The Buddhist monasteries are the most popular sightseeing places in Leh Ladakh. They reflect the Tibetan culture and spiritual roots of this far-flung region of India. These Buddhist monasteries have thrived even in the barren and cold desert environment in Leh Ladakh.
These monasteries are places where Tibetan monks still study Tibetan culture and live in peace and happiness. A visit to these monasteries is a cultural experience that you must take on your trip to Leh Ladakh.
These are the top monasteries that you should check out in Leh Ladakh.
One of the best and biggest monasteries in Leh Ladakh is a monastery called Hemis Monastery. The monastery is situated near the Indus river banks and is close to the Leh-Manali highway. This monastery is famous for its rich collection of Thangka paintings and colorful murals.
Hemis Monastery was established in 1630 during the reign of King Singge Namgyal. The monastery belongs to the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Hemis Festival is one of the most popular cultural festivals that are organized here. Monks wear sacred masks and dance to regional drum beats and ceremonial music.
Hemis Festival is a celebration of dance, music, Tibetan arts, and rituals, and offers a peep into the Tibetan culture that developed here. You can see old relics such as metal sculptures, manuscripts, thangka paintings, murals, and many more.
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Spituk Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Leh Ladakh. This monastery was built in the 11th century by Od-lde. He was a great scholar who translated Buddhist religious texts from Sanskrit to the Tibetan language. He built the monastery and gave it its current name.
There are many memorials, gompas, halls, sculptures, and other religious attractions. Stok, Sankar, and Saboo are some of the places you can visit here. One of the temples here is dedicated to the Vajrabhairav deity, which is taken out only during religious festivals like Gustor Festival.
Spituk Monastery is one of the finest monasteries in Leh Ladakh with amazing interiors. You will find Tibetan fresco paintings, murals, sacred sculptures of Tibetan deities, metal statues, and classic Tibetan architecture.
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Thiksey Monastery is one of the most incredible monasteries that you can visit in Leh Ladakh. This monastery is a popular tourist attraction and offers scenic views of the surrounding areas. Thiksey Monastery is home to around 100 Tibetan monks who practice religious rituals and study different aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.
This monastery is one of the finest examples of traditional Tibetan architecture. The outer façade of this monastery is so beautiful in its structure, that it resembles the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Thiksey Monastery was originally built by Sherab ZangpoIt in Stakmo but was later shifted to its current hilltop position by his nephew Paldan Sherab.
The monastery follows the Gelukspa or the Yellow Hat order of Tibetan Buddhism. The main attraction in this monastery is the statue of Buddha, which stands on a lotus flower. This idol is 40 feet tall and is located in the main prayer hall of the monastery. The monastery has around 10 temples, each with its unique interiors and idols.
You can also visit the temple of Goddess Tara in this monastery. Besides this, there are small stupas, rare statues, and swords on display at the monastery. Gustor Festival is the main festival which is celebrated here. The sacred mask dance which is performed by Cham dancers and monks is a sight to behold.
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One thing that immediately strikes you about Alchi Monastery is its location. This is one of the most unique monasteries in Leh Ladakh. It is built on plain land, instead of the hilltop monasteries that are usually seen in Leh Ladakh.
Lotsaya Rinchen Zangpo, the famous Tibetan scholar and translator, built Alchi Monastery in the 12th century. The monastery has three distinct parts to it. One part is an assembly hall called Du-khang. The second part has a four-armed statue of Bodhisattva, along with the idols of Maitreya Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, and Manjushri. The third part of this monastery has a temple of Manjushri called Jampe Lhakhang.
You can also see a painting and sculpture of Rinchen Tsangpo here. Some scenes of the movies like Dil Se and Tashan were shot in Alchi Monastery.
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Stok Gompa and Palace
One of the most amazing things about Stok Gompa is that the royal family of Leh Ladakh still lives here. This monastery is one of the most wonderful Tibetan temples that you can visit in Leh Ladakh. Lama Lhawang established this monastery during the 14th century.
The murals, thangka paintings, and traditional Tibetan interiors are captivating with their colors and sculptures. The main assembly hall in this monastery is the highlight of this monastery. It has a beautiful Tibetan décor and paintings that reflect Tibetan mythology.
The walls have murals of Tibetan deities like Vajrapani (the deity who holds the thunderbolt), Sakyamuni (Lord Buddha as an ascetic), and Avalokitesvara (the deity with four arms. The museum has a rich collection of over 108 Buddhist scriptures.
Among the most interesting things to watch out for here are the royal costumes, headgear, palanquin, jewelry, old currency, king’s crown, and personal items used by the royal family. Stok Gompa organizes the ritual mask dance at the Stok Guru Tsechu Festival, which is held every year in February.
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Shey Gompa and Palace
Shey Gompa looks like a small fortress from afar, and this is one of the striking monasteries that you can visit in Leh Ladakh. The Shey Palace was once the capital of the Ladakh region. The Gompa is situated on a hill and its hilltop position offers scenic views of the surrounding region. King Deldan Namgyal built Shey Palace in 1655.
One of the top reasons why you should visit Shey Gompa is because it has the largest statue of Buddha, which is made of copper. It is among the largest statues of Buddha and is so big that it occupies three floors of the building. You can see murals, Tibetan paintings, and sculptures on the walls of this gompa. The lower floors of the gompa have a library where you can browse through one of the largest collections of thangka paintings in Ladakh.
The famous Rancho School is located close to this monastery. Many scenes from the famous movie 3 Idiots were shot here in this school.
Phyang Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Leh Ladakh. The monastery has a very interesting Tibetan mythological connection behind it. It is said that Denma Kunga Drakpa had a vision during one of his meditations, in which the Tibetan goddess Achi was riding a horse on a hill.
He built a monastery on top of the hill, which today is the Phyang Monastery. The museum in this monastery has a rich collection of thangka paintings, firearms, weapons, idols and metal sculptures, wall paintings, Tibetan murals, and other relics. There is an old temple of Mahakala, which was built at the same time as the monastery.
There is a school in Thyang Monastery where students are taught Buddhist scriptures and ways of life. Modern subjects are also taught to these students, along with Buddhist teachings. The monastery organizes the Phyang Tseruk Festival, where local monks perform the Cham dance.
One of the major attractions in Nubra Valley is a hilltop monastery called Diskit Monastery. The monastery is located in the incredibly scenic surroundings of Nubra Valley. You can view the flat desert landscapes and barren mountains of Nubra Valley from this monastery.
Changzem Tserab Zangpo established the monastery in the 14th century. The monastery follows the principles of the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. One of the wonderful things about this monastery is that the interiors are as beautiful as the outer façade. You will find colorful murals and Tibetan paintings on the walls of the monastery. The prayer hall has artistic fresco paintings.
There are ancient Tibetan books that are kept on display here. You can also see some rare Mongolian texts and manuscripts in the monastery. The Lachung Temple is located above the monastery, and this is believed to be one of the oldest temples in Nubra Valley.
Lamayuru Monastery ranks as one of the oldest and also one of the largest gompas in the Ladakh region. This historic monastery was once known as the temple of the Bon religion before Tibetan Buddhism reached here. Lamayuru Monastery is famous for its many Tibetan legends that mention how the monastery came into existence.
The story goes that a famous scholar and Tibetan master called Naropa dried up an entire lake and built the monastery in its place. You can still visit the cave near the monastery, where he meditated for several years. There is a temple near the monastery which was built by Rinchen Zangpo. The Tibetan monk Rinchen Zangpo built more than 100 gompas on the order of the king of Ladakh.
The Gompa is a cluster of buildings, with many shrines. Over 150 monks still live here. Lamayuru Monastery is famous for its masked dance festivals in which monks from nearby villages gather and pray to their deities at this monastery.
One of the most scenic monasteries that you can visit in Leh Ladakh is the Stakna Monastery. This monastery is built on the top of a barren hill. The name of this monastery means a tiger’s nose. This is so, because of the shape of the hill and the monastery on top, which gives onlookers, the impression of a tiger’s nose. The Indus River which flows near this monastery adds more scenic beauty to this monastery. A scholar from Bhutan called Chosje Modzin established Stakna Monastery in the 16th century.
The main attraction in this monastery is the sacred statue of Arya Avalokitesvara, which was brought from Assam. This is the only monastery that follows the religious teachings of the Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyu sect.
The magnificent scenery of the Indus River and the snow-clad mountains from this monastery is one reason why you should visit this monastery on your trip to Leh Ladakh.
You must make it a point to visit these monasteries on your next visit to the region of Ladakh. You can explore all the Leh Ladakh Tour Packages if you want to visit these monasteries on your next trip.
These monasteries are not just places of spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism but are the most popular tourist attractions of this remote Ladakh region.
The unique Buddhist culture and Tibetan mysticism that you will experience here in these monasteries will make your trip to Leh Ladakh one of the most memorable ones.