Key information: Samye Kora
- A moving kora, around Tibet's oldest monastery, near the mighty Yarlung river.
- Walk in the company of Tibetan pilgrims muttering mantras, prostrating and sometimes even crawling around the site.
- The profound spiritual importance of these places, combined with their spectacular settings, make them unforgettable places to walk and think.
- The altitude here can hurt. Be prepared.
- Walkopedia rating82
- Natural interest10
- Human interest18
- Negative points4
- Total rating82
- Note: Negs: altitude
- Length: An hour
- Maximum Altitude: 3,750m
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Samye, Tibet's oldest monastery, with a history of over 1,200 years, lies in a sandy valley to the north of the mighty Yarlung river.
The monastery is remarkable - built inside a high circular wall on a plan modelled on a mandala, a Buddhist representation of the universe. Around the magnificent central monastery, the enclosure is dotted with delightful little buildings, many with sunny courtyards filled with azaleas and geraniums. In a sun-dappled glade outside the compound, two seated monks practiced, when we were there, on enormous horns which extended across the grass in front of them: long, monotone blasts, tenor and bass. Another pair of monks accompanied them with cymbals.
The kora is interesting, winding outside the monastery walls, but the climb up Hepo Ri, a sacred hill to the east with predictably wondrous views, is not to be missed.
The hour-long ferry ride to get to Samye is wonderful, a few foreigners dotted among a crowd of pilgrims, including when we were there a group of nuns in varying states of decrepitude: a feisty old abbess who had to be helped to her feet by her slightly cowering acolytes and one shy old woman with shorn hair and an angelic (if wrinkled) face, which she hid behind her robe for most of the journey. When she ventured out to stare at her fellow travellers (how often had she been out of her nunnery in the last 40 years?), she greeted us with the traditional but increasingly rare stuck-out tongue and a grin which revealed one single tooth in an otherwise perfect set of baby's gums.
See our Monastery Koras page for detailed practical information.
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