Tibet Travel Guide

Potala Palace

Bronze Roof Statue
Bronze Roof Statue

Built on Lhasa's highest point, Marpo Hill, the Potala Palace is the greatest monumental structure in Tibet. Thir-teen stories high, with over a thousand rooms, it was once the residence of Tibet's chief monk and leader, the Dalai Lama, and therefore the center for both spiritual and temporal power. These days, after the present Dalai Lama's escape to India in 1959, it is a vast museum, serving as a reminder of Tibet's rich and devoutly religious culture, although major political events and religious ceremonies are still held here. The first palace was built by Songtsen Gampo in 631, and this was merged into the larger building that stands today. There are two main sections – the White Palace, built in 1645 under orders from the 5th Dalai Lama, and the Red Palace, completed in 1693.

Potala Palace

Visitors' checklist

  • Beijing Zhong Road, Lhasa
  • 0891 683 4362
  • 9am–5pm daily
  • extra charges for Golden Roof access and Exhibition Room
  • in chapels, otherwise extra charges for photography
  • Not suitable for those who find stairs a problem
White Palace
White Palace

View from the Roof of the Red Palace
On a clear day the view over the valley and on to the mountains beyond is unequaled, although the newer parts of Lhasa are less impressive.

White Palace
The entrance to the main building has a triple stairway – the middle set of stairs is for the sole use of the Dalai Lama.

Heavenly King murals
The East Entrance has sumptuous images of the Four Heavenly Kings, Buddhist guardian figures.

The western hall
Located on the first floor of the Red Palace, the largest hall inside the Potala contains the holy throne of the 6th Dalai Lama.

Golden Roofs
Seeming to float above the palace, the gilded roofs (actually copper) cover funerary chapels dedicated to previous Dalai Lamas.

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