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The Ultimate Guide about Ganden to Samye Monastery Trekking in Tibet

Last Update: March 27, 2020

Facts about Ganden and Samye Monastery in Tibet

Ganden Monastery

The magnificent Ganden Monastery, situated in the Wangbur Mountain, on the southern bank of Lhasa River in Tagtse County, 47 km from Lhasa, stands at an altitude of 3,800 m above sea-level. It is one of the original and grandest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, and stands atop of the six famous temples of Gelugpa - a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The significance of this bliss is not only spiritual and artistic, but also as a cultural and political artifact preserved by the National Key Cultural Relic Preservation scheme in 1961. The monastery hosts one of the majestic Buddhist celebrations, the Buddha Painting Unfolding festival, thereby attracting numerous visitors and disciples. The name ‘Ganden’ holds vast importance. In Tibet, it represents the name for the paradise for future Buddha. Hence, the Ganden Monastery is regarded as the divine route through which the future Buddha will put a conclusion to misery and the world will achieve salvation.

Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery

Samye Monastery

The first Buddhist monastery founded in Tibet, Samye Monastery, was constructed in the 8th Century, during the rule of King Trisong Detsen with the aid of the Indian Buddhist masters, Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, whom the king had invited to Tibet to help spread Buddhism. It is renowned as the site for the "Great Debate" (792-794) between the Indian Mahayanists and Chinese Chán (Zen) Buddhists. The monastery gains attention for the revered mandala design, especially the central temple symbolizing the legendary Mount Meru, center of the universe. It is a prevalent pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists, most of whom travel on foot for weeks to reach it.

Samye MonasterySamye Monastery

What to experience during the Ganden to Samye trekking?

If you are a Tibetan theology enthusiast, the Ganden to Samye Monastery trek is undoubtedly one of the best experiences you can have with a deep insight of the Tibetan Buddhism and a beautiful exposure to the true taste of Tibetan highland adventure. The trekking route is regarded as one of the best hikes in the world. This unique trip has a lot to offer- an overview of Tibetan religious culture, blue sacred lakes, high snowy mountains, lush alpine meadows, periodic herders’ camp, tranquil Tibetan villages, holy sites eventually culminating at the barren surroundings near the Samye Monastery. Secluded valleys lie along the high hills, only inhabited by high-altitude nomads and their yaks.

You can have a beautiful exposure to the true taste of Tibetan highland adventureYou can have a beautiful exposure to the true taste of Tibetan highland adventure

This route is popular for Tibetan pilgrims, serving as a convenient site to combine a visit to Ganden Monastery with a relatively direct but hard walk to Samye. However, this interesting and attractive journey should not make you underestimate the difficulty of the trek. Starting at 4180 m at Ganden Monastery, passing Shogu-La Pass at 5250 m and heading toward the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye Monastery 3540 m, the trek is a challenge and the altitude gains are higher than what is often recommended. Only those with experience in hiking and camping in higher-elevation wildernesses should attempt this trek unsupported. It is recommended for you to at least one night at Ganden Monastery to acclimatize if you’re coming directly from Lhasa.

There's a chance to see the wild animals along the trekking wayThere's a chance to see the wild animals along the trekking way

Packing list for Ganden and Samye Trek

Excited? Want to know more about how to make the most out of this amazing trip? Then we should not forget your packing list. An ideal list for the trek should include: down jacket or warm fleece top, thermal underwear (top and bottom), cotton shirts (short and long sleeved), warm and cotton trousers, sun polarized sunglasses, beanie or warm woolen hat and gloves, scarf (to keep out dust as well as cold), sandals (flip-flops), towel, sleeping bag (for camping/trekking), rain jacket, strong sun cream and lip protector, moisturizer, water bottle and camera (and plenty of film and spare batteries). For setting up a tent, you should carry a quality tent which is capable of withstanding gales and storms. And, don’t pitch tents close to nomad compartments!

You should carry a quality tent which is capable of withstanding gales and stormYou should carry a quality tent which is capable of withstanding gales and storm

Best time to do the trek

Although the Tibetan Plateau is known for its high altitudes, the daytime temperatures are actually quite mild. With clear blue skies, between April and November, the average temperature ranges from 15-25 degrees Celsius. July and August are usually characterized by odd showers during the night and extremely cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees at night. Thus, if we are suggesting the suitable time to visit Tibet, it is wise to say the best time for overland tours in Tibet is between April and Oct. for treks, between early April and early October. The winters are too cold and windy and unless you are highly experienced in trekking, we will not advise you to go for it during this season.

Enjoy the clear blue skies in good weatherEnjoy the clear blue skies in good weather

Accommodation throughout the trek

Wondering about accommodation? There were no accommodation available in the past near the Ganden Monastery. But then, for the convenience of pilgrims and tourists, a guest house was built close to the monastery in 2007. The house offers double rooms, four-bed rooms and dorm beds. A dorm bed costs approximately 2.5 USD. The accommodation also offers television, heating, washing facilities and a 24- hour hot water service.

During the Ganden to Samye trek, you need to camp in remote areasDuring the Ganden to Samye trek, you need to camp in remote areas

But what happens when we are trekking? During the Ganden to Samye trek, you need to camp in remote areas without hotels or guest houses. And that will only make your trek even more enthralling. Upon arrival to your camp site, you can set up a bonfire, cook some hot dishes and then enjoy your dinner, sitting around the fire and chatting with your travel partners and guides. One amazing experience is just simply lies down, watching the twinkling stars in the distant sky and paying minute attention to the distinct sounds of the different insects. Peaceful, isn’t it?

Meals during the trek

If you are travelling as part of a group tour through a travel agency, sometimes your package will include a cook for days outside hotels. In hotels in Lhasa you will have the choice between Chinese and Tibetan cuisines usually. It is always advised to eat healthy for trekking tours. A tasty, plentiful and nutritious meal with a variety of local and western dishes is what most tour packages will offer you. Imagine starting off a day with cereal or porridge followed by omelette, fried or scrambled eggs with bread. Delicious? Isn’t it.

Having a quick meal during the trekHaving a quick meal during the trek

You need a lot of energy for the journey and so salad, cooked vegetable dishes, pasta and a simple dessert can make your day during lunch. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are supplements to what you will eat and try to look out for fresh and hygienic food because, you don’t want to fall sick in the middle of such a marvelous journey. If you have special dietary requirements, chose a package that caters to your needs.

Unless some Yak invites you for a cup of butter tea, it is advisable to not ponder much over the Nomad encampments along the route. They are habitually guarded by Tibetan Mastiffs, a breed of dog renowned for its passive aggressive behavior towards strangers. Tip: Keep some rocks near you. They might come in handy if such need should arise.

You should stay away from yaks to guarantee your safetyYou should stay away from yaks to guarantee your safety

One thing you should be aware of the route does not usually include any sort of signs or information posts. However, finding the route is not that difficult, if you have your notes or maps or guides around you. Consult your compass on a regular basis and do not hesitate to ask locals for directions if you get lost or are unsure.

Ways to avoid the Altitude Sickness

Amidst all the prospects of fun and adventure, don’t forget to pay special attention to some important issues. The average altitude of the trekking train from Ganden to Samye surpasses 3500 m. No wonder altitude sickness poses a threat to travelling in Tibet. You will need to climb two or more mountain passes over 5000 m, including Zhukar La (Shug-la) at 5250 m; the other is Chetur La (Chitu-la) at 5100 m.

Pay more attention to yourself when climbing the mountain passPay more attention to yourself when climbing the mountain pass

What happens if you develop the sickness in the middle of the tour? And how do you know it? The early symptoms of altitude sickness includes losing appetite, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, dizziness, confusion, persistent headache, weakness, fatigue, heavy legs, breathlessness and breathing irregularity, etc. When you suffer from altitude sickness, please consider stopping ascending, otherwise, the consequences can be as serious as death within hours. The only remedy for the Altitude Sickness is to walk to a lower altitude. Also, make sure you acclimatize in Lhasa for enough time before embarking on your trekking to avoid such mishaps.

Water is going to be one of your best friends in the journey. Drink at least 4 litres of water every day because trekkers fall prey to Acute Mountain Sickness for not staying enough hydrated in such high altitudes and cold temperatures. You will not realize if your body needs more water than you took until the symptoms start to appear. So, be careful!

Excited? Then what are you waiting for? Start checking your agenda and find your suitable time to embrace this beautiful trekking experience to enrich your treasure of memories and adventures. This trek is indeed one of the most perfect blends of natural, scenic, spiritual and adventurous hikes in the world, and trust me, you will regret none of it if you follow the precautions and guides during the tour!

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