Day 1 →
Depart Xining city in the morning and drive 2 hours into the Tibetan countryside. The last 8 km of the drive takes us on a dirt road that sits high up on a mountain ridge with spectacular views of the snowy mountains around the monastery. As we arrive at Shachung Monastery, we will walk around a sacred kora and spin prayer wheels and then circle a 5-story tall statue of Tsongkapa, the founder of the Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Tsongkapa studied here as a young monk and then went on to totally reform the corruption and abuse within the monastic system to create what is today one of the most prominent sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
We will then spend about 2 hours in the monastery complex itself, enjoying the intricate art within the temples. After delving into the monastery culture, we will continue from the back side of the monastery up a ridge to get a spectacular view of the 5,000 meter mountains around us. From there we will hike back through time to see a simple Tibetan village with mud homes and terraced farms at 2,700 meters. After that, we make our final ascent up another 100 meters to a mountain lookout with prayer flags and Lobtse - a bundle of large 6 meter-long wooden arrows driven into the ground that collectively represent an end to violence. Eat a picnic lunch on the mountain top and walk 1 hour back to the monastery. After a full day of adventure we will drive 2 hours back to Xining and arrive there by late afternoon.
NOTE: For those more interested in the hiking aspect, we can emphasize this as the major portion of the day. The same is true for those wanting to spend more time in the monastery complex.