Tibet Geography

With an average elevation of over 4,000 m, Tibet is considered to be the highest region in the world and is often called the "Roof of the World."  This comes as no surprise, particularly since southern Tibet is situated in the Himalayas, and contains of many the world's highest summits.  Besides its incredible heights, Tibet is also one of the most isolated areas on earth, with most of the inhabitants from 1200 m to 5100 m in elevation ranging.  The most famous peak found in Tibet is Mount Everest (8848 m), the highest mountain in the world. The mountains of Tibet are the source and dividing line of the Asian continent's major rivers, with the Brahmaputra being the most significant.  Numerous rivers in Tibet can be used for hydroelectricity, but this potential hasn't been developed as of yet. All major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse ad Tsetang are located in this area, it is considered the cultural center of Tibet.


Tibet, Autonomous Region of China is located at longitude 78o25'-99o06' east and latitude 26o44'-36o32' north on the southwest border of China and covers the majority of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The northern area of Tibet is bound by China, the western part is bordered by the Kashmir regions of India, and the south is Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.  Tibet is the second largest region in China (after Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), occupying a total area of over 1,200,000 sq m (463,320 sq miles), at an average altitude of more than 4,000m (13,123 ft). Yunan Province to the southeast, Sichuan Province to the east with Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the north are neighboring provinces,

Physical Features

Tibet, a naturally rich and geographically beautiful land situated on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the southwest frontier of China. Tibet is known to be the highest section in the world and was aptly named “Roof of the World” due to its elevation, which rises over 4,000 meters above sea level. The fascinating geography of Tibet boasts majestic mountain ranges of the Himalayas, including the world’s highest summit “Mt. Everest” and an amazing combination of sight of Lakes, rivers, plains, foothills, and valleys. Physically, Tibet can be divided into three major parts - the east, north, and south.

East Tibet

The eastern part is a forested region, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. Virgin forests run the entire width and length of this part of Tibet. The twisting ways of Nu, Lancang, and Jinsha Rivers cut through the majestic Hengduan Mountain range, creating wonderful landscapes of high mountains and deep canyons. Higher in the north and lower in the south, the mountain and canyon area in the eastern part of Tibet presents a wide diversity of fauna and flora as well as a unique combination of snow-capped peaks and grassy hillside woodland.

North Tibet

The northern part of Tibet is open grasslands, where nomads with their livestock, yak, and sheep settle. Huge plateaus in the north of Tibet, particularly around the Kunlun Mountain, the Tanggula Mountain, and between the Gangdise and the Nyainqentanglha Mountains, occupy approximately half of Tibet. Scattered with several lakes and basins, the plateaus, among which Changtang Plateau is the best known, provide rich animal husbandry products for other parts of Tibet.

South Tibet

Mt. Everest soars to a height of some 8848m skyward and together with several other mountain ranges with an average altitude of 6,000m (19,685 ft), and the Himalayan mountain range is the highest mountainous area lies in the south part of Tibet. The higher western end of this area is dry and freezing, and the eastern region is temperate, humid, and densely forested. In the meantime, between the Himalayas and the Gangdise, the Yarlung Tsangpo rivers wind their way through this region leaving a fertile agricultural area of lakes, basins, and river valleys along its course. The southern and central part is an agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet's land area.


The Kunlun, Karakoram, Tanggula, Gangdise, Nyainqentanglha, and Himalayas mountain ranges cross the Tibet Autonomous Region from east to west, while the Hengduan Mountain range exclusively winds its approach from south to north. Among the highest fourteen mountains in the world that exceed 8,000m (26,247 ft), five stands in Tibet. Mt. Everest, the world's highest, reaches 8848m and allures more and more visitors to admire it yearly, as well as mountaineering expeditions to conquer its summit. Some other peaks, such as Mt. Kailash, although lower in altitude, are renowned for their great significance in the religious beliefs of the region and are frequented by many hundreds of dedicated pilgrims. The Kunlun and the Gangdise Mountains being respectively at its northern and southern ends, the land dispose from an average altitude of above 5,000m (16,404 ft) in the northwest to about 4,000m (13,123 ft) in the southeast, hence differing landscapes found in the different regions.

Rivers and Lakes

Rivers in Tibet are not only huge in number, but are also recognized as the source of such famous Asian rivers as the Ganges, Mekong and the Indus, etc. The Yarlung Tsangpo River, the fifth longest in China as well as the highest in the world, initiates in the Himalayas and flows into India after traveling 2,057 km (1,278 miles) inside China. Rivers of Jinsha, Lancang, and Nu, connected by various tributaries provide plenty of hydroelectric energy as well as irrigate the agricultural areas within their floodplains.
Namsto is the largest lake in Tibet, which covers an area of 1,920 sq km (741 sq miles) making it the second largest salt-water lake in China, and at an elevation of 4,718m (15,479 ft) the highest salt-water lake in the world. Lake Manasarovar shares its fame as being one of the 'Three Holy Lakes in Tibet' among Namsto and Yamdrok Yumtso, which is the highest freshwater lake in the world. Of over 1,500 lakes scattered around the vast Tibetan plateau, 47 exceed an area of 100 sq km (39 sq miles), with the total surface area being approximately 1/3 of that of China's lakes.