This tour will lead you to the world’s largest Buddhist Institute, Serta Larung, and famous to the Derge Printing Press, lifetime destinations for many travelers.
Besides our visit to Serta Larung, we will explore several Buddhist monasteries from 17th and 18th centuries. We’ll also have unique opportunities to to experience the wonder of Tibetan handicrafts, as well as a home-stay, where we’ll learn home Tibetan people live day-to-day. And we will never lack for breathtaking scenery as we travel the region, whether it be the beauty of nature, or the striking variety of Tibetan architecture.
Day 1: Arrive in Chengdu
Welcome to Chengdu! This day you be warmly greeted by your driver, and guide at the airport. They will escort you to the hotel, answering questions along the way. You will also do last minute preparations for the upcoming Kham Cultural tour.
Overnight in Chengdu
Day 2: Chengdu to Dartsendo (Kangding), Drive Time: 6 hours, Elevation: 2560m / 8400ft
You will leave early this morning and head toward Dartsendo, known, in ancient times, as a famous Tibetan trade center. Now it is the capital city of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The pop is over 95,000, most of whom are Tibetans.
Overnight in Dartsendo
Day 3: Dartsendo to Drango (Luhou) Drive Time: 6 hours, Elevation: 3250m / 10,660ft
Today our destination is the pleasant Tibetan town of Drango, known as Luhou in Chinese. Along the way, we will visit one of the great sacred places for Tibetan
Buddhists, Lhaghang Monastery. It was built by King Songtsan Gampo during the 7th century. Lhagang Monastery houses the most important statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. Local Tibetans believe that this statue gives the same spiritual blessing of the one found in Lhasa. For this reason, Lhagang is an important pilgrimage destination.
Overnight in Drango
Day 4: Drango to Serta (Seda), Drive Time: 3 hours, Elevation: 3900m / 12,800ft
After breakfast, we leave for the world’s largest Buddhist institute, located at Larung Gar in Serta County. Serta Larung Gar Buddhist Institute was founded by Kenpo Jigme Phuntsok in 1980. He started in the in Lorog valley with only a few disciples. At first they practiced Buddhism in a tent. But the teacher’s fame grew, and more students gathered, and now Larung Gar has more than 40,000 Buddhist monks and nuns.
The drive along the way is quite nice. We will pass through several traditional Tibetan villages where you can see huge homes build from stone and wood.
Overnight in Serta
Day 5: Serta, Elevation: 3900m / 12800ft
In the morning we explore more of the Serta region. We will start by making a pilgrimage to the Gyutril Lhakhang (Magical Temple). Then we will make a very special visit to a sky burial site. We will explore how Tibetan people react to the death, and the rituals of funerals forloved ones. Here we will witness the sacred act of Tibetans donating their bodies to the vultures.
Overnight in Serta
Day 6: Serta—Garze (Ganzi) Distance: 4 hours Elevation: 3390m / 11,125ft
This day, as we our way to Garze, we will travel to the Donkor monastery and the beautiful Lake Kasar. Garze is a small Tibetan town is surrounded by beautiful mountains and stunning landscape. The villages, temples and monasteries here are perfect for photographers! We will visit 500 year old Garze monastery in the afternoon.
Overnight in Garze
Day 7: Garze to Dzogchen (Zhuqing), Drive Time: 5 hours, Elevation: 3800m / 12,470ft
Today’s destination is the isolated region of Dzogchen, known in Chinese as Zhuqing. Dozgchen Monastery was established in the year 1685 and is one of the 6 most influential monasteries in the Kham region of eastern Tibet. Many famous Tibetan Buddhist teachers have studied here over the past 300 years.
Overnight in Dzogchen
Day 8: Dzogchen, Elevation: 3800m / 12,470ft
We will spend a full day in Dzogchen exploring, hiking and photographing this beautiful region. Few few outsiders get to experience this place, and it is sure to be a highlight of the trip..
Overnight in Dzogchen
Day 9: Dzogchen to Derge (Dege), Drive Time: 4 hours, Elevation: 3220m / 10,565ft
After breakfast, we begin our drive to Derge, the cultural center of the Kham region. Along the way, we will stop at the spectacular lake of Yilhun Lha Tso, one of eastern Tibet’s most holy lakes. The lake is lined with hand-carved prayer stones that are more than 600 years old. From the lake, we will drive over the 5050 meter Trola Mountain Pass, which offers breathtaking views of glacier-covered mountains. We will then arrive in Derge, the cultural center of the Kham region.
Overnight in Derge
Day 10: Derge to Palpung (Babang), Drive Time: 2 hours, Elevation: 3200m / 10,500ft
In the morning, we visit Derge Barkhang Printing Press. This printing press produces a majority of the Buddhist scripture books used across Tibet. At the printing press, we will watch artisans carving scripture tablets by hand from wood blocks. After lunch, we will go to the Palpung Monastery, established in the year 1729. This monastery is well-known for the teaching of Tibetan medicine, and a traditional style of Tibetan painting known as Karma Gadru.
Overnight in Palpung
Day 11: Palpung to Dzongsar (Zongsa), Drive Time: 2 hours Elevation: 3200m / 10,500ft
Today’s destination is Dzongsar Monastery, built in the year of 746. This monastery is famous for having maintained its Tibetan philosophy teaching system from ancient times. The current lama for this monastery is a world-known teacher, His Holiness the Dzongsar Jamyang Kyentse. In the late afternoon, we visit a local handicrafts center where, if you are interested, you can buy souvenirs for your families or friends.
Overnight in Dzongsar
Day 12: Dzongsar to Pelyul (Baiyu), Drive Time: 4 hours Elevation: 3300m / 10,825ft
Our journey today will begin at Katok monastery, one from the three important Nyingma Sect monasteries of Tibet, established in 1159 by Katok Danba Deshek. It is located in a stunning place, high on a rocky mountain. After our time there, we will head for Horpo handicraft center to experience their unique crafting skill. They are especially famous for producing beautiful famous Tibetan swords. In the afternoon, we will drive to Pelyul, known in Chinese as Baiyu.
Overnight in Pelyul
Day 13: Pelyul to Garze (Ganzi), Drive Time: 6 hours, Elevation: 3390m / 11,125ft
After breakfast, we will visit Pelyul Monatery, one of the six monasteries in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Rigdzin Kunzang Sherab built this monastery in the year of 1665. Next, we will head to Yarchen Gar on our way to Garze. Yarchen Gar, built in 1985 by Khanpu Achu Rinpoche, is another major Buddhist institute, similar in importance to Larung Gar.
Overnight in Garze
Day 14: Garze to Danba, Drive Time: 6 hours, Elevation: 1800m / 5900ft
This day we will explore the unique Gyarong region, which has unique dialect, architecture, dressing, and local customs than other Tibetan areas. The region is well known for its huge, castle-like homes and tall stone watchtowers.
Overnight in Danba
Day 15: Danba to Chengdu, Drive Time: 6 hours
Our Great Kham Cultural Tour is comes to an end today as we arrive back in Chengdu and say farewell to your guides. We hope you enjoyed the tour and experiencing the rich culture of Tibet. We wish you a safe journey back to your home!