Gyirong Valley, A Secret Garden in Tibet
Tucked away from the rest of the world, the valley of Gyirong is one of the last great bastions of exploration available to those who wish to venture into true Tibet. Gyirong valley’s skies look down upon an area almost untouched by man, yet vast and beautiful in its natural splendor. At night, those fields in turn their eyes towards the sky and witness a thousand stars make their way across it: the milky way.
Gyirong Valley is, without a doubt, a true gem of a place for those who love nature. Tibet is a beautiful place with a fascinating culture, and travelling here is a unique experience, yet don’t expect as much help as you would get from more standard tourist destinations. If you’re thinking of heading to Gyirong valley, make sure to find a guide or Tibet tour group to help get you navigate this land of natural splendor.
A Geography of Gyirong Valley
Gyirong is located very close to Nepal. If you’ve ever known anyone who has scaled Mount Everest from Nepal, then they most likely have travelled through Gyirong in order to get there. It makes sense, because Gyirong used to be a huge trade port through which China and Nepal would exchange goods. Now, the two countries are once again trying to re-institute that.
Gyirong used to be a huge trade port through which China and Nepal would exchange goods
As the deepest of the five mid-Himalayas Valleys, Gyirong valley is 500 km from the city of Xigaze, and involves a 12 hour trip through mountain passes, twisting descents, and rough pathways. The trip is not easy, but is truly is worth it.
Gyirong Valley is higher than you might think
In the south, the valley is only 1700 meters high, yet as you travel further northwards, it gradually increases in height over the course of 100 km, eventually ending up at 7000 meters high. This is higher than you might think, and means that you need to make sure to keep yourself in check to ensure you don’t end up suffering from altitude sickness.
The Weather of Gyirong Valley
Like the rest of Tibet, the weather in Gyirong valley can change suddenly. Whilst it is the deepest of the mid-Himalayas valleys, and is given a huge temperature advantage from its natural valley wall protection, it is still susceptible to the weather of Tibet. High altitudes mean that whilst you might find yourself too cold at the start of the day, halfway through it, the sun’s heat will start to take its toll.
The weather of Gyirong Valley is almost always wet and humid
Whilst there is a winter in the valley it tends to be short and rainy. Winter months can find themselves as cold as -10 ℃, yet highs can reach as far as 18 ℃. The rest of the year tends to be more akin to spring, with the Valley’s connection to the Indian Ocean giving it a subtropical climate at lower altitudes. It is, however, almost always wet and humid.
A History of Gyirong Valley
Records mention Gyirong Valley as far back as AD 658, yet to this day, little is known about this mysterious valley by most. Only some who have ventured to this rare and (almost hidden) location know about the splendor it holds. Hidden away from the rest of the world, the valley seems like a place reserved for those who want to find mystery and explore Tibet’s ancient secrets.
Gyirong Valley seems like a place for those who want to find mystery and explore Tibet’s ancient secrets
Whilst the nearby Gyirong port is known as a large trade route between China and Nepal, Gyirong Valley hasn’t found itself as well-known to outsiders. Yet the area is steeped in history and throughout the land you can find many different historical and fascinating relics.
The Ruins of the Gongtang Kingdom
Some of the most interesting of these are the ruins of the Gongtang kingdom. From the time of the 11th century AD, the kingdom of Tibet was divided into several different factions. In the area of Gyirong, that faction was known as the Gongtang kingdom. They ruled for more than 600 years before they eventually fell into ruin, leaving behind some of Gyirong’s most impressive and almost complete ruins.
Heading to what was once the Gongtang Kingdom’s Palace, you’ll find four remaining sections. The palace had been built by hand. A collection of natural stones and soil used to build the structure. Within the ancient city, an old temple known as Dolma Lhakhang still stands. Visit it to see a rare glimpse of an ancient people whom time forgot. Make sure to pack appropriately for trekking through ruins though.
Beautiful Gyirong Valley and its Unique Fauna and Flora
Besides the previously mentioned ruins of the Gongtang Kingdom, there are many places within this lush and inviting valley to explore and visit. However, possibly the most beautiful of them all is simply the valley itself. As a great hiking location, Gyirong Valley gives you access to a piece of the world which has been hidden away for centuries. A place where hiking through its wilderness will lead to you finding and discovering new and interesting wildlife.
Flowers in Gyirong Valley
Keep an eye out for the blood red Herba Rhodiolae, the huge Ganoderma mushrooms, or the tiny Cordyceps which stick out of the floor. The plant life here is unique, strange and – in some cases – unlike anything you will have seen before.
Nitsun is a small village located in the Gyirong valley. Translating to ‘seat’ in Tibetan, the place is seen as a ‘holy place blessed by divinities’. It’s truly beautiful and offers some incredibly panoramas of the Gyirong Valley. This is particularly true of Tiebi Peak and the snow mountain Rawobanba. Make sure to pass through, it’s an area where the people are just as interesting as the landscapes behind them.
Villagers of Nitsun will greet you warmly and offer you some of their local food to try
The Village is actually made up of many smaller ‘villages’ and between them you’ll find farmland aplenty. Between working and relaxing, villagers will greet you warmly and offer you some of their local food to try.
Where to Stay and When
The best time to head to Gyirong valley is in the summer months between June and September. The valley is in full bloom, with some of the most beautiful sights it offers taking place. Heading here in winter is also possible, yet the trip will most likely not be as spectacular.
The best time to head to Gyirong valley is in the summer months between June and September
Head into Nitsun village and you’ll find yourself immersed in the local way of life. It’s a great place to stay, and only will give you access to some incredible Gyirong Valley views. You’ll probably need help securing a place to stay here, though. There are only 400 people living in the village.
You’ll find yourself immersed in the local way of life here in Nitsun village
If you don’t have that kind of help, then you can always try somewhere a little further afield. The small town of Zongga is only 20 km from the valley, although it’s quiet and small. A little larger, the town of Gyirong 73 km away. It’s advisable to check with your travel consultant before heading into the region as to what type of accommodation options are available.
Travel Tips Gyirong Port
Gyirong port was supposed to open in June 2016 after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal which made it impossible to pass via this route. The port is primarily intended for trade and the movement of resources to and from Nepal. However, there are also hopes that it would help lead to a tourism boom between Tibet and Nepal. Unfortunately, due to the debris flow, it had to be delayed and is now expected to open later this year. It seems that the road to Gyirong Port has been restored, yet it’s still quite unsafe and not really viable for full use.
When Gyirong Port fully opens up, it will be a useful mean for travelling between Lhasa and Kathmandu. If you’re thinking of making the journey, be careful about altitude changes. You should be OK if travelling from Lhasa to Kathmandu. However, if going from Kathmandu to Gyirong port, expect the altitude to increase a lot. Check for more information about Lhasa and Kathmandu overland tour here.