Derge Pilgrimage

Tibet (Kham) | 19 Days including a 5-Day trek



The ancient Dérgé Kingdom houses a large number of monasteries of Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. This travel is designed as a pilgrimage to these holy places: Dzongsar, Pelpung, Dzogchen Kahtok, Pelyül and Zechen monasteries as well as Yachen monastery with over 13,000 monks and nuns. This travel also included a 5-Day pilgrimage on foot as done by local pilgrims to reach highly sacred and blessed sites in the wilderness.


  • Your Tibetan guide who introduces you to his culture.
  • Pilgrimage to the main monasteries of Dérgé region (of Nyimgma, Kagyu and Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism).
  • Three nights homestay: two in a lovely village with traditional architecture and one close to Pelpung Monastery.
  • Dzongsar Monastery religious festival with masked dances.
  • 5-Day pilgrimage on foot as done by local pilgrims to reach highly sacred and blessed sites in the wilderness.


Day 1: Chengdu – Rongdrak (2,100 meters above sea level)

  • Distance: 350 km. Approximate travel time: 7 hrs.
  • You will go to Rongdrak (Danba in Chinese) in the central part of the Gyelrong’s gorges area. The Tibetan people of Gyelrong, who speak an archaic Qiangtiques dialect, are renowned for their military prowess and the bravery of their men. This area is now best known for its beautiful valleys and traditional architecture.
  • You will spend the afternoon and the night in Tralung (Zhonglu in Chinese), a nice little village surrounded by fields, with pretty houses and of course its famous stone towers which origin and function remains an intriguing mystery.
  • Overnight: Guesthouse


Day 2: Rongdrak – Tawu (2,980m)

  • Distance: 160 km. Approximate travel time: 3 hrs.
  • In the morning you will enjoy walking around Tralung village before heading to Tawu ((Daofu in Chinese) famous for its traditional architecture and its big stupa.
  • Overnight:


Day 3: Tawu – Kardzé (3,400m)

  • Distance: 170 km. Approximate travel time: 3 hrs.
  • After breakfast, drive to Karzdé (Ganzi in Chinese)
  • In the afternoon, you will visit Karzdé monastery on a hill above the town. It used to be the most important Géluk monastery of Kham. Nowadays, a community of 500 monks lives there and practices Dharma.
  • Overnight: Hotel.


Day 4: Kardzé – Yachen

  • Distance: 130 km. Approximate travel time: 5 hrs.
  • In the morning you will drive toward remoted, beautiful and wild areas that border the Yangtse River. You will go through the Dzodo pass (4 500 m), then by the Gyaltso pass (4 800 m) and you will arrive to the impressive monastery of Yachen where 13 000 nuns and monks of Nyingma tradition are living.
  • Overnight: Hotel.


Day 5: Yachen – Pelyül (3,260m)

  • Distance: 80 km. Approximate travel time: 1,5 hrs.
  • In the morning, you will enjoy observing the monastic activities of this great monastery.
  • Drive to Pelyül (Baiyu en chinois).
  • Visit Pelyül monastery. Founded in 1665 by Lachen Jampa Phuntsok, king of Dérgé, it became one of the main monasteries of Nyingma tradition in Kham.
  • Overnight: Hotel.


Day 6: Pelyül – Méshö (3,350m)

  • Distance: 115 km. Approximate travel time: 3-4 hrs.
  • In the morning, you go to the monastery of Kahtog, founded in 1159 by Kahtog Dampa Deshek. This monastery is, after Samyé monastery, the oldest of Nyingma tradition in Tibet. It is, among other things, famous for having preserved lineages of teaching dating back to the 12th
  • Drive to Méshö valley. The road will take you to the Yangtse River, you will drive along it for a few kilometers before following another river in Méshö This valley is called Méshö which means “valley of medicinal plants” in Tibetan because it is very rich in medicinal plants.
  • You will then go to the small village of Gyalgen situated above Dzongsar Monastery, where a Tibetan family welcomes you. Thanks to your guide who will translate, you can discuss with your host and learn about their daily life.
  • Overnight:


Day 7: Méshö

  • Visit Dzongsar monastery. This Sakya Monastery was founded in 1253 by Drogo Chogyel Pakpa. In the 19th century it became the seat of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, one of the greatest masters of the Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu traditions of the 19th
  • You will enjoy, amid the crowd of Tibetan pilgrims, the ritual masked dances of Dzongsar Monastery.
  • Overnight:


Day 8: MéshöPema Shelpuk  –  Méshö                                                             5-hour trek

  • To start this 5-Day pilgrimage-trek, you first head to Pema Shelpuk hermitage. This is the center of the pilgrimage, the cave representing the ‘inner kora’. You take the car for 30 minutes and arrive at Néshing sacred tree. Local Tibetans consider it as very special, they often go to this tree when someone is very sick and that medicine cannot cure him. After this tree, you start walking towards Pema Shelpuk hermitage. Like Tibetan pilgrims do, you first do the intermediate kora (walk around Dzonangla Mount which houses the sacred cave) before entering the cave (inner kora). Among the 25 most sacred places of pilgrimage in eastern Tibet, this is one of the most important. It is said that Garab Dorje, Shir Singha, Guru Rinpoche and Birotsana came to this site. In the 19th century Chogyur Dechen Lingpa discovered there the “three classes of perfection.”
  • You then walk back to the sacred tree of Néshing and drive to a local guesthouse at the foot of the Dzongsar Monastery.
  • Overnight:


Day 9: Méshö – Tashi-tang (4,175m)                                                                  3-hour trek

  • You now start the outer kora. You take the car for 40 min to reach Gagu Rutrö retreat center. It is becoming a very popular place among local Buddists who practice meditation since a high lama, Khenpo Jamyang Senggé of Sakya tradition, settled in this place.
  • After lunch at Gagu Rutrö retreat center, you walk along Méshö-chu river to the beautiful Dopu Valley. You will send the night at Tashi-tang, a pretty glade traditionally used for gathering organized by Dérgé kings or for religious ceremonies of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoché.
  • Overnight:


Day 10: Dopu Valley                                                                                                           3 to 6-hour trek

  • Hiking day at Dopu Valley, a site of great spiritual resonance, a place of protective mountain gods (Lhas), and a valley of unspoilt scenic beauty. At the head of the valley is Dorja Mi Nah, believed to be the assembly place of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, visible only to those who have pure view.
  • Overnight:


Day 11: Tashi-tang – Turuma (4,500m)                                                           5 to 6-hour trek

  • You cross Shachen-la pass (4700 m) where you have a beautiful view on Dogyel Mönlam mountain which rises to 5,655m altitude.
  • You go to Senggé Yang-tso sacred lake, one of many places of this area where terma (Buddhist teachings or objects intended to be discovered by great masters when the time comes) have been hidden. In 1866, it is a Naga King (nature spirit) of the lake that appears to pass on these spiritual treasures.
  • You cross forests, grasslands and nomadic camps to join Rongmé Karmo Taktsang meditation center (4,350m), another site linked to Guru Rinpoché and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal. In this place, the monks who have completed 9 years of theoretical philosophy at Dzongsar Monastery College come to practice mediation for at least 5 years. This is where the famous Mipham Rinpoché conducted a 13-year retreat.
  • Overnight:


Day 12: Turuma – Méshö                                                                                                5 to 6-hour trek

  • Walk back to the local guesthouse at the foot of Dzongsar Monastery.
  • Overnight:


Day 13: Méshö – Pelpung (3,700m)

  • Distance: 80 km. Approximate travel time: 3 hrs.
  • You will drive toward Pelpung Monastery which was the largest center of Kagyu teaching in eastern Tibet. Founded in 1717 by Tai Situ Chokyi Jungne VIII, the assembly hall is particularly impressive and has not suffered of destruction during the cultural revolution. Above is the retreat center where great masters of the Kagyu tradition such as Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Tayé and Kalu Rinpoché have practiced meditation.
  • Overnight:


Day 14: Pelpung Dérgé (3,270m)

  • Distance: 110 km. Approximate travel time: 3-4 hrs.
  • Drive to Dérgé. This town was once the capital of Dérgé kingdom, one of the most powerful of Kham. The kings of Dérgé played an important role in the preservation and the development of Buddhism and Tibetan arts, especially by establishing a printing house which became the largest and most renowned of the entire Tibet. Even today, the editions of Kangyur and Tengyur (Buddhist canon translated into Tibetan) are among the most requested by the monasteries.
  • Visit the printing house (“Parkhang” in Tibetan), and observe the traditional method of printing from engraved wood blocks.
  • Visit the monastery of Dérgé and the Temple of Thangtong Gyelpo. This great yogi of the 15th century is at the origin of Dérgé monastery, he is especially famous for having built 58 suspended bridges in steel chains in Tibet and Bhutan, some of which are still used, and for creating the Ache Lhamo, the Tibetan opera which enabled the financing of the construction of those bridges.
  • Overnight: Hotel.


Day 15: Dérgé – Dzokchen (4,023m)

  • Distance: 210 km. Approximate travel time: 6-7 hrs.
  • Drive to Dzokchen. Along the way, you will stop at the “Kham Dérgé Buddha stupa” built by a Tibetan lifesaving Association. This association is taking care, among other things, of animals, purchased by Tibetans, to allow them to escape from slaughtering and live a peaceful life.
  • Your road continues to an impressive mountain range. The road climbs up to Tro-la pass at 5,050m where you can enjoy a beautiful landscape.
  • You will picnic next to Yilhung Lha-tso sacred lake, one of the most beautiful lake in Tibet. It is said that people with a pure vision perceive it as the divine manifestation of the mandala of Cakrasamvara.
  • You will carry on your journey to Dzokchen Monastery. Dzokchen, which means “Great Perfection” in Tibetan, is a name for one of the most important sets of Buddhist practices in Nyingma tradition.
  • Overnight: Monastery Guesthouse.


Day 16: Dzokchen

  • Visit of Dzogchen Monastery. Founded in 1684 by Dzogchen Pema Rigzin I on the advice of the 5th Dalaï-Lama, it became one of the most important monasteries of Nyingma tradition with, in the early 20th century, more than 200 branches throughout Tibet.
  • You will go up the mountain to hermitages where great masters such as Dodrup Jigme Trinle Ozer, Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, Patrul Rimpoche and Mipham Rinpoche spent years in retreat (4 to 5 hours walking).
  • You can also visit the small monastery of Mipham Rinpoche, a great Buddhist master and scholar of the 19th century.
  • Overnight: Monastery Guesthouse.


Day 17: Dzokchen – Zhechen – Kardzé

  • Distance: 190 km. Approximate travel time: 4-5 hrs.
  • In the morning, you will go toward Zechen Monastery, founded in 1735 by Zhechen Rabjam II, Gyurme Kunzang Namgyel. Above are many holy caves where great lamas have practiced meditation.
  • Drive to Kardzé.
  • Overnight: Hotel.


Day 18: Kardzé – Barkham (2,600m)

  • Distance: 330 km. Approximate travel time: 6-7 hrs.
  • First day travelling back to Chengdu. You will spend the night in Choktsé, a nice village with traditional architecture, 5 km from Barkham (Maerkang in Chinese).
  • Overnight: Guesthouse.


Day 19: Barkham – Chengdu

  • Distance: 390 km. Approximate travel time: 6-7 hrs.
  • In the morning, visit the ancient Choktsé king palace (Choktsé was one of the 18 kingdom of Gyelrong), 17 generations ruled this kingdom from the 11th to the 20th
  • Drive back to Chengdu.
  • Overnight: Guesthouse


Please note that the transportation time is an estimation and doesn’t include stops to go to toilets, take pictures… The travel time might also be longer related to weather, road constructions or local traffic police policies.


Departure from From To Price
Chengdu 10 August 2019 28 August 2019 US$ 2861

Price for a group of 6 to 7 persons:

US$ 2,861 per person in dual occupancy – hotel or tent

US$ 3,178 per person in single occupancy* – hotel or tent

This price includes

  • The transfers mentioned in the program, by private vehicle with driver
  • Accommodation, breakfasts included
  • Lunches and dinners (drink included: tea or mineral water)
  • Entrance tickets for sites included in the program
  • Services of an English-speaking Tibetan guide
  • Trekking Logistics (horses to carry luggage, cook, tents, camping mattresses, dining tent, camping table and stools). Sleeping bags are not provided. (it is possible to rent sleeping bags in Chengdu if you inform us when you register to your trip. Renting price : US$54).
  • Expenses in Chengdu


This price excludes

  • Your Chinese visa fee
  • Health and accident insurance
  • Medical or repatriation costs
  • Domestic and international airfares and/or trains tickets
  • Extra expenses due to circumstances beyond our control
  • Drinks and personal expenses
  • Sleeping bags for camps
  • Tips for guide, driver and trekking team


* For homestay and in some guesthouses, it is not possible to have individual rooms.




Following hotels or similar:

Rongdrak:           Guesthouse – Padmo’s house

Tawu:                     Plateau Family Guesthouse

Kardzé:                 Norbuling Hotel (2*)

Yachen:                 Yachen Hotel (1*)

Pelyül:                   Huangting Hotel (2*)

Méshö:                  2 nights homestay + 2 nights in Menshod guesthouse (2*)

Pelpung:               Homestay

Dérgé:                     Derge Hotel (2*+)

Dzokchen:           Monastery Guesthouse (1*)

Manigango:         Manigango Pani Hotel (2*)

Barkham:            Longsheng Guesthouse. Petite auberge simple tenue par des Tibétains. Douches et

toilettes à la turque dans le bâtiment.

Chengdu:              Holly’s Hostel (2*)


Please note accommodations listed are rated and assessed by Global Nomad

1* = Basic accommodation

2* = Simple and clean

3* = Nice, very comfortable


In hotels, if you want a room with a double bed, please let us know when confirming the trip. We will then see if these rooms are available.


Homestays – Very limited comfort. There are no bathrooms, a basin and hot water will be provided for washing (hands, face, teeth, etc.). There are very basic Tibetan style toilets outside. For those who wish, in Méshö, we can book a night in a guesthouse instead.



Due to the high altitude of the places visited (with 5 nights at an elevation of over 4,000m), it is essential to be in good physical condition to register to this trip. If your health is not so good, you should check with a doctor before taking the decision of coming to Tibet. During the trip, it is important to drink a lot of water (at least 2 liters per day).

We reserve the right to modify the itinerary should circumstances beyond our control, namely those related to the specific situation of Tibetan areas, require us to do so.

It is strictly forbidden to talk about political matters with guides and Tibetans in general. This could have extremely serious consequences for them, the driver, the local agency and all agencies’ employees. Likewise, it’s forbidden to bring anything that could make local authorities unhappy.

During the trip, clients must follow the instructions of the guide and of the local agency.

Kham Utpala
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