KEY FACTS ABOUT SHIGATSE
Second largest city in Tibet
Capital of Tsang Province, currently the administrative center of Shigatse prefecture
Altitude: 3900 meters
Population: 870, 700 people
Location: about 250km from Lhasa via Friendship Highway
Another spelling: Xigatse, Xigaze, Rikaze
Shigatse, the capital of the province of Tsang, is 354 km west of Lhasa. It is located 90 km west of Gyantse on the south bank of the Brahmaputra at the point where the Nyang Chu River flows into it. It can be reached by two routes from the capital by the Northern Road, which runs from Golmud and reaches Shigatse via the Daktsuga ferry over the Brahmaputra, of the Southern Road via the town.
Shigatse has long been the commercial and political centre of Tsang region. Formerly it was dominated by a massive castle built on the hillock above the old town. Only the basses of the ramparts are visible today, suggesting non etheless the grandeur of the building. This is where the powerful kings of Tsang lived, during their rule in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Since the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the town has been the seat of the Panchen Lama. His monastery, Tashi Lunpo, is the only place of genuine interest left. Recently the Panchen Lama built a new palace, the Dechen Potrang but this is a building with little attraction.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO SHIGATSE
There are 3 main ways to reach Shigatse:
Shigatse is traditionally the stop over point on the way to the Everest Region. The road continues from there to Shegar, Tingri and Mount Everest Base Camp from there, as well as to Gyirong port – the newly opened border between Tibet and Nepal.
WEATHER IN SHIGATSE
Weather in Shigatse is similar to weather in Lhasa. April to October the weather is pleasant with warm days. Even in summer day and night time temperatures are very different. Be prepared to layer your clothes as temperature drops significantly. Because of the strong summer radiation, you should bring sunscreen and sunglasses. You can also wear a long sleeve short even in summer and a baseball hat or wide brim hat for sun protection.
Overall, the climate is dry with some rains during summer, mostly in July and August. Even during the rainy season, it mostly rains at night. During the daytime it can be cloudy in summer. Because of the warm weather, summer is the most popular season for tourists. For landscape photography, it is best to travel outside of the rainy season.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SHIGATSE
TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY
Tashilhunpo Monastery is the center of attraction in Shigatse. It is an official seat of Panchen Lamas, the second most important Lama in Tibet, after the Dalai Lama.
Shalu monastery is located within a short ride from Shigatse. It is a small but important 11th-century monastery. It is famous for its incredible 14th-century murals that we can still see today. The architecture of Shalu is a mix of Tibetan and Chinese style. Here, in the 14th century, the Abbott Buton Rinchendrub translated a large number of manuscripts. This library made Shalu monastery a very influential center of studying Tibetan Buddhism.
Sakya monastery is one of the most impressive attractions in Tibet. It is located about 160 km to the South West from Shigatse on the way to Tingri.
Trum-chu river splits the complex of the monastery into two parts – one part is on the hillside, and another is on the valley below. Sakya monastery belongs to Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism.