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Gyantse Travel Guide

Gyantse has preserved much of its old-world atmosphere, and Tibetan rural life continues here, virtually unchanged, against a backdrop of magnificent 14th-15th century fortresses and temples. It is 3,977 metres (13,050 feet) above sea level, and is located in the fertile plain of the Nyang Chu valley and on the Friendship Highway, which connects Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa. It is strategically located on the ancient trade routes from the Chumbi Valley, Yatung and Sikkim, which met here. From Gyantse, routes led to Shigatse downstream and also over the Karo La (Pass) to Central Tibet.

Gyantse is the fourth largest city in Tibet (after Lhasa, Shigatse and Chamdo) notable for the Kumbum Stupa of the Pelkhor Monastery. The Kumbum was built after 1418 and was an important centre of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. This religious structure contains 108 chapels in its four floors, and is illustrated with over 10,000 murals, the last of its type in Tibet. Many of the new clay statues are of less artistry than the destroyed originals - but they are still spectacular.

Major Attractions

Yamdrok Yumtso Lake

Picture of Yamdrok Yumtso Lake

One of the three largest, sacred lakes in Tibet, Lake Yamdroktso stretches 72 km (45 miles) long and lies 4,440 meters above sea level. With more than a dozen islands, this fan-shaped lake has long provided Tibetans with holy cleansing water to bathe and drink as well as a supply of freshwater fish commercially exploited by the local population. The lake's islands provide pastures to local herdsmen. The lake's bright blue color is framed in a backdrop of impressive snow-capped peaks and green valleys of fertile farmland, spotted with traditional Tibetan farmhouses.

The lake is believed to be representative of a female guardian of Buddhism and has long time been a holy site of Tibetan pilgrimages. The scenery around Lake Yamdrok-tso has remained relatively unaffected by tourism allowing visitors to observe the unspoiled Tibetan landscape. Lake Yamdroktso is an excellent place to camp or take an afternoon picnic. The town of Nakartse is a 20-minute drive from the lake and the closest place to find accommodation, restaurants and basic amenities. The Samding Monastery is a 2-hour hike from the town and provides excellent aerial views of the lake.

Dzong Castle

The Castle lies at Dzong Hill at the center of Gyangtse. Emplacements in the ruins still overlook the valley now. Dzong government of the feudal serf system is still well kept, giving visitors a better understanding of the serf system in old Tibet. Four steles erected by Qing ministers during the reign of Emperor Qianlong are well preserved. This is an ideal place to appreciate the sunrise of the Old Town.

Pelkhor Chode Monastery

Picture of Pelkhor Chode Monastery

Southwest of Shigatse, in the small town of Gyantse, is the Pelkor Chode Monastery home to several hundred monks. The site is actually a collection of monasteries that were founded in 1418. There is a temple inside the complex with a large collection of unique Buddhist art inside and monks practicing their daily prayers and mantras.

Although the monastery compound used to house many more monks than it does today the site is well maintained by the Gelugpa sect and the monks that still reside at the Pelkor Chode. The halls and chapels of the monastery are not lit so it's a good idea to bring a flashlight.

Shalu Monastery

Picture of Shalu Monastery

Although Shalu Monastery is one of the most difficult sights in the region to visit, it is worth the effort if you have a few days to spend in the area. Originally built in the 11th century, Shalu became famous in the 14th century due to its in-house Sanskrit translator, the 11th Abbot Buton Rinchen Drub, one of the foremost scholars of Buddhist text translations. The monastery blends Tibetan and Han style architecture dating back to the 10th century. The interior walls of the monastery are adorned with 14th Century Chinese and Nepalese murals and there are many historical and religious relics on display.

Palha Manor

Located in the Banjorlhunbo Village of Jangra Town 4km southwest of Gyantse County. Palha was originally the chief of a tribe in Budan. Later, he fled away into Tibet owing to civil strife, and held an official position in Tibet. With the development of the Palha familys influence, Palha manors scale was extended continuously.

Up to The present, Palha Manor is only the best-preserved noble manor in Tibet. There are 57 rooms,including prayer room, bedroom, guesthouse, etc., and all of them are decorated with gold, jade articals and silvers, making it looks grand and magnificent.In addition,many precious foods, dishwares, import liquors & white vinegars, rare costumes exhibiting there take on a vivid picture of Palha's luxury.

How to get in?

By road

270km from Lhasa. Driving from Lhasa to Gyantse will cost you 4hrs around.

Best time to come

No strict limit on the seasons. You can come to visit all year round. The road Lhasa-Gyantse is paved well. Best time to come is from June to October. The weather at that time is the best, temperature is neither too high nor too low.

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