Ganden Kora

  • © William Mackesy
  • The Lhasa Valley far below - © William Mackesy
  • Pilgrims in the Lhasa valley - © William Mackesy
  • The road to Ganden - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: Ganden Kora

    • Outstanding kora sacred circumambulation around one of Tibet's greatest monasteries, on its mountaintop high above the Lhasa valley.
      • 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: One hour
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,500m
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
The Lhasa Valley far below - © William Mackesy


Hidden high on a mountaintop above the Lhasa River, east of Tibet's capital, sits the great Ganden Monastery, rising phoenix-like from its own ashes. Its setting is extraordinary: nestled around a semicircular bowl at the head of a small side valley between a hill and rough, lonely mountains, the monastery faces down its valley, across to high pasture, dotted with yaks, a small, poor village far below.


Ganden is hundreds of feet above the Lhasa valley. It is being busily restored, a moving testament to the depth of Tibetan spirit, although it is hard for the non-specialist to know what is faithful and what is Chinese-influenced pastiche.


Ganden was one of Tibets greatest monasteries (and mother monastery of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) order), until it was destroyed by Cultural Revolution shellfire. (Interesting parallel between the Taliban destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas and Maoists of Ganden both extreme fundamentalists, both deliberately by shellfire.) I still remember seeing as a child a photograph of the ruins of great Ganden: there was nothing left but grey rubble on a barren mountain slope. I knew nothing of Cultural Revolutions, Tibet, or even China, but have never forgotten it.


The kora starts at a fissure, in the ridgetop and one of the densest, brightest assemblies of prayer flags I have ever seen, an overwhelming display of vivid reds, blues, greens, yellows and whites, each printed with a prayer which is repeatedly dispatched heavenward as the flag flutters in the breeze.


Beyond the flags, the full glory of the Lhasa valley opens up, a huge view, cliffs and slopes falling away to wide bottom, with the river rushing between boulders, patches of tough grazing and little barley fields. Hamlets nestle among stunted trees, brightly fading in autumn. Behind, the scree and barren dun hillsides, all crags, of the high, empty plateau.


The path edges above precipices and sidles under cliffs, although most of the time it cuts across steep grassy slopes. As it swings away from the Lhasa valley, it passes through a notch in the craggy ridge. The path is now on the lee side of the ridge, and small trees crowd the hillside.


A superb trek into the barren hills of the Tibetan plateau, across to Samya monastery, starts from this monastery. Details to follow.


See our Monastery Koras page for detailed practical information.


of this walk

Hidden high on a 4,500m mountaintop above the Lhasa River, some 40km eastward of Lhasa, capital of Tibet, sits the great Ganden Monastry, rising phoenix-like from its own ashes.


Ganden’s setting is extraordinary: nestled around a semicircular bowl at the head of a small side-valley, the monastery faces down its valley, across a poor little village far below to high pasture, dotted with yaks, on the.....


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.

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.

The road to Ganden - ©William Mackesy

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

© William Mackesy...

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

Our partners Responsible Travel 

have carefully chosen expeditions 

and holidays around the world.    

Great walking, and much else...

Walkopedia Sponsor

See their site for inspiring ideas.

For £100 off your trip, contact them quoting WW50

All material on this website is © Walkopedia Ltd 2008 - 2019, unless specified otherwise.