The monastery of Litang

Litang, also Lithang, formally known as Gaocheng Town (Mandarin Chinese: 高城镇), (Tibetan: ལི་ཐང།), is the county seat of Litang Couty, in western Sichuan Province, south-west China. It is also part of the ancient and historic Tibetan province of Kham. The town has a population of about 50,000 and is a major center of Tibetan culture in Kham and at an elevation of 4000m (13,123 ft) is one of the highest in the world. The town sits at the edge of wide grassland valley, surrounded by tall grassy hills that are often populated by yak and nomadic herders. This topography offers expansive views from many places in town. Several Dalai Lamas where born here and lived in the local monastery located just outside the town on a hillside. Litang is a bustling little place with colorful street life thanks to the nomadic shepherds and Tibetan people coming here to sell and buy their products. The older parts are situated on the hill slopes to the east, while busy construction work is extending the place into the surrounding grassy plains. Many of the new buildings are being constructed in the traditional local style. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Tibetan and bi-lingual but most signage is in Mandarin. The closest thing to big city amenities is Kangding 8-9 hours to the east over several breathtaking and dangerous passes.

Get in

By Air

As of May 2010, it is possible to fly from Chengdu to Kangding. This takes only 35 minutes and will save you lots of time and energy.

Public bus

The Bus Station is at the eastern end of town, near the crossroads between Kangding- and Xiangcheng-bound roads. Buses arrive daily from Batang, Kangding (9 hours, ¥92), Xiangcheng (4 hours, ¥61, difficult to get tickets), and Daocheng (3 hours). The buses tend to arrive between 14:00-15:00. You should try buy your ticket in the morning before you travel as it can get quite busy. Don't be put off by the fact the 'ticket' looks like a scrap of paper.

Private or shared minibuses can be hired in front of the station for ¥100 to Kangding. The price depends on how many other travelers are sharing the minibus with you. Minibuses can also be hired to Xinlong (4 hours) or Ganzi (7 hours).

Minibus is a far more comfortable option. The public bus has no suspension and is horrifically bumpy for 9 hours. As of March 2015, the reconstruction of highway 318 (to Kanding/Batang) was largely complete with the exception of two segments where tunnel construction is underway, the first about 3 hours into the journey from Kangding (the Gao'er Monastery Mountain Tunnel), which results in a detour over a brutal winding hill road for about 75 minutes, and the second just before one arrives at Litang itself (once again, a detour over a brutal hill road, though this time only for about 15 minutes), while the previously poor road to Ganzi through Xinlong had recently been repaved and was mostly in very good condition.. The trip from Kangding to Litang now takes about 8 hours, including two stops (one 10 minute bathroom stop, one 25 minute lunch stop at the station in Yajiang). Be aware that the buses are packed with locals carrying immense amounts of luggage so it pays to reach the bus station at Kangding promptly at 5:30 AM and to have your luggage stored in the luggage hold as soon as possible; otherwise it will end up in the aisle on the bus with 20 other pieces of luggage, and passengers will step on it as they climb on and off the bus.

Get around

You can easily visit the town on foot. Follow the main street to the market, complete with little baby yaks eating garbage and wild nomads on motorbikes.





Plenty of small restaurants are to be found on the main road, some with English menus.


There is an excellent dance club on the same side of the street as the Crane Guesthouse towards the bus station. There is a neon sign lit entrance to a courtyard, where the club is inside and to the right. There are also a number of karaoke-style bars in town, or KTV as they are known locally.


During autumn and winter, most of the guesthouses or hotels don't have any heating system or it is limited to electric blankets, rooms will be very cold making the stay uncomfortable. The incessant barking of dogs at night will make sleep challenging. The altitude is very high in this town so a signifcant amount of people will experience some negative side effects as a result. Be forewarned!



Stay safe

Litang is quite a center of Tibetan secessionist activities. Pictures of Dalai Lama are technically illegal. There is a strong police and military presence due to the tension.

August horse festival has had incidents in the past. Such incidents (with no casualties) happened in 2006 because of a dispute over results and in 2007 over a call for the return of the Dalai Lama. Check out the current situation on some Tibetan news sites like

As with many towns in the area, Litang is quite dusty, so those who are sensitive to dust should exercise precaution. Locals often wear homemade cloth dust masks, and they are cheaply and easily available in town.

Because of the altitude, travelers should be alert for signs of altitude sickness.

Go next

Public Bus

The bus to Xiangcheng leaves from Kangding in the morning and arrives Litang between 14:00-15:00. It can be more cheap and quick to hire a minivan, Especially because the buses Do not always have a place to sit.

To Approximate Price (Yuan) Duration (Hours) Comments Last update
Xiangcheng ¥80 4-5 Comes from Kanding May 2011

Private MiniBus

You can hire a "minibus" - van , just outside of the bus station. you won't need to look hard, the drivers will come to you. Hotels can also help arrange a van for the next day. The price is for a full van- 7 places, so if you go with an empty van it will cost more for each person. Bargain hard!

To Approximate Price (Yuan) Duration (Hours) Comments Last update
Xiangcheng ¥400-600 4 Price is for a Minibus(7 Places) May 2011
Daocheng ¥300-400 3 Price is for a Minibus(7 Places) May 2011
Zhongdian(Shangri-La) ¥1000-1200 12 Via Xiangcheng, Price is for a Minibus(7 Places) May 2011
Xinlong ¥450 4.5 Good road, scenic, Price is for a Minibus(7 Places) August 2012
Ganzi ¥780 7 Via Xinlong, Price is for a Minibus(7 Places) August 2012


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.