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Tibet Monastery Vacation

  • by Meo
  • Last Updated: 2023-10-19

Tibet is a holy land dotted with sacred monasteries and temples. Unique religious culture attracts travelers all over the world to explore this mysterious and beautiful land. It is said that there are about 1700 monasteries and temples in Tibet, so you can have a Tibet monastery vacation to get a close encounter with Tibetan Buddhism and feel the pilgrims' devoted spirits.

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains or built on lofty mountains, Tibetan monasteries and temples have a unique beauty. You may have heard of the famous Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, and Sera Monastery, which attract numerous pilgrims to worship every year. Here Great Tibet Tour has compiled the top 10 most prestigious Tibetan monasteries that are worth a visit.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is located in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and is recognized as the holiest temple in Tibet. Became a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000 and appraised as a 4A-grade tourism site in 2001, Jokhang Temple attracts countless travelers to feel its unique atmosphere. Famous as the oldest architecture in Lhasa, Jokhang Temple is as old as this ancient city, with a history of about 1,400 years. Built by King Songtsen Gampo for his Nepali wife Princess Bhrikuti, its architectural design is a mixture of Tibetan, Indian and Nepalese styles. When you walk to this temple, you will be attracted by its golden roof, and be immersed in the murmur of mantras. Pilgrims show their devotion in front of the temple and kora around it with prayer wheels in their hands.

Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple is recognized as the holiest temple in Tibet.

Drepung Monastery

Built-in 1416, Drepung Monastery is located on the north slope of Gambo Utse mountain, 5 km from the western suburb of Lhasa. It’s famous as one of the “three greatest Gelug monasteries” in Tibet and is the largest monastery in Tibet. It housed more than 10, 000 monks in the past, now there are about 700 monks in this huge monastery. Built along the mountains and has white constructions, its name “Drepung” means “Collecting Rice” in Tibetan, since it looks like a heap of rice. It’s a masterpiece with precious artworks and sutras, and also a Buddhist education base where monks are imparted Buddhism.

 Drepung Monastery
Drepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet.

Sera Monastery

Sera Monastery is located at the foothills of Sera Ütse Mountain, 3 kilometers north of Lhasa, surrounded by willow forests. Since ancient times, it has been the place where eminent monks and living Buddhas preach sutras. It's one of the three famous monasteries along with the Drepung Monastery and the Ganden Monastery. This monastery is famous for debates. Every afternoon, from Monday to Saturday, monks in traditional red rob will debate Buddhism in the courtyard. This is an important way to learn sutras, and monks will slap their hands, jump up and make interesting gestures during the debate. Besides the famous debate, Sera Monastery has many precious cultural relics, such as sutras, silk Thangkas, and Buddha statues.

Sera Monastery
Sera Monastery is famous for Buddhist debates.

Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery is located on Wangbur Mountain at an altitude of 3,800m, on the south bank of the Lhasa River in Lhasa Dagzê County. Wangbur Mountain is like a lying giant elephant, carrying a large-scale complex of buildings that are full of mountain cols, which fully reflects that the traditional Tibetan Buddhist architecture is set according to local conditions. Ganden Monastery was built in 1409 by Master Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It can be said that Ganden Monastery is the ancestral temple of the Gelug Sect. Ganden Monastery occupies almost half of Wangbur Mountain and is quite spectacular. The murals and sculptures in the temple are exquisite, and there are many cultural relics preserved.

Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery was built by Master Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelug Sect.

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery is located in the mount Niseri of Shigatse, which is the largest monastery in the Shigatse region. The fourth Panchen Lama was the first Panchen lama to be canonized. Since then, Tashilumbo Monastery has become the station of Panchen Lamas in the past ages and has been extended by them. In addition to its amazing size, it looks as gorgeous as a palace on the outside. Together with the "three major monasteries" in Lhasa, Ganden monastery, Sera monastery, and Drepung monastery, it is known as the "Top four major monasteries" of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Tashilhunpo Monastery
Tashilhunpo Monastery looks as gorgeous as a palace on the outside.

Rongbuk Monastery

Rongbuk Monastery is the highest monastery in the world, and it was built in the 20th century. In Rongbuk Valley, you can see many birds and wild animals. It’s interesting that monks and nuns live together in Rongbuk Monastery, and the grand Buddhist dancing ceremony will be held it during the Saka Dawa Festival. Traveling to Rongbuk Monastery, you can have a view of Mt.Everest and the famous Rongbuk Glacier.

Rongbuk Monastery
Rongbuk Monastery is the highest monastery in the world, and it was built in the 20th century.

Sakya Monastery

Sakya monastery is located in Sakya County, Shigatse region. "Sa-skya" means “gray and white earth” in the Tibetan language. Sakya Monastery has an important position in Chinese history and Tibetan Buddhist history. It is the first monastery of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and the main temple of the Sakya school. There are rich historical, religious, architectural and artistic relics in the monastery, especially a large number of precious books and murals, comparable to Dunhuang literature art, so Sakya monastery is also known as "the second Dunhuang".

Sakya Monastery
There are rich historical, religious, architectural and artistic relics in the Sakya Monastery.

Drak Yerpa

Dark Yerpa lies in the Yerpa Valley in Lhasa Dagzê County, 16 kilometers northeast of Lhasa. It's a cave retreat, which is tightly embedded in the crevice of the cliff. Legend has it that Songtsen Gampo built this temple for his Tibetan princess to practice. It’s a peaceful place with beautiful scenery, and King Songtsen Gampo meditated in a cave there. Dark Yerpa is full of a natural aura. The surrounding area is dense and green, with clear springs trickling under the mountain, flowers blooming in spring and summer, and birds singing. The Dark Yerpa is hidden in the middle of the cliff, which is a special scenery.

Drak Yerpa
Drak Yerpa is a place of practice for a thousand years.

Tsurphu Monastery  

Tsurphu Monastery is located on the upper reaches of the Tsurphu River, about 60 kilometers west of Lhasa, in the Doilungdêqên District. It is 4,300 meters above sea level. It is the main monastery of the Karma Kagyu sect. The reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism, which has attracted worldwide attention, was first created here, and later promoted by other sects in Tibet. The Tsurphu Monastery has a large number of rare cultural relics, among which the silver statue created by the Eighth Karmapa to commemorate his master is the treasure of the monastery. It is said that the silver statue was automatically suspended in the air for seven days after it was built.

Tsurphu Monastery
Tsurphu Monastery is where the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism originated.

Zelzhol Monastery

Zelzhol Monastery is located on the famous sacred mountain - Zelzhol Mountain in Shagong Township, Dêngqên County, Qamdo Prefecture, Tibet. It is about 37 kilometers away from the county seat. Zelzhol Mountain in Tibetan means "the mountain with six hilltops". Since ancient times, it has been considered as the place where Guanyi preached to all those in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. It's also been revered as one of the "Four Sacred Mountains" for thousands of years. The average altitude of Zelzhol Mountain is more than 4,800 meters, and it was built 3,000 years ago. Buddhist halls, chapels, and monks' dorms are scattered on the top of the six peaks, making it one of the highest temples in Tibet. It is also one of the oldest and most important temples of the Yongzhong Bon religion.

Zhizhu Temple
Zelzhol Mountain in Tibetan means "the mountain with six hilltops".

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Typically Asked Questions from Our Clients

Asked by Ms A***

Hi, I like your lhasa monastery visiting. But i would like to spend a day at each of the monasteries. I would also like to travel to Tsurphu monastery for 3 days and visit Damkar Monastery Yushu Provence for 1 week. If you know of any other Karma Kagyu Monasteries please recommend. I think i would like to see Pawo Rinpoche monastery as well as any famous nunneries. Please siggest an itinerary.

Answered by Beatrice

Dear Ms Angela***,

Thank you for sending us an inquiry! We can arrange your visit to each famous Tibetan monastery. For Tsurphu monastery, you can visit for continuous 3 days but you can't stay overnight in the monastery, as the authority will not permit it. And for Damkar Monastery Yushu Provence, it's not been opened to international tourists since 2019. For Pawo Rinpoche monastery, aka. Nenang Monastery, it's just 40km away from Lhasa, you also can visit it. For other Karma Kagyu Monasteries, I can recommend them later when you have a clear idea about how long to stay in Tibet, as many monasteries are located in remote places in Tibet.