Top Ten Deserts

Tibetan Highlands

The Highlands of Tibet are more a high plateau than they are a desert. Wrapped in knots of mountains rising 13,000-15,000 feet above sea level, they are regal desolation exemplified. Everywhere here at the thin heights of southeastern China, water gives way directly to sand, sand to rock, and rock to snow. Forbidding elements. Proud Tibetan people have populated this plateau long enough to be part of the land and reflect its quiet poise. Muddy villages—foremost among them the magical capital city of Lhasa—of squat white-washed homes and clay red-painted Buddhist temples keep to the low southern and eastern plains where the Upper Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Huang Ho, Mekong, and other rivers have their headwaters, the first two spilling early into wide fertile valleys. The broad northern expanse is far less hospitable, especially the Tsaidam Basin, a dry wasteland of gravel, sand, and clay. A visit to the plateau—thought of more as a visit to Tibet—is unforgettable.

Published: 17 Jan 2003 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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