An eight-hour drive from Lhasa, Gyantse is one of the most authentic towns in Tibet, and little-touched by Chinese influences. In the twentieth century, Gyantse, due to its location, was the site of a series of bloody battles between invading British forces and the Tibetan defenders; later, the town suffered serious devastation during the Cultural Revolution, when monks were persecuted and the prominent Pelkhor Chode Monastery was damaged.

Despite the turmoil it has faced, however, Gyantse today has retained much of its Tibetan heritage, and has recently gained attention from curious travelers seeking to experience Tibet at its most authentic. Highlights include the landmark Yamdrok Tso, a scenic lake that is among the four holy lakes of Tibet; Gyantse Dzong, a large fort overlooking the town; and the Pelkhor Chode Monastery.


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Gyantse Dzong

Gyantse is home to an impressive fort, the Gyantse Dzong, which sits on a hilltop towering over the valley and town, offering amazing views. It was famously captured by British forces in 1904 in a rare, high-altitude battle, allowing the British to proceed to Lhasa and establish trade with Tibet. Given Gyantse Dzong's commanding location, there are a plethora of opportunities for hiking and photography.

Lake Yamdrok Tso

Stop at Lake Yamdrok Tso, also known as the Scorpion Lake for its unique shape. One of the four holy lakes of Tibet, Yamdrok Tso covers a staggering 230 square miles and lies at nearly 15,000 feet above sea level. Rife with aquatic life, dotted with islets, and surrounded by fields of wildflowers, Yamdrok Tso is not only naturally stunning but an important place of pilgrimage; its waters are believed to hold powers of rejuvenation and longevity, and to bless children with intelligence.

Its small islands are home to roosting birds and, during the herding season, to flocks of sheep, ferried there by herders who leave them in peace and safety until the onset of winter. Pilgrims often wander the lake's shores,making their way along kora paths, many of which take a week to complete.

Pelkhor Chode Monastery

Spend the afternoon exploring the Pelkhor Chode Monastery, formerly home to huge populations of Gelugpa and Sakya monks. The monastery suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, but is now having a revival. The monastery is most famed for its massive Kumbum Chorten (the “100,000 Images Stupa”), which was built around 1440 and is covered in murals and frescoes, and has sets of “Buddha eyes” looking out protectively over the surrounding countryside.

Pelkhor also offers another opportunity to see pilgrims making their koras, spinning prayer wheels and reciting mantras as they circumnavigate the giant stupa. This experience offers a rare opportunity for unique insight into the rural life of Tibet. Have tea or dinner with a few of the pilgrims and hear from them about their powerfully spiritual journey.

Tea with the Locals

Visit a remote village and have tea and lunch with a local family, who will be delighted to meet you and speak with you about their way of life.

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