Lhasa is one of the most important cities in Tibet and one of the highest elevated in the world at 3,500 meters (11,500 feet). Lhasa, in spite of its absorption into greater China, has retained much of its culture. During the 7th century, Tibet was unified under Songtsen Gampo, who built a palace on Mount Mapori, which would later hold the Potala Palace. Over time, Lhasa went in and out of being the capital of Tibet, but it has always remained an important spiritual center.
Lhasa is very important to Tibetan history and is located meaningfully in a Himalayan Mountain valley. Lhasa is home to the Potala Palace, which was the former home of the Dalai Lama. It was constructed on the Red Hill more than 360 years ago. It is composed of two parts, the White Palace, where the Dalai Lama lived, and the Red Palace, where religious study and practice took place. Another palace is Lhasa is Norbulingka, built in 1755. It was the Dalai Lama’s summer palace before his exile. Most noteworthy are the palace’s gardens, which stretch nearly 90 acres with the sprawling palace. Other tourist opportunities include visiting Jokhang Market or Chokpori, one of the four sacred mountains of Tibet. To shop traditional wares and souvenirs, go to Barkhor Street.
Lhasa is also still clearly a city under occupation, with armed soldiers standing for the lookout on street corners and rooftops, and constant patrols throughout the city. Non-Chinese nationals are required to obtain a special permit to visit Tibet (Tibet Entry Permit) and hire a tour guide every day they stay in Tibet. This is strictly enforced but details change from time to time.