Pelyul County (or Pelyul- དཔལ་ཡུལ་རྫོང་།) is located in Kham Tibet and is one of eighteen counties of Ganzi Autonomous prefecture in Western Sichuan Province. In Tibetan, Pelyul means “a holy and happy place.” Pelyul is on the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region and is roughly 3,000 meters above sea level. There are over 50,000 people here with 94% being Tibetan and the rest are Han Chinese and other ethnic minorities.
Getting to Pelyul
Traveling to Pelyul from Chengdu is very doable with a little bit of patience. It’s roughly a 900km journey and takes around 18 hours by bus. A new highway from Ya’an to Luding is now open to private vehicles and will be available to public bus traffic in June of 2018. This cuts at least four hours off the journey, making the total ride possible in one day. This is still not recommended though, as it is always best to ascend elevation slowly with regular periods of acclimatization. We suggest spending at least a night or two in Kangding on the way up.
Well Worth the Trip
The landscape and scenery are so worth the trip: nomadic grassland, glaciated peaks, deep river valleys, stunning mountain lakes, diverse Tibetan architecture, and the unique culture. Pelyul is only 97 kilometers (a 2 hour drive) south of Dege. Dege is the center of culture, art and medicine in Kham area. It’s one of the best places to experience Tibetan religious culture and learn Kham Tibetan history.
Sights to See around Pelyul
You can easily spend two to three days in Pelyul visiting monasteries and nunneries. Pelyul and Katok Monasteries are one of the three biggest Nyingma-tradition monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism in the Kham Tibetan region. Pelyul monastery was founded in 1665 by Kuchen Sherab in Pelyul County. After Pedma Norbu Rinpoche’s death, Karma Kuchen Rinpoche became the monastery’s twelfth leader. The monastery is located in a hillside above the county town and is within walking distance. From the monastery you can get the whole view of the town.
Katok Monastery was founded by Katok Dampa Deshek in 1159. It’s located on a hillside in a town called Horpo 51 kilometers away from Peyul county. It has a nearly 850 year history and the greatest scholars in Tibet have come out of Katok. Katok is a must-see if you want to dive deep into the history of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Yarchen Monastery was founded by Achuk Rinpoche in 1985. It lies in an isolated valley 4000 meters above sea level. The monastery is associated with the Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s the largest concentration of nuns and monks in the world. Nuns drastically outnumber the monks, so much so that Yarchen is also known as “The City of Nuns.” The place is covered with thousands of small huts where nuns do their meditation. Yarchen is an amazing place to learn about Tibetan Buddhist nun’s lifestyle and religious customs. Yarchen is between Pelyul County and Ganzi County, roughly equidistant from both. Traveling from either Pelyul or Ganzi to Yarchen takes about three hours by private vehicle.