Tibet Ganden - Samye Monastery Trek - 10 Days

Incredible View of Samya Monastery

Trip Info

Trip Duration

10 Days

Max Altitude

Shug La Pass 5250 m

Difficulty

difficult

Start From

Kathmandu

Trip Ends At

Gongar Airport Tibet

Tibet Ganden - Samye Monastery Trek Overview

The Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek is considered one of the best trek adventures in the world. The route from Ganden to Samye Monasteries, two of Tibet's largest and most revered monasteries known for their distinctive Buddhist legacy and Tibetans' overall sense of spiritual importance takes this trekking journey to a different level. The route is dominated by distinctive topography with rugged terrain, the lunar landscape, and unique culture. 

This 10-day journey offers you a genuine sense of highland adventure in Tibet as well as an understanding of Tibetan Buddhism. You have the chance to watch both the city Tibetan and nomadic Tibetan lifestyle up close and experience the true Tibet as you travel along the 80 km walking track that surrounds barley farms and nomadic pastureland. 

Ganden to Samye Monastery trek is ideal for anyone who is interested in Tibetan theology as the journey includes visits to historic monasteries as soon as you land in the land of Tibet. You will be escorted on a scenic tour of Lhasa which includes visits to the famed and significant monasteries like Sera and Drepung Monasteries, Potala and Norbulingka Palaces, and Jokhang Temple before beginning the walk from Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery.

This enthralling journey also through barley fields, nomadic grasslands, and small Tibetan settlements with welcoming people with a great sense of hospitality. The route leads you to some of the highest passes including Shug La (5250 m), and Chitu La (5100 m) along with Tsotup Chu Valley. 

The Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek is unquestionably one of the best experiences whether you seek Tibetan culture, religion, and spiritual side or the nature side. It is best to say that this trekking journey is a great combination and one of that breathtaking adventures where you get a chance to travel through a wilderness of ridged hills, cloud-covered monasteries atop faraway peaks, and the expansive panorama along with a profound understanding of Tibetan Buddhism only Tibet can offer. 

Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek Highlights 

  • One of the best treks in Tibet, Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek
  • The beauty of the countryside of Tibet
  • Visit the renowned Ganden monastery ruins, one of Tibet's most significant Buddhist monasteries
  • Views of lakes, valleys, alpine forests, meadows, snow-capped passes, and mountains
  • Breathtaking traditional Tibetan villages and monasteries
  • Samye Monastery, which is located on the banks of the Yarlung River 
  • A peek at nomadic groups and their flocks of sheep and yaks
  • Discover the fabled Yumulhakang castle
  • Chance to explore the famous monasteries of Lhasa including three UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek Difficulty 

Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek is considered a moderate to difficult trekking journey in Nepal that can also be conquered by beginners if physically and mentally fit. The only biggest concern for this trek in Tibet is the altitude sickness as the trekking railway from Ganden to Samye is above 3500 meters above sea level on average. 

Altitude Sickness can attack anybody despite of any experience, age, or physical fitness if you are above 3000 meters. We would be passing over two or more mountain passes over 5000 meters during this trekking journey, with Shuga La at 5250 meters and Chitu-la at 5100 meters being the two highest. Hence, we should always be aware of it. If you feel any early symptoms of altitude sickness such as losing appetite, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, dizziness, confusion, persistent headache, weakness, fatigue, heavy legs, breathlessness, breathing irregularity, etc., you are always advised to inform it to your guide as soon as possible. 

Then the guide will lead you to the lower altitude because the first thing to do is stop ascending. Also, acclimatization plays a pivotal role when traveling to higher altitudes. Hence, our itinerary includes extra days in Lhasa. On the other hand, you need to hydrate yourself continuously, eat a balanced diet, sleep properly, etc. during the high-altitude trek. Also, carrying altitude sickness medicines proscribed by the doctor could come in handy in case of any mishaps. 

Best Time to do Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek 

Tibet is best visited during the spring to autumn seasons. Similarly, the months from April to October are the finest time to do the Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek as the interval of time had fairly pleasant daytime temperatures. The skies are clear and the routes are dry and stable except on the days of rain during monsoon. Generally, the rainy season is avoided for any treks but you can do this Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek is monsoon too because the rains are not intense and normally do not fall during the daytime. July and August are the rainiest season but only receive sporadic nighttime showers which can make the nighttime temperature below freezing. Other than this challenge, everything fits perfectly for the trekking journey. Also, the mountains are at their greenest and the alpine meadows are adorned with wildflowers.

The off-season wintertime is not recommended for Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek as the weather is too chilly and windy. Similarly, snow can block the trekking route making it hard to trace them. However, if you want to experience the trek in winter and challenge the season, you should be an experienced trekker and only proceed with proper guidance and equipment. 

Permits to do Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek 

Trekkers are required to obtain the following permits to do the Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek. 

1. Tibet Travel Permit 

Tibet Travel Permit is issued by Tibet Travel Bureau (TTB) in Lhasa. It takes around 2 weeks to obtain it. You need to first confirm the Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek with an authorized travel agency like us. Then, your scanned passport copies and required documents will be submitted to TTB. After the permit is obtained by your travel agency, it will be handed to you once you arrive in Tibet. 

2. Alien’s Travel Permit

A special permit named Alien’s Travel Permit is mandatory for Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek as the journey covers some restricted areas of Tibet. The permit can be obtained once you are in Tibet after showing your original passport and Tibet Travel Permit.

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Itinerary Details

Day 1: Arrival in Lhasa
1 Hours Drive to Lhasa City from Airport
Max Altitude: 3650 M

Upon your arrival at the Gonggar Airport after a scenic flight over the Tibetan Plataea and the snow-capped Himalayas, you will be greeted by our Tibetan Representative and escorted to the designated hotel in Lhasa city which is nearly an hour drive from the airport. The remainder of the day is for rest and acclimatization as it is very important in Tibet’s high altitude. If you feel like to make a stroll, we can take a walk around Barkhor Street after enough rest. 

Meals: Dinner
Accommodation: Standard Hotel in Lhasa
Day 2: Sightseeing in Lhasa
Full Day
Max Altitude: 3650 M

After breakfast, we will visit the Potala Palace, the Winter Palace of the Dalai Lamas. It is one of the grandest palaces in the world to date with notable white and red palaces. 
Then after lunch, we will drive towards the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built by the ruler, King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to house the statue of the 12-year-old Buddha Jowo Shakyamuni. It has intricate gold, gem, and precious stone decorations.

After exploring the Jokhang temple to the fullest, we will walk through Barkhor Street, a traditional old street in Lhasa that encircles Barkhor Street. The street is considered the holy path by the locals where they make the circuit kora of Jokhang Temple in a clockwise direction. 

Meals: Breakfast
Accommodation: Standard Hotel in Lhasa
Day 3: Lhasa Exploration-II
Full Day
Max Altitude: 3650 M

Our other full-day sightseeing starts after breakfast from Drepung Monastery, which formerly had over 10,000 monks residing there and was the largest monastery in the world. Prior to the construction of the Potala Palace, it served as the Dalai Lamas' home. It was built in the 14th Century and now it is one of Tibet’s premier monastic educational institutions.

Then after lunch, we will drive back to the city and visit the most beautiful monastery in the town, Sera Monastery which was established in the fifteenth century by a student of Tsongkhapa. The monk debates in the monastery backyard are one of the major highlights of the monastery where you can observe the monks debating as a crucial component in understanding and learning Buddhism.

If time permits, we will make our visit to one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Lhasa, Norbulingka which used to be the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas. The palace consists of 374 rooms and the biggest horticulture garden in Tibet.  You will have some time in the evening to arrange anything you could need for the Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek that starts tomorrow. 

Meals: Breakfast
Accommodation: Standard Hotel in Lhasa
Day 4: Drive Lhasa to Ganden
Full Day
Max Altitude: 4500 M

After breakfast, we leave Lhasa and go for a drive to Ganden which is our trekking starting point. Ganden is 45 kilometers to the east of Lhasa and our drive along the bank of the Kyi Chu River towards Medro Gongkar. We will drive past Tibet University after crossing the Lhasa East Bridge and pass a settlement and a row of telegraph posts along the way before reaching Ganden Monastery. 

Ganden Monastery was built by Tsongkhapa in 1409 and lies at the summit of the ridge known as Wangku Ri. It is the Gelugpa sect's first monastery. We will traverse the monastery's kora (circuit) route from where we can see the breathtaking Kyichu valley.

Then we drive out from the monastery about 30 minutes to Trubshi Village we can hire some yaks to transport our camping gear. We will rest for the remainder of the day and get ready for the trek that starts the following day. 

Meals: Breakfast Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Tented Camp
Day 5: Trek to Yama Do (5-6 hrs, 17km)
5/6 Hours Walk
Max Altitude: 4600 M

Today, we set out on foot from Ganden in the direction of Yama Do village ( 17km). We will pass by numerous small nomad settlements, like Trubshi and Hepu villages. Then we will gradually ascend the slope until we can see the Shuga-la Pass (5250 M), the highest point of the hike. We will take the route through the valleys, cross the bridge across the mountain river, and then begin the ascent to the settlement of Yama Do, where we will set our camps and spend the night. 

Meals: Breakfast Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Tented Camp
Day 6: Trek to Tsotup Chu Valley via Shuga La Pass (5250m) (5-6 hrs, 10km)
5/6 Hours Walk
Max Altitude: 5050 M

Today is an exciting day as we walk past the highest point of the trek Shuga La (5250m) ( Around 10 KM Distance will be covered). Before ascending to the pass, we will take one final look at the Ganden monastery that is still visible in the distance. The pass is distinctively marked by its large monument decorated with prayer flags and yak horns. 

After a brief stop at the pass to savor the grand vistas, we make a sharp descent walking past a boulder field. The trail eventually opens into the valley and at the base of the hill, a swift mountain river can be seen flowing. We will cross the river once we get to the bottom of the hill. Up ahead in a distance the trail crosses the Tsotup Chu, a large stream with rich pastures of yaks, goats, and sheep. We continue through the valley and reach our campsite after walking for an additional 15-20 minutes. We may encounter several herders on the way today. 

Meals: Breakfast Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Tented Camp
Day 7: Trek to Herder's Camp
5/6 Hours Walk
Max Altitude: 4300 M

After breakfast, we will leave the Tsotup Chu Valley, cross the Tsotup Chu stream and walk further towards Chitu La Pass (5100m) which is the second-highest point of this Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek. Compared to the Shuga-La pass, the ascent is much simpler and shorter. We will soon arrive at the summit of Chitu La, where you may enjoy a breathtaking panorama of three lakes. On our trip down to the valley where the other two lakes are, we will pass by the first lake, which will be at the peak of the mountain.
We will first stroll alongside the lakes before descending steeply to the river and rocky valley. From this point on, we will gradually drop as the scenery begins to change. More vegetation and forests with large trees will be visible. On the way, we will see many herders with their cattle and Yaks. 

After navigating the rough area, we will come to a broad valley with two rivers. Numerous nomadic tents will soon be visible on both sides of rivers. We'll spend the night in the herders' camping spot beside the river. During our Walk will cover 14 Km.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Tented Camp
Day 8: Trek to Yamalung to Samye Valley
6/7 Hours Walk
Max Altitude: 3570 M

The journey today starts through the scrub forest, juniper bushes, and rhododendron trees on the shadier slopes. It is among the trek's most picturesque sections. After trekking for a few hours, we will arrive at Changtang village. Further walking we can see the Yarlung Tsangpo valley towards the south from where we will ascend steeply up to Yamalung Hermitage for 1 hour where there are a functioning nunnery and meditation caves. The walking track turns into a road and the valley widens as we approach Yamalung.

The trail overlooks the tributary streams cascading from the northwest to join the Samye valley. The old trade route from Lhasa to Samye via the Gokar La follows this valley. We will drive to the Samye Valley where we can enjoy the view of Hepo Ri, one of Tibet's holiest mountains. If time allows, we can visit the Samye monastery; if not, we'll go early the following day. We will spend the night at the monastery guest house or tented camp. Total Distance cover 39km.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Monastery Guest House
Day 9: Visit Samye Monastery & Drive to Tsedang
Full Day
Max Altitude: 3500 M

We will visit the Samye Monastery first thing in the morning. We will find a small red and white temple that is believed to have been built under the shade of a white sandalwood tree. It is the oldest Buddhist Monastery in Tibet which was built in the 8th century. The monastery complex is astonishingly lovely. With the main temple, Utse, standing in for Mount Meru, four continents and subcontinents, and the Sun and Moon Temples, it represents the universe. Monks use their expertise in a debating courtyard and a lovely park.
 

After spending an ample amount of time exploring the monastery, we will resume our journey toward Tsedang, the third-largest city in Tibet. On the way, we will stop by Yumbulakhang, the first fort and oldest structure in Tibet. The architecture is distinct from everything else you've seen in Tibet thus far. Before the construction of the Potala Palace, Yumbulakhang served as the first palace for Tibetans.

Then we continue onwards to today’s destination. We check in at the hotel and rest for the remainder of the day. In the evening, we can stroll around the town. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Standard Hotel in Tsedang
Day 10: Transfer to Gonggar Airport & Departure
2 Hours Drive to Airport

If time permits, we will explore Yumbulhakhang, the castle perched dramatically on a pinnacle above the valley is the oldest known dwelling in Tibet, reputedly the home of the Yarlung Kings in the morning before leaving for Gonggar Airport for the flight to your onward destination. 

Note: You can opt. for an extra day at the Yarlung Village, the valley of Tombs. The valley has some significant monuments Tandruk Monastery, a 7th-century monastery along with the Yumbulhakhang. So, if you choose to put an extra day in your itinerary, you will be transferred to the airport on the following day. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

What is included / not included

Include

  • Airport transfers on a private vehicle
  • All necessary Travel Permits to travel in Tibet
  • 3* standard category hotel accommodations in Lhasa & Tsedang 
  • Guesthouse/Tented camp accommodations during the trek 
  • All meals during the trek
  • Pack animals during the trek
  • All Camping equipment during the trek with a cook 
  • All ground transportation comfortable vehicle
  • Professional English-speaking Tibetan guide
  • All entrance fees, tickets to the attraction sites, and monasteries are outlined in the itinerary
  • First Aid Kit
  • Oxygen supply
  • Welcome/farewell dinner 
  • Applicable Government Taxes

Exclude

  • International flight fare
  • Chinese Visa (if you are traveling via Mainland China)
  • Nepal Visa (if you are traveling from Nepal) 
  • Lunch and dinner in the cities 
  • Travel Insurance
  • Medical expenses
  • Tips for guides, drivers, cooks, and porters
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, shopping, phone calls, bar bills, extra meals, etc.
  • Any extra cost occurring from Unfavorable Circumstances such as weather, road blockade, flight cancellation, etc.
  • Anything not mentioned in the Includes

Accommodation

Accommodations During Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek 

Himalayan Trekkers generally offers 3* standard category accommodations in city areas for any travel packages. So, for this Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek, during your stay in Lhasa and Tsedang, you will be spending the nights at a 3* standard category hotel on a twin/double sharing basis. However, if you want to upgrade the hotel category or want to have a single supplementary service, we can manage them for you at an additional cost and prior information. 

Once you start the trekking journey, we will be spending the nights at the tented camp on the nice and scenic campsites every night. There are monastery guesthouses in some places but spending the nights at those places could high the price of the package as we will be already renting the camping equipment on daily basis. 

Meals During Ganden to Samye Monastery Trek 

While all breakfasts are included in the package, the lunches and dinners are on your own when in cities like Lhasa and Tsedang as you will find plenty of places to dine in your favorite dishes or western, continental, Chinese or local cuisines. 

Then once the journey begins, you will be served the freshly prepared meals by the tent cooks. You could enjoy freshly cooked vegetable dishes, pasta, salads, cereal, porridge, omelet, fried or scrambled eggs with bread, Tibetan bread, fried rice, etc. If interested you can opt. for the Tibetan breakfast that includes Yak Butter Tea with Tsampa (roasted buckwheat flour). Tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are also available. Sometimes, you might get the chance to drink yak butter tea and eat Tsampa at herder’s camps if they invite you over.

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