Leh Ladakh Monastery

Overview

Thinking about Leh Ladakh! The vibrant prayer flags that represent the region’s Buddhist and spiritual practices and landscapes come to mind. Ladakh which is close to Tibet and was formerly dominated by Tibetans has preserved aspects of Tibetan culture that includes Tibetan cuisine, Tibetan buildings, and Buddhist temples. Some of these monasteries are centuries old, they are renowned for both their ethereal beauty and their rich history. Come and explore the Buddhist Monasteries of Ladakh that covers around 100,000 sq. km and located in the northernmost part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. These monasteries act as natural sanctuaries that represent the spiritual core of Ladakh and provide peaceful retreats for reflection.

Leh’s monasteries are located a few kilometers outside of the town. This spiritual Tour of Ladakh that focuses on this aspect of the region and includes trips to monasteries and healing sessions with traditional healers that includes shamans and amchis. Among the most prominent monasteries is Hemis Monastery, the richest and biggest in Ladakh which is well-known for its yearly Hemis festival that draws tourists from all over the world. This event honors the birth anniversary of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism Guru Padmasambhava and features vibrant mask dances and traditional music. Another important monastery is Thiksey which is frequently likened to Lhasa’s Potala Palace because of its striking likeness and magnificence. The Thiksey Monastery is home to a magnificent statue of Maitreya Buddha.

Popular Ladakh Tours

Best Monasteries In Ladakh

01. Hemis Monastery

Hemis monastery

Located in the Northernmost part of India, Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh district has the largest monastery- Hemis Monastery. Accessible by car and is situated 45 kms from Leh in the foothills of the river Indus. The surroundings act as an icing on the cake making it an unforgettable traveling experience. It has more than 200 branches and is home to more than 1000 monks. Hemis monastery is also said to be the richest monastery in India for its extensive collection of historic artifacts, which includes a copper figure of the Buddha and gold and silver stupas.

It also has several antiquities, murals, and revered Thangkas. Here an annual Hemis Festival is observed in the month of June in honor of Padmasambhava. Naropa is associated with this monastery. Naropa was a student of yogi Tilopa and a teacher of translator Marpa. A Grunwedel translated the biography of Naropa that was in the Hemis monastery. A legend and Russian writer Nicolas Notovitch (1894) both claim that during his “lost years,” Jesus visited the Hemis monastery. The Tibetan-style architecture of this monastery is very eye-catching which is separated into two sections: the Tshogkhang temple and the Dukhang assembly hall. The veranda can be seen adorned with vibrant murals depicting the Buddhist Kalchakra.

  • Location: Hemis Ladakh
  • Visiting Time: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM 
  • Entry Fee: INR 100 for Indian tourists and INR 200 for foreign tourists.

02. Thiksey Monastery

Monuments Of Ladakh

Situated on top of a hill in Thiksey hamlet the Thiksey Monastery is associated with the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located around 19 km to the east of Ladakh on the Leh-Manali National Highway. Its architecture and construction are like Tibet’s Potala Palace in Lhasa. Buddhist artwork such as thangka paintings, statues, stupas, and swords are kept in the monastery. The statue of Maitreya in the monastery is. a 50-foot. The Gustor ritual is an annual event that takes place in the monastery in October–November 17–19, the 17th and 19th day of the ninth month in the Tibetan calendar. This ceremony includes the performance of sacred dances which includes the mask dance and the Cham dance.

The trade fair where locals from all over Ladakh gather to exchange goods and engage in social interaction is also another unique aspect of the monastery. Many devotees attend the morning prayers at 7 a.m. at Thiksey monastery when the Buddhist sutras are chanted in unison and it also offers amenities like a hotel and restaurant, a medical center, gift stores, and more.

  • Location: 19 km to east of Ladakh
  • Visiting Time: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 30 for all tourists.

03. Lamayuru Monastery

lamayuru

Very popularly known as the moonscape for tourists. Lamayuru monastery is located 15 km east of the Fatu La on the Srinagar-Leh Highway. Home to around 400 lamas who used to live but now only 30-50 stay here. Every two years interval all the lamas congregate at the gompa for three days of mask dancing that follows general prayers. In the Tibetan calendar, these meetings take place in the second and fifth months, which are in the months of March and July. Lamayuru is a Buddhist of the red-hat sect. Lamayuru is a one-day trip from Leh. It is well-known for both its monastery and its “lunar” scenery, which is charmingly marketed to visitors as a “Moonscape.” The terrain’s geological structures are amazingly beautiful.

The main attraction of the monastery is the Yuru Kabgyat which is an annual celebration, and the highlight of the festival is the lamas’ mask dance. The celebration also includes the burning of effigies as a significant ceremony. It represents the dismantling of each person’s ego. While walking down around the monaster, apply the universal ladakhi greeting Juley along with a big smile to the locals which is very welcoming to them.

  • Location: 127 km west of Leh on the Srinagar-Leh highway, Lamayuru village
  • Visiting Time:  6 AM to 6 PM
  • Entry Fee: No entry fee

04. Diskit Monastery

diskit

Diskit Monastery is the oldest and biggest monastery still standing in Nubra Valley which is also known as Diskit Gompa. Changzem Tserab Zangpo is the founder of the Gelugpa of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh who established the monastery in the 14th century. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Shayok River this monastery is connected to the renowned Thiksey Monastery. This also offers unparalleled hiking experiences where the valley is home to several Buddhist monasteries that includes 350-year-old Sumur which is known for its murals. Visit to see the ritual of the morning prayers and among all the monuments present here, the Dukhang is one that supposedly depicts a 500-year-old Turkish invader’s skull and left arm.

The Maitreya Buddha is a popular tourist destination in Nubra Valley where the crimson and gold statue is perched on a hill directly below the Diskit Monastery that faces Pakistan and the Shyok River. Apart from the visual and spiritual value, the statue is said to represent three concepts: defending Diskit Village, advancing global peace, and averting future hostilities with Pakistan. The primary celebration held here is called Dosmoche that is often spelled Desmochhey, which means “Festival of the Scapegoat.” Nubra Valley communities send enormous masses of people here, and the Chham Dance, which is referred to as masked dances among tourists, is the festival’s main attraction.

  • Location: Dikshit village, 120 km north of Leh
  • Visiting Time: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 30 for all visitors

05. Alchi Monastery

alchi

Situated on the banks of the Indus River at a height of roughly 3,100 meters above sea level which is a peaceful retreat that attracts tourists for its beautiful architecture and gentle surroundings, the Alchi Monastery. Travelers find comfort in the quiet Village whether they are spinning the prayer wheel to make a wish or meditating in a serene setting. The monastery features Tibetan-style architecture which comprises the Dukhang (Assembly Hall), the Sumtsek, and the Temple of Manjushri which are said to be the three principal shrines inside the monastery complex.

The main attraction here are the wall paintings which feature intricacies in both Kashmiri and Buddhist styles. The building has been elaborated with wood carvings and artwork in the style of baroque painting as well as a massive statue of the Buddha. The Choskor temple complex consists of five shrines with some amazing wall paintings. Thousands of tiny images of the Buddha are shown on one of its walls and is the ideal spot to unwind and take in the essence of a Buddhist monastery.

  • Location70 km west of Leh
  • Visiting Time: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 25 for Indian tourists and INR 50 for foreign tourists.

06. Phugtal Monastery

Far-flung and solitude village of Phuktal, also known as Phugtal, lies the fabled cave gompa known as Phugtal Monastery in Ladakh. On the cliff-side along the River Lungnak, the Phugtal monastery is one of the few Buddhist monasteries in Leh Ladakh that can only be reached on foot. Home to about 70 monks, this monastery was established in the twelfth century by GangsemSherapSampo. For centuries old the monastery has served as a center for teaching, learning, and meditation and Phukthar is another name for Phuk, where thar is the word for “liberation,” and Phuk means “cave.” Tal on the other hand, means “at leisure.” The cave is therefore referred to as the “cave of leisure” or the “cave of liberation.” According to the history of Phuktal Monastery, Jangsem Sherap Zangpo who is a student of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism has founded the gompa as it is now in the early 15th century.

It is believed that the naturally occurring caves in this area predate around 2500 years ago. The monastery’s architecture is predominantly Tibetan in style which features a main temple, prayer halls, a library, dormitories, classrooms, a kitchen, and a sacred spring that Jangsem Sherap Zangpo magically constructed.

  • Location: Lungnak Valley of Zanskar
  • Visiting Time: 6 AM to 6 PM
  • Entry Fee: No entry fee

07. Spituk Monastery

Established by Od-de, Lha Lama Changchub’s elder brother in the 11th-century is Spituk Monastery, also called Pethup Gompa. The monastery was given the name spituk (exemplary) when Lotsewa Rinchen Zangpo, the translator, is claimed to have foreseen the establishment of an “exemplary” monastic community there during his visit. Home to 100 monks and a massive statue of the goddess Kali that is being displayed to the public every year during the Spituk festival, the monastery is part of the Tsongkhapa order (Gelug or Yellow Hat) of

Tibetan Buddhism. Every year in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar this three-chapel monastery which is 18 kilometers from Leh’s main city hosts the Gustor Festival. Another major attraction on Spituk’s grounds is the museum which has a sizable collection of antique masks, antique arms, various icons, and thangkas (Buddhist paintings). The festival which took place at Spituk Gompa on January 29 and 30 in the year 2022 is a significant event and in accordance with the Tibetan Calendar, this festival is observed on the 28th and 29th days of the 11th month. 

  • Location:  8 kilometers from Leh
  • Visiting Time:  6 am to 1 pm and 1:30 pm to 6 pm
  • Entry Fee: INR 30

08. Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery

In the Union territory of Ladakh in the northern part of India lies the Buddhist monastery known as Likir Monastery or Likir Gompa. It is around 52 km to the west of Leh, Ladakh and sits at an elevation of 3,700 meters. The 75-foot-tall gold-plated statue of Maitreya Buddha is the monastery’s primary attraction. Under the guidance of Lhachen Gyalpo the 5th monarch of Ladakh, Lama Duwang Chosje established the gompa in 1065 which belonged to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is exquisitely constructed on a little hill in the Likir town which is close to the banks of the Indus River that is approximately 9.5 kilometers north of the highway between Srinagar and Leh. Likir’s name translates to “The Naga – Encircled,” signifying the bodies of Nanda and Taksako, the two powerful serpent spirits known as the Naga-rajas.

The main features of the complex are the assembly hall, the dining area and kitchen, the monks’ lodgings, and the main temple. The complex’s current state indicates a well-fortified, compact, and well-located monastery. Its components have undergone extensive modification and construction over a long period of time. The monastery also houses an impressive collection of thankas, old religious and household items, and a variety of medieval texts. In the courtyard stands a massive Jupiter tree which is one of the few surviving examples of its kind. Not only is Likir Monastery big but it’s also rather well-off. Likir is home to about 100 monks and it also has a branch monastery called Alchi.

  • Location: 52 km west of Leh
  • Visiting Time:  8 AM to 6 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 20 per person

09. Shey Monastery

One of the most popular monasteries in Leh Ladakh is the Shey Monastery which is situated on top of a hill. The monastery is often referred to as Shey Palace or Shey Gompa which is well-known for containing a three-story enormous copper statue of a sitting Shakyamuni Buddha that is covered in gold. The statue is said to be Ladakh’s second-largest idol. It has an ideal location and provides amazing views of Matho, Thiksey, Stok, Stakna, and Leh as well as the surrounding areas.

The palace which is almost destroyed now is also the residence of multiple butter-lit lamps that have an unending flame that lasts year-round. To ensure that the flame continues without any disturbances, they are replenished every year. This is done as a symbol of the sanctum sanctorum’s sanctity and purity. The 4-kilometer walk to this must-see location is very exciting. Since there is only one Lama who resides in the Shey Monastery in Ladakh and the inner shrine is typically locked therefore a special permit is needed to enter.

  • Location: 15 km south of Leh on the Leh-Manali highway
  • Visiting Time:  7 AM to 7 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 30 per person

10. Phyang Monastery

Near Fiang village, Phyang Monastery which is also known as Phyang Gompa is a Buddhist monastery situated 17 km west of Leh in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in the north part of India. The only Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that are part of the Dri-gung-pa sect are Phyang and Lamayuru. The monastic complex’s name Phyang that originates from Gang Ngonpo which translates to “the blue mountain.” There is a legend that Denma Kunga Drakpa placed the monastery’s foundation. It is reported that Drakpa camped in a tented camp there to take in the scenery and meditate on its beauty. This 900-year-old museum within the Phyang Gompa complex is the primary draw for travelers.

A wide range of weapons and firearms of Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian origin are on display in this museum, along with an extensive collection of thangkas and idols. The Gang-Sngon Tsedup festival is held in this monastery annually from the 17th to the 19th of the first month in the Tibetan calendar. Several tourists attend the Phyang monastery festival. Music, dance, and mask dance are the highlights of the occasion and it’s amazing to watch the lamas do the Cham dance. 

  • Location: 16 km west of Leh, in the village of Phyang
  • Visiting Time:  7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 20 per person

11. Rizong Monastery

Yuma Changchubling often called as the Rizong Monastery is one of Ladakh’s most well-known religious locations. Located west of Alchi on the road to Lamayuru and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. To north of the Indus River on a rocky slope, Rizong Monastery provides a calm haven amid the splendor of the natural world. Founded in 1831 at Ri-rdzong by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpa order it currently has about 40 monks who are subject to strict guidelines. It is renowned as “the Paradise for Meditation” as well. The distance from Leh’s main city is around 73 kms. The only possessions allowed to the monks in this monastery are books.

Other holy shrines can also be found within the compound. The monastery consists of three rooms and in two of these three chambers are Buddha statues while in the third is a stupa. An additional highlight of the monastery are the painting blocks depicting the life story of Lama TsultimNima. There is only one nunnery in Ladakh, the Rizong Monastery called Chulichan (Chomoling) where roughly twenty nuns live. They are fed and clothed by the Rizong Monastery’s ruling body. The monastery’s other distinction is that it is the only one without an annual mask dance festival. The monastery is of the opinion that individual practices should be given more weight.

  • Location: Located at 73 Km from Leh. 
  • Visiting time: open on all days from the month of June to September
  • Entry fee: The entry is free.

12. Takthok Monastery

Takthok meaning “Rock Roofed Cave ” in Ladakhi language is a settlement close to Chemrey village which is situated between Pangong Lake and Leh. The Takthok monastery is unique in that it is the sole Nyingma monastery in Ladakh and home to the oldest lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Nyingma order’s founder Guru Padmasambhava introduced monastic dance to Tibetan Buddhism. During King Trisong Detsen’s reign in Tibet he would dance to defeat difficulties and demons. On the tenth and eleventh of the Tibetan lunar calendar’s sixth month people celebrate Takthok Tsechu.

The monks execute a unique Cham known as “Guru Tsengyat Cham ”—the eight incarnations of Guru Padmasambhava during this festival. Takthok Monastery has many attractions, one of which is cave exploration. The 108 books in the library dedicated to the teachings of Buddha known as Kanjur are the main attraction for travelers. Additionally, the 14th Dalai Lama dedicated a brand-new temple in 1980. Along with another artwork on Sakyamuni’s left side there is a mural beside the throne that is based on Padmasambhava. Also, there’s a well-known cave chapel and a smaller cave that’s thought to be where Padmasambhava lived and practiced meditation for three years.

  • Location:  46 km east of Leh, in Sakti village.
  • Visiting Time:  6:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 1:30 PM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 30

13. Stakna Monastery

Chosje Jamyang Palkar who is a scholar and saint from Bhutan founded Stakna, a tiny monastery in Leh in the year 1580. The monastery is situated on a hill that resembles a tiger’s nose hence the name Stakna which means “tiger’s nose.” With stunning views of the valley, the monastery is situated on the left bank of the Indus River. Zanskar-Bardan, Sani, and Stakrimo are its co-monasteries. It is thought that Stakna Tulku, the guardian of the Drukpa order of monks, is reincarnated as the law-keeper of Stakna monastery.

At a height of 11,800 feet above sea level the Stakna monastery provides an amazing perspective of Hemis monastery and the surrounding area. 30 Buddhist monks live within the gompa. It’s the sole Drukpa monastery in Ladakh run by the Je Khenpo monks of Bhutan. Hemis is home to the other Drukpa monasteries in Ladakh that are part of the Gyalwang Drukpa’s school. 

The Stakna Monastery features Tibetan-style architecture, and it features the Dukhang, an assembly hall decorated with several murals and paintings of Sakyamuni and Amchi. In the courtyard stands a 7-foot-tall silver gilt chorten. The monastery is decorated with several exquisite paintings of Buddhist teachers that includes PadmaSambhava and Bodhisattva.

  • Location: 25 km southeast of Leh
  • Visiting Time:  7:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 30 per person

14. Matho Monastery

This Matho Monastery lies 26 kms to the southeast of Leh which is primarily owned by the Saskya order. Lama Tugpa Dorjay established Matho Gompa Ladakh in the 16th century that is situated at the entrance of a profound canyon that emerges from the Zanskar Range and spans the Indus which lies the town of Matho. The Thikse Monastery is directly behind Matho Gompa. The sole adherent of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh is Matho Gompa. Since Matho Gompa Ladakh is not close to the Leh highway therefore less people visit this monastery, making it the lone example of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Outsiders are familiar with it from its yearly Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival which takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month in the Tibetan calendar. Next to this are two oracles called Rongtsan which are supposed to temporarily inhabit the bodies of two monks for a few hours. 

In the eastern Ladakh region about 130 km east of Leh, Matho and Skidmang represent the sole instances of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh. Compared to Hemis, Thiske, or Shey, Matho receives less tourists because it is not located along the major Leh highway. 

  • Location: 26 km southeast of Leh
  • Visiting Time: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: INR 50 per person

15. Rangdum Monastery

A revered holy site for Gelugpa Buddhists that is situated atop of a mountain that resembles a sugarloaf is Rangdum Monastery. Only 25 km away from the captivating Pensi La Pass, this monastery is one of the tallest in Ladakh at an elevation of 13,225 feet above sea level. Built by GelekYashyTakpa around 200 years ago the Rangdum Monastery mostly upholds the traditional values of the Zanskar Valley. The monarch Tsewang Mangyul ruled during this time and the monastery is home to just 40 monks. While on a trip to Leh Ladakh a visit to the mysterious Rangdum Monastery is a must-do.

The monastery is in Suru Valley which belongs to Zanskar culturally. The monastery is situated halfway between Kargil and Padum that is 130 kms southeast of Kargil and the monastery’s view of the surrounding mountains, which include rugged rocks and glaciers, is breathtaking. There are images of mandalas and chortens on the monastery wall.

  • Location: 130 km from Kargil, en route to Zanskar
  • Visiting Time:  6:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: Free

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    Why Should You Visit Monasteries in Ladakh?

    Ladakh, when the word strikes our mind first, we see its natural serene beauty, land of high passes, several old monasteries with blend of buddhism and Tibet cultures, where you find peace amidst the chaos. The locals or monks are always beaming a welcoming Juley! to everybody. The spiritual atmosphere of the monasteries and beautiful surroundings provide for an incredibly peaceful experience.

    You can fully immerse yourselves in the local customs during festivals like the Matho Nagrang at Matho Monastery and the Hemis Tsechu at Hemis Monastery which offers colorful cultural spectacles with traditional music and masked dances. Also, the monasteries function as educational and meditation hubs that offer insights into Buddhist practices and teachings. To deepen one’s understanding of Buddhism a visit to these monasteries provides an opportunity to see how spirituality and environment may coexist peacefully in one of the world’s most solitude and breathtaking locations.

    FAQ's

    The monasteries in Ladakh are commonly referred to as “Gompas.” These are termed to be the center to the spiritual and cultural life of the region, often serving as centers of learning, meditation, and festivals.
    Hemis Monastery is renowned for its annual Hemis festival. This vibrant event is celebrated in honor of Guru Padmasambhava that features colorful masked dances, traditional music, and religious rituals, attracting visitors from around the world.
    Yes, some monasteries in Ladakh offer accommodations that allow visitors to experience monastic life. Some include Thiksey Monastery and Hemis Monastery where you can stay and participate in daily rituals and activities.
    The closest monastery to Pangong Lake is Spangmik Monastery that is situated near the picturesque lake in the village of Spangmik. It offers stunning views of the lake and an opportunity to experience the serene monastic lifestyle amidst beautiful surroundings.
    The oldest monastery in Ladakh is Alchi Monastery that was founded in the 10th century. It is renowned for its well-preserved Indo-Tibetan art and ancient murals and unlike most Ladakhi monasteries located on hilltops this Alchi is situated on flat ground near the Indus River which adds to its unique charm.
    Gompas or monasteries in Ladakh are religious institutions central to the Buddhist community. They serve as places of worship, meditation, and learning. Gompas typically feature intricate murals, statues of deities, and residential quarters for monks, reflecting the region’s deep spiritual and cultural heritage.
    The best time to visit Ladakh monasteries is from May to September. As the weather is pleasant and the roads are easily accessible during these months. This period also coincides with various monastery festivals that offer visitors a glimpse into the vibrant local culture and religious practices.
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