Xigatse On a BudgetThe second largest city in Tibet behind Lhasa, Xigatse, commonly known as Shigatse, is home to sights and attractions like the Tashilhunpo Monastery, plenty of markets, and the ruins of Shigatse temple. All places of interest are fairly walkable, though auto-rickshaws are also available.
SightsTashilhunpo Monastery is one of the most important sights of the city, founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama. The monastery is also the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking in Tibetan Buddhism. With an area covering an impressive 300,000 square meters, the grounds of the monastery are also home to the largest gilded bronze Buddhist statue in the world-a statue of Maitreya Buddha, decorated with gold, copper, pearl, amber, coral, diamond, and other precious stones. The main structures of the monastery include The Maitreya Chapel, The Panchen Lama's Palace, and The Kelsang Temple-all standing beautifully with shining gold roofs above bright red and white walls. Other notable religious sites in the area include the Sakya Monastery, the Xialu Temple, and Nadang Temple.
The Shigatse Gold, Silver, and Copper Crafts Factory, built in 1955, is also worth a visit if you're interested in the production of silver, gold, and copper ware vessels. You can go to see the place and buy some vessels as souvenirs. And then there are a handful of sights in the surrounding counties that make up the Shigatse prefecture, some of which include the Rongbuk Monastery with breathtaking views of Mount Everest, the Pala Manor which preserves lifestyles of Tibetan nobility, the historic Dzong Fortress, and the beautiful natural scenery to be found amongst it all in a land surrounded by snow-capped mountains, winding rivers, lush forests, and wildflowers. Zhangmu Town in Nylam County is a good place to get lost in the beauty of Tibet's landscape.
NeighborhoodsWhile Shigatse City is the hub of activity, the entirety of the Shigatse Prefecture consists of about seventeen counties-a few of which include Tingri County, Gyangtse County, and Nylam County. Each has its own outstanding attractions, many mentioned above, from temples and monasteries to views of Mount Everest and other striking landscapes. In Shigatse City there are plenty of opportunities for a mix of it all, plus a chance to indulge in the shopping and dining scene of Tibet. In the northern section of the city there is a bazaar perfect for stocking up on daily supplies, while the markets in the southern part of the city cater more to handicrafts like gold and silver wares, textiles, and jewelry. Food can be found just about anywhere with options ranging from traditional Tibetan fare to the more spiced Sichuan cuisine. Most of the restaurants of Sichuan and Tibetan styles are located in Jiefang North Road and Qomolangma Road.
ActivitiesWhen it comes to activities in Shigatse, or anywhere in Tibet, the focus revolves around monasteries and mountains. With the number of temples and monasteries throughout the region, one could spend an entire trip just seeing the important holy sites. Some come on pilgrimages drawn to the spiritual journey of it all, while others find the architecture and history of the places to be just as beautiful. And then there are the mountains, prime locations for explorers to trek to their heart's desire. Everest, of course, remains the beast of them all, though a few others in the area include Kangbala Mountain and Luozi Peak.
Food and DiningTraditional Tibetan cuisine is largely limited to barley, meat (usually mutton or yak), and dairy products. Very few spices and vegetables are used in the cooking, though most dishes are served with a very hot chili sauce on the side. Tibetan restaurants also usually serve westernized food options, and there are an abundance of good Chinese restaurants as well. Tea houses, too, can be found just about everywhere, being a place where many locals come to sit down with friends. In a larger city like Shigatse both sweet and salted teas are served, while smaller villages only serve salted. There are many dining options available around the Samdup Hotel. Some Tibetan staples include:
Momos: dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, steamed or fried
Tingmo: bland, nearly tasteless steamed bread
Thukpa: a hearty noodle soup with vegetables or meat
Thenthuk: thukpa with handmade noodles
Yak butter tea: salty tea churned with butter, a Tibetan staple and usually an acquired taste for most Westerners
Chang: a Tibetan beer made of barley, light in flavor
TransportationShigatse Heping Airport is located in Jiangdang Township, Shigatse Region, about 43 kilometers (26.7 miles) from the downtown area-however flights here are limited. The Gonggar Airport in Lhasa may be a better option with connecting airports located in Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Xining, Xian, Lanzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing. From here, Shigatse is about 300 km (186 miles) away and can be reached by a long distance bus from Lhasa. The ride takes about 4 hours.
Visitors can also reach Shigatse from Lhasa by train, via the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway. The journey takes about 2.5-3 hours.
Once in the city, the best way to travel is on foot, though taxis and chartered cars are available too.
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