Tibetan Places: Amnye Machen Mountain

Amnye Machin

Amnye Machen

Quick Facts

  • Meaning:  ‘Amnye’ means ‘grandfather’ and is a respectful term for an elderly man.  ‘Machen’ means ‘large scar’.
  • Location:  Golog Prefecture, Qinghai
  • Elevation: 3600m. to 4700m.
  • Cultural Significance:  It is one of the 25 most sacred sites of Tibet
  • Must See:  Glaciers; gushing rivers; nomadic grassland pastures; and wild animal species found nowhere else on earth.
  • Must Do: Kora- circumnavigate the mountain range
  • Special Note: Amnye Machen is a remote wilderness. Travelers are not advised to trek here without an experienced guide.

Getting There

The sacred and remote Amnye Machen mountain range is situated in Amdo Tibet, in Golog prefecture of Qinghai province, northwest of Machen county seat.  Golog is the largest nomadic prefecture of Tibet, known for both the strength of its Tibetan nomadic traditions and the warrior spirit of its people.  

Reached either via Machen county town or through the northern route via Dawu Shulma township (Ch: Xia Dawu), Amnye Machen is a great site of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists.  Since local transport can be difficult, a guided jeep tour is the best way to arrive at Amnye Machen.

Trekking Amnye Machen

Amnye Machen is home to 13 mountain peaks, the highest a staggering 6,282 meters above sea level.  The area exists at such a high altitude that most of the mountains are covered in snow throughout the summer months.  Travelers and pilgrims can either circumambulate the entire mountain for a full ‘kora’ (‘kora’ is a Tibetan term meaning a religious circumambulation around a sacred site), or opt to trek part of the mountain range for a half ‘kora.’  Travellers trekking the full kora will require a local guide, as there is no clear path and it is easy to get lost.  Tibetans traditionally do kora around Amnye Machen every 12 years, during the year of the horse (2014), as this is the most auspicious time to circumambulate the site. Amnye Machen’s untouched natural beauty is a sight to behold – with glaciers; gushing rivers; nomadic grassland pastures; and wild animal species found nowhere else on earth. Amnye Machen is also home to Geri monastery, an ancient, remote, and silent spiritual abode located amongst the nomadic settlements and expansive scenery of this holy site.

The Historical Legend of Amnye Machen

Tibetan history lists Amnye Machen as the place where the legendary King Gesar, known for his prowess in war and magical powers, spent the majority of his life.  Tibetan legend also describes an ancient feud between the mountain god Amnye Machen and a mountain god named Nyenbo Yurtse.  Intent on marrying Amnye Machen’s daughter, Nyenbo Yurtse secretly snatched Amnye Machen’s daughter away, without obtaining Amnye Machen’s permission.  A battle ensued between the two mountain gods, in which Nyenbo Yotse slashed Amnye Machen’s forehead with his knife.  Thus, this sacred site, and the mountain god resident within it, was named Amnye Machen – ‘amnye’ means ‘grandfather’ and is a respectful term for an elderly man.  ‘Machen’ means ‘large scar,’ so named because Amnye Machen received a large scar on his forehead at the hands of Nyenbo Yurtse’s knife.

Special Note

Amnye Machen is one of the most amazing sites a traveller can visit in Tibet.  While trekking through this majestic range, however, lone travelers should beware of aggressive dogs, and should also beware of altitude sickness, as you will be trekking at altitudes between 3600 and 4700 meters above sea level.  It is recommended that this trek, requiring 8 days for the full kora and 4 days for the half kora, be done with a guide.  Tibetan Connections offers professional guided tours of Amnye Machen.