Old Town

Old Town information

Lonely Planet review

After checking out the monastery, everyone just wanders about the old town, specifically Square Street ( Sifang Jie); from this branches a spider web of cobbled lanes and renovated buildings (some say tacky, others say cool). You’ll also see white stupas everywhere. Lording over the old town is Guīshān Sì (龟山寺; Guīshān Temple), a reconstructed temple home to a few monks that conduct morning prayers. Next to the temple is Zhùangjīng Tǒng , the world’s biggest prayer wheel standing at 21m high and containing 100,000 small prayer wheels. At least six people are needed to give it a spin.

On the far side of Guishan Temple it’s worth visiting the Shangri-la Thangka Academy , where thangka master Lobsang Khudup trains young monks in painting and Buddhist philosophy. The academy also offers classes for tourists, costing around ¥180 per day; a real bargain considering the price includes room and board. You can also participate in a three-day village homestay for ¥240.