A detour to visit the small town of Sakya (ས་སྐྱ་; 萨迦; Sàjiā) is a treat for any trip down the Friendship Hwy. The draw is Sakya Monastery, which ranks as one of the most atmospheric, impressive and unique monasteries in Tibet. Moreover, Sakya occupies a pivotal place in Tibetan history.
In recent years Sakya has transformed from a village into a town and the area around the monastery has been developed by a private company to include a huge parking lot and a hefty entry fee, but Sakya still feels off the grid.
The town is southwest of Shigatse, about 25km off the Southern Friendship Hwy, accessed via a half-paved road through a pretty farming valley.