Lying to the north of the 3000 kilometre-long Greater Himalaya Chain, and protected on its northern side by an expanse of impenetrable desert, the Chinese region of Tibet has always been a difficult place to get to. The Tibetan Plateau is one of the highest on earth, with an average elevation generally above 4000 metres. There are no trees at this height and the starkly beautiful landscape is characterised by rolling brown and orange hills, with a backdrop of the distant snow-covered Himalayas. The main city of Lhasa can be accessed overland or by air from Nepal to the south and can also now be reached by train from Beijing. It is a magical city, sacred to Buddhist people and formerly home to the Dalai Lamas. The ancestral home of the Dalai Lamas is the 17th century, 1100 room Potala Palace, which sits on 'Red Hill' and dominates central Lhasa. Key to the appeal of Tibet is the access it provides to the north side of the Himalayas. Mount Everest presents its most dramatic faces to the north and east and these are seen, respectively, from the Rongbuk and Kangshung valleys. In the west, another of this region's great attractions is the sacred Mount Kailas. Trekkers and climbers have lots of tantalising options in this part of the world and the 950 kilometre mountain bike journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu is an established classic.