Tibet is a beautiful country with so much to offer the world. An autonomous region of China, it’s home to Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth. There are also beautiful palaces, fantastic cultural attractions, and amazing food to try – just to name a few. Why wouldn’t you want to hop a plane and take on this interesting country with all that to offer?

It’s a little-known fact that most planes actually don’t fly over Tibet, but it’s not because it’s unlucky. Instead, it’s because it’s not safe. It’s so high above sea level that most pilots will go out of their way to avoid it. While it is possible to fly over Tibet, here are all the reasons why most planes don’t.

Reasons Not to Fly Over Tibet

The Tibetan region is a plateau, so it’s elevated above sea level by more than 4,500 meters. That’s higher than average, so in the case of an emergency, flights would be unable to descend properly before they needed to divert to an airport to land. Additionally, because there are few airports in the whole country, it puts pilots in a tricky, often unsafe situation that they prefer to avoid.

Another reason planes avoid flying over Tibet is because of the increased risk of turbulence due to the mountains. Turbulence happens when air currents vacillate, moving up and down at different speeds. This could be because of the sun and poor weather conditions. However, one of the most common reasons for turbulence is mountains because they rise and fall over the terrain causing disruptions in the airflow.

Lastly, there’s an increased risk of jet fuel freezing when planes fly over Tibet, again because of the mountains. Temperatures are lower in these areas, and when planes fly over them for long periods of time, the fuel could freeze. This shouldn’t be a problem for shorter flights, and the temperatures needed are very rarely achieved; however, it’s still a risk that most pilots will avoid when possible.

Can You Reach Tibet by Flight?

Just because most flights avoid flying over Tibet doesn’t mean they all do! So yes, some flights can take you to Tibet. There are two international airports in Tibet, including Lhasa and Xining, that can get you to and from the country; however, not all airlines operate in these airports due to safety concerns.

To enter Tibet when traveling through China, you need special permits. There are also restrictions as to when you can travel to Tibet. For example, it’s often restricted during the Tibetan New Year and closed entirely during February and March. Tickets often sell out quickly in April and May, when the country opens again. Many prefer to travel during the summer months because temperatures can drop during the winter.

Remember, if you don’t want to fly, you can always travel to Tibet by train. However, it takes more than 40 hours to get there on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. If you’re not in a hurry, this is a beautiful way to travel because you get to see a lot of the landscape during the journey.

What Else to Keep in Mind When Traveling to Tibet?

All the effort to get to Tibet is worth it once you set foot in the country. The breathtaking views will change your outlook on life. However, keep in mind that many travelers will face altitude sickness. Because of the high altitude, there’s up to 30% less oxygen in Tibet. Symptoms of altitude sickness could be headaches, fatigue, lack of appetite, and nausea. You can help lessen the symptoms by avoiding alcohol and refraining from physical activities unless you have been training for it.