Sakya Travel Guide

Discover the beauty of Sakya in Tibet through this comprehensive travel guide, which features a list of places to visit, hiking and biking routes, best things to do, where to stay, what to buy, local culture, safety and health, and more.

Introduction to Sakya

Nestled in the southwest of China, in the Tibet Autonomous Region, lies the charming town of Sakya. Though often overlooked by tourists in favor of more well-known destinations like Mount Everest, Sakya is a hidden gem that offers a unique and authentic Tibetan experience. The name “Sakya” means “grey earth” in the Tibetan language, and the town is renowned for its Sakya Monastery, one of the most important Buddhist sites in Tibet.

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in Tibetan culture, explore the great outdoors, or simply relax and unwind, Sakya has something to offer every type of traveler. In this comprehensive travel guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the town’s top attractions, food and drink scene, history and culture, safety and health measures, and much more.

List of Places to Visit in Sakya

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Sakya Monastery: This 11th-century monastery, located in the heart of Sakya, is the town’s most iconic landmark. The monastery is home to over 80,000 Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, murals, and other religious artifacts. Visitors can take guided tours of the monastery and attend prayer sessions alongside local monks.

  • Sakya Heritage House: This museum, located near the Sakya Monastery, showcases the rich history and culture of Sakya. Exhibits include traditional Tibetan clothing and jewelry, farming tools, ancient Tibetan scripts, and more.

  • Lhakhang Chenmo: Also known as the “Great Temple,” this historic temple at Sakya Monastery boasts elaborate frescoes and intricate wood carvings that date back to the 13th century.

Natural Attractions of Sakya: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Mount Gongga: The highest peak of the Hengduan Mountains, Mount Gongga offers stunning panoramic views of Sakya and its surrounding valleys. Hiking and trekking tours are available for those looking to explore the area further.

  • Rongpuk Glacier: This glacier, located near Sakya, is one of the closest glaciers to the equator. Visitors can take guided tours of the glacier and explore the surrounding ice caves and frozen lakes.

  • Yarlung Valley: This scenic valley, located south of Sakya, is known for its rolling hills, sprawling grasslands, and crystal-clear lakes. Visitors can go horseback riding, birdwatching, or simply enjoy a peaceful picnic amidst the stunning natural beauty.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Sakya

  • Mount Everest Base Camp Trek: Trek to the world’s highest peak and soak in the awe-inspiring natural beauty along the way. The trek takes you through the lush forests of the Himalayan foothills, past glaciers, through remote villages, and culminates at the foot of Mount Everest.

  • Rongpuk Monastery Trek: This scenic trek takes you from Sakya to Rongpuk Monastery, passing through rugged mountain terrain, bubbling streams, and vast grasslands. The trek offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the opportunity to interact with local nomads.

  • Sakya to Tingri Trek: This trek takes you from Sakya to the charming town of Tingri, crossing soaring mountain passes, visiting ancient monasteries, and exploring the lush valleys of the region.

Best Things to Do in Sakya: Activities and Tours

  • Attend a prayer session at Sakya Monastery: Experience the enchanting sound of Tibetan horns, bells, and chanting as you attend a prayer session at Sakya Monastery.

  • Explore the town’s unique architecture: Sakya is renowned for its distinctive white, red, and grey buildings that feature intricate wooden carvings and colorful murals.

  • Taste authentic Tibetan cuisine: Try local dishes like momos (dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup), and yak butter tea at one of Sakya’s many local restaurants.

Week-Long Itinerary for Sakya

Day Activity
Day 1 Arrival at Sakya; visit the Sakya Monastery
Day 2 Trek to Rongpuk Monastery
Day 3 Explore Sakya’s unique architecture and local markets
Day 4 Visit Lhakhang Chenmo and other historic temples
Day 5 Drive to Yarlung Valley and enjoy horseback riding or birdwatching
Day 6 Trek to Tingri and visit ancient monasteries
Day 7 Departure from Sakya

Food and Drink Scene of Sakya

Must-Try Dishes

  • Yak Meat Jerky: Marinated in herbs and spices, yak meat jerky is a popular snack in Sakya.

  • Tsampa: This staple food of Tibet consists of roasted barley flour mixed with butter tea.

  • Thenthuk: A hearty soup made with homemade wheat noodles, meat, and vegetables.

Local Beverages

  • Butter Tea: A salty and creamy tea made with yak butter and salt, which is a staple drink in the Tibetan culture.

  • Chang: A fermented alcoholic beverage made from barley or millet, and often mixed with yak butter.

  • Sweet tea: Seemingly a universal beverage in Tibet, enjoying tea with at least some sugar is considered proper etiquette.

Where to Stay in Sakya: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Sakya Zhaxi Hotel: A luxury hotel with beautiful views of the Sakya Monastery.

  • Sakya Guesthouse: A budget-friendly option with clean rooms and a prime location near the Sakya Monastery.

  • Sakya Zom Guesthouse: A small, charming guesthouse that is perfect for travelers looking for a more traditional Tibetan lodging experience.

What to Buy in Sakya: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Thangka paintings: Intricately detailed paintings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other spiritual figures.

  • Jewelry: Delicate pieces of jewelry made from silver, turquoise, and other precious stones.

  • Local handicrafts: Items such as scarves, rugs, and bags that showcase traditional Tibetan weaving techniques.

Local Culture and Customs of Sakya

The people of Sakya are friendly and warm-hearted, and visitors to the town should make an effort to respect the local culture and customs. This means dressing modestly when visiting holy sites, removing shoes when entering temples or homes, and not taking photos without permission. Visitors should also be aware of the religious significance of Sakya Monastery and should conduct themselves appropriately while on the monastery grounds.

Best Time to Visit Sakya

The best time to visit Sakya is in the spring (April to June) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and the skies are clear. Summers in Sakya can be hot and rainy, while winters can be cold and snowy, which can affect travel and outdoor activities.

Do’s and Don’ts of Sakya


  • Respect local customs and culture

  • Dress modestly when visiting holy sites

  • Try the local cuisine and immerse yourself in Tibetan culture


  • Take photos without permission

  • Enter temple or monastery buildings with shoes on

  • Disrespect the religious significance of Sakya Monastery

Safety and Health

Safety in Sakya

Sakya is a relatively safe destination, with low levels of crime and a friendly and welcoming community. However, visitors should take standard precautions when traveling, such as avoiding dark and isolated areas at night and keeping valuables in a safe place.

Health in Sakya

Visitors to Sakya should be prepared for the high altitude of the region, which can affect some travelers. It is recommended to carry altitude sickness medication, stay hydrated, and avoid excessive physical activity during the first few days. Sakya also hosts Basic Medical Service (BMS) clinics and other healthcare facilities to assist in case you encounter any health issues during your journey there.

Getting to Sakya: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Sakya

  • Ngari Gunsa Airport: This is the nearest airport to Sakya which offers daily flights to Lhasa, regional capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  • Lhasa Gonggar Airport: From Lhasa airport visitors can go directly to Sakya by taking a taxi or a shared van.

Bus Stations Near Sakya

  • Xigaze Bus Terminal: This is the closest bus station to Sakya. From here, visitors can take a bus to Sakya or hire a taxi.

Other Options

Visitors can also hire a private car or van to travel to Sakya, which offers more comfort and flexibility, but at a higher cost.

How to Get Around in Sakya

Visitors can explore Sakya on foot, but other means of transport include bicycles, taxis, and rental cars. Bicycle rental can be arranged easily in most hotels and guesthouses, while taxis are widely available in and around the town.

Where to Go Next from Sakya: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Mount Everest Base Camp: Drive from Sakya to the world’s highest peak and marvel at the stunning natural beauty along the way.

  • Lhasa: Head to the regional capital of Tibet and explore its monasteries, markets, and vibrant cultural scene.

  • Shigatse: This historic city is located just a short drive from Sakya and is home to the Tashilhunpo Monastery, historically the seat of the Panchen Lamas.


Sakya is a destination that offers visitors a unique and authentic experience of Tibetan culture and history, amidst the stunning natural beauty of the Tibetan plateau. From exploring the rich history and culture of the town to adventuring in the great outdoors, visitors to Sakya will leave with unforgettable memories and a newfound appreciation for this hidden gem of Southwest China.