After meeting up with the remaining members of the tour group in Chengdu the night before, we had an uneventful flight on Sichuan Airlines to Lhasa the following morning, with a clear sky giving us an excellent view of the terrain en route. This ranged from very mountainous, rocky outcrop with no vegetation to snow-capped peaks on the extremes of the Himalayas.
Lhasa airport is around one hour drive from the city itself, and the trip in set the pattern for the general landscape we expect to encounter for most of the trip, again with very limited vegetation of any type. Lhasa sits at around 3,600 metres, so gave us our preliminary experience with the higher altitudes. Our first view of the magnificent Potala Palace, which served as the winter residence for all the Delai Lamas for hundreds of years and which towers over Lhasa, is one that will stay in the memory a long time. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the excellent Kyichu Hotel, just a short stroll from Barkhor Square, the spiritual heart and centre of all Buddhist activity in Lhasa, and which adjoins the famed Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest and most famous temple.