Tibetan Holy Monasteries and Temples

Visiting Tibetan Sacred Places - The Holy Monasteries and Temples

Tibet is a wonderful destination for that once in a lifetime trip. You are likely to have limited time on your hands, so it pays to do some homework regarding the various sights.

Depending on the particular Tibet tour, the sights you’ll get to enjoy are going to be different. If you are especially interested in sites of religious significance, it’s a smart idea to make sure that you opt for a tour that covers most of them.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore the places you could visit in Tibet. But the particular approach we take means focusing on the holy monasteries and temples on the Plateau.

After reading this, you are able to pick the best tour for satisfying your curiosity in religious sites.

#1: Ganden Monastery

Located at an altitude of 3,800 meters, Ganden Monastery belongs to the family of the Three Great Temples. This monastery complex comprises of over 50 unique buildings. These structures include various chapels, pagodas, and shrines throughout the premises.

Ganden Monastery in Tibet
Photo by Richard Mortel (June 2018) https://flic.kr/p/29ytC7r

Ganden Monastery is the place for Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival. This fascinating event is held on the 25th lunar day of the 10th lunar month according to the Tibetan calendar. During the night, the whole monastery is lit up with the help of countless butter lamps.

#2: Jokhang Monastery

Jokhang Temple (or Monastery) is the holiest place for Tibetan pilgrims. This stunning piece of architecture and Tibet’s spiritual center is located in Lhasa Old Town. Jokhang Temple belongs to the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.

If you had a chance to visit only one monastery in Tibet, then undoubtedly this should be your top choice. You are able to witness many Buddhist activities carried out in the temple. Also, views from the platform and rooftop are stunning, to say the least!

#3: Drepung Monastery

Another member of the Three Great Temples, Drepung Monastery used to be the largest of its kind in Tibet. During the 15th century, approximately ten thousand monks lived behind its walls.

This monastery located in the western part of Lhasa has been the residence for the first five Dalai Lamas. Then it stopped housing Dalai Lamas after the fifth one ordered the construction of the famous Potala Palace.

#4: Rongbuk Monastery

Would you like to visit the highest temple in the world? Standing at a whopping 4,980 meters, Rongbuk Monastery is very close to the Everest Base Camp. In fact, it’s only 8 kilometers away, making it another great place to view the majestic peak.

View on Mt Everest from Rongbuk Monastery
View on Mt. Everest from Rongbuk Monastery

Although Rongbuk has experienced great destruction, you are still able to explore several buildings. And there is even an annual festival called Saka Dawa that is held in its courtyard.

#5: Sera Monastery

Sera Monastery Monk Practises
Photo by Mondo79 (2016) https://flic.kr/p/P7AiWT

The third member of the Great Three Temples, Sera Monastery is located in the northern part of Lhasa. The practice of Buddhism debates forms a notable highlight for this temple.


Every day, except on Sundays and during some special events, monks gather in Sera’s courtyard to debate and discuss topics related to Buddhism. Usually, this activity takes place between 3 pm and 5 pm.

#6: Palkhor Monastery

Lhasa hosts a huge share of Tibet’s monasteries and temples. However, here is another monastery outside Lhasa that you could visit. Palkhor (also called Palcho) Monastery is one of the few monasteries that has three Tibetan Buddhist sects in the same building.

Gelug School, Kagyu School, and Sakya School are all represented under the roof of this temple in Gyantse. Also, you can marvel at the Kumbum Stupa erected in Palkhor Monastery. It’s a unique stupa that towers over the monks at a noble height of 32 meters.

#7: Samye Monastery

Visit Samye Monastery that was built in AD 762.

Without a doubt, Samye is a very special temple as it claims the title of the first official Buddhist monastery in all of Tibet.

Over a thousand years of continuous Buddhist activities have made Samye monastery one of the top monastic sights outside Lhasa city limits (in Tsedang city). Fun fact to remember when you take in the architectural beauty: Samye is built on the basis of Buddhist descriptions of the universe.

In a nutshell: Tibet Holy Monasteries and Temples

Touring Tibet exposes you to a wild variety of religious sights, including enchanting monasteries and beautiful temples. Here are the top holy monasteries and temples we recommend visiting in Tibet:

– Drepung
– Ganden
– Jokhang
– Palkhor
– Rongbuk
– Samye
– Sera

There are plenty more holy sights to see and experience in Tibet. Should you wish to focus on monasteries and temples in Tibet, opting for a 6 Day Tibet Golden Route Tour is a smart choice.

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