In one corner of the country lies the land of culture; full of stories, amidst the mountains where the Indus flows and a religious place of Tibetan-Buddhist ideals. Ladakh is not merely known for its mountains and the winter views it has to offer. It is much more than that. Ladakh is full of stories, legends and myths. One such place to find these amazing narratives are in the monasteries. Embedded all over the land, the monasteries in Ladakh offers more than religious sentiments and add much more to the beauty of the place. They’re a place of spirituality where one can find inner peace. Monasteries in Ladakh are also abodes of local deities.
If you’re heading towards Ladakh, then make sure to add these monasteries to your “Places to visit in Ladakh” travel bucket list!
9 Buddhist Monasteries in Ladakh that You Need to Visit
Hemis monastery is the main centre and the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh, where the Head (Lama Ringpoche) of monks reside. It was built in 1630 under the rule of King Singge Namgyal. Hemis Monastery has two temples and one underground museum.
Hemis monastery in Ladakh has a spectacular collection of ancient artefacts kept safely in the museum. These include the statues, clothes, thangkas, paintings and many more items. Hemis monastery is also adorned with wall paintings and murals all over the temple. Its complex is also quite favourable for a person to sit and meditate.
The monastery is situated 50 kms away from Leh, tucked away in the mountains near the Hemis Village, and the best time to visit the monastery is during the month of June and July when the Hemis festival is celebrated. The festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava and is known for masked dance performances.
Situated 11km outside Leh, Thiskey monastery lies on the eastern bank of Indus. Comprising of 10 temples and a 40 feet statue of Maitreya Buddha, Thiksey monastery in Leh resembles the Potala Palace of Lhasa, Tibet. It houses more than 500 monks and is an important institution of religion.
It is maintained by the Gelugpa sect and has a huge collection of old and ancient scriptures quietly preserved in the library. The easiest way to reach the Thiksey monastery is to catch a cab or bus heading towards Eastern Ladakh.
Located at the heart of the Nubra Valley is the village of Diskit. It was founded in the 14th century under Changzem Tsera Zangpo and is maintained by the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. It has a beautiful collection of Buddha Statues, images and paintings and a massive drum.
Because of its ideal location, Diskit Monastery attracts many tourists throughout the season, including the Dosmoche festival. The towering statue of the Sitting Buddha, can be seen from the Hunder Sand Dunes, which is a must have experience during your 7 Day Ladakh Travel Itinerary.
Lamayuru monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh situated on theSrinagar- Leh highway, 27 kms away from Leh. Located on top of the mountain, the monastery is also known as ‘Tharpa Ling’ which translates to the ‘place of freedom’.
Every 5th month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, a holy mask dance is performed by the monks. The monastery offers spectacular views of the Lamayuru village.
Built during the 12th century by Lotsaya Rinchen Zangpo, the Alchi Choskar monastery is one of the oldest centre of Buddhism in Ladakh. Unlike other monasteries, it is not built on the hill top but a flat ground. It comprises 3 structures dedicated to various figures including Maitreya Buddha and Manjushri. Like other monasteries, it has its own set of scriptures, paintings and statues.
It is located 70 km away from Leh and taking a private cab till the monastery is the best way to reach.
Located on a hilltop at the entry of of a cave in Lugnak valley, Phugtal monastery is one of the remotest and difficult to reach places in Ladakh. Having its own set of library and temples, the monastery has a whole different aura floating in the atmosphere. The date of its construction is known but looking at the monastery gives a glimpse of its ancientness.
Legend has it that the sages and monks meditated in the cave. From the main road, trekking is the only way to reach the monastery!
Lama Lhawang founded the Stok Monastery in the 14th century and is now the residence to the Royal Family of Ladakh. The monastery is adorned with magnificent wall paintings and murals and the main assembly halls has huge thangkas and other decorative items. The library of the monastery is also very rich as it has 108 volume collection of Buddha’s teachings.
The palace also has a museums which contains the royal family’s collection including the king’s crown, the queens head gear with 108 turquoise pieces, royal dresses, jewellery, old currency, the wooden palanquin in which the queen arrived. There is a festival every February and June.
Phyang monastery lies 17 km away from Leh on a hilltop. A lot can be seen happening in this monastery. The 900 year old monastery has a collection of thangkas, different idols, Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese weaponry and guns. It is also a school which imparts modern education to its students along with Buddhist studies. Denma Kunga Drakpa built the monastery along with an old temple. The monastery celebrates two festivals. The Phyang Tseruk Festival is held on the 2nd and 3rd of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar and includes the famous Cham dance. The monastery also celebrates the Sacred Dance festival.
Shey Monastery and Palace
The original capital of the Ladakh, Shey Palace and Monastery is located 15 km from Leh. Built by Lhachen Spalgigon, the first king. Surrounded by 100s of stupas, the palace has the largest Buddha statue made of gilded copper, standing at the height of three floors of the building.
The palace has a monastery and a library. The palace is located near Drul Padma Karpo Institute, also known as Rancho School featured in the ‘3 idiots’ movie.
How to reach Ladakh
- By air – You can take a direct flight from Delhi and Chandigarh Airport to reach Leh.
- By road – You can either reach via ZojiLa pass from Srinagar or Atal Tunnel from Manali.
Where to stay in Leh – Ladakh
We recommend staying in home-stays to fully experience the local life of Ladakh and to support the local economy. Apart from these home-stays, here are our recommendations :
Guest Houses – Gonbo Guest House | Youthok Guest House
Hostel – HITCHHIKERS HOSTEL LADAKH | goSTOPS Leh
Mid Range Hotels – Shaolin Ladakh | Tushita Ladakh | Beyond Stay – The Leh Berry Boutique – Leh
Luxury – The Grand Dragon Ladakh | Ladakh Eco Resort | The Indus Valley | Gomang Boutique Hotel | TIH The Zen Ladakh
Best time to visit Ladakh
Summer Ladakh and Winter Ladakh offer different experiences. Your visit will depend on you comfort with cold. We recommend going during the summer season so as to visit places that otherwise get cut off due to snowfall during the winters.
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