Tibetan Plateau

The Tibetan Plateau covers an area the size of western Europe, and is often known as “the roof of the world”, due to it’s high altitude. In the west of Tibet are the Himalayas, which include Mount Everest. The people of Tibet have a unique culture, one that reflects it’s rugged land and their nomadic lifestyle, with strong influences from both India and China. The majority of people practice a unique form of Buddhism, but Shamanism is also widespread and there are small pockets of Muslims too.

Tibet’s modern history has been turbulent, since China asserted control of the region and the Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1950s. Tibet has actually benefited heavily from China, living conditions have improved dramatically; while infrastructure, education and the economy have grown too. However local people feel their culture is slowly being eroded as Han Chinese are being encouraged to emigrate to Tibet under China’s “develop the west” plan. If you want to understand more about the recent history, I highly recommend Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of The Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan Plateau consists of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as well as a large part of Qinghai province, as well as parts of Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The majority of the plateau is above 3000m above sea level with areas reaching 5-6000m. As such, the air is thin, and some people suffer reactions. Shortness of breath, fatigue and sometimes even fever can happen. There isn’t much you can do, except see it through and don’t move onto any higher place until symptoms cease. Travel is tightly controlled and the situation changes often. As well as a regular Chinese visa, you will need a special permit for Tibet, and often you have to travel as part of a group. This only applies to the Autonomous Region and not Tibetan areas of other provinces.