Drigung Til Monastery འབྲི་གུང་མཐིལ is located 150kms northeast of Lhasa and is the head monastery of the Drigung Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Located in Meldro Gungkar county མལ་གྲོ་གུང་དཀར་རྫོང་, the monastery sits at an elevation of 4150m and is home to around 250 monks. Though listed in all of the major guidebooks for Tibet, Drigung Monastery sees relatively few travelers. The monastery is quite famous in central Tibet for its sky burial site, though sky burials བྱ་གཏོར་ take place throughout all of the Tibetan Plateau.
The drive from Lhasa out to the monastery is quite pleasant and goes through several small villages. It also follows the famous Kyi Chu River སྐྱིད་ཆུ་ for a majority of the way. An interesting detour along the way to Drigung Monastery is the small town of Gyama རྒྱ་མ་. Gyama is the birthplace of Songtsen Gampo སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ་, one of the most famous Tibetan kings who reigned during the 7th century.
From the main parking lot, it is a steep hike up to Drigung monastery. During festival times, the hike up to the monastery is filled with pilgrims, mostly from Kham in eastern Tibet. From the monastery, there is a great panoramic view of the valley below. The monastery complex is quite large with over 50 buildings scattered over the region. There is a long kora around the monastery complex which Tibetan pilgrims will be following. The kora goes near the sky burial site, though non-Tibetans are not allowed to be there during a sky burial. Sky burials are funerals and are very private affairs. They should never be interfered with and should never, under any circumstance, be photographed.
The best time to visit Drigung monastery is during Losar ལོ་གསར་, or Tibetan New Year. During this time, thousands of pilgrims, mostly from Kham, visit the monastery. There are some places to stay if you want to spend a few days in the area. The small town nearby has a few guesthouses to choose from as well as a few decent restaurants. Most people only spend a few hours at Drigung, but it is a good place to at least spend the night, if you have the time.
Though it used to be possible to reach Drigung Monastery using public buses from Lhasa, now all travel to the monastery must be arranged by a travel agency using a private vehicle. Drigung, along with Tidrom Nunnery, is often included to extended tours that go to Nam Tso and Samye Monastery.
For more information about Drigung Monastery or any other area of Tibet, feel free to email me at [email protected]