As a whole, Tibet is normally open for most of the year, with only a few instances of closures these days for international tourists. The most common closure instance of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is during the period of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Other closures have been known, though only usually in extreme circumstances. Also, you can find certain places that close due to the weather in the winter season, such as Mount Kailash in Ngari, and Namtso Lake. Check this article of guideline to get inspired on planning your Tibet tour.
Tibet is Open for Most Time in Normal Years
Normally, Tibet is open for most of the year, with very few times throughout the year when it is closed to international tourists.
Tibet is Normally Closed from Late Feb. to Mar.
Losar, or the Tibetan New Year, is actually the only time that the region closes regularly. Every year, from around the middle of February, the entry to Tibet for foreign nationals closes, to reopen again in April. The Tibetan New Year celebrations are a major part of the religious culture of the Tibetan people, and is the most important ceremony in the region. The closure of the region during the Losar period varies somewhat, with the dates for Losar changing each year depending on the Tibetan calendar.
Travel Permits are Required for Visiting Tibet
The rest of the year, the plateau region on the roof of the world is open to tourists both domestic and foreign. And for those foreign tourists, the Tibet Travel Permit is a requirement of travel. Sometimes mistakenly called the “Tibet Visa”, the permit is not a visa at all, and is required for entry to the TAR and for travel in the area of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
A sample of Tibet Travel Permit we have obtained for our clients.
The permit can only be obtained after you have booked a pre-arranged tour of Tibet with a registered Tibetan travel agency. Only registered travel agents can make the applications for the Tibet Travel Permit with the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. The application requires scanned copies of your passport and Chinese Entry Visa, and the processing time for the permit is normally up to 15 days, depending on the season. This may be much shorter in the low season of winter.
Traveling to Tibet without the permit is not possible, as the permit is required to be shown at several points along the way. The first obstacle would naturally be trying to board the flight or train to Tibet without it, as it is required to be shown before boarding, at the check-in gate and at several checkpoints in the stations.
Some Regions are not Open for Travelling
There are some parts of Tibet that are not open to tourists. These regions are normally those places where the weather is too bad, or the climate too harsh, to adequately support human life without specialist equipment. While most of Tibet is opening up to tourism, and there are now only a few places that it is harder to get to, there are some areas of this high-altitude plateau that are almost completely inaccessible. These are mostly in the areas of northern Tibet, in Nagqu and Ngari prefectures at the highest altitudes.
Mount Kailash and Lake Namtso May Close in Winter Time
There are also areas of Tibet that are not open at certain times of the year due to inclement weather situations. When the weather on the plateau becomes too cold and snow-bound in the winter months, places like Mount Kailash and Lake Namtso often become almost impossible to get to.
Mount Kailash will be closed due to heavy snow and frozen cold in winter.
For Mount Kailash, in the north-western area of Ngari Prefecture, the depths of winter from late December to around the middle of February means the mountain becomes harder to travel around. The road to the mountain is actually rarely blocked now, thanks to better road conditions. However, the reason for traveling there, to trek around the Kailash Kora, is an impossible task in the depths of winter, with snow blocking the passes along the route.
Similarly, Lake Namtso is often closed to visitors in the same winter months as Kailash. While it is still possible to travel north to Damxung County, where Lake Namtso lies, the pass over the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains to get there is often blocked in the depths of winter. And as much as the lake is just as beautiful when frozen over in winter as it is when shimmering in the sunlight of summer, the intense cold of the area around the lake at this high altitude is not favourable for most tourists to the region.
How About the Tibet Tour in 2020 and 2021
The recent situation has made some drastic changes to tourism in Tibet, and could have an effect on tourism in the region for the next couple of years.
Tibet Tour is Temporarily Unavailable due to COVID-19
For now, the opportunity to travel to Tibet is not available, due to the incidents of the Novel Coronavirus that has swept the globe. While Tibet did only see one single case of the virus in the entire plateau, there is a need to continue to suspend tourism on the plateau for the benefit of the whole population of the planet.
Street disinfection has been conducted in Lhasa city.
For now, the plateau is completely free of this voracious virus, which has affected almost every country in the world. And for the plateau to remain one of the most unique destinations on the planet, it is best that it remain closed to all tourism, both foreign and domestic, for now.
Hopefully, the Tibet Autonomous Region will be open soon after the global situation recovers to the normal. Once the plateau region does reopen, international travellers will be able to continue with their plans to visit Tibet, and enjoy this amazing experience on the roof of the world.
You Can Plan to Visit Tibet in Advance
In the meantime, you can still start to plan your trip to Tibet, so that you are ready to go once the ban on international travel has been lifted in the region. And it is always advisable to plan and book your trip well in advance, to make sure that you can travel on the dates you require.
The first thing to do is to plan your trip, working out where you want to go and what you want to see. Our travel consultants are still working, helping to give the right advice and help when it comes to planning a trip to Tibet. And you can come and speak to your own personal consultant, to help you understand the concerns you may have, as well as getting some sound advice on the best tour options based on your personal requirements.
Planning your visit to Tibet in advance to get deals and offers.
And with all our Small Group Tours at the moment, we are offering some great discounts for those travellers that book early for their Tibet tour this year. So whether you are planning a quick trip to Lhasa or a long extended tour to take in the wonders of Mount Kailash, we can offer you the best prices, the best tours, and the best experiences for your tour of the TAR.
While you cannot travel yet, you can keep on top of the news about the situation in Tibet through our website, or you can contact us for more detailed information on the status of tours to Tibet. As one of the few places on earth where the virus had an almost negligible effect, Tibet will soon be open once again for travel. And when it does open up again, we can all be ready to explore this amazing land once more and enjoy the wondrous landscapes and scenery of this highest plateau in Tibet.