Shigatse Travel Guide, Tibet
The traditional capital of Tsang, Shigatse stands 3800m above sea level and is now the second largest urban center in Tibet, 340km west of Lhasa, aided greatly by the fact that this is one of the few places in the area with good transport links to and from Lhasa.
Shigatse has always been an important trade and administration center and also has political and religious significance, once being the seat of the Panchen Lama.
The town is essentially divided into two parts-the old Tibetan style area in the city and the concrete, modern Chinese part of the town. The old streets and alleys are very pleasant to wander and there are a few sights of interest to warrant a stay of a day or two.
- Tashilhunpo Monastery / 扎什伦布寺 - the home of the Panchen Lama, located on the hillside overlooking Shigatse northwest of the town. It was established in 1447 by Genden Trup, a disciple of the founder of the Gelugpa Order. Genden Trup was later named the first Dalai Lama. Later, the 5th Dalai Lama named the Abbot of Tashilhunpo as the 1st Panchen Lama, second only to the Dalai Lama. Ever since then, the title of Panchen Lama has been one and the same with the Abbot of this monastery.
This temple for the most part escaped the ravages of the Cultural Revolution and its chapels contain countless statues and mural decorated halls. Find the Chapel of Maitreya as you enter the Monastery. Inside there is a 26 meter high statue of the Maitreya Buddha which is the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. Also, the tombs (burial stupas or chorten) of most of the Panchen Lamas are housed in the Monastery. Worthy of note is the Tomb of the tenth Panchen Lama who passed away in 1989.
The most magnificent part of the Monastery is the Kelsang Temple in the northeast area of the compound. Chapels, statues and murals will enthrall you for several trips.There is just too much in this one building, from Chapels dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha to the Tara protection goddesses.
"Tashilhunpo is one of the few monasteries in Tibet that weathered the stormy seas of the Cultural Revolution relatively unscathed. It is a real pleasure to explore the busy cobbled lanes twisting around the ancient buildings - the monastery is essentially a walled town in its own right."(by Lonely Planet)
Getting there - take a walk or by pedicab from the city.
Admission Fee: Y55.
Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00(closed for lunch from 12:00 to 14:00)
1. During some important Tibetan festivals, such as Tibetan New Year and Dancing Deity Festival, you may enter the monastery for free.
2. If you want to take pictures inside the palace, please ask the lamas first.
3. It's easy to get lost in the grand palace.
- The Shalu Monastery/夏鲁寺- located 20km southeast of Shigatse, off the Shigatse-Gyantse road. Although Shalu Monastery is one of the most difficult sights in this region to visit, its distinctive architecture is worth the effort.
A monastery here was first built in the 11th Century although Shalu rose to prominence in the 14th Century when the resident abbot here was the world's foremost interpreter of Sanskrit Buddhist texts.
The architecture combined the local Tibetan style with the Chinese style of the Yuan Dynasty. The Tibetan style part of the building dates back to the 10th Century although very little of this has actually survived today. The Chinese influence is evident in the inner section of the monastery, the Serkhang, which was built in the 15th Century and has undergone major renovations in recent years. 14th Century Chinese and Nepalese murals adorn the walls.
Getting there - Take a Gyantse bound minibus from Shigatse and get off at Tsundu. The turning for Shalu is about 100m past a hill dotted with prayer flags. From here it is a one hour walk to Shalu village and monastery. Alternately, hire a jeep and driver and visit the monastery this way.
Admission Fee: Y40
Being the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse is the transportation hub for mid-Tibet and the gateway to this vast western area. The city has a well established highway system with links to most of the important parts of Tibet. The major highways linking Shigatse include the 318 National highway, the Shigatse-Yadong Highway, the Lhasa-Ali highway and the China-Nepal Highway.
From Lhasa, at the crossing of Beijing Road between Balangxue and Good Day Hotel, private minibuses to Shigatse available from 7:00am-20:00pm, fare ranges from Y38~50, 7~8hrs journey,mainly along the north route(260km, south route is 340km).
There are also pulic buses at the bus station in Lhasa with longer hours and expensive price however.
Getting away, there are regular coaches to Lhasa or Sakya and irregular ones for Yatung everyday or on alternate days, schedule and shifts depend on the number of passengers. Those who head to Lhasa need wait for the bus at the place opposite the Industrial and Commercial Bureau in Gongjuelin Road.
Buses to other places from Shigatse available at the bus station on Middle Liberty Road. Private microbuses to Gyantse, Lhatse or Lhasa are also available on road or in the west of Tashilumpo Monastery Square, scheduled from 7:30am-20: 30pm.
Travelers who head for Lhatse should wait in the west of Tashilumpo Monastery Square (06:00am-21:00pm), the buses leave when full and it is possible for them to cancel the shift due to small number of passengers.
Private coach to Gyantse or Lhatse also available outside the bus station (early morning-15:00pm).
The most popular way to travel in the region is to hire a 6-seat land cruiser.
- Y3~3.5/km for imported jeeps
- Y3.5~4.5/km for luxurious jeeps
- Y5.5~6.5/km for a 20-seat coach
- Y7~8/km for a 40-seat coach
Car rental is available at the China International Travel Service near the Shigatse Hotel, FYI,
Rongbuk Monastery: Y3,400, 3 days
Rongbuk Monastery plus frontier of Nepal: Y3,800(Y4,400 for a round trip)
Tenzin Hotel - the most popular budget hotel in Shigatse,which enjoys a good location in the middle of town, about twenty minutes walk from the bus station. Opposite the hotel is a market, a good place to go looking for souvenirs.
It provides dorm beds and standard double rooms. Prices range from Y25/bed and Y60~100/dbl. Hot water available 24 hours. Some room offers a great view of the Tashilhunpo Monastery.
The Tenzin Restaurant on the ground floor is one of the best restaurants in town, providing a wide range of food and delicious Sichuan cuisine. There is a pleasant veranda here too, an excellent place to rest with a cold beer and to bask in the sun.
Address:Tomzigang Road, Rikazhe