China // Tibet //


The Lhasa–Tsetang road runs along the south bank of the Tsangpo and is served by public transport from both ends. To reach the monastery, you’ll need to cross the river via the Samye ferry, 33km from Tsetang and 150km from Lhasa. Ferries leave when full and are more frequent in the morning, but run until mid-afternoon. The crossing (¥10) is highly picturesque and takes an hour or more as the boats wind their way among the sandbanks inhabited by Brahmini ducks, grebes and plovers. On the other side, tractors (45min; ¥5) and trucks (30min; ¥3) ply the bumpy 8km to Samye through rolling, deforested sand dunes, newly planted here and there with willows. If you want to make life easier for yourself, you can take the bus from Barkhor Square (¥40); it leaves between 6am and 8am, returning at 2pm. The small, white-painted chortens carved out of the hillside about halfway along mark the place where King Trisong Detsen met Padmasambhava when he came to Samye in the eighth century. Leaving, a very useful truck departs from the front of the utse each morning at 8am to connect with the ferry and a Lhasa-bound bus on the other side of the river. In addition, local tractors and trucks run until mid-afternoon, but you may well have to wait at the ferry and on the other side of the river for connections.

The only place to stay at Samye is the guesthouse next to the utse, which provides comfortable, cheap dorm accommodation (¥80 and under, dorm beds ¥20). The monastery restaurant is just north of the utse, but a tastier option is the newer establishment opposite the east reception office near the east gate.