The Roof of The World: 10 Facts about Altitude in Tibet


Tibet is often called the Roof of the World because of its high altitude. In this article, we collected the facts that illustrate and prove that Tibet holds this name for good reason.
If we look at the topographic map of the world, Tibet clearly stands out. But how high it really is? In this article, you will find information about natural as well as human-created highest wonders.

! Tibet is located on the Tibetan plateau. It is the highest plateau on our planet.

The south border of Tibet is marked by the Himalayan range. Karakoram Range lies to the South-West border of the Tibetan plateau.

The Himalayas formed at the collision of tectonic plates and they are one of the youngest mountains on the planet. The movement of tectonic plates didn’t stop and mountains continue slowly rising, adding 1-2cm every year.
Before the collision, the area of the present Himalayas was an ocean. People still find fossils in the Everest region.

! The average altitude of Tibet is 4,500 meters/ 14,750 feet.

The limit for growing crops is 4,500 meters, and farmers settle in valleys below this altitude. Most of Tibet territory is above the tree-growing line. There are some forests in the lower altitude areas.
High altitude makes it difficult to grow crops. The most wide-spread farming crop is highland barley or Himalayan barley. Roasted barley flour (tsampa in Tibetan) is a staple food of the region.

More about staple food in Tibet: Traditional Food in Tibet

Tibetan nomads, however, travel throughout the year and sometimes set up their tents at altitude as high as 5,500 meters. Nomads have herds of yaks, and rarely sheep. Yaks are one of the few animals that successfully adapted to life in high altitude areas.

! The highest mountain of the planet – Everest (8,848 m) is located in the Himalayas and lies at the border between Tibet and Nepal.

Climbers approach the Everest peak from both countries. Tourists can also see the highest peak on the planet.

You can travel to Mount Everest from both Tibet and Nepal. From Tibet, you can travel by car to the North face or you can trek to see North or East face of Everest. In Nepal, you can trek to the South Base camp or take a helicopter from Kathmandu or Lukla.

More on the difference between two sides of Everest: Everest in Tibet vs Nepal: Which Everest Base Camp You Should Visit

! 5 out of 14 highest peaks on the planet are located in Tibet. The highest and the lowest of these 14 are in Tibet: Everest (8,848 m) and Shishapangma (8027 m).

Shishapangma Mountain

There are only 14 mountains rising above 8,000 meters, called eight-thousanders. All of them are in Asia: in China, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. Reinhold Messner is the first person to climb all 14 highest peaks on the planet. He is also one of the few people who accomplished it without supplemental oxygen. Eight-thousanders located in Tibet:

  • Everest (8,848 m/ 29,029 ft)
  • Lhotse (8,516 m/ 27,940 ft)
  • Makalu (8,485 m/ 27,838 ft)
  • Cho Oyu (8,188 m/ 26,864 ft)
  • Shishapangma (8,027 m/ 26,335 ft)

! Lhasa is the highest capital.

Lhasa city panorama from Sera monastery area

Lhasa is the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. The elevation is 3,656 meters/ 11,995 feet. It is 16 meters higher La Paz, the government seat (although not an official capital) of Bolivia. The next highest capital is Quito in Ecuador at a much lower altitude of 2,850 meters.

Many travelers arriving in Lhasa experience symptoms of high altitude sickness. The symptoms are usually mild and disappear after2-3 days in Lhasa. Spending the first few days in Lhasa help to acclimatize before traveling to higher areas in Tibet.

While acclimatizing in Lhasa, you will explore many of the important historical, cultural, and religious places. Lhasa highlights include Potala Palace, 7th century Jokhang Temple, Drepung, and Sera monasteries. If you wish to spend more time in the region, there are many great places to visit near Lhasa, including meditation caves complex Drak Yerpa, Ganden monastery, and the gorgeous turquoise-colored Yamdrok Lake.