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New Tingri
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Sera Monastery
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Shigatse - Tibet

Shigatse also known as Xigatse is the second largest city in Tibet. Situated at the junction of the Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) and Nyangchu River, Shigatse literally means "fertile land". This 600 year old city was earlier the capital of Tsang province and now is the capital of Shigatse prefecture. It is an important stop between Lhasa and west Tibet for pilgrims and tourists. Shigatse has a population of over 80,000, of which 97% are Tibetan. It holds famous Tashilhunpo Monastery which is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, who is one of the two prestigious spiritual leaders in Tibet. Shigatse is fairly developed city and well connected with all major cities of Tibet by highways. Transportation in and out of Xigatse hugely depends on road travel and buses are the main mode of transportation on highways. Shigatse shows different climatic conditions in summer and winter. The summer is usually mild and wet, and brings most of the annual rainfall. Winter is cold, dry and windy. The best time to travel to this city is from May to July, when the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

Major Tourist Attractions

Shigatse has a lot to offer to the tourists with its high snow capped peaks, wonderful monasteries and colorful markets that are filled with amazing Tibetan stuff. It is one of the favorite spots of adventurers because most of the highest peaks in Tibet, including Mt. Everest, are around Shigatse. Shigatse is right place to shop original Tibetan handicraft items. It offers appealing gold and silver ware, silk covers, traditional bracelets, unique boots that become a kind of necessity during Tibet travel as these are stitched suited to Tibetan terrain. Apart from shopping and adventure, you can also enjoy number of live performances of Tibetan opera, which is a specialty of Shigatse city. The most popular site of the city, Tashilhunpo Monastery is the biggest monastery of Gelugpa (or yellow hat sect) in Tibet.

Tashilhunpo Monastery

Tashilhunpo Monastery is located at the west part of the Shigatse city and about 250 km away from the capital of Tibet Lhasa. Situated on the foot of Drolmari or Tara’s mountain, it is one of the huge Monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect) in China and the biggest Tibetan Gelugpa Buddhism monastery in back Tibet area. Standing on a whooping area of around 300,000 sq. m it is also called the Heap of Glory. It is known as a seat of the Panchen Lama who is considered to be the second most important religious leader of Tibet.  

Founded by the first Dalai Lama in the year 1447 the monastery significantly expanded by the fourth and successive Panchen Lamas. The Monastery covers an area of nearly 300,000 square meters.

The main structures found in the Monastery are The Maitreya Chapel, The Panchen Lama's Palace and The Kelsang Temple. Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchen Lama since the Fourth Panchen Lama took charge in the monastery, and there are now nearly 800 lamas. When seen from entrance the gran d building of monastery enchants the visitor with its golden roofs and white walls. The Thangka Wall built by the First Dalai Lama in 1468 is outstanding with its nine floor high structure. The wall displays the images of Buddha on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May every year following the Tibetan Lunar Calendar.


The west side of the monastery holds Maitreya Chapel, which houses the biggest statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha. The statue stands 26.2 meters (86 ft) high and is adorned with gold, copper, pearl, amber, coral, diamond and other precious stones. About nine hundred artisans handcrafted this statue in nine years. The Maitreya chapel has been divided into five floors. There is wooden staircase in the chapel that is used to visit the different floors of the chapel. One can more clearly see the statue from the upper floors of the chapel. 

In the east of the chapel lies the Stupa-tomb of the Tenth Panchen Lama. Built in 1993 and enclosed by 1,354 pounds (614 kg)  gold, 868 precious stones and 246,794 jewels, the Stupa-tomb is the most splendid and expensive mausoleum in China since the 1950s. The Panchen Lama's Palace built during the reign of the Six Panchen Lama stands nearby the Stupa-tomb, but it is not opened for visitors. To the east of the Panchen Lama's Palace lies the first stupa-tomb of Tashilhunpo. This stupa-tomb belongs to the Fourth Panchen Lama who is one of the most famous Lamas in Tibetan history. He was also the teacher of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Ornamented with gold and silver this magnificent stupa-tomb was built in 1662.  

The another significant building in Tashilhunpo is the Kelsang Temple. It is one of the oldest and biggest buildings in Tashilhunpo. It is a colossal compound. It has a Main Chanting Hall where the lamas learn the sutras and listen to the Panchen Lama's sermon. On the back end of the hall lies a 5 meters (16 ft) high statue of Sakyamuni. It is said that a part of Sakyamuni's relics was placed in it. There are two chapels situated on both sides of the Main Chanting Hall. The left one is devoted to Tara, the goddess who is believed to be the avatar of Avalokitesvara. The chapel contains the statues of White Tara (which is seated in the middle) and two Green Taras on each side. The right chapel is devoted to Maitreya Buddha. The chapel houses the statutes of Maitreya Buddha, the Avalokitesvara and Bodhisattva Manjusri. The Great Courtyard of the Kelsang Temple is used by the lamas for practice and debate. Thousands of images of Sakyamuni in different postures and expressions cover the wall around the courtyard. 

In addition to the majestic palace and gigantic statues, the Tashilhunpo Monastery also treasures distinctive murals. These murals are notified for their variety of shapes, brilliant colors and fine painting and are considered to be another masterpiece of Buddhist art. Monastery also houses some rare sutras, thangka, china and glass services of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Thus, Tashilhunpo Monastery helps you to explore the history and society of Tibet.

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