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10 Must-Visit Buddhist Monasteries in Leh Ladakh

9 mins. read

Buddhist monasteries are a popular theme for cultural tours in Leh Ladakh. Owing to the region’s predominantly Buddhist population, there are several monasteries where Buddha and his various incarnations known as Bodhisattvas are worshipped as a deity. Not just pilgrims but globetrotters and spiritual beings undertake trips to Leh Ladakh to explore and learn about the Buddhist culture and attain Nirvana (Freedom from the cycle of life and death).

While there is a huge list of monasteries in Ladakh, we have made a concise list of the 10 famous ones that must be a part of your itinerary when on a vacation to this majestic travel destination in India.

1. Hemis Monastery

The Himalayan Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh is famous for the Hemis festival that is held once every 12 years. One of the largest Thangkas is displayed at the monastery during the two-day festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The celebrations bring alive the courtyard of the monastery with its annual bazaar, cultural rituals, dance, singing, and much more.

The Hemis Monastery was built in the year 1630 and has been under royal patronage since then. It houses an amazing collection of age-old relics such as a copper gilt idol of Lord Buddha, gold and silver stupas, revered thangkas, and much more, making it one of the famous attractions of your Leh Ladakh tour package.

How to Reach? 

Hemis Monastery is about 40 km southwest of Leh district in Ladakh and can be reached by car or bus in around 1 ½ hours.

2. Stakna Monastery

The world-famous Stakna Monastery in Leh has a charm that attracts travellers from across the world. Besides its resemblance to the Tiger’s nose, the monastery is known for its serene natural surroundings. Perched atop the hill, the site offers jaw-dropping views of the Indus valley.

Founded during the reign of King Jamyang Namgyal in 1580, Stakna Monastery features numerous Buddhist scriptures, paintings, and idols that date back to its establishment. Besides, it also has sister monasteries in Zanskar-Bardan, Sani and Stakrimo.

How to Reach? 

Stakna Monastery is about 25 km from Leh and can be reached by car or local bus in around 40 minutes.

3. Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery

The largest and the oldest Monastery in Ladakh that dates back to the 15th century, Thiksey is the chief pilgrim site of the Gelugpa sect. Besides the sheer size and grandeur, the monastery is known for its striking resemblance to Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

Thiksey Monastery features a 15 meter high Maitreya Buddha statue, also known as the Future Buddha (Chamba in local language) placed inside a two-storeyed shrine room. It is believed that the statue was placed here by His Holiness Dalai Lama in the 1980s, thereby increasing its popularity and religious significance. Additionally, it also has a precious collection of Buddhist statues, journals, books, scripts, swords, stupas, and Thangka paintings.

How to Reach? 

Thiksey Monastery is about 19 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in 26 minutes.

4. Alchi Monastery

Among the famous monasteries in Ladakh, Alchi Choskor Monastery is known for its age-old paintings and exquisite murals. It is not just a single monastery but a complex of different temples from the 11th and 13th centuries. All these temples are richly decorated with unparalleled interiors and brilliant woodwork, thereby making the entire complex a gem that adorns the architectural heritage of Leh, Ladakh.

The paintings at the monastery have gained worldwide recognition as masterpieces of Buddhist art and religion. They are believed to be created by a famous Kashmiri artist of that time.

How to Reach?

Alchi monastery is about 66 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in around 1 hour 20 minutes.

5. Phuktar Monastery

Phuktar Monastery in Ladakh is known for its remote location and breathtaking views, thanks to its location atop a hill at the mouth of a cave. While there is little evidence of its history and establishment, the paintings at the monastery are said to have a resemblance to those placed at the Alchi Monastery.

Reaching Phuktar Monastery can be challenging as the only way is by foot. However, its impressive architecture, natural cave, and astounding views of the Lugnak valley make it worth the effort.

How to Reach?

The location of Phuktar Monastery is quite far from both Leh and Ladakh. It takes around 15 hours to reach the place, hence travellers prefer camping or staying nearby and returning the next morning.

6. Shey Monastery

The Shey Monastery in Ladakh gained popularity after being filmed in the Aamir Khan starrer “3 Idiots”. However, there are plenty of other reasons that would make you visit this cute little monastery. From the largest gold statue of Buddha to the beautiful murals and paintings that enhance the beauty of its interiors, there are many such elements that make it one of the best tourist places in Leh Ladakh.

Besides, the famous Rancho School featured in the movie is also within the walking distance of the monastery.

How to Reach?

Shey Monastery is at a distance of 12 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in about 20 minutes.

7. Rizong Monastery

Overlooking the breathtaking Indus Valley, Rizong Monastery is a paradise for both pilgrims and globetrotters. It is where the monks spend their entire life of abstinence living. Legends say that Guru Padmasambhava along with his disciples meditated at the monastery site in complete isolation, surviving on a single meal per day. Thus, increasing its religious significance.

The Rizong Monastery features a nunnery or Chomoling where females worship and conduct chores like milking, spinning wool, etc.

How to Reach?

Rizong Monastery is located at a distance of 67 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in about 1 hour 20 minutes.

8. Chemrey Monastery

Among the famous monasteries in Ladakh, Chemrey is a mid-17th century Buddhist monastery that was founded by Lama Stags Ang Raspa. Originally a palace, Chemrey was turned into a monastery in the memory of King Sengge Namgyal.

The monastery is richly adorned with murals, paintings, and frescoes and features a museum with traditional and religious artefacts on display. Besides, is also known for its annual festival called Aangchhok that takes place on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar.

How to Reach? 

Chemrey Monastery is located at a distance of 43 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in about 55 minutes.

9. Basgo Monastery

Originally a fortress from the 15th century during the reign of King Rinchen Namgyal that was turned into a monastery after being destroyed by the Dogras led by Zorawar Singh. Basgo was the capital of Ladakh during ancient times and among the royal residences along with Leh and Shey.

Today, the Basgo Monastery is the only monastery in Ladakh with murals surviving from the 16th century. Besides its historic significance, the monastery is famous for its breathtaking view overlooking the Himalayan and Karakoram mountains.

How to Reach?

The Basgo Monastery is located at a distance of 43 km from Leh and can be reached by car or bus in about 55 minutes.

10. Spituk Monastery

Spituk Monastery

A beautiful Buddhist monastery overlooking the Indus river, Spituk Monastery was founded in the 11th century and initially followed the Red Hat sect (Kadampa). However, it later switched to the beliefs of the Yellow Hat sect (Gelugpa). Today, the Spituk Monastery serves as a home to about 100 monks who worship and perform their daily chores.

As one of the famous monasteries in Ladakh, it features a giant statue of Goddess Kali that is showcased only during the annual Spituk festival. Another iconic feature of the monastery is its unique collection of Buddha icons, 5 thangkas along, sculptures, chortens, ancient arms.

How to Reach?

Spituk Monastery is located in Leh city and can be easily reached by car or bus in about 11 minutes from the main city centre.

Pack your bags and get ready to go on a spiritual trip to Leh, Ladakh. Do not forget to check the best time to visit Ladakh to be able to have a joyful travel experience.

August 09, 2021


Veena World
Veena World

We are an Indian travel company founded in 2013 and excel at domestic and international tour packages including guided group tours, specialty tours, customized holidays, corporate MICE travel, inbound travel and destination weddings.

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