The barren, eroded landscape around modern Zanda is unlike any you will have encountered so far and seems an improbable location for a major civilization to have developed. Yet the ancient Guge kingdom thrived here as an important stop in the trade route between India and Tibet. Today, the remains of Tholing Monastery, once a significant center of Tibet Buddhism, and neighboring Tsaparang, a 9th-century fortress etched into the very stone of a towering ridge, are two of western Tibet’s highlights, though few Western tourists manage to make it this far.
Tsaparang is 18km west of Zanda, while Tholing Monastery is now merely an adjunct to the town. To visit both, you need to budget at least three days (two solely for getting there and back from Darchen). Both sites are in the valley of the Langchen Tsangpo (Sutlej River), the ‘elephant river,’ which rises west of Mansarovar and continues over the border with India into Ladakh and finally Pakistan.
By the 10th century, the Guge Kingdom was already a wealthy trade center supporting several thousand people when the great Guge King Yeshe O began to nurture an exchange of ideas between India and Tibet. The young monk Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) was sent to study in India and returned 17 years later to become one of Tibet’s most excellent translators of Sanskrit texts and a key figure in the revival of Buddhism across Tibetan plateau. Rinchen Zangpo built 108 monasteries throughout western Tibet, Ladakh, and Spiti, including the great monasteries of Tabo and Alchi. Two of the most important were those at Tsaparang and Tholing. He also invited Kashmiri artists to paint the unique murals still visible today. It was partly at Rinchen Zangpp’s behest that Atisha, a renowned Bengali scholar and another pivotal character in the revival of Tibetan Buddhism, was invited to Tibet. Atisha spent three years in Tholing before traveling on to central Tibet.
The Guge Kingdom fell into ruin just 50 years after the first Europeans arrived in Tibet in 1624, after a siege by the Ladakhi army. The center of Tibet soon became the middle of nowhere.
Recommended Tour Itineraries Including Guge Kingdom (Tsaparang)
Lhasa - Tsetang - Nyingtri -Pomi - Nyingtri - Lhasa - Lake Namtso - Ali - Darchen - Mt.Kailash - Lake Manasarovar - Saga - EBC - Shigatse - Gyantse - Lhasa
This exciting tour covered most of the tourist attractions in Tibet. It’s a great chance to gain insights into the beautiful views, culture and Tibetan Buddhism of the holy land. As a long adventure on the high Plateau, this journey is for warriors who are strong-willed and fearless.
Lhasa - Gyantse - Shigatse - EBC - Saga - Lake Manasarovar - Darchen - Mt. Kailash - Guge Kingdom - Ali - Gegye – Gertse - Shigatse - Lhasa
Starting from Lhasa, passing by Gyantse, Shigatse, and Ngari, this itinerary includes all the must-see attractions in the center and western Tibet, such as the Potala Palace, Everest Base Camp, the sacred lake Manasarovar and the holy Mt. Kailash, etc. Get ready to be impressed by the in-depth charm of Tibet.