Code: TB19

Buddhist Legacy Exploration

Ganden Monastery, Tibet
Buddha unfolding at the Ganden Monastery, Tibet
Overview: Though this trekking route is popular, the walk is a challenge and the altitude gains are higher than those often recommended. We start our trek at 3800 meters from the Ganden Monastery and head toward the Samye Monastery. The highest pass we cross is Shug-La Pass at 5266 meters. This pilgrimage route is well used by Tibetans, who find it convenient for combining a visit to Ganden Monastery (the principal monastery of the Gelugpa) with a reasonably direct but hard walk to Samye Monastery (Tibet's first monastery). With a slow amble, this trek is fulfilling and pleasant.
The pilgrimage route starts from Lhasa. Ganden Monastery is located on Wangbur Mountain, 47 kilometers from Lhasa City, the admission fee is ¥45.00. There are two buses from Lhasa to Ganden Monastery at the Passenger bus station near Jokhang Temple every morning. You can purchase the tickets at the right side of main entrance of Jokhang Temple in advance or reach the Jokhang square ahead of 7:30 am to catch the bus and buy the ticket on the spot. The transfer fare is ¥10.00. You might also take a taxi there and it cost approximately ¥120.00. After 80 minutes, the bus will follow a winding mountain path after a general route. Another 40 minutes later, you will reach Ganden Monastery (3800m) that boasts it is one of the earliest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. It is suggested that you explore this monastery for a whole morning and start to trek after lunch. From the Ganden Monastery, start your trek along a path in front of the monastery to climb up the mountain. This will be a really arduous day, as you might have not acclimated yourself to the 4000m's altitude. In about 3 hour's time, you should reach Heibu village, lots of jubilant climbers might follow you. Find a simple lodge and stay overnight in this small village.
A local Tibetan
Praying Tibetan at the Ganden Monastery, Tibet
On the second day, an even more challenging hike will cover Shug-La Pass (5256m) and then descend downhill. The most severe part is the stone path before you reach the Shug-La Pass. Here violent gusts of wind can impede your progress and short of breath. After the steep path along the Shug-La Pass, the route continues to follow the cairn-lined trail. As you gradually descend, you will pass along a dangerous rough road; take special care to avoiding falling down from the cliff. As the path continues, you will see a splendid stream, Tsotup Chu, a long stream winding along the valley floor. Nomadic herdsmen with their herds of yak, goats and sheep dot the landscape. You are recommended to camp near the stream crossing.
On the third day, from the Tsotup Chu Valley, you can follow a small tributary flowing from the southwest. The route follows steeply upwards for 30 minutes, reaching a large basin. The terrain from here to the Chitu-La Pass (5228m) is not particularly difficult and is marked by several cairns. There is nothing at the peak of this hill other than the big black rocks, but you will be surprised by the snow-white lake cradled amongst the scree. A short but steep descent leads you into this basin containing three small lakes. Often, the trail is not too clearly marked and passes seasonal campsites before finally reaching the valley floor.
You might pick up some wood and make a fire, to warm some food. There is a patch of grassland in the col, which is a frequently used camping place. You can find it easily by walking alongside the stream.
Sera Monastery, Tibet
Sutra-debating, Sera Monastery in Tibet
On the fourth day, you will follow a wide and easy trail that is much better than the tortuous routes of your two previous days. Proceed through a forest of shrubs and rhododendrons for three hours, and then amble through a series of meadows before reaching Gen Do, a ruined stone structure. The forest thins rapidly and you will reach Chantan, the first permanent village after Heibu village. In 30-40 minutes you will arrive at the turn off for Yamalung Valley. The Yamalung Hermitage is a further hour long steep climb from the valley floor.
On the fifth day, after a trek of some four hours, you will reach the Samye Monastery, the first temple to be built in Tibet and the first to be complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; the admission fee is ¥45.00. Your journey will have commenced from Yamalung Valley, passing the villages of Nyango, Wango and Pisha. From Pisha, the entire lower valley of Samye Monastery and the golden spires of Samye Monastery come into view.
Today, you can stay in the monastery hostel (¥15.00/ per person per night); alternatively you can camp in the forest, which is in the back yard of the monastery. There are many Tibetan restaurants and Sichuan restaurants outside the East entrance of the monastery and you can treat yourself a good dinner today.
Yumbulakang, Tibet
Yumbulakang in Tsetang, Tibet
For the sixth day, we have two suggestions for you.
If you want to return Lhasa, you can take a regular bus at 8:00 am departing from Samye Monastery.
Should you wish to extend your trekking tour, you might take a cargo truck for the 40 minute ride to the ferry terminal (¥5.00/per person) and take a ferry for the one and a half hour crossing to Yarlung Tsangpo River(¥10.00/per person). Upon arrival in the Samye ferry port and take another regular bus to Tsetang.
We suggest you pay a visit to Tibet's oldest building - the Yongbulakhang (the admission fee is ¥70.00) after arrival in Tsetang. Sacred texts are said to have miraculously fallen on the palace roof, heralding the first appearance of Buddhism in Tibet. After a one night stay in Tsetang, you can take an airport shuttle bus to Gonggar Airport to catch the flight to Beijing or to Kathmandu.
Important note: Tibet Permits in Tibet. There are two requirements for foreign tourists visiting Tibet. One is the Chinese Visa, which you can apply for in Chinese Embassy in your home country. The other is the Alien' Travel Permit, which issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. As independent trekking tours are not permitted in Tibet, you should join an organized group or have the local travel operator arrange such a tour for you.

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