Alpine Explore Nepal
Himalayan of Nepal

Tibet - Ganden to Samye Trek - 12 Days:

One of the amazing trekking trials in central Tibet that connects two legendry monasteries across 5250 meter high pass

This tour is not "just" another trek it is also an insight deep into Tibetan history and culture. We spend 3 nights in Lhasa, staying right in the centre of the old city. This will allow both plenty of time for acclimatisation 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.

This demanding trek has emerged as most popular in the U region. 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 only way to

Trip Facts
Trip length: 12 Days
Grade: Soft adventure trek
Starts in: Lhasa
Ends in: Kathmandu
Group size: Maximum 12
Accommodation: Hotel and camping
Transportation: 4WD Land cruiser with support truck
Maximum Altitude: 5250m

Outline Itinerery

Day 01: Arrive Lhasa
Day 02: Sightseeing in Lhasa
Day 03: Sightseeing in Lhasa
Day 04: Free day in Lhasa
Day 05: Drive to Ganden
Day 06: Trek to Yama Do
Day 07: Trek to Tsotup Chu Valley
Day 08: Trek to Herder's Camp
Day 09: Trek to Wango
Day 10: Trek to Samye, Drive to Tsetang
Day 11: Explore Yarlung Valley
Day 12: Drive to Gongkar and Depart

Detail Itinerery

Day 1: Arrive Lhasa
After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a further 2 hour drive by Landcruiser jeep to Lhasa where we will check in to the Hotel Kyichu or Dhood Gu. It's advisable to rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa's altitude.

Day 02: Sightseeing in Lhasa
Today will be spent visiting several of Lhasa's many monasteries in the company of a guide and interpreter. One of these is the Sera Monastery, one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet. Within its white-washed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. After lunch we'll visit the Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, as well as the Jokhang Temple. This temple is possibly the most sacred shrine in Tibet and there is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. Surrounding the Jokhang is the Barkor - a maze of narrow cobbled streets which is the central market of Lhasa.

Day 03: Sightseeing in Lhasa
This morning we will visit the Potala Palace which dominates the city of Lhasa. A spectacular building, it contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as numerous grand state rooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century. A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe- inspiring day. Founded in the 14th century, this monastery was once the largest in the world. with a population of around 10,000 monks. These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.

Day 04: Free day in Lhasa
A final day in Lhasa for acclimatisation. This is a day at leisure in which we are free to explore further, revisit a favourite monastery or simply sit in a café overlooking the Barkor and watch the pilgrims as they circumambulate the Jokhang, stopping regularly to peruse the merchandise at the stalls lining the route.

There is also the option of an additional tour to places such as the Tibetan Medical Centre, Ganden Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery, but this will incur extra costs.

Day 05: Drive to Ganden (4500m)
We arrive at Ganden early in the day; it is only a 40 kilometre drive from Lhasa. We will spend the rest of that day exploring and acclimatising. Ganden was the first Gelugpa monastery and has remained the main seat of the order ever since. Of all the great monasteries of Tibet, it is Ganden that suffered most at the hands of the red guards.

Ganden is an interesting place to wander aimlessly about in. The sheer ochre walls of many of the buildings make great backdrops for photographs. Don't miss the kora around Ganden! Hardly 5 minutes goes by without groups of 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 06: Trek to Yama Do (5 hours)
We start out following the well trodden trail heading south along the side of Angor Ri, the highest point on the Ganden kora .The trail gradually ascends for 1 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 Hotel or the Shandong Mansion.

Day 07: Trek 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 08: Trek 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 09: Trek 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 10: Trek to Samye (2 Hours), Drive to Tsetang
From the lower end of Pisha, a hill can be seen in the middle of the mouth of the Samye valley. 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 Budhied 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 11: 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 Budhial 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 12: Drive to Gongkar and Depart
Morning drive [96 km.] to the airport for the onwards flight to your next destination.

 The following information will allow you to better plan your budget for tours or treks. A range of costs is given. These costs are dependant on:
  • The mix of Touring and/or general Trekking,
  • The remoteness of the areas visited,
  • The number of guides or porters required,
  • The standard of accommodation required (if there is a choice), 
  • The type of ground transport used,
  • The length of your visit, and
  • The size of your group.

Depending on group size the costs of treks and tours range from:
1 to 3 pax     US$ 88 to 163  P/p per night.
4 to 8 pax     US$ 78 to 148  P/p per night
9 to 14 pax.  US$ 75 to 135 P/p per night.
15 to 20 and above US$ 60 to 110 P/p per night
Single supplement US$ 40 to 70 per night.

Note: The itinerary and cost for Peak climbing, Mountaineering, Tibet, Bhutan and India tours and trek are conditional apply.

Notwithstanding the costs shown above, we can tailor tours to suit almost any budget. Feel free to email us for more information.
Note: One tour leader will be free of cost for tours with 15 or more paying guests only. 

Children's bellow three years is free if sharing with their parents. And need to pay if they are participating on the trekking, and above three to nine year children half of the price.

Cost Includes: Accommodation in 3 to 4 star hotels in the cites as your choice, basic accommodation in a lodge or tea house or camping (depending on your itinerary and choice) during treks, guides and porters on treks, all land transfers by private vehicle, 3 meals a day on treks, all jungle safaris, all sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all necessary entry fees, permits and airport transfers.
Cost Excludes: Personal expenses, domestic air tickets, airport tax, drinks (soft drink, mineral water and alcoholic beverages and hot-shower on the trek), personal insurance, and extra cost due to natural calamities or accidents outside of our control.

Remarks: The cost of the trip determines with the services included during the trip so that it might be varies with the services, hotel and transfer of your wish.

Please note that our guides speak the following English languages and if required we will provide your language spiking guide on extra cost.

Note: Please contact for more information and prices


Contact Information:

Alpine Explore Nepal
P.O. Box: 4546, Kathmandu, Nepal
+977 1 4700714 / 4700175 / 4701974
Fax: +977 -1 - 4700970

Skype Address: explore.alpine
MSN Messanger: explorealpine
Yahoo Messanger:explorealpine

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Our Guest Says

18 April 2000

This was my third trek in Nepal, having visited the Annapurna Region in 1995 and with Bharat and Dave in the beautiful and wildlife-filled Langstang Valley in1998. Bharat's company "Explore Alpine Adventure"....
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