Nangchen county is located in southwest Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province. Nangchen ནང་ཆེན་, located in Kham, was once one of 5 independent kingdoms in the eastern Tibet region. Nangchen is very remote being over 1000km from Xining and Lhasa and over 1200 kilometers from Chengdu. It borders Jyekundo (Yushu) county to the northeast, Dzado county to the northwest, Riwoche county to the southwest and Chamdo county to the southeast. Around 60,000 people live in the county with Tibetans making up over 98% of the total population. There are some nomads who live in Nangchen, but a larger percentage of people here are farmers. The Mekong River, known as the Dza Chu in Tibetan, flows throughout the county.
Nangchen is rich in Tibetan history and has a large number of monasteries with around 90 in the county. It has one of the highest percentages of monks in all of Tibet. A large percentage of the monasteries in Nangchen are of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan buddhism. Many well known lama's come from this region.
Nangchen is one of the most beautiful counties in Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture and in all of Kham. The county sits at a lower elevation than the other counties of Yushu (3650m) so the climate in the winter is less harsh. Thick forests are found in some parts of the county and the Mekong river runs from the northwest part of the county down to the southeast. The capital of the county is Sharnda (known as Xiangda in Chinese). Sharda is a small, quiet town that has one main street with a few decent guesthouses and hotels. Nangchen is often overlooked by tourists due to its remote location. Though it is a long trip to get there, Nangchen is well worth the effort.
The county capital town of Sharnda is NOT the main draw in going to Nangchen. It is just a dusty, small Tibetan trading town. However, the areas outside of the county town are what brings people to this remote region. The hilltop monastery of Dzamo (pictured 3rd from top) overlooks the town and has around 200 monks abiding there. Ten kilometers south of town is Nabgyama Monastery (pictured below), located along the banks of the Mekong River. This beautiful monastery has a great hiking path around it with great views of the Mekong River. Seventy kilometers south of Sharnda is Gar Monastery (pictured above), one of the most beautiful monasteries in all of Tibet. It sits in a wooded valley above a small village. It is home to around 100 monks. There is great hiking in this area.
There are daily buses from Xining to Nangchen. The bus costs around Y200 for a sleeping berth and takes between 21 and 23 hours. You can also get there by taxi from Jyekundo. A seat in a shared van taxi from Jyekundo costs around Y30 per person and takes between 3 and 4 hours. Van taxis leave everyday from in front of the main bus station in Jyekundo. Though you can get to Nangchen using public transportation, it is best to take a private vehicle so you can see all the amazing sights along the way.
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