Tibet Autonomous Region | Population: 657,505
Surrounded by the magnificent Trans-Himalayan background is the city of Chamdo (or Qamdo). It is one of the biggest prefecture-level cities in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. There are several geographical factors that made the city one of the most coveted tourist destinations in Tibet besides Lhasa, the provincial capital. The city has the backdrop of spectacular snow-capped mountain ranges, massive glaciers, dense alpine forests, high-elevation lakes, and more.
Also, the city is the seat of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhists and the region has some of the best Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Consequently, Chamdo City is popular with tourists, naturalists, mountaineers, geologists, trekkers, and photographers.
Chamdo has been a commercial and trade hub since ancient times because it lies on what was called the South Silk Route or Tea-Horse Road. In the old days, traders from Persia and other countries in the West came on caravans and bartered goods in the city. Therefore, even though the locals were staunch Buddhists, they had an attitude of peace and tolerance.
Today’s Chamdo is a bustling urban area with well-developed infrastructure, cleanliness, good public transport systems, and various amenities that would make tourists comfortable. The locals mostly belong to the Khampa culture, also called Kham community. They are a tourist-friendly lot and live peacefully following their old customs, traditions, and religious practices.
The region around Chamdo City is a treat for Buddhists as well as tourists because the most well-known Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are in the vicinity. The largest and the most famous one is the 15th-century Galden Jampaling Monastery of the Gelug Sect. This monastery is considered very holy by the Tibetan Buddhist. It is not only a place of worship and pilgrimage but is also well-known for its artistic architecture. It is also a treasure-trove of ancient Buddhist paintings, sculptures, and other forms of religious art. Other monasteries in the region include the Karma Temple, Tsedrug Temple, Chambaling Monastery, Kamaduo Stupas, Zezhol Monastery, Wara Monastery, and the Riwoche Monastery.
For tourists who are extremely fond of natural beauty, there is a treat is store! The area around Chamdo City is like a painting created by God! The landscape is a bonanza of snow-capped mountain peaks, galloping waterfalls, dense foliage, rare fauna, gushing rivers, and more. The area near the Rawok Lake is considered the most beautiful and is a popular tourist attraction. Its crystal clear waters reflect the towering snow-capped mountain peaks and give the place a mystic beauty that is incomparable. The Lhegu Glacier is another must-see near the lake. There are several other breathtaking scenic spots around Chamdo like the Ranwu Lake, Kanuo Ruins, Chagyma Hall, Baxoi Gaxue Rock Painting, etc.
Food and Dining
The star hotels have their in-house restaurants that provide a few western-style dishes. Tourists who wish to try out the local cuisine will find several restaurants that specialize in typical Chamdo cuisine. The local food is a mix of simple Tibetan food and spicy Sichuan dishes. The staple is barley and the most popular item is the Tsampa made from barley flour. Their noodles and steamed dumplings made with barley flour are considered a delicacy. Other specialties include the yak butter tea, dried meat (yak or mutton), spicy meat stews, yak milk yogurt, roasted barley flour with buttered tea, Momos (sweet dumplings) with hot chocolate, yak meat wraps, Tibetan fritters (sweet or savory), Naizha Cake, spicy boiled potatoes, etc. which are accompanied by the popular Lhasa beer.
Where To Stay
Although the city is lacking in 5-star accommodation, Chamdo does boast of the cleanest and most comfortable 2 and 3-star hotels. They have spacious rooms, helpful staff, 24x7 housekeeping, laundry service, in-room dining, and the most splendid views. The city also has countless low-priced hotels, inns, and guesthouses for tourists traveling on a limited budget. These places have the bare minimum amenities but they are usually clean and comfortable. Of course, the staff in the smaller hotels may not understand English so it is advisable to carry an English-Chinese dictionary or download a translation app.