Lasa Shi, China

Hike the Ganden Kora

2.5 Miles Total - Loop Trail

Originally added by John Maurizi

Hike an extensive Kora above Ganden Monastery. Wonderful views of the valley and colorful assortment of prayer flags.

Ganden Monastery is one of the three major Buddhist university's in Tibet.  Many monks study here and there is no shortage of Tibetans making a pilgrimage to the monastery. Ganden sits on the side of a mountain, laid out is crescent shape.  This is the only Kora that I have done where the path leaves the immediate exterior wall of the monastery and ascends a mountain that overlooks the surrounding valley and temples. This is a steep hike.  It doesn't help that you will be above 14,000 feet. It is a good idea to spend 3 to 5 days in Lhasa before you attempt this Kora.  It will help adjusting to the altitude. 

Start by walking away from the monastery then up the grassy hill to the right. This will lead to a path where you will begin to ascend a grassy slope. This grass slope is covered with old prayer flags popular with pilgrims. At the highest point of the upper Kora is several small peaks with incense alters and many prayer flags tied from one peak to the other. The hill side is completely littered with prayer flags and pieces of prayer paper. It is a common practice to purchase a small bundle of these prayer papers and throw them into the wind.  Tibetans believe the wind carry's the prayers on the paper off into the universe. During my last visit to this Kora, an amazing gust of wind drew up all the prayer notes while I was on the summit and swirled them around in the same place for nearly ten minutes. It was like a tornado standing still. I will never forget it and I was lucky enough to capture it on video.

I can relate to all my Leave No Trace friends as seeing this is clearing against the ethics in which they stand for.  As an LNT trainer, I was torn at first but putting this action into context and that it is a local religious process, I came to accept it and hope others will understand. Or, I guess, you just have to be in the moment.

The Kora continues along this ridge to the right continuing your clockwise walk.  The trail ascends and descends several small craggy points, all the while you will have the monastery in view to the right.  You begin to descend toward an outer wall and passing through the upper temples until you are along a rocky path with grass slopes to the left.  Several Yaks can usually be seen here grazing. Follow the path around the back of Ganden to a point where you can see a stone path back into the monastery.  It doesn't clearly take you to the starting point but you can work you way down and it is easily found.

When I first hiked this Kora, independent travel was permitted.  For all my subsequent visits, independent travel no longer exists in Tibet.  Talk with the guide service you hire before arriving in Tibet to add this to your itinerary. The guide may or may not accompany you on this upper Kora. 

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