Xiahe is a remote town that remains untouched by mass tourism. The area is known as "small Tibet" and it is easy to see why, as the spectacular Labrang monastery is located here. The second-largest monastery in the whole of China, it is an area of huge cultural importance and is a sight not to be missed. The local culture and jaw-dropping beauty of this secluded region add to its allure and popular activities include hiking and camping trips.
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To bike around Xiahe and to the surrounding villages and towns is to embark on a cultural journey through this historic region. By visiting this rarely-seen part of Tibet, you can witness the Tibetan folk culture in full splendour and watch the locals ride horses and yaks across the land, donning their traditional dress.
Camping in these parts of Asia is the best way to truly connect with the area’s natural beauty and rustic charm. The peaceful surroundings and tranquil ambiance of Xiahe provides an experience like none other. Experience how the nomads have lived for years, camping on these sparse, open grasslands and sleep under the magnificently-brilliant Milky Way, which shines especially bright in this part of the world.
A trek in the nearby hills provides some spectacular views over the town and snowcapped mountains that line the horizon. It is not uncommon to meet the odd wandering yak that may cross your path and you may also encounter nomad tents on the vast grasslands, where extremely hospitable locals may invite you in for a traditional nomadic tea with yak’s milk.
The famous Labrang monastery, set afoot Phoenix mountain, is a timeless building with a distinctive gold roof and thousands of statues of Buddha dotted around. It would be easy to spend hours wandering the alleys between prayer halls and living quarters, but visitors may just want to sit and take in the incredible ambiance, where the monks adorn traditional robes and the smell of yak butter makes for a surreal experience.
Take a trip by car to explore this enchanting region and visit places that lie strictly off the beaten path. A pleasant two-and-a-half hour drive down a number of unpaved roads will lead you to a Bon sect, or traditional Tibetan, monastery. Following on from this, you will encounter a small, rustic village, nestled in the heart of this region, where the ancient ruins of a city wall can be seen that date back 1,400 years. Another refreshing sight along this route is the meditation cave of the 10th Panchen Lama. The site itself is inspiring, with breathtaking surroundings made up of picturesque rural landscapes.
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