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Ganden to Samye Trek (15 Days)

Ganden to Samye Trek

We spend 3 nights in Lhasa, staying right in the centre of the old city. This will allow both plenty of time for acclimatization and easy access to the city's main attractions - the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple. We then drive to Ganden and spend a day here for further acclimatisation and explore this, the first Gelugpa Monastery in Tibet.

Despite its popularity, the Ganden to Samye trek is a though walk crossing two high passes through a remote region. We take good time acclimatizing in Lhasa

and Ganden before we start out on this trek, because the nature of the terrain on the trek to Samye can create serious difficulties for anyone suffering from AMS while crossing Shug La (5250m) or Chitu La (5100m) en-route to Samye. The valley between these passes is quite high in elevation (4890m) and very remote.

The best time for the walk is from the middle of May to the Middle of October. The summer months can be wet but the mountains are at their greenest and wildflowers spangle the alpine meadows. Barring heavy snow, it is also possible for those with a lot of trekking experience and the right gear to do this walk in the colder months.

Day 01: Kathmandu (1400m)
Day 02: Kathmandu
Day 03: Lhasa (3660m)
Day 04: Lhasa
Day 05: Lhasa
Day 06: Ganden (4500m)
Day 07: Yama Do
Day 08: Tsotup Chu Valley
Day 09: Herder's Camp
Day 10: Wango
Day 11: Samye
Day 12: Yarlung Valley
Day 13: Kathmandu
Day 14: Kathmandu
Day 15: Departure

Trip Outline
  • Trekking days - 9
  • Total days - 15
  • Min. Altitude - (3700m./12139ft.)
  • Max. Altitude - (4500m./14764ft.)
  • Overal walking - 5 hrs P/D
  • Trip Nature - Trekking & Hiking
  • Difficulty - Medium
  • Min. group size - 2
  • Age Limit - 16-65
  • Best Time - March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November
Cost includes
    * Transportation (Pick up and drop to international airport)
    * Sightseeing with Nepali guide according to the itinerary
    * Accommodation in twin sharing room on bed and breakfast basis


    * Accommodation in twin sharing room on bed and breakfast basis
    * Transportation by Land-cruiser / Mini coach as per group size
    * Sightseeing with Tibetan guide as per itinerary
    * Monastery entrance fees
    * Tibet visa and travel permit
    * Grassland fees for Ganden and Samye valley
    * Food (Three meals a day: tea, coffee, Breakfast, Lunch and dinner)
    * Camping equipment during trek and necessary staff for trekking

Cost excludes
    * Food
    * Personal expenses
    * Travel insurance
    * Nepal entry visa


    * Food (Lunch and dinner) in Lhasa
    * Personal expenses
    * Travel insurance
    * Air fare (Kathmandu / Lhasa / Kathmandu)
    * Medical evacuation in case of emergency
    * All bar bill

Long Itinerary
Day 01: Kathmandu (1400m)
Pick up then Transfer to hotel and handle check in. Short briefing that afternoon followed by orientation walk. Overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Sight seeing:
Around Kathmandu valley: The holy place of Pashupatinath temple, Shoyambhunath temple, Boudhanath Stupa & Kathmandu Darbar Square), arrange the necessary permit for Trekking and Climbing. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 03: Kathmandu - Lhasa (3660m)
Fly to Lhasa, about 1 hour flight offer panoramic Himalayan views including Mt. Everest. And other mountains ranges. Pick up from Gonggar airport, after finished immigration formalities it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes drive along 93 km road leading to Lhasa. It is advisable to rest in Hotel. Overnight at hotel.

Day 04: Lhasa sightseeing
After breakfast you will visit to Sera Monastery, Norbulinka (summer place of Dalai Lama), Jokhang temple and Barkhor markets. You are introduced about the interesting monastery, religion and market by our Tibetan guide. Finally, you head back to your hotel late afternoon for refreshment. Overnight at hotel.

Day 05: Lhasa Sightseeing
fter breakfast, we take you to the Potala Palace (the palace for Dalai Lama) towering above city of Lhasa. Later in the noon after lunch, you will visit beautifully landscaped Drepung Monastery, Tibetan art center and museum. You can observe nuns and monks chanting and performing religious discourses. Finally you return to the hotel for delicious dinner. Overnight at hotel.

Day 06: Drive to Ganden (4500m)
It is 40 kilometers driving distance from Lhasa. We will spend the rest of that day exploring and acclimatizing. Ganden was the first Gelugpa monastery and has remained the main seat of the order ever since. Ganden is an interesting place to wander aimlessly about in. The sheer ochre walls of many of the buildings make great backdrops for photographs. It is nice to do kora around Ganden! As you starts to make Kora stopping before a rock, shrine, or crevice in a boulder to perform unusual rituals that "test" their faith and help them earn religious merit, all in a carnival like atmosphere. This circuit begins at the south west corner of Ganden. A large rocky cleft draped with prayer flags marks the start of this scenic circuit, which takes at least one hour to complete.
Day 07: Trek to Yama Do (5 hours)
The trail gradually ascends for 1 and 1/2 hours before reaching a saddle. Near the saddle the trail comes close to the top of the ridge marked by cairns. From the saddle look west down the Kyi Chu valley towards Lhasa. We then traverse the west side of the ridge from the saddle; the trail now descends towards Hepu village. There are around 30 houses in Hepu. We continue from Hepu, the trail climbs towards the Shug La 3 ½ hours away. One hour from Hepu we reach Ani Pagong, a narrow craggy bottleneck in the valley. A small nunnery used to be located above the trails. From Ani Pagong the trail steadily climbs for one hour through marshy meadows to Yama Do. Yama Do offers extensive campgrounds suitable for us and we will camp here as it is still a long walk across Shug La.

We then continue on to Shigatse, Tibet's second biggest city. After lunch you will have time to explore the local market before we make a detailed visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery. This monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to see within its high surrounding walls. Our overnight accommodation will be at either the Shigatse

Day 08: Ganden to Tsotup Chu Valley (4 to 5hours)
One hour from our camp at Yama Do we leave the valley floor and ascend a shelf on the east (left) side of the valley to avoid a steep gully that forms around the stream. The Shug La (5250m) cannot be seen until we're virtually on top of it. It is marked by a large cairn covered in prayer flags and yak horns. We continue over the Shug La and descend sharply through a boulder field, losing a couple of hundred meters of elevation. The cairned rail gradually descends to reach the valley floor 1 ½ hours from the pass. We cross the large stream, the Tsotup Chu, which flows through the valley. The pastures in the area support large herds of yaks, goats and sheep, and during the trekking season herders are often camped here. This is an ideal place for our camp and for us to meet the herders (drakpa in Tibetan).

Day 09: Tsotup Chu Valley to Herder's Camp (5 hours)
From Tsotup Chu, the main water course flows from the south-east and a minor tributary enters from the south-west. We start out following this tributary, which quickly disappears underground, steeply upwards for 30minutes until we reach a large basin and a broad. We follow this broad valley which son arcs south to the Chitu La. The pass can be seen in the distance, a rocky rampart at the head of the valley. As we approach the pass the trail switches to the east side of the valley. The terrain is not particularly difficult. The Chitu La (5100m) is topped by several cairns. Also on the summit is a small glacial cairns. We move to the west side of the pass to find the trail down and circumvent a sheer rock wall on its south flank. A short but steep descent will bring us into a basin with three small lakes. We drop down from the basin on the west side of the stream and we will hit the first place to set up camp in 30 minutes. Herders have carved out level places for their tents here. Below the herders' highest camp the valley is squeezed in by a vertical rock walls, forcing us to pick our way through the rock-strewn valley floor. We cross over to the west (right) side of the widening valley to recover the trail; soon we come to a flat and a seasonal herder's camp in the east side of the valley. At the lower end of the flat we return to the west side of the valley. Shortly, we reach another seasonal herders' camp inhabited for only a short time each year. A little further down camping places is now numerous and we camp here for the night.

Day 10: Herder's Camp to Wango (6 Hours)
From here the trail is now wide and easy to follow as it traces a course down the east side of the valley. We walk through the thickening scrub forest and we come to another stream entering from the east side of the main valley. The valley now bends to the right and the trail enters the thickest and tallest part of the scrub forest. The right combination of elevation, moisture, and aspect create a verdant environment while just a few kilometres away desert conditions prevail. The next two hours stretch of the trail is among the most beautiful of the entire trek. According to local woodcutters more than 15 types of trees and shrubs are found here, some growing 6 meters tall. Fragrant junipers grow on exposed southern slopes while rhododendron prefer the shadier slopes .The rhododendrons begin blooming in early May and by the end of the month the forest is ablaze with pink and white blossoms. The trail winds through a series of meadows. Further on forest rapidly thins and the first permanent village since Hepu pops up, Changtang. Named after the northern plains of Tibet, its inhabitants are predominantly engaged in animal husbandry just like their northern counterparts.

Look south to the distant mountains; this is the range on the far side of the Yarlung Tsangpo valley. Thirty-five minutes down the valley is the turn -off for the Yamalung Hermitage. It is nearly a one hour steep climb to the hermitage. Members of parties not interested in making the climb can wait near the bridge.

Yamalung (also called Emalung) is where Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated and received empowerment from the long life deity Amitayus (Tibetan: Tsepame). Consisting of several small temples, a few monks live here. Below the temple complex are scared spring and an old relief carving in stone of Guru Rinpoche, King Trisong Detsen and Indian pundit Shantarakshita, all of whom lived in the 8th century. The cave Guru Rinpoche meditated in is enshrined by the Drup Pug Mara handprint of the saint said to have been created when he magically expanded the size of the cave. In about one hours walk we come to the village of Nyango with its substantially built stone houses. A big tributary streams, entering from the north-west, joins the Samye valley here. The old trade route from Lhasa to Samye via the Gokar La follows this valley. In the lower half of Nyango are four small shops selling soda and cigarettes. We make camp on a meadow between Wango and Pisha, not much further down towards Samye.

Day 11: Wango to Samye (2 Hours), Drive to Tsetang
This is Hepo Ri, one of Tibet's most sacred mountains. The entire lower Samye valley can be seen from Pisha; a tapestry of fields, wood and villages. Not far past Pisha a ridge spur called Dragmar meets the trail. On the summit is the partially rebuilt palace where King Trisong Desten is said to have been born. Formerly a lavish temple it now stands empty. Below, just off the road, is a small red and white temple enshrining the stump of an ancient tree. Legend has it that a red and white sandalwood tree grew here, nourished by the buried placenta of King Trisong. In the Cultural Revolution the tree was chopped down. Another short walk down the trail is Sangbu village from where there are good views of the golden spires of Samye. The route follows the jeep track directly to Samye along the margin of woods and desert. The closer we get to Samye the hotter the valley can become; in May and June it can even be fiery hot. If the heat gets too much we will flee to the stands of willows and poplars not far from the road .The gilt roofs gets ever brighter as we approach the monastery.

Samye Monastery is designed to represent the Buddhist universe and many of the buildings in the courtyard are cosmological symbols, we have plenty of time to take a look around before we get in the jeep and drive to Tsetang, the third largest city in central Tibet. In Tsetang we will check into our guest house and have a deserved shower.

Day 12: Explore the Yarlung Valley
Today we spend the day visiting the Yarlung valley, which is also know as the valley of tombs. Yarlung is considered the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Creation myth locates the valley as the origin of the Tibetan people, and it was from Yarlung that the early Tibetan kings unified Tibet in the seventh century. We see the massive burial mounds of these kings in Chongye.

Yumbulakhang, is another major attraction of the area we see today, it is perched on a crag like a medieval European castle and is considered the oldest building in Tibet. After a full days exploring in the Yarlung valley we return to Tsetang for the night
Day 13: Depart to Kathmandu
Morning you will transfer to the Gongkar airport, fly back to Kathmandu. Pick up from the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Day 14: Kathmandu: Free day for shopping. Overnight at hotel.
Day 15: Departure: Transfer to airport for final departure to onward destination.

Religious tour with Ganden Trek, Trekking in Tibet, Tour in Tibet
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