The Best Meditation Places in Tibet
In this article, we explore the best meditation places in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhist monks have been practicing meditation for centuries. Meditation is an essential part of studying Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, it is also beneficial for anyone. No wonder meditation is becoming increasingly more popular as people experience it’s positive effects on everyday life and well being.
Tibet has a long history of the development of Buddhism, and many profound teachers and lamas were staying in long meditation retreats. Nowadays, you can still visit many of these incredible places. If you are interested in meditation and curious to see places for meditation retreats and spend some quiet moments there, you will find information in this article. The most important meditation places are associated with Padma Sambhava, Atisha, Milarepa, and Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo among others.
TIPS FOR MEDITATING IN TIBET
We listed the best places for meditation in an order or remoteness and distance from Lhasa.
ANI TSAMKHONG NUNNERY (LHASA)
Although Lhasa is a busy capital, you can find some serene places to enjoy moments of calmness. One of the great places to meditate in Lhasa is Tsamkhong nunnery in the heart of Old Town. The site is famous from the 7th century when Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo meditated in a natural cave at this site. He was reciting prayers to pacify the dangers from the flood of the Lhasa River. The nunnery name Tsamkhung means “meditation cave”.
If you wish to visit the nunnery, you can do it when traveling in Lhasa. Since most of the travelers are staying in the Old Town in Lhasa, you can easily walk to the nunnery. You can walk to the nunnery in the afternoon after arriving in Tibet, before scheduled tours in Lhasa or on the last day before departing from Lhasa. If you visit in the morning, you can see nuns chanting in the Assembly hall.
PABONGKA MONASTERY (LHASA)
Pabongka is a great place to visit to get away from crowds and explore the historic Buddhist site. It is situated in the outskirts of Lhasa, about 10 km from the Old Town.
Pabongka was established in the 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the Lhasa region. At the same time, it is an important meditation center in Lhasa. Tibetan King Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche, and Tibet’s first seven monks all meditated here.
The meditation cave is open for visitors. You can visit the cave and spend some time meditating there. The monastery is also worth visiting. There are several temples in the complex and a tea house if you need to take a break. If you are visiting Pabongka on a day tour, you can also add a short hike to the nearby Chupsang nunnery. The hike is easy and in a way you will have a distant view of Lhasa.
SERA MONASTERY HERMITAGE (LHASA)
There are several small monasteries and temples included in Sera Hermitage. They are scattered on the mountain slope above the Sera Monastery. One of the most famous is Sera Utse located almost above Sera Monastery. You can see the yellow building perching on top of the mountain. Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat order of Tibetan Buddhism, established Sera Utse retreat. There is a meditation cave inside the monastery associated with him. Monastery buildings were destroyed in Cultural Revolution. The reconstruction started in Sera Utse a few years ago.
DRAK YERPA MEDITATION CAVES
The Hermitage site is located about 30km away from Lhasa. The road takes you to the North from Kyuchu (Lhasa) River through the mountain ranges. Drakyerpa is also one of the holiest cave retreats in Central Tibet and a great place to meditate in Tibet. The history of the hermitage goes back to the 7th century when Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo meditated in one of the caves there. This magnificent site attracted many Buddhist practitioners throughout centuries. Among the most prominent masters are Guru Rinpoche and Atisha, who spent 12 years in Tibet. There are many caves nested on the mountain slope and several chapels.
It is best to visit Drak Yerpa in a one day tour to explore the site and spend time in one of the caves meditating. Since the altitude of Drak Yerpa is 4,400 meters at the bottom of the site, you should visit it after acclimatizing to high altitude in Lhasa.
Ganden is an impressive monastery sitting on top of the amphitheater-shaped mountain peak about 40km from Lhasa. Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat sect, established the monastery in 1419. The complex is one of the largest in Central Tibet. We recommend taking a splendid walk around the monastery, called high kora. You will enjoy spectacular views of surrounding valleys and mountains in a distance.
Tsongkhapa meditated in the cave in the monastery area. Nowadays, monks built walls around the cave. There are many quiet and scenic places in the complex and on the route around it where you can relax and meditate.
You can visit Ganden on a day tour from Lhasa or combine it with visiting Drak Yerpa.
Shugseb nunnery is situated on a mountain above 4,430 meters and the complex is located about 65 km away from Lhasa in a beautiful and peaceful mountain basin. The history of Shugsheb started with yogini Machik Labdron who meditated in the caves of the present day nunnery site. The first retreat was established here later, by Gyargom Tsultrim Senge, the founder of the Shugsheb Kagyu sect of Buddhism. Starting from the 14th century, Shugsheb was an important Nyingma center for nuns. Shugsheb Jetsunma, the female incarnation of Shugsheb is one of the highest reincarnate lamas in Tibet. If you want to visit the meditation cave then you have to get ready for one hour hike.
Above Shugsheb nunnery is Gangri Tokar or the White Skull Mountain. The most important site there is the cave Orgyen Dzong. In the 14th century a Dzogchen lama Longchenpa meditated in this cave. Since that time, it has attracted many pilgrims. Nowadays, there is a small temple built around the cave.
SAMYE MONASTERY AND CHIMPU HERMITAGE SITE
The history of the region is closely related with the Indian master Padma Sambhava. In the 8th century, Tibetan king Trisong Detsen invited him to help establish Buddhism in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche, as Tibetans call him, meditated in many of the caves in the region. One of the most famous and important is the Chimpu Hermitage site.
Chimpu is one of the best known meditation sites in Tibet. There is an active nunnery. You will find several meditation caves in the nunnery complex. More caves are on the hill above the nunnery. Buddhist practitioners, yogis and yoginis stay in meditation retreats in these caves. If you decide to hike up the mountain and visit temples on the higher reaches, you can see some of these caves. There are several Guru Rinpoche’s footprints in the rocks. Drakman Keutsang, one of the most important caves, is on the upper level of the mountain.
Samye is the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. The shape of the monastery complex resembles mandala. There is a three storey Utse temple in the center of it, representing Mount Meru. Around it are temples representing continents, subcontinents, the Sun and the Moon. Four large stupas of different color stand at four corners of the complex. There is a wall surrounding the monastery with 1008 small stupas on it. After exploring Samye monastery, you can find a quiet place for meditation inside the complex/. There are some trees and you can relax in their shade or spend time in one the smaller and quieter chapels.
Yemalung is a nice nunnery located on top of the mountain about 20km from Samye. The history of Yemalung is also closely related with Padma Sambhava, who meditated in the caves there. The main temple of the complex Drupuk Lhakhang is built around one of the Guru Rinpoche’s meditation caves. To visit the temple, you will need to hike up the mountain (about 1 hour). Nowadays, there is a staircase leading there. There are small chapels scattered on the mountain slope and several meditation caves where some practitioners are staying.
It is the first meditation cave of Padma Sambhava in Tibet. The cave is located near Tsedang high up in the mountain. The only way to reach it is by a strenuous several hours long hike.
This is another meditation cave in the Yarlung Valley region associated with Padma Sambhava. Drak Yangzom is located inside the mountain. To access it you have to first climb up the mountain, following a path. After that you will need to go up the wooden ladder to the opening in the mountain. From there, the narrow opening will take you inside the mountain. The route requires some climbing on the rocks. Once you are inside the mountain, you will see some large chambers where sometimes Tibetans perform a special dance. Further down is a small nunnery still inside the mountain. It is certainly one of the most unusual and spectacular places in Tibet. Unfortunately, currently it is closed for foreign visitors.
Rongpuk is situated at the Everest Base Camp. It is the highest monastery on the planet at 5,050 meters above sea level. Guru Rinpoche meditated in Rongbuk’s retreat cave in the 8th century. It is the world’s highest meditation site and one of the most interesting places to visit in the area. However, since 2019 the area has been closed for all tourists to preserve the environment of the region. We can still visit the Rongbuk monastery and enjoy the magnificent view on Everest from it.
Darkar Takso is situated on the way to Nepal border and it is founded by Milarepa in the 10th century. He retreated in that cave for long time and the cave is on the steep hill side, now a days, people build stairs all the way to the cave but still it will take around 40-50 minutes to get their. If you want to visit their on the way to Nepal border then you have to discuss with your trip advisor and guide.
KAILASH MANASAROVAR REGION
Mount Kailash is the sacred mountain for four religions and thousands of people visit it every year. For Buddhist practitioners, Kailash region’s history is related to Milarepa.
Since Mount Kailash is located in the remote Western part of Tibet at a high altitude, the best way to visit it is by traveling from Lhasa on a 12-15 days tour. It is a very scenic route visiting highlights of Central and Western Tibet, historical, religious and natural sights.
Trekking around Kailash typically takes 3 days and you can see many sacred places on the trekking route. You can prepare for this one of a lifetime adventure, following our advice:
COMPLETE GUIDE: PREPARE FOR MOUNT KAILASH TOUR
All you need to know to get ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Information about required documents, ways to travel, the best season, what to wear and pack, how to prepare physically and what to expect on your journey.
CHIU MONASTERY AND MANASAROVAR LAKE
Chiu monastery is located on the West shore of lake Manasarovar on a mountain. From the monastery, there is a magnificent view on the sacred lake. The meditation cave at the heart of the monastery was used by Guru Rinpoche. In the 8th century he spent 7 days meditating there. The cave is in the mountain that represents Sangtok Pelri, the holy mountain in Tibetan Buddhism. When you visit the cave, you can spend some time there meditating.
Another great option is to stay on the shore of the sacred Manasarovar lake and meditate there. Many visitors enjoy these quiet moments by the magnificent lake. You can relax, watch many of the birds flying above the lake, and meditate.
DIRA PHUK MONASTERY
The monastery is located to the North from Mount Kailash with an incredible view on the Northside of the mountain. The monastery is built around the retreat cave of the yogin Gotsangpa. He was one of Milarepa’s disciples. Gotsangpa stayed in a retreat in a cave of the present-day monastery from 1213 to 1217. He first discovered the kora route around the sacred mountain and wrote the first guidebook about Mount Kailash.
ZUTUL PUK MONASTERY
Zutrul Puk monastery is located on the East side of Mount Kailash. The center of the monastery is a meditation cave associated with Milarepa. Around the monastery you will see many mani stones with carved and painted prayers. Outside you will also see a large rock. According to the legends, Milarepa placed it there himself using his enormous powers. You will reach this monastery at the end of the second day trek around sacred Mount Kailash. When you reach Zutrul Puk you can visit inside and enjoy your meditation.
10 DAYS MEDITATION TOUR
On this tour you will experience Tibetan culture, visit incredible landmarks and see the natural beauty of Tibet. At the same time, we will travel to the most peaceful and special places where the greatest Buddhist Lamas have been meditating for years.
We will spend time in the meditation caves, away from the busy world, make stops by the most impressive natural sightseeing spots, and, of course, visit the most important monastic centers, including Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
8 DAYS LHASA TO EVEREST TOUR
A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok Lake and Karola glaciers.
15 DAYS MOUNT KAILASH PILGRIMAGE TOUR
One of our most popular group tours, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and going to Mount Kailash for three-day trekking around this sacred mountain. During this tour, we visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse monastery and Kumbum stupa, Mount Everest, Lake Manasarovar, Mount Kailash, and much more.
5 DAYS LHASA TOUR VISITING GANDEN
During this private tour, you will visit the two most famous sites in Lhasa included in the UNESCO World Heritage list and the three most important monasteries of Gelug Sect. After arriving in Lhasa and acclimatizing on the first day, you will visit Potala Palace, the residence of the Dalai Lamas, and the 7th century Jokhang Temple. On the next day, you will visit Sera and Drepung monasteries in Lhasa. On the following day, we will drive outside of Lhasa to visit Ganden Monastery and walk the high kora around it to enjoy the views.