Shigatse (གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ) is the second largest city in Tibet . It is located 265kms / 166 miles southwest of the capital city of Lhasa in the traditional Tibetan province of Tsang. It has a population of around 100,000. Shigatse is the name of a city, county and prefecture. Shigatse prefecture has 18 counties and borders Nepal on the south. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, is found in Shigatse prefecture. Shigatse sits at 3900m / 12,795 feet. Shigatse, like many regions of Tibet, has under went major modernization over the past few decades. Though the train line in Tibet does not extend to Shigatse currently, it will in the future. The Chinese government has plans to extend the Tibetan Plateau railway to Shigatse within the next few years. The only way to reach Shigatse is by road. In 2004 it took nearly 8 hours to drive from Lhasa to Shigatse. Now it can be done in about 5 1/2 hours (there are speed restrictions along this route). The road between the two main cities in Tibet is one of the best in the country.
The main attraction in Shigatse is Tashilhunpo Monastery. This is one of the most important Gelug sect monasteries in Tibet and is home of the Panchen Rinpoche (Lama). Even though there is really only one attraction to see in Shigatse, it is worth going to. The kora (circular path) around the monastery is great to take and offers some excellent views of the city. There are a lot of hiking options in the mountains surrounding Shigatse. There are several good hotels to stay at in Shigatse and plenty of decent restaurants to choose from. Because of the strict travel rules within the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture (TAR), the only way to legally go to Shigatse is through a travel agency. Traveling by public bus from Lhasa to Shigatse is not allowed for foreigners, though some people are able to purchase tickets illegally (this has not been possible since March '08).
Shigatse is a city full of history and culture. Most people who go to Shigatse only stay for a day or two as part of a week long trip to Mt. Everest and the Nepal border. If you like hiking, there is enough to keep you busy for several days, otherwise two full days is enough to see everything.
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