Within the mountains of northwestern Sichuan is Larung Gar, home to the largest Buddhist academy in the world and tens of thousands of monks and nuns, as well as the approximately 10,000 students of the academy. Five hours away via a long and winding (and sometimes unfinished road) from the nearest major town of Ganzi (Garzê ), the town sees relatively few tourists.
Besides the academy, Larung Gar is one of the few places where you can regularly witness sky burials, but it is the housing—a spread of cube-like wooden houses crowded on the hillsides—that makes perhaps the most visual impact. These haphazardly placed clusters of homes give Larung Gar a shanty town vibe. There is order to the madness, though: The settlement is divided into different sections, with the academy itself in the center, and respective sections for monks and nuns to live in, separated by roads and walls to prevent intermingling between the groups.
Visitors should prepare for the high altitude. Nights can be cold, even during the summer, and accommodation can be unreliable at Larung Gar. Travelers might opt to stay below Larung Gar in the town of Seda (Sêrtar) and take a taxi up every day. From Chengdu, travelers can arrive at Ganzi town (via Kanding), and then continue on from there, as the road is usually more reliable from that direction.