Exploring the world’s highest monastery next to Everest

Inside the world’s highest monastery: Haunting images show the crumbling building eerily abandoned with cash still left as offerings to gods

  • MailOnline Travel’s Sadie Whitelocks visited the Rong Pu monastery which is close to Everest Base Camp
  • She said the place appeared in a state of distress with rock boulders strewn across the abandoned site
  • In the main building there were shrines, a bedroom and a man appeared to turn a giant prayer wheel  

The wind was whistling through the valley and there was a strange silence as we ascended a set of worn stone stairs to the entrance of the monastery. 

I’d been camping at Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side as part of a record-breaking expedition for the world’s highest dinner party – as reported here – and someone at one of our neighbouring camps had told me about an abandoned monastery.     

Intrigued by the chap’s story, I took an hour-and-a-half stroll to the dishevelled building with the expedition doctor and we were left mystified by what we found. 

MailOnline Travel’s Sadie Whitelocks explored a monastery close to Everest on a recent expedition through Tibet

The monastery appears to have been damaged by rock fall with large boulders scattered over the site 

While there were tourists down on the main road, there was wasn’t a single person at the monastery.

It appeared that the structure had been partly demolished by rock fall, with large boulders tumbled down and menacing looking cliffs looming above. 

There was one main building still standing and we decided to investigate its innards. 

Inside, the corridors were narrow and the floors uneven. The doctor also had to stoop slightly given the low ceilings. 

Inside the monastery Sadie found colourful shrines with money left as offerings and a candle lit 

The monastery is clearly maintained and there was electricity in some of the rooms


In one room makeshift beds were crafted out of wooden crates (left) and Sadie had to be careful on the uneven stairs (right)

Bizarrely there was power, and stripped lightbulbs hung in some of the dusty, incense-infused rooms. 

There was definitely someone maintaining the place, as we found candles burning by colourful shrines with bank notes scattered around as offerings. 

Some of the walls featured bright scenes depicting religious stories. 

Moving downstairs we pushed open one un-oiled door to find a small sleeping area. 

The walls inside the monastery featured intricate detailing, with gold paint and silk decorations 

The walls and floors inside the monastery were uneven and the ceilings low in some parts

Bed frames had been crafted from wooden crates and flimsy curtains were pinned to the window with a dappled light shining through.

Around the building ancient dwellings appeared to be eroding, with weeds growing through their ramshackle remains.  

There were also dozens of odd brick stacks which looked like the tops of chimneys but it wasn’t clear what they were for. 

Suddenly we spotted human presence and an elderly Tibetan man waved as he turned a giant prayer wheel in a small shed-like shelter next to the main building.   

A sign on the entrance to the complex – written in English, Tibetan and Chinese – named it as Rong Pu monastery but I found little information on its history.

Prayer flags adorn some of the rocks around the Rong Pu monastery with jagged cliffs behind

There are only a few buildings which are accessible at the site

A sign on the entrance to the complex – written in English, Tibetan and Chinese – named it as Rong Pu monastery but Sadie found little information on its history

Further down the main road moving away from Everest Base Camp is Rongbuk Monastery, which proves to be more popular with tourists.

The building is home to dozens of monks and nuns. 

Rongbuk Monastery was apparently completely destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The revolution saw the People’s Republic of China occupy Tibet, with efforts to stamp out religion and culture. 

Rongbuk was left ruins for several years before being renovated. 

Maybe this was the cause of its neighbour Rong Pu’s sorry state too. We left the strangely quiet valley and trundled back to base camp, excited to share the tale of our mysterious find.

There were dozens of odd brick stacks which looked like the tops of chimneys but it wasn’t clear what they were for

Sadie peers out from the Rong Pu monastery with Mount Everest seen in the background 

Further down the main road moving away from Everest Base Camp is Rongbuk Monastery, which proves to be more popular with tourists

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