Ganden Samye Trekking
Ganden Samye trekking Tsotuo-chu Valley

Ganden Samye Trekking in one of the most popular trek routes in Tibet tours. For trekkers, you can see typical Tibetan plateau views and two famous Tibetan monasteries, Ganden Monastery and Samye Monastery.

Ganden Monastery

Ganden Monastery is built by Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa Sect (Yellow Sect). So people call it the ancestral monastery of Gelugpa. It is 45km away from Lhasa and locates on Wangbur Mountain. Also, it is one of the three biggest monasteries in Lhasa, together with Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery.

Tibetan Ganden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

Samye Monastery

As for Samye Monastery, it is the earliest monastery built in Tibet. So it has a very long history. Located in the north bank of Yarlung Zangbo River, it is built by King Trisong Detsen in 779. At that time, the King believed in Buddhism, so he invited Padmasambhava to promote Buddhism in Tibet. And he decided to build a monastery for Guru Rinpoche. However, it took him twelve years to finish the construction. When it was finished, the King was so surprised that he shouted “Samye”, meaning “Amazing” in Tibetan. Thus, the monastery got it name as “Samye Monastery”.

Samye Monastery
Samye Monastery

Overview of Ganden Samye Trekking

The total distance from Ganden to Samye trekking is 80km. And it usually takes four to five days to finish the trek. Seriously speaking, it is not an easy trek. So you must get fully acclimatized in advance and make full preparation. Since the altitude is high, please bring some AMS medicine and protect your skin from strong sunlight. The best seasons from the trek is from May to October because the weather is fine. But in summer, it will be rainy. So you should watch out for your steps. Also, you can come in colder months with much trekking experience.


Ganden Samye Trekking Route:

Stage One of Ganden Samye Trekking

Ganden Monastery (4,180m) to Yama Do (4,456m), 5-6 hours, 17km

After a full acclimatization in Ganden Monastery, our trek begins. First, we will head south along Angkor Ri, the highest point of Ganden kora. Then after about 50 minutes’ walk, you can see Samadro village below and a saddle. After that, we will head south and approach to Shuga-la (5,250m). Traversing the west side of ridge, you can view Trubshi village and Kyi-chu Valley. Then the trail dips into a gully and reaches a spur. Now the trail is descending to Hepu (4,284m) village. Hepu is a good place for trekkers to camp. So you can spend one night here. From Hepu, the trail ascends. After one hour, you will reach Ani Pagong, a narrow bottleneck in the valley. From there, you will climb for another one hour through marshy meadows until reaching Yama Do.

Ganden Samye trekking green meadows
Ganden Samye trekking green meadows


Stage Two of Ganden Samye Trekking

Yama Do (4,456m) to Tsotup-chu Valley (4,907m), 5-7 hours, 10km

Above Yama Do, there are three branches. And we will follow the central branch. Our route follows the bottom of the valley and head straight up to the pass. After about two hours trek, we will enter an alpine basin with tall grass. From the basin, you still need to walk about one and a half hours to reach Shuga-la. But you cannot see the pass in advance until you actually arrive there. Then the route descends steeply through a boulder field. The trail is marked by cairns on the left side. So you need to pay attention to the marks. Then when you arrive at the bottom, you have to go back to the valley. Along the way, the views of the valley are the highlights of the trek. After half an hour, we will arrive at Tsotup-chu and camp near the river.

Ganden Samye trekking Tsotuo-chu Valley
Ganden Samye trekking Tsotuo-chu Valley


Stage Three of Ganden Samye Trekking

Tsotup-chu Valley (4,907m) to Herders’ Camps, 5 hours, 14km

From Tsotup-chu Valley, we will follow a tributary flowing from the southwest and go up for 30 minutes. Then we will reach a large basin with good views of Lake Palang Tsodu below. Keep the west side and turn into the first side valley on the right. Then you will pass a large group of camp site, where you may choose to camp with good acclimatization. The trail will lead Chitu-la (5,210m) though the valley. And you can see the pass from the distance. Keep going on the west side of the pass and there is a trail down to a rock wall. There you can find herders’ camps. There are many herders’ camps and you can choose your favorite camping spot.

Ganden to Samye trekking hills
Ganden Samye trekking hills
Stage Four & Stage Five of Ganden Samye Trekking

Herders’ Camp to Samye Monastery (3,630m), 10 hours, 39km

The trail is now easy to follow because it traces down the east side of the valley. Keep walking for one hour through thickening forest and you will reach a stream flowing from the east side. Then the next three-hour trek will provide you the most delightful views of the entire trek. You can see very high trees and shrubs and rhododendrons on the shady slopes. The flowers will blossom in Spring and Summer. Then after one hour’s walk, you will see a shrine called Gen Do (4,180m). Pass the shrine and after one hour, you can see Changtang village.


Then take a 45 minutes’ walk down the valley until you find Yamalung Hermitage on the cliff. People say that Guru Rinpoche once meditated here and obtained empowerment from Amitayus. But you still need another 45 minutes’ climb to the hermitage. From the turn-off of the hermitage, the trail becomes easy. And you will reach a bridge after 15 minutes’ walk. From there, the trail will keep to the west side of the valley until arriving at Samye. But it takes about three and a half hour to get there.


First, you will come to Nyango village after 20 minutes’ walk. And there are some shops near the village. Then after a 30 minutes’ walk, you will enter Wango village. And with another one hour’s trek, you can see a hill in the middle of the mouth of Samye Valley. That is Hepo Ri, the place Guru Rinpoche conquered the demons. So it is one of the most sacred mountains of Tibet. There are vast land of fields and wood down the Samye Valley. And with half an hour, you can get to Samye Monastery, the earliest monastery in Tibet.

Hepo Ri, the sacred mountain, during ganden samye trekking
Hepo Ri, the sacred mountain


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Helen Jiao