Traditionally the home of the Panchen Lamas – historically religious and political rivals to the Dalai Lamas – Tibet’s second city, SHIGATSE (日喀则, rìkāzé), is often only used by travellers as an overnight stop on the way to or from Lhasa. One day is long enough to see the two main sights, Tashilunpo Monastery and Shigatse Dzong, but if you’re not pressed for time it’s worth spending at least an extra night here simply to do everything at a more leisurely pace, take in the market, wander the attractive, tree-lined streets and absorb the atmosphere.
Although the city is fairly spread out, about 2km from end to end, most of the sights and the facilities that you’ll need are in or near the north–south corridor around Shanghai Lu and Shandong Lu, extending north along Xue Qiang Lu to the market and Dzong. The main exception is Tashilunpo Monastery, which is a bit of a hike west. Shigatse offers an adequate range of accommodation, a variety of shops and some pleasant restaurants, and the dramatic Drolma Ridge rising up on the northern side of town helps you get your bearings easily. The pace of life here is unhurried, but there’s a buzz provided by the huge numbers of Tibetan pilgrims and foreign visitors. Although most of the city is modern, you’ll find the traditional Tibetan houses concentrated in the old town west of the market, where you can explore the narrow alleyways running between high, whitewashed walls.