Sera Monastery,  Lhasa city, Tibet

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Sera Monastery


About 5km north of Lhasa, Sera was founded in 1419 by a disciple of Tsongkhapa as one of Lhasa's two great Gelugpa monasteries. About 600 monks are now in residence, down from an original population of around 5000. The half-dozen main colleges feature spectacular prayer halls and chapels. Equally interesting is the monk debating that takes place from 3pm to 5pm in a garden near the assembly hall. Don't miss the fine, hour-long kora (pilgrim circuit) around the exterior of the monastery.

From Sera Monastery it's possible to take a taxi northwest for a couple of kilometres to little-visited Pabonka Monastery. Built in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo, this is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the Lhasa region.

A taxi to Sera costs around ¥20 from the old town.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Lhasa attractions

1. Sand Mandalas

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A small building to the side of the printing press holds these three sand mandalas.

2. Printing Press

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Before leaving the monastery it’s worth having a look at the printing blocks in this new hall. Photos are ¥10. Prints made on site are for sale (¥25 to …

3. Sera Me College

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Follow the pilgrims clockwise, past the Tsangba Kangtsang and Tsowa Kangtsang residential halls and several minor buildings, to Sera Me College. This…

4. Tsangba Kangtsang

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This college is worth popping into if you want to explore off the beaten track.

5. Main Assembly Hall

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The main assembly hall (Tsogchen) is the largest of Sera’s buildings and dates to 1710. The central hall is particularly impressive and is noted for its…

6. Kitchen

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This atmospheric monastery kitchen on the eastern side of the main assembly hall is worth a visit.

7. Sera Ngagpa College

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A Tantric college, Ngagpa is also the oldest structure at Sera. The main hall is dominated by a statue of Sakya Yeshe (wearing a black hat), behind the…

8. Sera Je College

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This is the largest of Sera’s colleges, generally accessed from a western side entrance. It has a breathtaking main hall, hung with thangkas and lit by…