Where To Stop On Your Tibetan High Plateau Journey
Sacred Ancient Monasteries and Incredible Lakes to Visit on the Road to Kailash
Whether you are planning a trip to Mount Kailash, or just like dreaming about the Tibetan high plateau, this post will give you a glimpse into some of the most sacred monasteries in Tibet. Some of these have been homes to spiritual teaching for more than 10,000 years. Despite the Chinese invasion, and the constant erosion of time, they have persisted in preserving this spiritual wisdom. As you soon as you enter, you feel their sacred serenity.
Please come in, and experience these beautiful monasteries for yourself…
At about 50 km outside of Lhasa, some consider Ganden Monastery a day trip from Lhasa. But if you are going towards Mount Kailash, it is an ideal first stop or day trip on your final day.
Ganden Monastery was built during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1679, but received severe damage during the Cultural Revolution (remember, the Chinese invasion?). At one time, this monastery housed over 2000 Yellow Hat monks.
Side note: There are Yellow Hat, Red Hat, and Yellow and Red Hat monks in Tibet. They are divisions with similar beliefs and religion, but different leaders and traditions. You can of them like houses in Harry Potter, if that is not too terribly disrespectful. (Hides face for thinking of comparison).
Yamdruk Tso Lake
After leaving Lhasa, you will follow the Brahmaputra River up into the mountains towards it source. you will find Yamdruk Tso Lake. This large, turquoise lake is completely serene and free of visitors. You can enjoy a picnic and a walk on its shores before continuing on to the town of Gyantse.
From some of the lookouts around Yamdruk Tso Lake, there will Tibetan Mastiffs. Their owners are waiting to take photos or let you interact with the dogs. These dogs look like lions with large manes up close and are quite unlike anything you will find anywhere else! The photos you can find in Google don’t do it justice!
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery
Near Shigaste, you will find Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, a large ancient site of Tibetan learning. Tashi Lhunpo used to house one of the largest Buddhist libraries. Here, you will still find exquisite clay paintings on many of the walls. And many locals still go to the monastery for prayers and meditation, so you will swept up with them as you enter.
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is located at 3,900 meters or about 12,795 feet, and is an ideal first nights’ stop after leaving Lhasa.
Next, about 22 km outside of Shigaste you will find Shalu Monastery, once a great center of scholarly learning as well as psychic training. Yes, that is not a typo. The ancient Tibetans were adept in their psychic and metaphysical abilities, and the Shalu Monastery was a center for this type of learning.
Shalu Monastery is also renowned for it exquisite traditional mural paintings. It was founded in 1040 by Chetsun Sherab Juagnay and is considered a great center for the most sacred Tibetan wisdom.
Finally, also near Shigaste you can visit Palcho Monastery. This monastery is shaped like a lotus. As of this writing, Palcho Monastery is not yet complete, although it was built in 1418–1428. This unique structure is dedicated to all the Buddhists forms of the Divine that are female, with different shrine rooms to all the Divine goddesses.
Onward to the High Plateau
I hope you enjoy all of these monasteries in the Tibetan High Plateau. In the final part of these recaps, I will share the trip around Mount Kailash and the visit to the Holy Lake Mansarovar. Be on the lookout on Wednesday for tips to stay healthy at altitude. We’ll also cover the best strategies to acclimate quickly and comfortably!
Whether you are planning a trip to Tibet, or just dreaming of it, I hope you feel some of the Holy atmosphere of these sacred monasteries and mountain lakes.
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