Tibet Weather in January

General Climate Feature of Tibet

Since Tibet has a large geographical size, there are different cities and prefectures in Tibet which have distinctively different climate features. Most areas of Tibet are under the influence of the continental climate; however, the Nyingchi Prefecture, which is located in the southeastern region of Tibet, is affected by the Indian Ocean current, and thus features the monsoon climate. So, Nyingchi is the warmest and moistest area in Tibet; and from southeastern Tibet to northwestern Tibet, there is an obvious change in the landscapes and a distinct trend of decreasing rainfall and reduced temperatures that can be observed and measured. The three neighboring cities, which are Lhasa (the capital city), Shigatse (the second largest city), and Shannan (the cradle of ancient Tibet civilization), share very similar climate features. The Ngari Prefecture (in the west) and Nagqu City (in the north) are the coldest regions of Tibet.

January Weather in Tibet?

January is the coldest month for most of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also one of the few coldest months in Tibet, with the average lowest temperature being well below freezing. Since Tibet is mainly affected by continental climate, January is also very dry because it hardly has any rainfall. At night, the temperature in most areas is below zero; and during the daytime, the average high hovers around 6°C.

Potala Palace in Winter
Potala Palace in Winter

The feeling of the temperature depends on whether the day is windy or clear. January is in the windy season, so the wind chill may make the weather feel even colder. However, if the day is free and clear of wind, the dryness could make the day quite bearable in comparison with other similarly cold locations.

In conclusion, it’s generally not advisable to do any outdoor activities in January while you’re in Tibet. However, it is still recommended for you to take a historic tour or cultural trip during this time because any severe weather should have less of an impact on it.

When traveling to Tibet in January, you may need to consider the weather of the seven cities/prefectures under the jurisdiction of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Past Weather Data of Major Cities in Tibet, China-- January 2018

Cities/Data Lhasa Shigatse Nyingchi Shannan Ngaqu Ngari Chamdo
Ave. High 6.8°C 5.7°C 7.9°C Very similar with the data of Shigatse Too frigid to be advisable to visit in January Too frigid to be advisable to visit in January Not open for foreign tourists
Ave. Low -10.2°C -13.1°C -5.3°C
Ave. Wind Speed 6 km/h 5 km/h 6 km/h
Precipitation 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm
Humidity 17% 19% 33%
Time of Rise(Jan.1st) 8:50am 8:51am 8:36am
Time of Set(Jan.1st) 7:07pm 7:09pm 6:54am
Length of Day(Jan.1st) 10h16m 10h18m 10h17m

Note: The above information is collected from historical data and differing weather pattern may occur.

Tibet in January—The Two Best Tourist Destinations

January is not the best time for touring Namtso Lake, Mount Everest and Mount Kailash. It is much colder in these areas than in the major cities and towns of Tibet, and the roads leading to these popular destinations will often get blocked because of severe weather conditions, such as heavy snow and low invisibility. Generally, traveling throughout Tibet in January is ideal for those who desire quiet winter hideaways during the low season and for those who enjoy a historic tour or culture tour without waiting in long lines.

Note on Budget Saving: In January, the entrance tickets of all Tibetan scenic spots ranked with 3A or above, except for monasteries and temples, will only be charged half the price of the original to promote winter tourism. Therefore, the tour package price in January is normally lower than in summer or autumn months.

Lhasa-Immense Authentic Pilgrimage Encounter and Festival Atmosphere

Lhasa is suitable for visiting all year round, thanks to the most sophisticated and mature tourism facilities. You can enjoy a winter vacation in a cozy hotel at a much lower price than you’d find during the peak season. As January is the off season for farmers and nomads, Lhasa, which is the spiritual center of the Tibetan people, will have the most pilgrims traveling from Tibetan-populated areas. Some of these areas include the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province, and Yunnan Province. While wandering around the streets of Lhasa, especially on Barkhor Street or around Jokhang Temple, you’ll get a chance to see the most devoted and pious pilgrims as they prostrate.

Furthermore, the Tibetan people celebrate their traditional new year, which is calculated according to the Tibetan calendar and usually falls in January or February on the international calendar. So, if you’re visiting Tibet in January, you may have an opportunity to witness and participate in the authentic Tibetan New Year celebrations.

Barkhor Street in Lhasa
Barkhor Street in Lhasa

Nyingchi-Warmest Tibet Destination and Home of China’s Prettiest Peak

Nyingchi is located at the bordering region between Tibet Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province. Nyingchi has enormous forests which have contributed most of Tibet’s forest resources. Besides the most famous tourism icon “Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival in March,” it is also home to the most beautiful mountain “Mount Namcha Barwa” (voted by Chinese National Geography Magazine). The peak of Namcha Barwa is covered by the lingering mist and fog for most of the year and is rarely seen by tourists. Thus, there is a myth spread amongst tourists that a person who has caught a clear view of the peak will be very lucky. This not only applies to tourists but also to photographers as well. That is what makes Mount Namcha Barwa an intriguing destination to visit. Since it rarely rains in January there, it is a great time for good-luck seekers or photograph fanatics to visit Nyingchi and have a lucky encounter with Mount Namcha Barwa.

Mount Namcha Barwa
Mount Namcha Barwa

Weather-based Tips for Traveling Tibet in January

  1. The Tourist Destinations/Locations to avoid: Mount Kailash—the holy mountain that is in the Ngari Prefecture of southwestern Tibet; Namtso Lake—the sacred lake that is located in Ngaqu City of northern Tibet;
  2. The Tourist Destinations/Locations that are not recommended: Mount Everest—the highest peak in the world, located in Shigatse city, which is in the southwestern part of Tibet. Although there is a high chance of experiencing clear days in the Mount Everest region in order to have clear views of the peak, the base camp usually pulls out of the most ideal destinations in January because that is the coldest time in this region.
  3. Clothing Tips: Wear all necessary clothing that keeps you warm. This is the most essential part of preparing for the weather in Tibet. Besides wear a down coat or wind-proof outdoor jackets, other clothing such as beanies, scarfs, gloves, and proper trousers are also vital.
  4. January is one of the driest months of the year in Tibet. Lip protectors and moisturizers are essential to pack for this reason.
  5. Most days in January are clear, which means the UV radiation can still be intense on the plateau. Thus, neckerchiefs, face covers, or sunscreens to protect your skin should be taken with you.
  6. The most important thing is to prevent yourself from getting cold prior to the visit or during your time in Tibet. The oxygen content of the winter air in Tibet is the lowest amongst all the four seasons, and it can increase your chances of suffering high altitude sickness. Getting cold will surely put your physical health at a much greater risk.
Related articles
Tibet Weather in November As the early winter in Tibet, November has the comfortable temperatures ranging from -5°C to 12°C, with dryer and clearer weather. You’ll feel warm in daytime because of the bright sunshine on the plateau as always!
Tibet Weather in December In December, the temperatures drop as low as -9°C at night. But you’ll also enjoy agreeable sunny weather during the day, with the highest temperature up to 9°C. A moderate tour in central Tibet would be a good choice.
Tibet Weather in October With the highest temperature up to 17°C, October is still a great time for Tibet travel. Sun cream is essential as the UV rays are strong all year around. Snows may block the way to remote areas from end of the month.
Tibet Weather in September Rainy season comes to an end from this month, and the weather is delightfully cool. Grab the last chance to travel to Tibet before Tibet gets cold. Just be aware of the huge temperature difference between day and night.
Tibet Weather in August Summer continues in August. You’ll enjoy a warm and pleasurable weather while traveling in Tibet. On the other hand, August has the heaviest rainfall throughout the year, so an umbrella should be in your packing list.
Tibet Weather in July Here summer comes! The temperature can get as high as 23°C in daytime. However, it will drop below 10°C at night. So, don’t forget to bring a jacket or sweater for nights. A down coat is also needed for the Everest tour.

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