Tirthapuri Hot Springs, China

Located northwest of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs are closely associated with Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Pilgrims bathe in pools fed by the springs, visit the monastery containing the guru's footprint and dig for healing stones along a one-hour pilgrimage route.


What to See at Tirthapuri Hot Springs

Located on the north bank of the Sutlej River, the Tirthapuri Hot Springs fill the barren landscape with steam. Pilgrims typically come here after completing the Kailash pilgrimage. They bathe in pools fed by the sacred springs, then visit the cave and monastery associated with Guru Rinpoche. Prayer flags stretch across the river gorge and chortens (stupas) add color to the landscape.

There is a one-hour kora (pilgrimage route) around Tirthapuri that takes in all the sights. From the hot springs at the southwest corner of the loop, the trail climbs up to a cremation point where old clothes and rags have been left on the rocks. The path then turns east, passing a "sour" earth hole and a "sweet" earth hole, where pilgrims dig for small stones believed to have healing properties.

Next comes a karma-testing hole, where pilgrims can check their karma levels before visiting the monastery. The hole is in a rock beneath a solitary prayer wheel. Reach in the hole and pull out two stones. Two white stones indicates good karma, one black and one white means it could use some work, and two black stones indicate bad karma. Penance and rituals such as pilgrimage can help improve one's karma.

From here the trail doubles back to the Guru Rinpoche Monastery (a.k.a. Tirthapuri Monastery), whose assembly hall enshrines stone footprints of Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyel. Also here is a sacred cave used by the guru.

Just south of the monastery is a circle of mani stones marking the spot where the gods danced when Guru Rinpoche was enshrined here. Further east are several large mani walls, some containing yak heads and other offerings. The largest wall is 200m long, extending east from the monastery. According to legend, a demon shot an arrow at the guru, who stopped it mid-flight and transformed its path into the mani wall.

The trail then turns west again, following the river back to the hot springs. Shrines and chortens dot the landscape on the way.

Getting There

The Tirthapuri Hot Springs are located about 80km northwest of Mount Kailash, 65km west of Darchen, and 9km south of Moincer (Mensi). Tirthapuri is accessible by road but there is no public transportation. It is easiest to visit as part of a guided Jeep tour to Kailash and Manasarovar.

Simple accommodations are available in the monastery guesthouse at Tirthapuri (about ¥30) and it is possible to camp further down the river. There is also a basic guesthouse in Moincer.

Quick Facts on Tirthapuri Hot Springs

Site Information
Names:Tirthapuri Hot Springs
Categories:monasteries; megalithic monuments
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:31.137971° N, 80.718355° E
Lodging:View hotels near Tirthapuri Hot Springs
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Mount Kailash and around - Rough Guide to China (accessed June 2009)
  2. Tirthapuri Hot Springs & Kora - Lonely Planet Tibet

More Information

The Tirthapuri Hot Springs in Western Tibet. © Rich Nacin
Pilgrimage path to Guru Rinpoche Monastery. © Rich Nacin
Guru Rinpoche Monastery with long mani wall. © Rich Nacin
Mani Wall with yak head. © Rich Nacin
Closer look at a mani wall. © Rich Nacin

Map of Tirthapuri Hot Springs, China

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