I was the family member who wanted to let my eyes feast upon the Potala Palace and oh my goodness, it was spectacular indeed.
Construction was begun by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645 and he moved his government into the palace in 1649. The structure is an imposing edifice with walls of more than sixteen feet thick at its base. It rises thirteen stories and has over 1000 rooms. The White Palace make up the living quarters of the Dalai Lama while the Red Palace is devoted solely to religious study and prayer. The Potala Palace remained the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th and current Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet during the 1959 uprising. The palace was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994.
At this point I am loving the view but also wondering if I will make it up all of those stairs.
Potala is a renown site of pilgrimage as well as a world wonder. The number of visitors is limited each day and the travel route set. All visitors must enter through the east main entrance and the visit time is limited to one hour.
We were so fortunate to have Lucy as our guide. A native Tibetan, she has lived her entire life in Lhasa. She was a wealth of knowledge, enriching our visit with details of each of the Dalai Lama's lives. She also knew the palace like the back of her hand and knew exactly when to be where to maximize our time inside. Absolutely no drinks can be taken inside and please be aware of the Tibetan taboos during a visit. No hats or sunglasses once inside and please do not step on the door sills.
The zig zags, the uneven stairs and the thin air definitely make it an uphill climb, over 430 steps upward. In this photo we are more than half way up the stairs. Time for a break and a quick photo taken by Lucy. I was glad we had arranged an early morning visit.
I felt humbled to walk through the Potala Palace, see the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas and visit several of their tombs.
The Potala Palace also afforded a tremendous view over the city of Lhasa and its red hills. From this vantage, I began to more fully understand its reference as the rooftop of the world and I was so glad I was there. It was clearly a view worth time to drink in and I wasn't the only traveler to do so.