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Shigatse Travel Guide

Shigatse, also known as Xigaze, Tibet's second largest city, is slightly higher than Lhasa, at 3,900 metres, with an oxygen content of 67 percent and average annual temperatures are 16 °C in mid-summer and -5 °C in mid-winter.

Most visitors know it only as a stopover en route to Everest Base Camp, where overnighters often spend any extra time they might have zipping through Tashilumpo Monastery before moving on to Everest. This is too bad, because Shigatse is full of traditional Tibetan charm and culture. The busy city market is surprisingly full of fruits and vegetables, meats and grains as well as fine local handicrafts and artwork. The city's Tibetan inhabitants still tenaciously hang on to traditional ways.

If you're coming from Lhasa, Shigatse is even higher at 3,900 meters (15,600 feet) so drink lots of water and pace yourself to avoid altitude sickness and shortness of breath.

Major Attractions

Tashilumpo Monastery

Picture of Tashilumpo Monastery

Traditionally home to the Panchen Lama, Tashilhunpo monastery was built in 1447, one of the six major monasteries of the Gelugpa or "Yellow Hat Sect" of Tibetan Buddhism, seat of the Panchen Lamas. It miraculously escaped much cultural revolution-era destruction, so it's a refreshing sight for reconstruction.

Tashilumpo is large enough to seem like a small walled town, and there's plenty to see. Highlights include massive collections of jewels and gold Buddha statues, the Assembly Hall and its colorful unfurled thangkas, and the shrines and thrones of each of the Panchen Lamas, many of whom are buried on site. There are a few hundred resident monks.

Sakya Monastery

There is a saying that you can never really understand Tibetan history until you have visited the Sakya Monastery. Not only because the monastery is not simply a religious site, but historically it was also the place where Buddhism affairs were managed nationally and acted as the administrative center of Tibet during the Yuan Dynasty.

Indeed the fifth abbot of the monastery taught Yuan Dynasty's founding emperor, Kublai and even assisted him in moulding many of the first characteristics of Mongolia. This unique history can still be witnessed through numerous precious historical relics that remain in the building built more than a thousand years ago including the conch which was awarded by Kublai himself. Until now, lamas in Sakya monastery still play the instrument, praying for happiness and safety.

160km west of Shigatse. Sakya Monastery is composed of Southern and Northern Monasteries. The Northern Monastery was built in 1097 while the Southern Monastery in 1268. The Southern Monastery houses great amounts of cultural relics including the titles, seals, crowns, garments and ornaments awarded by the Yuan imperial court to the local officials, the statues of Buddha, ritual instruments and porcelains from the Song, Yuan and other later dynasties, and the precious murals of historical themes.

Also the monastery preserves great numbers of books such as the "Bakgyur", "Bstanggyur", Pattra-leaf scripture and other Tibetan classics on astronomy, geography, history, medicines and literature. Sakya is reputed as the "Tibetan Dunhuang", for its great amount of Mongolian fineries, porcelain, statues, fresco, precious Thangkas and original Buddhism Scriptures.

Rongbuk Monastery

Picture of Rongbuk Monastery

Located at the foot of Mount Everest, Rongbuk has earned the title of the world's highest monastery standing at 4,980 meters high. It might go without saying, the views of Mount Everest from within are spectacular.

The monastery, originally built in 1902 by Nyingma Lama, housed more than 500 monks but today, just 50 monks and nuns remain. Renovated in 1983, the monastery has a wonderful collection of murals and paintings adorning the walls.

It is now possible for travelers to stay at the monastery (the rooms are quite basic even bad) or pitch a tent outside. There is a small shop and a good restaurant also located on site. Located just two hours (by foot) from Everest Base Camp, the hike through the valleys and alongside the world's tallest mountain is a breathtaking and memorable hike. Or you can drive alongside hikers and arrive at Base Camp in about 15 minutes.

Mount Everest

Picture of Mount Everest

Bounded on the east by the deep gorge of the Bum-chu (Arun) River and on the west by that of the Matsang Tsangpo (Sunkosi) are some of the world's highest mountains of the East Himalayan range, forming a natural barrier between Tibet and Nepal.

Clustered together in close proximity, there comprise: Makalu (8,463m), Lhotse (8,501m), Everest, known locally as Qomolangma or Jomo Gangkar (8,848m), Bumo Ritse (7,068m), Jowo Oyuk (8,153m), Jowo Guru or Menlungtse (7,181m), and Jowo Tseringma or Gauri Shangkar (7,148m).

There are stunningly beautiful treks in the environs of each of there peaks, and among them, those around Mount Everest are particularly well known.


A border town, perches on a mountainside 10km inland from the Friendship Bridge across the Bhotekoshi River (Sun Kosi River). The small town has become the major trading post between Tibet and Nepal. The subtropical oceanic climate endows the small town a warm, and humid weather and beautiful scenery throughout the year. The only street snakes through the small border town.

The booming border trade attracts merchants from Mainland China, Tibet and Nepal running business here. Nepalese merchants export rice, flour, pepper, vegetables, and perfumes while Chinese merchants sell wool, tea, salt and Tibetan medicine. Nepalese even run Nepalese restaurants in the small town, serving Nepalese dishes, instant noodles and beer produced in Nepal. Based on the agreement between Chinese and Nepalese governments, people living near the border may cross the border freely within 30 kilometers from the border.

How to Get in?


Road between Lhasa and Shigates as part of National Highway G318 is paved very well. One way distance is about 280km, but the driving speed is limited to 30-40km per hour by the regulation. Therefore, road trip from Lhasa to Shigatse is 6-7hrs by car, once Lhasa-Shigatse railway opened, travel time will be reduced to less than 3 hours by train.

BY Train

As the extension line of Qinghai-Tibet railway, Lhasa-Shigatse rail started construction in 2010. The rail line is 253km long and passes through the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon which is nearly 90km long.

Lhasa-Shigatse railway is a national class I railway with 13 stations put into operation in Augutst of the year 2014. The train will travel more than 120km an hour and the annual volume of freight traffic will achieve 8.3 million tons. See the details of the train schedule and fare between Lhasa and Shigatse.

Best Time to Come

All year round, you can come to Shigates. The best season is from May to October.

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