If you’ve ever seen a picture of Tibet, you have probably seen the Potala Palace. Located in Lhasa, it is easily one of the most recognizable Tibetan Structures in the world.
Whilst the temple once belonged to (and was the residence of the Dalai Lama), it is now a combination of a religious site, and a tourist attraction open to the public.
Here’s what you’ll find by visiting the Palace, along with a couple of tips you should bear in mind.
Interesting Facts About Potala Palace
-The Potala Palace was the Dalai Lama’s main home right up until 1959 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Museum.
-It is named Potala Palace after a mythical mountain (Mount Potalaka).
-Whilst it was the 14th Dalai Lama which left the palace, it was the 13th who made it the size it is today.
-Potala Palace is one of the world’s largest buildings based on floor space. It comes in at over 130,000 square meters.
-The Iconic Golden Roof area is located on top of the Red Palace area. That’s the area you’ve probably seen depicted in pictures.
-Due to fear that the palace might be ruined, only 1,600 people are allowed to visit the palace each day.
-The Potala Palace is located at an extreme altitude of 3,700 meters. That’s pretty high.
History Of Potala Palace
The first signs of activity on the site which is now known as Potala Palace, was back in the 7th century AD when a king known as King Songtsen Gampo built the first structure here. Even at this time, it was a site of royalty and the structure built was also a palace.
Yet it wasn’t until 1645 that the structure which is known as Potala Palace today was first built. The fifth Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso, was the person behind its construction. At the time, it was much smaller and significantly less magnificent. Yet whilst it only took 3 years to complete the buildings themselves, it took a further 45 years to furnish them.
The modern version of the building is somewhat different, with the architecture being from the Qing dynasty, and having been upgraded even as recently as 1922. Despite this, a true tour of Potala Palace will show you areas which have stood since it was first erected back in 1645. They still stand there but are surrounded by the newer structures.
In 1994, the palace became a UNESCO world heritage site. It had already become a museum, which focused on the history of the area and Tibetan Buddhism. Because the building has been significant in relation to the Dalai Lama, a large part of it (the Red Palace) is actually filled with religious artifacts and is meant to be for just religious study and prayer.
Culture Of Potala Palace
As soon as you enter Potala Palace, you’ll be greeted by some pretty incredible sights. Throughout the whole structure, you’ll find yourself surrounded by religious artifacts and items of significance. Whilst you cannot see the whole structure, you can see quite a lot of it – especially the Red Palace.
Don’t expect to be able to see too much of the White Palace though. To date, large sections of it are still used for religious reasons and so are off limits to tourists.
The Red Palace
The main area of Potala Palace. This also just happens to be the highest structure in the Palace and the center of it as well. It is dedicated to religious study and prayer. Today, most of the red palace is accessible to those who are looking to explore and find out more about the way of life and culture of those who lived here previously.
The Red Palace consists of five floors, with the two newest having been added in 1922. The layout is seen as labyrinthine to many, with the tombs of the 5th to 13th (minus the 6th) Dalai Lamas located inside.
The White Palace
The White Palace was originally the residence of the Dalai Lama. The first Dalai Lama to move in was the 5th. Other than this, the White Palace was a largely non-religious area, and most of it was filled with offices and areas for the government. Today, the White Palace is largely still inaccessible, yet there are a few rooms which can be explored.
There are 8 stupas located at Potala Palace, each of which is dedicated to the Dalai Lamas which once lived there. They served 3 purposes: to give power, to represent the holiness of the elite, and to show the importance of Potala Palace itself.
Whilst Potala Palace may be filled with incredible architecture, some think that the Stupas are the best examples of Tibetan architecture from before. They are seen by many as important historical artifacts, as well as just nice to look at.
Tips For Visiting Potala Palace
-Potala Palace is open between 9 am and 4:30 pm, with 12 – 3:30 pm is reserved for lunch.
-The price of Potala Palace depends on the season you visit. Peak season tickets are 200 RMB, whilst off-peak tickets are just 100 RMB.
-Peak season is May – October, Off-peak season is November to April.
-You must purchase your ticket one day before entering the palace. This means that you can’t buy tickets at the door. Don’t try because there are no exceptions. If you’re running with a tour group, they should help you out, otherwise, make sure to buy in advance.
-You will need your ID to book a ticket. A Passport is fine.
-You should follow Tibetan etiquette when you are in Potala Palace. This means wearing appropriate clothes and showing appropriate behavior.
-There are only 1600 tickets per day. This means that you might be out of luck during peak season and find yourself having to book for another day. Early bookings are possible, but sometimes it’s better to just try and come during the off-peak season.