Tsurphu Kora

  • The kora and hermitage - © William Mackesy
  • Prayer flags across the road - © William Mackesy
  • The road to Tsurphu - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: Tsurphu Kora

    • Outstanding kora sacred circumambulation around one of Tibets greatest monasteries, nestled in a valley north-west of Lhasa.
      • 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 rating

  • Walkopedia rating91
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest18
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points4
  • Total rating91
  • Note: Negs: altitude

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 5,000m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Prayer flags across the road - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Tsurphu, founded in 1180, is the mother monastery of the Karmapa (Black Hat) branch of the Kagyupa order. It was the seat of the Karmapa Lama, Tibet's third most senior monk, until the current Karmapa fled across the Himalayas in the winter of 1999-2000. (See William Mackesy's account of meeting the Karmapa lama)

 

Tsurphu is perched at 4,480m (nearly 15,000 feet) up a beautiful valley, some 70km north-west of Lhasa, beneath crags speckled with precarious meditation retreats. A stream rushes between brilliant green banks and boulders, below prayer flag streamers which cross the narrow valley.

 

The monastery is a more tightly knit group of buildings than its grand equivalents, but impressive nonetheless. It was trashed in the Cultural Revolution and much was in ruins when we were there. Much restoration has been done but it still felt a bit melancholy, and is reportedly more so since the Karmapa fled.

 

The kora path clambers perilously among the rocks and cliffs up to 150m above the monastery complex, passing meditation retreats and paintings. The views of the valley nestling its precious charge beneath a spiders web of prayer flags are entrancing.

 

A superb trek into the barren hills of the Tibetan plateau, across to Yangpachen, starts from here. 

See our Monastery Koras page for detailed practical information.

 

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

We journeyed out to Tsurphu Monastery for an audience with the Karmapa, Tibet's third most important Lama. He is 17th leader of the Karmapa sect and a living reincarnation of the Buddha. Until recently, he was the only one of the three senior Lamas resident in Tibet but, in early January, he fled Tibet, making a miserable, dangerous journey over the high Himalayas at the worst time of year,.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

© William Mackesy

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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© William Mackesy...
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