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Monasteries in Lhasa: More than the Jokhang Temple

Last Update: March 27, 2020

Tibet is a place full of mystery and wonder, which is known as the “Third Pole in the World”. You can appreciate the timeless religion, people and landscapes. Its capital city is Lhasa, which is home to several of the most incredible monasteries on earth. It is really a wonderful experience to get to Lhasa to visit some famous monasteries with your sincerity and admiration. Jokhang Temple, whose name is quite popular among visitors, is one of the best monasteries in Lhasa. However, Lhasa also has many other monasteries, which will be shown in this guidance. These 7 monasteries should not be missed in your Lhasa tour.

Jokhang Monastery - Must See in Lhasa

Jokhang Monastery is really a must-see monastery in every Tibet tour, which is considered as the most sacred place in Tibet by the local Tibetans. Its location is in the center of Lhasa, which is known as a part of the UNESCO World Heritage ensemble that contains the Potala Palace. The Barkhor Street surround this temple attracts hundreds of Tibetans to spend their day walking and praying.

Highlight and Time to Visit

This monastery was first built in 642, which has embodied the very essence of Tibetan culture. The interior is quite dark and mysterious. However, the beautiful scene will make you surprised and amazed at the same time. Inside the temple, the small hallways and rooms are always crowded with visitors and it may be hard for you to enjoy the tour to this temple. However, it is a monastery that should be paid a visit to once in your lifetime. The life-sized statue of Shakyamuni, various statues of Buddha, exquisite murals and featured buildings will glut your eyes.

Jokhang TempleJokhang Temple is a must see in Lhasa

The temple is 1,000 metres at the east of the Potala Palace. If you want to visit this monastery, you only need to use one day to enjoy its fantastic fairness. You’d better arrive there at 8:00 in the morning to witness the pilgrims perform their devotions and then go into the interior rooms in the afternoon, for it’s open to religious people from 08:00 to 11:30 and visitors can visit this temple from 11:30 to 17:30. It is suggested to take one to two hours to visit it.

Tips

1) No one is allowed to use flash inside the hall.
2) You can take a flashlight or a head lamp with you to visit the temple, and then you can see some essential wall paintings, sculptures and other cultural relics more clearly.
3) Visitors are required to walk clockwise in the temple.

Sera Monastery - the Unique Monks Debate

Sera Monastery is a representative of Gelug temples, which is located on the northern suburb of Lhasa city. It has been constructed in 1419 with complicated structures, like the Great Assembly Hall, the dwellings in the eastern side and three colleges in the western side. It is quite famous for its debate session, which offers various precious relics, arts, scriptures for monks to study the knowledge of Buddhist. Besides, the daily Monk debate has become a true spiritual process for monks to practice and test their Buddhism knowledge. The unique monks debating is seen as the top highlight in this monastery, which is open to the public for travelers to appreciate the charm of Buddhism and obtain some enlightenment, which is really worth of visiting. It is only 5km away from the Jokhang Monastery. It is suggested to spend 3 to 4 hours to visit this monastery.

Highlight and Time to Visit

Visitors can admire the Buddhist buildings, such as the Tsochen Hall, Sera Je College, and etc. It is full of various statues of Buddhas, murals, scriptures and some other culture relics.

Sera MonasteryMonk debating in Sera Monastery

You can not miss enjoying the Buddhism debating as has stated in the above. The debating will begin from 15:00 to 17:00 every day, except Sundays and several special festivals, which is the best featured activity in this monastery. If you want to enjoy watching the monks debating at the debate courtyard and the Sera Bengqin Festival, you can refer to the time listed above to arrange your time.

Tips

1) You should keep in mind some rules and prohibitions before you entering the monastery.
2) It is better for you to bring a flashlight to see the cultural relics in it more clearly.
3) If you are photography lover, you can find the rock land behind the halfway mountain to shoot the whole view of Sera Monastery.
4) You can bargain with the driver on the price to take you to the monastery.

Drepung Monastery - Largest Monastery in Tibet

Drepung Monastery is known as the largest Monastery in Tibet, which is built in 1416 and plays an essential role in Tibet Buddhism. The mountain it is located is named Gambo Utse. This monastery has various fantastic and complicated white buildings dotted around the hillside. You can discover the charm of the devoted belief, which can purify your heart to a great degree.

Highlight and Time to Visit

There are lots of religious heritage sites, such as the Ganden Potrang, Coqen Hall, the four Zhacangs (or Tantric colleges) and many Kamcuns, subjected to the Zhacang.

Drepung MonasteryDrepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet.

The Shoton Festival is fairly grand in the whole Tibet and this monastery is the center site of it. This festival is held on June 30th in the Tibetan calendar every year. Travelers can participate in this festival to learn Tibet culture and religion effectively.

Drepung Monastery allows tourists to come in from 9:00 to 17:00. If you plan to visit this monastery in summer time, you should not miss the Shoton Festival here to witness and take part in the grand scene. There are also Buddhist debates sometimes on 14:30, and if you are lucky, you will be able to enjoy the debating here. You’d better spend half a day enjoying the beauty of it.

Tips

1) There is a grand sutra-reading event in this monastery every Wednesday.
2) It is visible for you to take a taxi there, for you need to climb a mountain for half an hour to reach Drepung Monastery if you take a bus.
3) You are required to receive the security check before entering this monastery.
4) Visitors are not allowed to take any lighter into the scenic area.
5) Please walk clockwise from left to right when you visit this monastery.

Ganden Monastery - A Good Place for a Light Trekking

Ganden Monastery was constructed by the founder of the Gelug Sect, which has turned into the seat of Geluk administrative and political power. At present, there are more than 400 monks studying Buddhism in the Buddhism University in this monastery. It is over 50km away from Lhasa. We strongly recommends visitors enjoy a Ganden Monastery hiking tour if time permits.

Highlight and Time to Visit

It is full of historical and cultural relics for traveler to view. The architectures of this monastery are really charming and amazing. The Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival in Ganden Monastery is celebrated on October 25 of Tibetan calendar.

Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery is suitable for a light trekking.

The best time to travel to visit Ganden Monastery is between May to Oct while the weather is not so cold and there is not so much rain. The opening time of it is from 9:00 to 16:00 for visitors to come in. Travelers can use about 2 hours to enjoy this monastery.

Tips

1) Once you decide to hike there, you need to make a good preparation for your camping equipment, enough food and warm clothes.
2) You may reserve at least one day for visiting it due to the long distance.

Samye Monastery - Tibet's First Monastery

Samye Monastery is the first monastery in Tibet, which is famous for its sacred mandala design. Many pilgrimages come here for the Tibetan Buddhists. The main temple of this monastery is full of the Tibetan religious art in mural and statue form, and several important relics here.

Highlight and Time to Visit

The historical architectures here also stand out, among which Wuzi Hall represents the center of universe Sumeru Mountain. There are also 4 special pagodas with colors of red, green, black and white to suppress devils. The precious murals are numerous here, which have been reserved quite well in this monastery. Trekking around Samye is also a highlight of it, which allows tourists to enjoy the fascinating plateau landscape and authentic Tibetan traditional culture.

Samye MonasterySamye Monastery is the first monastery in Tibet.

As for the visiting time, in fact, you can go there all year round during the opening hours from 9:00 to 16:00.

Tips

1) You can spend CNY 20 to CNY 40 per day to live in a guesthouse or hotel at the right side of the monastery.
2) It is better for you to bring the sunscreen and sunglasses with you to prevent sunburn.
3) You will be charged for extra fees if you want to take pictures and videos there.

Drak Yerpa - Explore the Holy Meditation Caves

Drak Yerpa’s address is in the Zhayeba Valley, which is about 16km northeast of Lhasa. This peaceful site provides lovely scenes and it is really a great day trip from Lhasa to reach there. It is 40 km away from Lhasa. Drak Yerpa is one of the holiest cave retreats ever. It has a long history of more than 1,500 years. The holy meditation atmosphere here is very rich, which appeals hermits and visitors to pay a visit to this cave.

Highlight and Time to Visit

It has magnificent natural scenery with the covering of various kinds of plants on the hill to the monastery. This peaceful and picturesque place attracts lots of visitors to come here to enjoy the beautiful scene. The architectures here are also quite featured, which clung to the hillside to form special lines. Some of the holy cave retreats are preserved well, which has their own legendary.

Drak YerpaDrak Yerpa is one of the holiest cave retreats.

You can pay a visit to this monastery all year round. However, you should know that it is open from 9:00 to 17:30. You can actually take the shuttle bus from Lhasa at 6:00 to Drakyerpa and then go back to Lhasa at 12:00. TibetVista recommends you spare half a day to enjoy the visiting to Drak Yerpa.

Tips

1) Travelers need to climb to numerous steps to pay a visit to the halls and pagodas. TibetVista suggests you walk slowly to avoid the sickness of high altitude.
2) You can obtain some food and drinks from the little store near the monastery, but it is only open in the peak seasons.
3) Tourists can take some food to take a wonderful picnic there while enjoying the fantastic natural scenery.

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