When February is fragrant with roses and lilies, ignited by the loved ones’ smiles, because of the Valentine’s Day, the young in Tibet, who’d willingly joined the romantic celebration, will have a stronger happiness mixed with not only love match but also the family reunion of Tibetan New Year. It is a moment of tradition and modernity, love bond and family affection, sweetened by the kind prayers and hearty celebration. Whether you are ready to be part of the jolly revel, or preferring to quietly enjoy your time, Tibet, would have you and accept you just as who you are. This festival airy month is also not short of amazing nature wonder and pretty grace exclusive to winter.
February sees the end of Tibet’s winter (from November to February). Temperature rises gradually, roughly 3℃ higher than the average in January. However, in the depth of wind season (from November to May), February and March encounter the harshest winds in Tibet throughout a year.
|Temperature in 4 Major Cities of Tibet in the four month Winter|
|City and Month||Lhasa||Shigatse||Tsedang||Nyingchi|
Sunny Days：>22 days
Packing essentials: wind-proof coat and beanie against wind, down coat to keep warm, layered clothing to fit snug and remove when the noon reaches the highest temperature; Sunglasses, sunscreen, light-weight moisturizer, vital any time in Tibet. Medicines to cure cold or kill headache, are suggested to bring with the instruction from a GP or pharmacist.
Transport and Accommodation
Flights: Flights to and out of Tibet in February are very affordable. Since there are only international flights to Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal, and the newly opened from Helsinki, Finland, the dominant flights to Tibet, are domestic, departing from the following gateway cities: Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Xi’an, Xining, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, etc. The duration of most domestic flights to Lhasa ranges from 2 hours (from Chengdu to Lhasa) to 4 hours and 20 mins( from Beijing to Lhasa).
Trains: cities from which trains depart to Lhasa include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, and Lanzhou. The highest railway Qinghai-Tibet railway route starts from Xining, with a duration of around 21 hours, could help passengers acclimatize the altitude before entering Tibet; moreover, in all carriages on the train, diffused oxygen is provided so passengers won’t suffer from lack of oxygen.
Train Ticket Note: the official website for train ticket booking is 12306 China Raiway(https://www.12306.cn/index/index.html), on which you can purchase tickets on your own. The booking system is open only one month in advance. Since the trains to Tibet are very popular, you’re suggested to book as early as possible. To get a train ticket in February is relatively easier due to the decreasing demands. However, if you happen to book in a last minute, and have difficulty with tickets booking, tour operators or ticket agents can help you with that, by charging booking service fee in addition to the original ticket price.
Losar! Tashi Delek! In the revenue of Tibetan New Year, as an audience, when running into eye contact with Tibetan people, the shyness and feeling awkward may leave you bashful. Surprisingly, they may say “Losar! Tashi Delek” to you with a sincere smile, and to reply with the same language, friendship between strangers just naturally begin. Losar, is the name of Tibetan New Year; Tashi Delek is a greeting, with the meaning of blessing Good Luck and Happiness.
Tibetan Family Celebrates New Year
Before Tang Dynasty, Tibetan people celebrate New Year when the barley got ripe. As the interaction between ancient Tibet and the nowadays central inland of China, the Tibetan Plateau Culture began to acquire customs of the Central Plain Culture. Tibetan regions then started to celebrate the passing of the old year and the beginning of the new just as the Han Chinese did. In 1027, Tibetan Calendar was officially put into use in all aspects of Tibetan society. Since then, the exact dates of Tibetan New Year were calculated based on this provincial calendar.
The celebration lasts for 15 days, among which the first 3 are the most grandeur. Just as Christmas Eve, New Year Eve, the last day of December lifts the curtain on Losar. This night, in Tibetan, is called Gutu. Families reunite and hold rituals of exorcizing evils, and then chat and relax while having the traditional dishes and festival snacks such as Chemar, Tibetan Barley Spirit, Guthuk, etc. Most of them are made from the local food ingredients such as highland barley grains.
Losar usually falls in February. In 2019, Losar is on February 5th. In 2020, it will be due on February 25th.
Visit Mount Namcha Barwa in Nyingchi
Mount Namcha Barwa, 7782m high, is in the southeast of Nyingchi Prefecture. It has been reputed as the most beautiful mountain in China, the reason for which awaits to be discovered by yourself. There are over 20 clear days in February, resulting in a high rate of 95% to see the peak point of Mount Namcha Barwa, in comparison with the 40% in Summer months. The best lookout is in Suosong Village of Nyinchi, sitting at a cliff along the river shore, facing up to the peak directly. To have a cup of sweet tea in the warm daytime sunlight and appreciate the mountain view in a cozy seat of yard, until the sunset sheds the golden rays over the snow-capped mountain top, the splendor of dusk prefaces the vast starry night. It is just what a perfect day should be. If you are a person who’d miss the green tree canopies in winter, after visiting Mount Namcha Barwa, Lulang Forest Sea (Lulang Lin Hai) close by, would be able to consent your longing for the wilderness.
Mount Namcha Barwa
Riding the Train to Shigatse
Though there are multiple buses departing from Lhasa to Shigatse daily and many local travel agencies provide short trips to Shigatse, many travelers who are fond of trains and flexibility of traveling solo, choose to travel to Shigatse by train.
The railway route itself is a beauty. Once the train leaves Lhasa, the highland barley fields will come into sight. The city is fading away, and then the most original Tibet unveils. Villages are dotted halfway up the hills or at the foots. Bridges overlap with the railroad tracks, with rivers running below. Mountains standing afar draw the top lines of the image in your sight. Occasionally you may find some little figures moving along the pasture, the train, in its slow pace, allows you to find out and response quickly to them, by waving back. Besides these authentic local strangers, small stands with only one booth and one guardian are often regularly distributed along the way. These guardians salute to the train when passing by them, the gesture has an air of solemnity and dignity. In the halfway of the route, desertified land can been seen now. To prevent wind and fix sand, many fence-like barriers were set in the broad land. After the roughly three-hour duration, you’ll arrive at Shigatse Train Station.
Z8801 Lhasa to Shigatse 08:30-11:25 (including soft sleeper, hard sleeper, hard seat)
Z8803 Lhasa to Shigatse 15:20-17:59 (including soft sleeper, hard sleeper, hard seat)
Public Transport in Shigatse
Out of the train station, the taxi stops and parking lots are on the right side; and the bus stops with No. 4 and No. 7 bus routes are on the left side. Affordable prices are applied to each vehicle.
Sightseeing in Shigatse City
Tashilunpo Monastery is a monastery of Gulu Sect. of Tibetan Buddhism, the cardinal landmark and the largest monastery in Shigatse Prefecture. Built in 1447, it took 12 years to complete the building complex. It had been greatly expanded in 1600 by the fourth Panchen Lama. Since then, it has been the residence of Panchen Lama of generations. The entrance fee for tourist is 100RMB per person, and Tibetan people are free from charge. It’s open from 9:00 to 17:00.
Handicrafts and Souvenirs Purchasing
Tashi Jicai (Zhaxi Jicai), is the famous home of Tibetan handicrafts, located in the south of Shigatse City, where the gold and silver processing is globally renowned. Waist knife, bracelet, necklace are the most popular souvenirs. Besides shopping, it is also a good place to witness how the craftsman create the exquisite artifacts from the original rough metal with the forging skills passed down generation to generation. But do keep it in mind that Tibetan knife cannot be brought on board, the only way to bring them home is to post them.