When to travel to Tibet depends on many things, not least your own personal preference of when to visit. Some people prefer to travel in the summer, at the peak of the tourist season, as they want the better weather and hotter temperatures, while others prefer the quieter times in the shoulder months and winter season when there are fewer people and more discounts to be had.
One can also take into consideration the weather during the different seasons of the year, as well as the cost of the tour, and all of these things can be decided whilst talking to your tour operator about when to go and what to see. But to give you an idea of when you can visit for the best options, there are a few things you can think about to help you decide.
The high season for travel in Tibet is in the summer months, from June to September, which coincides with the monsoon season on the plateau. While the region does have a monsoon season, there is actually very little rain that falls, with the bulk of the rains coming in July and August, and even then it is not much. Most rain falls in the evenings and overnight in many parts of the plateau, which rarely interferes with a tour of the region. There are many sunny days in the monsoon months, and you will hardly notice the wet weather.
The high season is also the time when travel into and around Tibet is at its most expensive, as with all holiday destinations. Train and flight tickets can be a lot more than in the low season, and everything from hotels to food is more expensive as there is a higher demand for the services and products.
Summer is also the best time to experience the unique culture of Tibet, including the nomadic culture of the Tibetan herders and their yaks. In the summer, they can be seen across the high grasslands and plains, grazing their herds on the best pasture available. However, if it is the views of mountains you are hoping for, then summer may not be the best time to visit, as the monsoon can bring in the clouds that obscure the high peaks of the mighty Himalayas.
The low season in Tibet runs from December to January, with the off season in February and March. These two winter months are an ideal time of year to travel to Tibet if you are on a budget or looking for a cheaper tour. Costs are greatly reduced in hotels and restaurants, and the tickets for the flights and trains are much cheaper as well. It is also ideal if you are not into crowds, as there are usually few tourists around in the winter months, and more chance of getting a good view of the temples and monasteries. Fees for these sites are also reduced in the winter months, with a few places now allowing tourists in for free during the low season, to promote tourism in the winter months.
There are two shoulder seasons in Tibet, from April to May and October to November, when it is often considered to be the best time for traveling to Tibet. The weather is dry with little rain, and the land is fresh and new in the spring and lush from the summer rains throughout the autumn. These are the best times for viewing and climbing the mountains, as there are very few clouds in the sky and bright sunshine across the entire region. Trekking is also best done in the spring and autumn, as the trails are dry and easy to follow, and there is little chance of rain dampening your spirits.
In some parts of Tibet, the spring brings the early blooms of the peach trees and rhododendron trees that can be found in places like Nyingchi, and the new growth of the spring, after the hard icy winter, is refreshing and beautiful. Autumn is also a beautiful time of year, as it is the time for the leaves on the trees to turn and fall. Green leaves turn to gold and red and orange as the autumn progresses, and slowly falls to cover the ground in a carpet of vibrant colors.