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Lhasa, the remote abode of the Dalai Lamas, object of devout pilgrimage and heart and soul of Tibet, is still a city of wonders, despite the large-scale encroachments of modern Chinese influence.
First hint that Lhasa is close is the Potala, a vast white-and-ochre fortress soaring over one of the world’s highest cities. It’s a sight that has heralded the marvels of the Holy City to travellers for close to four centuries and it still raises goose bumps.
It is hard to imagine a thriving city at such an altitude, functioning as the religious, cultural and economic hub of Tibet.
While the Potala dominates the skyline, the Jokhang, some 2km to the east, is the real spiritual heart of the city.
An otherworldly mix of flickering butter lamps, wafting incense and prostrating pilgrims, the Jokhang is the most sacred and alive of Tibet’s temples.
It is here and the encircling Barkhor pilgrim circuit that most visitors first fall in love with Tibet.