The monastery comprises more than 50 buildings painted in blocks of white, maroon, and ochre, and topped with gold-capped roofs. Chituokhan Buddhist Temple is one of the earliest buildings within Ganden Monastery and is the location where Tsongkhapa and other abbots of the monastery lived. Another highlight is Tsokchen Hall, the monastery’s main assembly hall that can house 3500 monks and is decorated with over 100 pillars and skillfully carved bronze statues. The tomb of Tsongkhapa, or rather what is left of it after China’s cultural revolution, can be found at Serdung.
The monastery marks the starting point of a popular four-day trek to Samye Monastery, and it also features on many multi-day itineraries through Tibet—including journeys to Mount Everest Base Camp. It’s an excellent excursion out of Lhasa for visitors with limited time.
Things to know before you go
- Ganden Monastery is a must-see for spiritual travelers and Lhasa visitors with limited time.
- Plan to spend at least two hours touring the monastery; when you factor in transportation, plan for a full day trip.
- The monastery sits at an elevation of 12,000 feet (3,800 meters), so take precautions against altitude sickness during your visit.
- Follow the local Buddhist customs and visit the monastery in a clockwise direction.
How to get there
Ganden Monastery is located in Dagzê County, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Lhasa. Shuttle buses depart from Jokhang Square in the morning and return in the late afternoon.
When to get there
The monastery is usually open daily, but it’s advisable to check the opening schedule in advance of visiting. The best time to visit, especially if you’re planning to trek, is between April and October, when weather is warmer.
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
This cultural festival—which is celebrated across Tibet—is the most important celebration at Ganden Monastery. During the event, which honors the death of the monastery’s founder, the monastery is adorned with a giant tapestry of the Buddha and illuminated with hundreds of butter lamps that burn through the night.
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