DeGe Kingdom Explorer. Your Experiential Cultural Adventure in Eastern Tibet

This custom two week adventure immersively explores the heart of the ancient kingdom of Dege, which ruled much of eastern Tibet between the 15th and 19th centuries. At it's height the kingdom was renowned for it's cultural and artistic preeminence, and was particularly notable for its great Buddhist masters, bronze statue makers and Tertons (discoverers of age-old Buddhist texts).

The trip has been designed to offer immersive access to local Tibetan tantric and artistic culture, unique opportunities for meditational and yogic practice, and the chance to join a multi-day pilgrimage trek through a pristine, spiritually-charged valley believed locally to be the assembly place of all the celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The adventure is also timed to include the off the beaten path (you will likely be the only non-locals in attendance) Tibetan Buddhist festivals in Maniggango and Dzongsar which include colourful Cham dances, esoteric ceremonies and dare-devil horse races.

In short then, this trip offers a 'real' glimpse into a hidden corner of Eastern Tibet that very few outsiders get to see
A traditional Tibetan Cham Dance

The adventure also includes time spent in arguably the most beautiful city in China, Chengdu, an epic drive across eastern Tibet, and visits to one of the regions cultural treasures, the Dege Parkhang (printing house) as well as the ancient Kagyu and Sakye sect monasteries of Palpung and Dzongsar.

Immersive access to authentic Tibetan culture.

The latter, the beautiful ancient hilltop village of Dzongsar (built around it's 12th Century monastery) and the surrounding mountains and valleys, will be our base for a large part of the trip. Dzongsar is also the artistic heartland of the region, and it is here that Whistling Arrow has it's strongest personal relationships, not least with the family of the most famous bronze statue maker in the community. We will also have the opportunity to visit the private studios of famous thangka artists and renowned traditional Tibetan medicine practitioners.

The hill-top village of Dzongsar
One of the many highlights of this adventure will be to embark on a spectacular four or five day pilgrimage trek starting and finishing in Dzongsar.

For this part of the trip, we will be camping as we explore the sacred Dolpu Valley (with the beautiful Gagu retreat centre at its mouth), visit several significant holy sites and lakes (where terma - ancient Buddhist teachings - are believed to be hidden) and cross the 4700m Shachen La pass.

The beautiful Dolpu Valley and pilgrimage route.
So what's the brief day to day plan?
  1. Arrive Chengdu. O/N luxury boutique hotel
  2. Day in Chengdu. Visit old tea houses and temples - and if wanted pandas.
  3. Drive to Garze. Visit a couple of beautiful monasteries en route. O/N lodge in Garze.
  4. Drive to Dzongsar via Dege. Visit the spectacular Parkhang. O/N lodge in Dzongsar.
  5. Explore Dzongsar village, monastery, meditational caves and artisanal workshops.
  6. Drive to Gagu retreat centre and trek for 3 hours to a beautiful meadow to camp.
  7. Trek for 4 hours through the pristine Dolpu Valley to the sacred Dorji Mi Nah. Camp.
  8. Spare day at Dorji Minah (or the previous day) to relax, meditate and practice yoga. Camp.
  9. Cross the Shachen La with stunning views of Chola Mountain to camp by a sacred lake.
  10. Trek for 4 hours to a meditational retreat centre associated with Guru Rinpoche. Camp.
  11. Trek five hours back to Dzongsar. O/N in lodge.
  12. Drive to Palpung Monastery and then onwards to Yachen. O/N in lodge.
  13. Drive to Garze. O/N in lodge.
  14. Drive to Chengdu. O/N in boutique hotel.
  15. Fly out.
Impromptu Tibetan FESTIVALs

Finally, throughout the trip there will be both impromptu and planned stops at various monasteries and local festivals. In Dzongsar, we will also have immersive access to the community based on Whistling Arrow's personal relationship with local families. There will also be several spectacular locations in which to meditate and practice yoga.

So what's The nitty gritty?

The trip will start in and finish in Chengdu and will require a valid China Visa only. Whistling Arrow will offer advice along the way if needed with regards to visa applications, what to bring (please note that on the trek you will only be required to carry your day packs) etc.

A Green Tara thangka in the traditional Palpung style.
Uniquely designed by Whistling Arrow.


All photos by Adrian Bottomley