Gyantse to Shigatse, Tibet – Tashilhunpo Monastery

We drove about two hours from Gyantse to Shigatse, Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city and the main attraction is Tashilhunpo Monastery.

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery is very similar to previous Gelugpa (Yellow Hat sect) monasteries we had visited, the drawcard though was a large twenty-six metre high statue of Jampa (Maitreya), the Future Buddha. Housed in the Chapel of Jampa (Jamkhang Chenmo), the gilded statue is the largest in the world.

Main entrance to Tashilhunpo Monastery
The entrance courtyard with colleges in the foreground, in the background sticking out are the main buildings
The three large Chortens
Four harmonious friends, an elephant, monkey, rabbit and bird
Buddhists circumambulating the three large chortens
The alleys in the Tashilhunpo Monastery
Large courtyard with prayer pole in the centre
Sonya tying a white scarf to the prayer pole in the courtyard
Looking towards the Assembly Hall

Shigatse Dzong

Similar to the Gyantse Dzong, Shigatse Dzong sits on a hill overlooking the town. It strangely resembles the Potala Palace in Lhasa, only smaller, our guide shared a story in which the design of the Potala Palace was drawn on a banana leaf, and when it was transported to Shigatse for reproduction, it had shrank.

Shigatse Fort, looking very similar to a smaller Potala Palace found in Lhasa

Lhasa to Gyantse – Yamdrok-tso and Gyantse monastery

On the fourth day, now acclimatised to the high altitude, we left Lhasa and headed towards the Nepal border. The day’s sights would include Yamdrok-tso lake, two mountain passes, Kamba-la pass and Karo-la pass, and the day-end destination town of Gyantse.

Yamdrok-tso lake

Yamdrok-tso lake is interspersed between the mountains and we seemed to be following it for the majority of our journey from Lhasa to Gyantse. The beautiful scenery was a nice change from the three-days of monasteries and Buddha statues.

Yamdrok-tso lake, TibetYamdrok-tso lake, TibetYamdrok-tso lake, Tibet
Yamdrok-tso lake, TibetYamdrok-tso lake, TibetYamdrok-tso lake, Tibet

Mountain passes

A pass is a track or road over a mountain used to get to the other side, the tip or highest point of the track is known as the pass. We had already experiences a few ‘minor’ passes in Kyrgyzstan and the ‘major’ Tanggu La Pass at 5072 metres on the train to Lhasa. Passes are fun, they provide amazing views, and may even break your personal-best highest elevation. In Tibet the passes are marked by prayer flags, locals selling knick-knacks and sometimes an elevation marker or small chorten. The passes we went through were Kamba-la pass at 4700 metre, Karo-la pass at 4960 metres and Simu-la pass at 4280 metres. They were not snow covered, which was a surprise as this had been the case for the lower elevated passes in Kyrgyzstan.

Mountain passes, TibetMountain passes, TibetMountain passes, Tibet
Mountain passes, TibetMountain passes, TibetMountain passes, Tibet


Gyantse monastery – very similar to the many previous monasteries we had visited, for an unusually small fee we were permitted to take photos, below are photos the Buddha books (books with literature of all things relating to Buddhism, the usual Buddha statues and protector statues.

Gyantse monasteryGyantse monasteryGyantse monastery
Gyantse monasteryGyantse monasteryGyantse monastery

Gyantse Kumbum (100,000 Buddha images) –  a large chorten (or stupa), which is usually a large circular shaped building that tapers up, the architecture has specific Buddhist meaning, as well as the structure in general. What made the Kumbum so unique was as its named suggested, the hundreds of Buddha images found in the many small rooms circulating the chorten. Each room was filled with beautiful Buddhist murals and a statue of a Buddha or a protector. After about the first two floors, having entered all the rooms so far and made an effort to study the murals, we started to skip a few as it was starting to take a little while and the themes were very similar. At the top we had a view of the courtyard where our guide was patiently sitting, now we understood why he elected to wait for us, as explaining all the murals and statues would have been tiresome.

Gyantse Kumbum, Tibet
Gyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, Tibet
Gyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, Tibet
Gyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, TibetGyantse Kumbum, Tibet

Gyantse Dzong – the Gyantse skyline included the Gyantse Dzong, a fort-like structure sitting on the city’s overshadowing mountains, unfortunately, it didn’t seem open to tourists.

Gyantse Dzong, Tibet