Monasteries are the peaceful abodes of Buddhist monks who lead an ideal life filled with spiritual bliss. This is the place where you will see true discipline, dedication, and devotion toward religious practices. The monks’ way of living is a true example of being one with nature and reaping the benefits while you appreciate everything that this universe bestows upon you. In other words, you learn to be grounded and self-conscious. Monasteries in Ladakh are otherworldly wonders that have a unique charm, thanks to their picturesque surroundings.
Himalayan monasteries in Ladakh are often nestled in the midst of towering mountains, serene valleys, and lush forests. The calming breeze will pull you in for a tight hug while you watch the sun peeping from behind the dense clouds.
If you are planning a trip to Ladakh soon, book your stay at nearby Treebo Hotels for a refreshing experience. After you freshen up, gear up to visit these 10 enchanting monasteries in Ladakh that are surely capable of changing one’s perspective of life.
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Must-Visit Monasteries in Ladakh
1 – Thiksey Monastery
The Thiksey Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Ladakh which resembles the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The Gelug Sect of Tibet Buddhism take care of the place and preaches there. It also happens to be the largest monastery in central Ladakh; a 12-storey complex that houses more than 500 monks. The place was recently reorganized to make more space for female occupants. When you visit the Thiksey monastery, you will see that two storeys of the complex are solely occupied by a 49 feet high statue of Maitreya. This is what they call the Maitreya Temple which was built in remembrance of the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit in 1970. This monastery also has several scriptures, writings, journals, swords, paintings, and mini-statues that will give you a lot of information about Buddhism and its practices.
Location: Leh Manali Hwy, Thiksey, Ladakh 194201
Primary Attractions: Stupas, Long Assembly Hall, Maitreya Statue – The largest statue in Ladakh.
2 – Hemis Monastery
Hemis Monastery has a regal charm to it seeing how the structure was rebuilt by King Sengge Namgyal in 1672. Right now, it functions efficiently under the leadership of the twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa of the Drukpa Sect in Tibetan Buddhism. Hemis Monastery is built on a hillside, with its structures arranged in a series of courtyards and buildings. The main courtyard, called “Dukhang,” is the central area for assembly and ceremonies. The walls are adorned with traditional Tibetan scroll paintings and frescoes depicting religious tales and preachings.
Try to visit this place in the month of June and July when the festive ground of this monastery will be filled with people celebrating the Hemis festival dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava.
Location: 40 km southeast of Leh on Leh-Manali Highway
Primary attractions: Masked dances during the Hemis festival, 17th-century paintings of Mahasiddhas, and the Golden Statue of Shakyamuni.
3 – Diskit Monastery
If you are in search of monasteries in Ladakh that let you stay there for a while, then you must visit the Diskit Gompa. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh that houses monks from the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built in the 14th century by Changzem Tsera Zangpo. This is a sub-gompa of the Thiksey monastery so both are similar in some aspects when you visit them. Here, you must explore the huge Buddha statue with a crown, the mini images of several guardian deities, and a huge drum that seems to be calling out to you. This monastery is situated in the Nubra Valley, one of the finest untouched locations in the Leh region.
Location: 115 km north of Leh in the Nubra Valley
Primary Attractions: Mask dance during the festival of scapegoats or Dosmoche festival in February, and Crowned Buddha Statue.
4 – Spituk Monastery
Spituk Monastery is one of the most serene monasteries in Ladakh. It may not be as regal as some of the gompas that we will be discussing in this list, but the atmosphere will tug at the strings of your heart. Irrespective of the season, the enthralling backdrop of the Himalayan mountains is going to impress you for sure! The location of Spituk monastery received a divine blessing from the Arhat Nyimagung. In the 11th century, Od-de, the older sibling of Lha Lama Changchub Od, established it when he arrived in Maryul. So, this is also one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh that you must definitely visit.
Location: Spituk, Leh district, Ladakh – 8km from Leh.
Primary Attractions: Gustor Festival from the 27th to 29th day of the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar, giant statue of Kali.
5 – Takthok Monastery
Takthok Monastery can be considered one of the most unique monasteries in Ladakh. Because it is the only place to house the monks who follow the Nyingmapa tradition in the region. Here, you will also find the throne of the Dalai Lama and about 55 lamas reside here. The monastery has a rock roof and all the walls are also made of natural rocks. The place is beautiful with a courtyard, assemble hall, intriguing frescos, and murals. In this monastery, you will also find 108 volumes of the teachings of Buddha. A small cave behind the new temple in Takthok Monastery is believed to be the place where Padmasambhava resided for three years and meditated.
Location: Sakti Village, Ladakh – about 46km east of Leh
Primary Attractions: Statues of religious significance, the cave of Padmasambhava, and the original temple hall that is covered in soot from the burning butter lamps.
6 – Likir Monastery
The Likir Monastery is another wonder that was first built in the 11th century. Then the structure was extended in the 15th century. Unfortunately, this structure fell prey to a huge fire accident and what you see today is a renovated structure that was built in the 18th century. If you are unable to navigate your way to this monastery, then you must keep your eyes open for the 23 feet long Maitreya Buddha statue that is visible from a distance. According to Buddhist mythology, this monastery is believed to be the first construction by Tibetan monks. Here, you can see a lot of Tibetan handicrafts, relics, and scriptures that will tell you a lot about Buddhism.
Location: Likir Village, Indus Valley, 53 km west of Leh, Ladakh.
Primary Attractions: Likir Dosmoche Festival which is celebrated in the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar.
7 – Stakna Monastery
On one side you have the rippling Indus River, and on the other side, a lush green vegetation that seems to change colour with the seasons. When you look up, you can see the Himalayan ranges concealed by a translucent layer of fog and mist. The ethereal surroundings make this one of the most enchanting monasteries in Ladakh. The place is managed by the Drugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Stakna literally translates to ‘Tiger’s Nose’. The hill on which the monastery stands resembles the nose of a tiger. Inside, you will find several gorgeous paintings, pictures, and art related to Buddhism. Some of the oldest scriptures can also be found in the library here.
Location: Banks of Indus River, 25km from Leh, Ladakh
Primary Attractions: Statue of Arya Avaloketesvara, vibrant paintings of deities, and Padmasambhava.
8 – Phyang Monastery
Locally, you will also hear the people of Ladakh referring to this monastery as ‘Gangon Tashi Chodzong’ because of the blue mountain that stands mighty tall behind it. From afar, the pristine white walls blended well with red and ochre giving the impression of being a royal palace. It was built in 1515 and currently, the red hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism takes care of this place. The main attraction here is the 900 years old museum that houses some of the best relics, paintings, art and weapons from the bygone era. You will find the killing tools that the Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian people used in the past. You will also find an impressive collection of idols and thangkas that are too stunning to ignore. If you want to see this gompa in its full glory, visit in the months of July-August when the Phyang Psedup festival will be celebrated.
Location: Fiang Village, 16km from Leh, Ladakh.
Primary Attractions: Masked dances during the Phyang Psedup festival in the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar.
9 – Rizong Monastery
The Rizong Monastery is present in the most beautiful mountain valley to the north of the Indus River. The red and white walls of the gompa are a treat to see, especially with the backdrop of the snow-laden Himalayas. It is believed that Lord Padmasambhava and other lamas meditated in a cave near this gompa and survived with only one meal a day. The villagers used to send them food through one small opening without disturbing the spiritual activity of the wise men.
It is one of the monasteries in Ladakh where the monks embrace the life of complete abstinence and follow a stringent lifestyle. If you are visiting this place, make it a point to not disturb their daily routine. They also do not prefer clicking pictures with tourists. A nunnery named ‘Julichen’ is present near Rizong Monastery and the nuns who reside there also take part in the daily activities of Rizong Monastery.
Location: 75km from Leh, Ladakh.
Primary Attractions: Julichen Nunnery, Panoramic vistas around the place.
10 – Matho Monastery
If you visit the Thikse Monastery, then you must come and see the alluring beauty of the Matho gompa that is on the exact opposite side! It is also popular as Mangtro Gompa. The word ‘Mangtro’ is a combination of two words that mean a lot of happiness. That is what this place feels like too – peaceful and full of positive energy. Here, you will find an impressive collection of ancient scrolls that are still legible, along with murals and thangkas.
The most fascinating practice that happens here is the prediction of two oracles during the Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival. This is when two monks from the gompa are chosen and two oracles called the ‘Rongtsan’ inhabit their bodies for a short time. They predict the future of the village community and also give solutions to tackle problems. Every three years, two different monks are picked to perform this ritual.
Location: 26km south-east of Leh, Ladakh
Primary Attractions: Attractive murals and paintings for Insta-worthy pictures, Oracle Matho Nagrang festival in the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
All the monasteries in Ladakh give you the perfect opportunity to escape the constant buzz in the cities and enter a space where only peace and tranquillity exist. The beauty of silence is underrated and you will understand how being amidst nature is important to tap on your inner consciousness. These monasteries in Ladakh have the best architectural design and they are located in some of the finest villages in the region. They also offer a sense of camaraderie; the local people and the monks co-exist while trying to stay true to their religious beliefs and cultural practices.
Which one of these monasteries in Ladakh are you going to visit first? Or, have you already been to any of these breathtaking places? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!