One of the most intoxicating locations in the world, Tibet China (or, more accurately, the Tibet Autonomous Region in China) has earned its nickname as Rooftop of the World. Rich in historical importance and natural beauty, the terrain is as arduous as it is rewarding. Tibet travel is not for the feint of heart—the Himalayas make the average height of the entire region is about two and a half miles above sea level, the zenith of which is the ever-popular Mount Everest, on the Tibet-Nepalese border. That is one reason that the population density here is so innocuous. Most are farmers accumulated in tiny villages, the rest occupy some small facet of the Tibet tourism industry.
Despite all this, however, the average climate in Tibet China is surprisingly mild. The sun is almost always present above the mountains, hanging in the sky for over 3,000 hours a year. Spring and summer are especially warm, and you can spend the day in short sleeves, amongst the yak and sheep. But Tibet travel and Tibet tourism are both forever intertwined with pictures of snow and ice, the imposing Mount Everest, the other Himalayas stretching high into the sky, and it seems no one is interested in correcting this small slight.
The cultural center, and one of the vital stops on a Tibet Tour is the capital city of Lhasa. A soulful, self-contained entity, Lhasa is the home of the Dalai Lama, where the region's political affairs are managed and the area where most tourists escape to first. Even though it is by far the most populated and diverse of any city in Tibet, you may still be the only tourist wandering its winding streets. For now, anyway.
The dominant symbol of Lhasa, and of Tibet China as a whole, is the Potala Palace. Many worshippers make the pilgrimage to see the final resting places of the departed Dalai Lamas, and to leave offerings at the many shrines inside. Once the seat of government for Tibet, it also remains a strong symbol of the native people's hopes for a return to true autonomy—not the current state of affairs that the region is embroiled in. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than the layout of the city itself, clearly divided into the Tibetan old town in the east, and the predominantly Chinese section to the west. And the rocky history of Tibet is replayed over and over—the Tibetans want freedom, and cannot forgive the expansion of the Chinese government into their holy lands, while the Chinese believe that their contributions to social welfare, construction of roads and schools and other government infrastructure they installed here are largely ignored.
Another fascinating reminder of the History of Tibet is the Jokhang Temple, about a mile east of the Potala Palace. The most active of all temples in the Tibet, the constant stream of worshipers pushing forth with medieval devotion mixed with street performers and other assorted pageantry make this one of the more energetic sights you'll find during your Tibet travels.
But not all of Tibet China is relegated to Lhasa. The city of Sakya, along the Nepal border, is the most popular area for base camp for those attempting to traverse Mount Everest. The Rongphu monastery is another significant stop in the city, though it is about a two hour walk between the monastery and the spot where Mount Everest begins to ascend into the clouds. The city of Shigatse is another good stop off in a Tibet tour, the region's second largest city, there are hundreds of sights here that bring to mind the circuitous history of Tibet, from the Tashilhunpo Monastery (the home of over 600 monks) and the famous (though poorly preserved) Shigatse Fortress, which overlooks the town with a vague whisper of its former glory.