December climate brief introduction:
When it gets colder and dryer in November in Tibet, December weather becomes even harsher and it is in winter now. However in Lhasa and Tsetang, it is not as cold as many people usually imagine at all.
The average maximum daytime temperature in Lhasa, Tibet in December is a cold 6°C (43°F). The average night-time temperature is usually a very cold -12°C (10°F). There are usually 8 hours of bright sunshine each day, which represents 82% of the 10 hours of daylight.Expect 1mm (0.0 inches) of rainfall across the whole of December with 1 day with some rain falling. Maximum UV levels will be moderate (5 UV index) at midday when the skies are clear.
What to visit in December:
There are fewer tourists than in summer in Tibet. However it is quite suitable for some short distance culture tour in Lhasa, Tsetang and Shigatse because there are a series of price discount including ticket price, hotel price and airfare during winter. The ticket price for most scenic spots in Tibet is only half of that in the peak time for tourism in Tibet. The hotel price drops by about 20% to 50% from December to next March (Normally no permits can be obtained in Feb and March). But please be advised that some hotels will be closed in winter.
What to wear in December:
For the temperature extremes as you travel and the nightly temperature drop, dress in layers with a coat, trousers, and a T-shirt. Though the UV radiation is relatively moderate, you can wear a sun hat and sunglasses for comfort. You might need a coat inside many hotels and restaurants because many don't have central heating. Take a heavier coat and gloves up to higher areas.
Four Reason to visit Tibet in Winter:
Far fewer tourists: Because everyone makes the wrong assumption that it’s unbearably cold on the Tibetan Plateau in winter, tourists congregate in the warmer months, especially from late spring to early fall. The droves of Chinese tourists begin to clear out after the early October Chinese national holidays, and by December and January there are hardly any tourists at all.
Clear skies and great views: It’s definitely cold in Tibet in the winter, but not like most people think, especially since December and January are dry months with abundant, high-altitude sun that really warms you during the day. The average high in Lhasa in January/February is around 45 fahrenheit/7.3 centigrade, and the lows are 15 fahrenheit/-10 centigrade. With the clear skies and sunshine come fabulous views.
Tibetan pilgrims: Pilgrims from all over Tibet pour into Lhasa during the winter months, visiting the Jokhang and the major monasteries. You can see Tibetans from all walks of life, and experience Lhasa’s devout heart — multitudes of Tibetans practicing Tibetan Buddhism. Losar, the Tibetan New Year, happens in late winter and is an amazing cultural moment.
Cheaper prices: Tours and hotels cost less in winter, as demand decreases.
Tips to visit Tibet in Winter:
1. You likely won’t be able to join a group tour in the winter in the way that you can in the warmer months. Most of the travel agency only run private tours in the winter, due to fewer travelers.
2. Mount Kailash, Lake Namtso, Kham and Amdo are not good destinations for winter travel, due to bitter cold and road conditions. At Namtso, for example, not only are the roads closed but also the lake tends to freeze, so that the views are not that great.
3. You can’t stay over at Everest Base Camp (EBC) in winter the way that you can in the summer. You can come in for a view as a day trip, but the lodging tents close down at the end of October. Also, the hotels in the EBC and Tingri areas have no running water in the winter as the pipes are frozen, so your water is provided in a bucket.
4. March and early April are always travel blackout dates in Tibet due to the political situation. Generally, the closure dates are from about February 27th to March 30th, with the permit process starting again around April 1. This means that you can usually actually start travel in Tibet after April 10 or so.
5. Please be aware that February can be a bit windier than early winter and that late February should be okay, but is getting very close to the annual closures.