Accessed by a steep and easily missed eroded staircase (now with an iron railing in place), the palace is an amazing ants’ nest of rooms tunnelled into the clay below the Summer Palace. The rooms were built 12m underground in order to conserve warmth, and the rooms on the left side have windows that open out onto the cliff-face.
There are seven dusty chambers, all empty, linked by a cramped corridor. Branching off from the stairs you will see a dim passage that provided vital access to water during sieges and served as an emergency escape route for the royal family. The easily missed stairs to the Winter Palace lead down from between the Summer Palace and the Mandala (Demchok) Lhakhang. Don’t go down if you’re prone to vertigo or claustrophobia.