As a Buddhist holy land, Tibet boasts numerous monasteries and temples in all sizes. These Tibetan monasteries are featured with solemn and awe-inspiring atmosphere, and will let someone be immersed in serenity and peace. So many tourists who are not Buddhist believers also have strong desire to visit Tibetan monasteries, and some even wish to stay in one of these sacred places to experience a spiritual retreat. Read this passage to know how to stay in a Tibetan monastery.
Which Monasteries in Tibet Can I Stay?
Tibetan monasteries can be seen in almost every corner of the land, from the provincial capital city of Lhasa city to remote lakeside of distant western area. But only a few of Tibetan monasteries offer accommodations for tourists. Strictly speaking, foreign tourists cannot stay inside a Tibet monastery, considering the safety issue and religious taboos. They can only spend a night in the guesthouse provided by the monastery.
a. Rongbuk Monastery at Everest Base Camp
Rongbuk Monastery is located near the famous Everest Base Camp, and it is the highest monastery in the world, at an altitude of about 5,154 meters above sea level. The monastery is built back the mountain and have five floors, with only two floors being occupied. The Nyingma School is believed here, and monks and nuns live together to carry out Buddhist activities.
Rongbuk Monastery is near the famous Everest Base Camp.
The guesthouse of the monastery has thirty rooms with more than one hundred beds to accommodate tourists. The living conditions is quite basic, but electric blanket is available to keep warm at night. Tourists can eat hot noodles, rice, stir-fried vegetables and other freshly prepared meals, as well as a variety of convenient, canned food.
For tourists visiting Everest Base Camp, Rongbuk monastery is the only shelter to stay after the tents are removed in winter season. Although simply equipped, it offers a rare chance to see the brilliant sunrise and sunset views of Mount Everest from the monastery. The Everest peak seen from the temple is quite spectacular and stunning.
b. Drigung Thil Monastery
Drigung Thil Monastery is the central monastery of the Drigung Kagyu School, located about 150 kilometers to the east of Lhasa city. It is built in 1179 by Drigungpa-Rinchenpai, standing between the mountain cliffs. On the hill to the north of Drigung Thil Monastery is the most famous Drigung sky burial platform in Tibet, which is known as one of the most sacred and famous sky burial platforms in the world.
Drigung Thil Monastery has the famous sky burial site of Tibet aside it.
The guesthouse of Drigung Monastery is quite simple and crude. Each room contains two to twelve beds. The dorm rooms are provided with simple beds with mattresses. And the toilets are located in an outhouse. There is hot water supplied. One can also get snack foods, drinks from a small shop here.
From Lhasa, one can take the shuttle bus to get to the Drigung Monastery. The bus departs every day at 7:00 am from the Jokhang Temple square, and it takes 3 hours in total. The one-way ticket for the bus ride is 40 RMB.
c. Tidrum Nunnery
Tidrum Nunnery is located just 3 kilometers northwest of the Drigun Til Monastery. It sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by hills. The nunnery is small but accommodates hundred nuns. Tourists always come to visit the nunnery for the famous hot spring here. The Tidrum Hot Spring is said to have healing powers, that can help with some minor illnesses such as arthritis, gastritis. Regardless of the legends, at least it can provide a relaxing experience for tourists.
Tidrum Nunnery attracts many visitors to enjoy hot spring here.
The guesthouse of the nunnery provides clean and tidy rooms, with simple-equipped beds. One can overlook the hot spring from the rooms. The toilets are Chinese-style, located outside the guesthouse. And the food offered by the nunnery is basic Tibetan food, like Thukpa. Tourists are recommended to bring some snacks or food by your own.
d. Monastery Guesthouse for Mount Kailash Kora
For tourists taking the 3-day kora around Mount Kailash, one will stay in the guesthouses of two monasteries during the trek. One is the Drirapuk Monastery, which offers you accommodation after your first-day kora. And the other is Dzultripuk Monastery, where you will stay for the night on the second day.
Monastery at Kailash kora route provides accomodations for trekks and tourists.
The Drirapuk Monastery is about 22 km from Darchen, the beginning and ending point of Mount Kailash kora. The guesthouse of the monastery is a newly-built one, with clean and comfortable rooms. But it is recommended to bring sleepy-bags for hikers or tourists, as the guesthouse will probably be full especially during the peak season.
Dzultripuk Monastery is the second stopping point for pilgrims and tourists who trek around the Mount Kailash. It is located about 11 kilometers away from Darchen village. Since it sits in the lush valley, the monastery is quite tranquil and serene. The accommodation here is also quite basic.
How to Plan a Stay in a Tibetan Monastery?
For foreign tourists who want to visit or stay in a Tibet monastery, one need to first join in a Tibet tour organized by a registered travel agency. Since no individual travel around Tibet is allowed for international visitors according to the policy. And one will also need to prepare the Tibet Travel Permit to enter Tibet. For some monasteries in remote western regions, more travel documents will also be required. The permits and documents can be handled by your tour operator while you book your trip.
If you have a certain monastery to visit or stay, you are suggested to tell your plan to your travel consultant, so that they can help to arrange the reasonable itinerary for you. Some of the monasteries are in good locations where classic Tibet tour routes will pass, like Rongbuk Monastery, which will be more convenient to experience a monastery stay during your trip. At the same time, you can consult more information on taboos or tips on visiting these Tibetan monasteries.
Dos and Don’ts for Staying in a Tibetan Monastery
Whether you are going to visit or stay in a Tibetan monastery, there are certain things that you need to consider.
1. First you need to pay attention to the religious customs and rules of the monastery, to make sure that you will not offend the monks. Do not take photos inside the monastery, or of the monks, only if you are permitted. Dress appropriately, and do not wear some over-exposed clothes, especially for women.
2. When visit a Tibetan monastery, do remember to walk around it clockwise. You can follow the locals who performs the kora circuits, if you are not sure. Also, turn the payer wheels clockwise. And prostrations are not recommended for ordinary tourists who are not Buddhists.
3. Considering that the accommodation provided by the monastery are always basically equipped, and limited in number. It is suggested to bring a sleeping bag by yourself. And be prepared to the rough living environment and plain simple food in the monastery.
4. Do not walk around to explore the monastery, in case you step into some areas that are not open to tourists. Note the indicators or instructions if there is one inside the monastery. Ask the guide if you are not sure.
Staying in a local Tibetan monastery will be a lifetime unforgettable experience. But owing to the religion reasons and some objective restrictions, international visitors cannot stay a night inside the monastery in Tibet. Instead, however, one can stay shortly in the guesthouse provided by some Tibetan monasteries. And this is also a good way to get close to the lives of local Tibetan monks or nuns. If you have more questions about Tibet monastery, please feel free to contact us or leave your comment below.