In a series of weekly features, City Plus looks at destinations for weekend breaks out of Hong Kong and gives you a handy guide on what to expect, what to do and what to pay. This week, we visit Lhasa in Tibet. Why Lhasa? Tibet has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world's most epic and exotic destinations, and to be able to say 'I popped over there for a weekend once' is a guaranteed conversation-stopper at any dinner party. Granted, it is neither the most convenient nor the cheapest weekend break, and you will need to tag on an extra couple of days, but it is certainly possible. And despite its rapid development, Lhasa retains more than enough mystique to make it well worth the time and trouble. Many people say 'my dream is to see Tibet before I die' and then their lives get overtaken by other events. In Hong Kong, you do not have to be a dreamer. You can set off on a Thursday for Chengdu, pick up your permit and get the early Friday morning flight to Lhasa. This gives you two full days and the chance to be back in a bar in Lan Kwai Fong on Sunday evening boasting about how you munched on yak butter and discovered your inner-self through Tibetan Buddhism. What is there to see and do? What is not worth seeing in old Lhasa? The better question is when to see it to avoid the worst of the crowds. Through the summer, especially since the railway from mainland China opened in July, Lhasa is packed with mostly mainland visitors. However, they stay away in the winter because of the cold, and this is an excellent time to visit provided you wrap up after sundown. The skies are dazzling blue and clear, the mountains are snow-capped, and you can wander around the Barkhor, the stunningly atmospheric old town area, without feeling that you are part of a procession. It is also the season when most nomads from around Tibet pour into Lhasa on pilgrimages, spinning their prayer wheels and prostrating themselves on the pavements around the city's holiest sites alongside souvenir stalls selling 'yak, yak, yak' T-shirts. Where should I stay? Within walking distance of the Barkhor, as this is where much of your weekend should be spent. Try the House of Shambhala, ( email@example.com ) at US$60 a night, or a cheaper but equally well-situated room at the backpackers' favourite Yak Hotel (Tel: Lhasa 632 3496), where rooms start at 260 yuan a night. There are dozens of good restaurants around. A good place for reasonably priced Tibetan, Nepali and western food is the Snowlands Restaurant just off Barkhor Square. What I should not miss? The Jokhang, Tibet's most revered religious site, and of course the Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lamas and majestic focal point of Tibetan Buddhism. Interestingly, an entirely unscientific survey we conducted in the streets around the Potala last weekend found that a large proportion of the Chinese emigres living in Lhasa have never set foot inside, partly because of the 180 yuan entry fee. Make sure you get in by booking your ticket through your hotel or tour guide as soon as you arrive as daily visitor numbers are limited. You should also make time for a taxi ride to a monastery such as the Drepung, 8km out of town. What advice would you give to a first-timer? Unless you are a seasoned mountaineer, be prepared for altitude sickness. Lhasa is 3,700 metres above sea level and you will probably feel light-headed and disoriented for at least your first day. Walk slowly, do not talk yourself into exhaustion, drink lots of water and sweet Tibetan tea, stay off the Lhasa beer for a while at least, and do not run up stairs. The advice from Tibetans for your first day in Lhasa is: 'If you can sit, sit. If you can lie, lie. If you can sleep, sleep.' What will a weekend there cost me? A return flight to Lhasa from Hong Kong via Chengdu, where you will normally have to stop over for a night to collect your permit, costs between HK$7,000 and HK$8,000. Contact a hotel or guest house directly and ask to be put in touch with a tour guide to arrange your permit (500 yuan plus delivery). It is not as complicated as it sounds. One tourist can constitute a tour party and the permit can be ready in a day. Package tours - especially short ones - are not as readily available as other weekend jaunts, however they do exist. A four-day tour which promises to take in the highlights in the shortest possible time is available with China Highlights ( www.chinahighlights.com ). The price ranges from US$121 per person in a party of six to US$763 for one person staying at a deluxe hotel. It includes a private car, driver, guide and hotel but not flights to and from Lhasa.