It’s easy to be awed by the ancient Buddhist monasteries that rise like ethereal castles on barren mountain slopes all around this region. Colorful prayer flags, sparkling white stupas, majestic gompas, and monks adorned in maroon robes are common sights in the Ladakh region of India.
If you’re heading to Leh, you’re sure to spot these monasteries on your travels around the town. It might get overwhelming to see the number of monasteries that you need to visit, which is why I’m sharing this list which will help you plan your time visiting them around Leh.
Phyang Monastery- Spituk Monastery- Tsemo Palace- Shanti Stupa
Since they are all in and around Leh, you’ll not need a permit to visit these monasteries. You will, however, need a vehicle. You can opt for a bike, or a taxi, details of which are in this post.
Head to Phyang Monastery that lies 17kn away, on the road to Magnetic Hill. You should reach Phyang Monastery in around 30 minutes.
After this, head back towards Leh. This is when you’ll come across Spituk Monastery just near the airport. I definitely recommend a visit for the sweeping views, and for the Kali Mata Temple at the peak.
Next, head towards Leh Main Bazaar, from where you can view the Tsemo Castle. Make your way to the top, and get ready for a whole lot of climbing. Worth it, because these are the views.
The Shanti Stupa is a peaceful, serene place that you can end your day with. It’s right around the corner from the Leh Market, and can be visited on any other day too if in case this day has ended up being too hectic for you.
Hemis Monastery – Thiske Monastery- Shay Palace
No permit is required for this either.
Head over to Karu, 40km from Leh. Spend some time at this monastery that boasts of a unique location, breathtakingly beautiful landscape, and a meditative silence like none other.
After this, head back towards Leh. You’ll spot Thikse Monastery right away, 25km from Leh, majestically perched on top of a hill. This monastery is the largest gompa in central Ladakh!
After this, head to Shay Palace, a gorgeous monastery that also hosts ruins of the King’s Palace. Do stop by at the Maggi Point near the duck pond opposite the lake (and enjoy a snack of Maggi and Kawha!)
Alchi Monastery- Lekir Monastery
This one is a long journey, and you’ll have to check the weather conditions before visiting. No permit is required here.
Alchi lies 80km from Leh, and makes for a gorgeous bike ride (or taxi drive, depending upon your style) It’ll take you 90minutes to reach Alchi, and if you’re visiting in the warmer months you can also enjoy a meal here (I’ve heard raving reviews about Alchi Kitchen!) The monastery dates back to the 11th century, is filled with apricot trees, and boasts wonderful views of the Indus in the distance.
On your way back, stop by at Lekir Monastery (50km from Leh)
The weather didn’t allow us to take this journey, but this was a part of the plan. Lamayuru is located at a distance of 115 km from Leh and is on the Leh-Srinagar national highway. It is believed to be the oldest monastery in central Ladakh.
If you’re visiting Nubra Valley, I’d recommend a visit to the gorgeous Diskit Monastery.