Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Buddhist Institute, is by far the largest Buddhist settlement in the world. Larung Gar sits in the Larung Valley at an elevation of 4,000 meters, about 15 km from the town Sêrtar, in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture in the Tibetan region of Kham.
The campus of Larung Gar is enormous. Houses for monks and nuns sprawl all over the valley and up the surrounding mountains. A huge wall through the middle of Larung Gar separates the monk side from the nun side. Monks and nuns are not allowed out of their designated areas except in front of the main monastery assembly hall which is common to both nuns and monks. The houses are all built in a wood style that is traditionally found in this region, and built so close together that they appear almost on top of each other. (From the article in Amusing Planet.)
The incredible academy was established in 1980 in the uninhabited valley by Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma tradition.
Larung Gar is not a place overrun by tourists. For once, its location is quite remote. The nearest large city is Chengdu, some 650 kilometers away. Allow between 13 and 15 hours to reach the settlement by vehicle. Sertar is not particularly eager to host tourists and is often closed to foreign travelers.
More than half of those who come to study are women. Unlike any other Buddhist monasteries and institutions in other areas of Tibet, Serthar opened its doors to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision.
The huts of monks and nuns are segregated by a winding road through the middle.
Larung Gar isn’t on my list of places I’d like to visit before death do me part with this world. However, it’s certainly a unique place, fascinating to know exists. See more pictures here.