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The Tibetan Plateau, known as the ‘Third Pole’ and ‘Roof of The World’, is an ideal place for travel. It is a spiritual place with rich culture and a place of inspiration for many in the West. You will marvel at Tibetan mantras and spinning prayer wheels at temples and on monastery walking trails. The odor of juniper incense and yak butter begins a spiritual journey.
The Tibetan Plateau offers unique natural vistas, breathtaking high-altitude treks, and spectacular views of mountains, rivers, lakes, monasteries, and people. It offers remarkable tours in nature, as well as adventure, spiritual, monastic, and community tours. Your visit will be memorable and fascinating.
The Plateau is the source of Asia’s major rivers, and is home to diverse flora and fauna. It is the size of Western Europe with an average elevation of 4,700 m (15,400 ft). It is surrounded by spectacular mountains such as the Kunlun range to the north and the Himalayas to the south. Tibetans often describe the Plateau as ‘the Land of Snow’. The Plateau features high plains in the west, and deserts in the north. Such great rivers as the Yellow River, Yangtze, and Mekong rise in the east carving out steep gorges.
Tibet is traditionally divided into three major regions – Kham (eastern), Amdo (northeastern), and U-Tsang (Central), which embrace the TAR, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan. There are about seven million Tibetans worldwide and the great majority live in Tibetan areas in China. The Tibetan Plateau is culturally diverse and complex. Tibetans from the three major districts speak different dialects, but share the same linguistic root. Studies show that there are nearly 100 languages on the Tibetan Plateau and many of them are endangered. For a long time, Tibetans have promoted the Plateau as an ‘ocean of song and dance’. Rich folk customs and arts differ from village to village, ranging from festivals, rituals, speeches, weddings, and costumes. With rapid modernization, much of this culture is endangered. Eco-cultural tourism is a tool to revitalize those traditions.
Tibetans historically practiced Bon prior to the spread of Buddhism in the seventh century from northern India. Many communities still practice Bon. Both Bon and Buddhism have diverse schools of thoughts, but commonly emphasize the values of love, peace, and compassion.
Pastoralism and agriculture are key economic activities on the Tibetan Plateau. Until recently, pastoralists mainly herded yaks and sheep, however, resettlement is now taking place across the region. In the lower valleys, people grow barley, wheat, potatoes, and rapeseed.
China’s economic development has brought more accessible transportation to Tibet than ever, but foreign travelers are required to pre-book a tour with guides and driver to secure a Tibet Travel Permit to Central Tibet, and other special permits for traveling to the western parts of Tibet. Tibetan regions in Amdo and Kham areas are more accessible and special permits are not required. What’s more, these regions are as Tibetan as any you will find anywhere.