Potala Palace, Lhasa ©
Lhasa is a holiday destination set in a marshy valley and dominated by surrounding mountain peaks. It is the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region and one of the highest cities in the world, at an elevation of 12,000ft (3,658m). Lhasa has long been the religious, cultural and political centre of Tibet, sheltered from the harsh winds of the Tibetan plateau in a spot that has been inhabited from at least 1500BC. Today Lhasa has a population of more than 400,000. Being the religious centre for Lamaist Buddhists since ancient times, flocks of pilgrims have made their way to Lhasa over the centuries to worship at the feet of the Dalai Lama. Now tourists on holiday are following in their wake to explore the surrounding mountains and investigate Tibet's unique culture and long history.
In 1959 Lhasa saw several days of warfare in a revolt against communist reforms being imposed by the Chinese administration. The Dalai Lama fled to India and communism was instituted in Tibet. Many historic and religious buildings were destroyed, and Tibetan traditional culture discouraged. With political reform having taken root in China, however, economic progress has reached Lhasa as well and the city is currently enjoying a period of rapid modernisation, while retaining its importance as a holy city for the realm of Lamaist Buddhism. The remaining historic buildings are drawing more and more holiday visitors to Lhasa.