Hemis is a Buddhist monastery located 45 kms south of Leh. Built by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal, it is ranked as one of the wealthiest monasteries in India. It houses a spectacular copper statue of Lord Buddha along with stupas made of gold and silver, thangkas and murals. Hemis Monastery is most visited during the annual Hemis Festival, held every year in early June.
Timings : 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM
The Phugtal (Phuktal) Monastery is a Buddhist monastery situated in the southeast part of the Zanskar region in Ladakh. Situated at the mouth of the natural cave on a cliff, it is one of the most isolated monasteries in the region, built around 2500 years ago. The Phugtal Monastery looks like a honeycomb from a distance.
Timings: 6:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Entry Fee: No entry fee
Located in the Alchi Village of Ladakh, Alchi Monastery is a complex of Buddist temples of which Alchi Monastery is the oldest and most famous. Cemented on a flat ground unlike other monasteries in Ladakh, the traditional architecture of the monastery is a monastic complex that has 3 separate temples, known as Dukhang, Sumstek and the Temple of Manjushri.
Timings : 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Closed for one hour from 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Entry Fee: Indian Nationals: INR 25, Foreign Nationals: INR 50
Thiksey Monastery is a tibetan-style monastery located 20km south of Leh, on Leh Manali highway. The twelve-storey monastery is located on top of a hill, giving magnificent views of the town and the Indus valley below. The main highlight of Thiksey is the Maitreya Temple which houses a 15-metre high Maitreya Buddha statue. It covers two stories of the building and is the largest such statue in Ladakh.
Timings: May - November: 7 AM - 7 PM. The monastery remains closed from November to April
Entry Fees: INR 30 per person
Lamayuru monastery, loosely translated as "Eternal Monastery", is the largest and the oldest monastery in Ladakh. Historically, the place was a complex of five buildings, out of which only one is standing still. It serves as a permanent residence for around 150 monks. It hosts two annual festivals in which all the monks from neighbouring gompas come together and pray.
Timings: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Likir Monastery or Likir gompa is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. Besides the traditional place of worship, the Likir monastery is also an archive of ancient manuscripts, carvings, paintings, costumes and earthen pots designing. The 75 feet tall and gilded idol of Buddha is the highlight of this monastery.
Timings: 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM
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Also known as Deskit/ Diskit Gompa, the Diskit Monastery is the oldest and largest monastery in Nubra valley. It holds a strong bond with the Tibetan myth. This holy site is believed to have been the very residence of an anti-Buddhist Mongolian demon. Although this evil being was killed several times close to the monastery, it always came back alive. It is said that Diskit Monastery houses the disintegrated head and hand of this demon.
Timings : 7:00 AM - 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Entry Fee : INR 30
Yet another monastery founded by the Gelug sect, Kursha gompa is a numinous place enlivened by the Doda river flowing past it. It was founded by the translator, Phagspa Shesrab. Kursha is the largest monastery in the Zanskar valley and home to more than 100 monks. The main attraction is cloth painting that is put to display during the annual festival called Gustor festival. It is said to be embellished with intricate gold and colourful threads embroidery centred around the life of Buddha and remains the most riveting part.
Timings: 7:00AM - 7:00PM
Sitting on the hill named Stakna, this gompa is entreated by the mesmerizing Indus river. Stakna gompa is home to around 30 Buddhist monks. It was founded by a Bhutanese lama and belongs to the Drukpa sect. This gompa is known for the sandalwood statues, paintings of Bodhisattva, Padmasambhava and other Buddhist monks arrayed in the main prayer hall along with a 7 feet gilded gold statue of Buddha.
Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM
Established in 1515, Phyang Gompa is said to be the earliest of monasteries to be established by the Drigungpa sect. A number of sacred shrines are instilled around the complex exemplifying a unique amalgamation of Kashmiri, Chinese and Ladakhi culture. A two days annual festival called Gang-Sngon Tsedup Festival is observed for the seventeenth to nineteenth day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. Another festival is celebrated in the third month exhibiting sacred dances.
Timings: 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM
The Namgyal Tsemo Monastery is a Buddhist ashram located in Leh. Built by Ladakh's King Tashi Namgyal in 1430, is a crag-top shrine situated close to Tsemo Castle. It houses a three-levelled golden statue of a futuristic Buddha.
Timings : 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Entry Fee : INR 20
Chemrey Monastery is a 400-year-old yet unexplored Buddhist monastery located approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of Leh. It is known for housing a staggering statue of Padmasambhava (almost a storey-high)and a collection of ancient scriptures with the text emboldened in gold letters with the titles in silver.
Shey Monastery or the Shey Palace is an ancient monastery located 15km from Leh. It once served as the summer capital of Ladakh but is mostly in ruins now. Located on top of a hillock, it offers stunning panoramic views. The highlight of the monastery is 39ft tall Shakyamuni Buddha statue which is the second-largest Buddha statue in Jammu & Kashmir. Special permission needs to be taken to visit the monastery.
Spituk Monastery, also called Spituk Gompa, is a Buddhist monastery located about 8 kms from Leh. One of the most dazzling monasteries in India, it houses 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali, which is unveiled during the annual Gustor Festival held every year. It is famous for its collection of Buddhist objects of antique arms, icon, ancient masks and numerous Thangka paintings.
Timings : 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Entry Fee : INR 20 per person
Bardan Gompa was built in the seventeenth century by the Dugpa Kargyud sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is set aside the Lungnak river. The gompa also administers several small hermitages where renunciates can stay and devote themselves to the higher order. The main assembly hall or Dukhang of this monastery has many grand statues of Buddha accompanied by several stupas made of clay, wood, bronze and copper.
Timings: 8:00AM- 6:00PM
Founded by Lama Lhawang Lotus, Stok monastery remains an indispensable part of the Stok Palace complex. The notable features of this monastery are a library that has all 108 volumes of Kanjur or sacred texts prescribed by Tibetan Buddhism and an annual dance-mask festival. The monastery is marked by the presence of a 71 feet tall statue of Gautama Buddha ordained by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2016.
Timings: 8:00AM - 6:00PM
Situated at an altitude of 13,225 feet, Rangdum monastery belonging to Gelug sect crowns the Suru Valley. It is believed to be built by Gelek Yashi Tupka around two hundred years ago. The complex is home to 30 monks. To fund the regular expenses of the monastery, the head committee has allowed homestays for travellers. This has surfaced an opportunity for those who want to experience the authentic and ethereal culture and beauty of living in a monastery in a small valley.
Hundur Monastery is a hilltop temple located in the Nubra Valley, quite close to the Diskit monastery and Lachung temple.
Samstanling Monastery is in Sumlur village and was founded by Lama Tsultim Nima, 140 years ago. The monastery houses 50 monks and this is the main monastery of the region.
Wanla is a sub-monastery of Lamayuru which provides a caretaker monk, responsible for daily rituals and for granting access to the temple. The main image features Avalokitesvara in 11-headed ("Chuchigzhel") form.
Which of these monasteries in Ladakh have you visited? Let us know in the comments below!