Jyekundo སྐྱེ་རྒུ་མདོ་ is the capital town of Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture located in southern Qinghai province. It is located in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham. Jyekundo, known locally as Gawa (Jiegu in Chinese), has a population of over 85,000 and is around 85% Tibetan. Jyekundo sits in a valley at 3700m / 12,136 feet above sea level with 4000+ meter mountains all around.
There are many interesting sites in and around Jyekundo with plenty of activities to keep you busy for at least 3 or 4 full days. The hilltop monastery of Jyeku Dongdrubling overlooks the whole town and has a monk population of over 500. This Sakya Sect monastery was first built in 1398. Damkhar Monastery is located 12kms outside of Jyekundo and has 450 monks. On the south side of town, Trangu Monastery has an additional 400 monks. All of these monasteries are well worth exploring for a few hours.
Six kilometers out of town is the Gyanak Mani Temple. This temple has the largest collection of hand carved prayer stones anywhere in Tibet. Well over 2 billion of these hand carved stones are stacked in a 1 square kilometer area. The stacked walls of prayer stones are 3m high and every day thousands of pilgrims come to worship at the temple. Pilgrims walk around the site prostrating to the ground every 6 steps. During Losar (Tibetan New Year), tens of thousands of Tibetans walk around this area. The Gyanak Mani Temple is one of the holiest sites in Tibetan Buddhism found on the Tibetan Plateau.
There are plenty of opportunities for hiking in and around Jyekundo. Twenty kilometers south of Jyekundo is the Princess Wencheng Temple. This temple, built in commemoration of King Songtsen Gampo's Chinese wife, is covered in millions of prayer flags and is a great place to get a good hike in. The views from the high mountains in this region allow you to see the nearby sky burial site, the Batang grasslands and some snow-capped mountains in the distance.
The annual Yushu Horse Festival is held on July 25th and last for 5 days. This is the biggest horse festival in Tibet and some years as many as 50,000 Tibetans are in attendance. In addition to horse racing, there is plenty of singing, dancing, strong man competitions, yak races and archery competitions.
Most people who have been to Jyekundo consider it to be one of their favorite places in all of Tibet. There are now plenty of 3 and 4 star hotels in town as well as a couple of decent hostel type guesthouses.
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