When travelling to Tibet, there are a few things you must try to get the most out of your Tibetan experience. We’ve compiled a list of 7 things for you to do to in Tibet - including both some world-renowned and lesser-known activities - that can be experienced practically anywhere in Tibet.
Join the communal dances often found around Tibetan towns in the evenings. This type of circle dancing got its origins around nomadic campfires, so even today, in the middle of town it holds its communal heritage. The best thing about a circle is, no matter how big it gets, everyone fits! As people join the fun, the circle grows, but if it becomes too large, a second, third, or even fourth ring may appear around the outside. Everyone is welcome to join, so step right up and test your coordination as you attempt to get your hands and feet going at the right time.
Encouragement from the initiated: don’t be scared! Everyone one learns at some point, and locals love watching the foreigners join in. If there are multiple rings, try joining one of the outer rings (or start your own) so you can watch someone in the middle for the moves!
Take a break from your travelling to visit the grasslands the Tibetan areas are known for. Watch the yaks, cows, sheep, goats, or horses lazily graze the day away. Often, these herds will be accompanied by local farmers and nomads, so wave a friendly “hello”. Keep your distance around the animals however, to avoid disturbing them. Mother yaks, in particular, can be very protective of their calves, so as cute as the animals are (especially the babies), enjoy them from afar so you don’t find yourself with an aggressive mama running at you!
There are several foods to try while in Tibet. Best known for their yak reliant diets, Tibetan food can also be described as homestyle comfort food. Main features in Tibetan dishes include yak anything (milk, yogurt, butter, meat, etc.), tsampa (ground barley flour), potatoes, homemade noodles and momos (like Tibetan dumplings or perogies), and any vegetable that can be locally grown at that elevation.
For more on which foods to try, check out our top 5 recommendations here.
Whether you visit the local produce, jewelry, or other trinket markets, enjoying a stroll through a local market can give you a glimpse into the everyday life of the town. Watch as locals barter, unload their wares for sale, pick up ingredients for dinner, or a gift for a friend. If you feel so inclined, try buying something and enjoy the delightful, bumbling conversation that can ensue as you try to communicate.
For an authentic and up-close look of Tibetan hospitality, stay at a local homestay. While language can be a bit more of an issue than at a regular hotel, the enjoyment of little interactions with your host can be so worth it! If you have some amount of communication with your host, sometimes you can convince them to let you help in the kitchen or to watch them cook. Maybe they will let you help them pick fresh fruit and veggies from the garden, or if you find yourself wanting to go for a walk, they know the best paths and the shortcuts to get wherever you are going!
Want to know more about some local homestays? Check out some of our Tibetan Small Business Highlights we host over on Tibetpedia.com.
Just like travelling anywhere, learning a few key phrases in the local language can go a long way! “Thank you”, “hello”, “goodbye”, and a few numbers can get you surprisingly far! However, in the Tibetan areas there are several main dialects, so ask a local what is the best thing to say. (Often neighbouring villages that speak the same dialects will even pronounce things slightly differently, so keep listening!)
One phrase you will often hear in all of the dialects is the common greeting “Tashi Delek!” If someone says this to you, feel free to respond back with your own enthusiastic “Tashi Delek!” and watch the smile spread across their face!
While you will often hear reference to Tibet’s vast blue sky over the grasslands, it seems to be less commonly mentioned to look up at the stars! Being on the Roof of the World at high elevation is perfect for stargazing. Some visitors even say they feel like they could just reach up and touch the night sky. As the Tibetan areas tend to be less densely populated, the light pollution is limited, making this a perfect opportunity to notice that the stars are positioned a little differently than from your view at home!
As much as we love running custom group tours, we understand that not everyone travels with other people. Whether you use the adventure to get out and meet new people, or just didn’t have friends or family who could join you this time around, sometimes it just makes sense to travel alone.