Outside Nyalam lies Milarepa’s Cave, named for and dedicated to the great 11th-century Tibetan Buddhist philosopher. Overlooking the hidden valley of Lapchi Gang, the cave offers picturesque views of the surrounding countryside. Within the cave itself stands a shrine to Milarepa, containing icons of the sage, as well as a holy handprint. The adjacent monastery houses seven monks, two of whom serve as guards.
From Tingri, another highly scenic eight-hour drive takes you past Nyalam, an ancient trading outpost, to Zhangmu near the Nepal border. The route offers stunning views of both Mount Everest and Mount Shishapangma; at 26,289 feet (8,012 meters), Shishapangma is the 14th-highest peak in the world, and the last of the 8,000 meter peaks to be scaled by man.
Stop en route to explore Sakya, a small town centered around its main attraction, the imposing Sakya Monastery. After Tibet was absorbed as a fiefdom of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, Sakya became the capital of Tibet. Today, remnants of Mongol influence can still be seen in the architecture of Sakya’s remaining southern monastery – including a giant wooden pillar, reputedly a gift from Kublai Khan. In addition, the temple’s many relics and murals are a vivid testament to the long history of Tibetan Buddhism in Sakya.
Drive approximately eight hours from Shigatse to Tingri, along the way crossing the nearly 15,000-foot Tsuo La pass and the 17,000-foot Lhakpa La pass.