Despite rampant Chinese-led modernisation, Lhasa (literally the 'Place of the Gods') is still largely a city of wonders. Your first view of the red and white Potala Palace soaring above the holy city will raise goosebumps and the charming whitewashed old Tibetan quarter continues to preserve the flavour of traditional Tibetan life. It is here in the Jokhang, an otherworldly mix of flickering butter lamps, wafting incense and prostrating pilgrims, and the encircling Barkhor pilgrim circuit that most visitors first fall in love with Tibet.
These days the booming boulevards of the modern Chinese city dwarf the winding alleyways of the Tibetan quarter but it is in the latter that you should focus your time. Hired transport is not required in Lhasa and most guides will let you explore the city by yourself. If possible, budget a week to acclimatise, see the sights and explore the fascinating backstreets before heading off on an overland adventure.