Kham 2018 - Insight Tours

3rd - 21st August 2018:
Pilgrimage to Sacred Sites in East Tibet
Information & Bookings

Pilgrimage to Important Sacred Power Places
in Kham, Eastern Tibet 2018

Join us for a unique tour of sacred places in eastern Tibet, including: the iron bridge made by the celebrated Mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo, the monasteries of Dzogchen, Galenting and Derge, Adzom Gar, the Nyarong valley and the retreat place and monastery of Nyala Pema Duddul, who realised rainbow body. We will also visit Qingcheng mountain, where Taoism is said to have been founded.


From: 3rd - 21st August 2018

Trip Duration: 19 days 19 nights

Starting: Chengdu, China

Finishing: Chengdu, China

Trip Grading: Regular itinerary, moderate walking

Accommodation: Hotels

Trip’s cost: 3000US$ per person (on a two person sharing basis)

Single room supplement: 700us$




Places we will visit:

Baoguang Temple, Chengdu

Baoguang temple
Baoguang temple

The Baoguang Temple (lit. Temple of Light) is located just outside Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. The temple was founded in the Tang Dynasty and is one of China's most important Buddhist temples.

The temple's white pagoda dates from the 8th century and leans gently towards Bodhgaya, a posture it took after being built and said to be a sign of its holiness. The saying goes that after visiting the pagoda one's wishes became true. Baoguang temple is also known for its beautiful traditional architecture and the refined paintings it contains.

Pilgrims also visit the famous Arhat Hall where you can find 500 different arhats, each with his own unique posture and colourful expressions. The Arhat Hall is considered the most popular attraction in the Baoguang Temple because of a practice called 'Counting Arhats' where the visitor first chooses his favourite Arhat. From that statue one starts walking and counting statues equal to the years of one’s life. The Arhat that one ends up with leads to a divination card giving predictions for the coming year. The temple site also houses a stupa with important relics of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, including part of his skull and teeth which were donated by the Emperor of China.

Outside the temple one can find numerous Taoist fortune tellers, renowned for their accurate readings, who may offer useful advice on many aspects of life. They also create personal horoscopes based on traditional astrological calculations.

Luding Bridge, Dartsedo

Luding Bridge
Luding Bridge

Luding Bridge, on the way to Dartsedo is an important cultural artifact. It was constructed by terton Thangtong Gyalpo (1361-1485) who travelled extensively in China, Tibet and Bhutan, building numerous temples and iron bridges, as well as founding monasteries in Derge and elsewhere. The bridge has an important historical significance in modern day Chinese revolutionary history connected with Mao Zedong`s Long March and the Chinese civil war.

Thangtong Gyalpo was a colourful and unconventional figure, who from the very beginning of his life was cloaked in mystery. It is reported that the great yogi spent sixty years in his mother’s womb contemplating for the well-being of sentient beings. To benefit all beings in a practical way he constructed suspension bridges made from iron chains to allow pilgrims safe and easy access to sacred sites.

To turn his vision to reality he had to study metallurgy and engineering, and needed to raise funds to purchase the iron ore as well as paying for labour costs. To obtain the necessary funds he brought his many creative talents into play and established Tibet’s first opera.

The troupe would travel the country performing operas that would teach the Buddha Dharma. His life`s work, that included important medical studies, was influential for the development of modern day religious and secular Tibetan culture. He has been called 'the Tibetan Leonardo Da Vinci' by scholars of Tibet.

Luding bridge is a typical example of Thangtong Gyalpo's iron suspension bridge and is said to have never been repaired since its construction. It is still in use today and on our way to Tibet we will walk cross it with the roaring river under our feet.

Dartsedo (Kangding)

Dartsedo couple in shop
Dartsedo couple in shop

Dartsedo, (Kanding in Chinese) is the Sìchuānese gateway between the Chinese and Tibetan world. In Tibetan Dartsedo means ‘river confluence’, and the town is nestled in a deep river valley, with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Here we will encounter the first elements of Tibetan culture in the food and the local dress. Dartsedo has long been an important trading centre between Tibetans and Han Chinese.

Following the arrival of the Chinese princesses, Wengchen and Jingchen, in Imperial Tibet, the Tibetans soon realised that drinking tea helped combat the cold and dryness found at high altitude, as well as compensating a little for the absence of fruit and vegetables in the Tibetan diet. For centuries, Tibetan nomads and traders would venture to Dartsedo to sell their produce and to buy Chinese tea. Tea was sold in bricks and loaded onto yaks that would transport it to every corner of the vast Tibetan plateau. Tibetan tea differs from most teas around the rest of the world; in fact yak butter and salt are added, making it a very nutritious brew. In Kangding we will have our first authentic Tibetan meal and those who are curious may want to try the tea.

Dorje Drak Monastery


Dorje Drak Monastery was founded near Lhasa in the 16th century. The monastery was destroyed first in 1718 by the Mongols and again during the Cultural Revolution in the middle of the 20th century. A modern structure has been rebuilt since then. The monastery was one of the Six Great Nyingma Monasteries in Tibet.

The site we shall visit is one of central Tibet’s branches of the Dorje Drak monastery. Important monasteries often had branches in different locations and this particular one is located in the south side of Dartsedo. This monastery was severely damaged in 1959; however, the large statue of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and the Jokhang in the assembly hall were miraculously spared.

Dzogchen Monastery

Dzogchen monastery view from above
Dzogchen monastery view from above

Dzogchen Monastery is one of the major Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage sites of eastern Tibet. It is one of the largest monasteries of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was founded by the First Dzogchen Pema Rigzin in the late 16th century, on the advice of the great Fifth Dalai Lama. Not only is this a historical pilgrimage site with locations connected to Mipham Rinpoche, Paltrul Rinpoche and other Dzogchen luminaries but still today this is an important place to learn Buddhist teachings. Life in the monastery is thriving and the Dharma is alive. The valley features the monastery, a monastic college and a retreat center which is the home of Pema Kalsang Rinpoche, one of the most famous masters in eastern Tibet today. Above the retreat center there are caves where monks dedicate their life to retreat. In those same caves many masters of the past attained realisation and rainbow bodies, the highest attainment of spiritual practice. Above the college there are three holy lakes associated with Padmasambhava, said to have stayed in a cave located near the second lake. Apart from the stunning view and many hand and footprints in solid rock of realised beings from the past, there are many terma (spiritual treasure) sites to be be found on the way to the third lake (including terma sites that are still closed to be revealed by masters in the future). The third lake is a volcanic one, with a simple cave where Patrul Rinpoche stayed for a long time practising, and the stone he used to do mandala offerings is still there.

The 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche giving teachings on The Words of My Perfect Teacher which was written in the cave in the picture, above Dzogchen monastery
The 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche giving teachings on The Words of My Perfect Teacher which was written in the cave in the picture, above Dzogchen monastery

Yihun Lhatso

Yellow Jambala on a rock in Yihun Lhatso lake
Yellow Jambala on a rock in Yihun Lhatso lake

The region around Manigango on the way to Dzogchen monastery is considered by both Tibetans and travellers as one of Kham’s most beautiful landscapes. The grasslands around the famous Yihun Lake are called the “prairies of the heart” because it is said once you arrive then your heart stays there forever. The glacial Yihun lake also features in the Tibetan epic saga of King Gesar of Ling and it is recorded that Dumu, King Gesar’s beloved princess, came to the lake and lingered around the lakeshore for a long time. She was so magnetized by the beauty of the lake that she was reluctant to leave.

Lungta Prayer Flags at Yihun Lhatso lake
Lungta Prayer Flags at Yihun Lhatso lake

This lake is one of the most beautiful in all of Tibet, its rocky shores with its enormous carved mani stones, many of which are the work of a local stone carver called Trador. The spectacular lake is situated in a natural reserve home to over 170 species of wild animals, including red deer, snow leopard, red fox and several birds of prey. The mountains and rocks surrounding the lake are said to assume the divine form of the Cakrasamvara mandala to those perceptive enough to recognise its divine nature.


Ladies Fashion in Dege
Ladies Fashion in Dege

Historically Derge has been the cultural heart of the Kham region and once was the capital of the largest and most influential of the five kingdoms of Kham. Its arts and crafts, particularly printing and metal work were renowned throughout Tibet.

The Derge’s kings have always been profoundly religious patrons of the arts. In the 15th century king Lodro Tobden constructed Derge's royal palace. He invited the Mahasiddha Tangtong Gyalpo to select an appropriate site for building the new monastery of Lhundrupteng (more commonly known as Derge Gonchen). Tangtong Gyalpo is said to have consecrated the site in 1448 while meditating in a cave high up on a cliff overlooking the town. A beautiful temple dedicated to the memory of mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo still stands and every day locals go there to circumambulate it, paying respect to the great master who founded Derge's most important monastic center, Derge Gonchen. This became an important centre for the Ngorpa tradition of the Sakya school, one of the most scholarly of Tibet's Buddhist schools.

Newlyweds outside the Derge printing house and their car
Newlyweds outside the Derge printing house and their car

Appropriately enough the renowned printing house, Derge Parkhang, is located nearby. Here, under the patronage of enlightened kings who were beyond the sectarianism that so often has tainted Tibetan Buddhism, important works from the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug as well as Bon and Sakya were printed. Many texts not strictly related to Buddhism on topics such as medicine, divination, history, grammar and biographical were also printed.

Woodblock printing press in Derge Parkhang
Woodblock printing press in Derge Parkhang




DAY 1 (August 3rd)

Chengdu (500m above sea level)
Airport pickup and hotel transfer. Rest and acclimatization. Dinner at a private restaurant club in the famous Wangjiang bamboo park, where we admire a tea ceremony and a Chinese “pipa” and harp concert while tasting specialities of Sichuan cuisine. Legend says that paper was invented in this park where dozens of varieties of bamboo grow and elders practice the ancient art of Kung Fu every evening. Our guide will briefly introduce the upcoming trip. After dinner those who wish to can go for a traditional foot massage near our hotel, to relax after the long flight.

Overnight: Chengdu


DAY 2 (August 4th)

Activities: Chengdu (500m above sea level)
In the morning we will go to the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Base, a world-renowned attraction to see the endangered national animal that symbolizes China. We’ll enjoy the park and lake there. After lunch we will go to visit Baoguang Monastery– The Monastery of Divine Light. This monastery was founded in the 9th century and houses a beautiful white Jade Buddha statue and relics of Buddha Shakyamuni. It is also famous for its statues of the 500 Arhats, where visitors choose their favorite one and based on that a divination of their future is made.


DAY 3 (August 5th)

Activities: Chengdu to Dartsedo (2560m)
Distance: 340km
Drive time: 7hrs
After breakfast we will travel for around seven hours. On the way we will visit the famous Iron Bridge built by the Mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo and stop for lunch. We will arrive in Kangding in the evening and can stretch our legs and explore the historical border town. Hopefully we can watch and participate in traditional Tibetan dances in the evening in public squares. This is the traditional border town of the Tibetan regions, historically an important trade and cultural exchange center.

Overnight: Dartsedo


DAY 4 (August 6th)

Activities: Dartsedo to Bamei (3450m)
Distance: 130km
Drive time: 4-5 hours
In the morning we’ll visit Dorje Drak monastery. Then we drive to Ragnaka (Xinduqiao in Chinese), a very scenic photographic place which is reached by passing the first pass of Tsedo mountain. We then drive to Lhagang monastery, said to have been built around A.D. 652, when the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo ordered 108 monasteries to be built all around Tibet. We continue our trip to Bamei.

Overnight: Bamei


DAY 5 (August 7th)

Activities: Bamei to Ganzi (3400m)
Distance: 249 km
Drive time: 6 hours
Drive to Ganzi via Tawu (in Chinese Daofu and Luhuo. Along the way, we pass through spectacular Yak Valley, regarded as the biggest Natural Bonsai Garden on earth, then cross Yala Snow Mountain, Longdeng Grassland, Yuke Grassland and rural farmland sceneries. Ganzi is situated on flat ground and here Tibetan traders gather to do business. We’ll explore the town in the afternoon and glimpse at scenes of local life.

Overnight: Ganzi


DAY 6 (August 8th)
Activities: Ganzi to Dzogchen Monastery (4020m)
Distance: 147 km
Drive time: 4 hours
After breakfast we will take a day trip to one of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet– Yihun lhatso. This is one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes that is filled by a glacier and is surrounded by the massive glaciers of the 19,558 feet Trola Peak. The lake is surrounded by many giant rocks with sacred mantras carved into them. In the afternoon we proceed to Dzogchen monastery.

Overnight: Dzogchen


DAY 7 (August 9th)

Activities: Dzogchen (4020m)
Distance: 0 km
Drive time: 0 hours
One of the largest Nyingma monasteries in Kham, Dzogchen Monastery is recognized as the main pilgrimage site of Shakyamuni`s relics in Tibet. It stands at an altitude of 4023m, in the hidden Valley of Rudog Kyitram. The monastery was founded in 1684-1685 on the advice of the 5th Dalai Lama. We will meet with the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche and also Dzogchen Khyentse (a modern day mahasiddha ‘crazy yogi’) and visit the place where Dza Patrul Rinpoche practiced Todgal. Along the way we will see the hut of the late Lama Kadi who realised rainbow body in 2012. We will see sacred caves where many meditators still practice. At a sacred spot in the open grasslands we can hang our lungta prayer flags and enjoy a nomad style picnic.

Overnight: Dzogchen


DAY 8 ((August 10th)

Dzogchen (4020m)
We stay in Dzogchen and in the early morning we hike to sacred lakes connected with Guru Padmasambhava who practiced here and we will visit his cave. For the ones who are not tired, we will have a special group in the afternoon heading up mountainous paths where many terma treasure sites were discovered. We then arrive at the top where the third volcanic lake is located. Besides the stunning view, we will see the cave where Patrul Rinpoche meditated for many years. In the evening we descend back to the valley where we enjoy a good rest and watch the students of the orphanage performing Tibetan dances and songs.

Overnight: Dzogchen


DAY 9 (August 11th)

Activities: Dzogchen to Galenting and Derge (3200m)
Distance: 148 km
Drive time: 6 hours
We’ll visit Galenting, the seat of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Wangchuk, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu’s paternal uncle and hopefully meet the reincarnation of Khyentse Rinpoche’s master, Kunga Palden. We’ll visit the meditation hall and will have the opportunity to do a meditation session there. Next, we will drive up the Trola mountain pass (5050m) and continue to Derge. Historically the former Kingdom of Derge was a center of arts and culture. Before having dinner we’ll visit a temple built as a homage to Thangtong Gyalpo and explore the town.

Overnight: Derge


DAY 10 (August 12th)

Activities: Derge
Drive Time: 0 hours
In the morning we will visit the renowned UNESCO protected woodblock printing house, where you can see Buddhist texts printed in the traditional manner, without the use of modern machinery. We’ll then walk to the nearby Derge Gonchen monastery, where Chogyal Namkhai Norbu studied at a young age. In the afternoon we’ll explore the town and see workshops and typical daily life scenes.

Overnight: Derge


DAY 11 (August 13th)

Activities: Derge to Palyul (3025m)
We drive for about 5hrs along the Jinshajiang River to Palyul (Baiyu). We can make a turn and take the side-valley road to visit the village of Hepo en-route, which is known for the metal crafts, especially in the art of making knifes, swords and silver bowls. In the afternoon we arrive in the ancient Palyul a pleasant town located along the banks of Dingchu River, overlooked by the monastery, one of the 6 main Nyingma monasteries. It was founded in 1665. We explore the monastery, situated on a hill dotted with beautiful wooden houses.


DAY 12 (August 14th)

Activities: Palyul to Adzom Gar and on to Yarchen (4000 m)
Distance: 160 km
Drive time: 5 hrs
We will drive to Adzom Gar, the seat of Adzom Drugpa with its ancient and original monastery. The monastery is one of the few that was not destroyed and reconstructed because during the cultural revolution the army used it as a store house for food and ammunition, therefore we can admire the original building. Later we will visit Yachen Gar, the monastic seat of the late Lama Achuk, who realised rainbow body in 2011. There is an impressive gold colour stupa we can visit.

Overnight: Yarchen


DAY 13 (August 15th)

Activities: Yarchen to Nyarong (3300m)
Distance: 300 km
Drive time: 7 hrs
On the way we will visit the place where Nyala Pema Duddul realised rainbow body. Nyarong was once notorious for its feared Khampa brigands.

Overnight: Nyarong


DAY 14 (August 16th)

Activities: Nyarong (3300 m)
Distance: 40 km
Drive time: 3 hours
Nyala Pema Duddul established Kalzang monastery, located in Nyarong. We will visit the retreat place of Nyala Pema Duddul beside the holy mountain of Lhang lhang Drak, where he also revealed many termas.


DAY 15 (August 17th)

Activities: Nyarong to Danba (2100m)
Distance: 268 km
Drive time: 6-7 hrs
We start our drive in the morning and stop in Tawu for lunch and enjoy a walk around Tawu valley. We continue our drive to Danba and arrive in the evening.

Overnight: Danba


DAY 16 (August 18th)
Activities: Danba to Guergou
Distance: 250 km
Drive time: 5 hrs
Danba is a charming town sitting in the canyon dotted with dozens of Qiang and Tibetan villages, along with numerous soaring stone watchtowers perched on the surrounding hills and cliffs. We’ll drive up the hill to Jiaju Zangzhai, a restored traditional Tibetan village where we can stroll around and meet with local Gyarong Tibetan families. In the afternoon we will drive through Gyarong (Aba) Tibetan prefecture and reach Guergou in the late evening.


DAY 17 (August 19th)
Activities: Guergou to Dujiangyuan
Driving distance: 160 km
Drive time: 4 h
In the morning we relax in a luxurious hot springs resort and those who want can enjoy a massage. Then we get on the road again and on the way we’ll stop to admire typical architectural features of towns in Wenchuan. In the late afternoon we reach Dujiangyuan, a popular tourist spot. We’ll visit the Unesco site of the water irrigation system built in 256 BC and that is still functioning today!

Overnight: Dujiangyuan


DAY 18 (August 20th)
Driving distance: 70
Drive time: 1.5 hours
We explore Qingcheng mountain, where Taoism was founded and visit the temple and enjoy the breathtaking view. In the afternoon we return to Chengdu.


DAY 19 (August 21st)

Driving distance: 10 km
Drive time: 1 hour
This is our last day and some may want to go shopping or rest and pack. After lunch we visit the Chengdu museum and have our farewell dinner.


  • Private tours with expert guide and local English speaking guide
  • A/C transport throughout the tours
  • all transfers
  • Entrance fee to any applicable tourist sites
  • Meals as indicated
  • Other tour related services stated in the itinerary
  • Government tax & Service charge
  • Hotel accommodation


  • International flight ticket
  • Visa
  • Other meals not mentioned
  • Tips & personal expenses
  • Laundry
  • Travel insurance
  • Anything not stated above



Shang Shung Institute UK, a non profit institute, connects people for the support of Tibetan and Himalayan culture in person & online.

Shang Shung UK Ltd.
Lekdanling, Unit B
14 Collent Street
London, E9 6SG