While there is nothing to stop you from wandering around the monastery complex by yourself – be sensitive, use your discretion, and move clockwise – given the bewildering wealth of architecture, art and statuary, it’s a good idea to take a guided tour at some stage. This can be arranged at the ticket office – take the only sizeable turn off the north side of the road within the monastery area (on the right if coming from the station). The hour-long tours (roughly at 10.15am and 3.15pm; ¥40) include entrance to five buildings and are led by English-speaking monks.
Labrang Monastery is the site of some spectacular festivals that, as with Chinese festivals, take place according to the lunar calendar. The largest is the Monlam Festival, three days after the Tibetan New Year (late Feb or early March). The opening of the festival is marked by the unfurling of a huge thangka on the south side of the Daxia River. Processions, dances and the lighting of butter lamps take place on subsequent days.