Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery Trek


Cam Honan overlooking the valley below Ganden Monastery.

Distance:  49.7 miles (80 km)

Avg.Time:  4 days

Start / Finish:

  • Public transport is available to both monasteries from Lhasa.

Season:  May – October

Maps / Info:

  • For all of my multi-day walks in Tibet, I used the trekking notes and maps contained in the following two books: Gary McCue’s Trekking in Tibet (1999) & the Tibet Lonely Planet guide.
  • All supplies should be brought from Lhasa.
  • If you are fit, acclimatised and have good route-finding skills, there is no need to hire a porter or guide.


Route / Conditions:

  • The Ganden to Samye route crosses two passes of over 5000m. If this is your first trek in Tibet, you should plan to spend at least a few days acclimatizing in Lhasa (3490m) before setting out (see Altitude in HEALTH & SAFETY). A night or two at the atmospheric Ganden Monastery (4500m) is also a good idea .
  • Unless you are invited in for some Yak butter tea, it’s advisable to give Nomad encampments along the route a wide birth. They are invariably guarded by Tibetan mastiffs, a breed of dog known for its aggressive behaviour when confronted with strangers. Have some rocks at the ready if the need should arise (see Animal Encounters in HEALTH & SAFETY).

  • Although there is nothing in the way of signposts or the like, route finding is not overly difficult. Pay attention to your notes/map, consult your compass regularly (you don’t want to go up the wrong valley) and don’t be shy about asking locals for directions if you are unsure. Keep that Tibetan phrasebook handy!
  • Water sources are relatively frequent throughout the trek. Purify or treat all water.



  • Drink at least 4 litres per day. Because of the cooler temperatures, one of the most common mistakes trekkers make at these altitudes is not drinking enough water. Indeed, as the initial symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) are quite similar to those of dehydration, people often make the mistake of assuming they have AMS, when in actual fact they are simply dehydrated.



  • I highly recommend staying the night at Ganden monastery before setting out on your walk. Magnificently situated high above the Kyi-Chu valley, it enjoys incredible views and has a short, but fascinating kora around the monastery’s boundaries.
  • You will need to carry a quality tent, capable of withstanding storms and high winds.
  • Do not pitch your tent too close to close to nomad encampments for reasons discussed above (i.e. dogs).



  • If the weather is good and you are well and truly acclimatised, there is a very scenic camping spot (space for one or two tents) on top of Chitu la pass. Note that it can get quite windy, so be sure to have your tent well guyed out before calling it a night.


  • This trek is a wonderful mixture of natural, cultural and spiritual elements.
  • Gorgeous scenery from start to finish. Easy access from Lhasa. Highly recommended.