Chamdo (ཆབ་མདོ་) is located in the Kham region of east Tibet. Chamdo is an 11 county prefecture as well as a county and a town. For this post, I will talk about the town of Chamdo. Chamdo lies 105kms east of Riwoche, 305kms west of Dege and 285kms south of Nangchen. The large town of Chamdo now has well over 65,000 people and is one of the largest towns on the Tibetan Plateau. The town sits at the confluence of the Ngom River and the Mekong River at an elevation of 3300m / 10,825 feet above sea level.
Few foreign travelers make it to Chamdo. The biggest reason is that all foreigners need to be part of an organized tour in order to travel to the area. Independent travel to this region is not allowed and strictly enforced. The price of a tour from Lhasa to Chamdo is not cheap so few people make it there. A trip going from Lhasa to Chamdo and back normally takes about 2 weeks. Though this area see few foreign tourists, it is still a great place to visit. The hilltop monastery of Galden Jampaling dominates the towns skyline. There are around 1200 monks living there. The Gelukpa sect monastery was founded around the mid-15th century by a disciple of Tsongkhapa.
Like Lhasa, Chamdo now has a large newer Chinese part of town and just a small Tibetan old town district. Large high rise buildings are now being built in the busy Chinese sector of town. Chamdo now offers several nice 4 star hotels and plenty of good Chinese and Tibetan restaurants. There is not much in the way of western food.
If your have the time, try and get out of the main town of Chamdo and into some of the more rural places in the county. Not too far north of Chamdo town, there are large forests, beautiful rivers and many monasteries built from wood logs.
Chamdo is an expensive region of Tibet to travel to, though in my opinion, it is worth it. The overland journey from Lhasa to Chamdo is amazing. The culture of the Kham people is very interesting and much different than the culture found in Lhasa. The Kham men of Chamdo stand tall and often wear their hair long with a black sashe woven in. Initially, Kham men can seem somewhat scary, but after you talk to them you find out they are some of the kindest Tibetans around.
If you plan on trying to "sneak" into Chamdo, you may want to reconsider. The police in Chamdo are known as some of the strictest and meanest in Tibet. All police in the area know that foreigners must be part of an organized tour so if one sees you, expect to be detained at the police station for at least a few hours. You will then be fined and put on the first bus to Dege or Jyekundo.