The Sakya Monastery, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, is situated at an elevation of 4,300 meters on the route from Shigatse to Lhatse. It is a recommended visit, particularly for those heading to Everest Base Camp. Located approximately 130 kilometres west of Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet, Sakya Monastery is found in Sakya County of Shigatse Prefecture, around 30 kilometres south of the G318 road connecting Shigatse and Lhatse.
Built in the 11th century AD, this stunning monastery showcases red brick walls adorned with yellow ornaments and crowned with metal. It exemplifies a fusion of Nepalese and Tibetan architectural styles, veering away from prominent Chinese influences and showcasing minimal pagoda-style structures.
The monastery, built in 1073, is believed to be a place where Atisha had a vision of Avalokiteshvara, Mahakala, Manjushri, and Vajrapani. It consists of a small temple and two larger monasteries built later by Nyingmapa lama, Khon Khonchong Gyalpo. The southern monastery, founded by Choygal Phakpa, a founder of the Sakya school, has grown over the past century. The Sakya school played a significant role in introducing Vajrayana Buddhism to China under Sakya Pandita’s teachings to Kublai Khan.
Why we Recommend a visit to Sakya Monastery:
The Sakya Monastery in Tibet is a renowned centre of learning with a vast library of over 40,000 Buddhist texts. It is often compared to the famous Dunhuang Mogao Caves in China. The library has more than 10,000 scrolls and is about 57 meters long and 11 meters high.
The Sakya Monastery library holds more than 40,000 Buddhist scriptures, including the world’s largest collection of holy books. One notable work, known as Burde Gyaimalung, measures six feet long, four feet wide, and about two feet wide. This immense book, weighing over 500 kilograms, is a unique compilation of Tibetan history, culture, philosophy, religion, and literature.
Legends of Sakya Monastery
The monastery is also home to remarkable treasures such as the Four Pillars, located in the main hall. These pillars, crafted from whole tree trunks, bear intricate patterns and stand prominently throughout the hall. Legend has it that one of the pillars was gifted to the Sakya Monastery by Kublai Khan. Additionally, the renowned white conch, presented by a Mongol warrior, was imported from India and is now housed in a mandala box at the room’s centre.
The main hall of the monastery also has tall Buddha statues, many of which have the distinction of being caterers for the former abbots of the monastery. One will even have the teeth of the primordial Buddha, Sangye Wosum, while another will have the golden fangs of Padmasambhava.
Attending Religious activities in Sakya monastery
Attend a religious ceremony at Sakya Monastery, known for its beautiful gardens and grounds. The Cham Dance Festival, held in July for ten days, is a highlight of the Buddhist calendar at Sakya Monastery. During the festival, lamas and monks of Sakya perform sacred dances with intricate masks, retelling the actions of Buddhist saints.
Cham Dance Festival at Sakya Monastery
The Drogon Chogyal Phakpa Cultural Festival, held at Phakpa Rinpoche Square in front of the Sakya Temple, celebrates the Sakya dynasty in Tibet in the 13th century. The monastery is also one of the few places in Tibet to celebrate the new year differently. In Sakya, the New Year takes place on the first day of the tenth month of the traditional Tibetan calendar and is a major celebration in the surrounding area of the monastery.
Visiting Sakya Monastery is a pleasant surprise. Situated around 30 kilometres from the main road, between Shigatse and Tingri, adding Sakya Monastery to your Tibet tour is highly recommended when travelling westward. Monasteries are a valuable addition to any plains tour, and you can enjoy a comfortable stay with delicious food in Sakya County.
Foods and hotels near Sakya Monastery
Despite its remote location in Tibet, the town surrounding the monastery has developed over the centuries and offers excellent accommodation options. Some well-established hotels in the city include Sakya Manasarova Hotel and Sakya Lowa Hotel, both known for their modern amenities. Inside the monastery, you can admire the elegant and immaculate walls.
Food in Sakya is available in hotels, cafes, and restaurants. Cafes serve Tibetan food, while hotels offer Chinese and other dishes. However, due to its remote location, there may be water shortages and limited ingredient availability. Sakya, at an altitude of 4,300 meters, is a good place to acclimatize before going to Everest base camp.
You can visit Sakya Monastery as part of EBC Tours’ 9-day Lhasa tour, which includes a stop at Sakya on the way to Mount Everest. Additionally, our 8-day Lhasa to Kathmandu tour takes you to Sakya monastery as you journey through the Tibetan Plateau in Nepal. For those travelling from Kathmandu to Lhasa, there is a 9-day itinerary that includes a visit to a monastery after leaving EBC and before reaching Shigatse.