pilgrimage to THE living tradition OF THE NYINGMA
IN EASTERN TIBET—Kham, Amdo, Golok
JuLY 22 - Aug 5, 2018 • 15 Days


This pilgrimage through Eastern Tibet focuses on Nyingma sacred sites and monasteries. Along the way, you will meet lamas and be accommodated in hotels, guest houses and Tibetan family home-stays. This journey begins in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan and returns to Chengdu via a flight from Yushu. All destinations are in Kham and Amdo also known as Eastern and Far Eastern Tibet. This pilgrimage offers comfortable transportation in 4-WD vehicles and good hotels in Barkham, Dzamthang, Kardze and Yushu.

The Nyingma has a long and rich history in Eastern Tibet which is home to several mother monasteries. This highlights of this pilgrimage include the very holy treasure sites of Mount Nyenpo Yutse and Pema Shelpuk and Rongmo Karmo Taksang, one of thirteen Tiger Nests in this world consecrated by Padmasambhava in the form of Dorje Drollod. As for monasteries, there are several but the most important for us are Dzogchen and Dzongsar. Sangha Journeys has many Dharma friends in Eastern Tibet and we will have personal introductions to lamas and masters and be warmly welcomed into Tibetan homes.

Kham is very diverse geographically with large mountain ranges and vast grasslands. Four major rivers and six mountain ranges combine to make this region a breathtaking experience. Amdo is characterized by alpine grasslands and nomadic lifestyles. Golog overlaps Kham and Amdo is the highest region in Tibet. Religiously, it was and still is mainly connected to the Nyingma tradition.

Participants will benefit from the services of Road To Tibet Travel and Sangha Journeys, represented by Lama Dechen Yeshe Wangmo. Our guides will be family members of Road To Tibet and natives of the Kham/Amdo region. Our Tibetan family home-stays will be with their friends. 

A China visa is required but no permits. Participants must be Vajrayana practitioners wishing to undertake this pilgrimage  to develop their path. Group size is limited to 7 and there is an online application. Once your application is accepted, a deposit is requested, and in-depth resource materials and pre-trip advice will be available through a login account. 

Here are the pilgrimage highlights day by day:


JULY 22: Guru Day
Drive Chengdu to Barkham

Our first destination is Barkham City (2,670 m), 360 km from Chengdu, at the northern edge of the Gyalrong region. Once considered a hidden land, Gyalrong has a distinctive culture and language and is home to over fifty monasteries of all traditions. Barkham is embedded in a long and narrow valley that stretches for 200 km. With a population of 50,000, this is an excellent place to acclimatize to the altitude and enjoy comfortable lodgings.

4-star hotel for two nights.

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JULY 23:
Barkham City & Vairocana Cave

Taking it easy and gradually exploring our new surroundings today, we will drive into the countryside while enjoying spectacular views.

Our destination is the hermitage where the great translator and monk, Pagor Vairocana, meditated and transmitted Great Perfection during his exile from Central Tibet in the eighth century.

Barkham City 4-star hotel.


JULY 24:
Jowo Statue & Namda 

Leaving Barkham, we will drive westward through the Gyalrong region, stopping to pay homage to a famous Jowo statue at Thro Khyap, a comfortable uphill walk from Thukje Chenpo, a reconstructed Nyingma monastery.

The day will end in Namda, the hometown of our Road To Tibet guides. We will be staying with Tibetan families—all friends of Road To Tibet. We did this in 2016 and it was fantastic to experience the Tibetan lifestyle and allow ourselves to be immersed in a living Buddhist culture.

On the left, is a recent photo of our guide's son, an incarnate master of Dartang Monastery which we will visit in a few days.

Home-stay with Tibetan families in the small town of Namda.

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JULY 25:
Nyenpo Yutse Mountain Range


Today will drive from Namda to a viewpoint of the sacred treasure mountain of Nyenpo Yutse. Recently, the sacred glacial lake Shitso, bordering the mountain range, has been closed to visitors for environmental protection.

Mount Nyenpo Yutse (5,933 m) is the main holy mountain in Golok. There are fourteen peaks and an outer and inner circumambulation path. The steep snow-capped ridges are surrounded by glacial lakes and caves associated with Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal. It is also a treasure site of Sera Khandro and Khandro Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche.

Hotel in Padma.

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Darthang Monastery  & Mardo Tashi Choling


There are numerous monasteries in this area. The largest and most famous is Darthang, an important branch of Pelyul. Founded around 1850 by Gyatrul Rinpoche, it is still thriving with several lines of incarnate masters. The temple murals are in the famous Repkong style and depict the meditational deities, including the Peaceful & Wrathful Deities of Karma Lingpa's Tibetan Book of the Dead. There is also a magnificent Copper-Colored Mountain temple that houses statues and murals from the life of Padmasambhava. Behind is a Phurba (Kilaya) Temple.

Mardo Tashi Choling Monastery is located in Mardo Khok, in Golok. Built more than two hundred years ago, it is one of the four main branch monasteries of Katog, one of the nine mother temples of the Nyingma. The current abbot is Khentrul Lodro Taye who is also based in the USA. Today, there are more than 300 monks iat Mardo Tashi Chöling, the home of the great treasure revealer Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904) and other accomplished masters. We are also planning a 10-minute hike to the cave where Dudjom Lingpa received the treasure list of the treasures he would discover during his lifetime and where he practiced Dorje Drollod.

Dzamthang (3,900 m) is a stronghold of the Bon and Jonang traditions that uphold the shentong view of Kalachakra. The town is the prefecture capital and offers fair hotels, banking and shopping.


JULY 27: Full Moon, Amitabha Day, Kalachakra Day
Lama Tharchin Rinpoche 5th Parinirvana, Dodrupchen Monastery

Dodrupchen is a Longchen Nying Thik Monastery founded by a heart-son of Jigme Lingpa, Jigme Thrinley Ozer, the First Dodrupchen (Great Master from Do). The current Dodrupchen Rinpoche is one of the most important living masters of the Nyingma and Dzogchen traditions. He fled to Sikkim in 1959 and earlier this year was able to return to visit his monastery in Tibet.

This monastery experienced severe repression in the late 1950's. Khandro Tare Lhamo's first revelation occurred during a journey to Dodrupchen. Earlier, Dordrupchen and its branches also figured in the life of Sera Khandro. Several of Dudjom Lingpa's sons were enthroned here as well.

Today, the complex is thriving and there is much revered master living in retreat. It will be possible to make offerings at the door of his hermitage.  In the evening, we will return to spend the second night with our Tibetan families.


JULY 28:
Kardze (Gardze) City

In the morning, we can relax and explore Dzamthang Town and then set off for Kardze, our next destination on the way to Dzongsar.

Kardze is a Tibetan town. This fairly large town with several monasteries in the area. Shopping, especially for carpets and antiques, banking, supermarkets and restaurants. Large stupa overlooking the north bank of the Yalong.

Good hotel.


Dzongsar Monastery

Dzongsar is located in Derge County, the heart of Kham. Dzongsar Monastery is a Sakya institution founded in the 13th century. It was a home base for Jamyang Kyentse Wangmo and his re-birth Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro who cobined the Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. Dzongsar became one the biggest colleges in Tibet but it was razed to the ground in the 1960's. Sponsored by the current Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the college has been re-established. There are also two retreat centers houses a few hundred monks and nuns.

Dzongsar Monastery Guest House.

Khyentse Foundation: Dzongsar: Where Great Teachers Are Trained

Video: Return to Dzongsar 2015


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Pema Shelpuk and Rongmo Karmo Tiger's Nest

Located above Dzongsar Monastery, Pema Shelpuk (4,510 m) is a hermitage and treasure site opened by Jamyang Khentse Wangmo and Chogyur Dechen Lingpa.  It is one of the twenty-five most important sacred sites in Eastern Tibet, representing enlightened speech. It is said to have been blessed by the four masters—Garab Dorje, Shri Singha, Guru Rinpoche and Vairotsana. It was there that Chogyur Dechen Lingpa discovered the "Three Classes of the Great Perfection" and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo placed a precious statue of Guru Dewachenpo in the cave. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodro would often stay there in the summer. The cave contains many naturally appearing images and letters. Yeshe Tsogyal practiced in a small cave to the left. The caves of Vairotsana and Shri Singha are at the top of the rock.

Crossing two passes, we will reach Rongme Karmo Taktsang (Rongme White Tigress's Nest (4,430 m). Consecrated by Padmasambhava in the form of Dorje Drollod, it is also a treasure site of Chogyur Dechen Lingpa and a home office for Jamgong Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Jamyang Khentse Wangpo. Mipham Rinpoche stayed in retreat here for thirteen years.

Photos of Pema Shelpuk: http://blazing-splendor.blogspot.com/2010/07/great-perfection.html

Dzongsar Monastery Guest House


July 31
Yilhung Latso, Manigango Town

This is a sacred glacial lake (4,110 m) and it is one of the most beautiful in all Tibet—its shores graced with large mani carved stones. The mountains and rocks are revered as the form of Chakrasambhava. Yilung is also a natural reserve with 176 species of wild animals, including the snow leopard, various birds and much flora. There is a trail around the lake.

The final destination today is a simple hotel in the exotic town of Manigango—often described as the "Wild West" as it is a busy meeting place for nomads and commerce. Get ready to barter and shop! There is a small Mani Temple in town and most famously for us, this is where in 1952, Sonam Namgyel attained the rainbow body, as recounted by Trungpa Rinpoche's "Born In Tibet".

Video Twelve Seconds at Yilhung Latso
Simple hotel.

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Dzogchen Monastery

Dzogchen Monastery, one of the six great monasteries of the Nyingma tradition, lies in the "hidden" valley of Rudam Kyitram against the backdrop of the jagged snow peaks of Mount Dorje Ziltrom (5816 m.) Founded in the late 17th century, it expanded to have over 200 satellites in Kham, Amdo and Central Tibet. Today there are several temples and building, all newly constructed. The hillside is covered with cabins for monastics. It is enowned for its college, Shri Singha Sehdra. The 4th Dzogchen Rinpoche was the master of Paltrul Rinpoche and Mipham Rinpoche and Dzogchen is equally renowned for its retreat centers and ritual traditions, especially lama dancing. Today it is the seat of Dzogchen Ponlop, Dzogchen Kongtrul and others.

Simple hotel in the village of Dzogchen.

About Dzogchen Monastery & the Dzogchen Masters: https://www.shambhala.com/snowlion_articles/dzogchen-monastery-the-dzogchen-rinpoches/

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Dzogchen Monastery & Mountain Hermitages

Hiking up the valley toward the Dorje Ziltrom glacier, there are several hermitage ruins such as the hermitage of Do Kyentse Yeshe Dorje known as the Tseringma cave and hermitages of Padmasambhava, Paltrul Rinpoche, and Mipham Rinpoche. There are also sacred lakes in the area.

Return to simple hotel in the nearby village of Dzogchen.


August 3
Kilung Monastery, Dzachuka


Around the time the renowned enlightened master, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, built his own monastery west of Lhasa in Central Tibet (Tsering Jong 1764), he instructed his heart-son, Jigme Ngotsar Gyatso, to build the present Kilung Monastery in Kham.  The renovation of Kilung Monastery’s 17th century temple was completed in 2009. Kilung Rinpoche will be in residence and expecting our arrival.. Born in 1970, Kilung Rinpoche is the fifth incarnation of Jigme Mgotsar Gyatso and is  also well established in the USA. Ki signifies a winged, bird-like being, a garuda, or flying. It also refers to kilaya. Jigme Lingpa had a vision of the location for the new monastery on a remote mountain in Dzachuka.. Rather than going there physically, he sent a sign to the top of the mountain via mind transmission, and gave instructions to his disciples about how to find it. The sign they sought was Jigme Lingpa’s footprints in stone. The relics are still there today, a source of blessing for pilgrims who make the trek up the mountain behind Kilung Monastery. After the search party’s quest was accomplished, they struck a ritual dagger (kilaya) into the mountain, and out gushed a perfect spring of water. The spring is still the main source of water for Kilung Monastery and nearby community—plentiful and cold in summer, never freezing in winter. https://www.kilung.org/about-the-kilung-foundation/



Mostly inhabited by Tibetans, Yushu (or Yulshul) is also known as Jyekundo (4,000 m). It is perhaps most well known in the West for the devastating earthquake of 2010. The city lies at the fountainhead of Asia's three great rivers—the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong. Just outside Yushu is a temple honoring Princess Wencheng who stopped there on her way to Lhasa. The city is now well reconstructed in an urban way and the heart of Buddhism is more vibrant than ever with beautiful stupas and a stream of residents continually circumambulating and making smoke offerings accompanied by Dharma teachings broadcast over loudspeakers.

Our Tibetan hotel is kitty corner from all the Dharma action. We will arrive late but the next morning, you will wake up to enjoy the ambiance, shopping and the opportunity to offer prayers and add your Mani stone to the Mani Stone walls.

Comfortable simple hotel. Group dinner to offer our gratitude and gratuities to our Tibet staff and dedicate the merit of the pilgrimage!

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Fly Yushu to Chengdu

In the early afternoon, we will board a domestic flight to Chengdu arranged by Sangha Journeys.

Arriving at the Chengdu airport, our pilgrimage comes to a close. You may choose to overnight near the airport before your exit flight the next day or return to the city.