Potala Palace © Antoine Taveneaux
The vast Potala Palace stands on a cliff top above Lhasa, considered the greatest achievement of Tibetan architecture. The palace was originally built in the 7th century by the then emperor for his bride. It was later partially destroyed by lightning and war, but restored and extended in 1645 by the Fifth Dalai Lama when he became the political and religious leader of Tibet. The Fifth Dalai Lama took up residence in the palace in 1653, and it remained the Dalai Lama's official residence until the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959.
The palace is renowned for its interior splendour. It consists of two main sections: the White Palace which is the secular section containing offices, dormitories, a Buddhist seminary and printing house; and the Red Palace, which is the sacred sanctuary dedicated to religious study and prayer. The latter contains chapels where the mummified remains of three Dalai Lamas lie, and the Great West Hall famous for its rich murals. The only remaining structures dating from the 7th century are the Dharma Cave and the Saint's Chapel, but the palace houses many ancient cultural treasures and relics. In fact, the palace contains over 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues.
Address: 35 Beijing Middle Rd, Chengguan, Lhasa, Tibet
Telephone: 139 899 87403
Opening times: Daily 9.30am-2pm