LADAKH is predominantly inhabited by people of Tibetan descent, leading to a very rich Buddhist culture. There so many beautiful monasteries that dot this high altitude desert that you cannot but visit them to be awed by their architecture and history. These monasteries in Ladakh are truly a living heritage of the Buddha and definitely warrant a visit. A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone.


Nestled in the mountains hidden from the main road, Hemis monastery is the spiritual center of the Drukpa lineage or the ‘Red Hat sect’. Hemis gompa is famed for being the largest and richest monastery in Ladakh. It was founded in the 1630s by Stag Tsang Raspa under the royal patronage of King Singge Namgyal.


Built on the side of a hill, the Spituk Monastery also known as the Spituk Gompa was founded in the 11th century by Od-lde as a monastic community. Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo, the great translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan, gave the monastery its present name, meaning exemplary, as he felt an exemplary religious community would arise here. 


Thiksey monastery stands out for its sheer size and grandeur. Located 19 km east of Leh town, Thiksey gompa has striking resemblance to Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Thiksey monastery was established during the period of Gelugpa expansion in the 15th century. It is one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh, with buildings on a cliff rising in tier upon tier dominating and complementing the village.


Considered as one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, Alchi gompa was founded in the 11th century by Rinchen Zangpo, the famous translator from Tibet. It is said that Rinchen carried willow sticks with him and planted them at different places in Ladakh and Zanskar.


Located just 15 kilometers south of Leh, this gompa is the residence of the Royal Family of Ladakh. It was founded in the 14th century by Lama Lhawang. The Palace has a museum with a collection of the king’s crown, the queens head gear with 108 turquoise pieces, royal dresses, jewellery, old currency, the wooden palanquin in which the queen arrived here when she got married and various other personal items of the Royal family.


En route to the Hemis Monastery, 15 kilometres from Leh is the Shey Gompa. Shey was originally the capital of Ladakh & Lhachen Spalgigon, the first king, built this hilltop fortress. In 1655, King Deldan Namgyal built the Shey Palace. There are hundreds of stupas & the Dresthang Gompa built around the palace. 


Seventeen kilometres west of Leh, on top of a hill is the Phyang Monastery. It is one of the two monasteries that belong to the Dri-gung-pa sect of Buddhism. Legend has it that Denma Kunga Drakpa laid the foundation stone of this monastery. Phyang Monastery is home to a school, which imparts modern education along with Buddhist studies to its students. 


Phugtal Monastery or Phugtal Gompa (often transliterated as Phuktal) is a Buddhist monastery located in the remote Lungnak Valley in south-eastern Zanskar, in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, in Northern India. It is one of the only Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can still be reached only by foot. 


Diskit, the administrative center of Nubra valley, is known for its monastery which is the largest and oldest gompa in the valley. Founded by Changzen Tserab Zangpo in the 14th century, Diskit gompa is famous for its 32-meter-high statue of Maitreya Buddha that was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2010. 


Likir Monastery gets its name from the word Lukhgil which means ‘coiled snake’. Buddhists believe that the Snake King Jokpo slept at Likir Monastery once and that the monastery is encircled and guarded by the spirits of two great snakes—Nanda and Taksako. The monastery, affiliated to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded in the early 11th century by Lama Duwang Chosje.