- Historic Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing Type
- 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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It's hard to miss Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This grand, imposing structure stands more than 12,000 feet above sea level on Marpo-ri, or Red Hill, in the middle of central Lhasa. Potala's larger-than-life presence physically embodies the great historical, cultural and religious significance it holds for the Tibetan people. Not only does the palace serve as the winter home of the Dalai Lama but it also houses the remains of many other Dalai Lamas throughout history. At one point, Potala also acted as the seat of the Tibetan government.
Potala Palace is actually broken up into two palaces. The White Palace is where the Dalai Lama took residence and also where the government once operated. The Red Palace is where you'll find the stupas (a dome-shaped structure in Buddhism used to commemorate a sacred person, place or event) where former Dalai Lamas are buried.
Recent visitors said the palace's importance can be felt immediately upon arrival. Travelers say there is definitely a spirit here that's both palpable and contagious. Once inside, travelers report being awestruck by the architecture as well as the Tibetan art that's on display throughout the premises (Potala features 698 murals and nearly 10,000 painted scrolls). The only complaint some travelers had was that they didn't have enough time to enjoy the palace, as some reported that they were only allotted one hour inside with a guide. Also keep in mind, because of its location on the mountainside the palace can get quite cold so you should plan to wear a coat.
Potola Palace is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If a guide doesn't prearrange a site visit for you and your tour group you can still visit the palace independently, but securing a ticket won't be easy. The palace only sells 2,300 tickets a day. During peak season (May to October), you need to book your ticket at the west gate of the palace one day before your visit. Luckily, Potala Palace is a common stop on Tibet tour group itineraries, so chances are you won't have to do much legwork. You must show up an hour before the time slot arranged by your tour guide to allow enough time for a security check. Tickets cost 200 yuan (about $30) from May to October and 100 yuan (about $15) from November to April.
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