Explorer, orientalist, writer… there is no shortage of adjectives to describe Alexandra David-Neel! A fascinating figure of the 20th century, she was a woman of insatiable curiosity, traveling the world in search of new experiences, spiritual discoveries and understanding of distant cultures. She is best known for being the first Western woman to enter the Forbidden City of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Devouring passion

Asia and oriental spirituality

It was at the age of 18 that Alexandra David Neel began her journey around the world, visiting India, Japan, China, Korea and Morocco. These first trips ignited in her a unwavering passion for the Orient.

During her wanderings, Alexandra David-Neel immersed herself in the study of oriental philosophies, being particularly interested in Tibetan Buddhism. She immersed herself in Tibetan culture and even learned the language, which allowed her to befriend Tibetan lamas and hermits. These encounters greatly influenced his life and his spiritual quest.

Alexandra David Neel and her adopted son
Alexandra David Neel House

A “Backpacker” before her time

The most significant moment in Alexandra David-Neel's life was undoubtedly her expedition to Tibet in 1924. Disguised as a Tibetan beggar and accompanied by her faithful Tibetan servant, the Yonqden lama whom she later adopted, she crossed hostile territories and traveled hundreds of kilometers on foot to reach Lhasa, the forbidden capital of Tibet. Her journey was strewn with dangers and obstacles, but her determination and love for this mysterious culture pushed her to overcome all difficulties.

Alexandra David-Neel spent several months in the Forbidden City, studying Buddhist teachings. His book, “Journey of a Parisian to Lhasa”, describes her incredible journey and aroused immense interest in the West and made her an international celebrity.

From Asia to Digne-les-Bains

After years of traveling around the world, it was in 1928 that Alexandra David Neel settled in Digne-les-Bains. Charmed by the peaceful calm and the location of this small town in the heart of the mountains, Alexandra David Neel will acquire her only home there: Samten Dzong (Residence of Reflection in Tibetan). It is here that she wrote much of her work and shared her knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism and oriental cultures.

Alexandra David-Neel will renew her passport when she turns 100 but disappears a few months later. She made Digne-les-Bains the main heir to her property, manuscripts and copyrights of more than twenty-five titles translated into around twenty languages.

The house, which was initially not designed to accommodate the public, was gradually modified over the years. In 2016, the town of Digne-les-Bains committed to paying tribute to him and promoting his heritage by beginning a series of works aimed at restoring the original state of the house. The project to rehabilitate and enhance the site will focus on 3 points:

  • restore your house as it was during his lifetime by integrating his everyday objects, his heterogeneous furniture;
  • he dedicate a museum conceived as a journey through her life as a feminist and libertarian adventurer;
  • restore the garden to which she was particularly attached.


His restored house

After a long search for historical documentation, a stratigraphic study was carried out to find and date the original supports and colors (1930s-1950s).
This made it possible to reestablish the initial plan of the house, its different uses and to plan several levels of intervention.

  • the restitution of spaces that have disappeared or been modified by new uses;
  • the restoration of places that have been preserved;
  • the evocation of places for which there are neither photographs nor testimonies.

Thus, two pieces preserved in their original state were only subject to stabilization measures. The other spaces have regained their shine thanks to the reconstruction of various elements (decors, lighting, floors or fireplaces).


A dedicated museum

Alongside the work to restore the house to its original state, a museum dedicated to his work and life allows you, before undertaking a visit to your house, to better
meet Alexandra. This museum offers a captivating dive into the fascinating world of Alexandra David-Neel. The collections trace his adventurous life, highlighting his travels as well as his passion for spirituality and Buddhism. Unpublished documents (photographs, correspondence, etc.) and objects brought back from travels support the museographical statement, from childhood to his last major trip to Asia. Based on the topography of the place, the museography invites visitors to climb into the building, step by step, as did Alexandra David-Neel who will go as far as the Land of Snow.

Living heritage

A redesigned garden

Alexandra David-Neel was very attached to her outdoors and loved to take long meditative walks around her house. Its garden, which today is less than 1m², was redesigned in order to give it back two functions which were important for
she : the rose garden and the vegetable orchard.
This garden fully participates in the tour linking the house and the museum. Despite numerous modifications, certain trees planted when the property was purchased (lime tree at the entrance, cypress, chestnut trees) still stand there. It’s about rediscovering the spirit of the garden "Samten Dzong" based on photographic documents and writings by Alexandra David-Neel.

Open. Closes at 18:00 p.m.
27 avenue du Maréchal Juin
04000 Digne-les-Bains
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