At 16,340 feet above sea level, situated near the base of Mount Everest’s north face, nowhere on Earth is it possible to be both physically and spiritually closer to the heavens than at Rongbuk Monastery.
Currently home to up to 30 Buddhist monks and nuns in residence, Rongbuk was established in 1909 by Ngawang Tenzin Norbu in its present location. Long known for having meditation huts and caves used by a community of hermetic Buddhist monks and nuns, the monastery is noteworthy for its sprawling grounds containing a main hall with statues of the Buddhist deities Sakyamuni and Padmasambhava, intricate murals, and a prominent chorten containing a reliquary.
The first half of the 20th century found Rongbuk booming on religious as well as mountaineering fronts. Once rumored to house 500 devout followers, the monastery gradually expanded to include seven chapels. A modest guesthouse was also added adjacent to the monk and nuns’ quarters for those making briefer spiritual pilgrimages. This addition laid the groundwork for accommodating the ever-increasing number of adventurers drawn to Rongbuk by the tantalizing mountain peaks in its backyard, which continues to this day.
Lodging specifications at the monastery’s guesthouse won’t surprise anyone considering it’s being run by reclusive monks at one of the most remote locations in the world. Shared outdoor latrines, tiny rooms, limited heating, and minimal electricity are realities, though most seeking a stay at Rongbuk are doing so for its vantage into the natural and metaphysical, not the tangible.
Know Before You Go
Accessible by road via a two- to three-hour drive from the Friendship Highway by way of either Shelkar or Old Tingri.