Sertar and Larung Gar

Larung Gar is the largest Buddhist Institute on the planet and is located in the Kham region of the Tibetan Plateau.

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2016 Larung Gar Travel Restriction

In June 2016, local government officials announced that the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute would be dramatically reduced in size. Thousands of monks and nuns will have to leave by the latter half of 2017. Click these links to read more: China to reduce the number of monks at Larung Gar. and BBC: Destruction of Larung Gar. Because of this new policy at Larung Gar, foreign travelers are NOT permitted to travel to the area at Larung Gar or to the nearby county town of Sertar (Seda). If you are looking for an “official” statement from the police of local government on this travel restriction, you won’t find it as the Chinese government NEVER gives out official information like this. Larung Gar most likely will be closed for the next 12 to 18 months. Travel to this region at your own risk!

First hand reports state that English speaking police officers told foreign travelers that they could not go to Larung Gar. Police then escorted travelers to a hotel in nearby Sertar/Seda town where they were allowed to stay just one night before having to leave the region the next morning. This restriction is ONLY for Larung Gar and is not in place for other regions of Kham in Western Sichuan. Many thanks to all of you for emailing me with your reports! If you have had a recent experience at Larung Gar, please send me an email at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com

Larung Gar Buddhist Institute

The first time I arrived at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I couldn’t believe that something this HUGE could exist on the Tibetan Plateau ( Ihave since been back to Larung Gar several times). Located in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture དཀར་མཛེས་ཁུལ་གསེར་ཐར་རྫོང་ in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham found in western Sichuan, Larung Gar is home to over 40,000 monks, nuns and lay-students. Some sources claim that there are only 10,000 monks and nuns here, but that number is incorrect. Several monks at Larung Gar told me that there are at least 40,000 people living there and possibly more. Looking around the massive complex of Larung Gar, you can easily see that this place is home to many tens of thousands of people.

One of an estimated 9000 nuns at Larung Gar

Nun reading mantras

Just a small part of Larung Gar

Location of Larung Gar

Larung Gar sits in a valley at 4000 meters in elevation, about 4kms off of the main road and about 15kms before reaching the county town of Sertar. Huge prayer wheels mark the entrance to the institute. The campus is enormous…much larger than I ever imagined. Houses for monks and nuns sprawl all over the valley and up the surrounding mountains. A huge wall through the middle of Larung Gar separates the monk side from the nun side. Monks and nuns are not allowed out of their designated areas except at a common area open to both monks and nuns is found in front of the main monastery assembly hall. The houses are all built in a wood style that is traditionally found in this region. The houses are built so close together that they are almost on top of each other. How the monks and nuns find their specific house among ten thousand plus houses is beyond me!

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Monks walking around Larung Gar

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One of the many small stores in the valley

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An older monk in Sertar

I went during the winter the first time I visited. The air temperature was at least  -25C (-13F) when I was there in December, and perhaps even colder. The few police that I saw in the area were probably more concerned about staying warm than keeping an eye out for foreigners. Again, I have not heard of anyone having any issued visiting this area since 2011. Larung Gar sits at 4000m / 13,100 feet so make sure you are acclimatized before going there. Summers are pleasant, but winters are deathly cold with temperatures getting as cold as -40C.

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Some of the thousands of homes at Larung Gar

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Pilgrims at Larung Gar

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Man spinning a large hand-held prayer wheel

Language used in the area

Though located in Garze Prefecture, which is home mainly to Kham-speaking Tibetans, Sertar is traditionally a part of Golok, which is an Amdo speaking area sound in southeast Qinghai. A large percentage of the native people in this area will speak Amdo Tibetan as a first language. Among local Tibetans, the area is referred to as “Golok Sertar”.

Getting to Larung Gar

Sertar County is not an easy place to get to. It is quite remote and far from any city. The nearest large city is Chengdu, which is 650 kilometers away and takes 11 to 13 hours to reach by vehicle. Because of the high elevation of Sertar, it is recommended that you take a couple of acclimatization days before arriving. I recommend going from Chengdu to Kangding (330 kilometers, multiple buses per day). Stay at night or two in Kangding. The last time I checked, there were not direct buses from Kangding to Sertar. You first need to go to Garze (385 kilometers, 1 bus per day) and then take either a bus or a shared mini-van taxi to Sertar and Larung Gar (distance: 150 kilometers).

Using Public Buses from Chengdu

There are at least 1 or 2 daily buses that go directly from Chengdu to the Sertar (Seda in Chinese) county town. NOTE: The bus does NOT go directly to Larung Gar, but goes to the county town. The bus departs from the Chengdu Cha Dian Zi bus station. The first bus departs at 6:25am. The ticket costs around 210 RMB per person. The bus normally takes 12 to 14 hours and sometimes more. You can either get off of the public bus at the intersection of where Larung Gar is (roughly 15 kilometers before reaching the county town) or go first to the county town and then take a short taxi ride to Larung Gar. A shared mini-van taxi from the Sertar/Seda county town to Larung Gar costs around 7 RMB/person.

Shared Vehicle from Chengdu

Another option is to talk to the many Tibetan drivers that hang out each day in front of the Kangding Hotel in the Wu Hou Ci District in Chengdu (the main Tibetan area of Chengdu). These drivers own their own vehicles and operate an “under-the-table” type of taxi service. They most serve Tibetans, but they will usually also take foreigners. They mostly use LandCruisers or Pajero’s.  As stated above, I recommend acclimatizing somewhere before arriving in the Sertar region, elevation 4000 meters. Do not underestimated the affects that high altitude can have on your unacclimatized body.

Using Public Bus from Kangding

There is normally one daily bus from Kangding to Sertar/Seda. The bus departs Kangding at 6am and normally takes 6 hours, though it can be longer depending on weather conditions. The bus ticket costs around 133 RMB per person.

The main attraction is this area is Larung Gar. The dusty town of Sertar, 25 kilometers from Larung Gar, has a couple of decent hotel options to choose from that foreigners are permitted to stay at and plenty of restaurants and small stores.

If you have any questions about Larung Gar, need a recommendation on a travel agency or have any other travel related questions on Tibet, send an email to me at thelandofsnows@gmail.com

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Pilgrims walking around a temple at Larung Gar

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Outside the main chapel at Larung Gar

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103 thoughts on “Sertar and Larung Gar

  1. Georg

    Hi Jamin/Losang,

    Thanks again for another wonderful post.
    Larung Gar is part of the Sichuan provincne – is it still only possible to visit it with a group and a tibet travel permit? Are there chances to visit it without a guide?

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Georg….Travel permits are only required in the Tibet Autonomous Region. They are NOT required in the Amdo and Kham regions that are found in western Sichuan, Qinghai, southwest Gansu or northwest Yunnan provinces. More than half of the Tibetan Plateau is completely open to independent foreign travelers.

    2. Lynne Hoopes

      Yes. You can go yourself,not like Tibet, you do not need permit to go any place in Sichuan. I was threw twice over ten years ago.

  2. PH

    If I knew for certain this area would be open, I would go. This area is SO beautiful!! (as is Amdo; more Tibetan as TAR) But it is to risky to go to plan B once more.
    Plan B or C is always in China!!. That’s why I go to New Z. this year. I hope situation will be more relaxed in 2014. Well; let’s hope for ALL Tibetan people.

  3. xiaohouzi

    Hello,
    I make it last year to Larung Gar from Kardze with small buses departing from an hotel courtyard in Kardze. (kala-“I don’t remember the name” hotel ). The bus was not checked at the entrance of Larung Gar, but it was nearly impossible to leave the bus because of the crowd willing to enter as the bus directly return to Kardze!)
    I also know that there are buses from Chengdu (passing through Ma er Kang) and mianbaoche from Qinghai Banma . But do you know if there are buses or mianbao che from Luhuo, Zamtang or Maerkang too?)
    I plan to go there one more time this year to look at some friends.
    Thanks a lot.
    Matthieu

  4. Xiaohouzi

    Hello Georg,

    I still don’t know if I will be there at the end of May or at the end of June. Anyway, I have nothing against you, but generally I prefer to travel alone for a lot of reasons. Having said that, each time I have met some travel friend for 2/3 days and it was cool.
    But my itinary is not fixed, as the situation in these places can change so quickly.

    Regards
    Matthieu

  5. Mitchell West

    Hi, I went to Larung Gar last August. I spent around 2 weeks in West Sichuan. So good as very Tibetan and no permits needed.
    Me and my friend were low on cash and started hitch hiking in this region.
    It was just a great adventure. We got from Ganzi to Luhou and then the next morning we hitched up to Larung Gar.
    At the road off to Larung Gar a monk picked us up and we stayed with him there for 2 days, he showed us around a lot. A friend of his spoke english (kind of) and told us that at 5pm the monks would be ‘debating’ in the monastery. And the next day we saw a Sky Burial, insane.

    I can highly recommend hitch hiking in this region but of course that is up to you, i would say its completely safe. Enjoy!

  6. Anisha

    Hi Mitchell,

    How long it takes from Chengdu to Larung Gur by bus? And also want to be sure that China visa is enough to visit this place?

    Rgds.

  7. achree

    would like to go there last year. but on tibet plateau, everything changes rapidly and certainly must go on plan b or c. golok and aba always on my mind.

  8. xiaohouzi

    hello.
    three days ago i went to serthat from chengdu chadianzi bus station. the bus leave at 6h20 in the morning, and now no overnight stay at maerkang anymore. arrived in serthar at 20h20 the same day. the ticket is 206 yuans, plus 16 yuan to the driver if the bus has air conditionner (that he will use very little). two checkpoint before and after maerkang. I was able to go to larung gar, but when i was waiting the mianbaoche to return to Seda Xian, two tibetans guys in a car,stopped,and told me that i must leave with them to the city. fortunately, i had already gone around for a fews hours, and the mianbaoche drivers told me not to go with the weird guys (maybe secret police).

  9. Roi

    What a great post! Thank you so much!

    *About the last comment:
    Isn’t it problematic to get there in 1 day from Chengdu?
    As the altitude should be around 4000m, I understand (it’s also written here) it’s better to go in a few days.

    * I plan to go next week to Danba for a few days, and then Serthar and then return to Chengdu.
    Do you know if it’s possible to go to Serthar straight from Danba, with no overnight in Gazi/Maerkang? or maybe it’s better because of the altitude difference?

    Is it possible to sleep in Larung Gar, or you must go to Serthar town?

    Thanks,

    Roi

  10. michelle

    Do I need a permit to go in sertar as a Malaysian? how and where to go about it? I am planning to visit it in Sept’13 together with 2 of my frens. Thanks

  11. Achree

    thanks for most up-to-date info. Will be there next April from Qinghai. Hope Serthar and another Tibetan area are open that time.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Predicting the political situation on the Tibetan Plateau is like predicting when lightning will strike. It is impossible to do. I recommend reading through my posts as I will continue to post updates on travel regulations.

      Losang

  12. Marc

    I went there in the beginning of August 2013, using private Land Cruiser. No check posts anywhere, even though we even went trough Ngaba and Baima. Stayed one night in a monk’s hut, another in the hotel up on the ridge. The hotel did not register me at all, same thing in a couple of other places also as they did not want the police around. I could walk freely everywhere. The Chinese are constructing a hideous “Temple of Death” at the sky burial site turning it into a tourist attraction.

    The roads are so bad that I do not think it is possible to get to Larung Gar from Chengdu in one day even with a private car, rather 2 days minimum. Doing a Chengdu-Larung Gar – Yarchen Gar -Chengdu, staying 2 days/3 nights in each Gar, is possible in 11 days or so, with private vehicle. It took me 5 days to get from Yarchen Gar back to Xining. I have no idea about buses, having a 4X4 means more photo opportunities.

    When arranging this trio some agencies claimed that Larung Gar is not open to foreigners, that proved false. I was also able to stay in the hotel at Yarchen Gar, even though some sources claimed that it would not be possible either.

  13. Xiaohouzi

    Hello Marc, “The roads are so bad that I do not think it is possible to get to Larung Gar from Chengdu in one day even with a private car, rather 2 days minimum”

    No, the public buses from Chengdu Chadianzi station to Serthar make it in 1 day only now. (6′ in the morning, arrival around 8 at night). I had no problems with the altitude, but I think t’s still better to go there in 2 days, stopping at Kangding or Luhuo (Or Maerkang if it’s possible, that was not the case in June)

    You were very very lucky to enter Ngaba! Regarding Larung Gar, the first time I went there, I had no problems but the second time, as I stated before, secret police (or guys working for them), try to take me in their car to seda xian. You can not predict if you can enter or not, as for the checkpoints.

  14. Achree

    Hello everyone,

    Hi Matthieu. Just want to ask about mianbaoche around Seda to/from Banma, how many hours between these two? Checking from google earth,it’s 10 hours but some web mentioned of 4 hr. Is it via Zamthang?

    I will do Ganzi-Seda-Banma(maybe further to Amye Machen)-Jiuzhi-Aba-Chengdu route next April. I would like to confirm transportation info. Seda-Banma and Banma-Jiuzhi.

    Thanks.

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  16. xiaohouzi

    Hello Achree

    As far as I remember, the minibus leave Seda around 8 or 9 in the morning, and we arrived around 2 in the afternoon in Banma, but the first day I was looking for a minibus, no minibus was full, so I spend one more day in Seda.
    The road was bad, and we have to stop because of the mud, to push the minibus. Maybe with good weather condition it’s shorter. But it’s not the road to Zamthang. And you can forget the idea to pass through Aba for the return, as the whole area is forbidden. You can head to Darlag and Xining, or Madoi and Yushu.

  17. xiaohouzi

    But you got to be early to check the minibuses, around 7 am.
    But travelling in these areas, you can not have a fixed planning.

  18. Achree

    Xiaohouzi, thank you.

    The thing is I have to fly from Chengdu to Shenzhen. So if Aba is forbidden for foreigner. I will catch a bus from Jiuzhi to Chengdu directly even Jiuzhi-Aba is just 70 km apart.

  19. Xiaohouzi

    There are no buses from Jiuzhi to Chengdu, as far as I know. Banma is not the best place in the plateau in éy opinion.
    If I were you, I will spend more time around Ganzi (manigango, Dege, or the great Yaqin Si (nearly as big as Serthar), and then go to Seda, and to Chengdu (trough Luhuo or with the direct bus)

    Anyway have a nice trip there!

  20. Freakio

    Hi,
    First of all, Losang, thanks for the inspiration to let me visit Larung Gar. And everybody else for the info I could rely on before going there myself.

    We visited Larung Gar in may 2014. And of offcourse, we found it an amazing place.
    But let me give an update based on our experiences.

    There is a direct bus from Kangding to Seda. (No one calls it Sertar) We hopped on that bus at Tagong. Me and my girlfriend where taken of the bus at a checkpoint apprx 2 hours before reaching Seda. They let us back on, but it was clear the drivers were not supposed to take us. They were told to take us directly to the PSB at Seda. There we had to register and had no choice in which hotel we wanted to stay at.

    Of then we were free to go and visited and stayed at the new hotel at Larung. The guesthouse at the main square is only open for female vistors. The price for a room is the same as in the big new hotel at the northern / top part. (Y160 double room) The views at the front side are awesome.

    We didn’t see any non-Chinese looking foreigners the 5 days we spent at Larung and Seda. But what is really clear is that it is becoming a very popular Chinese tourist site. We’ve seen them coming and going every day. They walk around with big cameras, take indiscrete pictures and the main event for them is the sky burial, which are held daily at 1.30 pm. (Everyone knows, so everyones’s there) We went there once and there was nothing in the way of getting as close as we would like to be and shot film of whatever we liked.

    Somehow the Chinese have captured Larung in their Tibetan tourist dream, instead of fighting it. As long as the students don’t oppose to the Chinese government, nothing will be put in their way. We also met Chinese students who where very dedicated to the Buddhist believes of the Tibetans. On the other hand the students and workers of Larung are free to practice and they are given more safety and hygiëne (which is a real problem in this town, no gutters, no running water, a lot of woodfire in wooden houses). The price they pay is opening up to the Chinese and let them in the way they want. It’s a bit hard to Judge. I don’t like the Disneyfeel the Chinese like to give their attractions, but it’s also the 21 century and we don’t have to die young because of a lack of safety and hygiëne.

    We left Seda towards Ma’erkang. A direct bus again, that leaver at 6 am.. So before that we went back from Larung to Seda to stay another night at another hotel. That was no problem, but we had to register again at the PSB.
    The bus passes a crossroad that alsoconnects to Larung after 20 minutes, but I wouldn’t gamble on hopping on there, because the bus we were on was full, and allthough the driver may take you, you might have to stand for 10 hours, including 5 hours on a bumpy road.

    On the way to Ma’erkang I was surprised to see all the tourist signs on behalve of Aba district. Aba is preparing for being a big international tourist destination. Nowhere else I’ve seen English written tourist signs that much and good. But still, no tourists yet. The wait is probably for the extensive road constructions to be finished. The road to/from Seda to the main road between Luzhou and Ma’erkang is not really safe. Not only because it is unpaved and bumpy an because it’s steep slopes and chances of landslides, I think the biggest risk is getting involved in accidents because of the conctructionwork. There is also said that there are gangs who rob travellers, but I’ve never heard a true story about that yet.
    In a few years this area will get overrun I’m afraid, but for now it’s still an awesome part of the world to visit.

    We also loved Ma’erkang, with its slow pace and lovely people. It’s mainly a hospitable centre for Tibetans and there are only few few tourists who make their way it to this little town. it’s both modern and authentic. Tibetans and Chinese mix in a relaxed way, just lke old and young. At has a very peaceful atmosphere.

    F&W, Holland

  21. Daniel

    I was wondering if anyone could comment on the current situation regarding the transport from ChengDu to Larung Gar by bus this upcoming September 2014,
    which I’m planing to do. Two suggested options direct bus or as Losang suggests ChengDu – KangDin – Garze – Larung Gar seem very different and I’m not sure why one is better than the other. Thanks for all your help.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      As has been for many years, there is a daily bus going directly from Chengdu to Sertar leaving from the Chadianzi bus station. The route I have recommended allows for acclimatization, which is VERY important as Larung Gar lies at 4000 meters. Going there directly from Chengdu (elevation 500 meters) could cause sever altitude related illness.

      Losang

  22. James

    Hi thanks for the post it’s really useful. Has anyone made the trip to Sertar in August? I plan to make the trip in a few weeks but lots of people are saying its a bad time to go because there is too much rain at that time. If anyone has any advice it would be greatly appreciated. Happy travels

  23. Ray

    I support Losang’s opinion to be careful of getting altitude sickness. I just returned from Larung Gar two days ago. Took the bus from Chengdu to Ma’erkang (7 hours) all paved road. MK is at 2700 mtrs. Stayed a few days to aclimatize. Then took bus to Seda-Larung Gar. i had no altitude affects. Saw others including 20 year olds get sick right away in Larung Gar becuase they came too quickly.

    The road from MK to Seda, is bad for several reasons. 1- road us bad for rock slides and many places only allow for single lane traffic. 2- fast river undermining the river banks causing road to be eaten away in sections. 3- the gov’t is working to fix the river banks, but it makes road worse. The later half of the 280km distance is dirt road and potholes. The ticket vendors say its a 10 hour ride, but it will be longer I guarantee it.

  24. eddy

    i am planning to take this loop this coming mid of november.
    chengdu
    kangding 1 night
    larung gar 2 night
    yarchen gar 2 night
    chengdu 2 night

    is this realistic? anything i should be aware of?
    hows the weather in november?

  25. xiaohouzi

    I never been there in november, maybe you have to get some extra-time if roads are bloqued. That said, I am not sure if there is a direct bus from Kangding to Serthar. I think you have to go first to Luohuo or Kardze. Or directly from Chengdu to Serthar, in about 14h.

    For the others parts, I don’t think you can make Serthar to Yarchen in one day only, as the buses or minivans leave early in the morning. From Serthar you need to stop in Kardze. Same problem from Yarchen to Chengdu.

    I think Yarchen is better to visit in a loop from Kardze-Manigango-Derge-Palyul-Yarchen-Kardze. It takes a week or more.

  26. Stephen OC

    Hi there – I’ll be in Chengdu around the Chinese National holiday – which I know is a crazy time to travel – but, if I could book the daily bus from Chengdu to Sertar – and get there in the evening, I would go. Anyone know about booking online? Or getting tickets in advance? As I only have a very short time – and don’t want to get stuck! Thanks!

  27. eddy

    i am going to sertar in a few days time. have already book the bus tickets from chengdu to sertar. its a direct bus. not sure where in sertar it is going to drop us.
    want to find out if there is any recommended place to stay there? as our bus will definably arrived late at night.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Eddy….The bus will drop you off at the bus station in the county town of Sertar (Seda in Chinese). The bus station is fairly centrally located. While Larung Gar Buddhist Institute is located in Sertar (Seda) County, it is not located in the county town. It is located 24 kilometers southeast of town. It is quite easy to take either a taxi or shared van taxi to Larung Gar.

      When I was in Sertar in late August 2014, I noticed at least 8 decent hotels to choose from. A couple that I recommend are the Jinma Hotel (金马酒店 Jin Ma Jiu Dian) and the New Gesar Hotel (新格萨尔宾馆 Xin Ge Sa Er Bin Guan). Keep in mind that hotels can go downhill VERY fast in this region.

      Losang

  28. Xiaohouzi

    The bus will certainly drop you at Seda Xian, not at Larung Gar.
    a good adress to me, is on Xingfu North Street, it’s the street left of the Golden Horse Place. (When you see the horse with it’s head opointing the right side)

    When you walk in this street, from the place, it’s on the right side of the street, you have a good tibetan restaurant at the 2nd floor, and a tibetan owned hostel at the 3rd floor. BOth are tibetan owned with nice people. I can’t remember the name… I will check if I can find the hostel card at home later….

  29. jennifer

    Hi Losang –
    Do you know anything about the fire at Larung Gar a few weeks ago? It looks like around 100 homes were destroyed. I am not sure how accurate any information I can find is.

    Thank you.

  30. Dominic

    Hello, I would like to travel to Larung Gar and the surrounding area to do photography at the beginning of April. i will be travelling from Kangding Tagong. Can anybody point me in the right direction regarding hiring a mini bus or 4 x 4. Is there anybody else thinking of making this trip at the beginning of April 2015 ?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    1. Emilie

      Hi Dominic,
      I’m gonna be in Kangding tomorrow and plan to be in Seda the day after (if I can catch a direct bus…).
      I also go to Larung Gar to do photography.
      Let me know if you want to meet there.
      Emilie

  31. Stephen

    Hi Dominic/Losang – I’d be interested in hearing arrangements from Kangding airport around then. Or in general. I’ll have limited town however, which is the only problem! But interested to hear about hiring a 4×4 to save on time! Would love to make it to Larung Gar.

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  35. eden

    I’m from chengdu, I will drive to the Sertar, the car can sit one, or two people, have friends interested , please add me face book id: jianlin li, or E-mail.

    1. Allyson McAbee

      Hi Eden,

      I’m a MA student at the University of Manchester. I’m looking to do Anthropological field work in Larung Gar this summer for a few months. I was curious if you might have any contacts within the Academy you could possibly put me in touch with? Also/or, if you’re still available I might be interested in the trip from Chengdu to Sertar sometime next May.
      If you, or anyone, has any information you could pass along it’s greatly appreciated!
      Thanks!

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  37. Maria

    Hi guys! I am taking a spontaneous solo trip to Larung Gar starting this Friday. I’m a solo female traveller which I’ve done before & am comfortable with, but also would be happy to meet up with someone in Chengdu before hopping on the bus.

    1. Allyson McAbee

      Maria,
      I’m also a single female traveler looking to do a similar trip this summer! How did yours go in October? I’d love to hear any tips, info, stories, etc.
      Thanks!

      1. Isy

        Hi both of you,

        I plan to go there in this April (2016) also, could you please share the experience for woman travel alone? Thank you.

  38. vistet

    I stayed at Sertar in mid-december , which was a great experience. All ( the two handfuls ) of Chinese visitors I met had gone straight from Chengdu , and did exceptionally bad : I have never met a group before where practically everyone had fairly advanced AMS. In the words of one of them : ” ..I felt better when I heard that the guy in the other room also was vomiting , it made me feel less alone” . Of the two other guys in my room one told me he spent the first four (!) days in bed , and the second one .. I opened my medicine box for him after listening to his second night . I don’t like having to do that.

    The main complex is 3900-ish … and the hotel is even higher , my GPS app said 4015 . Do acclimatize in Kangding , and get lot more out of it. The village is lower , but not dramatically so (?) . ( Some of the Chinese believed Chengdu was 1000-ish meters – it’s actually around 500 – which wouldn’t make a difference : there is no effective acclimatization taking place below 2000) .

  39. Eddie

    I’m thinking of going this Spring. Anytime from mid April to early May. When would be best from the weather and road conditions? I would go to Kangding / Danba first. I assume that’s possible? Is it a rainy time of year?
    Thanks

  40. Maciek

    Hi, I am planning to visit Sertar this April.
    Is there any direct bus to Litang from Sertar or do I need to hitchhike or just go to Chengdu?
    Google maps shows that there is a direct road to Litang but how does the reality looks like?

    Second question – do I need to pass through Chengdu if I want to visit Sertar after Jiuzhaigou? Is there any other option?
    All help would be highly welcome.

    Greetings
    M.

  41. Kat

    Hi, thank you so much for this website. I have read i think every letter of it related to sichuan…

    My question is that can i travel to sertar on the 8th of february 2016 right after the new year eve? Is it possible to buy the bus ticket online or need to do it in person at the station?

    We called the bus station already they dont know yet whether there is a bus departing that day or not.
    Any experience in this?

    Thank you again

  42. indi

    Hi,

    I’m planning to go from Chengdu – kangdin – graze – larung gar Seda (and back to Chengdu) from I think the 14th till the 26th of March ’16. If anybody is making the same trip I would love to share information and/or travel together.
    My mail: jorindevebrugge@hotmail.com

    Cheers,
    Indi

  43. Rio

    Hi Lobsang,

    I know you can take public transport to Sertar from Ganzi to visit Larung Gar, how about Yarchen Gar? is it possible to visit by public transport from Gazi ? What is the closest town to Yarchen Gar ?

  44. Tabitha

    Hi Lobsang,

    Thanks much for the article. Do you think it would be realistic to go to Sertar from Kangding (via Garze) in one day? I guess it would depend on the time the bus leaves from Kangding.

    And while acclimatisation seems key on the way up, on the way back to Chengdu it would probably be less of a problem?

    Also, even though I’ll just be on holiday in West-Sichuan, I hold a journalist visa in China. Have you heard of anyone getting more attention/in trouble at checkpoints because of holding a J-1?

    Thanks very much for your time and help. Best,
    Tabitha

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Yes, I have heard of numerous foreigners having major issues with the police in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (all counties) while holding a J-1.

      Yes, you can go from kangding to Sertar in one day. I would keep a VERY low profile in that region with a J-1 visa. Acclimatization is a must as you can easily end up in the hospital with severe altitude illness in Sertar, elevation 4000 meters. Chinese tourists die here almost every year. Take time to acclimatize and you will dramatically reduce the risk of serious altitude illness.

      Lobsang

      1. Tabitha

        Thanks very much for this. That’s unfortunate, but good to know. I’ll reconsider.

        And I would definitely like to to take the need for acclimatization serious. We were hoping to stay in Kangding for 1-2 nights and then go to Sertar in one day. I realize that that might still be a bit fast though.

  45. enzo

    from shangai to sertar (larung gar),

    by what means is it possible? by plane it cost me 400 usd with airchina round trip, too much too much money .. there are buses leaving from Shanghai or trains ?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello….Larung Gar is a remote Buddhist institute located nearly 3000 kilometers from Shanghai. There are definitely NO trains or buses from Shanghai to Larung Gar! You will need to begin your journey from Chengdu. Chengdu is about 650 kilometers from Larung Gar and is the nearest main city to the Buddhist institute.

      Lobsang

  46. นิลวรรณ ธารจักร์

    How about the weather in December ? Is there any problem of heavy snow for transportation or any vehicle in December ?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      The Tibetan Plateau is normally dry and cold in the winter with little snow. Expect overnight temperatures at Larung Gar in December to be between -17°C and -23°C with day time highs between -2°C and 4°C. The road to Larung Gar is open all year.

      Lobsang

  47. Budi

    Amazing town, just went by myself from the place I live to Sertar/Seda/Larung Gar. One of my students was visiting Sertar County and i was interested too. So I went from Chongqing to Chengdu by train 150 Yuan and went by Metro to the Chadianzi busstation drop by a hotel. (make sure you have your bus ticket the day before you leave). One way is 210 RMB. The bus leaves at 6.25 from Chengdu to Sertar County. It takes 13-14 hours to get there (with good weather i’m not sure how long it takes in winter or with bad weather). My period was mid May. Still the nights can be cold around 0 – 5 degrees Centigrade. Daytime depends if it is a rainy day (8/9 Centigrade) Sunny day (20 degrees)

    Although NOT mentioned in the blog. The bus arrive at Seke approximitaly 20/25 km from Larung Gar. Seke is the place of all the hotels and restaurants. I stay there. Because of the buddhist season the entire place was fully booked. But I manage to book 3 nights at Comfort Inn a cheap and clean and atmospheric hostel. 6 bed dormitory per night cost 60 RMB it is located at the Qianjin Road East Section 2 blocks away north of the busstation. Jinma Hotel is just one block away north of the busstation (of course that one is more expensive minimum 200 RMB per night).

    Everyday regularly small vans (you need to share those vans with other – local – passengers) depart from the Golden Horse square (of course with a golden horse statue). 7 RMB one way. In Larung Gar you find dozens of small van riding in different directions also back to Seke.

    Beware of acclimitization i did not slept in Ma’erkang or whatsoever so I had a small headache and had a cold body. It takes 2/3 days before you totally adjust. Remember when you enter Larung Gar you start down the path and you need to walk up 100-300 meters (depend if you want climb the hills around) this can be a though climb if your body is not fully adjusted. One of my friend almost passed out because she went to fast. Take a lot of water with you best to avoid alitute sickness of problems is drink a lot of water.

  48. Igor

    Just a warning to foreigners… larung gar has only one hotel and it does not seem to be accepting foreigners. I am here in their lobby trying to search for other hotels but I doubt there’s anything. Surprised there isn’t any word about it here.

    Not the end of the world though, could just take a taxi back to sertar for the night.

  49. Evon

    Hi Lobsang, I would like to travel to Larung Gar and the surrounding area to do photography. i will be travelling from Chengdu. Would like to hire 4 x 4. Do you have any recommendation? Thanks

  50. hookonclassic

    Hi Lobsang

    Heard recently that Seda (Sertar) has closed the place to foreigners visit. Is this true? Do you need special permit from Chinese government to visit?

  51. Gerard

    Hello, we are on the way to Seda but we have gotten news the area is recently close to foreigners. The local hotel close to the gate has report us they can not take us now and better don’t come because maybe we will be stopped in some road check point. Is it true? We are a group of friends traveling from Yunnan to Sichuan. By the way we have thought to change and from Ganzi drive to Yarchen Gar then pass the night in Baiyu. Is it possible to do in a complete day? We will arrive Garzi June 11th

    1. Gerard

      Thanks much,
      I will try to contact with the hotels in town and we will keep going there.
      Just hope no problems in there.
      It is a pity about the Larong Hotel on the top of a hill, location is very good … In fact I have been there twice with my wife (Chinese).
      So if it Larung Gar is open we will keep going to there.
      By the way: Is the direct road from Garze to Seda good enough to drive?

      Gerard

  52. Elliot

    Hello everyone,

    Yesterday 15 June a police checkpoint refused us entry into Sertar county town. Since we don’t speak any of the local languages, we don’t know the reason for this situation nor how long it will last. Our travel agent and Tibetan driver know about as much as us. I strongly suggest you to inform yourselves with many different sources before committing the time and money to (try to) travel there. If you do succeed just know I’ll be jealous 🙂

  53. Sichuan traveler

    I and two friends went there last weekend
    I advise you to travel from tagong / Luhuo to larung gar, because by this road you can pass through Larung gar before coming to sertar which is located later on the same road.

    No checkpoint were seen, no police in the monastery.
    But when we came to our sertar hotel (late at night), the owner told us he have to warn foreigner the police do not authorized to go to Larung Gar. The day after we came back to Larung Gar without problem (no checkpoint seen between sertar and Larung Gar)

    It is not convenient but seems to be the best way to be able to come there in my (short) experience

    1. benjimousse

      Do you know if the route from Juhuo to Larung Gar is still free from Checkpoint?
      If I understand they stated the checkpoint the week of the 13th and your friends where there the weekend before.
      Also do you know if restriction is on foreigner or on tourist (meaning do residents can still go through)?

      Any tips would me much appreciated, planning a Beijing-Larung Gar trip in July.

      1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

        As stated in the post, foreign travelers cannot go to Larung Gar…..period. You can go to Sertar ONLY if you have a resident visa issued for Sertar county, which you do not have. So, that means that all travelers regardless of what visa they have, cannot go to Larung Gar.

        Lobsang

  54. Govert De Win

    Hi Lobsang,

    Regarding the closure of Larung Gar, is this also the case for Yarchen Gar?

    I will be travelling to Garze end of September, beginning October. I assume these closures are not likely to be over within a few months?

    Best regards and thanks for the updated info!

    Govert

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      The closure at Larung Gar most likely will be long-lasting. I have not heard any first-hand reports of people being turned away from Yarchen Gar, but there is a good possibility it could happen. You can try going there….the worst that will happen is that police will turn you away.

      Lobsang

  55. Nddchn

    Yarchen Gar is not closed. I’ve been there few days ago. However, once inside, civilian police will approach foreigners to ask them for passport.

    1. Lila

      Hi,
      I’m planning to go there in a few days.
      Did you take a minibus from Ganzi? How much was if?
      Where did you sleep?
      Thanks!!!

      1. Nddchn

        I hitchhiked all over west Sichuan (I’m not fan of buses and minibuses). I’m not sure if there is a bus from Ganzi (it’s quite far from that town). The closest town is Baiyu, which is about two hours drive from Yarchen Gar, and there are many hotels and guesthouses in that town. We left Baiyu quite early, and reached Yarchen in the sunrise.

        I also slept in few monasteries on the way, you just need to ask any monk 🙂

  56. Karen Lang

    We traveled to Yarchen Gar from Ganzi this morning and were not questioned by any civilian police or anyone else. There were surprisingly few tourists- Chinese or foreign-there. We didn’t stay the night though.

  57. Govert

    Thank you for all the updated info regarding Yarchen Gar!
    Nice to know we can still visit there!

    @Karen Lang
    Was it easy to find transport from Ganzi to Yarchen Gar? Regular/daily mini-bus or did you hire private verhicle?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Mini-van taxi’s operate across the Tibetan Plateau every day of the year. Getting from Garze to Yarchen Gar is not difficult. It will be cheaper if you join a car with other people already going there. Otherwise, you will need to pay the full car fee yourself. Shared taxi’s leave only when full.

      Lobsang

  58. Karen Lang

    We were on a private tour to Kham arranged by a Tibetan agency. In Ganzi/Garze on the main street where a side street leads to the Den Gompa there were lots of drivers with minivans calling out for customers to Yarchen Gar. Ask around your hotel/hostel where to find them. It’s about a 2 hour drive.

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  60. Luis.

    2016-08-06. Hello there, myself and my son (6 years old) took the public bus from LuHuo to Wongda and Sertar already knowing that the police did not allow foreigners to go up the valley.

    And indeed, when the bus arrived and the bus helper went down with all shenfenzhen (Chinese ID cards) we queued with our 2 huzhaos (Spanish passports) and police kindly refused us the entry. They said there had been some tumult and they wanted to preserve our security.

    As always I said (I speak some mandarin) that the duty of the Chinese police is rather to preserve the security of the Chinese people, so if Police thought security conditions were good enough for Chinese, they should also be for foreigners.

    They laughed and stopped a private car, asked him where was he going and kindly asked us to enter in the car to get back to LuHuo.

    Had I been alone I would have done some walking in the mountain, I am sure if you pass the police check then people will pick you up in their private car. The chinese people in the public bus were telling me they did not understand why would police stop me when I can manage well in the country (language-wise). But being with my son I did not dare to make any further move and we entered in that private car and ended up in LuHuo.

    But… …we’ll be back another time in our lives!

    Luis.

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