Walk Like a Tibetan
Following the 3km inner kora (pilgrim path) encircling Labrang Monastery is perhaps the best approach to grasping the giant temple's layout, scale and significance. The kora is lined with long rows of squeaking prayer wheels, whitewashed chörtens (Tibetan stupas) and chapels. Tibetan pilgrims with beads in their hands and sunhats on their heads, old folk, mothers with babies and children, shabby nomads and curious visitors walk in meditative fashion clockwise along the path (called zhuǎnjìngdào, ‘scripture-turning way’ in Chinese), rotating prayer wheels as they go. Look also for the tiny meditation cells on the northern hillside.
For a short hike, the more strenuous outer kora takes about an hour and climbs high above the monastery. To reach the start, head past the monastery’s western edge. About one block into the Tibetan village look for a large signpost (in Tibetan but it’s the only one around) on the right. Follow the alley up to the right, and make your way to the ridge, where you wind steeply uphill to a collection of prayer flags and the ruins of a hermitage. The views of the monastery open up as you go along. At the end of the ridge there’s a steep descent into town.