Gyantse is located at 3977 meters above sea level and 254 km south-west of Lhasa. The town is located between Karola glacier and Shigatse town. It is considered the third largest town in Tibet after Shigatse and Lhasa. The town is strategically located at the focal point of the ancient trade route between Tibet, Nepal, and India. The entire old city of Gyantse is surrounded by 3 km wall. It has most beautiful Palchoe monastery and Kumbum stupa inside the city wall and fort of the top of the hill towering over the city. The town is surrounded by the fertile land of Nyang river valley.
The town has three main attractions for the tourist; Kumbum stupa, Palchoe monastery, and the Gyantse fort. The town is a very popular stop for the foreign tourist and many tour itineraries would make a stop in the town for about one hour before heading towards Shigatse. If you are traveling in winter, you will most likely stop here for the night.
Palchoe monastery comprises few landmarks including the popular Tsuklhakang, Kumbum stupa, and Gyantse fort. Including all these structures makes it the biggest structure in Tibet. the history of the monastery can be traced back to the ninth century. The monastery was named Pelkhor-Tsen, son of anti-Buddhi Dharma king Langdarma. He lived here after the assassination of his father while trying to regain power.
The Gyantse Palchoe monastery was found by the founder of Gyantse city. Gyanste Palchoe monastery has a very strong influence of Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The prince Rabton Kunzang Phak has built the main assembly hall of the Palchoe monastery, it is known as Tsulakhang in Tibetan. you can still the see the original work of art from the fifteen century in the Tsulhakhang.
Kumbum stupa means 100,000 statue stupa. this is the biggest stupa in Tibet. the stupa was built by the second prince of the Gyantse. He becomes devotees of Khedrup Je. once of the main disciples of Jhe Rinpoche, the founder of Gelugpa sect. The stupa is three-dimension Mandala portraying the Buddhist cosmos. The stupa has many images of great teachers from all the sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Both Palchoe monastery and the Kumbum monastery has a strong influence of Nepalese Nawari architecture and the painting. both still has the original work of art from artisan from fifteen century.
historical books state the Gyantse fort has serve for the Pelkhor-tsen, son of anti-Buddhi Dharma king Langdarma. how had reigned from 838 to 841 for very short period of time. The present wall was built in 1268 during rule of Sakaypas. the fort serve as a great defences line between the aggresive force of British India and self defience of local militia and army of local Tibetan authority in Gyantse. if you visit the fort you would probable visit the war memorial museum in the fort.
If you proceed from Gyantse to Shigatse, right before the Phala mansion. you can stop for the beautiful scenic view of Gyantse town, comprising all it ancient wonders in one single view. If you are photography, you could ask your guide and driver as you reach the town.