Tag: monks

Shigatse and Tashilunpo Monastery

With a population of 80,000 people and at an elevation of 3,840 meters, Shigatse is the 2nd largest town in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.  As the seat of the Panchen Lama and the former capital of Tibet, Shigatse is a must visit stop on the road from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp.

You can spend a whole morning walking the Tashilunpo Monastery in Shigatse and then doing the pilgrimage kora around the monastery. If you have the time, spend 2 nights in this town and get refreshed before you head out into the wild highlands of Mount Everest Base Camp.


The drive from Lhasa to Shigatse (via Yamdrok Lake and Gyantse) is a total of 355 km.  It is best to break this drive up into two days, spending the first driving day (260km) from Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake to the Karo La Glacier to Gyantse.  And then the second day driving 90km from Gyantse to Shigatse.


Exploring Wild Qinghai


Most people have never heard of Qinghai Province.  Located on the northeastern corner of the Tibetan Plateau and with a total population of only 5.6 million people, Qinghai is a wide open, high altitude land of nomads and snow leopards, Tibetan cowboys and wild yaks.  Qinghai also holds a wide array of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and mosques to dazzle the eye.  Despite its relatively small population, this is a massive land area with 722,000 square kilometers in total area, making it bigger than the individual countries of France, Afghanistan, Thailand, or the whole of the United Kingdom.

Qinghai Province is the source of China’s two largest rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River.  This unique Montana-like Plateau offers towering mountains, red rock canyons, and is full of meandering rivers and alpine lakes.

Want to know where to travel in Qinghai?

Check out our trip locations all over wild Qinghai:







This is definitely the place to get off the map and experience #AdventureTravel at its finest!


YouNing Monastery – a great day trip from Xining!

Come see monks light butter candles in the lower monastery and then travel another 7km up the road to the upper hermitage for some incredible views and breathtaking trekking!

In this blog I have included a sample schedule on how I would plan to climb the mountains so you can accurately budget your time and know what to expect for your day trip.

YouNing Monastery is a delightful hidden treasure in Qinghai Province.  Just a short 1.5 hour drive from Qinghai’s capital, Xining, this is an excellent one day excursion from Xining.  You can leave in the morning from Xining, have a picnic near the monastery, and be back to Xining by dinner. YouNing Monastery is composed of a lower monastery complex with several temples and meditation halls and an upper, smaller hermitage that has meditation caves where Buddhist monks go to meditate silently for months or even years.  The meditation caves are located 7km up the dirt road from the larger monastery and are a great way to get away from people and into the mountains.

You could spend all day touring the larger lower monastery complex if you are not into hiking the mountains.  But for me, the reason I come here is to get into the mountains. Here is how I would manage my time in YouNing Monastery if I was traveling there, the hiking times account for a person in average shape with a mild level of fitness:

8:30am- Depart Xining city

10:00am – Arrive at YouNing Monastery, explore the courtyards and monastic halls of the main temples and meditation halls for about an hour.

11:00am- Drive another 7km up the dirt road to the hermitage site.  Park in the upper parking lot there.

11:15am- Depart from cement lot parking past a small sign up a trail that ascends to the hermitage sites.  You  will pass a small monastery (much smaller than the ones in the lower monastery as it only holds a few monks) and then continue another 15 minutes to ascend cement steps to a series of hermitage caves with meditation temples built around them.

11:45am- Arrive at hermitage caves.  Walk up the steps past into the caves for a great view of the mountains. Take a few pictures and descend back to the small, upper monastery

12:15pm- Eat a picnic lunch near the upper monastery

1:00pm – Continue past the smaller monastery to a hiking trail that leads up to a barren mountain ridge.

1:45pm- Stop for a breather at a simple mud home used by nomads to keep their sheep

3:00pm- Reach the saddle of the mountain ridge at 3,700 meters for a great 360 degree panoramic view of the mountains behind the main YouNing Monastery complex.

3:15pm- Descend to the parking lot

5:00pm – Jump in your car at the parking lot and drive back to Xining

6:30pm – Enjoy a nice hearty dinner in Xining as a reward for your tough climb!


Below is a picture of the smaller, upper monastery.  This leads to a trail to the upper hermitage caves and is a great place to launch a 4 hour roundtrip hike up to 3,500 meters to a mountain saddle.


To get to YouNing Monastery, you travel from Xining to its main lower monastery hall, pictured below


These stupas are part of the smaller, upper monastery and offer a great view directly below to the lower monastery complex.


View from the top of the 3,700 mountain ridge – what will likely be your furthest point of ascent unless you camp on the ridge and keep exploring the mountains.  This is the ultimate reward for about 3 hours of ascent from the hermitage below.