around him with more monks than other people

Now we see the main square with a lot of propaganda of the "friend Mao Zedong", the old Tibetan neighborhood embedded between new modern Chinese buildings, the Chakpori hill restricted to tourism from the installation of the antenna or the winding stairway and seen from above

The stairs lead to a large door that gives access to a patio through a corridor and where we can already see the imposing thickness of the walls that the palace registers in each room.

We are in the outer courtyard of the White Palace or Deyang Shar where is another control point that will start a countdown, that of 1 hour for the visit. We assume that this restriction makes sense when so many people pass through here every day. We take the opportunity to use the bathroom while our guides take bottles of water at 5 CNY and thus fully enjoy the time inside.

From this moment no photos (controlled with video cameras and motion sensors) are allowed in the interior units, chapels and other treasures which, in part, is appreciated because it becomes an intense visit (All the photos we use below are from the website). The Red Palace houses the ballot rooms of the different Dalái Lama and other Buddhist areas while the White Palace was the residence of the spiritual leaders, more thought for political matters. The visit will focus mainly on the first, the second being limited to the place where we enter at the moment and that takes us through a gallery with frescoes to a terrace (where they also sell water) and the residential area used by the Dalái Lama from the thirteenth with his throne, the unit where he met with Mao, a prayer hall and that of the protective gods and a meditation

Across the courtyard, access point to the third floor of the Red Palace, those slightly inclined and lined walls of a type of branches that allow the entry of oxygen that, in addition to being light, transfer millenary durability are perfectly visible. The awnings are also impenetrable, made with the strong fur of the yaks. This area became a prayer area from the Dalai Lama XIII since before there were rooms where the VIII lived. The Jampa chapel, one of Three-dimensional mandalas (Loilang Khang) commissioned by the VII that impact or of the Victory against the Three Worlds (Sasum Namgyal) which houses a library with Manchu texts gift of the VIII, put goosebumps on any visitor while we receive the explanations of Badri and Yongphel that speaks of a war with kings of Nepal won thanks to the help of neighboring countries, which commemorates each year in the new Tibetan year (February like the Chinese) coming people from all over Tibet.

We keep moving forward (by the way, theLonely planet it has a good map of its interior and explanations) and we get to an area where there are tombs of the Dalái Lama (There are four that are not here), one of the most overwhelming points of the visit. After a corridor where we see Lama Lhakang, an important teacher, we find the tomb of the XIII that is currently covered(it has been like this for many years) and theThe VI is not very special (it is said that he was arisco and womanizer and he had no special affection) so it stands out more for the image of the Buddha of Longevity, until it reaches theof the VII with an important chorten and completely covered in gold. And if all this is not enough, we access a cave that makes you feel chills and is considered the most important of the entire temple. It's about the chapel of Arya Lokeshvara of times of Songtsen Gampo which we talked about yesterday, it is said that it dates from S.VII (Potala was rebuilt on that first construction)

The Tombs of VIII and IX are the last in this area, almost 10 meters high, before going down to the second floor where we receive the Dukkhor Kalachakra Chapel and a detailed three-dimensional mandala with more than 170 statues, the Sakyamuni Chapel with the throne of VII (we have been seeing several), Tsepak Lhakang or chapel of the nine Buddhas of Longevity and the throne of VIII with personal items and a ancient cave (Fawang Cave) which is considered the meditation of King Songtsen Gampo with 3000 statues from China, Nepal and Mongolia

We went down to the floor by a staircase with the sides covered, although raising them a little, the story of Potala is intuited. Thus we arrive at Main Hall or meeting room (the largest in the palace) and an impressive gallery where you can see on the walls the relationship with Emperor Manchu. Here are 4 chapels: that of Lamrim with a mural of the visit of the Dalai lama to Beijing, that of Rigsum Lhakhang dedicated to a teacher from India who helped build early monasteries, that of the Holy Succession with the tomb of the Dalai Lama X who died young at 17 and finally the chapel of the Tombs of the Dalái Lama where are they two small chortens with the X and XII and a huge 12.6 meter embellished with more than 10,000 precious stones and 5,000-6,000 gold carats called "The sole ornament of the world" with the most important Dalái Lama of all, the V


It is a great time to explain the importance of 5 Dalái Lama in Tibetan Buddhism and in Tibet's own history. Ngawang Lozang Gyatso, of the Gelugpa school, was known as "The Great" since it was not only he who commissioned build the Potala Palace in the 17th century but he obtained from the Mongols the secular power of Tibet, he managed to establish relations with China and the consideration of notable priests, he left a legacy of important spiritual writings of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. The Great Fifth (as it is also known) can be said to have been the leader of key Tibetan Buddhism in the unification of all of Tibet as we know it

And in this review we know of the previous ones that are not here? It seems that the Dalái Lama III has the peculiarity that took care of II and IV had a Mongolian relationship. And the first one? Gendün Druppa was born in a stable near Sakya (which we will visit on our route) and founded the main Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse that later became the headquarters of the Panchen Lamas. Only Dalái Lama was considered posthumously and we will talk more about him, while we finish the visit from the back passing next to the closed tomb of XI being already 12.15

If the front panoramic showed us part of the city, the rear gives us a contextualization of the valley and extension in which Lhasa is located.

We see the Potala Palace again while we go down from another perspective and it is impressive, and that is not to mention architectural details that leave one speechless (but they would make this article denser) as drainage, polished soil instead of cement, ventilation and lighting systems, etc ...

We also understand now because the number of travelers to the palace is limited every day to protect it and more after the restoration of the 90s that led to it being declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1994 (in 2000 and 2001 also they would be Norbulingka Palace and Jokhang Temple). Well, I am talking about travelers but it is really visited by many locals and Tibetans from all over Tibet, many of whom continue to ask us for photos (in the first one are our guides who have since been baptized as Tambor - the Nepalese - and Bruno Mars - the Tibetan - you know, things of trust)

The Kota de Potala is the third we still had to see in the city (after yesterday visiting those ofJokhang and Lingkhor -the outermost-) full of prayer wheels and even a tea house

They are also fantasticthree big chörtens that devotees circumvent their merit as we saw yesterday in the whole day

Photography lovers should not forget this perspective of the Potala Palace as it is possibly as much or more beautiful than the main facade

If we keep walking, we find a Chinese-style modern park with a large pond which is a nice place to spend the afternoon or even see a beautiful sunset (We saw the Potala Palace at night after blue hour on the day of our arrival)

What were going to be a few minutes, in the end it ended up being the rest of the morning because every image we saw was prettier than the previous one. You know, heavy stuff with photography

And the question that many ask themselves is, if here are the graves of almost all the Dalai Lama, Where is the current Dalai Lama? The fourteenth Dalái Lama went into exile in Dharamsala (India) when the revolts began after the Chinese invasion and there remains with the Tibetan government in exile


You may find thousands of photos on the Internet of the Potala Palace from its ponds, its main square, the stupa of one of its corners or from the streets of Lhasa but we will reveal a more unknown corner that is reached by car and contextualizes you perfectly that huge hill between the whole extension of the city. This place is heading south towards the Modern Princess Wencheng Theater where you will find facilities with a ticket office and a parking lot

From this point you can see what are possibly the best views of the city from a little height

We do not know how long they will last since it seems that they are building some houses in front

From there we have gone to eat in an impromptu restaurant (unremarkable) near our next visit

6 Norbulingka Palace, summer residence of the Dalai Lama

The Dalái Lama's summer residence will complete a thematic day dedicated to the important figure of these historical figures although it is usually a visit that many usually do without. Its about place where since 1755 (built by VII) they celebrated certain treaties or simply dedicated themselves to rest and their religious activities

IMPORTANT NOTE YOU MUST READ: If you have reached this article of travel diary to Tibet and you get this box is that already We are within the Autonomous Region of Tibet and you must know 3 data:

1 This story is part of a complete guide to our trip to Tibet and has many more items that will help you prepare yours. Mind you, Tibet is more than Lhasa although many packages are limited to it.
2 It is NOT possible to travel to Tibet for free. Beyond the Chinese visa itself, it is necessary to obtain a Tibet Entry Permit that will require you to catch any flight / train that goes inside and during your trip. This procedure ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY can be obtained by hiring a tour with a specialized agency. We have traveled with Youlan Tours which also allows you to design a custom route with different unique experiences to the traditional ones throughout China, working with Spanish guides.
3 It doesn't even have to say you must have travel insurance but BE CAREFUL, BE CAREFUL, you need an appropriate one that allows you to perform activities up to 5,200 meters and not everyone has that coverage (or almost none). Ours, as always, is that of IATI Insurance although this time we need the BACKPACK mode to have all the coverage at those altitudes

HeNorbulingka Palace covers an area of ​​19 hectares (neither more nor less) and has 374 rooms or rooms. It is often said that it is the largest garden in all of Tibet.

The walk is pleasant but the distances are enormous (we end up taking a "golf" type cart for 10 CNY each one that circulate every bit) and in it, in addition to numerous gardens, chapels, a zoo, fountains or ponds, you can visit the Gesang Pozhang Palace, whichever was used first

You can also see various buildings and pavilions that have been growing over the years during the first half of S.XX as well as theatrical shows, dances or festivals that are held

Perhaps because of the majesty of Potala, Norbulingka is a little decaffeinated although it is important to understand the life of the Dalai. After visiting the New Summer Palace, built by the current Dalái Lama before his retirement, we decided to end the day not before enjoying one of those Tibetan smiles that so much affection shows

In Lhasa you can do more things besides the main visits to get closer to the local culture. Seeing the Tibetan Medicine Center or approaching a local house to learn how to print our own prayer flag or know your local cuisine, can be perfect complements for it. We, however, have enjoyed a free ride and then We have returned to the hotel in a Tibetan taxi (30 CNY) after 10 minutes of not being able to stop any Chinese. Prepare bags, try some photos in the patio with a cappuccino and have dinner in the same restaurant (143 CNY) have served as a farewell to a very intense day.

Yes the day of our arrival in Lhasa We said we finally fulfilled that dream, today visiting the Potala Palace, that maximum representation of a town, and following (in addition to understanding) the steps of the Dalái Lama has meant the perfect culmination as we pass through the capital. Tomorrow we will begin the route that will take us to Everest Base Camp, not forgetting Drepung or Ganden.

Isaac (with Sele), from Lhasa (Tibet)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 183 CNY (approx 24.4 EUR)