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Note Updated: Mount Everest (Tibet side) is reopened from July 1, 2015!
Rongbuk Monastery is located at the foot of Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world, and lays claim to being the highest Buddhist shrine on the planet. Perched at an altitude of 5,100 meters( 16,732 feet) above sea level, Rongbuk Monastery is not only a spiritual destination, but also offers some of the most magnificent and breathtaking views.
Climbers on expeditions attempting Mount Everest via its north face must hike past this monastery to reach the summit; it is therefore aptly regarded as the gateway to Mount Everest.
A Nyingmapa Lama founded Rongbuk Monastery in 1899. The monastery is built in the area that was originally used by communities of monks and hermits for meditation about 400 years ago. This is evident in the several hermitage meditation caves that dot the cliff walls all around monastery complex and the paths leading to the valley.
In the past, the monastery served as a regular meeting place for Buddhist teachings and was particularly active at certain times of the year. Even today, it remains a site for special Buddhist ceremonies where devoted pilgrims from as faraway as Nepal and Mongolia come to pay votive offerings and watch lamas play operas.
Rongbuk Monastery is situated near the tongue of the Rongbuk Glacier on the north side of Mount Everest. It is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the Base Camp established by mountaineers trying to scale Mount Everest from the north side.
The monastery can be reached by road in a two-to-three-hour drive along Friendship Highway from either New Tingri or Old Tingri in Shigatse Perfecture.
The monastery encompasses a large round chorten, and a reliquary. Statues of Buddhist deities, Sakyamuni and Padmasambhava, are enshrined in the main hall. The mural paintings found inside depict Tibetan religion and culture and are especially worth appreciating.
The monastery serves as a cohesive dwelling for lamas and nuns who have separate residences. About 500 monks and nuns are believed to have lived there at one time; however a small fraction lives in the monastery now.
Due to its unique location, the Rongbuk Monastery offers the most spectacular views of Mount Everest and its surrounding peaks of Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, and Gyachung Kang. This panorama is particularly glorious at sunrise and sunset.
A guesthouse and a few hostels are available for accommodation in the vicinity of the monastery. The facilities provided are very basic; it would be impractical to expect anything more than adequate on account the remote location.