Walk the Kora at Ganden Monastery, Tibet
Ganden Monastery, meaning ‘joyful’, lives up to its name. Rising, phoenix-like, from crumbling ruins, it has been transformed into a smart collection of buildings sitting proudly against the hillside. Following one of the kora trails around the perimeter takes you in the footsteps of generations of pilgrims who have performed this sacred walking meditation. With each measured step, you contemplate this holy place as you look across the valley towards the mountains beyond.
What to expect on the kora...
Every brick of the beautifully rebuilt Ganden has its place in creating the sense of studious spirituality which now fills the air in this Gelug university monastery, one of three founding schools of New Kadam Buddhism in Tibet.
Standing tall against the landscape, the white, red and yellow of the monastery walls shine bright against the earthy hillside; a beacon of Buddhist teachings and home to thousands of exquisite artefacts.
This lesser known pilgrimage site is not as crowded with sightseers as some others, allowing a more sedate and unhurried experience. During key festivals, it becomes a hub of celebration and activity for thousands of Tibetans and travellers alike, showing you a different side to this revered place which is electric to witness. However, on most days you’ll have plenty of space to think as you witness the serenity and purpose of the monks who wander the kora with you, chanting and offering prayers.
Kora is a Tibetan word term for the walking circuit meditations around the base of a mountain or the perimeter of a monastery, performed as part of a pilgrimage or ceremonial event; the even pace and circular route, often following the path of the sun, allowing participants to achieve the focused state associated with gaining merit.
At Ganden, there are two kora paths to choose from, allowing for different fitness levels and experience. The High Kora is the more challenging trail, weaving its way up the mountainside for a tough 40 minute climb, past fluttering prayer flags, towards the top ridge, where the smoky scent of incense mingles with the clear mountain air, and you can take a few moments to soak in the view.
The Low Kora is an option for those unused to the high altitudes and steep ascents, curving a gentler route around the monastery walls, past a scattering of small shrines, towards a traditional sky-burial site - where some pilgrims will stop to take part in a rebirth ritual - and a colourfully painted hermitage.
The end of the trail brings you full circle, literally and figuratively, as you look upon the serene and steadfast monastery with new knowledge and experience, and a beginners skill at walking meditations which you can carry with you on your travels.
Location: Ganden monastery, Dagze County, Lhasa
Duration: 1 - 2 hours for kora, plus travel time
Accommodation: Your choice of accommodation in Lhasa
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'Walking in rhythm with other pilgrims on the path gives you a real sense of the significance of the kora journey.'
The lower kora path is our preferred option for all but experienced altitude climbers, as the high path is a tough trek. Please discuss the best option for you when booking, and consider any physical or health conditions which may be relevant. Facilities at the monastery are extremely basic, so be prepared!