Happy New Year from Tibet! Heartily received by the hospitable Tibetan, you are now welcoming the beginning of the new year in this remote, characteristic, and just beautiful land. No matter what brings you close to Tibet in the heart before you even set up the trip plan, you are now cuddled by the serenity of January of Tibet. Being in the depth of winter, January is not the best time to explore the highest and holiest mountains and peaks, but perfect for those who fancy slow life in a chill yet cozy winter. The young pioneeringly shared the joy of the modern New Year by international calendar. As the warm-hearting new year movies show the tradition of celebration, to hug your friends, reunite with families, is also acquired as a festivity in Tibet. Each of the 12 months of Tibet will definitely surprise you variably, the gift that January can give is as follows.
Since October 2018, the local government of Tibet Autonomous Region, has announced a favorable price policy that all attractions of 3A level or above are free from entrance fee, with exception of religious related scenic spots such as temples and monasteries. This tourist’s beneficial policy has been implemented in the winter of 2019 as well, and promisingly to be valid in 2020. Besides, as a normality, the low season of tourism in winter, often sees a series of price reduced items inclusive of transportation, accommodation and board when traveling to Tibet.
Yamdrok Lake in January
There are more likely discount domestic flights to Lhasa in January, saving a big proportion to travel budget friendly. Moreover, it is relatively easier to book train tickets on your own through the official website of 12306 China Railway due to the low season.
Flight: Best flight departure cities with good price options: Chengdu, Xining, Xi’an, Kunming.
Train: Best train departure cities: Xining (Qinghai-Tibet Railway), Xi’an, Lanzhou.
Road Trip: many roads to Ngaqu Prefecture (Lake Namtso), Ngari Prefecture (Mount. Kailash and Lake Marnasarova), Shigatse Region (Mount Everest) are blocked due to heavy snow. To take a road trip is not recommended during January.
Lunch or Dinner: There are mainly four styles of cuisine in Tibet, Chinese cuisine, Western cuisine, Tibetan cuisine, Nepal cuisine. The average consumption for a fancy Tibetan style restaurant varies from 60 RMB to 100 RMB per person each proper meal. Compared with the meals, local Tibetan drinks and deserts such as sweet tea, yak butter tea, milk tea, yogurt is at reasonable even humble price. 1 RMB is enough for a cup of sweet tea in a random tea restaurant in the myriad laneways. A warm and light-salty yak butte tea is believed to be effectual for some who have minor symptom of high-altitude sickness. A lazy snuggle for the loyal coffee or tea lover is available in the increasing cafes and teahouses with good beverage.
Yak Butter Tea
Hotels ranging from basic class, comfortable class, luxury class can all be found in the capital city Lhasa. In the second largest city of Tibet, Shigatse, Gesar Hotel (4 star), Manasarovar Hotel (3 Star) and other cozy and clean Tibetan family-run hotels are readily providing amiable facilities and service. You can spend less money to have a pleasant accommodation. The price difference of hotels between the peak season and the low season can be 100 RMB per room each night based on comfortable class. For solo traveler, the cost on a bunk bed in a dorm room is around 60RMB to 90 RMB.
St. Regis Resort in Lhasa
Clear Days: around 22 are clear and sunny
Wind: 30 days, mainly breezes
Rainfall: around 20 clear days; other days meet haze, ice fog, passing clouds, overcast
What to pack: wind-proof coat, beanie, scarf, sunglasses, sunscreen
Location: Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse
Palace buildings, temples, monasteries and tent houses, storied houses, single-storey houses, and ancient forts, comprise the main body of the highly religious Tibet. The tourist population cut down by low season has left the courtyards, chapels, halls spacious and quiet for the adventure takers to immerse in the atmosphere of the culture and religion with no hustle and bustle. To enjoy the sightseeing and meanwhile respecting them without disturbing their practice, you’ll receive the inner peace as well. You could feel free to give alms with small amount of change to the pilgrims, which will be taken as an act of good sharing and supporting rather than assuming offend.
Highlights: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery--sutra debating（held daily at 3:00pm except Sundays）is highly recommended; Thashilunpo Monastery, Gyantse Kumbum, etc.
There are a huge population of people in China calling themselves “kids of the south”，indicating that they hardly see snow because their homeland are so warm. These kids of the south, if visiting in January, will be the noisiest tourists, crying happily at the white snowflakes. The generous amount of sunny days in January, 20 in the whole 31, showering the visitors and the local flood of golden sunlight. To have a seat with a broad green canopy above, sit in trance, bask in the warmth of the winter sun at the square across from Potala Place, or at the wide and quieter Barkhor Street, the best thing to do might be nothing. Once you feel chilly outdoors from the changable weather, find a nice restaurant of either Tibetan style, Chinese cuisines, or Western food, or just have a cup of sweet tea or butter tea. Your body and your heart will be warmed up and ignited instantly. The quietness of January has an air of stillness and composure, motionless yet vivid.
Location: waters in an around Lhasa and Nagarze County.
There are 470 species of birds in Tibet, among which 111 species are dwelling in the National Nature Reserve located in middle reaches of Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley and many of them are endemic to Tibet. 80% of total black-necked cranes migrate to the wetlands and farmlands in Yarlung Tsangpo area in winter. This region is rich in Tibet highland barley, wheat, and grass roots. The local peasants have kept the tradition to leave some of the grains in the field for the migratory birds to feed on. If you are a bird watcher and love bird photography, you should not miss traveling in Tibet in January.
Black-necked Crane in Tibet
Among the three sacred lakes, Lake Namtso and Lake Manasarovar are not recommended to visit during winter, because the heavy snow frequently lead to road block and the low visibility along the long route during the snowfall. However, some lakes close to Lhasa, such as Lake Yamdrok and Lake Phumayumtso are still approachable thanks to the closer location and better maintained road conditions. Embraced by brown or reddish steppes, blue sky, blue icy lake and the white snow-capped mountains are all in sight as if in a canvas. To stroll along the icy blue or aquamarine lakes could be tough, chilly, and coarse, though it is far from being pleasant as the course of weather, the transparent blue lake, ice covered and frozen, will make the endurance and tolerance of the mankind body against the harshness worthy and treat you with the miracle of Nature’s amazing elegance.