Top 15 Monasteries of Ladakh
Being a predominant Buddhist land, Ladakh is dotted with a number of magnificent monasteries, commonly known as ‘Gompas’. These monasteries are tucked in the hillocks and are a rare treat to the architectural enthusiasts as well as the photographers. They are not just the religious centres but also the purifying havens to find inner peace. Some of the iconic ones and must-visit are:
1. Hemis Monastery – It is one of the largest, wealthiest and most popular monastery in Ladakh. This beautiful Gompa is known for its 12 metres long Thanka – a traditional Buddhist Painting.
2. Thiksey Monastery – It is a 12-storey building complex that houses more than 500 monks. Key attraction of this place is a 49 ft statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is the largest one in Ladakh.
3. Spituk Monastery – Also known as Kali Temple, it is a temple dedicated to Vajrabhairava Deity. The face of the idol is covered and only accessible to visitors only during Gustor Festival. It also offers spectacular views of the barren beauty of Ladakh.
4. Diskit Monastery – Located in the beautiful Nubra Valley, this monastery is known for the Jampa Buddha statue, Dosmoche festival and the mask dance during the festival. Attending the morning prayer ceremony here is highly recommended.
5. Stakna Monastery – Locally known as Tiger’s Nose is a small and serene monastery known for its jaw dropping views of the Indus Valley.
6. Phyang Monastery – It is known for its 900-year old museum depicting thangkas, different idols, Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese weaponry, and Sacred Dance Festival.
7. Takthok Monastery – This architectural marvel is known the holy throne of His Holiness Dalai Lama, Meditation cave of Padmasambhava and Statues of Future Buddha, Dorje and Takposal.
8. Lamayuru Monastery – It looks like the monastery on moon owing to its dramatic landscapes that look like moonscapes. Key attractions include the beautiful moonscapes, breathtaking views and the holy mask dance that is performed here by the monks on every 5th month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar.
9. Likir Monastery – This 14th century Gompa is famouns for the Likir Dosmoche Festival that is held on the 12th month of Tibetan Calendar, and the preaching of Pratimoksha disciplines
10. Phugtal Monastery – It is one of the remotest Tibetan monastery in Ladakh. Driving to this place itself is a mesmerising experience that makes you feel like you are driving through the honeycomb. Key attractions of this monastery include the natural meditation cave and the astounding views of the Lugnak Valley
11. Shey Monastery – Do you remember the ‘Rancho School’ that became famous after the movie ‘Three Idiots’? Well, that school is near to Shey Monastery. Apart from the Rancho School, he monastery is famous for its large golden Buddha statue, and Buddha statues carved out of rock. There is also a wax bowl in front of the statue which is lit for a year before it is replaced with the new one.
12. Rizong Monastery – It is famous for its nunnery, and also for being a paradise for meditation owing to its serene location.
13. Matho Monastery – This 500 year old monastery houses an impressive collection of ancient Thangas and statues. It is also famous for its Nagrang Festival, Cham dances,and acts of oracles.
14. Samstanling Monastery – Decorated with colourful prayer flags, Paintings of Buddha and four heavenly kings, Samstanling Monastery is a home to more than 50 monks. The key attraction of the place is that the visitors are welcomed by a seven year old little monk who ties threads on their wrists and blesses them.
15. Wanla Gompa – Built around 1000 AD, Wanla Gompa is known to be the oldest monastery in Ladakh. Key attraction is the panoramic views of the region and a three-storied image of 11-headed Mahakaruna.
Bonus Tip: Please make sure you plan your visit to the monasteries either early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The trek to the monasteries is quite high and steep. It takes a lot of strength and energy to reach the top, and the afternoon sun makes it even more difficult. Walk and climb slowly to avoid breathlessness as the oxygen level in Ladakh is quite low. Carry a water bottle with you and some chocolate bars. The locals told us that feasting on a little chocolate helps in boosting energy levels and also prevents nose bleeding that some people may experience due to altitude change.