Tibetan culture is fully embedded with Buddhism, which is the heart and soul of Tibetan people. There are thousands of temples, stupas, and monasteries in Tibet. Every village, town, and city in Tibet has monasteries, temples, or stupas one way around. This symbolizes how religious Tibetan people are, and their core moral values are hugely dependent on the Tibetan Buddhism philosophy.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Tibetan Buddhist Monk at ceremony.

There are varieties of Tibetan monasteries, in architectural design of the monasteries, colors of the building as such. Those differences were able to distinguish which monasteries belong to which Tibetan Buddhism sect. 

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Monasteries in Tibet

So in Tibet, there are more than six thousand monasteries and temples. Some are built dating back to 1000 years ago, and also historical structure of the country. Each monastery has its own importance in the community, and its roles in those communities are crucial.  Here I’m going to share the top 5 monasteries in Tibet, which might help to explore when you travel to Tibet.

1.     Jokhang Temple

The Jokhang monastery or Jokhang Temple is the oldest structure in Lhasa, and its located at the heart of Lhasa City. This is the most visited place in Tibet. Every year thousands of Tibetan Buddhists visited there to pay homage and, of course, lots of tourists, domestic and foreign.

Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

It’s also a historical site, as the Tibetan king, Songsten Gampo’s bride Princess Wencheng brought the statue of Buddha from China, and that statue is in the Jokhang Temple. The buddha statue is considered the most sacred object in Tibet. 

Jokhang Temple
Jokhang Temple

So, every person in Tibet wishes to glance at one time in their life.  Its architectural style is a blend of Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese designs. The monastery is surrounded by a street market known as Barkhor Street. It is the oldest street market in Tibet. This beautiful and sacred temple is the symbol of Lhasa.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Locals Tibetans prostrating in front of the Jokhang Temple.

2.     Sera Monastery

Sera monastery is located in Lhasa City. It belongs to the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered one of the three great monasteries in Tibet. This monastery is actually a college where thousands of monks are graduate from this monastery back in days. Those monks serve their local monasteries after graduation. Sera monastery is the big monastery in Lhasa City and plays a vital role in the city. These days there are fewer monks, but their duties are performed as same as hundred years back.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Sera Monastery in Lhasa.

They perform the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy debate; people are anticipated to witness this session. Every afternoon they have a debate session at the assembly hall or courtyard of the monastery. It plays a huge role in political and social issues back in the days, but w a day they don’t that much role. There is more focus on religious activities rather than other issues.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Sera Monastery Debating Session

3.     Ganden Monastery

Ganden the monastery is located far northeast of Lhasa city. It is situated in a hilly area in an arc shape. Ganden monastery is founded in the year 1409 by the founder of the Gelug sect Je Tsongkapa. It is one of the three great monasteries in Tibet.  It had more than ten thousand monks studied there before the cultural revolution. The monastery was destroyed during the war and later rebuilt few times.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Gaden Monastery in Tibet

The monastery also preserves more than ninety stupa towers of the successive Gandan Chibas and contains many cultural relics and crafts since the Ming Dynasty. It has a great landscape view, especially in spring and summer. Many photographers are eager to visit there.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Gaden Monastery

4.     Drepung Monastery

It is one of the three great monasteries in Tibet. It was considered the largest monasteries in Tibet. Drepung monastery has more than ten thousand houses for the monks at one point, but currently, there are few hundreds of monks. This monastery is founded by the founder of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. One of the finest monastic universities in Tibet still carries the same old Buddhist cultural activities and practices Buddhist philosophical studies.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Drepung Monastery in Lhasa

There are many chapels and stupas, but one that strikes most is the small assembly hall which has a 26-meter-tall golden statue of the Maitreya Buddha. During the Shoton Festival, the Drepung monastery organized the Thangka display ceremony at the monastery. Many Tibetan Buddhist followers attend the ceremony and get blessed by the giant thangka of Lord Buddha.

Top Five Monasteries in Tibet
Giant thangka painting at the Shoton Festival in Drepung Monastery, lhasa

5.     Samye Monastery

Samye Monastery was built in the 8th century by King Trisong Detsen. Its existence has been more than 1,200 years.  Samye monastery is regarded as the first monastery in Tibet. Base on Tibetan history, the monastery has taken many responsibilities, such as serving the kingdom through Buddhist philosophical practices and gained huge respect from the kingdom.

Samye Monastery in Tibet
Samye Monastery in Tibet

It has an amazing architectural design and paintings and statues. The main temple is at the monastery center, and the remaining buildings are at the cardinal points and corners. The main temple has three floors, and each floor is designed with a difficult architectural design. The first floor has a Tibetan architectural design, the second floor has Nepali architectural design, and the third floor has an Indian architectural design.

Samye Monastery
The third floor of Samye monastery.

The most attractive thing to witness is the pillar and the bell, which has remarkable inscriptions on the bell about the monastery’s records. Samye monastery is a bit far from Lhasa, but it’s worth visiting there.

These are the most famous and visited monasteries in Tibet. Make sure to visit these places, it’s all worth to visit.