December is the beginning month of the severe winter in Tibet while the temperature starts to get much colder all over the whole Tibet region. Yet it is not so cold as many people in the west think of because there is bright sun and strong sunlight which can neutralize the low temperature for somehow and make people feel a lot warmer.
The average monthly temperature of Tibet is between 6 degrees and 9 degrees or so. And because of the high altitude and sunny dry weather which can neutralize the relatively low temperature, you can only feel very cold during morning and evening time. And because of the dry weather, it is completely devoid of rain in December and instead it snows.
It is not exactly right that winter is not a good time to travel in Tibet which is believed by most of people. Instead, the plateau weather in December is a fantastic time for tourists to travel in because there is still plenty of attractions to see and do in winter month, and even there are distinct advantages in the low season, which far more off-set the disadvantage brought by the colder weather of the plateau in December.
Blue sky in Tibet in December
Thick down coats and fleece jackets are necessary for a trip to Tibet in December. You can wear thermal underwear and sweaters inside. The shoes should be a little bit loose, so that you can add an extra pair of socks when the weather is very cold. A hat is essential for the trip as well, because the wind outside downtown cities can be pretty strong. And you will be more likely to get a headache if you don’t pay much attention to the wind.
As we know, the weather in December is colder and more abominable. Under this weather condition, spending a night on a snowy evening in the Lhasa tea houses with warm fire and drinking tea will be a lovely choice. Yet it is by no means the only thing that we could do. The attractions across the region can be visited because many roads and passes are still free from snow cover.
In fact, there is a very distinctive advantage for travelers to Tibet, which makes it an ideal place to visit, which is the lower travel cost. The hotels and guesthouses offer staggering discounts for travelers in the winter low season. Train and flight tickets can also be cheaper in the winter months. Except the lower travel cost, you can enjoy your road trip without clamour and traffic jam because of fewer tourists on the way.
The temperature of December in Lhasa are dropping to around 8 degrees in the daytime and around -8 degrees at night. Nevertheless, it feels warm in Lhasa because of the abundant sunshine provided for this “City of Sunlight”. Except the warmth brought by the bright sun in Lhasa, the low latitude of Lhasa also makes it an ideal place to visit in December in Tibet. Even in rainy or snowy weather in December, you can still enjoy the wonderful sight around this city and a different sense of beauty is represented by the Tibetan-style architectures and temples in the snow.
It is mostly free for many tourists to visit in Lhasa, which makes it easier to visit the attractions. And there is no limited visiting time sometimes. For example, the Potala Palace in the summer months will be opened all the day. Frost in the early mornings envelops the palace, enhancing the view of this stunning 16th-century building. And down in the hub of Lhasa, the Jokhang Temple is surrounded by local Tibetan pilgrims who make the journey to this capital to pray and give offerings at the most sacred building of this region, which makes December the most quiet time of the year.
While visiting Lhasa in December, you need to wear a sweater plus a down coat during the day. As there is sunshine in the daytime, it is OK not to button up your coat. Besides, a knitted hat or a scarf can be helpful to keep you warm and protect you from the sunshine. Temperature will get lower on rainy and snowy days, so you need to wear a thicker down jacket at this time.
The temperature in northern area is around 8 degrees in the daytime while it drops to -20 degrees at night, which makes the waters of saline lake such as Lake Namtso freezes, despite it has a very high salt content. Though the heavy snow will block the roads to the lake, with new road paved over the high pass, Lake Namtso can still be accessible to visit by vehicles.
However, it’s no longer possible to camp at the lake shore in winter season. And hotels and restaurants at Tashi dor Peninsula will be closed( or even not be closed, it is also not open for business during this period). Therefore it is better to accommodate in the surrounding Damxung County or Yangpachen, the latter of which is more recommended because you can enjoy the refreshing time in the hot springs there.
It is less rainy in Nyingchi in winter and temperature in Nyingchi in winter is lower, especially very low at night though it is warm in the daytime. And though the most beautiful scenery of Nyingchi region is still in seasons of spring and autumn, winter is the off season when fewer people visit this “Swimland of Tibet” so that you could enjoy the beautiful scenery without clamour. And if you are lucky, you can see the spectacular snow view of the Namcha Barwa Mountain. And there is a tip for touring in Nyingchi area in December that you’d better take skin care moisturizers because the climate is very dry.
Namcha Barwa Mountain
The temperature difference between day and night is pretty huge during this period. You can wear spring clothes such as cashmere sweaters, woolen socks and loose jeans inside, and put on a winter coat outside. The sunshine is still strong, so don’t forget to bring equipment like sunscreen, sunglasses and hats before the journey. Otherwise you might get a great tan during the journey.
Though the weather in Shannan area in December is snowy and chilly, it is almost sunny everyday with blue sky and white clouds. The characteristics of the temperature in this area in December is the big temperature difference between morning and evening when the temperature drops to minus 20 degrees. Yet, in most cases, the climate in Shannan is comfortable for travelling around and during this time. The famous Samye Monastery and Chongye Valley are recommended for you to visit when you travel to this region.
Shannan in Winter
It begins to snow in Shannan in December, but the weather is warmer than you think. It can be pretty warm when there is sunshine in the daytime. And you can dress like this: thick turtleneck + thick sweater + thermal coat (a down coat would be better) + thick pants + woollen socks. Your shoes should have good warmth-retention property, otherwise your feet will be cold. And your underwear should be made of pure cotton, so that they won’t generate static electricity in this dry season. Other equipment such as gloves, hats and scarves should also be carries with you all the time during the journey.
The Yamdrok Lake is much more accessible during the winter months compared with Namtso Lake, as there is a smoothly-paved asphalt road connected to the city of Lhasa. You can appreciate the charming blue water surrounded by snow-capped mountains though the lake occasionally becomes frozen in December. And because of fewer tourists pay a visit during this time, you can take photos freely in any shooting angle.
It is rather cold in Gyantse in December but the sunshine can still shine across this ancient town during this time. Because it is very dry in Gyantse, there is little rainfall and it hardly snows. Therefore the weather condition in Gyantse is ideal for travelling around in December. Except the Gyantse Fortress, the famous Pelkor Monastery and Gyantse Kumbum, which are characteristic religious resorts in Tibet, are also good choices for you to visit when you visit Gyantse.
Though the temperature in Shigatse drops to as low as -22 degrees, it can reach as high as 12 degrees in the daytime, plus the frequent sunny days, it feels even warmer. Except for the strong wind, the warm and sunny weather makes Shigatse a great place to visit in December. And the city of Shigatse is slightly warmer than Lhasa while it also has some stunning attractions such as the Tashilhunpo Monastery which is one of the most stunning and important monasteries in Tibet, and is the seat of the Panchen Lama who is the second Highest religious incarnation in Tibetan Buddhism.
In December, there isn’t huge difference between the temperature along the way from Lhasa to Shigatse the temperature in Shigatse. If you only plan to visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, a sweater plus a fleece jacket or a down coat would be enough for the journey. It won’t be too cold at nights as long as you stay in the hotels.
Since December is the mid-winter, the area around Mount Everest also starts to freeze and the temperature at the Base Camp (5000 m) can drop to -18 degrees at night. Yet the temperature in daytime can still be as high as 6 degrees which is not so low-temperature as many people assume. Though the wind is strong and many road sections are snow-covered, the sunny days takes a large proportion in the whole month. And the clear skies at Base Camp in December plus makes it one of the best months to get a great and clear view of the Everest peak.
Though it is dangerous and adventurous, it is still possible to make the trip to Everest Base Camp from Old Tingri. The road to EBC is mostly paved with asphalt, right up to the Rongbuk Monastery at the foot of Rongbuk Glacier which extends down from the north face of the world’s Highest mountain. And the scenery covered with snow is more beautiful than the dry and dusty landscape in Autumn, which can offer you much better photos.
In addition to thick thermal down coats and fleece jackets, you should also prepare a pair of sunglasses for the EBC trip in December. Otherwise you may have the risk of getting snow blindness ( a painful eye condition caused by too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays reflect by snows) while seeing the snow-capped peak of Mt. Everest. A hat, scarf and gloves can be pretty helpful for those who are not cold-resistant. In addition, we will prepare thermal Tibetan woollen aprons at EBC, guaranteeing a comfortable and warm journey for you in such a cold season.
The snows around Mount Kailash region are much heavier and the daily average temperatures are as low as -20 degrees. Even the temperatures during the daytime are mostly below zero. The roads to Mount Kailash will be closed in December because of the heavier snow and high passes, and will be resumed until around March or April. Hence you could experience the Mount Kailash trekking in late spring or Autumn.
It is cool and dry in December in Kathmandu. The average temperature in Kathmandu is up to 21 degrees in the daytime and the precipitation for the whole month is very small, also the daytime can last more than 10 hours each day. Hence it will be more interesting to visit Nepal during this time than during summer season.
Actually December is the ideal time to take road trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Because the highway in friendship keeps open and is hardly closed due to heavy snows. Moreover, this road is mostly well-paved with asphalt surface, with which tourists rarely have problems in driving. Also you can enjoy a clearer view of the Himalaya ranges along the way owing to the dry weather in winter months.
Supposing that you would like to travel by road trips from Kathmandu to Lhasa, China Group Visa is also needed to issue in Kathmandu with your original passport though you have got the Tibet Permit. Our staff will help you get the China Group Visa which needs 3 business days to be processed. Please leave enough time for it, and our travel consultants will help you detailedly.
The Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival, which is also known as the Ganden Ngachen Chenmo Festival, is celebrated to commemorate the death or “Parinirvana” of the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, Je Tsongkhapa. When the day of 25th October of Tibetan Calendar which is normally in December of Solar Calendar arrives, a great number of butter lanterns will be lighted up on alters and outside the doors of the monasteries and temples across the entire region. All the local windows sills are adorned with odd numbers of flickering lanterns when night falls.
Undoubtedly, the weather in Tibet in December is very cold, so those warm sweaters and thick down or fleece jackets are necessary to take along with you. Take the clothes with good warm layers to keep you warm under the cold weather of the plateau, and take the long underwear to keep out the intense chill. Warm hats, gloves, thick and woolen socks, boots and thick pants are also needed to keep your whole body warm.
Though it is very cold in December, the sun in December is just as damaging as it is in August. Therefore you’d better take a pair of good UV filtering sunglasses, a protective hat and sun block for all exposed skin. Not only the sun is damaging, but also the biting cold winds on the plateau can damage your face and lips, lip balm and moisturizers are also strongly recommended to take along.
Please do not avoid traveling to Tibet in December for worrying about the cold weather because the weather on the plateau can be very surprising to you. Despite it is very cold at night, it is always warm in daytime and very pleasant for tourists to travel.
Though the Ngari Areas including Mount Kailash are blocked by snow in winter, there are still many other attractions in Tibet accessible. Lhasa and Shigatse are the best choice to visit during this time. Everest Base Camp is also accessible though sometimes the road to EBC may be blocked. You’d better know about the road condition in advance by listening to the weather broadcast in case you plan to visit the mountain areas.
The traditional Tibetan festival such as the Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival in December are also an attraction to tourists. Additionally, plenty of discounts in the off-season can save the expenditure for tourists traveling in Tibet. So, December is a very good time for tourists to travel in Tibet.