The awesome sight that is the Potala Palace is quite rightly considered a wonder of the world. However, virtually nothing remains of the original 11-story Potala Palace, built in 637 by Songtsen Gampo. What you see today is a 17th-century replacement. The Fifth Dalai Lama, anxious to reestablish the importance of Lhasa as the Tibetan capital, employed 7,000 workers and 1,500 artisans to resurrect the Potala Palace on the 7th-century foundation. The portion called the White Palace was completed in 1653. The Red Palace was not completed until 1694, 12 years after the Dalai Lama's death (which was kept secret by the regent in order to prevent interruption of the construction). The Potala Palace has been enlarged since then, and has been continually renovated. Once the headquarters of Tibet's theocracy, the vast complex is now a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Potala Palace was the world's tallest building before the advent of modern skyscrapers. Towering above the city
from the slopes of Mount Marpori, the structure is 384 feet high; its 1,000 rooms house some 200,000 images. The outer section, the White Palace, was the seat of government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lama until 1951. Inside you can pass through the Dalai Lama's spartan quarters. On either side of the palace are the former offices of the government. The Red Palace, looming above the White Palace, is filled with murals that chronicle Buddhist folklore and ancient Tibetan life. Interspersed among the chapels are eight spectacular tombs covered in nearly five tons of gold. These bejeweled rooms contain the remains of the Fifth through 13th Dalai Lamas.
Only 2,300 visitors are allowed in each day. Your ticket allows you up to 90 minutes at the site. To limit the number of visitors, starting in 2012 the ticket price almost doubled. The legions of Chinese soldiers don't take kindly to being photographed. If they spot you taking pictures in their direction, they're likely to approach and want to see your camera.