Riwoche རི་བོ་ཆེ་ is a little known county located in Chamdo prefecture in the northern Kham region of Tibet. It borders Nangchen to the north, Chamdo to the east and Dengchen to the west. Riwoche is the name of the county as well as the name of the county capital and the small village where the main monastery is located. Riwoche sees very few foreign travelers since it is so remote and that a full tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle are needed to reach the area. Getting to Riwoche usually requires at least a 10 day tour from Lhasa. Independent travel to this region is not allowed. You have to arrange a tour through a travel agency. The police all know that foreigners are not permitted in this region without a tour so if you do manage to reach Riwoche on your own, the police will most likely find out quickly that you are in town.
Riwoche sits at around 3400m above sea level. The Dzi River, a tributary of the Mekong River, flows through the region. Most of the county is farmland where wheat and barley are grown. Tibetans in this region mostly live in wood homes. Yaks are abundant and graze on the mountains that are found throughout the county. Riwoche is heavily wooded with evergreen forests, a nice change from the high altitude grasslands that are found in most regions of Tibet. Riwoche is relatively mild in the winter for Tibet with winter temperatures rarely getting below -4C. During the summer, high temps range between 20 and 24C. Summer can also bring a considerable amount of rain to the area.
The main attraction in Riwoche is the huge Tsuglakhang Temple (pictured at the top), located in the northern part of the county. The monastery is shaped in a big square and is unlike any other monastery in Tibet. The walls of the monastery rise to well over 20m high. This Sakya sect monastery is painted in the traditional colors of red, white and gray. Prayer wheels line the outside of the monastery where pilgrims come each day to worship. Construction on the monastery began in the 13th century. There are now over 375 monks who live at the monastery. This temple is well worth checking out if you are in the area.
Riwoche is a great place to spend a couple of days in, though travel to this region of Tibet is not cheap. Since a tour from Lhasa is required and it takes 3 days to reach the area, the price of travel is out of reach for most budget travelers. Even so, this hidden gem is well worth it in my opinion.
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