In 2008, Chinese authorities shut Drepung down after monks led what became a violent protest against Chinese rule. After that, it didn't open to the public until 2013. Now travelers can explore the caves and temples around the grounds and step inside the iconic white pagodas tucked amid the hillside. Ganden Potrang—one of the most popular sites of Drepung Monastery—originally served as a residence for the second, third, fourth, and fifth Dalai Lamas; before becoming a political and religious meeting place.
While travelers agree that the monastery’s buildings are certainly impressive, it’s the vast courtyards and dense forests that make this famous destination a perfect place for finding peaceful reflection. Visitors should consider walking the 90-minute kora (pilgrim circuit) around the monastery during their visit. Most multi-day tours of Lhasa and Tibet include the monastery.
Things to know before you go
- Drepung Monastery is a must-visit for spiritual travelers and history buffs.
- Give yourself 2–3 hours to visit the monastery; more if you plan to walk the kora.
- Public restrooms can be found opposite the check-in entrance. *Remember to dress conservatively, as this is an active place of worship.
- It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen, but leave your hats and sunglasses in your bag or hotel.
How to get there
Drepung Monastery is in the foothills of the Gambo Utse Mountain, 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Lhasa. The best way to get there is by taxi or by joining a guided tour.
When to get there
The monastery grounds are open regularly throughout the year. Come at lunchtime to see the ritual of novice monks preparing yak butter tea, or in the afternoon to watch the Tibetan-style religious debates.
Another Tibetan monastery sits a short walk downhill from Drepung Monastery. Nechung Monastery was the former home of the Tibetan state oracle; today, it’s known for its blood-red doors and graphic murals portraying scenes of possession, exorcism, and torture.
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