Tibet Valleys: the most famous valleys in Tibet
Across the entire range of the Himalayas, there are innumerable valleys and gorges that, once arrived at, can give you a sense of awe and wonder at their beauty. The longest and most beautiful mountain range in the world, these valleys only add to the intense beauty f the mountains, and enhance the traveler’s experience by contrasting the snowy wilderness of the mountains with the lush green verdant landscapes of the valleys.
Of all the many valleys throughout Tibet, there are some that stand out more than others, and which are more popular with both tourists and locals alike. Whether it is their delightful charm, their unique mystery, their beauty and remoteness that has kept them untouched for thousands of years, or the history that they contain, each has its own unique reason for being in the list of the most famous valleys in Tibet.
Located in the southern area of the plateau, the Lhasa Valley, also known as the Kyi Chu Valley, is one of the most spectacular valleys in Tibet, and not just because it is the home of the Tibetan capital. The river that flows through the valley is renowned as one of the major tributaries of the Yarlung Zangbo River, which leaves Tibet to become the famous Brahmaputra, one of the world’s longest rivers.
Enjoy the enchanting scenery of Lhasa Valley with Tibet Vista
The valley starts as a narrow convergence of three small rivers, and stretches for more than 450 kilometers to its mouth on the Yarlung Zangbo. Two thirds of the way along this vast valley lies the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, at one of the widest points of the valley. Surrounded on both sides for its entire length by the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, the valley is one of the most popular places for twitchers, and one of the main places for the migratory wildfowl that head south every winter from Siberia, including the ruddy shelduck, the black-necked crane, and a host of other species. It is also the home to many indigenous species of wild birds and fowl, which can be seen year-round in the marshy wetlands surrounding the capital city.
On the long drive from Lhasa to Gyantse, the road passes through one of Tibet’s most fascinating valleys, the Nyang-chu Valley. A wide and fertile valley that follows the course of the Nyang River, the valley is a major agricultural area in the region, its wide valley floor forming a vast plain where crops can grow in the fertile soil.
When autumn comes to Tibet, Nyang-chu valley becomes a sea of golden color
The Nyang River that flows through the valley is one of the longest tributaries of the Yarlung Zangbo, and originates far to the east near Mila Mountain in Nyingchi. With such a long valley and a wide floor, the Nyang-chu valley is home to more than 1,500 kinds of birds and wildlife, and more than 31 million square meters of woodlands and primeval forests. Along the floor of the valley are a number of small hills, of which it is said that 13 are bad luck and the homes of demons and evil spirits. To ward them off, the ancient Tibetans built a small monastery on each hilltop, and the most popular to visit are Drongtse Monastery and Tsechen Monastery.
Yarlung Tsangpo Valley
The home of the longest river in Tibet, which is the upper reaches of one of the longest rivers in the world, the Brahmaputra, the Yarlung Zangbo River Valley is a stunning area of outstanding natural beauty which includes what is now known to be the longest and deepest canyon in the world. The Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, which dwarfs the Grand Canyon of the United States, is a popular place to visit in spring and autumn, when the views of the canyon are at their best.
Taking a bird-view of Yarlung Tsangpo Valley with Yarlung Zangbo River rolling through
The valley is often referred to as the “cradle of Tibetan civilization”, and contains many temples and monasteries, including the original seat of the Tibetan Kings, which was moved to Lhasa in the 7th century by the 33rd king of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo. The Palace at Yumbulakang still stands, and is believed to be the first building in Tibet. The area is also believed to be the location of Tibet’s first agricultural field, hence the “cradle of civilization” tag.
Located in the southern area of Tibet, lying between the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Indian state of Sikkim, Yadong Valley was famed throughout Asia for its cultivation and production of tea, the Tibetan’s favorite beverage. Now, it has also become the granary of Tibet, with the moist air currents moving up from the Indian Ocean to give it a warmer climate that allows for better agriculture. With its unique position on the border with both Bhutan and India, it has seen more than its fair share of wars and history.
Stunning landscape of Yadong Valley, the granary of Tibet
The main attractions in the area are the stunning Dong Ga Monastery, the Grotto Monastery carved out of the natural caves in the cliff face, Garju Monastery, and a huge natural stone Buddha. The monasteries are filled with some of the region’s most stunning sculptures, and snow-clad mountain peaks rise up high behind the famous Kangbu hot springs. One of the most unique sights is the huge stone that sits in front of the Dong Ga monastery, which is believed to be the embodiment of Buddha himself, and is worshipped by the devout Tibetan Buddhists that live in the valley.
The valley lies in the region below the famous Nathu La Pass, the border crossing point between India and China, which is only used for the crossing of Indian pilgrims heading to Mount Kailash once a year for the Kailash Yatra. As you head down from the pass, you can see a lonely fort sitting ruined on the cliff to the west, and below it the Zongshan Fort, two great places to explore.
The best time to visit the Yadong Valley is from April to September, when the weather is at its best. Heavy snowfall often occurs in the winter months, making travel into the valley hard to impossible. From spring to autumn, the weather is way to hot, though a cooling wind blows along the valley in the summer months, making it feel a lot cooler.
Located in Dinggye County of Shigatse Prefecture, the Chentang Valley is considered a utopia for farmers and the shepherds of the Sherpa people. The warmer air that comes up from the Indian Ocean makes the climate of the valley somewhat unique, and the area is suitable for growing crops of a certain type of millet that is popular both as a local food source and for commercial sale.
Explore the local Sherpa way of life in Chengtang Valley
While the valley may be pleasant and warm in the summer months, a veil of mists covers the area in the mornings, lifting slowly as the bright sun burns it off. The rich ecosystem of the valley makes it an attractive place to visit, and the local Sherpa way of life gives you a unique insight into the lives of these remote and unique Tibetan people. There are nine Sherpa villages in the valley, and it is possible to observe their way of life closely while visiting there, a way of life that has barely changed for centuries.
The valley has several wide meadows with rivers and streams running through them, where you can often see the herds of domestic yak grazing, and there are nine hot springs, one at each Sherpa village, where you can bathe in their warm relaxing waters. May to September is the best time to visit, as the spring and autumn are short and not very warm. Winter can become extremely cold, and snow is sometimes known to block the access to the valley.
Often considered to be the most beautiful valley in Tibet for trekking, the Gama Valley lies not far from Mount Everest, in Tingri County and Dinggye County of Shigatse. Stretching for around 55 kilometers from east to west, it is one of the hardest of the major valleys to get to, as there is no road access into the valley. Yaks and horses are the only means of transportation to get you there. If you are planning on trekking Gama Valley, you need to carry everything with you before you enter, as there are no villages or settlements within the valley to buy food or other necessities.
Trekking through Gama Valley to the eastern slope of Mount Everest Base Camp
The main attraction of the valley is its unique ecosystem, that comprises of evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, interspersed with rich primeval forests that have rarely seen the footsteps of mankind. The wild mountain flowers and the diverse animal life of the valley are a huge attraction, and it is believed by many to be the best trekking region in Tibet. However, the lush green forests and verdant meadows are not the only scenery attraction in the valley. Ringed on both sides by high, snow-clad mountains, there are several ice cliffs that stretch down from the mountainsides and a number of long glaciers descending from the high Himalayan mountains. Nearby, you can see the peaks of Mount Everest, Mount Cho Oyu, and several other high mountains above 8,000 meters, and it is only a short distance to Rongbuk Monastery, the world’s highest monastery.
The valley is best trekked from April to June and September to November, when the weather is warm yet mild, and the skies are clear and sunny. Summer can be a little too wet for trekking here, and the winter turns the valley to snow and ice, making trekking impossible. Here we have prepare the ultimate Gama Valley trekking guide for your reference.
Once the route across the border to Nepal, the Zhangmu Valley was the most direct route from China to Nepal, and the westernmost end of the Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway, part of the G318 National Highway that runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu. However, since the earthquake of 2015 almost completely destroyed the border crossing and the bridge into Nepal, it has been closed to all traffic.
Zhangmu Valley, used to be the most important place providing accommodation for Tibet Nepal tourists
One of the most stunning valleys in Tibet, Zhangmu Valley was once a tourist attraction in itself, and the journey through the valley to and from Nepal was one of the highlights of the trip. Along this route you pass over the famous Tonga La Pass, from which you get one of the best views of Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in the area. At the entrance to the valley you can also see the beautiful Mount Chajiong, standing above the fields of highland barley and rape flowers.
Numerous waterfalls can be found throughout the valley, and when the green fields are in full bloom in the summer with the bright meadow flowers, there is no better time to make the journey along the Friendship Highway. There are no details yet as to when the valley will reopen, and even if it will ever reopen for tourism. For now, this stunning valley with all its beauty, remains closed to tourists.
One of the least-known areas of intense natural beauty in Tibet, the Gyirong Valley is the route from Nepal to Tibet since the destruction of the border crossing at Zhangmu. However, until the new port was named in 2017, very few people had ever even heard of the place. Lying within the borders of Gyirong County of Shigatse prefecture, this stunning valley holds many delights and thrills for tourists.
Capture the breathtaking scenery of Gyirong Valley in Tibet autumn
The journey through the valley is one of the most attractive parts of the new route to Gyirong Port and the Nepal border, with lush green meadows fringing the roads and the remnants and ruins of an ancient empire lying half-hidden in the long green grass and the now ancient forests. As you travel along the valley, towards its lower end at the Nepal border, the highest mountains of the Himalayas can be seen in the distance.
The weather in Gyirong Valley is cool and relaxing for most of the year, and even in the summer, the temperatures do not get too high to be comfortable. Rainfall can be quite heavy in the peak months of the rainy season, from July to August. For the rest of the year, it is possible to travel easily in the valley, especially in the southwestern end, as there is little snow that falls there, even in the depths of winter. However, as you head further up the valley, to altitudes exceeding 4,500 meters, winter snows are common, and can block the roads and trekking trails for months.