Shigatse, as we earlier described briefly in Central Tibet Highlights – Part 3, is the second largest city in Tibet, it’s not as big as a city by population or area standard but it makes to the capital city of Shigatse Prefecture. It is about 250km south-west of Lhasa and an inevitable part of most of the Tibet tour itineraries unless of course you dodge it on purpose and miss all the raw fun of the city’s sprawling Tibetan market and the empty Dzong. As for its history, the small city has a story almost as long as the Lhasa itself.
Q: Why is Shigatse inevitable?
A: First of all, it comes in the way to all to the western and south-western part of Tibet, the friendship highway goes right through the city, unless you choose to take your Tibet travel way up north through Namtso Lake and Nakchu Prefecture. Second, you just can’t miss this little city for the big pack of fun it has.
Q: What’s there is in Shigatse?
A: To start with, it is the perfect place to get used to the acceleration on the elevation in altitude from Lhasa to EBC, and Shigatse has the most recommended hotels for their localness and the standard of service. And for those who are more interested in monasteries, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse is one of the most sacred ones among the Gelukpa sect. Your tour guide is probably more knowledgeable than me about the history and culture of the monastery, so I will leave that to him.
One of the most important attractions that Tibetan people enjoy about Shigatse is the city’s love for picnicking, they even have quite a number of parks with hundreds of tents for ready-made picnic spots. You can even find pilgrims enjoying their little barrels of barley wine wherever they find a good spot; be it the Tashi Lhunpo Square, pedestrian sidewalk or an empty spot at parking lots.
Q: What is the deal with the Dzong?
A: When you are walking or driving across in Lhasa, you’ll see a Potala lookalike (but much smaller atop a hill overlooking the town), though most of it only dates back to 2007, it has a history longer than the Potala Palace. During the later years, of the 16th century, the Tsang kings ruled from the small fort till around early 17th century. Later in 1642, their reign came to end when the 5th Dalai Lama’s power rose with the help from Mongol empire. Later, it was used as the residence by the governor of western Tibet in the 20th century. But what we see now is new only since the 2007 reconstruction which was all destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1959. It now has a claim of a “Museum” that is closed to all the visitors of foreign and local.
Anyhow, they are a lot more to explore and learn about Shigatse than what be fit in a blog article. Learn more about Shigatse at Explore Tibet, or just book your local Tibetan guided tour. Shigatse tour itineraries; 8 Days EBC Exploration, 10 Days Cultural and Spiritual Odysseys, 15 Days Kailash Tour etc.