Larung Gar, Home to 40 000 Monks and Nuns

larung gar,sertar.PORTRAIT,TIBETAN,sichuan,china,red,house,crowded

After years of traveling around the world, seeing famous building overcrowded with tourist, historical places way to restored, and other overrated places.
It felt really good to arrive in a place that really blew me away.

*UPDATE JUNE 2016. Larung Gar is now closed for foreigners!!!

Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Buddhist Institute, sits in the Larung Valley at an elevation of 4,000 meters, about 15 km from the town Sêrtar, in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham, in west Sichuan, China.

If you want to see more photos from Larung Gar, check out my pure photo post!

When you arrive at Larung Gar after what has to be one of the most uncomfortable and strenuous journeys you will ever go trough anywhere in the world, your body will tell you to rest and take it easy the first day, but your mind it’s blown away from the strange beauty of this place.

larung gar,sertar.PORTRAIT,TIBETAN,sichuan,china,red,house,crowded

#Larung_Gar #China #red #tibet

larung gar,sertar.PORTRAIT,TIBETAN,sichuan,china,red,house,crowded

Since Larung Gar is at elevation 4000m (13.123ft) and upwards, you will quite fast notice the altitude if you’re not right acclimatised.

Larung Gar seems like a maze when you walk around, and it’s easy to get lost in the small alleys and streets, but that’s just part of the fun. It didn’t seem like it was any numbers on the houses so how the monks and nuns find their way home is for me a mystery.

Except for walking around Larung Gar, you can visit one of the monastery’s, the monks that’s speak some English will find you and try to practice their English and it’s a big chance if you will get invited home to some of the monks for a cup of tea.

It not much to write about Larung Gar in itself, its one of those places you just have to go and experience it for yourself.

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Father and daughter.

larung gar,sertar.PORTRAIT,TIBETAN,sichuan,china,red,house,crowded
Young girl praying with her parents.

Additional info about Larung Gar

How to get there

Getting to Larung Gar takes about 3 days from Chengdu, using public transportation while having your own transport would take about 1 day.
NB. There´s now two DIRECT bus from Chengdu to Sertar. There are usually 2 routes from Chengdu to Sertar, one is to arrive at Sertar(Serthar or Seda) through Maerkang, and the other is to arrive at Sertar through Kangding and Luhuo.Chengdu.  The busses leaves Chengdu at 6.10AM and 6.15 AM, and are supposed to take 14hours.. Everyone that have done the route, knows that 14hours is VERY VERY optimistic..

More information HERE

The capital of Sichuan and your starting point into western Sichuan.

Chengdu is a huge city with a population of around 14million people, it’s when of the most livable cities in China.
You can easily spend some days there exploring and visit the world famous Chengdu Panda Research Base.
When you decides to move on to Larung Gar and western Sichuan you head to the Xīnnánmén bus station, also known as Chengdu tourism bus station since most buses going to the most famous places in Sichuan and even some places in Yunnan departs from there.

The bus station is quite small, some of the staff speak some basic English and are very help full to get you on the right bus.
The busses from Xīnnánmén bus station to Kanding departure between 7 am to 14.00 costs about 130RMB.
The route to Kanding is only about 330km but will take you between 6 to 12hours.

Kanding

Kanding is a small mountain city at the altitude of 2600m (8,530 ft), you will notice the clean air compared to Chengdu straight away when you arrive. If your not in a hurry, Kanding you could spend a few days in Kanding exploring the mountains surrounding or visit one of the two temples in their area.
The bus station in Kanding is very small and located in the “beginning” of the city, buses run to Chengdu from around 6 am to 15.00.  Buses to other designations include Ganzi (Garzê) only goes around 6 am. The price is120RMB and takes around 6-12hours depends on how many locals it pick up and drops off on the way.

Ganzi (Garzê)

Ganzi Its an important city in what is still seen as the indigenous Tibetan population as the historical region of Kham. Situated in a large valley with grassy hills at an elevation of 3400 meters. it’s got a very interesting Monastery overlooking the city. I recommended spending some hours exploring it.
It’s another monastery about 30km away that you can easily spend a day checking out with some hot springs that you can spend some time relax your body for the extremely bumpy road to Larung gar the next day.

There´s no bus from Ganzi to Larung gar, but a few shared minivans going in the morning when full, normally between 7 am and 11 am for about 50-70RMB each person.

Larung Gar

There’s a big change your ride will drop you off at the intersection where going to left you end up in the town Setar and going right you end up in Larung Gar.
If your ride drops you off in the Intersection it’s another 5km to you reach where you want to go, just hitchhike one of the cars going by, it shouldn’t be more than 10/20min wait.
If you do arrive after dark, its gone be easier to head to Setar (about 20min from Larung Gar) for the first night then take a shared minivan or taxi in the morning.

Where to sleep

Chengdu.

Chengdu got some world class hotels, and I have stayed in most of them over the years, but my favourite is Flipflop hostel, it got by far the best location in the city located 5min from the main square and shopping street, Chunxi Road where you got the metro, bus stops and plenty of food options.
It’s also a 15min walk away from the Xīnnánmén bus station.
The staff I super friendly and helpful, its a popular place for foreigners so you’re guaranteed to meet other travelers. From 40RMB for a bed in a 10bed dorm a night.

Kanding

The main place to stay in Kanding is Zhilam Hostel, it’s run by a helpful American couple, it’s located on top of a hill overlooking the city, its a bit hard to find so be sure you got the name written down in Chinese on a paper.
The hostel is small and cozy, with great hot showers, the heating blanket for the beds, they offer western and local food and an amazing chocolate cake. It’s about 15RMB with a taxi from the bus station or about 30min to walk.
If its other foreign travelers in the area there’s a big change they are staying here. From 40RMB a night in 6people dorm.

Ganzi

When leaving the bus station, just across the road is Chengxin Hotel, it got a big sign saying foreigners allowed, the hotel is basic but good, it has heating blanket and WiFi.
There’s a young girl working there that speaks some English and will gladly help you arrange transport  to the monastery outside the city or for going to Larung Gar the next day. From 90RMB for a double room.

Larung Gar

Unfortunately, Larung Gar lacks options for accommodation, it’s only one proper hotel, very overpriced but they got a million dollar view overlooking the whole valley. the price ranges from 200RMB to 800RMB for a double room, the hotel only got an about 15rooms so it’s often fully booked.
There’s a few very basic guesthouses, with no shower and the outdoor toilet, down the hill with the main gate to Larung Gar. If you’re on a budget or the proper hotel is fully booked those guesthouses are your only option of places to stay.

Safety

Like the rest of China, these places are completely safe with the only hazards and dangers being the road and traffic.

Altitude sickness (AMS) is a big danger when going to Larung gar, It commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). with the symptoms off.

Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
Fatigue or weakness
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face)
Insomnia
Pins and needles
Shortness of breath upon exertion
Nosebleed
Persistent rapid pulse

And the only thing that helps is to go down to a lower altitude.

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51 Comments
  1. Thanks for your very nice words and impressions about Larung Gar.
    Do I need a special “Tibet Visa” for visting Larung Gar?

    Thx & Hello from Lake Baikal (travelling by trans-mongolian railway :-), Sandra

    1. Hii Sandra

      No “Tibet visa” or any other permit is needed to visit Larung Gar, just your normal Chinese visa.
      I personally find the area around Larung Gar and Ganzi pluss some other towns in the area more authentic then proper Tibet these days 🙂

      How’s Trans-mongolian going? Started to get cold yet?

      Christian

  2. Good post about Larung Gar. Small correction: there are two hotels within the compound itself: the expensive one on top of the hill, a cheaper one (basic, shared shower and toilets) very close to the main temple. Around 160RMB for a double. Asking the monks for the cheap hotel will get you there.

    1. Thanks for the correction, i will update it.
      I asked around, for a cheaper hotels, but nobody knew about one, guess i asked the wrong monks:=)

  3. Hi Christian,

    What an amazing discovery this page has been! Your pictures are incredibly beautiful. This is definitely a place to see sooner or later. And the visa information you added to the previous reply was useful as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Gabi

  4. This is amazing!!! Thank you for sharing this, never heard about this place and honestly was never interested to go to China. I guess Tibet though… I spent some time inNepal and also volunteered at a Buddhist monastery there, so this looks kinda familiar and yet so huge and amazing… Great story!!!

    1. Hi Lena.

      The place dos´t feel like China at all, its more similar to Nepal and Tibet then China.
      But the place is chancing very fast;/ It’s not mention in any guide book as far as i know, but they are already building new hotels there;/

      Christian

    1. I will highly recommend you to visit, but be ready for some really long traveling, with the last part being the worst road in the world, 120km in 15hours:)

      Remember to bring warm cloths, it gets cold during night

  5. Thank you Christian..

    I’m planing to go during March. Do you know if there’s bus or minivan for 5-6 people that go directly from Chengdu to Larung Gar?

    1. Hello Soros.

      There was no direct transportation from Chengdu to Larung when I was in Chengdu. But of you 5-6 people should it be able to rent a car with driver.. There was a lot of drivers that offered to take me from Larung Gar to Chengdu, the charged about 2500Rmb for the whole car.

      Christian

        1. Thank you for the info about the buss, I will update the transportation information in the post.

          When I talked to the only proper hotel in Larung Gar so was Internet booking not avaliable, only booking over phone (only Chinese spoken) I will try to get the number and update it here.

          Christian

  6. Wow, great site and photos as well. First time to visit your blog and definitely bookmarking it. I haven’t found any legit tips on how to reach Larung Gar and yours was the only one I available out there. Awesome adventures you have here, hope to read more!

  7. Hi,

    Is there any special type of visa / permission you need to get into temples. I am a documentary videographer and would love to go there and document the place / people. Is there a strong Chinese police presence there? Did you experience any hostility from authorities while photographing ? I also shoot with a drone and wonder if that would be permitted out there. When do you think the best time to go there is? Also any important festivities? Sorry for all the questions. Very interested and eager to go there around Sep – November.

    Thanks!

    1. Hii Bogdan.

      You can visit Larung Gar on your normal tourist visa, and there’s no special permits needed either.

      There’s not a strong police presence instead the area itself, but there what’s quit alot of police in Setar and the also a police checkpoint between Ganzi and Setar, the police was friendly and happy, they only checked that I had a valied Chinese visa.

      I didt experience any hostility with taking photos in anyway, nobody seemed to care at all. There was quite a few local Chinese tourists that’s running around the area with “tons” of photo gear so I can’t see any reason for there to be any problems.

      Sorry, I got no idea about any special festivals in the area, but they would celebrate every major Tibetan festivals and celebration there.

      Christian

  8. I am planning to visit the place next month. As far as I was informed over blogs and forums, the area might be closed in March. There is also possible public connection Chengdu – Kangding – Tagong – Sertar.

    1. Hello Maciej

      The area might be close (Tibet and western Sichuan with parts Qinghai but if you’re planning to visit during next month (April?) So should the area be back to Normal.

  9. Larung Gar is a place like no other and you have to experience it yourself, totally agree!

    I’ve been there last October and wrote about getting there myself, just a correction: you can actually get to Larung Gar in one day from Chengdu, with a direct bus, just it is not recommended because of the altitude 🙂

    Happy travels!
    Jessica
    http://www.traveltobealive.com

    1. Thanks for the feedback Jessica, I will update the post about direct transportation options:) Doing that trip in one day would be souch a hassle, at least on a buss.

  10. Your blog has inspired me to visit Larung Gar. I’m definitely going to save up for it and visit in 4 years time. Thank you for the beautiful pictures, I’m sure I’ll be more than pleased to get away from this rat race.

  11. HI all,, “June 2016 update says Larung Gar closed for foreigners”.. can someone please elaborate further? How long is the ban? which area? what is the local situation like? I m hoping to visit this place next month, any updates are appreciated.

    1. Hi Dee.

      Unfortunately so is there NO way to tell how long the ban will last for, Chinese government never EVER gives out official statement on this travel restriction, I have gotten a few emails from travelers, saying that English speaking police officers told foreign travelers that they are not allowed Larung Gar anymore.

      Other travel pages have also updated the last few days about Larung Gar being closed now for foreigners.

      1. Thank you so much for the insights. Would you know if surround areas in Sedar (such as the nunnery or Yachan) are also part of ban?

        1. The information at the moment is “Police are escorting travelers that´s trying to visit Larung Gar to a hotel in Sertar where you will have to stay the night before having to leave the region the next morning.

          This restriction is ONLY for Larung Gar and is not for other regions of Kham in Western Sichuan

    2. Hi Christian,

      can I ask you where did you get this info from?
      I’m supposed to travel to Larung Gar next July and I need to find out more!

      Jessica

      1. Jessica I have got some emails from travelers that have recently try to go there (a few days ago) and got sendt back, the most reliable webpage (Thelandofsnow.com) about traveling in western Sichuan and Tibet have also updated the information that Larung Gar is closed for foreign travel now,

  12. Hi Christine, you have written a wonderful blog. Thank for sharing your experience of Larung Gur. It really seems to visit this mesmerising surreal place. I have never been to this place but I am longing to visit it having read your blog and seeing images of Larung.

  13. Still any idea about the ban? I planned to visit Sichuan at the beginning of August, it could be great have the possibility to visit Sedar

  14. Me and my friend tried to visit Larung Gar with the bus from Chengdu on 19 July and we can confirm it’s still closed off for foreigners. At the time we weren’t informed about the demolishing plans and we hoped the restriction was only temporary because of a festival in June. Or that’s at least what the bus ticket office lady told us. The bus driver actually knew, he put our bags apart at the beginning of the ride (actually told it was because there was not enough space in the trunk). We were taken off the bus at a police checkpoint in Sertar, got told it was prohibited to go any further.

    One young policeman was really nice, helped us set up an alternative plan for the region. He actually felt bad for us and asked us whether we can visit some other year. So at least we weren’t forced to go to a hotel and leave the entire region like other foreigners. We still saw a lot of other amazing things in Garze.

    1. Thanks for the update Jasper.

      It´s a shame that foreigners can’t visit Larung Gar anymore, and we can just hope that it the “shutdown” will only be temporary. But I have my doubt since they have started to demolish parts of Larung Gar now.

      Wich other parts of Garze did you visit?

  15. Hi Christian:

    Thank you for the wonderful information. I would like to visit the area. What is a good time to go? Is there any big festival that falls under the do-not-miss category? I am planning to visit the Garze (Ganzi) prefecture. Is this near Larung Gar? I am also learning Mandarin. Do people speak any English or just Mandarin? Is it safe for solo traveler?

    Thank you,

    barbara

    1. Hello Barbara.

      Larung Gar is currently closed for foreigners, there’s police checkpoint on the way to the area stopping all foreign tourist trying to enter the area at the moment.
      There´s reports that China have started to demolish parts of the Larung Gar now.

      Christian

  16. Loved reading this and seeing the photos, hopefully one day I would love to visit if it still exists, what an amazing place. I loved Shangri la and was sad to see part of the village burnt down after we left. Thanks for sharing Tracy 🙂

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