Ganden to Samye Trek
Ganden to Samye Tibet trekking route is regarded as one of the best hikes in the world. It is a fulfilling and pleasant pilgrimage trip with much to offer, an overview of Tibetan Buddhism and religious culture, blue holy lakes, high snowy passes and mountains, lush alpine meadows, sporadic herders’ camp, tranquil Tibetan villages, time-honored sacred sites, finally culminating at the barren, desert-like surroundings near the Samye Monastery. If you travel to Tibet, we highly recommend you to try this trek, which will make your Tibet tour more interesting.
Along the high passes, you will find secluded valleys — only inhabited by high-altitude nomads and their yaks. This is also a well-used pilgrimage route for Tibetans for it is convenient to combine a visit to Ganden (the principal monastery of the Gelugpa) with a reasonably direct but hard walk to Samye (Tibet's first monastery).
Though it is an attractive route, do not underestimate the trek. Starting at 4180m (13,940 feet) at Ganden Monastery, passing Shogu-La Pass at 5250m (17,224ft) and heading toward the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye Monastery 3540m (11,600ft), the trek is a challenge and the altitude gains are higher than what is often recommended. Only those with experience hiking and camping in higher-elevation wildernesses should attempt this trek unsupported. If you’re coming straight from Lhasa, you should spend at least one night at Ganden Monastery to acclimatize.
The wonderful experience from Ganden to Samye
Route: Ganden to Samye
Distance: 80km trekking
Duration: 4-5 Days
Permits: Tibet Entry Permit, Alien's Travel Permit
Start:Ganden Monastery (4180m)
End: Samye Monasetry (3540m)
Highest Point:Shogu-La Pass (5630m)
Difficulty: Medium to difficult
Food:Cooked/Brought by youself
80km trek from Ganden to Samye
As one of the most popular trekking tours in Tibet, Ganden to Samye trek is a scenic route offering beautiful views of lakes, valleys, alpine forests and meadows, snowy passes and mountains, nomad tents, herds of sheep and yaks, ancient Tibetan villages and monasteries. The most famous tourist sites on the trail are Ganden Monastery and Samye Monastery.
One of the largest and earliest monastery in Tibet: Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery is one of the earliest and largest Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, famous for its Buddha Painting Unfolding Festival. It was founded in the early 15th century by Tsong Khapa, a well-known Tibetan religious philosopher. 45km away Lhasa City, the monastery is located on Wangbur Mountain, on the southern bank of Lhasa River. Its significance as a religious, artistic, political and cultural relic led to it being preserved by the National Key Cultural Relic Preservation scheme in 1961, and is now known as being one of the 'Three Great Temples', together with the Sera Monastery and the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa.
After arriving at Ganden, spend at least a half day to explore the attractions in and around the ancient monastery, home to the earliest monastery of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Although the monastery is mostly in ruins, it is a fascinating place. Pilgrims arrive in Ganden from all over Tibet to walk around the site of the monastery, and one can observe the rituals they perform on this ‘Kora’ around the monastery.
The first Buddhist monastery built in Tibet: Samye Monastery
Samye Monatery is regarded as the first Buddhist Temple in Tibet. Samye Monastery was founded in 779 by King Trisong Detsen and located in the quiet piedmont area of north bank of Yarlung Zangpo River. Samye is also the first complete with the three Buddhist jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It has become a top destination for Tibetan Buddhists who will walk thousands of miles for weeks to finish their pilgrimage to this monastery.
Traditional Tibetan Villages is on the trail from Ganden to Samye. You will passes through several traditional Tibetan villages where people lead a very simple life, even still practice ancient culture and customs. If you are interested in Tibetan culture, these villages offer you a great chance to get a close view of Tibetan people’s traditional daily life.
Interesting outside experience
You need to continually go up hill and down dale along the trekking route between Ganden Monastery and Samye Monastery. For example, Zhukar La (Shug-la) 5250m (17,224ft) and Chetur La (Chitu-la) 5100m (16,732ft) are two highest passes you have to across. They are connected by a very high valley. Sometimes, you can get different views and meet different weather on the two sides of the hills. It is very interesting to see the sceneries of unusual beauty of these unpopulated areas.
The best time for the trek in Tibet is from mid-May to mid- October when it is warmer. Summer can be wet, especially in July and August which are simultaneously the peak season and rainy season, but the mountains are at their greenest and wildflowers spangle the alpine meadows. But temperatures can fall well below freezing at night. Sometimes, snow may trap you in your tent.
It may be too cold and windy to do this tour in winter. Barring heavy snow, it’s also possible for those with a lot of trekking experience and the right gear to do this trek in the colder months. But we do not recommend you to do it.
Lhasa to Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery is also located in the west of Lhasa, around 45km away from Lhasa city. Some buses on Jokhang Temple Square go to this monastery. They start at 07:00 every morning and return at 14:00. The journey takes about two hours in total and the round trip ticket costs CNY20. You can also hire a car to take you to Ganden Monastery.
Samye to Tsedang
It is convenient to travel from Samye to Tsedang, the third largest city in Tibet. You can take the Samye ferry crossing the Yarlung Zangpo River to the south bank and then take a bus or car to Tsedang. This is the most popular way.
Or you can a bus to Tsedang along the north bank of the Yarlung Zangpo River and the across the Yarlung Zangpo Bridge to Tsedang. The road along the north bank is sand road, but it is flat and scenic.
On the way from Samye to Tsedang, you can view the beautiful sights of Yarlung Zangpo River. The water in the river is blue like gems.
The main transitable road and the Samye Monastery are at the different sides the Yarlung Zangpo River, respectively on the south and north banks of the river. Though there is a sand road on the north bank leading to Samye Monastery, the road condition becomes terrible in rainy season. Most of the time, tourists go to visit Samye Monastery prefer take a ferry across the Yanglung Zangpo River.
The Yarlung Zangpo River is a very wide (probably 2 miles) and very shallow river. There are lots of sandbars in the river and the boat drivers are very careful not to hit sandbars. They take quite a winding route across the river. It takes about one hour to across the wide river, but it is very interesting and pleasant.
Ganden Monatery Guest House
In the past, there were no hostels near the Ganden Monastery. For the convenience of pilgrims and tourists, a guest house was built close to the monastery in 2007. The guest house provides double rooms, four-bed rooms and dorm beds. A dorm bed also costs around 15CNY (about 2.5USD). It also offers televisions, heating, 24-hour hot water service, etc. After full acclimation in Lhasa, tourists can enjoy a shower here.
When trekking from Ganden to Samye, you need to camp at remote areas without hotels. Camping will make your trek more interesting. After arrival at the camp site, you can set up a bonfire, cook some hot food, and then sit around the fire and enjoy your dinner, chat with your travel partners and guide, or just lie down, watch stars twinkling in the sky, carefully hear the sound of different insects. Just enjoy the excellent moment without modernization and overtime work.
High Altitude Sickness
The average altitude of the trekking trail from Ganden to Samye is over 3,500m. Altitude sickness is the biggest risk for travelling in Tibet, also for this trekking tour in Tibet. You need to climb over two mountain passes over 5,000m. One is Zhukar La (Shug-la) at 5250m; the other is Chetur La (Chitu-la) at 5100m.
The initial symptoms of altitude sickness are as follows: losing appetite, nausea, vomiting, insomnia/sleeplessness, dizziness, confusion, persistent headache, weakness, fatigue, heavy legs, breathlessness and breathing irregularity, etc.
When you suffer from altitude sickness, please consider stopping ascending; otherwise more serious problems may occur and even cause death sometimes within just a few hours. The only remedy for the Altitude Sickness is to walk to a lower altitude.
Attacking from Animals
Tibet is home to almost 800 species of wild animals. Some 125 species are under state protection and more than 200 species are native to the Tibetan Plateau. It is advised to respect the wildlife and to maintain a safe and legal distance with the animals when trekking in the wild, which will keep you from attacking. But our reputable and professional guides can help you to cover your trip smoothly. You may be bit by insects during trekking in Tibet, so take some medicine along with you.
Besides, beware of the dogs when you are in Tibet, in the countryside and pastoral areas in particular. Nearly every family in Tibet has a maneating Tibetan Mastiff for housekeeping. If you are bitten by a Tibetan Mastiff, its owner will not hold any responsibility for you. Actually the dogs usually do not attack people who do not offend them. So just stay far away from them and do not play with them, you will be OK.
You might want to ride the trek yak or horse during trekking. You'd better move forward on the back of the horse or yak while it is lead by its owner. Do not ride it away from its owner or run with it crazily because there is a lack of measures for protecting you. You might get hurt for any carelessness.
Clothing and Equipment
Be aware that weather conditions and terrain vary significantly from one region, or even from one trail to another. Seasonal changes can significantly alter any track. These differences influence the way you dress and the equipment you carry. If you book Tibet tour from Tibet travel org, we can help you to prepare all the necessaries.
Most trekkers choose to trek in Tibet during summer. When they arrive in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, they may feel very hot. But the temperature in mountain areas of Tibet is different. It may be very cold even in day time. At night, the temperature will drop to below zero. Besides, the weather may change greatly in a day. Thus, warm clothes are necessary for trekking in Tibet in summer. Even it is hot, you are not advisable to wear shorts for you might be bitten by insects in the wild. A raincoat and a rain boot are also recommended.
As you will spend at least two nights in a tent, you need camp wares. It is very cold and wet at night, a warm sleeping bag and a moisture-proof pad will help you enjoy good nights during the trekking trip.
It is not a pleasant thought to carry your luggage by yourself, especially up the passes beyond Hepu Village where you should be able to rent yaks to do the work for you. Villagers charge around Y35 to Y40 per yak per day, plus the same again for the salary of the yak herder. Usually, herders feed themselves and provide their own camping gear, but make this clear before you set out. A yak can carry two or three backpacks, depending on their weight. Small groups of two or three people are more likely to end up with a horse than a yak, as single yaks are notoriously difficult to manage. Pack animals generally only go as far as Nyango, the start of the dirt road, three and half hours’ walk from Samye Monastery.
Stage one:Gandent to Yama Do(5-6 hours, 17km, 300m ascent, 450 descent)
Your trek begins from the parking lot at the base of Ganden Monastery. It’s often possible to find a pack animal or porter here to help carry your bags. Our experienced Tibetan tour guide can help you to hire a proper trek animal for we have specialized in organizing all kinds of Tibet tours for over ten years. After 20 minutes the Ganden kora branches off to the right; keep ascending straight to a saddle. Traversing the west side of the ridge from the saddle, you briefly get views of Trubshi village below and the Kyi-chu Valley to the west.
The trail dips briefly into a gully and reaches a spur surmounted by a cairn after 45 minutes. The trail now descends towards Hepu village. It is a tranquil village with around 30 houses. There’s good camping to the south and west of the village. From Hepu, the trail climbs towards the Shuga-la. It takes over 3 hours to reach the high pass. Walk west downhill from the village towards a bridge crossing the Tashi-chu, near the confluence with another stream. Near the confluence are good camp sites.
Walking for around one hour from Hepu, you will reach Ani Pagong. Then the trail steadily climbs for one hour through marshy meadows to Yama Do that offers extensive camp sites suitable for larger groups.
Stage two:Yamma Do to Tsotuo-chu Valley (5-7 hours, 10km, 1000m ascent, 450m descent)
Above Yama Do the valley’s watercourse splits into three branches. Follow the central (southern) branch, not the southeast or southwest branches. One hour past Yama Do 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. In another 45 minutes you enter a wet alpine basin studded with tussock grass. Remain on the east side of the valley as it bends to the left. You have to negotiate boulders and lumpy ground along the final steep climb to the pass. The Shuga-la (5250m) cannot be seen until you’re virtually on top of it.
The route continues over the Shuga-la and to start with descends sharply through a boulder field. The views of the valley and the lake at its head are one of the highlights of the trek. Cross the large Tsotup-chu (4907m), which flows through the valley and keep an eye out for the herders’ dogs.
An alternative route to Samye via the Gampa-la (5050m) follows the main branch of the Tsotup-chu phow ast a couple of lakes to the pass. South of the Gampa-la the trail plunges into a gorge, crisscrossing the stream that flows down from it. These fords may pose problems during summer rains or when completely frozen.
Enjoy yourselves in the large Tsotuo-chu Valley
Stage three: Tsotup-chu Valley to Herders'Camps; (5 hours, 14km, 300m ascent, 400m descent)
From the Tsotup-chu ford, the main watercourse flows from the southeast and a minor tributary enters from the southwest. Follow this tributary steeply up for about 30 minutes until you reach a large basin. Stay on the west (right) side of the basin and turn into the first sideiti valley opening on the right.
Follow this broad valley, which soon arcs south to the Chitu-la (5210m). Move to the west side of the pass to find the trail down and to circumvent a sheer rock wall on its south flank. A short descent will bring you into a basin with three small lakes. The trail skirts the west side of the first lake and then crosses to the eastern shores of the second two.
After about one hour’s hiking, you will come to a flat and a seasonal herders’ camp on the east side of the valley, good for camping.
Stage Four & Five: Herder's Camps to Samye Monastery(10 hours, 39km,1200m descent)
The trail becomes wide and easy to follow as it traces a course down the east side of the valley to another stream entering from the east side of the main valley. After walking through a series of forests and meadows, look south to the distant mountains; this is the range on the far side of the Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. Forty-five minutes down the valley at a prominent bend in the valley is the turn-off for the Yamalung Hermitage. A small shop run by the nuns of Yamalung sells soft drinks, beer and instant noodles.From the turn-off to Yamalung the walking trail becomes a motorable road and the valley much wider. In 15 minutes you will reach a bridge; the road now sticks to the west (right) side of the valley all the way to Samye, a three and half-hour walk away. You can find several villages. You should be able to find a tractor here to take you all the way down to Samye.
Keep moving, you can see a hill in the middle of the mouth of the Samye Valley. This is Hepo Ri, one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains. You are getting close to the Samye Monastery. After several days’ hiking, you finally arrive at the first temple of Tibet, Samye Monastery. Samye Monastery is a hot tourist destination on the list of touring Tibet.