Ladakh, the place that invokes images of majestic mountains, spectacular deserts, galore of lakes and more, is home to some of the finest monasteries of India.
The rich Buddhist culture is reflected through these monasteries, since Ladakh is mostly dominated by people of Tibetan descent. They are not only places of religious significance but also a haven for those who seek peace. These ancient monasteries are an architectural marvel considering the fact that most of them are built on hilltops quite elaborately.
Best Time To Visit Ladakh
The months of July to September are great to visit Ladakh since the climate is balmy, with mountain tops still snow-clad giving you an experience of best of both worlds!
Read about some of the most popular monasteries of Ladakh here.
Hemis Monastery is one of the most famous and largest monasteries that is located towards the south-east of Leh, the capital city of Ladakh. It was built during the rule of King Singay Namgyal in 1672 AD.
Being one of the wealthiest monasteries, it houses a statue of Buddha which is made of copper, along with many other stupas that are made of precious stones such as gold and silver.
An annual festival called the Hemis Tsechu is celebrated here every year. It is a colorful and vibrant festival, wherein the resident monks perform their local style of dance to celebrate the victory of good over bad.
PC: Michael Day
Phyang Monastery or Phyang Gompa is located 16 km west of Leh. Established in 1515, it houses some beautiful shrines and a 900-year-old museum which has artefacts dating back to the 14th century. Kashmiri bronzes, Chinese and Tibetan firearms and weapons are some of the articles found in the museum.
The monastery belongs to the Dri-gung-pa sect of the Tibetan Buddhists. The name Phyang is a wordplay on Gang Ngonpo which translates to "The Blue Mountains". It refers to the mountain that lies right behind the monastery.
A natural cave found in the Lungnak Valley of Ladakh is where the Phuktal Monastery is built. The cave is believed to have existed 2,500 years even before the monastery was built! In fact, Phuktal literally means "cave leisure", since it used to be a place where monks came to find peace.
The Phuktal Monastery can be reached only by foot since there are no proper roads to the place. Etched on the corner of a cliff, you can either walk till Phuktal or take a ride on a horse till the monastery.
Stakna literally means "tiger's nose" since it was built on a hill that was shaped as such. It was established by Chosje Jamyang Palkar, a Bhutanese scholar, back in the late 16th century. Stakna Monastery is located about 45 km from Leh.
Since it is situated on the left of river Indus, the rooftop of the monastery offers a breathtaking bird's eye view of the river Indus and the valley. It houses almost 30 monks and belongs to the Drugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhists.
The assembly hall is called as Dukhyang, which is decorated with spectacular paintings, along with a 7 ft tall statue of Buddha that is covered with silver.
PC: Koshy Koshy
Located 46 km east of Leh, Takthok Monastery is sometimes known as "Thak Thak" or "Thag Thong". The word Takthok means "rock-roof" simply since the roof is made of rocks. Established by King Tsewang Namgyal in the late 16th century, it belongs to the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhists.
There are beautiful murals right at the entrance of the monastery. A cave right next to the monastery has been turned into a kitchen in order to cook for all the visitors during the Takthok festival.
PC: Arian Zwegers
Also known as Likir Gompa, it is an ancient but well-maintained monastery located in the Likir village, 56 km from Leh. A fascinating feature about this beautiful monastery is the 75 ft tall statue of Buddha that is placed on its roof!
Formerly known as "Kyu-kkhyil gompa", the monastery is believed to be guarded by two serpents - Nanda and Taksako. Likir monastery was founded by Tsongkhapa and it belongs to the Gelugpa or "Yellow Hat" sect of Buddhism.
Located in the "Valley of Flowers" or the Nubra Valley, the Diskit Monastery is one of the oldest surviving monasteries. The 100 ft tall Maitreya Buddha's statue is the main attraction. Apparently, the construction of this splendid structure took four years to be completed.
It belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism and was founded by Changzeb Tserab Zangpo. The statue built on the roof faces the Shyok River towards Pakistan.
Spituk Monastery is home to some of the most beautiful collection of thangkas (paintings done on cotton or silk cloths showing a Buddhist deity or a scene from Buddhist scriptures), ancient masks and chortens. It was founded by Od-de in the 11th century.
The Spituk Monastery is located just 8 km from Leh and is sometimes also known as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa. It is home to almost 100 monks as well.
PC: Richard Weil
Found near the Srinagar-Leh highway, Mulbekh Monastery is located at a cliff of 656 ft, and consists of two gompas. One belongs to the Gelugpa sect while the other belongs to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism. Overlooking the highway is a 30 ft tall statue of Buddha made of limestone.
The limestone statue is a fine mixture of Shaivite and Buddhist work of art. Similar to the other monasteries, Mulbekh also houses some of the most beautiful paintings and relics of ancient times.
The Samstanling Monastery is also situated in the Nubra Valley, and is believed to have been founded 140 years ago. Housing almost 50 monks, the monastery is situated in the Sumur village and was founded by Lama Tsultim Nima.
The entrance of the monastery is dotted with religious flags and the Dukhyang or the prayer hall, consists of paintings of Buddha performing his lectures. This beautiful structure can be spotted from a distance because of its gold, red and white colours.
PC: Steve Hicks